Saturday, 26 August 2017

Mystery of Insects, One Potato, Two Potatoes and a Claret Ash.

This week's radio show:  Where do insects go in winter in Plant Doctor? It’s not too late to plant these potato tubers in Vegetable Heroes; and a  fabulous shade tree in Plant of the Week. 


Overwintering Insects-where do they all go?
Have you ever thought what happens to insects in winter?
In particular insect pests, we don’t see as many pests but come Spring, they seem to emerge in their hundreds from somewhere.
How are they managing to hang on, especially in those districts where temperatures fall below zero.
You’ll be surprised to find out the methods that insects use .
So let’s find out.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from

Insects seem to manage to hang on in one form or and how they do this seems to vary quite a bit because they’re so adaptive
Codling moth larvae
Some of the methods we talked about that insects use to get by in the colder months were:
1. Lay eggs that stay dormant until warmer weather and longer daylength occurs.
2. Juvenile stages hide in cracks of branches, twists of leaves, under rocks and find crevices to stay warm.
3.Pupate over winter like the Codling Moth.
4. Go deeper into the soil to stay warm, like the Curl Grub.
5.Hibernate over winter just as the ladybird does.
Did you know ladybirds go off a pheremone to signal other ladybirds to form a huddle when hibernating?

TIP: Removing weeds during winter also removes hiding spots for pests like mealybug and aphids.
Did you know that the shorter daylight lengths of Autumn trigger insects to enter something called diapause.

What’s that?
Well, diapause (and also the definition of an evening spent watching TV) is "an inactive state of arrested development."
Diapause insects sees their metabolic rate drop to one tenth of what it is normally so it can use stored body fat to survive winter.

If you have any questions about insects, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Solanum tuberosum

Did you know that potatoes were the first vegetable to be grown in space?
It’s always interesting to find out where our vegetables started and how they became popular.

Farmers in the Andes Mountains of South America first discovered the potato 7,000 years ago
They had it to themselves until the mid-1500’s when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded Peru.
In Spain, when it did arrive, it was thought of food for the underclasses, or feeding hospital inmates.
Around 1780 the people of Ireland adopted the potato as a food crop because potatoes contain most of the vitamins you need to survive.

The potato is a member of the nightshade or Solanaceae family and its leaves are poisonous.

Green Potatoes are Bad For You.
Here’s something to think about when storing your potatoes.
A potato left too long in the light will begin to turn green.
The green skin contains a substance called solanine which can cause the potato to taste bitter and green potatoes can upset the stomach, so don’t try them.

How to grow potatoes
Always grow potatoes from Certified Seed Potatoes from reputable suppliers.
Yes it is possible to simply buy some from a specialist green grocer and keep them for seed, or use leftover potato peelings.
What’s wrong with that?
You run the risk of introducing diseases such as Potato Virus Y, Potato Blight or Potato cyst Nematode.
If you use leftovers or buy from supermarkets or green grocers.
You might think it’s only a small risk, but once you get potato blight into your soil, it’s their forever.
No chemical will shift it.\

When to plant
Potatoes can be planted now all over Australia, in temperate and sub-tropical districts, August to October is the best time, in arid areas August until December is your best time,
In cool temperate zones, September through to January is your best time so cooler areas have a bit of extra time to order some of the more unusual varieties before they grow in the ground.
Potato varieties for you to try

How about Cranberry Red?
Cranberry Red has red skin and red flesh, great in salads, for boiling and baking. These stay red, even after cooking.
Or what about Potato Sapphire that has purple skin and purple flesh?
Purple Sapphire I’m sure is sold also as Purple Congo, is perfect for mashing, boiling and roasting, and yes, it stays purple after cooking.
Purple mash, Yum, and yes, I’ve cooked it.
And for a good all rounder, try growing Royal Blue.
Potato Royal Blue is oblong, with purple skin and dark yellow flesh.

