community gardening Feed

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: 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


Lettuce that Won’t Cost the Earth

 

Salad-seedling-4134906

The reason lettuce is so expensive at the moment is a combination of a few factors. Firstly, lettuce does tend to creep up a little in price in winter and that’s because it is more substitutable to frost and water damage in some areas so not all of the larger producers bother growing it. Demand is generally lower anyway as we swap out summer salads for warming winter soups and the like. What is available does tend to be a little higher in price. More influential factors that have led to prices over the $10 per head mark include the invasion of Ukraine which has pushed diesel and fertilisers into astronomical figures. Farmers rely on fertilisers to grow their crops and diesel to power machinery. Diesel is also used in the transporting of your vegetables. Recent heavy rains and flooding have also meant that crops have been destroyed and some were not replanted in their usual cycles leaving gaps in harvest.

BUY LOCAL
Different-types-of-lettuce-800x533
No one likes paying double digits for a head of lettuce at any time and most of us can’t afford to but there are a couple of solutions. First check out local suppliers and small farms as many already produce lettuce and some will, I’m sure, be adding this crop to their list shortly. You will not only be able to obtain cheaper lettuce but contribute to the local economy. A few places to check include our local REKO Ring which is made up of small-scale producers specialising in organic produce. Items change constantly but it’s a good place to track down lettuce and other local yummy produce: openfoodnetwork.org.au/reko-central-coast/shop

There are also many markets and farmers markets on the Coast and nearby so check them out. Gosford City Farmers market is on every Sunday at the Showground in Gosford 7am to midday: gosfordcityfarmersmarket.com.au and Mangrove Mountain Country Markets at Peats Ridge 9am - 2pm Sundays is also another to visit.

GROW YOUR OWN
Romaine

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is amazingly easy to grow and as the Central Coast is a temperate climate, this generally means that you can grow most lettuce year-round. In fact, if there is no danger of frost, the cooler weather is usually better for lettuce crops. Personally, I’ve found Cos Lettuce does really well here, but you may wish to also consider ‘Great Lakes’, ‘Green Cos’, ‘Butternut’, ‘Diamond Gem’ or ‘Green Salad Bowl’. All of which grow exceptionally well in this environment. You can plant seedlings but as with all plants, you will find a far greater selection available in seeds so check with local nurseries and online suppliers. Plant seeds 6mm in depth and 20 to 30cm apart. One important note for Coast gardeners: If the soil temperature is greater than 25C you will find difficulty in getting your lettuce seed to germinate so seedlings may be a better solution in the warmer parts of the year. Lettuce needs a moist and rich soil. It detests drying out and can bolt (come into flower) or die rather quickly if water levels fall sharply so good drainage is a must. Ensure damp soil, not water-logged for your lettuce and water the ground, not the leaves in the early morning and never at night or during the day. This will help deter pests and disease. A nitrogen-rich feed every fortnight will improve the leaf growth and general strength and health of the lettuce. Alternate weeks use a seaweed-based solution for good health as well. If you have loose-leaf varieties, harvest individual outer leaves carefully during growth and whole plants on maturity.

LETTUCE IN POTS
Container-lettuce
Because of their fast-growing nature, loose-leaf lettuce does well in container gardens. These types of lettuce will be happy in planter boxes, pots, balcony beds or even grow bags and that’s as long as the soil is kept damp and drainage is good. You will still need full sun for best growth and feed fortnightly with a liquid-based solution to avoid leaf burn from fertiliser build up. A seaweed-based solution at ½ strength is also recommended on alternate weeks. Harvest outer leaves as required and let some plants fully mature if desired. Soil will usually need to be replaced between crops as lettuce as heavy feeders. Lettuce varieties with firm hearts, like iceberg, can also be grown in these sorts of containers but just be aware that firm hearted lettuce are more prone to fungal diseases in containers.  A few container-friendly lettuce for you to consider:  'Green Mignonette' is a sweet tasting favourite that does extremely well in containers. 'Cos Verdi' has a compact growing habit and loose leaves with a lovely crisp heart and is also cold-tolerate. 'Baby Cos' is a loose-leaf lettuce that is also cold-tolerant and does extremely well in containers.

