Saturday, 29 May 2021

Preserving Tomatoes and Other Fruits

 Preserving tomatoes part 1

Pretty much everyone, from beginner gardeners to the experienced, just love growing tomatoes.
It's easy to see why, they are so rewarding and easy to grow, practically jumping out of the ground as soon as you sow them.
Despite all the problems that can beset your tomato crop, we still grow them year after year, because nothing beats the taste of a home grown tomato.

Fruit Fly?

If you have had tomatoes but they were affected by fruit fly, then use exclusion bags, or net the whole tomato bed.
  • Black Krim photo M Mossakoska
    So you might be wondering, but what about pollination?
Tomatoes are mostly self-pollinated, so the pollen drops from the anthers to the tip of the pistil in each flower
Wind helps this to happen by vibrating the flowers, ensuring the pollen loosens and falls.
  • But if you've covered the bed with netting, it's still easy to pollinate the flowers.
Just whack the stems with a stick to release the pollen, or use an electric toothbrush into the flower to move the pollen from the stamens to the pistil.

So now you planted, fertilised and then harvested, what next?
There's been a bumper season of tomatoes but what do you do with them all?
Passata photo M Mossakowska

Tomato types and can they be preserved?

Salad tomatoes-not suitable for drying but can be made into passata.
Beefsteak tomatoes-large and fleshy, good for grilling, dehydrating and making passata. Margaret's favourite is Cherokee Purple.

Roma tomatoes-the most commonly used to make a sauce or passata.
Grape or cherry tomatoes- great if you don't want to bother with fruit fly exclusion netting. Not for drying, but eating fresh mainly. Good for beginner gardeners.

The was Margaret Mossakowska director of and sometimes a guest on Gardening Australia TV

Preserving Tomatoes and Other Food Part 2

Last week on the good earth segment, we talked about which tomatoes are best for passata, and preserving.
Margaret's cut tomatoes for grilling. photo M Mossakoska
It's time to delve into the world of dehydrating not just your tomatoes, but apples and other abundant fruits in your garden.

Why Dehydrate?
But what about dried tomatoes?
Can you do that without buying one of those fancy air dryers?
  • Dehydrating food preserves most of the nutrients-only losing 3-5% of the nutrients and reduces the volume of your fruit. Dehydrating temperatures can be as low as 30 degrees.
  • Canning loses 60 - 80% of nutrients.
  • Grilling or making passata, also loses nutrients but not as much as in canning.

Sunlight is not the answer for dehydrating, because UV light affects the nutrients of food.,

The simplest method is to place the fruit on flyscreens or similar and place under shade, or as Margaret does, under a metal roof, perhaps a back porch.
http://Moss House - Skills for healthy living
Dehydrated apples. photo M. Mossakowska
  • The next choice is to use a commercial dehydrator.
Choice magazine has reviewed dehydrators.

The overall score is made up of: drying performance (60%) and ease of use (40%). You can see the whole article on the Choice Magazine website (you either pay subscription or pay just to view the article): or get a copy at a local library for free.

The listed prices are higher than in most shops. Margaret has the Ezidri FD500 model brand new from an op-shop for $10! 

Margaret's Super tip for storing the dried fruits

It's often humid in our kitchen and pantries.
So the best idea, put the dried fruit and jar in the oven after cooking has finished, so the air inside the jar dries as well.
Store in smaller containers so every time you open it, you are letting air in.
Use special moisture absorbing sachets that contain silicon, or make your own sachets from organza material filled with dry rice grains.

Let's listen to the interview.

The was Margaret Mossakowska director of and sometimes a guest on Gardening Australia TV

If you have any questions about preserving tomatoes drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Design Principles: Doing the Design and Landscape Materials


Design Principles part 3: Doing the design.

Do you have a particular favourite colour when it comes to plants or perhaps there are some colours that you just don’t want in your garden?

These are the sorts of things you need to think about when redesigning either all or some of your garden.

