Thursday, 25 July 2019

Sweet Violets. Thyme and Food of Kings

How thyme is used as a naturopathic herb in Plant of the Week. Get those asparagus crowns in in Vegetable Heroes. Part 2 of a A new series in design elements, dig plant and grow for all types of gardeners. Plus, the talking flowers segment goes violets.


Thyme: Thymus vulgaris
Thyme is a herb with a multitude of uses and not just for cooking.
Thyme uses are also as an anti-microbial and is good in a tea for sore throats, and sore stomach problems.
Thymus vulgaris
Thyme is a part of bouquet garni, but you can use thyme on its own in cooking. Thyme is surprisingly, it’s good with chocolate, and try cinnamon and thyme is part of crumb on chicken!
Let’s find out how more.
I'm talking with Simone Jeffries, naturopath and herbalist.

The first thing to consider when growing thyme is that it's a mediterranean herb, so likes the same conditions here. Dry, hot summers and cool winters.
If you don't have a similar growing environment you can of course, grow it in a pot.
To get the most out of your thyme plant, give it a good haircut in autumn.
Lift and divide the plant so that you'll always have plenty of thyme in the garden.
The best culinary thyme is common thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
Creeping thyme or woolly thyme is not recommened other than as a rockery plant, lawn edges or lawn alternatives.
If you have any questions either for me or for Simone, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Asparagus or Asparagus officinalis 
Asparagus is from the Liliaceae or lily family and is a perennial plant that is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas.
 “Asparagus” comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot.
  • Did you know that Asparagus has been around for at least 2,000 years?

Fast forward to the 16th Century, where asparagus was eaten a lot in France and England. 
During that time Asparagus was known as the “Food of Kings” because King Louis XIV of France loved to eat them.
In Fact King Louis loved them so much that he ordered special greenhouses built so he could enjoy asparagus all year-round?

  • Asparagus was so highly regarded in England that the thought of setting up a colony in Australia without asparagus was unthinkable, so seed was included in the list of vegetables carried by Sirius, one of the ships of the First Fleet.If you look in old seed catalogues that date back as far as the 19th century you’ll find that Asparagus was popular with Australians even back then.
What is Asparagus exactly?
The plant has a crown that is actually an underground stem from which asparagus spears shoots
The roots are called rhizomes (pronounced rye-zomes).
On top of these rhizomes grow spears, which are tender and succulent to eat, are slightly glossy, about 18-25cm long and 1.5-2cm wide, with many small, bumpy, triangular scales (called bracts) concentrated in the top quarter of the stem.
Some gardener might be thinking where can I buy Asparagus to grow?

  • In fact, do I buy seed, or tubers or what? I’m here to tell you all that.
Planting asparagus crowns
You can in fact buy Asparagus seed, including Purple Asparagus seed from online companies such as Green Harvest or diggers.
But now’s the time to buy something called Asparagus Crowns, and you can buy these from just about anywhere even some supermarkets.
I saw some this week in a supermarket, they were the Mary Washington variety.
You can buy the Crowns online or from mail order catalogues as well
In sub-tropical districts, plant Asparagus crowns from May until July.
In temperate, arid and cool temperate zones, you have June and July to plant Asparagus crowns.
  • So what do you do with Asparagus really?
Asparagus is a perennial so if you haven’t a perennial veggie patch find somewhere else in the garden, maybe near those rhubarb crowns, because the crowns last for many years, and need to be left in the one spot.
Normally, your veggie patch gets a makeover every 6 months or so, -not that good for the crowns of these plants.
  • So find a sunny spot in the garden where you don’t mind some veggies growing there year after year.Preferably with soil that’s been given some Dolomite and heaps and heaps of compost and complete plant food.
  • To plant, dig out a shallow trench 30cm wide and 20cm deep. Incorporate well-rotted manure to the base of the trench and cover the base with a 5cm layer of excavated soil.
  • Be sure to buy fresh crowns, as they often dry out while on display.
  • Place the crowns onto a small mound in the centre of the furrow, so that the roots point down at about 45°, spread the roots out carefully. Backfill with compost to a depth of 7.5 cm.
  • Space the plants 45cm apart, with 1.2 m between rows.
  • Fill in the trench gradually as growth progresses.  Doesn’t sound too hard does it?
In spring Asparagus will grow long and slender with soft fernlike foliage.  
Don’t cut any spears in the first Spring, because this is when the crowns are developing.
Ferny foliage of spring growth of asparagus

