Books for Plant-Loving People

I don’t know about you, but I take a while to get used to winter, especially gardening in the chilly fresh morning air. My daylight-saving balmy summer nights have also gone with the turning of the calendar page and so has weeding, watering, and wandering in my garden. What I’d rather be doing is curling up with a good plant book while I acclimatise to winter and save the gardening for the middle part of the day when I can feel my toes and fingers! Here’s a roundup of my favourite plant books and why I love them and maybe you’ll agree with my pick or maybe you will have a few of your own that are well-loved favourites, please let me know.

Cassell’s Popular Gardening
Edited by D.T. Fish
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All ancient gardening and plant books are worth having, especially those hiding old newspaper cuttings which share gardening advice, daffodil bulb prices and interesting plant facts that I can’t live without. While the books themselves do sometimes contain chemical-based instructions that are not suitable for the green-hearted, they still overwhelmingly share good down-to-earth wisdom that never goes out of fashion. Leafing through the illustrations is something else again. I want to frame every page.
My edition of Cassell’s Popular Gardening was printed in 1900 and three other gardeners at least have owned. I know because the Reverend Watkins, David Johnston and Grace Lee have all beautifully signed it. This book used to live in Port Stephens I think because there’s a xeroxed typed copy of the Rose Farm care sheet for Proteas tucked inside. I share the challenges of cabbage moth with one of the early book owners because I see they clipped out some good advice from a newspaper in 1941 but I don’t know where to find the suggested Lever’s Dry Soap to spray on my plants.
Cassell’s Popular Gardening is a beautiful old weighty book that is filled with divine etchings of gardening techniques, plants, and horticultural structures. There are whimsical colour plants throughout that hopefully your found copy will still have intact.

The Flower Hunter
The Remarkable Life of Ellis Rowan
Christine & Michael Morton-Evans
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If you love art, true stories of daring and innovation and plants, then have I got a book for you. Christine & Michael Morton-Evans have done great justice to the retelling of this woman’s brilliant life. At the age of 70 Ellis went to the New Guinea jungles to search out and document the 72 known species of the Bird of Paradise plant. Easel, paints, sketch book, journals, alone. At 70. Oh, and it was during World War I. Makes your weekend travels for rare houseplants seem not so dedicated, I know. She won the houseplant game decades ago. Seriously, this is a wonderfully inspiring book of plant adventures and the life of a plant lover very well lived. While you will find images of some of Ellis Rowan’s artwork within, go and seek out collections of her work (online or in books) as they are stunning. Often critized for not being botanically correct, Ellis nevertheless had an eye for highlighting the drama of nature and it stirred a great interest in naturalism in her time.

The Little Veggie Patch Co
How to grow food in small spaces
Fabian Capomoilla and Mat Pember
61b8vFYjtXLThis wonderfully designed food-gardening book was a huge hit when it was released in 2011 and I am still in on the adoration as my copy from that year is falling apart, it is that well-loved. A gardening book written by two friends, peppered with images, advice, recipes and tips from their family and friends, The Little Veggie Patch Co makes it feel as if you are having a conversation with your gardening neighbours. The layout is excellent, starting off with simple, good advice on how to look after and create soil, compost, and garden beds for the very beginner and to remind the more experienced of us of what we need to be doing. Then a large selection of vegetable is presented, each with an in-depth exploration of their gardening needs to ensure you get the very best out of every crop. Flick through for inspiration, fill The Little Veggie Patch Co book with bookmarks and scribble in the margins because this is the one Aussie veggie patch book that everyone needs.

Costa’s World
Gardening for the Soil, the Soul and the Suburbs
Costa Georgiadis
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A relatively new book on the block, this gardening and earth-loving from the beloved host of ABC Tv’s Gardening Australia is for everyone who has even though about plants. I find it an excellent permaculture guide as it is filled with parallel thinking to this form of living and gardening. A warm introduction to gardening, a heart-affirming resource for the more experienced and a book I truly believe should sit in every Aussie home. As a snuggle-down read, it’s filled with delightful illustrations, lots of vinaigrettes of tips and thoughts all rolled together with Costa’s uplifting exuberance and cheerfulness.