LETTUCE CARE
Salad-3505392Probably the most challenging problem you may face once you have your lettuce growing is pests. Those tender green leaves are so tempting to snails, slugs and any hungry garden visitors, especially in winter. The best solution for chemical free, environmentally safe lettuce is to net your garden bed. Aphids can present a problem so regular checking and treatment may be needed. Handpick them off and squash and spray lettuce with lightly soapy water to deter them. For snails and slugs, I have on many occasions suggested on this page a myriad of ways to deal with the snails and slugs in the garden including the eco-friendlier covering of your seedlings with nets or cloches and planting perimeter crops visitors you consider pests can eat instead. For more information on Australian Native Snail and Slugs, there are over 1,000 of them - factsaboutsnails.com/types-of-snails/native-australian-snails

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963. She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly botanical history & gardening podcast with Victoria White. Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog: www.florasphere.com

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


How to Save Your Seeds

Although it may seem a simple enough task, to be effective a little planning, preparation and commitment is needed to save seeds from your garden. You can just shake, squeeze, and scrape those plants and collect all the seeds, but to ensure they have the best chance of being viable (being about to sprout), and will grow you a healthy, strong crop next time around, I’ve gathered a few tips and tricks for you to follow.
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Seeds are the embryonic stage of a plant, created after fertilisation and there are many reasons to collect your own. Firstly, money! While a packet of seeds may only be a few dollars, that adds up over a garden. By saving seeds you get plants for nothing and while you will never be able to plant all the seeds collected, you may consider selling them or their seedlings, swapping or giving them away. Your local community gardens will thank you too as many are now setting up Seed Libraries as a central point for swapping seeds to preserve varieties of the more successful crops or endangered plants in an area.

Commercial seed producers focus on what is standard and popular. This is not because they are being picky, it’s just a matter of logistics. No one company, or even bunch of companies, could ever be able to satisfy everyone’s seed desires. By saving your own seeds you are adding to the diversity of plant types available and keeping alive a genetic legacy. One great Aussie institution that was founded on this principle is The Diggers Club. Created in 1978 by Clive and Penny Blazey to stop the disappearance of many plants including heirlooms and to have them available to the public. Members not only benefit from being able to purchase seeds but many assist in the preservation of seeds as well. diggers.com.au

Other reasons to save seeds include the opportunity to preserve the genetic material of the cream of your crop and because you need to let plants fully mature to collect their seeds, you will be helping our bee population but providing more flowers in the environment. My favourite reason is the opportunity to keep my personal garden legacy alive for my friends, family and to take that into the future. Being able to replant and even share the seeds of the plants I have loved, along with their memories is a beautiful thing and yet nothing new. The Ancient Egyptians believed that by telling a plant your hopes, dreams and plans that they would carry on through the eons long after you yourself had departed the earth. So, let’s get started saving those seeds for the future!

Seed Saving Planning
A possible problem with ducking out to the garden right now and collecting seeds is that they may be hybrids. Some may be hybrids that you have planted, and these won’t always produce the same plant from their seed. Also, pollinators, e.g., bees, have hopped from flower to flower in your garden and crossbreeding has occurred. While this can be exciting as it is how new varieties have been found in the past, if you are after a plant that is a true offspring of your original then you will need to ensure it is ‘open-pollinated’. Some plants self-pollinate like lettuce, tomatoes, beans, and peas and are considered open pollinated, but others can be protected by planting with space or barriers between varieties or by pollinating by hand. You also need to plant more than a few of each type to ensure genetic strength and health of your seeds. While planning be prepared for those crops that take more than one season to start producing seeds. All this in mind, there is nothing wrong with collecting the seeds you have now and giving it a go, especially if you only have one type of each plant growing in your garden.