Spring is also the time you need to add 100g per sq m of fertiliser like fish meal or blood and bone.
Then top with a thick hay mulch.
Asparagus produces both male and female plants.
Modern cultivars are all male, as male plants produce more and better spears. If you have any Female plants, which have berries, pull these out   because the red berries are poisonous and don’t produce as many edible spears.
During Autumn and Winter the tops will go yellow and brown off, cut off the old tops about 7.5 cm from the soil surface.
Frost damage causes distorted or dead spears, often some time afterwards if the tips are just below soil level.
Shadecloth covers or fleece can hold off light frosts.

Don’t cut any spears for the first two years after planting. In the third year, gather spears for the first month of the growing season, but in following years, if the plants are strong, cut for eight weeks.
Slice off spears with a sharp knife just below the soil before they get more than 18cm tall.
In warm weather, this may mean cutting every few days.
Don’t cut any more after late December so that plants have enough time to build up their growth reserves for winter. 
Asparagus bud

In the following years, mulch the beds thickly with compost and manure in late winter. 
Remember patience in the early stages will help to get a life span of 15 years or even longer for your asparagus.
  • Spears are harvested in two ways which gives them a different colour.
  • White asparagus is grown below the ground and not exposed to light.
  • When harvested it’s cut below the surface before being lifted out of the soil.
  • If spears are allowed grow in sunlight they turn a green colour. 
  • For green, only hill about 10cm (4”) and allow the spear to grow 15cm (6”) above the soil, making sure to cut the spear just below ground level. Asparagus is most delicious when the time between cutting and serving is kept to a minimum.
  • When you’re cutting the spears, do it carefully to avoid injuring the crown. 
Farmers harvest by a rule-of-thumb, if the spears are thicker than a pencil cut them before the spears branch, usually at approx. 20 cm high, if they are skinnier, leave them to develop and feed the crown.
Why Is It Good For You?
Asparagus has a great flavour and is very affordable.
Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, while providing fibre. That makes it a must for any diet, including a weight loss diet.
Asparagus contains B group vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and biotin-is a great source of folate, with a serve giving us over 20% of our daily needs.


Plant It
The series called ‘dig, plant, grow’ continues and it’s all about what you need to do to the soil before planting anything.
Of course you assessed the soil you have in the garden after listening to last week’s segment didn’t you?
So what next, are you happy to choose just plants that you love or do you need to be a bit more discerning?
Let’s find out ? I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs.
PLAY:Plant It_17th July 2019
Digging some more in the garden is also involved when it comes to planting, but don’t just plonk the plant into a hole you’ve dug, fill it, and water in, then hope for the best.
Preparation is the key to success.
Preparation before planting
It may take a bit longer but you’ll have years of rewarded effort you did on the day.
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Sweet Violet: Viola odorata and Viola banksia (syn Viola hederacea)
Family: Violaceae
Also known as wood violet sweet violet, English violet, common violet, florist's violet, or garden violet.
Leaves are edible, good for salads.
  • ·         In temperate climates, sweet violets (Viola odorata, ht 8cm) begin flowering in winter and continue into early spring.
  • ·         They are rhizomatous perennials which originated in Western and Southern Europe. 
They spread  via seed and runners to form a green groundcover of heart-shaped leaves, often coming up in unexpected places in the garden. 
Violets flower best in part-sun, but will grow in full sun or full shade and prefer moist soil.

Bunches of violets great winter posies.
Cut them in the morning or evening; dipping the bunch of flowers head down into a large bowl of water to soak for a while will extend their vase life, as will spraying a fine mist of water over the flowers when they are in their vase.
  • Sugared Violets
·         The flowers can also be turned into sugared violets for cake decorations, by painting the petals with egg white and dipping them into caster sugar!

Native violets, Viola banksia, have no scent, but flower in a similar fashion.
Flowers are edible.
Grows and spreads by rhizomes. Full sun or part shade.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini, floral therapist

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