GARDEN PLANNER
late autumn - 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, wallflowe

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: cheralyndarcey.com

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

 


Indoors with Succulents & Cacti

Succulent and cactiAs the weather cools down, you can still bring some summer vibes to life in your home with a selection of cacti and succulents. Although hailing from various climates, they are synonymous with warmer temperatures and desert skies and for those new to houseplant growing, are relatively easy to care for. Cacti and succulents, what’s the difference? For many years we believed that ‘all cacti were succulents but not all succulents cacti’ and while it does still generally hold some truth, these days progression in botanical science has meant that some cacti are being excluded from the succulent group all together. While this scientific difference prevails, generally gardeners consider them to be all in the same bunch of plants as they have similar needs.

Succulent and Cacti Care
Although it is possible to grow these plants in containers without holes, drainage and soil aeration is much improved if your pots have holes. Add a layer of larger gravel in the bottom to boost drainage. Never use potting mix or garden soil as these are too dense. Find a commercial cacti and succulent mix or make your own by combining 50% loam-based compost to 50% horticultural or bonsai grit and you may find that some plants, particularly cacti benefit from the addition of perlite to increase the drainage.

The main reason we kill succulents and cacti is that we overwater them and using distilled water or rainwater is best as the minerals in tap water can cause issues. Water the soil not the plant and do this either carefully from above using a thin spouted vessel or even a syringe. Fertilising is going to depend on your individual type of plant and this information can easily be found online or ask your local nursery.
Only repot if they outgrow their container or if affected by pests and disease. Outgrowing a pot usually occurs every couple of years and can be indicated by root bound soil. Use a small paintbrush to swipe away soil or grit that lands on the plant after potting up and be sure to add a layer of pebbles to the surface to keep the potting medium cool and moist. Wear gloves working with cacti and cover with a few layers of bubble wrap first when transplanting or moving.  

Tidy up your plant and help it thrive by pruning away any damaged or diseased areas and by thinning out stems when the plant gets too leggy or crowded. This will ensure more vigorous and healthy growth. Always use very sharp scissors or secateurs and clean them often with a cloth dipped in methylated spirits to prevent cross contamination of pests and disease.

Propagation
A lot of these types of plants produce offsets. These look like miniatures of the parent plant and grow around the base. Most can be eased off by hand or cut with a sharp small knife to separate them. Leave offsets to dry out in a in a warm, dry place for two weeks before putting up. Another method of reproducing more plants is by propagating through leaf cuttings. Gently pull off mature, healthy leaves from the base of plants. Again, leave to dry for a couple of weeks and then pot up. Seed propagation is also possible, but seeds are difficult to obtain from your own plants. Stem cuttings can be achieved by removing a leafy stem of about 8 to10cm in length with secateurs. Remove the bottom 3cm of leaves and leave to dry for a couple of weeks. Pot up as with other forms of propagation mentioned.

Problem Solver
Yellowed leaves or stems can mean over or under watering, lack of light or food. Mushy or soft leaves or stems indicates overwatering, high humidity and possibly fungal growth. Reduce watering and increase air circulation, and wait and see. Remove any areas that go brown or die. Light brown raised areas could be the non-fatal ‘cactus corky scab’ and you will need to increase air circulation and reduce humidity. Round dark spots usually mean ‘fungal leaf spot’. Affected areas have to be removed to save the plant. Be careful not to wet leaves and stems in future when watering as this is usually the cause.

Fine brown markings, distorted growth, plant collapse and strange fibres appearing on your plants are all signs of pests. While it helps to identify the pests, physical removal by washing the plant in very mild soapy water and quickly drying in a well-ventilated area helps. Spider mites usually mean a death sentence for your plant, but you can try an eco-friendly pesticide and removing the infected parts. Thrips and fungus gnats can be combated by the placement of sticky traps around your plants and vine weevils and root mealybugs will mean you need to repot and clean your roots. Scale insect is a difficult one and you can try washing your plant, using a methylated spirit-soaked cotton bud directly on areas of infestation or a systemic pesticide.