Seed Collection Process
There are two types of seeds: wet fruited or dry fruited and they need to be harvested differently. You need to wait until the fruits of wet fruited seeds fully mature for many plants and this will mean past what is the edible stage. To do this, just leave a few of these fruits (this includes what we know as vegetables too i.e., cucumbers and eggplants) growing until they are just at the end of their life before harvesting. Seeds will need to be obtained by cutting open the fruit and then washed and sometimes soaked to remove all traces of the fruit and then dried. Seeds from dry fruited plants can be collected as soon as you notice that the seeds are hard and if they are contained within a seed pod, removed from it. Then both wet and dry fruited seeds need to be dried out. This can be done by spreading out seeds onto very fine mesh screens, filter papers or waxed papers, indoors in a cool, dry place. While they should not be touching, you will need to move them around every few days. Leave for 2 - 3 weeks. Another more modern method involves using silica gel. Easily available online, place a layer of silica gel into an airtight flat container and then cover with fine mesh. Place seeds upon the mesh, spreading out as much as possible. Place lid onto container and leave in a cool, dry place. This method takes between a week to two weeks depending on seed size. Dry fruited seeds can also be collected and dried in one easy step. Place the stem of a mature flower or flower head into a brown paper bag, head down. I clip these bags onto a line in my garage, but you can also lay the bags down if it is in a cool, dry, and dark place. Give the bags a shake every few days to release seeds. Once seeds have all fallen into the bag, remove stem, keep top open and leave in there for a few more weeks, still shaking occasionally.

Seed Storage
The longevity of seeds depends on many factors and while it is true that there have been viable seeds found hanging out in old jars that are thousands of years old it really is not the normal. The best place to store your seeds is in an airtight opaque container in your fridge or freezer where they will last for many years. Those kept in paper envelopes in cool, dry, and dark places in airtight containers will last until the next season and perhaps into the following year after that. The disappointment at seeds not germinating is caused mostly them being too old.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963. She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly botanical history & gardening podcast with Victoria White. 
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This article first appeared in 'Coast News', 'Coast Chronicle' and 'The Pelican Post' Coast Newspapers 


Flooded and Soggy Garden Rescue

An overly soggy garden that dries out over a few days can be revived without too much fuss, but a flooded garden needs a deeper clean-up and a few more steps to keep you safe and get your garden back to health. If plants are left to stand in water for more than a few days, they can die from lack of oxygen supply to their roots and if they do manage to survive then fungal diseases that develop in these conditions may still be a major challenge.
Red-park-bench-2635551When flood occurs, toxic compounds can wash into your garden such as chemicals, petroleum products and raw sewage along with pathogens and unwanted weeds. Then there is silt. This is a sediment of dust sized partials that move easily in water and when the water recedes, the silt will compact and lead to increased acidity and oxygen starvation in soil. When this silt and mud is left on plants it will also stop the process of photosynthesis. Once the sun returns its gaze upon our gardens, it’s time to get into rescue mode, but not so fast! There is a right way and more importantly, a safe way to save our plants.

First Steps to Recovery
As always, safety first and if your garden was flooded then you need to wear waterproof gloves and boots and a mask is also advisable. This is to reduce the risk of you becoming infected with pathogens. If your garden flooded then you need to wash away any left behind silt and mud from plants, paths, structures, and the surface of the garden as soon as possible. Silt will harden as it dries and be difficult to remove. Get rid of all debris that has fallen or swept into your garden as soon as possible as rotting plant materials will contribute to the spread of disease and fungal activity as well as invite pests in. Let the garden dry out, don’t start planting just yet and do not eat any raw leafy greens, soft fruits, or berries as these will more than likely have absorbed dangerous levels of contaminates. Rule of thumb is to not eat produce for a month, to wash with soapy water and cook before consuming. If you suspect that your garden has been contaminated with raw sewage, then you should remove and destroy annuals and not consume from longer living plants until the following year. 

