DOWN IN THE GARDEN: What to Plant for Christmas

Gardening Page 15th Oct 22

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

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

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

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

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


YOUR GARDENS
Terrigal Community Garden

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

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

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

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






Down in the Garden - Spring Garden Pest Control

 

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DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Safe Pest Control for Your Garden
Cheralyn Darcey


In our home gardens, we are usually asking plants from across the world to not only adapt to the weather and environment but to everyone and everything living in our gardens. The best way to have a healthy and pest-resistant garden is to plant natives but, most of us want tomatoes, lettuce and roses, so we need to find ways to protect them and to enable them to thrive. Other than companion planting, as we discussed last week, all other pest control measures should be only employed when the pest population is proving to be out of control. Your pest controlling methods, even organic ones, should be stopped as soon as your garden situation improves because no matter how careful you are, unfortunately these measures can affect native living things as well. Healthy plants are much better equipped to combat the invasion of pests. They can recover quicker, and they can better resist subsequent disease challenges as well. Water, feed and care for your plants properly as per their individual needs to keep them in tip top health. When working in the garden clean and disinfect tools and your hands when moving on to another plant as this helps stop the spread of pests and disease. You must remove damaged and diseased materials quickly to stop the spread as well. Other than using your hands to pick off the unwanted bugs, here are a few organic ideas to help you round your garden

THE SAFEST PEST CONTROL METHODS
 Barrier planting works by planting crops that your pests would rather eat than your garden treasures. You can plant as barriers to your whole garden or around more valued plants. Caterpillars love nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) while slugs and snails will head for lettuce (Lactuca sativa). There are also beneficial creatures and insects that you can encourage into your garden to help control pests for you. These include other less destructive to your garden insects along with birds, frogs and lizards. Keeping chickens will help if you can manage them. They love snails and slugs as well as a host of insects. Spiders and even wasps, as much as you might not like them, do a fantastic job of munching their way through a lot of annoying insects. The local bird population will love your bug problem so invite them in as well. How do we let the predators know we are open for their dinning pleasure? You can encourage them by having a water source such as a bird bath, a pond, nesting boxes and hives/insect hotels. This includes nettings to stop pests getting to your crops. Just make sure they are fine, breathable and white or clear and well anchored, so they do not entangle birds and animals. Things put on the ground that pests like slugs and snails won’t cross include crushed eggshells, nutshells or gravels. Copper is also known to be something snails and slugs won’t cross, and you can purchase copper tapes that can be effective along the edges of raised garden beds.


TRAPS AND BAITS
While traps and baits work exceptionally well in reducing unwanted pests and are far better than traditional poisons and chemicals, they can and do, trap beneficial bugs. The following should only be used as a last resort if other methods mentioned are not working.

Bottle Traps
These are incredibly easy to make, cheap and they do work but use as a last resort as  Once full, you simply throw away or wash and repeat. Neatly cut the top third of a plastic drink bottle off then Insert the top into the bottom. This creates a funnel that the insects will go into, attracted by whatever bait you use and be drowned in water that you need to add. Wasps: Use mashed up fruit in about 3cm of water and make sure that a few bits of fruit stick up from the water. Set on ground near places you have noticed wasps. House Flies: Old raw meat in about 3cm water with some sticking out from water. Make sure this trap is set in the sun. Stink Bugs and Moths: a battery-operated light in the bottom of trap. Set in a dark place in your garden.
Bowl Traps
Into a clear glass bowl place, a chopped-up piece of ripe fruit and cover with fruit juice mixed with ¼ teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Cover with plastic cling film drum tight and punch about 3 to 6 holes, depending on size of bowl with a bamboo skewer or similar. This method works well for fruit flies.
Underground Container Traps
A good way to combat a slug or snail invasion but be mindful that you could inadvertently trap native snails. Use plastic containers about the size of a margarine tub with lid and cut away about a third of the lid. You want to create a cover for the container but have enough room for slugs and snails to fall in. Bury container to soil level, fill with beer/yeast mix and then put the lid on. You can also use half a scooped-out orange or grapefruit in the same way but without a ‘lid’.

ORGANIC BUG-OFF SPRAYS
All of these mixtures should be tested on a small part of the plant first and never used on stressed, dry or thirsty plants. Use in the evening and reapply as required to control pests.
The All-Rounder
This is suitable for a broad range of pests and the majority of plants.
6 unpeeled cloves garlic , 3 whole hot chillies, ½ cup of chopped tomato plant leaves, 500ml water, ½ teaspoon liquid soap. Blend all except soap in a blender and then mix in soap, strain into a spray bottle. Test on a leaf first and watch for adverse reaction over 24hours. If not noticed, spray all over plant when plant is not stressed and in the cooler evening. Use only as needed, no more than once every few weeks.

The Sure-Shoot
Mix up the above recipe and substitute the tomato leaves with any one or you could try a mixture of the following:
Ants: basil, mint, pennyroyal, tansy, wormwood
Aphids: coriander, dill, mint, chives
Weevils: catnip
Mice: wormwood
Cabbage White Butterflies: tansy, wormwood
Slugs and Snails: wormwood, rosemary
Mosquitos: pennyroyal, lavender, rosemary
Spider mites: coriander, dill
Gnats: pennyroyal
Fleas: wormwood, lavender
Flies: lavender, pennyroyal, tansy
Beetles: Tansy
Moths: wormwood, tansy, lavender
Cockroaches: catnip
Carrot Fly: basil, chives

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: www.communityradio.plus

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

 




Time to Grow Tomatoes: Down in the Garden

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

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

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Time to Grow Tomatoes
Cheralyn Darcey

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S ON FOR PLANT LOVERS

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

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

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

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

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


OUT NOW at all good book store WORLDWIDE-3

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Lettuce that Won’t Cost the Earth

 

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

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

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

GROW YOUR OWN
Romaine

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

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

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

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

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


Cover up with Screening Plants

Plant screens 3
If you can’t stand living with that heat reflecting metal panel fence, the windows of your neighbours blinking into your home or the view of the local shops, then screening plants are here to save the day. Some can even make alternatives to fences, and all will cool down your garden, provide a wind break and enrich your home in some way as well as giving you privacy. What’s the difference between a hedge and a screen? Hedges are dense and completely block out the view while screens break up the view. Screening growth lets airflow and dappled light through, and they can often look a little more natural. Privacy screening growth is somewhere in between. It will block the view to provide privacy, but will still be a little looser in growth than hedges to allow some airflow and light in.

