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DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Christmas in Your Garden

Christmas Garden 2

A Christmas Tree in Your Garden
Although the cutting of a tree and bringing indoors to celebrate the winter season and then Christianity, is an ancient tradition, the modern-day Christmas tree as we know it was popularised by Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert after a newspaper illustration of them with their children around the palace ‘Christmas Tree’ captured and inspired the people of the time. The delight of a decorated tree has now become synonymous with Christmas through across many regions the world. The debate as to what is more eco-friendly, a cut tree or a manufactured tree may rage but all would agree, a living Christmas tree in your garden is perhaps the best solution of them all!
Although there are traditional Northern Hemisphere trees that can be grown in your garden, how about an Australian native tree that will give you the look but will be far better suited to the environment here and fit in with the wildlife locals better? Let’s begin with the magnificent Norfolk Pine Araucaria heterophylla.
5@5 Norfolk Pine
They do grow up to 35m in height and they certainly will be the closest native that you will find in appearance to a traditional l tree. Houseplant lovers listen up as this tree grows well indoors while young for a few years as well.

Oh, Woolly Bush Adenanthos sericeus
5@5 Woolly Bush
how divine you are! Perfect for small gardens as it will grow up to an easily manageable 5m and with bonus vivid orange-pink flowers in spring and early summer this will delight both you and your local pollinators. 

If you have a dinosaur lover or botanical history buff in your family, then you just have to make a
5@5 Wollemi Pine

 Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis your garden Christmas Tree. One of the rarest and oldest trees on Earth, it will grow comfortably indoors and in sheltered spots in the garden.  

Australian Christmas Bush

Depending on where you find yourself in our beautiful country, will indicate the type of plant known locally as as ‘Christmas Bush’. Here on the Central Coast and across our state, NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum is our Aussie festive native and it becomes more popular each year.
Ceratopetalum-Gummiferum-Flowers2
People in colonial times simply looked to flowers that reminded them of the key symbolism of the European Christmas of their birth places. Christmas bush, with its red flowers in tiny bell shapes and its appearance at the 'right time' would of more than fit the bill. Christmas Bush is mentioned as such in colonial letters and also found sketched and painted by the artists of the time on gifts, cards and greetings. Louisa Anne Meredith, an artist of the time, refers to it as such in the 1830s: “We used to meet numbers of people carrying bundles of beautiful native shrubs to decorate the houses, in the same way we use holly and evergreens at home… it is a handsome verdant shrub, with flowers, irregularly flower shaped and go from green to crimson in colour”

Similar in ways to the poinsettia, the flowers are not the part of the plant that endear us to it. The flowers are small creamy-coloured blossoms that fall away in spring to leave sepals that turn a gorgeous red by late December. Find a full sunny spot to plant your Christmas Bush and feed during spring with a native-specific fertiliser only. This is advised to increase the number of blossoms which will lead to a showier festive display. When harvesting your Christmas bush, never remove more than a third of the plant and cut branches at an angle with sharp secateurs. Remove all foliage that will sit below the waterline in your vase, change water every second day and snip drying bottom of stems as required. You should see your cut Christmas Bush last well into the New Year with a vase life of at least two weeks.
Other Christmas Bush varieties include Victorian Christmas Bush Prostanthera lasianthos and South Australian Christmas Bush, also known as Tasmanian Christmas Bush Bursaria spinosa, both of which will grow in Coast gardens.


NSW Christmas Bells

The flaming yellow-red Christmas Bells Blandfordia nobilis
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and Blandfordia grandiflora
1986

are
two of my personal favourite flowers. They are members of the Lily family say everything ‘New South Wales’ to me and remind me of summer bush walks, family picnics and home. As with any native flower, it is illegal to pick these in the wild but that’s ok as they will grow easily in Coast gardens. You will find that Blandfordia nobilis grows well in full sun but is semi-shade tolerant while Blandfordia grandiflora needs full sun.

Christmas Colour Indoors
If you want to liven up your home in an instant, collect big bunches of foliage and display in vases. They will look very much like dramatic potted plants, fill your home with living greenery and if you are selective in your foraging, will add delightful fragrances to your living spaces. Soft Lemon Teatree branches are divine indoors and also help deter mosquitos. Try grouping different sized and shaped vases together for a really lush, tropical look, especially if you are using palm and fern leaves.
Our local nurseries are also bursting with summer colour at the moment and now might be the time to pop in a few new beauties in your garden to welcome visitors or for your own delight. Before you do get planting, why not make a blooming bright display for a day or two? African Daises, Inpatients, Coreopsis, Hydrangeas, Zinnias and Kangaroo Paw are all coming into flower at the moment and you could leave them in their pots (maybe cover with cloth or paper) and create a lovely display but only for a day or two at most as they do need to be out in the garden. 

Congratulations Doyalson Community Garden
Doyalson Community Garden

On top of their fourth consecutive year winning the ‘Best Community Garden’ category in the Wyong Garden Competition, Doyalson Community Garden has taken out a big national win in the inaugural National Community Gardens Awards. Doyalson Community Garden has been named the ‘2022 Australian Community Garden Champion’. This award celebrates the gardens that reach out to their community with valuable connections, activities and opportunities for locals. Garden Co-Ordinator Jules is proud of the achievement and the far-reaching possibilities, “I think the award is a good thing to help people realise what our community gardens do and hopefully they will want to join.” She commented. “Here at Doyalson we host community group gatherings and have opened our garden to a local support group to share education and life skill opportunities.”
Community Gardens Australia, the body that runs the awards, is a networking organisation that connects community gardeners around Australia. It is growing source of information, networking opportunities and support for all those currently working with community gardens or have an interest in them. Another feature is their very handy, interactive map to help you find a community garden near you. Communitygarden.org.au

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Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

 

 

 

 


DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Kids in the Garden

Gardening kids 1

Tips to inspire the gardening bug in young kids:

* Ask your kids what they would like to eat and then grow it.

* Involve them in the daily chores like watering.

* Let them get dirty and have fun.