What to do next

  • Consider your colour pallette, what colours don't you like or do like?
  • Think about what plants your really want to include.
  • If you have an attachment to certain plants, think about using those as a guideline to what else you can plant.
  • Draw a scaled plan so you can work out the proportions of your gardens beds a bit better. A mudmap may be a good idea to start with but once you’ve decided on the plants you like, it’s time to think about drawing up a plan to scale so that you can be sure that all the plants you like will actually fit in. In some situations you may be able to get by with just the mud map.  
  • Think about design styles: Start collecting images of gardens that you like.
Cottage Garden Style

A cottage garden is known for its flowering perennials with their soft, relaxed form and character. These gardens have a fairly informal style and are normally planted with flowering plants in muted and pastel colours. The plants tend to grow into each other, forming mounds and domes. 

Formal Garden Style
This style of garden has the most structure and can be quite rigid in their style. The basis of a formal garden is symmetry, balance, tailored plantings, simplistic plant choice and a sense of majesty. The gardens and pathways tend to run in straight lines and form grid like patterns

I'm talking with Glenice Buck of

Design Principles part 4

Landscape Materials

Over the last few weeks, Garden Designer Glenice Buck has been outlining all those factors you need to consider when you’re doing a re-design no matter how big or small.
Hopefully you’ve at least drawn a mudmap of your garden or yard if there’s nothing in it.
Do this before you buy the plants.
  • But what are the options for say landscape materials?
  • There are clever ways to achieve looks of the real thing without spending the big bucks.

Think locally to reduce transport costsThen there’s re-purposing material especially if it’s already in your garden or nearby.

What about fencing?
So many types of fencing
Wire fencing
Timber with horizontal rails.

Retaining walls
Reconstituted sandstone blocks
Drystone walls-especially if you have plenty of stone lying about on your property
Besser blocks that can be rendered or cap with sandstone fascias.
Timber- but this has a limited life and can be eaten out by termites.
Gabion walls-wire mesh that is filled with rocks.
Corten steel lengths edging as well as for retaining walls.

Steps: need to be structurally sound.
Natural stone: granite or Sandstone floaters.
Brick steps
Pieces of limestone or limestone tiles.
Concrete steps

loose pebbles
paving: sandstone, granite, terracotta, brick, decomposed granite

I'm talking with  Glenice Buck of

That concludes the series on design principles

Garden Design Principles Where to Start and Site Analysis


Design Principles part 1 an introduction 

Most people’s backyards are a square or rectangular affair, and if it’s flat, doesn’t offer much to the imagination.
Picture this, you walk out the back door and you see the whole yard or garden in one brief sweep.
What about being a bit more creative?
Photo: M Cannon
Let’s find out how.

I'm talking with Glenice Buck of

Glenice's top  tips

  1. Consider what you have already in the garden and work with it.
  2. Look at the geometry of the site and decide if you want to work with it.
  3. Create a sense of enclosure, even if it's only a small area in a corner so that you don't see the whole garden from the back door. 
    1. You could plant out something tall to hide part of the garden so it’s a sort of secret garden.
  4. Consider the scale and size of the structures in the garden, can they be changed?
  5. Mass planting creates uniformity and is good design-choose odd numbers, 3, 5 and so on.
  6. Use symmetry versus asymmetrical, which one should you choose?
  7. Use lines and curves-consider the two different shapes in your garden. You can have curves in a narrow garden. 
  8. Look at what foliage can bring to the garden; flowers are a bonus as they aren't always there.

Design Principles part 2

Site Analysis
Are you all set to re-design your garden to give it a new lease of life?
  • Perhaps just one area needs re-doing.
  • Autumn is the best time to think about that but first there are a few basics to consider.

