community gardening Feed

Following the Edible Garden Trails


Central Coast Edible Garden Trail
Central Coast Edible Garden Trail

Edible Garden Trails are a joyful event that helps gardeners showcase their techniques, passions and experience while opening the way for budding and more experienced gardeners to find inspiration, knowledge, and friendship. Usually held over a weekend in warmer weather, they are a relatively new form of Open Garden experience that focuses on growing your own food. The emphasis is on organic agricultural methods and often includes permaculture and sustainable practices. These self-guided trails enable visitors to experience a variety of gardens, in different sizes, created by gardeners with various interests and levels of experience over a short period of time gives the visitors an abundance of first-hand local knowledge that I’m not sure could be gained elsewhere. Plus, Edible Garden Trails are fun! Lots of fun.

There is nothing quite like the vibe of these trails that are springing up
not only here in Australia, but around the world. Often, they offer a chance to see first-hand how those working with gardening techniques that may be little outside mainstream are succeeding as well and to hop beyond the garden gate and check out what is working in your neighbourhood.
In 2018, Susanne Rixs, a life-long gardener who is passionate about home-grown organic food got 30 of her neighbours together in the Blue Mountains to open their produce gardens to the public. Her vision was for this event to grow, “I’m hoping this will become a global phenomenon with people all over the world opening their gardens not just for show, but for sharing intelligent, thoughtful, sustainable food production techniques.” That wish is being granted with the Sydney Edible Garden Trail beginning after Bridget Kennedy visited the inaugural Blue Mountains Trail as she was looking for a way to create an annual fundraising garden trail to promote sustainable living and growing your own food. This year the Sydney Edible Garden Trail is on the weekend of 4th and 5thNovember 2023

The Central Coast Edible Garden Trail Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October 2023
CCEGT_Logo_apple_colourLast year more than 650 visitors joined the inaugural Central Coast Edible Garden Trail of 37 locations that included home gardens and community gardens covering much of The Coast - from Killcare to Gwandalan, out to Jilliby, Wyong and Watanobbi. Local Permaculturalists Anna Trigg and Sandi Eyles came together to create and manage our local Trail to highlight Central Coast food gardeners who are working with the earth and sustainability.
Like all Edible Food Trails, the Central Coast Food Trail is a ticketed event run as a not-for-profit organisation. “We have been quite excited that we raised a lot of money from ticket sales and more than we expected from our first year and so it meant that we could donate a whole lot of money back to the community.” organiser Anna Trigg shared. $400 was donated to each Community Garden across the Coast and to finance a hugely successful community outreach program designed by Sue Bradley of In8lygood and SWAMP Central Coast that brought together fifteen organisations across The Coast. The program that helped those living with disability to learn gardening with facilitators Kerrie Anderson and Matt Silavant.
So, what was the biggest take away from the inaugural Central Coast Edible Garden Trail? Sandi Eyles, trail organiser said, “It’s so lovely to help build community. We met so many amazing gardeners and visitors who helped create this beautiful warm and joyous community.” Both Anna and Sandi agreed that the event helped reinvigorate the permaculture and general gardening community on The Central Coast as well.
To keep updated on Central Coast Trail happenings, hop on over to their website: or
Along with lots more special features, Coastfm963, the official media partner of The Central Coast Garden Trail will have popular local home and garden program ‘Home with the Gardening Gang’ with me, your gardening writer Cheralyn Darcey and co-host Pete Little broadcasting live on the Saturday from one of the gardens.

Register Your Garden for the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail
The Central Coast Edible Garden Trail is looming for more gardens! Would you and your garden like to be on the Trail? It’s a wonderfully welcoming community of Central Coast gardeners who have a passion for sharing their experiences and love of all things botanical. Any sized garden and all skill levels are welcome, and you don’t have to be open both days, you can if you are keen but one day is ok with the team. The Edible Garden Trail is not competitive, it’s about sharing time, thoughts, and the love of plants. Getting more people growing. If you want to know more email [email protected]

Exploring Edible Garden Trails
While I’ll give you my experience with the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail, much of my tips are relevant to other such trails. With the Central Coast being so vast in area, planning is of essence for trail explorers. The organisers make it easy with maps being given to ticket holders in advance along with opening days and hours. The first thing to be aware of is that some gardens are open both days of the event while others only for one, so take that into careful account. Short descriptions of each garden are given, and they are highlighted in the weeks leading up to the event on social media. Make a note of techniques and plants that you want to see but also make sure you include visits to gardens similar in size and environment to yours. With the Central Coast having so many different micro-climates, from blustery seaside to frosty mountains, on to rich valleys and urban hot-zones, what can work in one area here might not in another. To experience ways in which gardeners in conditions very similar to yours are doing to tackle challenges is an opportunity too good to pass up.

