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Growing Radium Weed

Contrary to much published information, Radium weed will grow in full sun as well as part shade.
A shady area will produce a taller plant with softer branch tissue and a deeper green colour.
Full sun produces a sturdier plant, lighter in colour, often shorter and higher in sap content.
In most temperate climates it will grow throughout the year but does best in full summer if it is watered often.
The seed is best sown into loosly raked soil, covered lightly and then just left to germinate in it’s own time.
The plant reaches full maturity in 3 months, so buying a potted plant is not the best alternative as often ‘past’ it’s best time.
Always allow some plants to remain untouched to ensure that self seeding can occur.
The root system is fine and dense but not deep, so water frequently but not heavily.
Remember that the plants are always happier without too much attention.

In temperate climates, the plant will happily grow during all seasons, but in areas where cold winters and snow are common it can be grown under lights, indoors.
It will need at least 8 – 10 hours of light per day or it will become thin and ‘leggy’ thus producing too few branches to be of any great use.
Water well and often but allow the pot to drain well. They are not ‘bog plants’.
Radium weed thrives in slightly to very alkaline soil, and the sandier the better.
It does not need fertilizer but the ocassional seaweed emulsion will keep it happy.
As a weed, it enhances the soil, rather than consume as do most agri-crops.
Do not mulch the plant as this will cause weak stems and make it struggle.
Constant harvesting of the leaves will ensure a continual supply and will encourage the plant to spread.

Download RadiumWeed PDF

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Growing Macadamia

 Now, while Macadamias are not at all difficult to grow from seed, there is a degree of patience required for success.
We sell our seed nuts (intact) as this will guarantee at least seven years of viability before planting.
Fresh nuts are not ready to germinate, so all of our seed is at least 6 months old.
The seed can be planted intact and simply left to germinate of it’s own accord.
This is guaranteed to succeed as long as you are patient and willing to allow the seed to germinate as nature intended.
Your potting mix must be reasonably course. This will ensure that the seed does not rot while it is waiting to sprout.
Ours always germinate in a mixture of mulch and sand, up off the ground on a stand, and watered weekly.
To speed things along, you can scarify the seed coat to allow some moisture to penetrate the polished seed shell.
Cracking the outside casing is never the best method as it can damage the seed or simply provide access to insect , animal or fungal attack.
We use a bench grinder to simply remove the ‘polish’ from the seed coat in one small area only.
You can just as easily use a file to achieve the same result. Once the seal has been broken on the case, it can begin to absorb moisture at a natural rate and therefore signal to the embryo that it is time to get active. It seems very important not to help the seed escape it’s hard coating.
Almost as a right of passage, the growing seed must have the strength to break it’s way out to therefore become a robust plant. Seedlings that are helped along become weaker as time go by.

Once you have achieved germination do not shower the seedling with fertilizer, it does not need it yet.
The seed is quite able to supply enough energy to the emerging seedling.
Wait until you have at least four leaves on your seedling before applying a slow release pellet fertilizer.
Macadamias are quite tough and can be planted out when only 20 cm high.
Once again, these are a long lived tree, so don’t be impatient.

Download Macadamia PDF

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Growing Gotu kola

Gotu kola – Indian Pennywort – Centella asiatica

With only a few necessary conditions, Gotu kola will grow just about anywhere and under a wide range of environmental conditions. If you have purchased ‘bare root runners’ then you will need to expect a loss of existing leaf while the rootstock ‘reboots’ and adapts to your environment.

This is perfectly natural and you need not assume that you have killed the plant.
In our experience, one to two weeks (depending on the season) is necessary to re establish the plant happily.
If you have purchased potted plant, then you are at least 2 weeks ahead already.
Gotu kola will grow in almost any soil but if it is constantly wet then the leaves will show brown spots and you know immediately that you need to either move the plant or change the watering conditions.
If you have a high content of mulch in the soil, then the plants will spread better and establish more strongly.
While it can and will tolerate full sun, all day, the best results are obtained by some shade during the hottest part of the day.
This makes it perfectly suited to grow under trees, as long as the shade is not complete, all day.
The illustration below shows best how to plant the runners for the highest success rate.