Things to Consider
You first need to consider the factors that cannot be changed, these are:
climatic zone 
soil texture/type 
soil pH 
site hydrology or drainage 
the views into and out of the site 
water availability 
  • Having time to observe some of these factors can also work to your advantage as you can then see the difference in these elements through all the seasons.
  • The majority of gardening problems are caused by gardeners not understanding the climatic needs of their plants. It's important to note that Australia has a warmer climate than the countries of origin of most of our introduced plants. 
I'm talking with Glenice Buck of

Top tips:
  • Firstly, get to know your soil, the soil’s pH and how well does it drain, ie hydrology.
  • You can also look up soil texture test on the internet.
  • Consider water availability, particularly if you don’t have access to town water.
  • Then what views have you got and which need hiding.
Elements you can change.
  • Plants-move them if possible if they don't suit their location.
  • Look at lifespan of the existing trees or shrubs. Have they past their use by date? Have some sort of succession plan in place for these plants.
  • Decking or paving can be changed but think about re-using the material in the garden, or selling on a local buy, swap and sell, rather than throwing them into landfill.
Draw up a Mudmap
Now is the time to draw a rough map of you garden and house, including the boundary lines.
Mark structures that are going to stay, such as taps, clothesline, pathways, driveways.
Good to have this in your pocket to show to nursery staff to get ideas about plant quantities.
IMPORTANT: Mark out North on your map

Oregano and Marjoram: What's the Difference? Plus Grow Leeks


Oregano vs Marjoram: What's the Difference?

How well do you know your herbs?
You may have a herb garden so are pretty much used to telling the difference between one herb and another, but there are some herbs that look really similar.
  • Have you ever asked one of your household to go and get something like say sage leaves from your garden, and they came back with some catmint or something else?
  • Or perhaps you’ve planted one of these similar looking herbs and have forgotten which is which?
Can you tell which of the herbs pictured below is oregano and which is marjoram?

It’s time to have a closer look and write up a label.
Marjoram and oregano are very close relatives.
Even more confusing because the latin name for marjoram genus is Origanum

Scientific name: Oregano majorana
Common name: marjoram
Family: Lamiaceae or mint family
Scientific name: Oreganum vulgare
Common name: oregano
Family: Lamiaceae or mint family

How to tell the difference at a glance

  • Marjoram leaf will generally be a little bit smaller and rounder whereas the oregano leaf tends to be elongated and slightly larger..
  • Oregano leaf will be slightly fuzzy looking in appearance.
  • Oregano grows vigorously throughout the year and is considered a tought herb.
  • Marjoram is likely to die off in colder weather.
  • Marjoram has a milder flavour than oregano.
  • Oregano has a slightly peppery note to it.
Varieties of marjoram
Pot marjoram: Origanum onites
Winter  or wild marjoram: Origanum heraclesticum

Varieties of oregano.
Greek oregano: Origanum vulgare hirtum
Mexican oregano: Poliomentha longiflora 
Poliomentha is not to be confused with  another herb also called Mexican oregano and a member of the verbena family, namely, Lippia graveolens.
  • As always, common names will trap the unwary.
Let’s find out a bit more about these herbs and how they can be used in cooking.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

