gardening Feed

Growing Your Own Garlic


Garlic
Fresh garlic, straight from the garden is a divine experience and it is also the way to ensure you get the maximum health benefits possible. It is garlic planting time on The Coast and across temperate areas of Australia right now. Good news is, they are one of the easiest plants to grow and home-grown means more flavour and nutrients. This wonderful veggie can be planted in pots and garden beds and can be used fresh or stored for use all year-round. Garlic (Allium sativum), probably originated in the western areas of Asia, but it is such a long-cultivated plant that we cannot be completely sure. The Ancient peoples of Egypt, China and India, all have recorded histories of growing and using garlic as a medicinal and culinary plant with some even attributing mystical properties to it. Most commercial garlic is treated with a chemical to render it sterile, so you won’t be able to use those bulbs for propagation and it’s handy to know that there are two types of garlic, ‘hard-neck’ which has flowers and ‘soft-neck’ which does not. Soft-neck garlic will store for longer than it’s hard-neck friend, but I do like the flowers which are also edible, and the spikes make amazing, dried foliage material. Another factor you will need to consider is that you probably won’t end up with as large a bulb size as you find in the shops, but you will have leaves and you can eat those as well. Types to consider: Dynamite Purple, Spanish Roja, White Crookneck, Giant Russian, Melbourne Market.


Grow Your Own Garlic
Soil must be open, free-draining and well-prepared with compost. pH level sitting between 6.5 and 7.5 is best and whether you decide to grow in the garden or in pots, find a sunny spot. Garlic can be planted by seed but is mostly cultivated via bulbs. To do this, gently separate the bulb into individual cloves and only use the larger ones. Plant directly in their final designation into the soil with the tips just below the surface and firm down.
Garlic is not a fan of weeds so keep it tidy and water should be consistent but don’t drown your plant. They just don’t like to get soggy feet or humidity. Water seedlings a few times a week until they are a couple of months old and then back off to once or twice a week. Feed every second week with a seaweed-based fertiliser, as they love it and mulch with your usual veggie garden mulch medium but ensure you don’t crowd the plants as air flow and low humidly are important.
Harvest most varieties at around the five-month mark but this will depend greatly on type. You will know they are ready as the leaves will begin to wilt and yellow around this time. Lift gently, keep the leaves intact and hang to dry for a few weeks in a warm, sheltered spot to cure before storing in a cool, dry, dark place. The leaves are left on during the curing process so that all additional nutrients are pulled down into the bulb. Don’t forget to save some of those bulbs for next year’s planting. You can find garlic to grow at your local nursery or online: diggers.com.au or theseedgarlicshop.com.au and Giant Russian Garlic: naglesfallsfarm.com.au

Garlic Uses in the Garden & Beyond
Along with growing garlic, make this spray from it to combat pests in your garden. Blend together 4 cloves of garlic with 1 cup of water and a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid (not antibacterial), strain into 500ml spray bottle and top with water. Spray onto plants to deter pests. Test on a few leaves first.  Garlic is a brilliant companion plant for beetroot, carrots, strawberries, lettuce, and roses and provides a fair amount of protection from various pests, but it should never be planted alongside beans or peas as it will stunt their growth and production. For medical use garlic has been used as both an antiseptic and an antibacterial agent for over 3,000 years. Garlic is still used for these reasons in herbal medicine today along with treatments for digestive issues, respiratory diseases and for circulatory benefits as well.

Garlic Folklore
Firstly, don’t go giving garlic flowers to those you love because in the Language of Flowers and Plants, it means ‘Go away you evil one.’ Could be handy at other times though, so hold that thought. As much as we in Western cultures would like to believe that garlic has always been considered the great protector and many points throughout history support this, it’s just not always the case. While you will find that along with traditions, such as the roasting and sharing of garlic cloves on Midsummer’s Eve in France to use as protective amulets, garlic was forbidden in many cultures at times. It was looked upon as ‘unclean’ by religions including Hinduism, Islam and some sectors of Buddhism and Christianity at different times. The Ancient Greeks thought that garlic-breath was an offence in their some of their temples and so consumption was banned before worship.

The protection myths though are very plentiful and are probably related to the obvious health benefits that garlic shares. It’s not just Dracula and other vampires that are said to fear this plant but all demons and evil spirits. The Sanskrit name for garlic, ‘Ishunm’ translates to ‘slayer of monsters’ and it is thought throughout many folklores around the world that sleeping with a clove under your pillow will indeed protect you from such evil-doers while sleeping and from nightmares.