If you’re buying through mail order or online, you have until the end of August to buy them. After that, they’re not available.
How to Grow
To grow your Potatoes-put seedling potatoes into a trench in as deep and rich a soil as you can get.
Plenty of compost and manures please.
And as they grow pile the earth up around them.
Potato plant in flower
You will need to hill the rows or potato container several times until the potatoes have flowered
You need to do this to stop the greening of tubers and also protect them from potato moth.
Also, hilling up the soil and mulch will give you more potatoes as they tend to form on roots near the surface.
That means, as you pile up the soil, you get new roots, and more potatoes....
Chicken manure or blood and bone should be dug through the bed as potatoes need a lot of phosphorus but not too much nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will mean lots of leaves rather than potatoes.
Keep the water up and but only water moderately as potatoes will rot in soil that is too wet.
They can also get a fungus growing inside them if the soil’s too wet.
When you cut them open, they’ll have grey patches inside which actually do taste mouldy. Euwwww!
You can add fish emulsion and seaweed extract when you’re watering too.
Grow Potatoes in You Compost Bin

Potatoes can also be grown in your black compost bin if you’re not using it for compost.

Plant the seed potatoes at the bottom, let them grow to about 50cm,( so with your ruler that’s almost 2 x ruler heights) 
Next, over the top and add 8cm of soil'
Let them grow a little more, add some more soil, and so on, in the end a stack of potatoes. 

Pick your potatoes when the vine has died down to the ground, that’s if you want the most potatoes, but they can be harvested from when the first baby potatoes are formed. 
The lower leaves should be turning yellow – this happens about 3 to 4 weeks after flowering. 

If you plan to store your potatoes, cut off the foliage and let the potatoes rest in the ground for 3-4 weeks to allow the skin to 'set', they keep longer this way. Store in a dark, cool, well ventilated spot.

For a great article on growing potatoes visit DPIW Tasmania

Roasting Potatoes include: Arran, Royal Blue, Cara, Celine, Desiree, Maxine, Picasso, Ruby Lou, Romano, King Edward, Kondor, Maris Piper, Stemster and Valor.

For Chip Potatoes try: Nadine, Kestrel, King Edward, Desiree, Kennebec.

For Boiling Potatoes try: Nadine, Dutch Cream Kestrel, Desiree, King Edward.

For Mashing Potatoes try: Kestrel, Nadine, King Edward, Tasmanian Pinkeye.

For Salad Potatoes try: Nicola, Tasmanian Pinkeye, Ponfine.

For something different try: Sapphire, with purple flesh it looks great mashed and roasted.

Another method for growing potatoes is underneath straw
 This no dig method is easy and will still provide you with a great crop. First, prepare the growing area with a layer of manure, dampening it, and then covering it with a thick layer of wet newspaper. Mae sure that each piece of newspaper overlaps the next to stop weeds from getting through. Put the seed potatoes on the newspaper 50cm apart and cover with a layer of straw. 
 Add cow manure and blood and bone over the straw. 
 After this add more straw, and repeat until the straw is 40cm deep. 
 Water it in well. 
 Because straw is organic, it will decompose so you will need to add more straw as it does so to prevent sunlight from reaching the potatoes.

Why are potatoes good for you?
The potato is densely packed with nutrients. The Irish couldn’t be wrong could they?
A medium potato provides vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.
Potatoes are known as the foods people crave when they are stressed.
Why? because the carbs in potatoes (about 26%) help make space for tryptophan  have a smooth passage into the brain.
This, in turn, boosts the serotonin level in the brain.
High serotonin levels help boost your mood and help you feel calm.
To preserve these nutrients it is important to peel the potato just prior to cooking and not leave THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY

Fraxinus Raywoodii
Claret Ash

Would you like a tree that shades your house or garden in summer, but drops all its leaves in winter so you get winter sun?
Not only does it serve this practical purpose but it has fabulous Autumn colour especially in colder districts.

Let’s find out about this plant.I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Did you know that the original seedling was discovered near a group of assorted ash trees in Sewell's nursery in the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia about 1910, and later grown at the nearby property Raywood  near Bridgewater in the Adelaide Hills.(former home of the Downer family). 
The tree was introduced to Britain in 1928 and to North America in 1956, although it did not become widely available there until 1979
Other Types of Ash Trees.There are a few different types of Ash trees such as Fraxinus ornus, the Flowering Ash Fraxinus oxycarpa the Desert Ash and Fraxinus excelsior ‘aurea’ the Golden Ash.
But none are quite as spectacular as Fraxinus Raywoodii, the Claret Ash.
The leaves are a deep dark green in the warmer months but turn this deep burgundy red in Autumn before they fall.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Bit of Sage, Coriander and Masses of TriColoured Jasmine


