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


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.


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


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

  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


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


As above.

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


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

  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


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Australasian Poultry Magazine

As a chicken owner this is my new favourite Australian magazine dedicated to all things poultry.

They are so jam packed full of great advice and stories from seasoned poultry owners who really know the ropes; not just of the backyard set up but all the way through to showing and breeding.

  • Do you know how to correctly incubate eggs to reduce birth defects?
  • What do inner city breeders do with their noisy breeding/show roosters?
  • How do you prevent a disease outbreak when you introduce new poultry to your yard?

It's all in the August/September 2013 issue, out now in newsagents throughout Australia.

If your newsagent does not stock it, ask them to order it in for you. Absolutely worthwhile.

So easy to read and there are so many good adverts for equipment that you may not be able to find locally.

Visit the Australasian Poultry facebook page here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August, August in my garden 2013

Growing giant tasty turnips year after year!
Its been a battle to keep out the snails, green cabbage moth caterpillars as well as the brown and orange furry ones this season. Snail bait and Diatomaceous Earth have all been struggling to help control the pests. My rhubarb has been mercilessly attacked, especially the one in a container.

Overall its been a great winter here in my Adelaide garden. One of the wettest years for a long time so I've saved enormously on a watering bill. (Adelaide is the most over charged and over taxed state in all of Australia when it comes to utilities of all types!)

Rocket has been planted again as a way of controlling the soil nematodes which seem to be the cause of my tomato crops failing. The root system releases a mustard-like chemical that fight against the bad nematodes. More leeks and coriander have been planted. I never run out of recipes requiring leeks.

I have more turnips and carrots than what I know what to do with.

1. Savoy Cabbages (under netting), 2. Turnips, 3. Self-seeded Tomato in flower, 4. Fennel
I have one very determined accidental tomato plant growing in a pot at the moment and it couldn't be any more healthier. Yes, right in the middle of winter this springs up! As it was growing slightly lop-sided I decided to experiment with it. I heard that tomatoes can become more productive if planted on their side with part of the stem buried to increase root sprouting. Well, I think it must be working. Let's sit tight and see if it will fruit come Spring.

The garlic plants are all growing.

And I have welcomed back Broadbeans to my garden, once again.
Am I a glutton for punishment? They DO get rust every year here, but this year I am trialling a different variety but these are not the dwarfing type. I hope I have gotten the soil right this year.

Spring does seem to have started a month early this year. Many Spring flowering plants are already open and that was on day 1 of August!

We've added extra fresh soil to raise the level of the backyard (slowly). The grass will grow through again and there are already signs of that. With the extra rain, though, its started to develop a water course which I like to call the backyard creek. Need to fix that over time so that the lawn mower doesn't have an unexpected undulations when the grass grows back.

Thanks to a lovely wet Australian winter we know it will all settle in well.

The hens all say "hi!". Two have started laying but Sally the Isa Brown is now on strike. Its been a great winter so far, especially to have the girls START their laying in winter rather than in spring!