Whole plant collapse is a sad looking problem and usually means that there is a pest or fungal disease in the roots of the plant, have a look, remove pests or fungal damaged roots and repot. Should all the roots look affected, then the plant needs to go to the bin I’m sorry to say.

Distorted growth can also mean insufficient light as well pests. Inspect closely and if nothing has been found, try a position with more light. Should you plant seem to not be growing in a non-dormant period, it could be any of the above so check weekly for signs of pests or disease, revise your watering method, and amount and perhaps move to a position with more favourable air movement, light and temperature. Etiolation is a common succulent problem. It is leggy and outstretched growth of the stem and leaves caused by a lack of sunlight and usually occurs after you have fed your plant. Simply move the plant to an area in which it will receive more sunlight.


WHAT’S ON FOR PLANT LOVERS
Growing Food for Abundance Live 25th May - 9.30am - 11.30am. An online workshop with Megan Cooke and Kerrie Anderson. Now is the time to learn how to grow your own food & have an abundance of produce.
For more details: www.facebook.com/gardentotablepermaculture
Terrarium Workshop Saturday, 10 June 2023, 11am-12.30pm. Learn to design and make a closed glass terrarium to take home, complete with living plants and ornament to create interest. You'll learn how they work so you can make more at home, and how to care for them so they last. Everything you need to participate is provided on the day, along with a warming brew from our in-house cafe, The Leafy Green. Burbank House & Garden, 443 The Entrance Rd, Erina Heights. To book, call 43 655 396.

Australiana Trivia Night with East Gosford Community Garden Saturday 10th June, 6:30pm. Support one of our wonderful community gardens. A fun night with cash prizes for winning table and other great prizes. East Gosford Progress Hall, tickets at door or book at: www.trybooking.com

GARDEN PLANNER
temperate areas, late autumn 
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


I write the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News as below - 
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Dry Your Own Flowers

Drying Botanicals
Dried Flowers
There are lots of ways to dry botanicals, (flowers, foliage, seedheads),including the use of presses, silica and commercial freeze drying but I want to share with you the gentle and the more natural way of letting your specimens slowly release the moisture of life on their own and become something that is still indicative of their living form. You will need a place that is very well ventilated, shaded to dark and cool to dry your botanicals. Hanging them upside-down in bunches is the method that suits most but make sure that flower and seed heads are not touching each other. Bind bunches no more than the thickness of two or three fingers with elastic bands that can be tightened, if need be, as the bunches dry. I use part of a patio that is rather dim and the darker areas of my garage. Some flowers need support as they dry, and a clever idea is to thread them through a soil sieve suspended from the ceiling. Another way that is popular uses wire racks. This method works best if the racks are resting on a supports or legs so that air can circulate completely around the botanical materials. Finally, the evaporation method works well for plants that need a slower process. Strip leaves from stems and place in fresh full vase of water. Place in a cool dim area and leave until water evaporates.

Grow Your Own
Although you can dry and use just about anything in your arrangements, some plants are better for the job than others. So, let’s firstly explore what you could grow in your garden. When selecting plant material, you will always find that stems that are woody rather than fleshy always dry best and will be far easier to handle and less likely to break. This list is just a tiny fraction of suitable plants and the best drying method. 