Salvia officinalis
What would you say to a herb that can remove grease from plates?
Not only that, drinking tea made from the leaves of this herb helps treat sore throats and coughs; often by gargling.
All these attributes are for the herb sage.
To get grease off your dinner plates without using harsh chemicals all you need to do is macerate some fresh sage leaves and rub them on the plates, and voila', clean plates.
But did you know that the world's best sage comes from the Dalmation coast growing amongst rocks on the island of Kornati?
Find out more by listening to the podcast.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill

Scientifically known as Salvia officinalis, sage is closely related to rosemary, and they’re often considered “sister herbs.
Sage grows best in sandy, alkaline soil.
It grows up to 75 cm in height and has woody, branching stems.
Its pebble-like patterned, aromatic leaves are grey-green, with a soft surface and fine hair-like filaments growing on either side.
During summer, the violet-blue flowers attract bees.
If you have any questions about sage the herb, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Coriander or Coriandrum sativum?

Is Coriander really Cilantro or is that just what Americans call it?
Well, it’s just a bit of a technical difference to confuse us poor gardeners.
Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant and coriander refers to the seeds.
In Australia we call the leaves and the seeds coriander and some people even call it Chinese parsley.
So coriander leaf is nothing else but cilantro.
People either hate it or love Coriander because it does have a pungent citrus flavour to the leaves.
Coriander flowers belong in the Apiaceae or carrot family, where Parsley, dill and carrots belong.
Coriander has been grown for over 3,000 years.

Did you know that about half a litre of coriander seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen?
Because this plant doesn’t grow wild in Egypt, this suggests that coriander was grown in the gardens of ancient Egyptians.
The Chinese once believed it gave you immortality and in the Middle ages it was used as part of a love potions. \
What is Coriander?
Coriander is a very familiar herb that we are used to seeing at the greengrocers and in the supermarket.
It’s called an annual herb because it flowers, sets seed then dies in under a year..

So why should we grow Coriander?

Heaps of Coriander leaves and seeds are used in curries, tagines and many other Asian dishes.
In fact the whole herb, including the roots can be ground up to make Green Curry paste.

Now here’s a big tip:
Always grow coriander from seed, sown in the exact spot you want it to grow as it absolutely HATES being transplanted.
Transplanting coriander stresses it so that it goes straight to seed and then it dies. And you never get any leaves at all!
Coriander gets a has a big taproot as it grows so growing it in a pot won’t work either, it’ll go straight to seed as well.,
For sub-tropical and arid zones, you have August to September;
And in temperate districts, sow the seeds from September until the end of November,
In cool temperate zones, October to November,
Sow your seeds about 1 cm deep, cover them and keep them moist.
Whether or not you sow them in rows, scatter them amongst your other veggies, or use them to grow as a shade plant for your lettuce, it really doesn’t matter.
Coriander takes a couple of weeks to germinate, so go do it after my program.
Coriander grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall.

Big Tip: Grasshoppers don’t like coriander, so plant it around the spinach to stop the grasshoppers eating holes in the leaves.
You want about 5 cm between the plants if you grow it for the leaves..
Leave a few plants to go to seed, yes, on purpose so you have a continuous supply.
When your plants is big enough, take the leaves off from the base of the plant.
Just make sure the plant is big enough to cope and leave some leaves on it so it can continue to grow.
As soon as that flower stalk appears, your coriander plant stops making more

Just remember when coriander plants get stressed, or in hot weather, or once they reach a certain age, they stop making leaves and instead start growing a tall flower stalk. 
So it’s a good idea to-sow some coriander seeds every few weeks during the growing season. 

Coriander flowers arean important food source for beneficial insects.

It’s a good idea to leave in a few plants that have gone to flower because the Coriander flowers are an important food source for beneficial insects, especially little parasitic wasps and predatory flies.

To attract many beneficial insects you want lots and lots of coriander flowers why not sprinkle some coriander and parsley seeds through your other vegetables under your fruit trees and in any other place you can fit them.

Keep watering and feeding your coriander plants well, and wait for the flower to develop and set seeds.

In hot weather this may take as little as 4 - 6 weeks from when you first put the seed in the ground.