LOCAL GARLIC GROWING WORKSHOP 12th March 2022
Peter Donnelly of Coachwood Nursery, Somersby

Peter Donnelly  Coachwood Nursery
Getting along to a workshop at a nursery is the perfect way to experience growing anything in action as well as having the opportunity to ask questions. Another thing is this, you are not going to find local knowledge, tips, tricks and yes, secrets, online or in books. You will when visiting your local nurseries and especially when attending any dedicated workshop.  Central Coast local nursery Coachwood Organics & Coachwood Nursery has

a brilliant workshop coming up to help to help you Learn everything about growing Garlic successfully & organically. Join Peter Donnelly of Coachwood for his Growing Garlic Workshop. $29 at 3pm, 12 March 2022. Take home a range of different garlic varieties. Demonstration and guided tour. Bring a drink bottle, hat, and sturdy shoes. Students aged 12-18 welcome to join the class. Enquiries 0491 147448 or online www.coachwoodnursery.com

GARDENING BOOK REVIEW
Gardening for Everyone, Growing Vegetables, Herbs and More at Home
by Julia Watkins, Little Brown Publishers, 2022. 304 pages, ISBN: 9781472146922

Gardening-for-everyone

This gardening book is big on planning and in my book? That makes it a winner straight off the block. Julie Watkins focuses strongly on sustainability and very much on long term goals. Her advice is peppered with personal accounts of her mistakes and lessons and that makes gardening more accessible for those wondering about their own past challenges or current aptitude. The book is encouraging and to beginners and I feel expansive enough for more experienced gardeners looking for sustainability gardening practice information and inspiration. Big on beautiful photographs to light that spark in us all and a clever section called ‘Play’ that brings fun and creative ways you can add joy and usefulness in your garden spaces. My only little gripe here is that the title is not a good fit and being an author myself, I know this is usually a publishing house issue, not necessarily an author one. The contents and advice miss the mark with many gardeners as it focuses primarily outdoors and for those with no limitations. Other than that, a good and rather lovely sustainable gardening book.

GARDENING GUIDE FOR COAST GARDENERS THIS WEEK
(for temperate regions early autumn)
If your soil is still waterlogged from the recent rains then hold off direct planting but you can plant in seedling pots now and transplant later. 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: Rain and Flood Garden Rescue  

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: Seed Saving, 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.

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

Garlic newspaper
This article first appeared in Coast Newspapers the week of 7th March 2022


Need to Thicken up a Hedge or Shrub?

Daily gardening tips-3

Need to thicken up a hedge or shrub? Now is a great time to trim down their height to about half their current growth to encourage more lateral growth. This is also a way to prevent wind rock of taller shrubs occurring during the winter winds. Wind causes shrubs to rock back and forth and this can destabilise the root systems and make holes to form in the soil. During heavy rains, water can collect in these pockets and lead to fungal issues in roots. Trim now for healthy, thick shrubs come next spring.


The Flower of the Day for the 17th April is the Artichoke
In the Language of Flowers, it means emotional strength, grounding and closure.



                                                                               

 
 

