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Coriander all season herb

Coriandrum sativum

Originally from the Ukraine or Turkey, Coriander or Cilantro has been welcomed by every culture it has touched, especially the Indian sub-continent.
Also known, for some odd reason, as Chinese Parsley.

You can quite comfortably sow Coriander at any time of year but you must keep in mind that it does not respond well to drying out at any time of it’s growth cycle.
Basically, if you are growing it at home and can maintain it you will not have any problems with it ‘bolting’ to seed too early unless you just forget to water it.
Part shade, especially in the afternoons will slow it down and allow for more robust growth of the plant.

Coriander is an excellent forage plant for bees, especially Australian Native bees but as the flowers are self fertile, that is simply an added bonus.
Unfortunately harvest of the seed is a tricky business as they never seem to mature at the same rate.
Green seed has a rather unpleasant aroma (hence, ‘koris’ Greek for ‘stinking bug’ ) and is not great for cooking at this stage, so you are best not to shake the seed from the umbels until they are on the brown side of khaki in colour.
Whether you are harvesting the seed for growing or for cooking it is always wise to ensure they are thoroughly dry so don’t pop them into a sealed container for a week or so after harvesting.

Of the two major types of Coriander, the round light brown seeds are European Coriander and the golden oval shaped seeds are the Indian version of the plant.
Both types are wonderfully heirloom as the herb has been cultivated and traded for thousands of years.
The two types will probably not cross pollinate in the same garden and any new plants will just revert to either one or the other rather than a perfect combination.

The fresh young leaves are excellent in everything from salads to stews but the seeds can be used with fruit (baked, stewed or preserved), fish and other meats including sausages and vegetable dishes, curries, breads, biscuits and cupcakes and will even lend their warm, aromatic signature to oatmeal porridge, pickles, ratatouille and many liqueurs.
Pungent, freshly chopped young roots are essential in much Thai cuisine.

On the medicinal front Coriander has a long history as a mild sedative and a digestive aid to soothe flatulence and ease migraines as well as the popular use of the essential oil in massage oils for facial neuralgia and muscle cramps.
Commercially it is widely used in toothpaste and perfumes.

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Urban Gardens

I have always been thoroughly impressed by the confident look of a gardener as they emerge from the garden bearing the fruits of their labour in one or both hands or even a basket full.
There is nothing quite like trying to look nonchalant while walking back to the kitchen buzzing with self pride that you have achieved an edible result from a little patch of dirt.
The same feeling emerges when faced with a unwell child or visitor and walking out to get an herb that you know you can steep in some boiling water and will help their problem.

Now, as the population of Australia becomes more and more urban and suburban, we need to retink just how to achieve this in different, specific ways.
Great tasting produce is all in the preparation. The soil, the nutrient and the environment in which they grow.
Where?
Most fruit, vegetable and herb prefer a sunny, sheltered position with no competition from surrounding trees.
If this is not possible in your case then we just need to think differently about what to plant first.
Backyard. Allotment. Veranda. Balcony. Window box or sil. Completely Indoor.
Soil
A good pH neutral,well draining loam soil that is light and airy is essential to produce healthy full-flavoured fruit and veg.
Organic matter
We all produce plenty of organic matter that once mixed into the soil or used as mulch on top will adequately feed your plants to then feed you. There you go, the circle of life.
Seeds
It is always better to start with seed than seedlings purchased that have more than likely been grown a long way away, in an artificial environment and of the easiest variety of plant to produce en-masse.
If you buy seed, not only will you have a seedling that is already prepared for your environment, but you will have started the process that concludes with saving seed from your own plants to sow next season.
A great habit to start.
Seedlings should always be grown in a protected environment so the purchase of seed raising trays and boxes is rarely a bad idea.
Growing root vegetables from seed is also the only way you can be sure to avoid the curled, bent or retarded root system that so often happens when attempting to transplant a tray of carrot seedlings.
Protection
Your plants need to be protected from insects, birds, animals and a variety of mollusc pests, strong winds, hail, flood and blistering sun.
Food
Fruit and veg benefit from being regularly fed and watered , feeding does not always mean feeding the same thing over and over. You need to vary the diet to suit the season.
Leaf veges such as the lettuce, cabbage and mustard greens need more nitrogen for healthy leaf growth, whereas tomatoes will need more potassium once fruit starts to form.
Variety
Choose the best varieties to suit your environment and the season.
Once you are completely aware of the temperature, wind, humidity and climate in your specific micro environment it will be an easy thing to plan your planting.

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When Spring approaches….