The Fungal Kingdom with Anna Durkin, 8th July

The July meeting of the Australian Plants Society Central Coast Anna will share her work as a Citizen Scientist in this field, educating us with her skill and knowledge and answering our questions about the fungal kingdom of the Sydney region. 1:30pm for. 2pm start, Philip House, 21 Old Penang Road, Kariong. Entry: $3 with lucky door prizes. for more details.


Rachel’s Farm Special Screening, Avoca Theatre, 27th July
Be one of the first to see Rachels Farm at our special Q&A screening with Rachel Ward, Maree Lowes and Cheralyn Darcey. In this triumphant film, Rachel voyages from wilful ignorance about the ecological impacts of conventional agriculture on her own rural property, to embracing a movement to restore the health of Australia’s farmland, food and climate. Tickets from Avoca Theatre:

Winter - temperate areas
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, artichokes, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cress, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, spinach, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, cineraria, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, nigella, pansy, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, viola, wallflower


Cheralyn is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little,
hosts ‘Home with The Gardening Gang’
8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3
contact via:

She also writes the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News






Thrifty Gardening

With the additional financial pressures that life is bringing, many are turning to gardening as a way to provide at least some ease. Although gardening, like any endeavour, can end up being expensive if you don’t pay attention to your spending. Any savings made by growing your own food or even being a little more entrepreneurial and selling your produce could take a long time to balance out if you spent a small fortune in getting established or maintaining your garden. The best way to avoid wasting money is by planning your garden, your crops and setting goals. Start small and grow from there as gardens have a habit of evolving as if by magic as you meet other who garden, save seeds from each harvest and learn what it is that your truly need to be successful and more importantly, the horticultural extravagances you really can do without.

Thrifty Gardening

Build a Thrifty Garden
Your garden will cost as much as you are able or willing to spend on it. I caught up with local home and garden blogger, Jen Jones of Pickles Patch and asked her for tips on building a garden for less. “Start with water. Are you using tank water or are you using council supplied water and what ways can you use water in your garden more effectively?” Jen also suggested that if you can’t afford a water tank, to use barrels under drainpipes to catch run off. To build a garden, take advantage of things that others are throwing out. “Save building materials and pots from landfill by using them to create garden beds” she said, and she is a big fan of composting to build the soil. “I cannot stress enough how important composting is. It reduces the waste coming out of your house and creates valuable soil for your garden.” Other ways Jen suggested to save money include seed saving and sharing cuttings. Any money you are going to spend, is best directed towards investing in good tools. You can find Pickles Patch on Facebook for lots of gardening and home inspiration:

What to Grow
If you are seeking ways to save money on grocery bills, then take a good hard look at what your family eats and focus in on growing a few of the staples in abundance to start with. You can’t go past root crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens like silverbeet and lettuce. These are allrounders that can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Clara Rosa of Clara’s Mini Urban Farm and President of Permaculture Central Coast grows a verge garden, for herself and to share with neighbours. It is filled with lots of produce, primarily herbs. Who hasn’t purchased $4 scraggly bunches of dill, rosemary or parsley and watched them turn to slime? Growing your own saves money and waste. Clara says that the good news is herbs are probably the easiest plants of all to grow. Following Clara’s lead, you can save hundreds of dollars a year and boost the flavour of all your dishes. As she explained, “Even if you live in a townhouse or apartment, you can bunch a few pots together and still grow herbs.” For more wonderful insight into gardening more sustainably check out Clara’s Blog: and for permaculture on The Coast:

Thrifty Garden Practice
Once you are established, the most important piece of advice I think I can share is to plan what you are going to grow. Plant in line with the season because that way you do not have to invest in resources or infrastructure to keep your crops warm or to cool them down. Grow what is suitable for your environment by having your soil tested and improving it with rich organic matter that you create yourself, like compost. Work with your zone. Here on the Central Coast we enjoy what is known as a ‘warm temperate’ zone so look out for plants that are known and recommended to grow well here.