Soil Rescue
After washing, dig in any remaining silt and turn over soil well to help aerate the garden beds. Your soil will need to be treated with fungicide as well to hold back outbreaks. All that water would have also washed away nutrients and even broken down your soil structure. This needs to be repaired quickly so that your existing plants have a better chance at survival as well. Do a soil test to determine what may be needed to improve your soil and add organic matter, fertilisers, and composts to replace lost nutrients. If you can get hold of a bunch of seaweed, then mulching with this will help increase fertility of soil, break down any remaining silt and encourage the return of worms but any organic mulch will help.

Plant Rescue
You need to be tough and face the fact that some of your plants may not recover but you can help by using fungicides and pest control methods. Use seaweed solutions liberally as these promote strong root growth and are an amazing health tonic for stressed plants. Be ready for competing weeds to start showing up as they move in more easily with silt and remove as soon as you see them. If a plant seems beyond rescue, be strong and remove it as it may infect other healthier plants in your garden.

Lawn Repair
Flooded lawn areas can be saved if the remaining silt is less than about 2cm deep. Try and wash off as much as possible and go over the surface with steel rake to break up the silt surface. Hose on a seaweed solution to encourage root growth. For deep silt, you may need to start again but the trick is to get rid of the silt and to get air into the soil below.

When to Plant Again
General advice it to wait at least 60 days after flooding until you plant again. For those gardens that experienced heavy rainfall without actual flooding, test the readiness by rolling a ball of soil in your hand. If it will easily crumble when pushed with a finger and no water can be seen oozing out, then you are right to plant. If you need to wait, there is nothing stopping you planting your seeds in seed pots and trays while your garden recovers. By the time the seedlings are ready, your garden will have had time to rest, repair and rejuvenate.

FLOOD-PROOF GARDEN
I’m not too sure there is such a thing, but here are a few ways that may help reduce the risk of flood and help water drain more easily from your garden. Create a slope to your garden, even 2 degrees can be enough, so that water runs off more easily and make sure it slopes away from buildings. The installation of drains and even the clever French Drain will help immensely. These are also known as ditch drains, French ditch, sub-surface drains and land drains and they not only help save your garden but will pull water away from the foundation of your home as well. They work by collecting overflowing water and filtering it through gravel or rocks. Selection of plants is always important so considering planting more natives as these will generally be more adaptable to conditions and to recovery as well as helping stop possible soil erosion. To direct water away from your house and to store for later use, install a water tank and consider rain barrels under your down pipes. Collected water in these can be used for the garden later.

YOU AND YOUR GARDEN
Soil to Plate with Youth Connections and SWAMP
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Sustainable Wetlands Agricultural Makers Project (SWAMP) at the Central Coast Wetlands is facilitating an amazing project with Youth Connections of Tuggerah. Created with the support of Central Coast Council and delivered by the enthusiastic volunteers of SWAMP, it is a grass roots pilot program aiming to deliver a nature, gardening, cultural and educational program for the young clients of Youth Connections. In the spirit of ‘soil to plate’ the project will see the creation of a ‘pizza garden’ and then the cooking of pizzas to share with family and friends. In the first week Youth Connections participants travelled to Narara Valley Nursery to begin the preparation and decision making around what will be needed to create the pizza garden. The youth engaged with decisions about which soil, what seeds or seedlings they might like in their garden, as well as the smells and sounds of a bustling nursery with a wide variety of plants. In the following weeks an above ground garden was established at the SWAMP community garden site by the group for the selection of herbs and vegetables that will eventually find their way into on to the pizzas. Other activities included kitchen apron making and a joyful visit to Grace Springs Farm in Kulnura which enabled all to experience agriculture on a larger scale.

Thank you to Syl Marie Photography.

youthconnections.com.au 
swampcentralcoast.com.au

GARDENING GUIDE FOR COAST GARDENERS THIS WEEK
With all this rain, again hold off on planting anything directly in the garden but you can plant out seeds in sheltered spots. You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsnip, peas, salsify, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, swede, spinach, turnips, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, carnation, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, larkspur, nigella, pansy, polyanthus, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, wallflower

Next Week: Start Seed Saving

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/Children 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 coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963. She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly botanical history & gardening podcast with Victoria White. Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:  www.florasphere.com

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


...and I'm are back! To blogging!