Now, we are on the tail end of Winter and it was a dry one for most of the country, but, on the positive side, the cold, dry atmosphere will have decimated a lot of pupating and developing pests that seem to take the wonderful edge off a good Spring.
For many gardeners Winter will have left the Vege and Herb gardens a little worse for wear, but these things are easily remedied with a pair of cutters, digging fork and the wheelbarrow.
Now is a great time to sow your Spring Annuals to ensure a bumper crop. Coriander, Basil, Tomatoes, Parsley, Chives, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Beans, Strawberry, Nasturtium, Chinese Greens and Asparagus.
If frost and chilly mornings are still on the cards, then be sure to sow your seed indoors or at least out of the wind and frost.
Sowing early will ensure that you will use efficiently the best part of Spring for robust growth. Don’t be tempted to fertilise just yet though as the plants can only use it when they are naturally active.
For edible Spring Flowers, sow Borage, Calendula, Heartsease, Nasturtium and Sage.
For Chinese Stir fry and salad, sow Pak Choi, Mizuna, Radish, Birds Eye Chilli and Bitter Melon.

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Seed Viability Testing

Germination of seed and it’s viability for germination often seems a bit like ‘jibberish’ when quoted on seed packets and does not always seem to apply to the average gardener.

Here at Beautanicals’ Australian Gardener farm we test every crop of seed that we harvest as soon as it is dry and ready to be packed into our seed packets.
To illustrate our process, the image here quite clearly shows the very basic, practical nature of our viability testing.

We sow 100 seeds (in this case Coffee seeds) into 100 tubestock pots filled with seed raise mix and vermiculite. No fertiliser is added as the nature of germination means that it is not needed. We use 100 as a base measurement simply because of the real percentage conversion convenience. 10 seeds tested is only 10, not really 100%.
As you can see from the photo, not all seeds have emerged at exactly the same time and so, within the 100 pots, some seedlings are 21 days old while some are only 3 days old. But 100 seeds have germinated. It doesn’t get more successful than that.
So, consequently, we are very confident that the seed is good for sale. This process happens with every crop of every variety of plant that we sell as seed.
Rarely do we have seed left over from a previous harvest as we budget our planting carefully due to the wide range that we grow, but each previous crop is discarded as a new one is ready.
This is why we are so confident (and sometimes a little arrogant) that you are purchasing seed that will germinate as we, personally, have been successful with it.

There are a few practical considerations before purchasing seed that must be addressed, as they are often used as excuses.
1. Dormancy. Only some seed enters a dormant state. You need to be specific.
2. Floating seed. The idea that only seed that sinks to the bottom is viable is just so much rubbish.
3. Locally grown seed is better. Not always. Seed viability reduces with age. Seed from overseas is most likely quite old as, practically, it is harvested, stored, wholesaled, stored, freighted in storage, eventually stored in a Retail environment and left there until someone buys it. As all plant types are very individual, ‘sow by’ dates that are general due to printing convenience, are just padding. Most seed packets sit in a Retail environment for months to years, so local or not is no guarantee.
4. Testing seed in some wet tissue paper. Never! This technique for conveniently trying to germinate seed in folded paper put into a plastic bag is just a recipe for frustration and disenchantment. We only ever germinate seed the way that nature has carefully prepared the seed to do so. Why some people keep trying to invent new techniques baffles me when the old technique is not broken.
5. Organically grown seed will produce organic plants. No! There is no evidence to suggest that organically grown seed is in any way superior. The organic growing of the plant will produce organically sound fruit or vegetable but it’s the growing that makes the difference. Many Retail Nurseries will buy organically grown seed and then produce their seedlings in a completely un-organic way, but will proudly say on the tag that there is some organic component to the seedling you are buying. Not legally but morally wrong.

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Companion Planting

It is true you know that good neighbours create a great Garden.

Experiment with companion planting as there are some very unusual combinations that exist outside of the usual suspects.

Here are some that we have have noticed but the list will grow as our observation increases.