Growing Cut Flowers

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It’s been a week when the local markets have been flooded with flowers but have you considered growing your own cut flowers? Not just to fill your garden with colour, perfume and beauty but for a focused harvest? While it can be difficult to lop off the stems in your garden design, if you set up purpose-built gardens, just as you would for say veggies, then it becomes a whole lot easier to cut down bunches of flowers. Don’t get me wrong, your harvestable flower crop will still add interest and colour to your garden!
Preparation
Just as you would any garden, you will need to make a plan. Factors to consider before deciding on which flowers to grow on your site include soil composition, light, access to water and possible environmental challenges such as wind and visitors that may become pests. You may find you will need to adjust the soil to suit the flower type you have your heart set on growing but as a baseline, a rich, loamy soil that is high in organic matter and free-draining will be required. Using raised garden beds, no dig mounds or just areas set aside for your cut flower growing adventure.
Planting
Cut flowers are just plants with purpose other than hanging out in your garden so a good idea is to plan for succession planting. Popular with veggie garden growing, it involves planting out the same type of seed every couple of weeks for a period of time so that come harvest you have a continuous crop and are not overwhelmed with too much of one flower. Starting seeds off in planting cells rather than directly into the ground can help protect them from pests and environmental factors. I’ve found it impossible to direct plant sunflowers for example as the birds and ground creatures simply dig them up in my garden. Getting your flowers to a sturdy seedling stage while under protection saves time and resources.
Growing Care
All plants have different growing requirements so do your research to ensure that feeding, watering and general care are maintained. You will also find that certain plants will need support via staking or a trellis and that light requirements will vary. For your own and the environment’s health, use only organic methods of pest and disease control. Following the advice for individual plant spacing, planting and care ensures healthier plants that are more resistant to challenges.
Pinching Out
How do you encourage your flowers to grow lots of blossoms? Well one way that is popular in the commercial industry is ‘pinching out’, but it can be more than a little daunting. Only suitable for some multi steamed annuals, it encourages the plant to produce more branches from its base and flowers that will also have longer stems. When your plants are over 20cm in height, take off the top 8cm just above a set of leaves. Flowers that this method is most suitable for include dahlias, cosmos, branching sunflowers, snapdragons, amaranth and zinnias. Double check first to see if this method is suitable with your flower selection.
Harvest
Picking your flowers at the right time will mean that they last longer which is especially important if you are planning on giving or selling them. Harvest most before the flowers are fully opened as this will mean a longer life. Of course, it is good garden practice to leave some of your crop standing for the pollinators and for seed saving. Harvest in the early morning when flowers are most hydrated. Remove all foliage that may sit below the waterline and place them straight into a bucket of cool, clean water. Let them sit for a few hours before arranging or bundling for sale.
What to Plant Now
As we are coming into autumn the following are suggestions of what can be planted now. These are by no means the only flowers but will get you started. Plant seeds of Amaranth, Asters, Black-Eyed Susans, Chrysanthemums, Chinese Lanterns, Japanese Anemone and Sunflowers. Spring flowering bulbs can also be planted such as tulips, daffodils, jonquils, freesias, iris and hyacinth.

Growing Flowers Locally- Suzie German
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One person who is growing cut flowers successfully is local Permaculture Gardener Suzie German of Hidden Valley Harvest Edible Flowers. She has a passion for edible flowers and this season is growing zinnias, marigolds, dahlias, cornflowers and snapdragons to name just a few but Suzie also reminds us of another source, “We often forget that our herbs and vegetables have flowers as well and these can all be used.” While it will depend on the season right now Suzie suggests that sunflowers can be planted now as can Zinnias. “Coming is all sorts of colours and shapes including the flashy double pom-pom zinnias or there are lower growing varieties. Just two of many that grow well here on the Central Coast” All flowers are important in the garden she says whether for eating or pleasure as that they provide an important role for the environment, especially for our pollinators. You can find Suzie on Facebook: Hidden Valley Harvest Edible Flowers.

GARDEN EVENTS
Bell’s Killcare Garden Tours 11.00am - 12.00pm. Friday 24th February. We invite you to meander through our abundant kitchen gardens with Megan, whilst learning about our organic growing techniques, Closed Loop Composting System, and see what we have growing and why! $15 per person includes a coffee/tea & pastry from Bells Bakery on arrival. Bookings essential and numbers limited to small groups. For further details or to book: email [email protected] or phone 4349-7000 
Come and Share My Garden
, Niagara Park. 10 – 11am Saturday 25th February. $15 per person. Join Carin Clegg, Dietitian and Eco-Warrior in a short tour of her permaculture designed garden. There is a lot to see and talk about so discussion will be guided on the group. You will get a few packets of seeds and plant cuttings of your choice. Bring your own jar if you would like to take home some plant cuttings. A share table will be available so please bring any garden related items you wish to give away, share or swap. Plant sales will be available by cash sales only. Address will be emailed to you prior to the event. Info and booking call Carin on 0407 492 278
Woy Woy Produce Swap 10 – 11am 26th February, Woy Woy Peninsula Community Garden. 85 -87 Moana Street Woy Woy. 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 the food you have grown with the fellow growers in your neighbourhood and a great way to meet local gardeners.