 

If you have purchased potted Gotu kola then your best course of action is to keep them in their pots for a week and place them in the area that you intend to grow them.
Once they are acclimatised you are free to either pot them into larger pots or directly into the garden.
Water twice daily until they show signs of spreading and then, ignore them completely.
Constant harvesting of the leaves will ensure a continual supply and will encourage the plant to spread.

Download GotuKola PDF

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Growing Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon – Momordica charantia

The seeds are easy to strike with germination being very high with our fresh seed.
They can be germinated in a pot and planted out when they are old enough, or strike them where you hope they will grow and take it from there.
They prefer the weather a little cooler than is possible during summer. We usually plant when the heat of summer has eased but in mild climates, even late Autumn should be quite suitable.
It is best to strike them in full sun as they grow weedy and thin in the shade.
Place the pots in the garden where you intend to grow them for a week and then transplant them when they seem strong.
Don’t be too impatient at the start, as they are slow starters but once they begin to take off, there is no stopping them.
They are not big feeders so just a general sprinkling of fertilizer when they begin to flower is enough.
The seedlings of Bitter Melon need to be protected from chill, wind and strong sunlight.
They will not do well if kept constantly wet but suffer from drying out, so you can be a little fussy to start with but there is no need to be careful once they are mature.
We grow ours over large frames to allow them to climb as much as they wish
They can climb on and over fences and trellis’s or, to conserve space and resource we often plant them in the same bed as the pumpkins.
They begin to crop in roughly 60 days from germination and will continue to produce fruit until the plant is exhausted.
Fully mature, green fruit is ideal to consume and the best reliable indicator to maturity is that the seeds from white to pink.
Once the seed coating is red, the fruit is absolutely overripe and may be inedible.
Immature green fruit is often preferred for soups for frying and larger fruit is ideal for stuffing and baking.
They do not store well in the refrigerator and should not occupy the same space as tomatoes and bananas.
The cooked fruit really does drop sugar levels. Quite quickly too.
For continuous use during the year, it is best to create some chutney like spreads.

 

Download BitterMelon PDF

 

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Growing Goji

If you have purchased fresh lycium berries, (Only possible during the fruiting season) they will come in plastic zip lock bags to maintain their moisture and viability.
The following instructions also apply if you have picked your own berries and are wanting to ‘plant on’.
Try and spread the pulp of the berry around.
It’s a sticky business but well worth the end result.
Extracting and planting the individual seeds usually just cuts down on the viability and is needlessly time consuming.
Three parts fill a tray or pot with seed raising mix, spread the berry pulp and seed and then sprinkle seed raising mix and sand lightly over the berry to about 3mm – 5mm in depth.
If you have purchased dry seed, it will need to be soaked for at least a day before planting or germination time is extended by up to three weeks.
Then carry one as above.
Germination is usually around 7 days but will vary with soil temperature and day length.

Once they have germinated…….
The pots must not dry out so be careful, but, after they have broken the soil surface they do not like to be too wet either. We water gently once a day until they are planted on or out.
Once they have achieved their second set of leaves you can tease them apart and give them an individual pot.
Keep them reasonably protected until they have reached 15 cm in height.

They will usually only generate one stem in pots so it is best to put them out as soon as the weather allows so that they can shoot multiple stems.
watering, but also need to have some air circulation within the pot as well, which is why seed raising mix and potting mix are preferable to soil at this stage.

If the seed raise mix that you have used, holds onto the water over the period of a day, then it is possibly too dense and is retaining too much moisture for the roots to ‘breathe’.

Some coarse potting mix will help to remedy this situation, added to the seed raise mix when you transplant.

If you have purchased seedlings then overall they are a very hardy plant but they tend to ‘sulk’ a little when posted or transplanted.
Their normal sulking position is ‘drooping’, which they can easily maintain for one to two weeks.
This is not usually a problem unless you panic and keep pumping water into them.
This will drown the roots.
Partly shaded, protected from wind, frost hail etc and a little patience is all that is required.
Do not forget that they are deciduous plants and in all environments will drop their leaves completely in Autumn/Winter.

Goji

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Growing Tamarillo

Tamarillo – Cyphomandra betacea

The seeds and also the young plants grow best in a lightly compacted soil with good drainage.
We germinate by filling the tubestock base with coarse potting mix then layer seed raise mix that is 50-60% sand, deposit 2 seeds and cover lightly with the same mix.
The roots will not tolerate standing water, which may kill the plant at any stage, in a matter of days.