Hello! 
I hope this finds you happy and well and that you have spent at least some time with a plant, in the garden and maybe even getting your hands dirty. 

Personal Things...

I honestly haven't had the time to fit blogging in for so long as obligations and a bit of craziness has consumed so much of my time. 
Living in the Greater Sydney region has meant 4 long months of lockdown but luckily I have been an essential worker (journalist) and so have had some measure of freedom to do my work. 
I was able to go to the radio station to produce and present my weekly live program and to interview people over the phone from there. Lucky as well to live in a very large LGA (Local Government Area), The Central Coast, and be able to go to the beach, the park and the forest for recreation. Not so lucky that I had another nasty fall and completely torn my medial meniscus. With no elective surgery due to restrictions it has meant terrible pain and immobility but I'll be getting it fixed soon. 

Publishing Things...
Other than that? I'm busy completing a large gardening book and putting the finishing touches on a new series that will appeal to the arty gardeners out there. It's always plants from me so it won't take too much to guess. The large book will appear early 2023 and the series, (yes it is one for my Flora Flowers friends!) will kick off in March 2022. Exciting times and busy ones at that. 
My Flora friends?  Thanks for hanging in there with me. I am happy with where she is headed and the additional few years of development have really helped me to craft a strong backstory and foundation. It's a very good lesson for other authors and illustrators to not be so quick to rush to market with concepts before they are ripe. There is no way Flora would be as well developed or be able to hold up to the breath of plans I have created. There is lots of room for organic growth but it will always make sense to the reader as the roots are strong. 
If you want to keep up with Flora, she has her own website now: The Flora Journals

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Gardening Things...
The garden is looking as wonderful as it always does this time of year here, Down Under. It's late Spring and the vegetables are sweet, the flowers plentiful and the bees are doing their thing. The thing that has been sad is not being able to go to my community garden with friends and fellow community gardeners because of lockdown. We have managed to keep SWAMP (Sustainable Wetlands Agricultural Makers Project) alive and steady with rotating rosters ensuring only one of us (or family group) was there at a time. Right now our core team is back on deck and we are looking forward to opening to the public again early next year (maybe December!) 
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Radio Things...
If you had of told me a few years ago, or even last year, that I would be a trained radio producer, presenter, panel operator in 2022 and would also be efficient with the 'Zetta' operating system and learning audio editing I would of told you to stop drinking the hard stuff! Here I am though doing all this at COASTFM. This is mostly due to necessity as it is a Community Radio Station and we all pitch in to help out where we can. I've loved the training and with my keen interest in IT, I've found it rather exciting. The thing about this station is that it is situated on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia and this is a place where a to of Sydney people retire to. So we have a stunning amount of talented, (and very well known) entertainment industry legends on hand. No true creative ever really retires and so our station is stacked with mentors almost on tap, as long as you are willing to do the work! If you are not hearing stories of 'The Golden Age of Radio and Advertising' then you are picking up tiny tips and helpful insights all day every day. The best thing though is really connecting with the community and making a real difference by sharing what you are passionate about directly. I'm able to craft a program that speaks straight to local gardeners and plant people that is for them, about them and including them. 
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Newspaper Things...
My Coast News Gardening page is now syndicated to another weekly newspaper and found online. After a one week absence a couple of weeks ago due to a miscommunication, we all know how popular it is! It's delightful to hear how much people like my column which follows that gardening show I write. I also now get to review gardening books so if you have suggestions for gardening/plant related books that I could give my 'leaf rating' to, let me know! Oh and let's not forget the gardening questions!! I answer way more than appear in the article each week with about 20 coming in every seven days. Again, it's lovely to see and feel that I'm helping out.

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I think that's enough things to catch up on to get me back behind the blogging wheelbarrow! 

bunches of love, 
Cheralyn