Garden Dress Up 
Most kids love the idea of dress-up so by designating ‘gardening clothing’ you can not only save their everyday cloths but make gardening seem a little special, (which it is!). They will need protective footwear, and this could be a fun pair of gumboots, rubber clogs or an old pair of runners. Gloves are also a must as little fingers like exploring and this will give some protection to them from bites, cuts and irritants. There are kids aprons and overalls that are garden-specific but even a set of colourful clothing that you suggest are kept ‘just for gardening’ will fit the bill. You could even look out for floral, botanical or garden creature themed tops, shirts or pants or have fun with a set of fabric markers and let their imagination go wild.

Tools and Gardening Materials for Kids
I’ve seen the cute kids gardening tools/toys out there, but I would suggest that if your kids are old enough to work with scissors supervised then I’d be much more inclined to purchase a child sized ‘real’ set. Gardening is lots of fun, but it is a real-life skill and using ‘real’ tools generates an environment of responsibility that hopefully your kids will connect with. If your child can manage adult sized tools, I would be investing in these but be mindful as cutting tools such as pruners and secateurs are a lot more powerful than general household scissors. You should never leave these around any children at any time. Go organic as this will be safer but make sure proper handling of soil, even organic pesticides, composts and mulches and the like are handled under strict supervision. Masks must be worn to avoid inhalation of microorganisms and gloves worn when handling these substances and materials.

Technical Buzz
There is no getting away from the fact that kids love electronics, and you can capitalise of this by introducing ways of using their gadgets for gardening goodness. YouTube has a huge amount of gardening videos just for kids and often by kids. Perhaps you have a budding ‘Costa’ or ‘Dirt Girl’ in your family and they would like to make their own gardening channel! There are also heaps of gardening apps out there. Beware of the free ones that require additional payments though. One that is a lot of fun that I can recommend is ‘Plantsnap’, (www.plantsnap.com). This app costs about $4 upfront with no additional payments and lets you take photos of plants and will help identify them. It is not 100% accurate but it will get kids on the right track in their botanical exploration. Others will also help you identify insects for the bug lovers in the house.

Design a Garden
you will need
graph paper
tracing paper/baking paper
graphite (lead) pen and eraser
coloured pens/pencils
masking tape
tape measure (optional)

You can measure the garden by pacing it out and kids find this really fun. Get them to make sure their stride is even (a game in itself!) and work out how many paces wide and long your garden area is. You could also measure with a tape measure.
Stick down a piece of graph paper to a table/surface to keep it steady and mark out the existing garden with all its features. You will have to work out how many squares equal a pace as the bigger the garden design is on the paper the better.
Draw the garden on the graph paper and colour in as you wish. Tape a piece of tracing paper/baking paper over the top of this design and now redesign the garden. You can move things around, place new things in the design, do whatever you wish! This is pretty close to what real garden designers do when they are creating for their clients.

Make a Botanical Press
Version One: Grab two sheets of thin flat wood (around A5 size is best) and drill holes in each corner and then secure together with screws and wingnuts. Version Two: Use those sheets of wood and secure with four thick rubber bands. Version Three: Use heavy cardboard (around A5) and secure with four thick rubber bands. After collecting leaves, petals and flowers, lay two sheets of newspaper (cut to A5 size) onto the sheet of wood or cardboard and then top with one sheet of white A5 paper. Lay out your botanical specimens carefully on the white paper and then lay another sheet of A5 white paper on top and then another sheet of newspaper. You can continue for a few layers and then finish off with two sheets of newspaper and the top of your press (wood or cardboard). Secure with screws and wingnuts or rubber bands. If it is loose, place press under heavy books as well. Leave for at least two weeks or more. Botanical specimens are ready for use in your journal or crafts when they are completely dry.

 

Start a Garden Journal Kit
you will need: a blank journal, a waterproof pencil case large enough to fit journal, pens/pencils

stickers/stamps (optional). Keeping a journal is a great way to record what is happening as you garden grows and to keep your personal observations, garden wishes, plans and feelings. You can add your garden designs, drawings of your plants, dates you planted seeds or seedlings and notes about when they sprouted, flowered, and produced fruit. Keep a record or what you might like to change next time and new plants you see on tv, magazines, books or in other gardens.

Use the botanical press (above) to dry and flatten leaves and flowers and add to your pages with tape. The other thing garden journals are good for is making a note of when things don’t go right. Make sure you describe exactly what went wrong, was it a pest, a disease, not enough water or maybe something else. If you keep your garden journal and a few pens and pencils in a waterproof case, you can take it out into the garden with you.

Make a Rain Gauge
you will need: a clear plastic bottle, ruler, permanent marker/s, gardening wire (rubber coated), scissors. Your garden needs at least 3cm water per week (some plants more and the whole garden in the summer!) so creating a rain gauge is a very helpful project. Soak off any labels and then cut the top of the bottle off so that you are left with a straight container with a bottom.

Mark out each centimetre on the bottle with the permanent marker/s. Use black for the measurements for easy viewing but you may like to add a bit of artistic water themed artwork with the markers as well! Wrap the coated wire around the bottle and secure in the garden to a fence, pole or structure that is completely straight, with nothing above it so it can catch the rain. You can keep a record of rainfall in your gardening journal, and it will help you know when your garden needs more water.

HAVE YOU GOT A GARDEN OR GARDENING TOPIC TO SHARE?
Down in the Garden is looking for Central Coast gardeners who would like to share their garden with us.
We are particularly looking for: Evergreens, Tulips, Spring Bulbs, Water Feature Gardens, School Gardeners, Commercial Kitchen Gardens, Medicinal Plant Gardeners, and Community Gardens but all gardens and gardeners are welcome
contact: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus  
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

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Down in the Garden: Christmas Gift Guide

ChristmasHave you got a gardening friend? Are you a gardener looking for a hint to give to your family? Well, I’ve wrapped up a bunch of the most interesting of gifts for all budgets and all different types of plants lovers.

For the ‘I Want to Start Gardening’ Gardener
*A gardening journal is an excellent present for those beginning their steps into the botanical world. Look for one with gardening tips in it. 
*Everyone should have a good gardening hat. Find one to suit their style and make sure it offers sun protection. This could be anything from a wide brim straw hat (my favourite) to a bucket hat.
*You can’t get enough knowledge as well as up to date information so apart from encouraging them to read my column, you might want to gift the new gardener a magazine subscription.