GARDENING PLANNER
Late Summer Temperate Gardens
This week you could plant: culinary herbs, beans (dwarf), beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages,  carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions (spring), parsnips, peas, potatoes (tubers), radishes, rhubarb (crowns), salsify, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, turnips, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, cineraria, coneflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria,  lobelia, lupin, nasturtium, nigella, pansy, poppy  (Iceland), primula, statice, 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 cut flowers

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’ Archived articles: florasphere.com
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]

 


Garden & Houseplant Summer Cuttings

Cuttings 1
It’s almost the end of summer but it’s still a good time to take garden cuttings to create new plants. While you can take cuttings right throughout the year, there are preferred times and ways to do this to make sure you end up with healthy, happy new plants. Right now, is a good time to take semi-ripe cuttings. This means the base is hard and the tip is soft of your cuttings. A small selection of examples of the plants that you could take such cuttings from at this time include: Evergreen shrubs, Boxwood (Buxus), Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), Coleus ( Soenostemon), Cherry Laurel (Lauraceae), Bay (Laurus nobilis), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Viburnum (Viburnum), Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), Geranium (Pelagonium spp.), Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica), Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis); Gardenia (Gardenia spp.), Ivy (Hedera) , Mock Orange (Philadelphus) and Star Jasmin (Trachelospermum).

Cutting Preparation
When obtaining cuttings, most are taken from the stem just below a node. These joints in a ‘nodal cutting’ hold a lot of vascular tissue and so the formation of roots is far more likely. Other methods include ‘heal cutting’ which involves pulling away side shoots so that some of the bark from the main stem comes away with it, ‘wounding’ a cutting by scraping away a section of the bark to expose the inner tissue and ‘callusing’ which is also a form of wounding in which a callus is encouraged to form from a scraped stem.

Root Hormone
To help your baby cutting along, you can apply a root hormone. There are commercial preparations out there but I’m a fan of organic homemade so here are a couple of my recipes: Add one generous tablespoon of organic honey to 2 cups of boiling water and stir well. Once it drops to room temperature it is ready. Dip cutting end into the mixture and then plant in a seed and cutting soil raising mix. Another recipe I have not tried as yet involves boiling 1.5 litres of water and then once cooled adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Use the same way as the honey mixture. I have also tried dipping hardwood cuttings into Vegemite and had success as well. As strange as it sounds it’s probably the Vit B boost that creates the magic!

Cutting and Seed Raising Mediums
Many cuttings can be started in a clear jar of water that sits in filtered light and seeds can be put straight into ordinary garden soil or a potting mix but planting straight into a speciality cutting and seed raising medium gives most plants the best beginning and makes transplanting into your garden or larger pots easier down the track. Propagation mixes need to provide aeration, excellent drainage, and support. Although bagged commercial mixtures can be purchased, a good example of a homemade mix is: 2 parts coir peat, 2 parts compost and 1 part course river sand.

Australian Native Cuttings
For these beauties, you will find good results using a propagation sand but propagation soil mixed in with additional propagation sand will help. The aim is to have a well aerated medium. Take the cuttings as outlined above but be prepared to wait a little longer for growth to occur. You need to select plants that are in their growth period, not dormant for cuttings to be successful. There are so many that fit this category but three worth noting are any of the Dwarf Gums, Native Frangipani (Hymenopsporum flavum), Ivory Curl Tree (Buckinghamia celsissima). My advice? Go out into the garden and if it is happily enjoying new growth now, it is fit for cutting! An extra tip: if the stem bends to 60 degrees easily and springs back quickly, then it is ready to become your cutting. 


Houseplant Cuttings

Rachel-Okell
Rachel Okell from Our Green Sanctuary, a local home garden and plant styling expert shares with us her method to successful houseplant cutting propagation. “The first thing that you want to do is to choose your healthiest plants to take cuttings from”, Rachel adds that we need to make sure these plants are not affected by pests or diseases. Secondly, ensure that tools are clean and sharp. She suggests using secateurs or garden snips. “They must be clean to avoid contamination of plants with disease or bacteria.” When planning to propagate, be aware that not all plants are suitable candidates to take cuttings from. Check individual species with an in-depth gardening book that includes propagation tips or ask your local nursery. I highly recommended the book ‘Making More Plants’ by Ken Druse for not only cutting advice but all forms of propagation information. Rachel then suggests that your cutting be no more than 10cm in length and that at least one node is present. This will be a slightly raised bump on the stem and it is where the roots will form. For the best result, no more than three leaves must remain on the cutting. “You want the cutting to direct as much energy as possible to forming roots, not sustaining leaves.” Pop the cutting into either water or damp perlite or sphagnum moss. If using water, only have one cutting in each vessel and change water weekly. You should see roots form in 2 to 4 weeks. Rachel shares that houseplant cuttings are best taken during active growing periods and these are found outside of the winter months. For more great houseplant tips and local advice from Rachel: ourgreensanctuary.com