Plant screens 2
Types of Plants
Evergreen trees and shrubs are going to be the choice for many as they provide year-round screening and although any plant could be trained to become a screen, including well trained vines, here are a few I recommend. Mock Orange aka Orange Jessamine (Murraya paniculata)
Mur
is one of the most popular hedging and screening plants. With its divine orange/jasmine perfumed flowers along with glossy green foliage it’s easy to see why. They can reach up to four meters in height and require a spacing of between 75 to 100cm to create a screening effect. They need regular feeding, a very well-drained rich soil and do prefer part-shade.
Viburnums are not known as ‘the hedges friend’ for nothing! They grow incredibly quickly and so can do the job of providing a screen fast and without the garden intrusiveness issues something like bamboo can pose. There are many varieties of this plant, and each have varying needs, so look for one that suits your light and soil position. Personally, I have a Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum)
Verb
screen along one of my front fences, planted to make the area a little more private from the street. Sweet Viburnum likes full sun to part shade, moderately rich and very well-drained soil and loves to be well-mulched, kept watered but not overly wet. It will grow up to nine meters in height and in ultra-fast time but pruning to keep it in check. Bottle Brush (Callistemon spp.)
Bottle
is often overlooked as a screening plant and one I am currently cultivating in another area of my garden. Not only do you end up with a hardy, beautiful looking native screen but also gorgeous flowers for you and the native birds and bees! There are many varieties that grow in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have lots of different foliage and leaves. Have a chat to a friendly local nursery person to find one to suit you.

Vicki of Narara Valley Nursey agreed, and I asked her for other suggestions. She said, “Hands down I think Lilli Pilli (Syzygium smithii)
Acmena-smithii-new-growth1a
is one of the best choices as well as it is a native, fast growing and you get edible berries from most types.” She said that they can get to an impressive five metres in height so are perfect to block out that towering thing you no longer want to see but smaller varieties are available as well. Spacing to create a screen should be around 75cm and they like a very free-draining, rich spoil structure that is kept moist.
“There are so many varieties and look out for psyllids resistant types because that can be a problem in your area” she advised.
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Planting and Growing Tips
Get your spacing right to begin with. Roots can easily overcrowd and contribute to disease or death of your plants in a too closely planted screen or create a dense hedge that may not suit you. Too far apart may not afford the look or privacy that you are after. Don’t just use the recommended spacing on the plant label, check the recommended spacing for planting a privacy screen using that plant.
Scale is important to the overall look of your garden so think of the final size of your screen. Large and high screens/hedges look better with larger leaves while more compact ones suit smaller leaves. Prune and trim your screen regularly to encourage and maintain the shape you are looking for and when you do, make sure you feed your plants as you are reducing their available food-making structure. Water as suggested for your plants and reduce as they attain full size.
This article first appeared in  Coast Newspapers 


Gardening Book Review:A Lavender Affair by Marian French

 

Book review French

A Lavender Affair by Central Coast author Marian French
ISBN: 9781922444998 Shawline Publishing 2021


Chatting with author Marian French was a delight as she guided me through the creation of this precious historical reference and personal journal about one of the garden’s most beloved flowers, the lavender.

A garden reference book that is also filled with Marion’s insights, observations, and obvious love of the garden. The gorgeous illustrations by Robin Ross bring to life Marion’s warmth and make this a lovely addition to any gardener’s library. “A gardening book, yes,” Marian explains. “but with interspersed stories and trials that were encountered as we restored a derelict farmhouse and establish a flower farm.

Along the way, we met with tentative locals, dealt with perverse builders and ventured into beekeeping!” A Lavender Affair is the story of an Australian gardener, a Central Coast gardener, with a wealth of botanical wisdom and a lifetime of caring for our environment that makes her book a stand out in the historical memoir field but also a valuable resource for those wishing to perhaps grow their own patch of lovely lavender.



How to Save Your Seeds

Although it may seem a simple enough task, to be effective a little planning, preparation and commitment is needed to save seeds from your garden. You can just shake, squeeze, and scrape those plants and collect all the seeds, but to ensure they have the best chance of being viable (being about to sprout), and will grow you a healthy, strong crop next time around, I’ve gathered a few tips and tricks for you to follow.
Seeds 2
Seeds are the embryonic stage of a plant, created after fertilisation and there are many reasons to collect your own. Firstly, money! While a packet of seeds may only be a few dollars, that adds up over a garden. By saving seeds you get plants for nothing and while you will never be able to plant all the seeds collected, you may consider selling them or their seedlings, swapping or giving them away. Your local community gardens will thank you too as many are now setting up Seed Libraries as a central point for swapping seeds to preserve varieties of the more successful crops or endangered plants in an area.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flooded and Soggy Garden Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to Syl Marie Photography.

youthconnections.com.au 
swampcentralcoast.com.au

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

Next Week: Start Seed Saving

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

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

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