Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Building Habitat for Native Bees and Growing Custard Apples


Building Habitat for Native Bees

This year, gardening has been taken up by many people who have never gardened before.
But that’s not all, worm farming, keeping chickens and bee-keeping have become more popular because people are spending more time at home.
You probably know there are honey bees and Australian native bees.
But which type of bees pollinate your crops better or is there no difference?
Let’s find out..
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska of 

Margaret suggests build habitat for the native bees because they are so much better at pollinating your flowers, in particular veggies in the tomato family, than honey bees. 

  • Building native bee habitat can be bricks made from clay, or wood and other materials.

Margaret's Clay Bricks Recipe

Mix clay with water then 2 or 3 parts of sand.
Margaret then pours the mix into moulds. One litre milk containers say from rice milk.
When dry she drills various size holes into these 'clay' bricks and places them strategically around the garden.

Most native bees are dormant or die during the Australian winters.
Flower are important from spring onwards.
Plant flowering trees with small flowers such as melaleucas or paperbarks.
  • Borage is also an excellent plant for bees because it has a high percentage of protein and sugar in the pollen and nectar.
  • Perennial basil is also fantastic for not only attracting bees but hover flies and other beneficial insects to the garden.
  • Why not also let some parsley or coriander go to seed.
  • Provide some water for the bees-not deep, and include some pebbles so the bees don't drown. Plant saucers are ideal for this purpose.
  If you have questions for Margaret about keeping native bees, or have information to share, drop us a line to


Custard Apples: Annona atemoya

One couldn’t get further from a vegetable by talking about growing a custard apple.
But here it is.

Annona atemoya is the scientific name of custard apples.
  • Did you know that Australian custard apple is unique in the world and is a hybrid of the sugar apple (Annona squamosa) and the cherimoya (Annona cherimola)?
  • Importantly, Australia is the largest commercial producer of custard apples? 

What Do They Look Like?

Firstly it's absolutely nothing like an apple and nothing like custard, but the flesh is quite creamy and sweet

What it looks like is a fat and soft choko but with more rounded bumps.

  • Inside there’s large, dark brown seeds and soft, white, supersweet flesh that’s great for a sweet tooth.

Buying your tree

  • You can buy the commercial variety which are Pink Mammoth or African Pride.
  • Both are sweet, juicy and full of flavour. 
  • Pinks Mammoth is the larger of the two varieties. It can grow up to 3kg and has yellow-pink colouring between the ridges of the bumps when mature. You can pull a Pink Mammoth apart with your hands and then eat it by just scooping out the flesh. 
  • African Pride is the smaller variety and is medium sized – usually between 500g-800g. 
Both varieties have a full appearance when mature, and the skin will start to smooth out the bumps. They both turn from dark green to light green.

  • Or you can grow smaller versions like dwarf custard apples called Tropic sun which is a small free fruiting tree suitable for home gardens.Tropic sun has ripe fruit with a sweet creamy textured pulp with fewer seeds. Pick the fruit when it’s firm and let it ripen at room temperature. 
  • The Tropic Sun custard apple tree is best suited to warm tropical and sub-tropical regions along Australia’s east coast (e.g. from the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland down to Alstonville in northern New South Wales). 
  • There’s another one called Geffner which is an Israeli cultivar. Geffner has a good amount of fruit with exceptionally good flavour and is known to be self pollinating, setting fruit every year. A very reliable tree that doesn’t need much maintenance for home gardens and can be grown in a pot. 
How to Grow
If you want to grow this tree, then plant it in a sunny well drained position but protected from hot dry winds.
This is because this tree has soft brittle wood that’s easily damaged by wind especially when it’s bearing fruit.
Custard apples don’t like frost because frosts can kill or severely damage even mature trees.
So if you want to grow this one, grow it in a pot and move indoors over winter or cover the tree with fleece.
Warm, well-protected, frost-free sites in districts receiving a predominantly summer rainfall are the most suitable.
Mulch your tree and prune it in Spring to an open vase shape.
Fertilize well after fruit set with an organic fertilizer.
Tip: Regular watering commencing at flowering to harvest is important.

Where to Plant
Custard apples are best suited to sandy loam soils, but well-structured clay loams are suitable. Although the tree's main feeder roots are relatively shallow, at least 1 m of well-drained soil without heavy clay or rock is needed to avoid root rot and ensure good tree performance. Where the topsoil is less than 1 m deep, plant the trees on mounds.

Care of your custard Apple trees and Where do they grow best in Australia?
Custard apple fruit are susceptible to skin discolouration and splitting when prolonged temperatures below about 13°C are experienced during the later stages of fruit development.
To minimise this, choose a location that’s relatively warm, in the early winter.
Temperatures of 25°C to 28°C during flowering (October to February) are favourable for good fruit set. At temperatures above 28°C, custard apples produce more growth and fewer flowers, and drying of flower parts increases. For this reason, custard apples are not suitable for coastal tropical or hot inland areas.

Here’s a great tip:
For the novelty of growing a custard apple you can grow it from the seeds from fruit bought at the fruit and veg shop.
  • Just sow them like any other seed. They take ages to germinate, like three months minimum up to 12 months. 
  • There are 2 ways to grow them from seeds 
  • 1st way is the paper towel method, with this method you put 2-3 seeds in the paper towel wet the towel then fold them and wrap them up with sandwich plastic bags then keep warm inside on window or somewhere else that’s warm. 
  • 2nd method is in plastic cups or small pots: plant a seed in the pot water it and cover the whole pot with clear plastic wrap and keep away from frost.. and in 2-3 weeks you will see sprouts come out. 
  • You’ll most likely not get the custard apple tree that produced the fruit you’re getting the seed from, because they are a hybrid between what's commonly known as a Sugar apple and a Cherimoya. But, you never know, you just might end up with the next world beater or something not quite so good or anything in between. It's good fun all the same. 
How do You Eat Custard Apples?
Custard Apples are only eaten when soft, and only the flesh is eaten.
To eat them just cut in them in half and scoop out the white flesh.
The Custard Apple should be moist with a pleasant sweet aroma.
Once ripe, custard apples can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If the skin has gone purple or black, they have passed their best eating quality.
Why Are They Good For You?
Even if you think you can’t grow a custard apple, there’s plenty of reasons why you might buy the fruit.
They’re delicious raw or you can bake them in muffins and teacakes.
Drinks and smoothies are another way custard apple is used along with syrups, jams and marmalade.
Custard apple sauce also pairs well with various meats.
Custard apples contain protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins, energy and very little fat. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium with some B2 and complex carbohydrates.


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