The optimum soil temperature for germination is 20 – 25 C consistently, and as we do not sow in a controlled environment that requires sowing to happen in October when temperature fluctuation has ceased.

We have better germination in a controlled environment but the follow on seedling success rate was only 50%.
These are still quite ‘primitive’ plants and are best sown to try and match their original environment.
C.betacea is a subtropical plant that is usually found at from 300 to 3000 metres elevation in its native environment.

Germination time is usually 14 – 27 days if sown in mid to late Spring.
Care must be taken that drying out does not occur during the germination or emergence periods. One missed watering will kill the seed before it has a chance to emerge.
At the seedling stage as well as to maturity, tip cuttings will tend to produce a stronger, more compact bush, better suited to potted sale.

As the bushes mature, regular tip pruning will produce much more vigorous fruiting.
Just like Tomatoes, they are self fertile but do seem to benefit from insect interference. This is based on observation but we do not know why.

Tamarillo Download PDF

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Growing Black Pepper

While it is well known that Black Pepper thrives in the tropics, most problems that arise when attempting to grow the plant in Australia come from growers trying to re-create the tropics for their plants.
This leads to more problems than it could possibly solve. Too much water is a major problem, especially during the cooler seasons.
Pipers love a dry ‘winter’ season and everywhere south of Cairns will experience this time period.
Growth slows to a halt and, during this time the plants are at their weakest.
They also love to have air circulating around and between plants. Hothouse and tunnel growers face the breeze production problem, but without it many fungus and bacteria problems can arise.
In Australia, direct sun is also an issue. Shade must be provided directly above, and to the west of the plants.

Historically, growing the climber commercially has been done using trees, logs or bark constructs, but we have found that the most successful method of support that allows for excellent aerial root establishment and secure footings for bud and flower formation is to create columns from ‘snake and rodent’ mesh filled with ‘coir’. The columns can be constructed at a diameter that suits the grower, from 45cm to 10cm. Vertical posts are essential to keep the column perpendicular and make it easy enough to create a bottom layer with the intention of adding more as the plants require the height.
As the plants extend their lateral growth, the stems can easily be attached to the mesh for support until they attach themselves.

We have found it more convenient to train the plants to grow around the column in a spiral form as their nature is too haphazard to be reliable.

It is essential to remember that the flowers are ‘rain’ pollinated and need no insect intervention.
To this end, irrigation should be placed above the plants if consistent rain is not likely.

(Left) Fresh Pepper harvest.

Our Black Pepper potted plants are usually available by late Spring each year.

 

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Growing from Seed

Growing plants from seed often throws people into a panic and seems to challenge us, walking into uncharted territory. This should not be the case as probably the most important thing to remember is that nature has been doing it, for millions of years.

Seed is, without a doubt, the most successful of reproductive techniques and will continue to happen, everywhere in the world, every day.

All we have to do is to get on natures’ bandwagon and plant what we want to grow for food, medicine or pleasure in the right circumstances, at the right time.

While growing herbs and vegetables from seed is natures’ way of ensuring survival of the species, it is not always easy to be successful unless you keep in mind the nature of the individual plants themselves.

There are numerous helpful tips from just about anyone flowing through the internet, and from ‘celebrity gardeners’ everywhere but the one thing to keep in mind, is that nature has already perfected the techniques and all we need to do is to fit in with what is already established as successful.
So, throw away the paper towel and plastic bags, hessian pots and other crafty ideas and get back to basics.

Once you have researched what will grow in your area and decided what you want to plant,
purchase good quality seed. As local as possible is always best. Most large seed merchants buy their seed from the most economically sound suppliers which does not always equate to good quality, fresh seed. So, direct from the grower is going to give you a better start, and the internet makes that easily possible in today’s marketplace.

There is a popular opinion, that has become a bit of an urban myth, that if you place your seed in a glass of water, the good seed will sink to the bottom and the bad seed will float. As a grower of seed, who plants seed every day of the week, I can categorically say that this is rubbish.
The physical factors that contribute to a seed ‘sealing off’ are many and varied and this is no indicator of viability.