Everlasting Daisies (Xerochrysum bracteatum) Hang. Cut before flowers fully open. Banksia Evaporation or hang dry. Kangaroo Paw Hang. Cut stems low on plant. Mulla Mulla Hang. Wait until flowerhead is fully open. Billy Buttons Hang. Cut stems low.Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) Hang. Leave leaves on. Roses (Rosa spp.) Hang singularly or in bunches. Baby’s Breath(Gypsophila spp.) Evaporation method. Immortelle (Helichrysum italicum) Hang. Buds and flowers can be used. Statice (Limonium spp.) Evaporation or hanging. Harvest stems from base of plant. Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascene) Hang. Cut when flowers are in full bloom and keep leaves on. Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) Hang or flat on wire rack. Harvest when fully open. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) Use the seed heads by cutting when they are still green and hanging to dry. Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) When flowerheads are being to die, cut stems from bottom of plant. Strip leaves and place in vase of water and let evaporate.

Foraging
Only permissible on private land where you have permission. Be mindful because picking native flora is public spaces is against the law and that goes for fallen and dried materials. Stay away from roadside areas that could be sprayed with herbicides and other chemicals.
Gum Leaves (Eucalyptus spp.) This foliage makes the most beautiful draping design element which suits circles, wreaths and hanging arrangements. It can also be wired or wrapped around vines to form shapes. Harvest small branches when they have begun to naturally droop and dry themselves or have fallen. Best used when in this semi-dry state and letting dry in your display.
Ferns Cut from plant when they are beginning to lose their structure and droop. To retain their form these are best dried by pressing although some ferns do look pretty when hung to dry. They will usually curl.
Palm Leaves Collect when fresh or dried. They usually dry very well standing or hanging but if you want a bit more control, dry flat on wire racks. I personally love the stringy way the edges dry but if you prefer, you can trim the leaves to make them neater. Palm leaves make dramatic displays on their own or as background elements to other arrangements.


Interesting Botanicals

When foraging or even in your own garden, watch out for empty curled seed heads, interesting sticks and branches, withered dried stems, twisting vines and interesting seed pods. These can all add amazing texture, colour and interest to your displays. Dry out by hanging or placing on wire racks. I have also found that the flowers and seed heads of the Allium family, (garlic and chives for example), make brilliant, dried elements for your crafting. Palm inflorescence are another interesting element that you can usually spy when out and about. This is the flowering stem of palm trees and dries to look like a twisted little tree.

 

Dried Display and Care
The easiest way to display your dried bounty is in a vase, just as you would fresh flowers but don’t miss the opportunity to make wreaths, small posies for gift giving and even hanging dried flower ‘chandeliers’ .
Your arrangements will last a very long time but exactly how long will depend on the botanicals you used. Everything breaks down eventually and deteriorates so they won’t look perfect forever. You may find a time comes when you will need to send them off to the compost pile. To keep them looking good longer, position out of direct sunlight and away from wet or damp areas. Clean regularly with a hair dryer on the cool setting to blow off the dust and you might find a microfiber type feather duster helps with this as well.

GARDEN PLANNER
late autumn - 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: cheralyndarcey.com

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

 


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.



                                                                               

 
 

How to Get Into Bonsai

The first weekend in March saw the Bonsai Open held concurrently with the Central Coast Bonsai Club Annual Show at the Mingara Recreation Club. With over 150 trees on display, about 500 items available for purchase and some of Australia’s leading Bonsai experts including Marcela Ferreira, Andrew Edge, Hugh Grant, Evan Marsh, Joe Morgan-Payler and Tony Bebb demonstrating, it was an event not to missed.

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I spoke with Steve Reeve, President of the Central Coast Club which began in the mid 1970s and has currently over 100 active members about the history of Bonsai. “Bonsai is a Japanese word, but the art started in China around 1,500 years ago. Not long after that it emerged in Japan and then eventually made its way to the West with the GIs after the Second World War.” On the practice of Bonsai Steve added, “People often say that Bonsai is a cruel art, that it tortures trees, but you can see still living azalea trees in China that are over 1,200 years old and I can guarantee an azalea living in a suburban garden is not going to live over 1,000 years. Bonsai increases the longevity of trees and it’s certainly not cruel.” Steve also noted the sense of satisfaction one gets from learning to promote this longevity while enjoying the ability to put your own creative twist to the creation of a Bonsai. Perhaps in these polarising times, these are reasons why this living art form is rising again popularity. Bonsai asks us to slow down, to focus on growth, care, and design. It is an extremely mindful horticultural experience as a grower as well as viewer.