GARDEN NEWS
Vertical Succulent Garden Workshop, Buff Point 1 – 2:30pm Sunday 12th or 19th February
Learn to make your own succulent vertical garden to hang on the wall or give to someone special. $89 includes the planter and all the succulents you will need to make your succulent picture. Jenny has exhibited her succulent vertical gardens at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. She will guide you to create something beautiful. To Book: artofsucculents.com/book-online
Free Wicking Bed Workshop (online)
6:30pm Wednesday 22 February
Asa part of the National Sustainability Join Adam Grubb from Very Edible Gardens for an informative hour while learning how wicking beds work, if they are right for you, how to make them, and how to look after them for super veggie abundance. Book now: veryediblegardens.com.au/events/
Woy Woy Produce Swap 10 – 11am 26th February, Woy Woy Peninsula Community Garden. 85 -87 Moana Street Woy Woy. 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 the food you have grown with the fellow growers in your neighbourhood and a great way to meet local gardeners.


GARDENING PLANNER
Late Summer temperate Australia -
This week you could plant: culinary herbs, beans (dwarf), beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages,  carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions (spring), parsnips, peas, potatoes (tubers), radishes, rhubarb (crowns), salsify, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, turnips, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, cineraria, coneflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria,  lobelia, lupin, nasturtium, nigella, pansy, poppy  (Iceland), primula, statice, 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 Summer Cuttings Feb 23 copy
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 Coastfm96.3’ 
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]

 


How to Preserve Your Harvest

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As your garden or the local market fills with the harvests of the season the time is right for you to start looking at ways to take advantage of the oversupply. You will save money, create ready to use items and extend the availability of crops. The best thing about planning to preserve your own garden harvest is that you will be able to pick when produce is at its peak which is ideal for preservation. When purchasing produce, select undamaged items and always go for organic. There are a few different was to preserve your harvest and these are the following: heat, via pickling or fermentation, sugar and heat, freezing, alcohol or desiccation. All of these methods inhibit pathogens and prolong the shelf life of produce but not all are suitable for every delicious vegetable, fruit or herb from your harvest. Let’s explore ways to make the most of this season’s bounty.
Freezing
As a general rule, use freshly picked young and tender vegetables. They all need to be blanched and this is to retain colour, taste, appearance and most importantly, nutrients. With the exception of rhubarb and quinches you won’t need to blanch fruits before freezing.
Heat
This method is suitable for bottling naturally acidic fruits but is not to be used for non-acidic produce because the risk of botulism, a deadly bacterium, is far too high. Tomatoes, most berries, apricots, plums, apples and pineapples are all good candidates for this system. Heat preservation involves packing washed raw fruits into sterilised jars and then filling with water that is sometimes flavoured. Lids are secured and the bottles are submerged in a water bath and heated for a length and time determined by the contents. A popular commercial system is Fowlers Vacola which includes a very supportive community to find out more: fowlersvacola.com.au
Acid

This is the pickling or fermentation of non-acidic vegetables and perhaps one of the best-known methods. Often referred to as ‘cold pickling’ because the bottles do not go through the heat process described above, although they can if desired. Produce is cleaned, often salted overnight first to remove excess water and then packed into jars into which a pickling solution is added. See the delicious recipe by Jen Jones of the Pickle Patch below.

Sugar
Jams, jellies and conserves all use sugar and heat to preserve and with the addition of pectin these mixtures are set to a desired consistency. Pectin either occurs naturally in produce or needs to be added. Berries and citrus are the heroes for this method but with the addition of vinegars and herbs this is how chutneys and savoury sauces can also be made.
Alcohol
Apart from making liquors, covering fruits with alcohol is an easy way to preserve them while creating a delightfully delicious treat to add to your desserts or drinks. The addition of sugar will also increase the shelf life of the contents while adding sweetness.
Desiccation
Sounds scary but it simply means drying. By removing the moisture from produce, you can also halt spoilage. This drying can be done in a few different ways. Airdrying produce, often sliced, on racks under fly mesh in the full sun is an ancient method. Fan-forced ovens with their doors slightly opened and on the lowest heat will also provide a suitable drying environment. For those who wish to take the plunge, a dehydrator appliance is an excellent investment. All drying times will depend on the actual produce.