Swapping Your Produce
Once you obtain a harvest, a great way to find free food sources and help others is by swapping your excesses for things you are not growing. There are bunches of produce swaps on the Central Coast and around the world. Usually held in community gardens but also elsewhere. These are amazing places for inspiration, gardening tips and friendship. There is a private Central Coast Produce Swap Group on Facebook. It’s a place for people on the Central Coast, who grow chemical free produce, to swap and share with others. Handy when you can't get to your local produce swap, and you can also find or list local swaps. Central Coast Produce Swap Group: Two popular swaps I have found are: Long Jetty Produce Swap and it is held on the first Saturday of the month 10 - 11am at the Bateau Bay Community Garden and the Woy Woy Produce Swap which happens on the last Sunday of the month at Woy Woy Peninsular Community Garden. There are sure to be more so join the group, keep an eye on this page or ask around. 

Share your Gardening News and Events - [email protected] or call 0408105864

Mingara Orchid Club Orchid Fair and Show - 24th and 25th June
This is a spectacular and free event for the community, providing a fabulous festival of exotic and native Australian Orchid displays. It is one of Australia's biggest orchid shows with lots of vendors also selling orchids and products. Mingara Recreation Club, Mingara Drive, Tumbi Umbi Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday 9am - 3pm. 
Pete Little and Cheralyn Darcey of Coastfm’s Gardening Gang will also be broadcasting live from the orchid fair Saturday 8am - 10am. More information: and





Green Teams- Bird walk and Talk - Saturday 24th June
Join CEN's Green Teams and local bird expert Kaye Pointer leads a walk and talk, identifying local birds and learning about some of the local food sources and nesting habitat. Morning tea provided after the walk (Please note any dietary requirements in the comments section when booking.) Venue: Ourumbah Creek Landcare Site. Bookings are essential Ph: 4349 4491 or email: [email protected]. Please wear appropriate clothing, covered footwear and hat. Bring binoculars (if you have them) & a bottle of water. This event is funded by Central Coast Council, through their Community Development Grants program, as part of the CEN’s Green Team project. Saturday 24th June, 9am-11 am. More information:

Kincumber Produce Swap - Sunday 25th June
A produce swap works by having a set time and place for backyard growers to bring their excess food to share with other growers. It is a very casual affair, and nobody keeps score. By bringing your produce you are saying that you are happy for other swappers to take what they need because it is excess to your needs. It is simply a way of sharing your food with the fellow growers in your neighbourhood. 3 - 4pm at 20-22 Kincumber St, Kincumber

winter: temperate areas
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, artichokes, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cress, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, spinach, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, cineraria, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, nigella, pansy, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, viola, wallflower

Cheralyn with Roses

She also writes the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News. 




New Year - New Garden!

New Year New Garden
Is your resolution to create a garden this year or to improve your skills? Then read on as I have a bunch of resources, tips and inspiration to get you growing! Gardening is a skill that anyone can learn but you need to be prepared for success as well as the challenges.

Believe You Can
I don’t think there is such a thing as a born ‘green thumb’ but rather it’s that some people are more relaxed about gardening and accept the inevitable failures as being just a part of nature and not an indication of their skill. Green thumbs also garden more. They will plant entire banks of annuals, rows of raised veggie beds and then dive over the fence to help their neighbours. More skilled gardeners will also readily spring into action when challenges arise because of their experience and also their confidence in themselves. They are willing to give things a go. Green thumbs often have had gardeners in their families or been around horticulture of some sort in their childhood or youth and that familiarity breeds confidence. This all makes them appear a lot more successful than timid newbies who nurse along a couple of houseplants and a few seedling punnets while wondering if those yellowing leaves are ok. In saying this, I’m not suggesting that those new to gardening invest in hundreds of plants from the start. What I do hope is that you understand that gardening is a skill that is learned like any other craft or endeavour. The more you do it, the greener your thumb will become and your belief in longer term gardening success will grow.