Fresh cilantro (coriander) should be stored in the refrigerator in a zip lock bag or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. Use as early as possible since it loses flavour and nutrients quickly if kept for longer periods.

Why Is It Good For You?

Coriander contains no cholesterol; but is rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fibre.
The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
It’s also rich in many vital vitamins like folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin- A, beta carotene, vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. Coriander leaves provides 30% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C.

Coriander is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K; provides about 258% of DRI.



Mass Planting Series
Mass planting for large and small gardens part 1
Would you think that mass planting a garden would be something easy to do?
On the surface it sounds easy; just pick a couple of types of plants that you like and away you go, would that be right?
Mass planting for large gardens: Scampston, England photo M Cannon
The answer is no, because visually you might end up with such a boring garden as to be exasperating.
Have you heard the rule “ the greater amount of texture you use the louder your garden reads visually?”
Let’s find out about this wonderful rule.
I'm talking with Garden Designer, Peter Nixon, Director of
If you have a large expanse of garden with all the same colour green , the same leaf shape and the same texture, the garden will be homogenous and even boring.

You'll be asking "Where's my beautiful garden?"

Find plants that you like but try and like ones with different leaf shapes, colours and textures when you’re doing planting on a biggish scale.

Peter suggests as an example of texture and leaf contrast, Poa Eskdale with Opuntia Burbank Spineless.

If you want mass planting to hide the fence, try
Viburnum odoratissium "Dense Fence," or Quick Fence.

As Peter says, even if it’s a small garden, don’t put lots of little plants in, but less plants that are bigger works better.


Tricolour Jasmine

Last week I asked if you liked the colour pink in your garden?
This next plant doesn’t have significant flowers but does have pink in it’s leaves.
Better still, it grows in shade, under trees and in other difficult spots where you might find it hard to get something to grow.

Let’s find out about this plant.
I'm talking with the plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Tricolour Jasmine is nothing like the Chinese Star Jasmine because it doesn’t have those perfumed flowers and doesn’t need a whip and a chair to keep it under control.
Ahem, whip and chair borrowed from Peter Nixon Garden Designer that is.
As long as you don’t put it into full sun or afternoon sun, you won’t get burnt leaves.
Another one of those low maintenance plants that horticulturalists say doesn’t really exist. But here it is.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Weeding Lawns, Growing Radichio, Smelling Dianthus.


Weeding Lawns
Did you know that knee problems start with gardening on your knees for long periods of time?
But you don’t have to get down on your knees to do weeding these days if you’ve got the right tools.
Even weeding lawns is possible without spraying and kneeling.
So let’s find how to make that weeding job  in the lawn a little bit easier.
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

The Weed Hoe (pictured right)  is exclusive to Cut Above Tools. 
Operation is by a foot pedal to lever out the weed and the two handles to take the weed out of the lawn or garden bed. 

Real World Gardener's Tip for Lawn Weed Control.

Get to know your grass type and the ideal cutting height for good health and strong growth.

When cut no lower than that height, and when cut before it gets too long, the grass will usually out-compete weeds as long as it’s also fertilized and watered properly.
If you have any questions about weeding tools why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Radicchio or Cichorium intybus

A little while ago I talked about growing chicory for either the edible root, or leaf.
Today, a plant with the same botanical name but looks more like red cabbage than it does the green leafed chicory plant.

So what’s the difference between red cabbage and radicchio?

Firstly ra-DEEK –e oo is spelt ra-DITCH ee-oo and is sometimes known as Italian chicory.
Red cabbage is more like green cabbage in flavour and is quite firm, but radicchio is more like a lettuce and is quite soft.
Red cabbage is purple when it’s raw and only turns red when you cook it.
Radicchio has a slightly bitter and spicy taste and is more a salad vegetable, although you can use it grilled and as a pizza topping.
The flavour mellows when it’s grilled by the way.

Even though radicchio has been around for a while it didn’t take off until the fifteenth century, in the Veneto and Trentino regions of Italy.

Did you know that the deep-red radicchio of today was engineered in 1860 by the Belgian agronomist Francesco Van den Borre?