Book: ‘Australian Geographic Gardening School’, Simon Akeroyd and Ross Bayton is simply brilliant for those venturing into the garden for the first time or wanting to renew their skills. Although it does drive deep into the technical aspects of gardening, it does so in an easy to read way.

For the ‘Houseplants are Everything’ Gardener
*Houseplant people cannot get enough pots. Just make sure they have drainage holes and for goodness sake, make sure the pot/s match their decor perfectly.
*Is this houseplant person very special in your life? Then a larger cactus might be on their wish list, so are rare plants but a large cactus is far easier to track down this close to the big day.
*Encourage your indoor plant guru to start propagation of their prized treasures. There are ready made kits out there or you could make up a kit yourself from supplies. Not sure how to do that? Ask one of the lovely staff at our many gardening centres.
Book: There seems to be a new houseplant book coming out every other day and I don’t think this is a bad thing as it encourages people to get into gardening (I’ve written one myself! Apart from mine, ‘The Language of Houseplants’, Cheralyn Darcey; I really love The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Practical Houseplant Book’, Fran Bailey and Zia Allaway as it not only shares 175 in-depth plant profiles, there are lots of general indoor growing tips and clever ideas to show off your houseplants within.

For the ‘I’m Saving the Planet’ Gardener
*A basket weaving class or online course is a wonderful idea for those who are crafty eco-warriors. Using up the fallen botanical materials in the garden to create something new should appeal to them. I can personally recommend any course from www.craftschooloz.com as I’ve done them.

*Native beehives are a must to protect and encourage our precious naïve bees. They are readily available from most garden centres and you might like to create you own for your nature-passionate friend. Instructions can easiest be found online, search: DIY native beehive.  
*Paper pot making kit. These consist of two wooden parts that help twist newspapers into a small pot. Once seeds germinate and the seedling is established, you simply plant the whole pot.
Book: ‘Milkwood’ Kristen Bradley and Nick Ritar is probably one of the more recent and inspiring works for those wishing to garden with more care of the earth.

For the ‘I Kill Everything but I Want a Garden’ Gardener
*An indoor smart garden. These can be found in lots of sizes and are made up of a hydroponic growing system that includes a light, pot and usually the growing medium and nutrients.
*A beautiful watering can may be a subtle hint, but it might just give your brown-thumbed, but garden-interested mate, more motivation to keep their plants watered.
*Are you a gardening guru? They why not gift them your time. Make up a gift certificate for one-on-one gardening lessons from you. An alternative is a gardening class or course online or in person.  
Book: ‘Top 50 Edible Plants and How Not to Kill Them’ Angie Thomas is a Yates gardening guide just for them!  

For the ‘Foodie-Master Chef’ Gardener
*Harvesting baskets are such lovely and handy items and make practical gifts as well. They can be found in lots of materials and sizes. Look for one that is perhaps a little sturdier for the kitchen gardener. 
*If they don’t have one, a raised garden bed may just be the ticket to creating a kitchen garden. With so many styles out there, I’m sure you will find one perfect to get them growing.
*Although I’ve used lots of different containers to hold my kitchen scraps while they are awaiting their journey to the compost bin, I am a fan of the purpose-built compost bucket. Most have a charcoal filter and inner removable bucket. You might also want to consider an indoor compost bin for those with limited space. These do the composting right there within the bin.
Book: ‘Matthew Bigg’s Complete Book of Vegetables in Australia’ describes itself as the definitive sourcebook for growing, harvesting and cooking vegetables and it is right. Highly recommend book for all actually.

For the ‘Mystical and Meditative’ Gardener
*How about a tinkling set of wind chimes?  Soothing and beautiful they can be found in endless designs to match the taste of your gardening friend and their space.  
*A sundial would be a brilliant gift and can be found in all sorts of sizes. Don’t worry about how it works, I’m sure your magical friend will know how or where to find that information.
*A Zen garden. Those Japanese-inspired trays filled with sand, stones and a rake are much appreciated by the mind, body, spirit focused.

Book: ‘The Art of Mindful Gardening’ Ark Redwood is a lovely title that explores the healing and mediative aspects of gardening. Another book I think this type of gardener would enjoy is ‘The Garden Apothecary’ by Reece Carter which is a fantastic resource for those wanting to create their own herbal remedies.

For the ‘Art and Craft is Life’ Gardener
*One of the best things I found this year was a set of metal alphabet stamps so I could create my own metal garden label stakes. They can be found in hardware and craft stores.  
*It might be getting a bit late to order this but have a look for custom stamp creators or if you are arty/craft as well, get the carving tools out and create a personalised stamp reading something like ‘from the garden of….’. This is a great idea for those who garden and create things from it.
*A plain terracotta pot and a selection of suitable art materials such as weather-proof paints or markers so they can make their own garden art masterpiece would be much appreciated.
Book:
‘The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling’ by John Muir Laws is a drawing course in a book and one that has been the foundation of many modern botanical artists.

For the ‘I’m not sure why I’m not on Gardening Australia yet’ Gardener
*There are lots of very gorgeous gardening labelling stakes to be found in metals, ceramics and weather-proof timbers. Find a style that suits your gardening friend and their garden and home.
*Have I told you how much I adore gardening hand balms and creams? Well for the gardening obsessed in your life this is a very thoughtful gift. My favourites include Aveeno Intensive Relief Hand Cream, L’Occitane Intensive Hand Balm and The Body Shop Hemp Hand Cream.
*Most of us have stopped using reusable coffee cups this year due to COVID but you know who needs them? Gardeners! We don’t want bugs in our drinks so look for a garden-themed lidded mug, cup or water bottle.
Book: I bet they share loads of pictures of their garden on social media or if they don’t, you could hop on over and take a bunch of photos and create a handmade scrapbook of their garden or even create a hardbound book at one of the stores that offer this service. A great read for the holidays for the master gardener is ‘Banks’ by Grantlee Kieza. It is a new biography that any garden and plant lover will appreciate.

