Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Fruit Salad Plant (Monstera Deliciosa)


Across many Australian, well established backyards there lurks a plant that many do not know is actually a fruit and it tastes amazing. Its commonly known as the Fruit Salad Plant, the botanical name is Monstera Deliciosa.

Not to be confused with the Philodendron. They are easy enough to tell apart as the Monstera Deliciosa has swiss cheese looking leaves. Philodendrons grow up right with a main central stem, whereas Monstera tend to go wide.

We grow so many strange things in our garden and this is one that even my kids like to take along to school as Show 'n' Tell (and a taste test). In many island communities they are sold at their markets as a regular fruit.

The fruit is highly acidic, and needs to ripen fully before eating. Sometimes if eaten a little too early it can feel like lots of pins and needles in your mouth. I'm not kidding. But the more riper the fruit the smoother and lovelier it becomes, and that sharp pin-like sensation mellows away.

The flavour is a strange cross between a pineapple and a banana; thus like fruit salad.


We usually harvest one or two at a time and pop them into a brown paper bag and leave them in the pantry or cupboard to ripen up. You will definitely know when they are ready to eat when your whole pantry has a sweet aroma and the outside pineapple-like scales just fall off. Start to eat where the scales fall away because that will be the sweetest and ripest part.

Usually considered a plant for Tropics, it can grow like crazy in South Australia which is a Mediterranean climate with really hot summers. Our Monstera grows between our house and neighbouring fence and faces morning sun. It seems to thrive on neglect which is great for water conservation.

Picking Tip: When they easily snap off from their base, they are ready to harvest.


So next time you go past a Fruit Salad plant, have a look if you can find any fruit. Look for fruit in Spring and Summer.





Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pruning the Espalier: Next Level


It's that all important time in espalier maintenance when a fruit tree must be pruned to its next level on the frame. The first month of summer can see a real spurt of growth in many fruit trees, most especially in my plums.


When you see how many new branches appear the task can look pretty daunting, but once you get in there you will find the true leaders to brace and the ones to remove.

On the type of frame I have I require two side branches and one central leader to grow up towards the next level.


I have used t-shirt material that has stretch which allows the branches to grow in width without strangling.


The central stem needs to be straightened as much as possible, so a little creative tying may need to be done to ensure that.


Remember to always prune with a clean pair of garden snips.
So easy♥

It's looking good, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trialling Yates Waterwise Drought Shield Spray


I finally have one...yes one...very healthy, bushy green and flowering hydrangea. It is a big achievement for me as every hydrangea I have ever grown has never survived the harsh summers in my Adelaide suburban garden.

Hydrangeas is my part of Adelaide need to potted and never directly planted straight into the garden, so that they can be moved on extreme weather days. The Adelaide Hills provides a completely different environment altogether, and can be easily planted out permanently in the garden.

I normally move delicate pot plants such as hydrangeas inside on very hot days, but there are times when I under estimate the suns intensity on slightly less hot days. And that's when plant sun burn can strike!



So this month I am trialling a product from Yates called Waterwise Drought Shield ($9.95 at Bunnings) to help me through this summer.

Drought Shield also helps to protect against light frosts. Yates recommends that plants be sprayed in early autumn for best protection against frost, and reapplied every 30 days until the risk of frost has passed.

Yates Waterwise Drought Shield claims to protect plants from heat, water loss, drying winds, frost and transplant shock.

Yates does warning that some plants such as bromeliads and ferns may be sensitive to the spray, so always do a test spot on a leaf first and inspect the next day to see if it is suitable for your plants.

I shall be keeping a keen eye on my plants this season to see how good Drought Shield performs.



UPDATE February 2014

Two and a half months later, did the Yates Waterwise Drought Shield work?

As you know I was trying this product out on two hydrangea plants at different ages.

The older one definitely responded well and coped through the hotter days although not unscathed. There were some leaves with burns, but it is now starting to bloom again and that is in a strong heat wave. I have moved it in doors on the days that are above 35ºC. I still take my precautions. But the bounce-back rate on those hotter days have really improved dramatically.

The younger hydrangea unfortunately did not like the Drought Shield and died. But the packaging instructions do warn that not all plants will tolerate the spray, the younger plants in particular.

Here's my survivor. She is ready to show her next blooms!