If you have any questions about herbs, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Leeks: Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum
There’s nothing like a good long history that some vegetables seem to have and the Leek is no exception.
Leeks are supposed to be native to Central Asia, and have been cultivated there and in Europe for thousands of years.
  • Did you know that Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans because of their supposed beneficial effect upon the throat.
  • The Greek philosopher Aristotle thought that the clear voice of the partridge was due to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.
  • Another interesting fact that you might not know is that the leek became a Welsh emblem in 1536, and is still the national emblem of Wales. Daffodil is the National flower.
  • Have you ever wondered why Welsh are such great singers?Perhaps because they eat a lot of leeks, think Tom Jones.
Leeks, known scientifically as Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions.
  • Onions, celery, and carrots are very good companion plants for the leek.
Leeks, are a cool season crop and best of all they’re easy to grow.
  • You can grow leeks in hot summers, but you won’t get the same quality result as you will in a cool summer environment.
I know I’ve tried and they were a thinner weaker version of the winter leek.
Leeks are usually grown from seed and are generally started off in punnets first then transplanted.
When to Sow
Sow the seeds of Leeks from Spring until the end of Autumn in cool temperate climates, and late summer and autumn in warm and tropical zones, and in arid districts, seeds must be sown in February/early March and then you can transplant them in April and May. 
I sowed some seed a several weeks ago and have already transplanted them into the veggie bed because they were a couple of inches-about 10cm high and were the thickness of a pencil.
TIP: By the way, the seeds germinated fine from an out of date packet.
Leeks will overwinter in cool temperate areas of Australia if properly mulched, but will generally not survive periods of extreme cold.
In case you don’t know what a leek is.
Leeks look like large fat spring onions, but have a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of layers of white then green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves.
  • It goes without saying that good soil is the key to growing leeks.
  • Leeks need nutrient rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
  • They’ll do well in almost any garden soil as long as it is well aerated and deep, about a spade’s depth is good. Using some kind of dibble tool or stick to make a hole that's just deep enough to leave only the top inch of the seedling exposed.
  • Set the leek seedling into the hole and fill it loosely with soil.
  • Space the leeks 10cm or a large hand span" apart, in rows at least 25cm  or from your wrist to your elbow apart. Find something practical like that to do you estimates.
Some people think that when growing Leeks the aim is to blanch the stems while the plants are maturing.
To save your back if you want to blanch the stems, rather than digging a trench, just use mulch.
When they’re 4 weeks old in the veggie bed, use a thick mulch of sugar cane or something like that.
In another 4 weeks or when they reach about 24cm, do the same again, or you can use shredded newspaper.
The leeks will still grow as well if you don’t do any of this.
Some gardeners cut off the top portion of the leaves, about halfway up the plant, as the leeks are maturing.
This is supposed to bring on stalk growth, giving you a larger leek for the dinner table.
  • To be honest you can do all this, but if you don’t the leeks are just as tasty.
Make sure the plants get at least a couple of cm’s of water a week; otherwise the stems will be tough to eat.
Mulch to conserve moisture, and side-dress with manure tea once a month.
Begin harvesting leeks as soon as they're big enough to use.
Young, tender ones are good raw; once they reach the width of a paper roll, they're better cooked.
They usually take 16-18 weeks--4 ½ months.
Quite a long time so explains why they are so expensive at the greengrocer, market or wherever you buy them.
To prepare Leeks cut them very thinly and sautee’ just as you would other members of the onion family.
 Like their allium cousins, onions and garlic, let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
Why are they good for you?
Good source of dietary fibre also a top source of vitamin C
Leeks have a high concentration of the B vitamin folate
Leeks give you small amounts of other minerals and vitamins.
Like onions, they also have some sulphur compounds that scientists believe reduce your risk of some health problems.
Leeks are believed to be good for the throat.
Leeks are low in calories and fat-free. 100g of leek has just 125kJ.

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Ants on Plants and Top Ten Unusual Veggies to Grow


Ants on Plants

Ants in the house are a problem because they turn up in your pantry, in your cat and dog food that you’ve put out, or just hang around the kitchen bench.
Sometimes they’re in places like the bathroom, leaving you wondering what on earth are they doing there?
Ants in the garden are another matter, however, it's pretty common to see ants running up and down on your plants, and one or two shouldn't be a cause for concern.

It's when the ants are present on your tree or shrub in large numbers that you should start to worry because they can signal other pest problems occurring on your tree, shrub or even seedlings.

Why Are Ants On Your plants in the First Place?

  • Whitefly, aphids, mites are all sap suckers.
  • It’s not just the presence of scale pests that ants are attracted to. These are all sap suckers and produce honey dew which ants like to farm. 
  • Juvenile scale which is the crawler stage, are very small and you may not notice them, although the ants will know that they are there.

Ants farming aphids

  • Sometimes it’s just the sweet nectar of the flowers that bring in the ants.
  • Ants can live in your containerised plants if the potting mix has become very dry or hydrophobic. The dry soil becomes a perfect medium for the ants to build a home in.
  • Watch to see what the ants are doing-going to the flowers only or running all over the plants.


Horticultural or Neem oils can be sprayed to smother the aphids and controlling mealybug. Spring is the best time to control spray for scale, but you can still spray in summer. 

I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from

If you have any questions about ants on plants, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.