For the ‘I may be young, but I can do it’ Gardener

*Children love inviting friendly creatures into the garden, so a bird house is a lovely idea. Buy a ready-made one or better yet one they can make or decorate themselves.
*Dress up is loved by most children so a gardening apron and gloves are not only essential to protect the little ones, they will also bring a sense of play time and excitement to gardening.
*Pets! The best gardening pets are worms and if you gift a child their own worm farm, they will love you forever and so will their garden.
Book: ‘Easy Peasy Gardening for Kids’, Kirsten Bradley and illustrated by Aitch is a beautiful introduction to gardening for children that not only explains how to garden but also shares lots of practical and fun activities.

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A few other ideas to suit everyone:
wishing well, seed raising kit, heirloom seeds, a flower press, beekeeping course, bees, native edible food plant, a bird bath, a bird window feeder, a compost bin, a garden gnome, garden sculpture or art, personalised signage, kneeling pad, seed storage tin,  boot scrapers, gardening boots/shoes, houseplant display stand, mushroom growing kit, birdbath, watering globes for houseplants, tool basket or trug, seed bombs or cannons and if you really can’t decide then nothing say ‘I love you and know you love gardening’ like a gift card from one of your local gardening centres.

PLANT THIS WEEK
(early Summer, temperate areas) 
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, 

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus
Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

 


Down in the Garden: Vegan Gardening

 

Vegan gardening

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Gardening for Vegans
Cheralyn Darcey

This weekend the Central Coast welcomes Vegan Fest again to Gosford. A plant-based day of markets, entertainment, and demonstrations down at Leagues Club Park on Saturday 4th December and a great opportunity for those wanting to explore a bit more about the vegan lifestyle. It’s a popular event on our calendar, growing larger every time it is held which prompted me to explore ‘Vegan Gardening’.
While it may seem that gardening in itself is a vegan, as it’s all about growing plants, that’s not exactly true because there is much more to living as a vegan than simply not eating meat. In Veganic Gardening, as vegan based gardening is often called, there is also a dedication to not using any animal products directly or indirectly while working organically. As all gardeners are aware, soil preparation and fertilisation are important first steps in any garden and this is where the differences between traditional and vegan gardening will be most noticeable.

Many of the popular, especially organic, fertilisers are created from animal by-products like manure, blood, bone or even entire carcasses, such as fish emulsions. It would seem obvious that fertilisers that include actual parts of animals would not be acceptable in a vegan garden, but you may be wondering why animal manures are not. The answer is that the use of animals in the production of products is also often thought of as cruel in the ethics of veganism. So, using manures/products that contain these manures is supporting these animal-based industries. However, not all vegans have this view and some do accept the use of manures in gardening.

While there are a few vegan branded fertilisers now on the market, my early inspection showed level of some minerals that seemed a bit high for my liking. My advice is to do your own research on these types of fertilisers and their contents before using them. Natural fertilisers and plant tonics that would be considered vegan and are also safe to use include seaweed, green manure crops and composts created from vegetation only.  

Making your own liquid fertilisers, called ‘teas’, from plants is also an option as this concentrates the goodness from botanical matter ready to give your garden a super boost. To brew a fertilising tea, soak cuttings in water in covered containers for a few weeks. Some suggested plants that can be used include, comfrey, nettles, grass clippings, dandelions, yarrow, borage and most weeds.

Looking after what you plant in your garden is vital and even more so as your fertilisers are not going to be as nutrient-dense without the use of manures. Garden soil will need to be protected from leeching out any goodness it does hold and the best way to do this is with mulch. An organic, easily composted material will be best so that your mulching does double duty and feeds the garden as it breaks down.

Mulch also helps retain water, keep the soil cool in summer and warm in winter and can hold back some pests. Speaking of bugs that we don’t want in the garden, pest control will of course need to be organic but most vegan practices I have found do frown on killing insects and to this end, companion planting as well as sacrificial planting will be the best options to implement. Sacrificial planting is simply planting a crop of something on the perimeter of your garden that is more desirable for the bugs. Things like lettuce and kale are suggestions. Companion planting will include plants that have aromas and attributes that pests don’t like but can also include plants that help other plants to thrive usually via reactions in the soil. An example is basil and tomatoes.

Barrier pest control methods like netting to deter birds and insects work exceptionally well, just make sure holes are small enough to not capture creatures. Copper tape will turn back snails and slugs and not do them harm but you will find the popular methods of using crushed eggshells or beer traps are not acceptable.

Two other living creatures that are often seen in gardens and raise vegan debate are bees and worms. Many vegans do not eat honey as the keeping of bees to work for us is thought to be exploitive and so having them in the garden unless they are wild is out. Gardeners don’t just keep bees to create honey of course, they also help with the pollination of plants.

All is not lost as you can still invite them in naturally but growing plants that have bee-attracting flowers like borage, basils, lavender, yarrow, dandelion, bottlebrush, eucalyptus, grevillea and westringia. Worms enrich the soil via their castings and help aerate it as well and while worm farms seem to be given the green light by some vegan gardeners but not others and those plastic fully contained units are probably not ok with any vegan. Rather, encourage worms to the garden by using worm towers and by adding sheets of damp cardboard and finely chopped vegetation.

Vegan gardening is possible with a bit of planning and the dedication to follow through with a completely plant based plan and if you have vegan garden, I’d love to see it in action.

Vegan screen

PLANT THIS WEEK
Early Summer, temperate areas
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, zinnia


Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus
Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com


 


DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Awesome Aquatic Plants

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Tucked in a corner of many garden centres is a section that most of us nod at as we pass, not really understanding what on earth we would do with the bunch of plants on display. It’s the Aquatic Plant section and for those of us with water features, they are not only a beautiful addition, but one that helps maintain the ecological balance of these areas of the garden. These plants help create a habitat for local wildlife like frogs and beneficial insects while keeping the water clean. Based on the way they grow, mostly on the area in an environment that their roots will take hold, aquatic plants are generally categorised as being floating, marginal, shallow, or deep water. When creating an aquatic plant garden, aim for a mix of these types and across species as this will further enhance not only the look but also the ecological balance of your water garden. Not all plants though are suitable for all types of water features. For example, a fast and powerful fountain won’t be right for delicate water lilies and just as soil type will guide your earth-bound plant selections, the depth of the water will also determine water plant choices. Some aquatic plants grow in soil along the margins or water areas while others are happy floating above the surface. Some need to be completely submerged and there are others that like to anchor themselves in the shallows. Here is a selection based on growing areas that may help you determine which aquatic wonders will work for your water feature designing.
Floating Plants. If you have a large pond these can look spectacular but be warned, most floating plants tend to multiply quickly and can take over and as such are considered invasive weeds. These include the pretty but pesky water hyacinth and but if you have fish in your pond then a floating plant like duck weed will be beneficial as it provides a food source for them while keeping the water clean. While water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) may seem like floating plants, they are not. These gorgeous beauties along with their friends the lotus (Nelumbo spp.)  are deep-water aquatics because while their foliage and flowers do rest upon the surface, their roots are embedded in the bottom of water ways. Deep water aquatic plants are those that need more than 30cm of water depth to grow successfully as their roots need to be kept cool and protected from the sun. Along with these deep-water plants are what is known as the deep-water oxygenators and this group will generally live submerged under the water, you probably already know them because these are usually as fish aquarium plants. Examples include Milfoils (Myriophyllum spp.) They work as their name suggests, they pump life-giving oxygen into the water. Marginal plants grow along the edges of water areas. Some are known as bog marginals and others are defined as shallow or deep marginals depending on the depth of the water they prefer. Louisiana Iris (Iris spp.) and Pickle Rush (Pontederia cordata).
The veggie gardeners amongst us are not left out either. There are plenty of delicious edible aquatic plants that you can grow including water chestnuts, water spinach, taro, Brahmi, water mint, water celery, water parsley, creeping jenny, and nardoo. All of these are excellent additions to Asian dishes, and they also make rather lovely and interesting teas and salads. If you are after Australian Native water plants then try this bunch: Fairy Lights (Scirpus Cernuus) is a shallow water plant that prefers shade and part sun. Water Ribbions (Triglochin procera) is a shade tolerant leafy plant that can grow fully submerged and has delightful, tufted flowers. Samphire (Tecticornia Pergranulata) is bog loving plant that is also edible. Golden Marshflower (Villarsia Reniformis) with its bright buttercup yellow flowers will grow in full sun to part shade in shallow waters.
To create a water feature there are many prefab shells on the market that make creating the areas for different levels easy but an organically created pond is not difficult. While you still may need to install a soft liner, depending on your area and soil, a pond can be made in just a few simple steps. Most are prepared for planting, after digging the desired shaped and sized hole, by adding layers of soil, sand and then gravel to the bottom. Follow this by tucking in pockets and ridges of soil along the sides. You can’t use potting mix that’s meant for terrestrial plants, instead use top-quality garden soil that is silt and clay free. There are also commercial water pots and baskets available for certain types of aquatic plants that make growing them in your ponds, fish havens and fountains much easier. Pests are generally not a problem for aquatics and feeding can be achieved with a slow-release fertiliser in early spring. This is also the best time for any replanting that you are planning.

YOUR GARDENS
Have you got a lovely, interesting, fun, quirky, important, or inspiring garden that I need to see? This is a call out for gardens and gardeners! I have been featuring local community gardens of late here on Down in the Garden, but I am also on the lookout for all sorts of Central Coast Gardens to visit and feature. I’m not looking for the best garden or the most spectacular garden, I’m on the hunt for all sorts of gardens and gardeners from beginners to gurus, from community gardens, commercial gardens, to cosy private pot plant collections. If you do have or know of a garden that you think we all need to know about, then please call me on 0408105864. 

 

PLANT THIS WEEK
(late Spring temperate areas)
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, artichoke suckers, beans, beetroot, blueberry, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, chilli, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes (tubers), pumpkin, radish, raspberry, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, silverbeet, squashes, strawberry, sweet corn, sweet potato (shoots), tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), canna lily, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, everlasting daisy, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, geranium, impatiens, marigold, petunias, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, sunflowers.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus  Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

 

 


Down in the Garden: Get the Tropical Look

Tropical paper

You may long for a lush jungle at your place but before you start buying palm trees and exotic humid- loving foliage, there is a right way to ensure your tropical dream success and ways to get the look while faking it. On the Central Coast we are in a temperate area and while some tropical plants can grow well in various pockets, many of these plants won’t survive or thrive in this cooler climate. A tropical plant is defined as one that is native to the areas around the world between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

These plants are used to a temperature that remains above 18c, is humid and frost is unheard of. If you can provide such an environment, indoors or out, then you will end up with happy, healthy tropical plants that will grow to their full potential. Some of these northerners are a little adaptable and while you might not get the best from them, they can grow in temperate areas with a rich soil, increased humidity, and the right light.
Get the Look with Non-Tropical Plants Not every area will accommodate true tropical plants, but you can get the look with a few clever design tricks. Select plants that have darker foliage as this increases the perceived depth of your faux-tropical garden. The darker an area is, the more difficult it is the see where the garden ends. Increase volume by mass planting or grouping together pots of the same plants. This makes the viewer think they are looking at one big plant, not lots of small ones and subconsciously we tend to think of tropical plants as bigger even though that is not always the case.
Placing plants closer together helps but mind that your selection is suited for this as the increase in humidity will be great for real tropical plants but not so good for others. Too much humidity will increase the chance of fungal issues. Vines will also boost the jungle vibe of your tropical paradise and you can try the Australian Natives Wonga Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandoreus) and Bower of Beauty (Pandorea jasminoides).
Add in a few plants that have unusual and bright blossoms, like Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia regina) and any of the Bromeliads as nothing says tropical like these. Use pots that are deep emerald-green to extend the lushness of your tropical garden. Dark earthy colours will work as well. Rustic timber furniture and features will give a wild jungle feeling and you could try adding natural looking water features but instead of fast running fountains opt for slow trickling effects that will mimic the feeling and sounds of the rainforest. Bamboo can give you a tropical look and if you are hesitant about letting this plant into your garden, then try the delightfully jungle-looking and sounding Tiger grass (Thysanolaena maxima). Cordylines in their myriad of colours can also give your garden another layer of texture with their spear-like leaves. The good old Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa) is a temperate area plant that looks like it comes from the hot depths of the jungle but will be incredibly happy in Coast gardens.