Alfalfa Everyone except tomatoes.
Angelica Nettle and Dill.
Anise Coriander, Peppers, eggplant,  lettuce, kale, cabbage and beans.
Basil Tomato, peppers, oregano and asparagus.
Borage Beans, strawberry, eggplant, cucumber, squash, tomatoes and cabbage.
Caraway Strawberries, peas, radishes, beans, corn.
Catnip Eggplants.
Chamomile Cabbage and kale, cucumber, onion.
Chervil Radish, lettuce and broccoli.
Chives Carrots, tomatoes, brassica family, melons, peppers, lettuce, pumpkin and spinach .
Comfrey Around established Trees.
Coriander Anise, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, tomato, beans, peas, potatoes, nasturtiums, corn, catmint and roses.
Dill Brassicas, broccoli, cabbage, corn, eggplant, fennel, lettuce, onions, cucumbers.
Fennel Does not play well with other herbs and Vege. Keep it on it’s own.
Flax Carrots and potatoes.
Garlic Peas, brassicas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, parsley, Chinese cabbage and potatoes.
Hyssop All Brassicas.
Lavender Chamomile, lettuce, brassicas, onions, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary, basil, lemon balm and squash.
Lemon Balm All mints, basil, oregano, chives, tomatoes, lettuce, okra, cabbage, carrots, radish, squash, berries, fruit trees, rock melon, watermelon, marjoram, sage, thyme and parsley.
Lemon Grass Most herbs and vegetables.
Lemon Verbena Alfalfa, lemon grass, fruit trees and other herbs.
Marjoram Eggplant, carrots, cucumber, peppers, loofahs, pumpkins, radish, strawberries and tomatoes.
Mint Brassica family
Oregano Tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cabbage and cucumbers.
Parsley Asparagus, corn, beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, kale, lettuce, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes.
Peppermint Alliums, brassicas, cabbage, peas, tomatoes – in general the same as mint.
Rosemary Cabbages, beans, brassicas, carrots, thyme and sage.
Rue Goji’s and lavender.
Sage Brassicas, rosemary, kale, cabbage, beans,  carrots, strawberry, tomato, marjoram.
Spearmint Onions and Garlic’s, cabbage, peas and tomatoes.
Stinging nettle Chamomile, mint,tomatoes, valerian, angelica, marjoram, sage and peppermint.
Tarragon Everyone.
Thyme Lavender, cabbage, onion, sage, tomato, eggplant, salad burnet, potatoes and strawberries.
Valerian Mints, bee balm, chamomile, calendula and other flowers.
Wormwood (Artemisia) Brassicas and carrots.
Yarrow Cucumbers, lemon verbena, marjoram and oregano, corn, melons, roses, tomatoes.

 

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Compost at Home

There’s more to composting than just tossing bits of unwanted food in a bin every now and again.
Yes, it is eco-friendly, yes, it is natural and yes, it can help your garden enormously, but only if you remember a few things.

When you start don’t be pressured into investing in a whole composting system that looks great but is totally unnecessary.

Firstly, think about the nature of rain forest and remember that the luxuriant growth of the South American rain forests exists on only 600mm of constantly composting material with practically no soil to speak of.
In Australia we are faced with some of the shallowest topsoil on the planet so it can work here too.
There are a few different methods of composting that can be applied to every type of home.
Whether it’s a plastic bin with a few holes in the side, a ‘pile’ in a corner of the backyard, a serious timber or wire box made from old wooden pallets and chicken wire, or a very serious set of adjoining boxes with removable slat walls, the principles are still the same.

1. Ensure that wherever to locate your compost heap there will be sun for more than 4 hours a day. (compost is heat activated)
2. The ground should be reasonably level to help with drainage. If you have no drainage in your bin, drill holes in the side and make sure they are always free.
3. Remember that you must be able to turn or mix things up in there.
4. You need to balance the amount of green and dry materials in your heap. (50/50 is good. Green adds nitrogen and Dry adds carbon)
G. Fruit and veggie scraps, green leaves and spent flowers, grass clippings, Coffee grounds and tea leaves.
D. Shredded paper (including newsprint, excluding magazines and mail-outs), lint from the dryer or vacuum cleaner (do not use this lint if it is predominantly synthetic) and sawdust.
5. Never add any animal materials such as meat scraps or bones, animal fats and definitely no dog or cat poo. (this is not manure, this is poo!)
6. If you add dry leaves in Autumn, well and good, but, if you do not turn the mixture often they will never break down and can stop the whole process of composting for years.
7. Turn or mix your bin, heap, pile at least once a week, as this creates oxygen exchange, moisture equalisation, and encourages decomposition.
8. Water your compost at least once a week. Dry compost is a contradiction in terms. Once it dries out it takes ages to get the rotting happening again.
9. Give it time to become ‘soil’. Don’t be impatient, it it rot away at it’s own pace. Some plants like Yarrow will speed the decomposition up a little but generally be patient.
10. It can help to occasionally spread a layer of dirt or potting mix on top (not too thick) to add texture and volume to your compost.

Once your bin or whatever is full, simply carry on with the above activities.
You will know when it is ready to use by the sight and smell. It actually looks like good soil and smells a kind of ‘earthy sweet’ that is quite comforting.
The volume of your bin will about 15% of it’s initial volume. It really takes that much in compression and conversion.
Hopefully, after your first bin was full you found it necessary and imperative to start another one while you waited.

 

 

 

The success of ‘making dirt’ in your first one will encourage you to keep going further.

Now, as I mentioned, there are hundreds of composting products available and, if you feel the need to spend money on the project, all and well.
But, if you want to take the roll of waste management fundamentally, then I would suggest obtaining (for free ideally) five timber product pallets that are usually only made for one use and then discarded.
Four sides and the base of your compost bin is done! A few self tapping screws to hold it together will give you a very ‘airy’ box.
A 10m roll of chicken wire wrapped around the sides and the bottom and your bin is complete.
Fill and wait.