PICKLE’S PATCH
Jen Jones from Pickle’s Patch is a local home gardener from Chain Valley Bay who has mastered the art of preserving. She wastes nothing from her garden creating conserves, salsa, pickles, jams, sauces as well as herb mixes and even dried mushrooms. Taking it a step further Jen and her husband also create the most delicious fruit liquors. Although she admits there’s a lot of information available these days on the internet, Jen prefers hitting the local charity shops for classic old cookbooks and preserving guides. It's also where she has found the tools, jars and equipment needed including a Fowlers Vacola system and a dehydrator!  This is a great way to keep costs down while also recycling. You can find Jen online: Facebook: Pickle’s Patch and Instagram: The Dreaded Kitchen Witch.
Jen’s favourite thing to do with excess cucumbers, which are in season right now, is a traditional English pickle which keeps the best of the season for all year round. You can use this recipe for other vegetables.

Pickle’s Patch Bread and Butter Pickles
Jen Pickles

6 large cucumbers (or the equivalent)
2tbsp of cooking salt

1 1/2 cups of white vinegar

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

2 tsp white mustard seeds

1 tbsp Black peppercorns

Slice and salt the cucumbers in a bowl, ensuring the slices are well covered in salt, cover and leave for an hour or so. Meanwhile combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Rinse the cucumbers well and strain in a colander. Pack the cucumber slices into sterilized preserving jars and pour hot spiced vinegar over to cover completely. Seal and place upside down for 1 min to complete the seal. Allow to cool and label

GARDEN NEWS
CEN Wildplant Sale & Talk with Jacquelene Pearson 9am Saturday 4th February. This is the first Community Environment Network plant sale of 2023 and Jacquelene Pearson will also be talking about the issues surrounding the environment in the local area. Wildplant Nursery, Loop Road, UoN Central Coast Campus, Ourimbah
Free Wicking Bed Workshop (online)
6:30pm Wednesday 22 February
Asa part of the National Sustainability Join Adam Grubb from Very Edible Gardens for an informative hour while learning how wicking beds work, if they are right for you, how to make them, and how to look after them for super veggie abundance. Book now: veryediblegardens.com.au/events/
Volunteers Wanted to join Doyalson Community Garden. An interest in gardening or a wiliness to learn. Centrelink Workplace Provider Contact Garden Co-ordinator Jules Sayers 0439463219


GARDENING PLANNER
Late Summer temperate Australia -
Summer fruit trees will need to be pruned once harvest is complete and keep deadheading those summer flowers. If looking at laying new turf, now is good time to do it. This week you could plant: culinary herbs, beans (dwarf), beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages,  carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions (spring), parsnips, peas, potatoes (tubers), radishes, rhubarb (crowns), salsify, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, sweeds, turnips, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, cineraria, coneflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria,  lobelia, lupin, nasturtium, nigella, pansy, poppy  (Iceland), primula, statice, 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 Harvest 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’ Archived articles: florasphere.com

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

 


Getting into Bush Tucker

Bush Tucker (credit Royal Botanic Garden Sydney)
pic: Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Apart from gaining a great tasting harvest, growing an Australian Bush Tucker Garden will help provide food and shelter for local wildlife. These plants are naturally suited to the local environment and so will generally need less watering, no or very little fertiliser and not much in the way of soil improvement. Eaten and used by Indigenous Australians for centuries as a food source and in some cases as a medicinal aid, it is only fairly recently that these powerhouses of flavour and goodness have been considered as a regular addition to the home garden by most. Some plants, like Lily Pilli, Davidson Plum and Lemon Myrtle have enjoyed wider spread moments of popularity but there is so much more to discover and a whole banquet of Bush Tucker that you can plant and cultivate at your place to bring life to the environment as well as your table. Here is a sample of the plants that you can grow at your place right now. For more information I highly recommend the classic: ‘Wild Food Plants of Australia’, Tim Low and for a complete growing, buying and cooking guide, ‘First Nations Food Companion’, Damien Coulthard and Rebecca Sullivan is brilliant. 

Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
Tetragonia_tetragonioides
Eat as you would English spinach but raw it can be a little bitter for most so blanch first. The tiny flowers are also edible and look pretty sprinkled on baked goods. Although tolerant of most soils, it will do far better in a moist loamy free-draining medium. Growing to only 20cm in height and spreading out to over 2m, it will do well in either full sun or part shade. Warrigal greens die back in winter and then come back in spring.

Finger Lime (Citrus australasica)
Citrus_australasica_green_fruit1

You will need patience as it can take up to 15 years until you are enjoying the caviar-like inner of this delicious fruit if grown by seed and although they can grow from cuttings, the success rate is very low. Most home gardeners fall back on grafted stock obtained commercially which also only attain a height of about 3m. Grow in a wind-sheltered location in full sun to part shade. Most soils are tolerated and fertilising requirements are minimal. Regular citrus feeding at half strength every 3 months will be sufficient for grafted varieties. Keep moist during fruiting and flowering times.