YOUR GARDENS: EAST GOSFORD COMMUNITY GARDEN
Sitting on a busy corner in Gosford, it’s easy to zoom by without noticing that this green space is a vibrant community meeting place for locals who are growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables as well as friendships and connections with other initiatives and people across The Coast. Since its beginning in 2017, the garden has become a popular haven for locals and workers who enjoy the opportunity to sit among the trees and gardens created by the volunteers. Saturday mornings are always working bees at the garden, but many volunteers do extra days during the week as well. Everyone is welcome at the garden, whether to work or just to sit and chat and enjoy the morning tea that is provided free. Like all community gardens, no experience is needed, just show up. East Gosford can be visited at any time as it is an open garden but to meet the happy team you will need to pop into a working bee or an event. https://www.facebook.com/East-Gosford-Community-Garden A project of The Rotary Club of East Gosford Community Garden. One of our Rotarians, Vivienne Caroll brought the idea of this project to the Club to get the local community and Rotary working together. GC The gardens can be found within the Newman Memorial Gardens 10 -12 Wells Street East Gosford.

PLANT THIS WEEK
(Temperate gardens mid spring)
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, artichoke suckers, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, cherry, chicory, chilli, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes (tubers), pumpkin, radish, raspberry, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, silverbeet, squashes, strawberry, sweet corn, sweet potato (shoots), tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), canna lily, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, everlasting daisy, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, geranium, impatiens, marigold, petunias, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, sunflowers.


Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog: www.florasphere.com Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com


DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Plant Beans Now

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Plant Beans Now
Cheralyn Darcey
Bens paper 2

So easy, so yummy and you can sow right now! Most beans go brilliantly all year round, especially on the Central Coast and even the changeable Spring weather and extra rain won’t have too much of a negative effect as long as you prepare well. They will prefer a deep soil that is rich in organic matter and digging through some blood and bone a couple of weeks before planting can give them a great start. Beans don’t really like sandy soil so add lots of organic matter and make sure, as with most vegetables, that it is well-drained. The biggest human-induced problem beans face is over-watering. This leads to fungal issues and oxygen starvation so hold off on the hose. Beans will like moist to top-dry soil and you will find that they are rather hardy through summer. You can mulch, but never allow the mulch material to touch the stems as this is another way to trap too much moisture close to the bean plant which will lead to plant death. What beans really need is full sun and for climbing beans, a trellis of some sort to support them. Once growing, beans really don’t need additional feeding unless there has been a lot of rain and nutrient levels are low. Then a liquid-based preparation or manure tea would work well. Beans are able to get all the nitrogen they need because they fix it from the air around them. Over feeding beans will actually upset this balance and cause damage to your plants so be very careful when making the decision to feed.
While growing beans is relatively easy, they can fall victim, to diseases like powdery mildew and halo blight. Make sure that you are giving your plants plenty of air flow by spacing well and that you are not over-watering, watering during the heat of the day or letting water fall upon leaves or pool around the plants. All this increases humidity and this encourages the growth of these fungal disease.
There is a lot of variety out there to choose from when deciding what to grow in your garden and you will find that the selection seems to be divided between climbers and bushes. Climbers can reach a height of 2 metres while bush beans get up to around 40cm depending on type. They grow. As annuals in this area and you can expect to harvest between 10 to 14 weeks. Make sure that you harvest as soon as they mature, when they are still crisp and full because leaving too long will cause your beans to toughen up. If you would like to collect beans to dry, allow them to do so on the plant. These can be collected for culinary use or for planting in the future.
Here are a few bean types that will grow well on the Coast and can be planted right now. Dwarf Borlotti which can be harvested as a green bean or left to dry on the plant. This is an excellent culinary bean and very popular. Butter ‘Cherokee Wax’ is another lovely dwarf variety worth growing. One of the most productive climbers is ‘Blue Lake Climbing’ bean and if you like your beans without strings then look out for ‘Lazy Housewife’ or Dwarf ‘Snapbean’. For stir-fries you can’t go past ‘Snake Beans’ and if you like broad beans, ‘Coles Early Dwarf’; is a good one. Beans love to grow with broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and sweet corn.


YOUR GARDENS
Bateau Bay Community Garden
 
Bateau Bay Community Garden

Tucked behind the Men’s Shed at Bateau Bay, this Central Coast Community Garden began because two Men’s Shed members, Kevin and Nigel, saw the need for a place that had similar benefits but would be open to all. Ten years ago, they petitioned the Central Coast Council to create their dream of a garden that men, women, parents, grandparents and children could all enjoy upon the degraded bush block. Nigel shows me around and explains the planning and work undertaken by these dedicated volunteers over the years. The garden now houses lots of raised beds, a wonderful meeting room with facilities, chickens and many outdoor supporting structures.
Lynsey was working hard when I visited and has been coming for nearly four years, initially not a gardener, she came along to just get out in the fresh air, get some exercise and meet people. Deb comes every now and then, loves helping with the planting and enjoys the company of others here. Glenda moved to the Coast from a home with larger gardens and unfortunately her new balcony garden didn’t work out as planned. She joined the garden and has been thrilled with the community connections she didn’t expect to make, “I’m home when I’m here at the garden” she tells me. Kevin Armstrong is the Secretary of the Bateau Bay Community Garden and says the object of this important Central Coast asset is to provide an outdoor location that serves as a meeting place for people as well as encouraging healthy eating and exercise. “Community Gardens engender a sense of community and give people an opportunity to work together to achieve things as a community in a cooperative way.” Kevin adds.
You can join the warm and welcoming Bateau Bay Community Garden or pop in for visit any Tuesday or Thursday morning. It’s an organic garden and open to all ages and level of skill, even zero skills. They also host the Long Jetty Produce Swap on the first Saturday of the month. You can also follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bateaubay.communitygarden/