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amazing insect life in my garden


I challenged myself this Spring to see if my new planting arrangements and soil conditioning had changed what bug life was coming into my garden. I wanted to attract the beneficial bugs to eat up the other invaders that I suffer with every year.

The good news is that the aphids are fully under control thanks to the small wasps and hover flies. You know when they have been busy because they leave aphid mummies behind on the leaf.

The hover flies have been particularly active this year and in higher numbers. They seem to be particularly attracted to the German Camomile flowers which are a new addition this year.

I have been trying to restrain myself this year from squashing the aphids with my fingers just to see if the beneficial bugs are doing their job. Yes, they are!  My patience has paid off.


I did discover a good number of ladybugs especially in amongst the agapanthus, in the jasmin tree and on the clothes on the washing line. Never in heavy numbers, just regular sightings that seems to be up since last year.

There are good and bad ladybugs. So from my own observations I believe that they have all been excellent and most welcome in my garden. The colours have varied between the red and orange/yellow varieties. The more yellower variety of ladybug will feed on mildew fungus. That's a bonus!


Bees are especially welcome to my garden. The sunflowers and broad beans have been keeping the visiting bees very happy!

The blow flies have been particularly bad this year, but many people I know far and wide throughout South Australia are reporting the same thing at the moment.


Moths are also on the increase with the more spectacular larger moths with the 'eyes' on their wings coming into my garden for the first time ever. The moths and butterflies really seem attracted to the calendula flowers, which are also new to my garden this year.

There are also plenty more insects that I cannot identify as yet, but I know that they are really enjoying their home amongst the new flowers beneath the plum espalier.


What is the benefit of Beneficial Bugs?

Less sprays, less chemicals, let nature balance the garden. Whenever any bug or insect population gets out of of hand then there is a missing predator that should be there. A good mix of plants promotes a good relationship between the mini beasts, providing a habitat and food source. Overall, its money saving and environmentally sound.


Bugs are welcome...within moderation. :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How To Pollinate Dragon Fruit


Our one and only Dragon Fruit is growing really well. But having never seen any flowers on it I was wondering how it would ever develop fruit.

I'm glad I came across this Dragon Fruit pollination video on YouTube, as it could also mean that I may need another 'tree' as a pollinator. Fingers-crossed that our 'tree' is a self-pollinator. I can't wait for the first flower.

Did you know that the best time to hand-pollinate a Dragon Fruit is between 10pm and 11pm?




Saturday, October 19, 2013

The 3 Principles of Gardening


Glut and famine can be found in a most vegetable gardens; some things grow rather too well while others get eaten by cabbage moth caterpillars, go straight to seed or suffer disease and produce very little for the amount of water and fertilizer spent on it. Suddenly the time and money spent becomes a real weight as to whether its worthwhile continuing a garden. So a solution is needed.

My veggie garden is undergoing a very quiet time this season as I am reassessing what I should REALLY plant.

I found that I can grow some plants very easily so I need to reduce those plantings and stagger their plantings. But I also discovered that it was cheaper to buy some veggies rather than to attempt to plant them and fight their disease, water and fertilizer issues. Its a matter of balance.

Having looked at my soil in the planter boxes and ground level garden beds, I want to get the mix right. I brought in some organic loamy soil by the trailer full to refresh the ground level garden beds, followed by a planting of rocket to fight the nematodes in other parts of the garden.

I currently have test crops in to see how well the loamy soil performs, such as the Broad Beans, Curly Kale, Garlic, and heirloom Chard.

As comparison, I have planted some other crops in the older soil to see if they will perform equally. Then I can make a really informed soil choice. I'm sure it will all be worth the test and measure for the longevity of my garden and its productivity.


Here's the basic principle every gardener should use when planning a garden...


3 Principles of Gardening
  1. Shelf Life - Whatever stores well
  2. Availability - What you don't normally see in the shops
  3. Price - What is too expensive to buy

Shelf Life

Root vegetables, pumpkins and anything you like to jam, dry, preserve or freeze.
Note: Potatoes cannot be frozen

'How fast will you eat what you grow?' is a good guide, too.

Availability

Broad Beans and many other bean varieties are usually very rare amongst the shops in a fresh form, that is because they really need to be eaten at harvest time.

If it is hard to get your favourite fruit and vegetables in your area then they are the ones you should grow.