Plan to Succeed
If you wanted to run a marathon you would not get up tomorrow morning and sprint out the door for your first ever 42Kms! To achieve success, you would gather all the information about how to do it, select your resources, create a plan and then train for your first marathon. There would also be many smaller jogs, maybe even walks before you ran that race. You might even enlist the help of a trainer or mentor. So it is with gardening!
Gather information about the types of gardens you would like to create along with foundational notes about your garden space. You have to start with good soil. There is no getting around this and it is paramount to gardening success. Soil can be improved and structure balanced to suit the types of gardens you are planning. Soil testing can be done at home with kits available from your local nursery or many offer this service in store, just ask.
Plants also have different light requirements and one of the major reasons they don’t thrive is that they are simply planted in the wrong spot. Most veggies won’t grow well, or at all, in less than six hours of full sun per day and other plants will shrivel up and die in a couple of hours of direct sun. To help you with plant selection, map out the areas of your garden that receive sun and shade. This will need to be done over the course of a day and to be efficient, because the sun’s position will naturally move through the seasons, a year. You don’t have to wait that long as there are lots of purpose made apps online that will assist you. Look for the terms ‘sun position’ or ‘sun mapping’. Some will need you to use your smart phones GPS abilities but other desk top methods will use your address like the free ‘Sun Calc’ page found at I’ve tested it out and found Sun Calc is rather accurate and easy to use.

Learn to Garden
Go educate yourself in the ways of the plants you wish to grow! While you can enlist in courses and workshops, and these are a great way to get started, other methods to gather this knowledge include going to plant events because plant people love to talk about their passions and you will also see a vast array of offerings in your area of interest. This experience is both inspiring and educational. To learn just about anything in the garden world, read and watch! There are endless books, magazines, tv shows, Youtube clips and more that are not only about gardening but also types of plants, individual species and specialised techniques. Make sure that the information you find is relevant to your area. Climates and environments change across not only countries but states and even areas and while a lot of general information will still be helpful, you need to top that up with local knowledge, like this gardening page you are reading right now. Connecting with others is a social way to learn and there are lots of gardening groups and clubs in just about every area and catering to all sorts of plant types and techniques. You can find them with an internet search or by asking at your local nursery.

Garden Mentors - Community Gardening
Perhaps one of the very best ways to learn to garden is by joining your local community garden. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to be a green thumb or at least very experienced to be a part of one of these wonderful places. In my experience, the vast majority of community gardeners either started off as complete novices or with very little experience but they enjoyed the company, the community and they learned along the way. Skilled gardeners at community gardens love to share their knowledge and they need people to just show up and help do anything from sorting seeds to digging the earth or making a cuppa for the team. All physical abilities and commitment levels are welcome. You will learn to garden in your actual environment and be instantly connected to other plant organisations, ideas and wisdom. To find your local community garden hop on over to: and on the Central Coast we have a fantastic Facebook Page:

pic credit: Treloar Roses

Graham Ross AM, Australia’s most awarded horticulturist has been honoured by Treloar Roses with the naming of a rose after him. This delightfully sweet fragranced hybrid tea rose makes a wonderful cut flower and is also heat resistant. $2 from the sale of each of these roses is to be donated to NextSense (formerly known as the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children).  Over the years Grahame has supported NextSense in many ways including the organisation of many well-known large flower shows at the Institute’s Sydney site and in 1991 was awarded Life Membership of NextSense. Graham is delighted to continue his support of NextSense with the release of this beautiful new rose. For more information:

Late Summer temperate areas of Australia 
Make sure you are picking beans daily as this will extend their harvest and if your cucumbers start sending out fruitless runners then snip them off to encourage these to branch out and fruit. 
This week you could plant: culinary herbs, beans (dwarf and running), beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages,  carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, marrow, mustard, onions (spring), parsnips, potatoes (tubers), radishes, rhubarb (crowns), salsify, silverbeet, swedes, sweetcorn, turnip, zucchinis, ageratum, alyssum, boronia, calendula, cineraria, cleome, cyclamen, forget-me-not, lobelia, lupin, marigold, nasturtium, pansy, poppy  (Iceland), primula, stock, verbena, vinca, viola, wallflower

Cheralyn writes the 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper each week and this originally appeared in The Coast News as below: 

NEWS New Garden Jan 23

Cheralyn Darcey is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3, on air locally or streaming by asking ‘play coastfm963’

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]


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’, ( 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.

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: [email protected]

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at 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:  
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]




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.

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:

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: 
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:
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

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 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:

Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]

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.

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: [email protected] 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:

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at 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:

Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]

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.


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: 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:

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

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. 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 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:

Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]



Toms papers

Lettuce that Won’t Cost the Earth



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.

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:

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: and Mangrove Mountain Country Markets at Peats Ridge 9am - 2pm Sundays is also another to visit.


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.

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.

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 -

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:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]

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.
Seeds 2
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.

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. 
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.

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.

Soil to Plate with Youth Connections and SWAMP
Soil 2

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.

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

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: [email protected]

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:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]