WHAT’S ON FOR PLANT LOVERS 
Coachwood Nursery Open Days 21 & 22 October, 9am – 3pm. 900 Wisemans Ferry Road, Somersby. Free Entry. Pet friendly. Succulent Workshop starts at 3pm, book online to ensure your place: coachwoodnursery.com 
Dried Flower Workshop 23rd October from 3pm. 900 Wisemans Ferry Road, Somersby. Create a stunning wreath and learn proper florist techniques with Ruth who will guide you in selection, crafting and care of your dried floral creation. Make your own beautiful gifts and products to take home. Everything included.
To book: coachwoodnursery.com
Clara’s Urban Farm Mushroom Talk & SWAMP Working Bee 10am – 12pm Sunday 23rd October. Who loves mushrooms? Who wants to learn to grow their own mushrooms? Come along and find out! Also, it’s the SWAMP Working Bee so if you would love to garden for an hour or so alongside the SWAMPIES, get those boots and gloves on and join in! Gold coin donation for mushroom talk please. 1897 South Tacoma Road, Tuggerah swampcentralcoast.com.au
 

PLANT THIS WEEK
Temperate Areas late October
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, artichoke suckers, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, cherry, chicory, chilli, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes (tubers), pumpkin, radish, raspberry, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, silverbeet, squashes, strawberry, sweet corn, sweet potato (shoots), tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), canna lily, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, everlasting daisy, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, geranium, impatiens, marigold, petunias, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, sunflowers.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus

Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com






DOWN IN THE GARDEN: What to Plant for Christmas

Gardening Page 15th Oct 22

This year, why not give everyone at your place the treat of freshly harvested goodness from your garden. To give yourself a head start, plant seedlings rather than seeds and make sure you are planting into rich, healthy soil and once established keep well feed and add a seaweed-based booster as per their instructions to encourage healthy, strong, and fast growth. Look at labels and seek out the term ‘early harvesting’ although right now, most seedlings of tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, cucumbers, climbing green beans, beetroot, Chinese cabbage, and snow peas can be planted and should be ready by the time Saint Nick gets here. Try golden yellow pear drop and tumbling red tiny toms for produce that will rival the tinsel.

Fill out a veggie plot to impress visitors with sweet corn, onions, and melons because although they may not be ready for the big day, they will provide a lush looking veggie garden throughout summer and a later season harvest for the holidays. Going traditional dinner this year? Then delicious homegrown potatoes should be on your list and although most varieties can’t be harvested for 60 to 90 days, if you select an early harvesting variety, you should be able to pull up baby potatoes by the end of December. Plant seed potatoes into contained areas of the garden or very large deep pots in full sun. Planting at this time of the year increases the risk of disease due to increasing humidity so cut eyes singularly with only a small amount of surrounding flesh and allow to dry for a day before planting.

Don’t forget the sweet potatoes. These beauties can easily take over a garden space so are better grown in contained areas or very large pots. Plant sweet potato seedlings in full sun at this time of the year to ensure a mini-Christmas harvest.  They need a free draining soil that is rich with compost and well-rotted manure. Feed with nitrogen-based fertiliser to start but then only use a general feeder thereafter every 6 to 8 weeks. Lettuce, endive, beans that grow in bush form and zucchini will all be worth getting into the ground right now for Christmas. Coast gardeners will find ‘Cos’ lettuce, ‘Salad King’ endive and good old ‘Blackjack’ zucchini thrive here.

BBQs, salads, baked dinners and in fact all your holiday cooking will be given a zesty boost with fresh herbs straight out of the garden and try growing all of these in pots as well as they make delightful and easy gifts. Just make sure that the pots are placed in sunny spots and although you could grow them now from seed, use seedlings to ensure that you will be obtaining these treats in time. You might even like to create wreaths for your front door or kitchen if you are already growing them. Simply tie bunches of herbs to a cane circle and use as needed. Herbs that can be planted now include basil, chives, coriander, dill, oregano, and mint. Plant mint in big pots rather than directly in garden beds as it can become very intrusive and pop them in those drab shady places for a green lift. If you want the best stuffing, you will ever make, there is no passing the opportunity to plant parsley, sage and thyme now. Sage needs full sun and a dry environment. It won’t like the coming humidity so if you have not grown sage before or experienced past failures, try planting in a large well-draining pot and move as needed out of the rain or find a dry spot in the garden and water sparingly.

Plant Australian Christmas Bush
Not only will you create your own supply of this festive favourite, the local wildlife will love you for it. NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) has small creamy-coloured blossoms that fall away in spring to leave sepals that turn a gorgeous red by late December. Find a full sunny spot to plant your Christmas Bush and feed during spring with a native-specific fertiliser only. This is advised to increase the number of blossoms which will lead to a showier festive display. When harvesting your Christmas bush, never remove more than a third of the plant and cut branches at an angle with sharp secateurs. Remove all foliage that will sit below the waterline in your vase, change water every second day and snip drying bottom of stems as required. You should see your cut Christmas Bush last well into the New Year with a vase life of at least two weeks.


YOUR GARDENS
Terrigal Community Garden

This group of Central Coast plant lovers have their sights and hearts set on creating the next Central Coast Community Garden. Coming together after a Facebook call out by one of their members, Maryanne, back in March 20022, the group of interested locals met in person and shared their ideas and visions of what they thought the people in their local community would want and need. They were quickly put in touch with the Green Point Community Services team who have worked hard in guiding and supporting the Terrigal Community Garden group in navigating the processes involved. While still in negotiations with Council over various suggested sites in which our next Central Coast Community Garden might take root, they have already begun planning their garden. It will be a permaculture garden, a green space in Terrigal for people of all ages to come together, to grow and to share not only the produce but also the peace of nature, their knowledge and their time together. Already the foundational members are appreciative of the wonderful community support, including that of other already established local community gardens and the ‘Central Coast Community Garden Network’. To join the group or find out more: terrigalcommunitygarden@gmail.com and hop on to their Facebook group: ‘Terrigal Community Garden’ to watch them grow.
If you want to meet the team and help out, they are having a ‘Spring Trivia Night’ to help raise awareness and funds to kick them off this Saturday night: terrigalcommunitygardentrivia.eventbrite.com.au

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus

Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com






Time to Grow Tomatoes: Down in the Garden

It's all about those summer tomatoes this week as I look any a few tried and true and some you may not of heard about. My top tom tips to make your veggie garden burst with summer goodness!