Stone fruit and tomatoes have much more flavour when picked from your own garden and allowed to ripen in a cool dark place in your house. They far exceed what you can buy from the shop when it comes to flavour and smell. So even though that are readily available, the smell and flavour may not be there, that is why they fall into the Availability category.

Price

Avocado prices can be extraordinarily high at times, so growing your own may work out to be much more affordable.

Dollar to kilogram ratio ($/Kg), herbs are by far the most expensive. They store well when dried so they also fall into the Shelf Life category.


Follow these 3 principles of gardening and you will find you have a more balanced way of gardening that is sustainable and rewarding.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fresh Eggs Daily Book Release


As you might well know, I'm an avid suburban chicken owner, plucked from the farm but with a total love for rearing my own animals still. The move also shifted how I do things on a smaller scale. So when I needed some handy advice I discovered Lisa Steele's blog called Fresh Eggs Daily .

Lisa has thrown herself into learning everything she could about raising happy healthy chickens. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, I really encourage you to do so.

This month Lisa has now released her very first book, all those handy hints from her website and so much more, all in one handy volume.

Fresh Eggs Daily now available on:

Amazon
Book Depository (PayPal accepted)

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to stake and tie tomato plants

Mark Hutton from the University of Maine provides some great tips on how to stake and tie tomato plants and explains how to remove the suckers to make a stronger plant.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to add Gypsum to soil


Gypsum (calcium sulphate) is added to soils that are heavy in clay which can be really sticky. Adding lots of organic matter such as compost with the gypsum helps to break down the clay to be easier on the plant roots to grow and not become water-logged.

Gypsum also releases minerals within the soil structure which where bound up in the clay particles so that they become available for plant nutrition.

Make sure that you use natural garden Gypsum, not the white builders' variety.


Ratio for Gypsum: 0.5-1kg to 1m2 of soil (dig through)


How do I know if I have clay soil?

Poor drainage is the first sign. There might be signs of moss, but not in every case. Grass may not grow in that area or plants that have been previously planted there never seem to thrive.

When the soil it moist, grab a handful and squeeze it together. If it stays firm, in shape and not crumbly it will be clay soil. Good loamy soil will soon fall apart and not stay in shape.

Do a 2 foot test hole first. Fill with a full bucket of water and time how long it takes to drain.
If water is takes 12-24 hours to drain you can be sure its a clay soil.

A second test is to use a glass of water. Drop in a 6mm size piece of dry soil. Let it stand for 24 hours without moving or stirring it. If it slowly falls apart in the water this soil should respond to gypsum being added. If it does not dissolve it might not be worthwhile to add the gypsum as the soil will not respond.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dog Vomit Mold

Fresh slime mold
There's something new in my garden every month, but this find takes the cake!

I find all sorts of different fungi in my front garden (because there are no chickens out there to scratch it around). The mulch layer in the garden beds have grown practical lab specimens!

This month, however, sees a new sort of growth that is NOT a fungi but a mould.

Commonly known as Dog Vomit Mold (or Mould).
Also known as Fuligo Septica, which is a species of slime mold.

It is often found in bark mulch in urban areas after heavy rain or excessive watering.
They often appear in Spring or Summer following soaking rains.

It started out as a white mass, progressed to a dust pink, to a brown and then to a camouflage grey colour as it withers away.

Dog Vomit Slime Mold is also known to be yellow or orange in colour. Theses are often referred to as Scrambled Egg Slime.

This species is known to cause asthma and allergenic rhinitis in susceptible people.

Withered slime mold

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Frothy stuff on the plant stem


My children were all excited thinking that there were new cocoons in our front garden, hoping to see the life cycle of a butterfly, but came the morning light they discovered that they were more like frothy bubbles on the rosemary bush stem. Frothy like frog spit, but there are no frogs in our garden at the moment. So running back inside they grabbed me to help identify what it could be.

The answer is the Spittlebug or Spittle Bug, also known as the Froghopper.


What are they?

Spittle Bugs are a relative of the aphid family.
Both adult and nymphs are sap sucking insects.
When they become adults they will grow wings and look like a leafhopper.

There are over 23,00 different Spittle Bugs varieties!
Eggs are laid during summer or spring. Hatching occurs in the following spring.

They are commonly found in junipers, pine trees, eucalpyts and rosemary plants, but not exclusively.


What do they do on the plants?