He used a whitening technique which involved pre-forcing, or blanching to create the dark red, white-veined leaves: radicchio plants were taken from the ground and placed in water in darkened sheds, where lack of light and caused the plants to lose their green pigmentation.
Red Cabbage
Growing Radicchio
Radicchio is easy to grow and can be sown all year round, but it does best in spring and Autumn just about everywhere in gardens.
But to be more specific, here are some dates.
In temperate districts, you can sow indoors in August and outdoors from September until May.
For arid areas, you can sow outdoors all year round.
For Melbourne residents, sow indoors in August to September, or outdoors from September through to May.
For subtropical zones like Brisbane, sow outdoors from March until November.
In cool temperate zones, sow indoors in August or Mar-April and sow outdoors in September or April.

When is it ready?
Radicchio matures in approximately three months. 
While some gardeners start the seeds indoors for later transplanting, most simply sow the seeds directly into the garden bed. 
Popular varieties include Red Surprise and Verona Red

Radicchio likes fertile, well-drained soil in a mostly sunny location. 
With a garden fork, work some compost or soil conditioner into the top 20cm of soil.
Sprinkle the seeds in rows or just scatter them and cover lightly with some more soil.
The radicchio seeds should germinate in about a week.
When the seedlings are 3cm tall, thin them so that the plants are spaced 10 – 15cm apart.
You can do this by just cutting or snipping the plants at the soil level with a pair of scissors.
Radicchio matures in about 80 to 90 days or 2 ½ to 3 months.
As soon as the heads are compact and firm -about the size of a baseball, just cut the plant off at the soil level with a sharp knife.

When to Eat?
It's best to eat radicchio soon after harvesting it, but it’ll keep for as long as a week in the refrigerator.

For those living in cool temperate districts, raddichio can be made to stand through a very cold winter, and the head will regenerate if cut off carefully above ground level, so long as the plant is protected against severe frost.

TIP: If you put a light-excluding cover, for example, an inverted pot, during the last phase of growth, then you’ll get leaves with a more pronounced colour contrast, and at the same time you’ll be protecting against frost and cold winds. 

If the head is cut off completely just above the root, a small, new head will grow, especially if some frost protection is given.

You can do this a number of times.

Things that can go wrong
If you’re a bit haphazard with your watering, you’ll get a more bitter tasting leaf.
Bitter tasting leaves can also be the result of hot weather.
By planting radicchio in Autumn, the flavour is changed quite a bit by the onset of cold weather, because the colder weather, the mellower the flavour. Cold weather also starts the heading and reddening process in traditional varieties of radicchio.

Why is it good for you?
Radicchio is a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
The bitterness in the radicchio is something called lactucopicrin –LAC-TOO-SIP-RIN (intybin),
Lactucopicrin is a good anti-malarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic (painkiller) effect.
Something to have with your evening meal to help you sleep.
Fresh radicchio leaves are also one of the best sources of vitamin K and they have moderate amounts of essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin (B5, B6)- thiamin (vitamin B1),and niacin (B3).



Indoor Plants: Care and Maintenance
Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about what plants you can grow indoors wherever you live in Australia.
Quite a few in fact can cope with all weather conditions for the far north of Australia to Tasmania.
Despite all your loving attention though, some plants can be susceptible to pest attack, or just like plain unhealthy, making you think you did something wrong.
Bad case of scale photo M CAnnon
Not necessarily true, so let’s find out about looking after indoor plants
That was Julia Levitt Director of
PLAY: Indoor plants-pests_2nd August 2017

Even the best plant owner will come across pests.
Too much light for this Bromeliad  causing leaf scorch photo M Cannon
·         If your plant is showing signs of:
o   Wilting
o   Loosing it’s leaves prematurely
o   Leaves turning yellow and patchy
o   Leaves have a black dusty look or are sticky
·         Look for one of these pests as they could be causing the aggravation: Fungus Gnats, Whiteflies, Mealy Bug, Aphids, Spider Mites, Scale and Thrips. 
The trick is to keep an eye on your plants and act quickly as soon as you see something wrong with your indoor plant.
Why are we having plants indoors again?
Apart from plants reducing carbon dioxide levels in your home, did you know that people with plants in their homes have less stress, and plants have been known to contribute to lower blood pressure? 


Dianthus "Jolt"

Do you like the colour pink in your garden?
Light pinks, dark pinks and every shade in between?
Then here’s a plant for you that’s been developed by plant breeders so that it flowers for six months and can take the heat better than ever before.
But first, let’s find out about this plant.

The plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
Dianthus Jolt, is seed grown but unfortunately there has been a world shortage of seed this year due to a virus in the parent stock. 
However, if you do manage to secure a plant from this series, you'll be rewarded with flowers for 6 months of the year on 40 - 50 cm stems; great for cut flowers.
Dianthus Jolt 
Did you know that the history of Dianthus dates back to over 2000 years, making it one of the oldest cultivated flower varieties?
Greeks and Romans revered the plant, using its flowers for art, decor, and to build their iconic garlands.
Sweet William, Pinks or just Dianthus, the one that was mentioned, Dianthus Jolt is the most heat tolerant that you can grow.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Weed the Weeds and Sow the Seeds


Hand Weeding Tools for Garden Beds

Weeding the garden is one of those chores that you either keep putting off or you like doing.
Perhaps you liked doing it when your back was stronger and your knees not so sore but now you’re finding it that much harder.
Sure there’s spraying the weeds with herbicide but in between those cabbage or broccoli plants or in between those flowering bulbs or annuals it’s a little bit difficult to prevent the spray from getting onto the plants you want to keep.
So that leaves mechanical weeding.
So let’s find how to make that weeding job a little bit easier..
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

Weeding tools for mechanical weeding include, forks, all manner of hoes,, trowels cultivators and the NEW Garden Hook.
The "garden hook" along with cultivator and weeding tool. Handles sizes to help with weeding without kneeling.
The good news is there’s longer handles to help you do the weeding to which you can attach various cultivators or weeding hoes.
Don't bend over anymore, but purchase a long adjustable handle that can be fitted with different types of cultivators, and garden hooks.

Weeding is not only therapeutic but helps your plants stay healthy by removing competition plus weeds often harbour pests which then move onto your wanted plants.

This not only saves your back but your knees as well.
If you have any questions about weeding tools why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Shelf life of packet seeds.

We gardeners are guilty of buying too many seeds and realise, we just don’t have enough space to grow everything we would like to from seed.
Marketing gurus say that impulse buying is one big factor in seed sales.
That’s why they make the packets so attractive with those lovely photos on the front of the packet to entice your to buy them.

But what about the mail order companies?
No photos there, but we still go crazy buying up too many because the seed catalogues are so alluring.
Why? Because they’ve that alluring promise that you’re buying something no mainstream gardener will have.

 What to do with all those seed packets? 

Shall you throw them into the compost or give them a go? 

Now’s a good time to get out your seeds and take a look at the dates on the back usually.
You’ve probably got seeds lurking in a drawer, or maybe you’re more organised and they’re in a storage box.

Firstly let’s deal with how you’re storing your seeds.
If you’re keeping them in the garden shed that gets quite hot in summer, then the shelf life of your seeds is going to drop right down and possibly kill of your seeds.
Never store your seeds in a humid warm or sunny spot.
Seeds need to be kept cool and dry, ideally the temperature should be around 5°C and 10°C.
Keeping them in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge is good but whose going to have enough room in the fridge for all those seeds?
A dark place somewhere in the garage or laundry that stays cool in summer is the best place.
When properly stored in a cool, dry place, seed’s shelf life can be extended. - So how long do our veggie seeds last?

Simple Germination Test

If you want to be really sure that the seeds you’ve got will germinate and you’ve got quite a few to burn, why not do a simple germination test?
Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel.
Fold over the paper towel and place in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it; this helps to keep the towel moist and protected.
Then put in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the fridge but make sure the spot you’ve picked is away from exposure to direct sunlight.
This can overheat your seeds.

Next, check the seeds often—around once a day—to see if they’ve begun to germinate and to check the moisture of the paper towel.

But don’t keep opening it everyday otherwise your experiment will go mouldy in not time.

Only open the zip lock bag if it needs more water, and carefully mist the towel so it’s only just damp, but not soggy.

Don’t apply too much water. 

I’ve recently heard that adding a drop of tea to the water helps with the germination rate.
TIP: Your seeds should begin to germinate in several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. A good rule of thumb is to wait roughly 10 days;
We know that the packet comes printed with the expiry date of seeds.
But we want to know can they last longer?
In Australia, seed companies are generally required by law to germination test seeds before they sell them. 
The longest lasting seeds that I’ve germinated well past their expiry date, let’s say 3-4 years past, without any problem, are Basil, Kohlrabi, Broccoli and Rocket.