Because seeds are naturally ‘shut down’ to survive until the circumstances for germination are ideal, all we have to do is to provide these ideal circumstances to wake the seeds up.

Most plants, with the exception of the Radish family, some beans and the Grass family, have a preferred time where germination is most likely.
Now, season is the best general way to determine that time but ‘season’ is a combination of, temperature (both air and soil), day length and moisture. If you ignore these factors, success rate will drop.
Some seeds simply will not germinate until their internal clocks have decided that these factors are correct and no amount of coaxing, yelling or weeping will encourage them to germinate outside of their ideal conditions.

While it is possible to soak some seeds overnight before planting, it can also make it more difficult to sow them physically, as the wet seed sticks to everything and you end up wiping them into the soil instead of popping into the hole. Wet seed is also easily damaged.
Soaking may encourage germination a little faster by a day or so, but it does have some drawbacks and I prefer to remain patient for a day or two extra, for the benefit of better seedlings.
Some people like to simply sow their seed directly into the garden where they intend to grow the plant and this is quite natural for many plant types but, you must accept the fact that nature plays the numbers, and you will need to sow much more than you need to germinate.
This practice works best for large seeds like pumpkins and beans as well as cereal and grass seeds and so I prefer to raise my seed to a strong plant before planting out.

The following tips are listed below but minor variations may need to be adapted as common sense will probably suggest.
Germination technique and expected times to germination are often indicated on your seed packets but most assume that you are familiar with the fundamentals of gardening.

1. Always use or make a good quality Seed Raising mix. The mix should always contain sieved material to keep it fine enough for young roots to navigate. Sand, sieved potting mix and ‘vermiculite, pumice or pearlite’.
Potting mix is too coarse, unless you are planting Coffee seeds, soil is too dense generally to be consistent.

2. Never sow seeds too deeply. This is probably the most common mistake that people make. If the seeds are too far down, they may be attempting to germinate but unable to reach the surface before the nutrient stores within the seed run out.

3. Try and keep them uniformly moist during germination. Seeds that are allowed to dry out or are left to sit in bog will probably not survive. Roots also need to breathe. You must never over-water the seeds or seedlings.

4. Firm the soil around your seeds by pressing down on the seed mix after you sow. If you have enough vermiculite in your mix it will not become too compressed and air and water will circulate around the seeds.

5. Emerging seeds are reasonably delicate and easily damaged by sunlight even though they are attempting to reach it. Full sun or full shade are not helpful. A bit of each is best until the seedlings are looking after themselves. Morning sun is better than afternoon sun but some reprieve from the sun is best initially.

6. Many seeds, (but not all) need warmth to germinate. It’s not just air temperature that matters but also the temperature of the soil or seed raise mix.

7. Be patient. If you have done all the right things as suggested above, then it is just a matter of time until your seeds sprout. Sometimes you will get everything coming up at once and other times
germination will be staggered.

8. Do not over fertilise.
A little slow release fertiliser like ‘Osmacote’ may help but most seeds do not require nutrient until well after they have sprouted.

9. Most seeds will, of course only germinate between certain temperatures.
Too low and the seed takes up water but cannot germinate and therefore rots, too high and growth within the seed is prevented.
Fortunately most seeds are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures but it is wise to try to maintain a steady, not fluctuating temperature. Once several of the seeds start to germinate the temperatures can be reduced and ventilation and light should be given.

Symptoms of Low light in your Germination area:
1. Elongation of the stems.
2. Slow growth.
3. Yellowing of the lower leaves.
4. Softer growth in the larger leaves.
5. Plants are bending in one direction.

Seeds are basically divided into two categories which determine their germination style.
One is to soak up the moisture in the soil, swell to re-hydrate the embryo, and then send forth a stem with the emerging leaf or leaves attached.
Once open and producing energy from the sun and air, they will send roots down to establish the plant.
The second type operate by sending forth roots to settle the plant into the ground, using the food source from within the seed. Once settled, they send forth the stem and emerging leaves.
Germination in the first type seems to happen much faster as there is evidence of the plant above the soil earlier, but they are slower to mature to ‘potting on’ size.

Generally speaking, once you have struck your seeds successfully, you will wonder why you were hesitant in the first place as the magic of the process is confidence building and exciting every time you do it.