Old Man Saltbush – Tjilyi-tjilyi (Atriplex nummularia)
A_nummularia_closeup
The seeds and the leaves are the harvestable part of this plant and as the name suggests, imparts a salty flavour to your cooking. Use the leaves like you would any leafy vegetable. A hardy shrub, it will grow 1 to 3m in height and 5m wide and prefers full sun to part shade. Tolerant of most soils and requires no feeding and only regular watering until established. 

Midyim Berry – Midgen (Austromyrtus dulcis)
Austromyrtus_dulcis_fruit1
Growing up to 1m in height (sometimes 2m) and 150cm in width these easy to grow plants are gaining popularity as a super food with their high antioxidant properties. You will be harvesting delicious tangy berries after the first year. Does well in most soils and in full sun or part shade. Watering only required to established and when fruiting and flowering. Feed with a native specific fertiliser as per directions during fruiting and flowering.

Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens)
Carpobrotus_glaucescens_01
If you go down to the beach today, you will probably see these gorgeous bright flowers and their juicy foliage but you can easily grow Pigface at home as well. The leaves can be eaten raw or roasted and used as a salt substitute. Look out for the fruits that give this plant it’s ‘Pigface’ name as they are delicious with a salty strawberry flavour. The flowers too are edible and look fabulous in savoury-based dishes and drinks. It will grow up to 20cm in height and to around 2m in width so makes a fantastic rockery or edging plant. It can be easily propagated from cuttings, loves a well-drained soil and it will tolerate both full sun and part shade. Water until established and you can hold back on feeding.


Bush Tucker Foraging
Jake

I spoke with local Bushcrafter Jake Cassar about the possibility of foraging our own bush tucker. While it seems like a natural thing to do there are a few cautions to be aware of. “There’s heaps of Aussie Natives you can eat when you are out and about and there’s also a lot of introduced plants. As always, you need to be 100% sure of the identification of plants before you eat them as some can make you very sick or even cause death.” Although there are books, phone apps and websites that can assist with this identification process, mistakes can still be made, especially by the inexperienced. As Jake points out, a lot of plants, their fruit included, can look very similar to each other. Additional care must be taken to ensure plants have not been sprayed with chemicals and when collecting you have to be aware of spiders and snakes. Attending bushcraft training or foraging with a guide is a good way to educate yourself about plant identification and safety. “You have to be aware also that it is illegal to forage, even for food, in our national parks.” Jake also cautioned and while you can forage on private land, permission must be granted. With a passion for our environment, he prefers to focus on foraging for introduce species like blackberries, as this helps regenerate our local bush. Some of the local edible natives that are found across the Central Coast include Lilli Pilli, Sour Current Bush, Yams, and Native Raspberries. Jake as a lot of resources on his website and social media and his local bushcraft courses are a great way to learn more about experiencing our Australian bush safely. Find out more at: Jakecassarbushcraft.com

GARDEN NEWS
Our Garden and Flower Clubs need us. Many are in danger of folding as the average age of members now stands at 76. Without younger people joining it is feared that these once popular clubs will be a thing of the past. Garden and Flower Clubs are keepers of plant knowledge, a lot of it local and not found elsewhere so losing them will leave a huge hole in our resources. Most members spend no more than a couple of hours a month on club activities and all skill levels are always very welcome. To find out more about these clubs go to gardenclubs.org.au you might just find one that interests you!

GARDENING PLANNER
Late Summer temperate areas of Australia 
Funnel web spiders are on the move and we are expecting higher than average numbers due to weather patterns we have been experiencing. Shake those boots before you put them on and be aware when working in the garden. 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 Bush Tucker 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]

 


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  www.suncalc.org. 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: communitygarden.org.au and on the Central Coast we have a fantastic Facebook Page: facebook.com/CentralCoastCommunityGardenNetwork

GARDEN NEWS
Graham-ross
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: treloarroses.com.au

GARDENING PLANNER
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: Christmas in Your Garden

Christmas Garden 2

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

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

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

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

Australian Christmas Bush

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

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


NSW Christmas Bells

The flaming yellow-red Christmas Bells Blandfordia nobilis
Blandfordia_grandiflora_-_Flickr_003

and Blandfordia grandiflora
1986

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

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

Congratulations Doyalson Community Garden
Doyalson Community Garden

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

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

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

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: [email protected]