Bonsai Open demonstrator and judge, Australian Bonsai expert Hugh Grant commenced his bonsai journey at the Central Coast Bonsai Club when he was about 12 years old. His many years of bonsai study and experience are complemented by his Fine Arts degree, and he is now a fulltime bonsai practitioner, owning ‘Tree Makers’, located in the upper Blue Mountains of NSW. Whilst his business offers a large range of material, Hugh has a passion and preference for specialising in Australian Native trees and plants. He attributes his skill development to being a part of the bonsai community, constantly attending meetings, lectures and demonstrations and just generally hanging out with other bonsai enthusiasts. “For the most part, Bonsai centres around design and architecture as a practice, using horticulture as a technical application to produce the product, which is the bonsai tree. Going into it, (at 12 years of age), I just thought it looked cool. I guess my mind was focused on the design aspect, not knowing that I needed the technical ability to keep that plant alive. This is the problem most beginners face.” Once simple horticultural information about bonsai is obtained and followed it really is not a hard activity at all.

How to Start a Bonsai

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After chatting with Steve and Huge my advice for beginners is to get to a nearby Bonsai club and immerse yourself or at least read a reliable book. It’s not a hard technique but it does require dedication and patience. Like your larger gardening endeavours, you need to consider the fact that every plant and situation does vary. Here is a simple rundown on the basics.

  1. Firstly, choose a tree you feel some affinity with. Have a look at the way this tree may look as a Bonsai as well to help with this decision. Starting from seed may mean a longer journey with your Bonsai so perhaps a seedling may be more to your liking. There is also the option to start with a young Bonsai and these are easy to obtain.
  2. Find a suitable pot and choose a style that you will create. Again, there are so many resources out there to help in your selection and most enthusiasts believe that the pot forms part of the art of bonsai so chose with that in mind. Bonsai pots have additional holes to enable the root ball to be wired to the pot for stability.
  3. Premixed general bonsai soils are available, and you can make your own but for the best results, you should be creating or obtaining a mix that suits your actual tree type.
  4. Roots are perhaps pruned at this point and depending on the size and maturity of your seedling or immature bonsai you most likely will need to need it to wire it to your pot.
  5. Looking at your style and depending on the season, you may wire branches to begin shaping your bonsai.
  6. Water the tree and place it in a suitable location for its type.
  7. Look after it! Bonsai need constant care, they are not ‘set and forget’ houseplants at all, in fact they are not really suited to indoor living. While some will cope, you need to remember they are trees, and so like most trees, they need direct sunlight and an outdoors aspect to thrive.

Central Coast Bonsai Club
Along with courses, workshops and demonstration, monthly meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month (except January) from 7.30pm until 9.30pm in the Tasman Function Room at Mingara Recreation Club. These meetings typically involve a guest speaker/demonstrator describing a different aspect of bonsai. Community members are welcome to come and enjoy your first meetings without needing to be a member. All ages and skill levels – be they absolute beginners through to advanced -and welcome all ages. centralcoastbonsai.com.au

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]

March paper 1

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:

 


Creating a Peaceful Garden

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Although gardens are naturally calm places, you can create even more relaxation ambiance with a few carefully added design features. To escape the pressures, stresses and pace of the outside world, all garden spaces, indoors or out can easily provide you and your family with a spa-like experience to enjoy year-round. Try any of these elements at your place to help you find your Zen.