More people are getting into growing produce and possibly are overlooking the more unusual vegetables.
Perhaps they’ve never heard of them, or they are wondering how to grow them or been even a little afraid.
Winter Radishes
Because we’re leading up to the cooler months, I’ll start with winter radishes, yes there’s more than one.
The one often used in Asian cooking is  Daikon.  Then there’s black Spanish radish and watermelon radish.
Daikon radish

Daikon is a Japanese variety that has long white cylindrical roots.
Daikon grows quite large so give it a bit of space.
This one’s good for pickling.
Black Spanish radish comes in two varieties, a long and a round.
The long grows to 25cm and is cylindrical, while the round is a turnip shaped.
Black Spanish radish
Both have very dark almost black skin and white inner flesh.
Sow it in late summer and autumn.
Watermelon radish have round white skins and a deep pink inner flesh. They are usually best around 8cm in length.
Jicama is a turnip shaped root vegetable that tastes sweet and crisp and can be eaten raw or cooked.
It stays crisps when looked, similar to water chestnuts in texture.
The flavour has been described as resembling snow peas but slightly sweeter.
It’s actually the root of a vine Pachyrhizus erosus.
Benefits are lots of vitamin C and fibre.
Easy to germinate from seed, although soaking overnight will speed the process up.
It can be sown all year in tropical areas but best in spring in temperate and sub-tropical regions.
Rich in vitamin C.

Apple eggplant is actually Thai eggplant.
Thai eggplant
It’s quite a small rounded dark green looking eggplant like you’ve never seen before.
Best sown in spring in all areas.
Interestingly you can eat it raw in relish or in a stir-fry, which I think, most chefs would grow it for.
Unlike other eggplants, these little gems don’t need soaking to remove any bitterness.

Ethiopian cabbages cope better with variations of temperature and moisture. Looking a bit different from your regular cabbage, because instead of around ball, their leaves are open.
Their appearance explains why it’s also called Ethiopian kale.
Growing to a height of 1.5m and 1m width. they still produce tender leaves that have a buttery and mustardy taste if you can imagine that.
Best yet, is the white cabbage moth steers clear of them.
Available from
  • Taro root for carb lovers not avoiders.
Makes a great substitute for regular spuds and even sweet potatoes.
Another tropical or subtropical plant, but why not try growing it wherever you are perhaps in a large pot as it grows to 1-2 metres tall.?
Plant it any time of the year in frost-free areas, and in spring in cold areas. Best growth occurs at 25-35°C.
Each plant grows one large tuber with smaller hangers onners.
The leaves are attractive, similar to Alocasia or elephant ear plant.
Taro has a sweeter taste than other carbs, and is loaded with fibre.
Jerusalem artichokes, are in the sunflower family with tubers that look a bit like ginger roots.
Tastes slightly nutty when cooked.
Jerusalem artichoke tubers

These are high in iron
Plant the tubers in spring by cutting them into 2 or 3 sections, each one with an 'eye' then cover with 10cm of soil.
Full sun is best.
Celeriac some of you might know because it occasionally gets a mention in the veg heroes section.
With a name like celeriac, you’d have guessed it was related to celery but also parsley.
Unlike celery or parsley, you eat the bottom bit that looks like an ancient looking sphere that perhaps belongs on a show about aliens.
All that aside, the flavour is quite nice, especially as a mashed potato substitute.
The flavour could be described a lighter mix of parsley, celery and nuttiness.
Celeriac is slow to grow so plant early in spring (after the frosts have passed) for mid-autumn harvesting
Romanesco broccoli is another that might a bit familiar.
Romanesco broccoli
It looks like a pointy cauliflower that turned bright green.
Grow it the same way as you would broccoli or indeed, cauliflower.
Daikon, bitter melon, romanesco, and saldify are just a few of the thousands of unusual but highly nutritious vegetables grown around the world.
Adding some of these veggies to your diet will not only expand your palate and add flavour to your dishes but also potentially boost your overall health.
Don’t be afraid to try these unique vegetables if you spot them at farmers markets or your local grocery store.