Monday, December 31, 2012

What To Plant In Summer

Summer time is cucumber season
I’m on a mission to bust a myth about summer. Yes, you can start a garden in summer and it will be amazing!

I was recently talking with a few newlyweds at church about living in their new homes and they all expressed a real keenness to start their own gardens now that they have started their married lives.

But they all raised exactly the same objection,
“But you can’t plant anything now during summer.”

No, no, no, no…you have it all the wrong way around. Summer is a great time to plant.
In fact if you look at your seed packets they will almost all certainly say summer is the ideal time for planting.

No excuses, myth busted!

If you want a shady, productive garden to cool you down during our harsh summers it is never too late.  So many plants are fast growers and lap up the sun and shade during the heat.

So to get you planting, here’s my handy guide. (Temperate Climate)

Get your garden ready in Winter

By planting dormant fruit trees and vines (grapes, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi fruit, etc.) you can increase the lushness and shade of your summer garden.

Most trees have their highest yield during the summer, especially the stone fruits such as apricot, peach, plum, nectarine and peacharine.  They are at their leafy greenest during summer.

Planting purple, pink and orange flowering plants will also increase bee activity for pollination of your crops.  Lavender and Salvias are a great choice.

But for a non-bee attracting flower that thrives on neglect, but always looks lush in the summer garden, try Agapanthus.

Agapanthus and Salvia

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guinness Gingerbread Cake

Picture courtesy of as we ate ours too quickly to photograph!

I don't normally do two recipes in a row as this is my gardening blog, but I have been inundated with requests for my Guinness Gingerbread Cake recipe this Christmas.  I've been honoured with having this cake being called "the most delicious cake you will ever taste," so if that is anything to go by please give this one a try!

This is the same recipe that Nigella Lawson uses; so you KNOW this is going to be good.

Guinness Gingerbread Cake


150g butter, plus some for greasing

300g golden syrup
200g dark brown (muscovado) sugar
250ml Guinness (Stout)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
300ml sour cream
2 eggs
1 x 23cm square baking tin or 1 x foil tray approx. 30 x 20 x 5cm

  1. Preheat oven to 170C and grease your baking tray.
  2. Put the butter, syrup, muscovado sugar, Guinness, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.
  3. Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and bicarb. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.
  4. Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture in the sour cream and eggs, whisking again to get a smooth batter.
  5. Pour this into your lined square tin, or into a barbecue-type foil tray and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the tin at the sides.
  6. Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.

Storage Notes

The gingerbread can be baked up to 1 week ahead. Wrap in baking parchment followed by layer of clingfilm and store in airtight container in a cool place. Keep for total of 2 weeks.

Freezing: The gingerbread can be frozen, wrapped in layer of baking parchment and double layer of foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost on wire rack at room temperature for 3-4 hours and cut into squares.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Roast Chicken with Tasmanian Spice

As Christmas approaches I have had a lot of people ask if I know a great Roast Chicken recipe; nothing too fancy, something simple and very tasty.

I have just the right recipe for you, but as any chef likes to say, "And here's my take on an old classic."

The Tasmanian twist happens to be two beautiful spices that my whole family love that I discovered on my trip to Tasmania many years ago:

  • Tasmanian Pepper Berry
  • McCormick Bush Spices with Mountain Pepper
Technically Mountain Pepper is also Pepper Berry, but when you smell them both you will understand why I use both. They are so aromatic and perfect for roasting chicken.

If you do not have access to these spices, don't worry. Good old salt and pepper works just as wonderful alone in my Roast Chicken recipe.

Roast Chicken with Tasmanian spices

Roast Chicken


2kg Whole Chicken
Olive oil
Pepper Berry (optional)
McCormick Bush Spices with Mountain Pepper (optional)
(Or use your choice of white or cracked black pepper instead)
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 quantity of easy herb stuffing

  1. Preheat oven to 190C.
  2. Wash the chicken and pat down with paper towels.
  3. Prepare stuffing.
  4. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity of the chicken, packing it in not too tightly.
  5. Tie the legs together with kitchen string.
  6. Place the chicken on a rack in a baking tray and brush or massage over the oil on both sides of the chicken.
  7. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices.
  8. Pour the stock into the base of the baking tray to keep chicken moist and juicy.
  9. Bake for 2 hours.
♥♥♥ - ♥♥♥ - ♥♥♥


If you are using a packet of instant stuffing, I recommend only half the box mixed with half a cup of water for a family of 4. A whole box can fit inside of 2kg chicken, but extra care is needed when closing up the opening when you tie the legs to keep the stuffing in.