Open Areas
Even if you find sitting in a jungle of green soothing, a small clear space within gives you a place to rest your gaze and is a design element that will enhance the garden by providing contrast between the full and the void. You may also enjoy sitting, lying, or collapsing on the grass after a particularly stressful day.
Seating
While it is lovely to wander and to stand around a garden, being able to sit is important. To rest yourself physically as well as mentally and to just ‘be’ within the space for as long as you need is far better achieved with a seat. While outdoor furniture is one answer, so are benches and stools created from old tree stumps and upcycled weather resistant materials. My favourite bench in my garden is just an old sleeper bolted to a couple of tree stumps or go all the way with a lounge or day bed.
Art Works

This can be the form of a created sculpture of any size or a nature feature that serves as a sculptural piece. An interesting log, an old piece of machinery or equipment. Sculpture in the garden rests our minds with something of beauty or makes us curious and in turn this takes our thoughts away from what may be disrupting our peace. Small whimsical garden ornaments and decorative panels are also artistic pieces that you could consider. Choose something that delights you and matches the style of your garden.
Water Features
Fountains, fishponds and water plant features are all such soothing and alluring places in gardens and if you have the space and the desire then you really should investigate. Should you already have a pool or spa, consider surrounding with some of the plants listed below to add to the Zen. Why water makes us feel calm is not really known but it has been shown to slow our brainwaves and there is some evidence that the sounds we could hear in the womb, a time we would have felt safe, are reminiscent of other water sounds.
Wind Chimes
While are talking about the sounds of water, let’s not forget wind chimes. These come in a vast array of sounds and from gentle tinkling to bass clanging loudness and your selection will depend on placement, size of garden space and personal taste. They can all be silenced when needed but a wind chime adds a beautiful interaction with the breezes moving through your space and the sound, if chosen well, will help promote calm.

Indoor Oasis
The houseplant craze is well and truly upon us and to be honest, I’m a fan. It’s created a lot of new garden-curious people and that’s not a bad thing at all. While you may not need an Instagram-worthy indoor curation of plants, having an area with an inviting chair surrounded by botanical goodness would qualify as a Zen indoor garden in my books. Adding plants to areas of high traffic and family activity can also help calm the vibe.
Calm Inducing Plants
So which plants suit a peaceful garden? All plants will but consider greening up areas with soft textured plants that suit your environment, and this could include ferns, shrubs, and grasses. The gentle movements in caught breezes of softer textured plants will calm the mind and the greenness soothe the soul.  The following plants can all be grown inside or out and have additional therapeutic qualities for calm living.

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is known for its skin healing benefits but it also purifies the air of carcinogens and emits oxygen at night. Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) when grown near pathways and seating areas will enable you to brush past and release the aromatics that help bring clarity to your mind and feel less frustrated. Been found to lower frustration and boost alertness. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is almost famous for its sleep inducing and relaxation characteristics when used in teas. Cutting the flowers and drying to use in potpourris will bring the same benefits into your home. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) contains within it a compound known as ‘linalool’ which has been found to reduce the activity of certain genes that are triggered during stressful situations. The Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata) is one of the best plants for purification of the air, according to NASA and while they purify the air during the day, they emit oxygen at night. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) is a must in any garden as the flowers and the leaves contain the powerful aromatics. By inhaling the scent of lavender, it has been shown to especially decreased feelings of depression and confusion. Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) fragrance is a super soother and anxiety reliever for many. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry reported that the smell of Jasmine can be a soothing as Valium. Catmint (Nepeta cataria) is not just for cats! It not only sooths the nerves of our feline friends but of humans as well.

NEWS & EVENTS
Bonsai Open hosted by Central Coast Bonsai - Saturday 4 March (9am-5pm) and Sunday 5 March (9am-4pm) 2023 in Mingara Events Centre. Along with sales and competition, there will be demonstrations across the weekend from some of the country’s finest bonsai artists including Andrew Edge, Evan Marsh, Hugh Grant, Joe Morgan- Payler, Tony Bebb and Marcela Ferreira. Coastfm Gardening Gang will be broadcasting live Saturday 8am – 10am Tickets at door: $7 adult, kids free. mingara.com.au


GARDENING PLANNER
Late Summer Temperate Areas
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: 

Peace copy 2

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]


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)
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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]