Spittle Bug nymphs attach themselves to plants by their mouthparts. Once attached they feed on the plant sap. Its their consumption of the sap, water and carbohydrates, that help them produce the formation of the their spittle or frothiness.


Why do they create the frothiness?

They create the froth on the plant stem for three main reasons:

  1. To protect them against predators.
  2. To prevent water loss and functions as a thermal controller.
  3. It insulates them from temperature extremes.


Do they cause damage?

Severe Spittle Bugs attacks can cause stunted growth of a plant, however these bugs are not considered as serious pests. Often associated with black sooty mould on tree branches. They prefer the young shoots to adhere to.


Control

If you are at all worried about these bugs on your plants, simply blast them with the spray of the hose to detach them to encourage them on their way. No need for chemical sprays.

If spraying is required for severe infestations, use maldison.

They are often well controlled by predators, such as small birds, spiders, assassin bugs, ladybirds/ladybugs, and lacewigs. Eggs, nymphs and adults are often parasitised by flies and small wasps.

Spittle Bug

Robusta Photinia Fraseri in Bloom


The Robusta Photinia in my yard is in full bloom. This year's flowering is particularly spectacular and full of very happy honey bees.




Another plant to add to the list to attract the bees♥

Honey Bees Infographic

We often think of bees as those pesky bugs, who’s only purpose is to annoy and sting. But the honey bee actually has great importance to our environment. This infographic from Green Living will show you all the value bees have, and you'll think twice next time before you swat any bees away.


Please share and spread the love and appreciation for bees in our garden.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Leaves and Blooms 2013


It is so exciting to see all my new fruit trees developing leaves and blossoms for the very first time in the first week of Spring.

All of my citrus trees all have new leaf growth and have all been fed with dried chicken manure that has been left to stand for a season before being used.

My espalier Plum has shown its first leaves this weekend. So thrilling to finally see.

The Fig tree is the most rapid growing tree I have ever seen!


The Dwarf Peach has been the most pretty to watch open in blossom.



Even the Apricot tree is starting to blossom!



Beautiful Spring♥

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tree Dahlia Chop and Prune


A lovely few days of spring weather came in the last week of August this year, so the gardener in me came out to take care of my lovely Tree Dahlias (not to be confused with the Giant Dahlias - I often do). These winter flowering beauties grow to around 3-4m (9-13ft) on average.


Flowers: June to mid-September in Australia



Propagation

Tree Dahlias are so easy to grow from cuttings, you only need to lay a cutting down on it's side and it will spring roots. Choose a stem that has at least two nodes. Many gardeners recommend planting three stalk cuttings together side by side for best shooting results.

Alternatively Tree Dahlias can be propagated by transplanting their intact tubers.


Butterfly & Bee Garden

Caterpillars love Tree Dahlias so if you are looking for good plants to attract butterflies and bees then this one should make it to the top of your list. In the last month of winter you may find that the leaves are gobbled up by hungry caterpillars; relax as the plants are coming to a natural wind down and do not flower beyond the first month of Spring. Tree Dahlias do not seem to attract the annoying cabbage moths, thankfully.

The active time for the bees is a relatively short one, but it delights the bees for at least a week or two.


Yearly Care

I always choose the last month of winter, usually the last week just before spring to cut back my Tree Dahlias.

Maintenance of these gorgeous sky scrapers is necessary, especially if grown near boundary fences like in my garden. They develop a tuber root system, very much like a sweet potato in size but not eatable. Digging them out from time to time is good for the plant as well as the fence.

Every year the Tree Dahlia send up new shoots from its base so cutting out this year's spent stalks is fine.

You my even choose to leave a couple of good flowering stalks go an extra month and tend to them later when they have fully finished and dry out.

The more greener, thinner stalks should only be cut back by 2/3 as they may produce more stalks later.

Anything old and hollow needs to be removed. You may find a great deal of bug activity in those hollows, so encourage the chickens to join you to help clean them up as you work.


Tools

A small hacksaw and garden fork are ideal.

As the stalks get quite woody and dry as they age, a hacksaw does the job superbly to take them out first.

The garden fork is necessary for digging down deep enough to find the tuber bulbs and root system. They can be deceptively deeper than expected.

You will be rewarded with beautiful new stalks, full of flowers next year.