To make your own stuffing:
Cook 1 finely chopped onion and 2 teaspoons of oil for 5 minutes.
Mix with 3 cups of fresh bread crumbs, 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs, 30g softened butter, salt and cracked black pepper.

♥♥♥ - ♥♥♥ - ♥♥♥

Roasting Time Notes

The larger the chicken, the longer it will take to roast.

As a general guide:
a size 14 (1.4kg) chicken needs 50-55 minutes;
a size 16 (1.6kg) chicken needs 1 hour;
a size 18 (1.8kg) chicken needs 65-70 minutes;
a size 20 (2kg) chicken needs 2 hours.


McCormick Bush Spices and Ground Pepper Berry

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strawberries JigSaw

Here is today's gardening jigsaw puzzle.
It's my December strawberries in bloom in my container garden.

Remember that you can return to your game anytime as it will automatically save your game on exiting.

Click on the image below to start.

Capsicum Cut Back Update

Must give you an update on the success on my capsicum experiment.

As you may have read in an earlier blog of mine, I decided to take the advice of a friend's neighbour who insisted that cutting back capsicum plants at the end of its season would make it shoot out again and become even more productive.

Well, here's the latest. Not only did my capsicum re-shoot thoroughly bushy and delightfully green, but is fruiting like crazy! The capsicums are thick all the way through the center of the plant. The outside is soon about to develop even more fruit. Simply one of the best re-growths I have ever experienced in container gardening.

And all this happened in just 3 months. So quick!

Thumbs up to this one. Myth no more.

History Inspires Great Self-Sufficiency

Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn & Ruth Goodman on the Wartime Farm (BBC)
I was recently having a conversation with a friend about what inspires me to try for semi self-sufficiency in my suburban backyard. I had all the cliches ready to go; I was ready to name-drop top TV chefs and standard home and garden shows, but then I thought a little more about my style of gardening and how much my childhood farm and grandpa have influenced me.

I am influenced by what I watch, and having thought it a great deal more I remembered a great series from the BBC featuring historian Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn. I must admit, I found my style, and it is really worth checking out!

In fact, I want to you trust me - just buy one and you will see what I mean.

You may better know them as:

Victorian Farm

Edwardian Farm

Tales From The Green Valley

And new to 2012... Wartime Farm

For more information on Wartime Farm check out the BBC website or official Wartime Farm website.

If you like lifestyle documentary style programs, these are just wonderful to watch. I have the complete series on DVD and I still love to watch them many times over. They are available through eBay and many other online retailers. Check around for the best price and your region code.

What a great way to get inspired and keep up our love for the skills of old. Let's not lose them, we may need them again one day. (We will if the power prices keep going up the way they are!)

Check them out these holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Seed Saving Packet Downloads

Your garden looks set to burst with seeds of plants you would love to grow again. They are about to go everywhere; some will self-seed others will go to waste or perhaps even in your greens waste bin.

How about gathering those seeds and growing your new plants exactly where you want them to be? Give them as gifts to family and friends.

Now where to put them? I have got the solution. Get your printer and scissors ready!

Here's a few free downloadable seed packet templates that I have found to help you get those seeds organised...

1. A great classic seed packet design in PDF format from Joy Ever After.

2. Easy to read, clean design in PDF file from Continent In A Cottage blog.

3. Something vintage or mod design? Check out Just Something I Made web site for a great variety to choose from. (jpg)

4. There are three (3) lovely packets to choose from at The Allotment Junkies. (jpg) Little gift cards are included.

5. Maggie Wang has an amazing selection of seed packet designs as PDF downloads, ranging from fully detailed to completely blank canvases for you to create your own art work upon. So many to choose from.

6. Erin Vale Design have created a sweet and simple packet design in PDF format.

Please respect these designers by not reproducing these images for sale to profit from their hard work.

Great gift idea for a neighbour, celebrations, birthday or as a barter exchange.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vintage Onion Packet Jigsaw

Here's today's little bit of fun and distraction: Vintage Onion Seed Packet.
Remember you can exit at any time and your game will automatically save itself for your return.
Click on the image to begin.

Have fun!