Down in the Garden appears in print right across the entire Central Coast of NSW every week in the Central Coast News Newspaper.

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Time to Grow Tomatoes
Cheralyn Darcey

Tiny Toms Tomatoes
Now is the time to get your summer tomato crops started by seed and some of the hardier or early tomatoes seedlings can certainly go into your garden now as well. You will find that as with all plants, there is a greater variety of seeds than seedlings available and for those wanting to try heirloom and the weird and wonderful, your appetite will be rewarded by hunting down seeds. Everyone needs a ‘Tommy Toe’. They are a sweet cherry tomato on the larger size and are very easy to care for. Newbies to tomato growing should try Mama’s Delight as it produces lovely salad fruits and is another easy-grow plant. Looking for a tomato with a lower acidity? Then try ‘Yellow Mellow’. Extend your tomato harvest by popping in the much favoured ‘Apollo’ for an early crop and a ‘Grosse Lisse’ for a mid to late cropping tomato that also has a heigh yield. Those planning on planting into pots could try the yummy ‘Patio Roma’ or for a burst of colour, the tiny ‘Tumbler Yellow’, which can also be successfully grown in hanging baskets. Heirlooms that add variety and interest include the colourful ‘Brandywine’, smoky flavoured ‘Black Russian’ and ‘Jaune Flamme’ is a wonderfully rich flavoured tomato that has a long cropping season. For the tomato aficionados and foodies, you will adore the delightfully complex flavours of ‘Black Krim’. Personally, I love growing the fascinating Reisetomate, also known as ‘Travellers Tomato’ for the first time. This lumpy-looking tom can be snacked on by pulling off the bulbous sections, hence the name.

Top Tips for Tom Success
All tomatoes need a warm, full sun position and while they are not super fussy about soil type, they will do best in a free-draining soil which is high in organic matter. Tomatoes cannot be grown in the same spot each season as they are heavy feeders, especially of nitrogen and attract diseases that can live on in the soil and effect the next crop. Rule of thumb is to rotate these positions every three years and an in-between crop that will help your soil is beans as they are nitrogen-fixing.

I have a ‘three stage’ method of raising tomatoes from seed to avoid early spring pest problems and to save space for late winter crops that may still be thriving. Seed takes about 7 to 10 days to germinate and is best planted in a seed raising mix in trays. Keep moist, but do not overwater as they are prone to root rot and place in a sunny, warm position. Once germination occurs, move each viable seedling to its own small pot of 50% compost and 50% good quality potting mix. Add about ¼ teaspoon of sulphate potash and do not fertilise with any nitrogen based fertilise as these can make the plant focus too much on leaf production and not on flower and fruit production. Once roots have filled the new pot, let the soil become lightly dry and then transplant into the garden. Plant each 1 metre apart into position by covering the stem to just over the first two leaves as this will encourage deeper root growth. Feed each plant with an organic fertiliser and water.

Provide support for each plant by either using a tomato cage or plant trellis or by surround with 3 to 4 wooden stakes. These need to be at least 1.5m in length for most varieties and 2m is best. Tomato stems break easily so as the plant grows, tie to stakes or trellis with a soft, flexible garden tie. Something with a bit of give is best and old pantyhose is a brilliant eco solution. Lastly, add mulch to the top of the soil as this will help retain nutrients and water and deter weeds and pests. Snip off some of the lateral stems as the plant grows to increase air circulation. Most tomatoes may be grown successfully in large containers if you are prepared to keep an even closer eye on your plants as they will need greater attention. Tomatoes in containers will dry out very quickly and as they are heavy feeders, you will need to ensure that you use a top-quality potting mix and enrich the soil regularly with an all-round organic fertiliser. Try compact tomato plants for the best results and ensure your pots are at least 40cm in height and in width for each plant.

Lastly, don’t forget that when watering to avoid splashing on the leaves as this can encourage disease and pests; space at least 1 metre apart for good air circulation; wash hands and tools with a disinfectant between working with each plant to avoid the spread of pests and disease and treat problems quickly.

WHAT’S ON FOR PLANT LOVERS

Plant and Seedling Sale - Saturday 24th from 9:30am. East Gosford Community Garden, Cnr Henry Parry Dr and Wells St, East Gosford. Support this wonderful garden and meet the gardeners!

Doyalson Garden Pawty - Saturday 24th September 10am - 2pm. Doyalson Animal Hospital 423 Scenic Drive, Doyalson. Street Paws presents this wonderful pet garden party with stalls, food trucks, dog comps and giveaways. Free entry, just come along and support local rescues.

Morning Farm Chores for Kids - 10am - 11:30am Sunday 25th September. Hey kids! Hop on up to Grace Springs Farm, Kulnura and experience farm life. Feed the cows, collect the eggs, sit on a tractor, check out the bees and you may even get to cuddle a duckling or chick! To book: www.gracespringsfarm.net or ph: 0425258699

Amaze & Play in the Garden - Saturday 24th September to 9th October. Hunter Valley Gardens, 2090 Broke Road, Pokolbin. Treat the family to an action packed day of adeventures, mazes and rides while exploring the gorgeous Hunter Valley Gardens. Details and bookings: www.hvg.com.au

Long Jetty Produce Swap - 10am - 11am Saturday 1st October, Bateau Bay Community Garden, 1 Bay Village Road, Bateau Bay. Get your chemical-free harvest together for next week’s produce swap. Suggestions: eggs, flowers, cuttings, honey, pickles & jams (homemade) and of course, your harvested goodness from the garden.


OUT NOW at all good book store WORLDWIDE-3

TASKS & TIPS FOR YOU THIS WEEK 
Right now is a great time to plant native tube stock. Have a chat with your local garden centre or native plant society. Next month the Australian Plants Society Central Coast is having a sale so check them out. Austplants.com.au/central-coast-plant-sales. This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, artichoke suckers, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, cherry, chicory, chilli, choko, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes (tubers), pumpkin, radish, raspberry, rubarb, rosella, salsify, silverbeet, squashes, strawberry, sweet corn, sweet potato (shoots), tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), canna lily, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, everlasting daisy, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, geranium, impatiens, marigold, petunias, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, sunflowers.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus

Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

 

 

Toms papers