Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Soap Making and Tomato Problems Plus a Little Garden Style

We’re making our own soap on the Good Earth segment, finding out how to control fungal problems on tomatoes, finding out what causes our tomato plants look terrible as Summer draws to a close in vegetable heroes, aa new series on garden styles in Design Elements and an encore of the Birds Nest Fern in Plant of the Week


Making Your Own Natural Soap
Soap making is an ancient art, but did you know that you can make your own soap at home?
Soap making is an art form where the potential ingredient combinations are practically endless.
Homemade soaps use natural skin-nourishing components such as Almond Oil, Grape-Seed Oil, Macadamia Oil or Margaret's favourite is Coconut Oil.
 These handcrafted soaps are enriched with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial oils that won’t’ dry out your skin like store-bought soaps have a tendency to do. 

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making soap, listen to this.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from 

There are so many dried herbs that you can use to infuse your own soap with.
Lemon Verbena, Rosemary, Thyme are just a few that you can start with.
Steep the herbs in your favourite oil for several weeks and then strain off.
There are a few critical steps you need to watch for such as watching the temperature of the caustic soda and only putting the soda into the oil and not the other way around.

The recipe is important so go to Margaret’s blog to check it here:Making Natural Soap

This is an extract from Margaret's web page on making soap
Recipe ingredients for a soap made from olive oil (this is the “cold” soapmaking process):
  • 1000 grams olive oil (plain or scented with garden plants – see the link above)
  • 135 grams caustic soda crystals. If you want more moisturising soap, add 5% less
  • 380 grams water (= 38% of oil weight)
If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


This weeks it’s what’s going wrong with those tomato plants?
Not so much about how grow your tomatoes, but more about what might have gone wrong with them.
It’s a very big topic about which books have been written and which can’t be all covered in a short segment but the main tomato problems will be dealt with here.
I’m assuming you’ve put some tomatoes plants in about September and now you’re getting fruit ripening on your tomato vine.

Let’s start with some problems with hot weather.

We’ve had a few very hot days and tomatoes don’t like really hot and dry conditions.
They actually ‘close down’ lose moisture and droop.
By ‘close down’ I mean the process of respiration and transpiration-you know when plants exchange gases and lose water through their leaves.
By shutting down those pores or stomata in the leaves, the plant is making sure that no more water is lost.
Sun Scald of Tomato

  • If you’ve got whitish, yellow patches on the skin of your fruit, then your tomatoes got too much sun and are sunburnt.
  • Probably because they didn’t have enough leaves to protect them.
  • Why not try putting up a shade umbrella over your veggie patch for those really hot days of over 290 degrees  as a quick fix.
  • Some gardeners put a permanent 50% shade cloth over their veggie beds during the summer months.
  • If the tomatoes are sunburnt, pick them off now because they’re likely to rot.
  • The yellow patches on the fruits, if not caused by sunburn can also be tomato mosaic virus or tobacco mosaic virus.
  • What this virus looks like when your plant has it you’ll see light or dark green or bright yellow patches (often called mottling) on the leaves.
  • The leaves also look like they’ve been scrunched up or puckered, the plant is stunted and there’s also the patches of yellow on the fruit.
  • Cross- infection can occur through plants touching each other or through pruning, tying and transplanting.
  • How to prevent this next time is by controlling weeds, rotating your crops,  and always disinfectng your secateurs with methylated spirits when you’re pruning.
  • Finally  get rid of infected plants.
  • Also, DON’T SMOKE near your tomato plants!
Because we’ve had really humid weather, it’s likely that you’ve got powdery mildew all over your tomato plants.
Powdery mildew on tomato leaves/
  • Powdery mildew starts on the biggest or mature leaves and looks like a brown spot in the centre of the leaf surrounded by yellow area.
  • The leaf starts to die very quickly and pretty soon, almost overnight, the leaves have shrivelled up.
  • Cut them off as soon as you notice that they’re going yellow, and spray the leaves with a seaweed solution.
  • Water your plants early in the day so that there isn’t water on the leaves overnight. You can also use a sulphur based fungicide. Or you can use a bi-carbonate of soda spray on you tomatoes as a general fungicide.
  • 3 teaspoons bi carbonate of soda, 40mls or 2 ½ tablespoons of any horticultural oil and mix with 4 litres of water.
  • Spray all over the leaves and stems, including the undersides.
  • Next year, don’t plant your tomatoes there because you’ll get that problem again-the spores stay in the soil.
This fungicide and Eco Carb containing  potassium carbonate can also be effective on Fusarium wilt.
  • This starts off as yellowing of oldest leaves on your tomato plant then turning brown, almost overnight and drying up but remaining attached to the plant.
  • After it begins it progresses upward, often with yellowing on one side of leaf or branch.
  • The disease can attack at any stage in a tomato plant’s growth, but symptoms are most common right after tomato blossoms appear.
  • The fungus favours temperatures between 21º-32ºC and wet weather, which allows it to spread more easily.
  • Plants in poorly drained soil are more susceptible to infection than those in well-drained soil.
  • Wet soil allows the fungus to multiply and move up through the tomato plant’s water-conducting tissue.
  • This is not an easy disease to fix.
Some gardeners might have issues with fruit fly larvae in the fruit.
Some varieties of tomatoes that I’ve been growing Russian Red and Russian Brown tomato aren’t always affected by fruit fly.
The same with cherry tomatoes because they seem to have slight thicker skin which the fruit fly avoids piercing sometimes but not always.
You can buy fruit fly netting to put all over your plant or just bags that fit over the bunches of fruit.
The bags are white and have minute breathing holes-sort of like a very sheer papery material.
Otherwise there is trap, lures and natural sprays that you can buy containing Spinosad, that you can use for next year.


Garden Styles: Introduction to Federation, Modern, Formal and French ProvincialStyles of Gardens.

How well do you know your garden history in Australia?
For example when did the Federation garden style begin and end and when did the Modern garden style begin and end?
What were the components of the Federation style?

Let’s find out a little bit about each style.
I'm talking with Danielle Collier from Artistic Horticulture

Garden styles have a long history, much longer that we might think.
Formal gardens for example have their origins in Persia all those centuries ago.
What does it mean for us gardeners?
Well we can embrace a style for our gardens which will in the end give us immense satisfaction.

For Federation gardens, built features such as fountains and gazebos were important. (Pictured)

If you have any questions either for me Danielle why not write in to

I'm talking with Garden Designer and Horticulturist, Danielle Collier, from Artistic Horticulture

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