But let’s talk in families of plants such as in the Brassicaceae family.

The long lasting seeds here are Beetroot, Silverbeet, Swish chard, Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kale and Broccoli.

Next are those from the Solanaceae family, including tomato and eggplant.

Lastly, the Cucurbitaceae or Melon family.

Long lasting seeds in this family include cucumber, squash and watermelon.
Then there’s those seeds that aren’t so long lived but usually have a shelf life of 3-5 years like lettuce, and possibly parsley. Parsley is one herb that I don’t need to sow anymore.
By leaving a Parsley plant flower and set seed, you’ll have, like me, a continual supply of Parsley year round.
Until a regular visitor to the garden, a ringtail possum, decides they need something to eat in winter.
Then no Parsely.
There’s also the pea or Fabaceae family.
So yes, peas and beans are on the list.

A few seeds have a relatively short shelf life and are good for one to two years at the most.
These include onions, parsnips, chives, scorzonera and leeks.
That isn’t definitive and depending on who you ask, some will say that they were able to get their 10 year old bean seeds to germinate or some other vegetable.
The "sow by" date is based on the validity of the germination test and is not necessarily an accurate indication of the freshness or shelf-life of the seed.
So, that’s why, when you hear, beans can be viable for up to 10 years shelf life.
That means, 10 years if they were stored in a cool dry and dark place, and that the seed company put fresh seed into the packet in the first place.
Of course flower seeds are another category and I don’t have time to mention those other than to say, Pansies, Echinaceae, and Nasturtiums have germinated for me well past their use by date.
Before you start buying up seeds in the hope you’ll beat price rises and food shortages.
Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.
Just a note on seed provenance.
According to the experts, cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted via the seed.
Also, from those in the know, they say that there are other viruses that are seed born, so that gardeners can’t afford to be complacent.



Indoor Plants for Cool Climates
It’s been said that indoor plants remove pollutants from inside your home but did you know that plants can help fight colds?
Yes, that’s right, indoor plants have been shown to reduce cold related illnesses by more than 30%.
This is due to their effect of increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.
Chamaedora seffirzii can also be grown indoors in cool climates
This series on indoor plants is to suit everyone around Australia so this week we’re focusing on what plants that you can grow indoors if you live in a cool climate.
Let’s hear some more.
I'm talking withJulia Levitt Director of

Did you know also that plants can stop your headaches?
That’s right, because they’re removing those VOC;s(volatile organic compounds.) that your appliances, carpet, and furniture are giving off every day.
Plants in the home have also been shown to lower blood pressure.
PLANTS mentioned
Sago Palm can also be grown indoors in cool cliamtes
  • ·       Palms-Bamboo palm (Chamodorea seifrizii), Bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii), Fishtail Palm(Wodetia bifurcata), Parlour Palm, ( Chamaedorea elegans), Walking Stick Palm (Linospadic monostachyia)
  • ·    Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) for clean air
  • ·    ZZ plant(Zamioculcas zamifolia)-minimal watering
  • ·     Sago palm ( Cycas revoluta) withstands cool winter temps.

There’s more, but I’ll fill you in next week.
If you have any questions about indoor plants for cool climates why not email us


Abelia grandiflora
Abelia grandiflora in my garden.
Fabulous shrub that is a must for most gardens either as a hedge, topiary or stand alone shrub.
The species grows 2 x 2 metres but there are also dwarf cultivars like Abelia Frances Mason.
Did you know that Abelia is named after British consul general in China 1817 - Dr Clarke Abel?
Abelias mainly flower in summer but can flower in autumn as well. 
Long flowering with the creamy white changing to a reddish color as they age, often have red calyces behind the flowers. 
Flowers have a nice sweet fragrance. They have trumpet shapes that form in little balls at the end of the stem. 
Flowers are bee attracting
Talking with Hugh Mandelidis and Lewi Beere, who are two young guys into gardening about Abelia grandiflora.

In autumn the leaves colour up to a reddish-bronze look but this depends on your climate.
If you live in a cold area such as Bathurst where temperates can fall to -10 C overnight, expect your Abelia bush to have the reddest of red leaves.