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Gardening with Edible Flowers: Down in the Garden

Edible Flowers copy

Edible Flowers are growing in popularity every year. While zucchini and squash flowers have had their popularity as pretty cases for delicious stuffings, dainty sugars violets and rose petals have also enjoyed favour over the years. These days with the rise of farm to plate interest and a focus on what can be grown at home for our own cooking explorations, edible flowers of all types are popping up everywhere yet again. I’ve put together a list of blossoms that you can grow and eat along with suggestions for their use based on their inherent flavours. Please note that not all flowers can be consumed with many being toxic or even deadly so be sure of identification and that they are organically grown.
Borage
(Borago officinalis)
They taste like fresh cucumbers and make a refreshing tea but can also be added to just about any dish or drink to add a delightful splash of blue with their brilliant royal to sapphire blossoms. It is an annual that requires a very sunny spot, most soils and should be planted in spring through to late summer.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) This traditionally medicinal flower with fantastic skin-healing properties is also a culinary hero as a natural food dye. It has a mild aromatic flavour and works well in almost any form of cookery. Plant from spring through to autumn in a moist, rich soil in a sunny position.
Carnation
(Dianthus caryophyllus)
People have been writing about the joys of eating carnations since writing began! They have a peppery taste and make amazing pickles, drink additives and desserts. Plant in spring through to autumn in a full sun position with a free-draining soil.

Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Best with stronger and bitter flavours like dark chocolate or drinks such as wines and spirits, this is a flower that also alienates a few with its strong sweet perfume flavour. The mistake most gardeners make is overwatering lavender. They are a Mediterranean plant and likes full sun, the best drainage you can ensure and light feeding.
Nasturtiums
(Tropaeolum majus)
They have zingy pepper flavour that also works well with stir-fries and salads while looking so bright and inviting.  Plant by seed in autumn and you will find that they are also a wonderful addition to vegetable gardens as pollinators. Soak seeds overnight before planting in full sun in most soils.
Rosella/Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) The dark red calyx of the flower can be used to create jams and syrups and can be candied or persevered in a sugar syrup as well. The flavour of the calyx is berry-like and can be used best in drinks and sweet dishes while the flowers do well in salads. Grows easily from plant cuttings or seed in late spring through to early summer and needs full sun.                                                 
Roses (Rose spp.)
Most people have a love/hate relationship with rose flavoured foods. They are the base of Turkish Delight, and give an exotic aroma and taste to desserts, drinks and sauces. Sugared rose petals are also a pretty decoration for confections and baking. The trick to using roses is to separate the petals and trim away the white base end of each petal as it has an undesirable flavour. Roses need full sun, at least six hours a day, in a wind-sheltered position with rich well-draining soil.
Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo var. giromontiina)

With flowers that mildly taste like their yummy vegetables, these blossoms are one of the most popular of the edible flower bunch. They are delicious stuffed with anything you can imagine but are particularly good filled with cheese-based recipes and then fried or baked. They also make wonderful additions to stir-fries and Mexican cuisine. Plant in spring after the risk of frost has well and truly past. They need a compost-rich soil that is free-draining and full sun.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Brighten up your next salad with sunflower petals and you will also find they work very well in breads and other baked goods. Their flavour is mildly earthy and reminiscent of leafy greens. Plant seeds from late winter through until late spring but I have personally had success planting year-round on the Central Coast and in Sydney. They need full sun, a moisture-retentive soil and if you are growing taller varieties, a stake for each. 

Violet (Viola spp.)
Popular as a sugared decoration for baked goods, violets can be tossed into salads, desserts and drinks to add colour and sweet flavour. Plant in autumn and late summer in a semi-shade but bright spot, in a rich moist soil. They are mostly annuals but all easily self-seed.

 YOUR GARDENS
Bel and Steve – Tranquil Haven, Edible Garden Trail
This is another gorgeous and productive garden joining the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail this weekend. Permaculture practices are employed throughout Bel and Steve’s haven in Avoca that blends more traditional plants, like roses, in with a huge array of edibles.  The front garden isa dedicated to veggies and you will find tomatoes, peas, beans, kales, chokos and even cucamelons popping up everywhere. Two years ago, the lawn mower died so Steve dug up the backyard and continued the permaculture dream on. Their garden is on 637 squares and jammed packed with inspiration, love and chickens. Hop onto the Facebook page of the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail to find out more.
Bel & Steve Garden

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

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