♥♥♥

Monday, August 26, 2013

Flowering August Garden


My beautiful Ranunculus are blooming and my dormant fruit trees are just starting to wake from their winter sleep like my first fig tree. ("The stick is alive" one of my children cried. Tee, hee!)

Fig opening in August - first signs of life.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Geometric Aviary


I came across these amazing geometric designed cages and greenhouse kits on Etsy this month, created by Sunrise Domes. Their design is known as a Geodesic Dome which range in size according to use.

I particularly loved the idea of using one of these domes as an aviary or chicken coop run. Not only do they offer protection against predators such as hawks and keeping out pigeons that bring in disease, but they look amazing. Their size is able to house the taller chicken coop design.


Their aviary kits range from 16-20-30ft size designs.




Sunrise Domes also sell a Greenhouse kit. Imagine the possibilities...


My only problem is that they do not post to Australia. USA you are so lucky.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cooking with Kale

Kale from our local school garden
Never cooked with Kale before? These recipes are ideal for gardeners who have planted kale for the first time and would like some tips and recipes on how to start use them.


Our Grade 2/3 teacher was in a panic about our kale crops growing so well in the school garden, she was definitely not ready for their success. I was the one who had initially talked her into growing them as I had such an amazing no-fuss crop growing at home. Kale is so easy to grow!

It was all 'let's wait and see if it actually grows' approach this year in the school garden, 'and then we'll see what we can make of it if it does grow.'

Well, we've hit that second marker and it's desperation time to not only find some great kale recipes, but to actually convince the kids to eat it...and LOVE it.

You may remember last year I had the task of challenging the junior primary kids to learn to like rocket. It passed with 98% of them eating rocket and loving it!!! So now it's time for the Kale Challenge.

The students are growing different types of curly kale (in the picture above). Amazing, aren't they?

Tuscan Nero Kale
Compared to the Tuscan Nero variety (non-curling but distinct), Curly Kale is delightfully sweeter, so they are excellent for kids.

Kale is a member of the brassica family of vegetables which also includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.


How to use Kale

All kales can be either served as a steamed veg or added to soups, stews and casseroles.
When stewing, add closer to end of the cooking time to preserve their colour and vitamin value.

Kale can be used just like spinach or even in place of spinach.
Remove the stem and central vein before cooking.
Simply slice thinly for all recipes.


How to store Kale

Once harvested, store in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible.
Do not wash prior to storing as it leads to faster spoilage.
Rinse leaves prior to use.
Store in crisper drawer of the fridge.
Can be frozen for use at a later date.


What's so good about Kale?

Kale is hailed as a member of the super foods.

  • Antioxidant related health benefits
  • Anti-inflammatory health benefits
  • Glucosinolates and Cancer-preventative benefits
  • Cardiovascular support


Nutritional Facts about Kale

Low in calories: 100g is only 49 Calories
Kale is a rich source of Vitamins K, A & C and magnesium





Baked Kale Chips

Ingredients

1 bunch of Kale (140g-200g)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt for sprinkling

Method
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
  2. Line a tray with baking paper.
  3. Remove the the stems and central vein of the kale leaves. Keep the leaves whole for best results.
  4. Place Kale evenly (not over lapping) onto tray and drizzle with oil, massaging the oil in lightly for an even coverage.
  5. Sprinkle with salt.
  6. Bake for approximately 10 minutes until leaves are crisp (not burnt on edges).



Soy and Sesame Kale Chips

Ingredients

1 bunch Tuscan Kale (140g-200g)
1½ Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds

Method

As above.


via
Braised Kale with Bacon and Cider
Don't be worried about adding Cider as the alcohol will cook off and leave a lovely flavour.

Ingredients

2 Bacon slices, chopped
1 ¼ cups Onion, thinly sliced
450g Kale, chopped
80ml Apple Cider
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1½ cups (280g) Granny Smith Apples, diced
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Method
  1. In a fry pan cook bacon and onion until tender for 5 minutes.
  2. Add kale; cook for a further 5 minutes or until wilted, stirring frequently.
  3. Add cider and vinegar.
  4. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add apple, salt and pepper; cook for another 5 minutes until apple is tender.
  6. Stir occasionally.
  7. Serve immediately.



Want more recipes?

For more great Kale recipes click on the links below (external sites)

The Garden of Eating: 14 Unbeatable Kale Recipes
Cooking Light: 15 Kale Recipes
KaleChips.com

♥♥♥