Usually the timber used in pallets is low grade and generally untreated with chemical.
This means that, naturally, the same organisms that compost your waste are going to have a go at your bin as well.
Personally, I don’t see a problem with that as the bin was never intended to be an architectural addition to the garden.
Your bin will probably be a one metre cube which is pretty well an ideal size to use for an average family and garden waste disposal and it’s not too large to turn.
The bigger the bin, the more effort is required to layer and to turn it so keep it real. I know from experience that leaning over a large compost bin and tumbling in is no party.

Remember that your compost bin is ‘supposed’ to be full of life. Worms, snails, slugs beetles and other weird looking creatures can live out their whole lives in your compost bin and the circle of life is so complete that it’s just magic.

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Snails and Slugs

Warm winters can disturb the hibernation of slugs and snails.
They will eat and breed throughout the winter months, creating an extra generation of molluscs that will continue your infestation.
Slugs are very beneficial in the compost heap but unfortunately they may not stay there and the heat generated by the pile of decaying matter may just be enough to take their breeding cycle to a new high.
Adult slugs can eat 40 times their own weight in a any one day.

So, from our perspective, you can have your plants and eat them too.

If your compost area has a border around it that is inhospitable to slugs and snails, they are unlikely to leave and declare war on your vege patch.
Coarse sand, harsh bark mulch or copper wire around the bin will help keep them in their place.

 

In your garden they will always prefer fleshy foliage and stems and just about any seedling they can get their slimy mouths or foot on.
Some popular methods of control that we have tried are:
1. Beer. They simply love a drop of the amber liquid and, like many Aussie’s, can smell it from 500 metres away.
1/3 of a glass placed near but not with the vegetables will encourage them in. Easy to get in but not quite so easy to get out.
2. Egg shells
Now, we tried this with broken shells but found that it was a bit hit and miss. Then we washed and crushed the eggshells creating lots of sharp edges over a larger area and the perimeter worked much better.
3. Sand
Sand does keep them away but you have to have a generous border that will not retain water as the water will simply create a skimming medium for them.
4. Predators, like frogs can help a little but the most effective predators are the birds if they feel comfortable wandering through your patch.
5. Seaweed
Collected seaweed (dry) can, strewn around the garden but not under the plants, help to dissuade the molluscs and never needs to be removed as it breaks down eventually into useful plant food in the garden.
6. Copper wire or tape
A decent ring of copper around a plant stem will react with their natural moist skin and the current created will act a little like an electric fence.
7. Repelling plants
Like pennyroyal, mint and may of the Alliums like chives will deter them a little but the unfortunate thing about these herbs is that they are only effective if they are bruised or crushed.Snails and slugs do not have a heavy footprint.
8. Diatomaceous earth
can be very useful as well because it dries the mucous that the slug or snail use to create an easy path and will be very discourageing for them.
9. Ducks, Chooks and Geese
are also extremely useful police but unfortunately not possible or practical for many urban or suburban gardeners.
10. Nocturnal Safari
Armed with only a flashlight, bucket of salty water (or drinking water if you wish to transfer your catch to the compost bin) and two spoons to catch them in to avoid getting ‘slimed’, spend an hour each evening for a week, collecting.
You will have solved most of your problem for quite a while.

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Coffee 1 . Grow from seed.

A civilised twist on the term ‘Home Brew’….
It’s really not as hard as you might believe.
Coffee trees, or shrubs to be accurate, are really quite efficient survivors and will generally tolerate a reasonable amount of abuse or neglect.
They require much less work to grow than do their cousins the Gardinia’s.

Firstly we only use (and sell) seed from the last harvest.
The seed that we keep for germination, is kept with the skin of the cherry still on.
The seeds are shade dried and allowed to experience the changes in humidity, moisture and temperature that make up the seasons.
Secondly, we only plant seed from October until March. (Late Spring to late Summer)
While is is possible to germinate coffee seed at almost any time of year, given heated germination trays and enclosed hothouse or propagation tunnels, the strength and robustness of the plants is compromised and the trees are often unfit.
Thirdly, we sow one cherry or two beans, into a pot of quite coarse potting mix. (They are very fond of lots of organic matter in the mix). Some ‘Perlite’ or ‘Vermiculite’ is quite OK in the mix but soil is not necessary, and can be detrimental at this stage.

Seed raise mix, jiffy pots, between sheets of wet paper towel and even damp hessian are often recommended, but are so unreliable that it is ridiculous to try.
Sowing in pots does hide the process of germination from view, but, if it is going to happen it will, and you just have to be patient.
Do not plant the seeds too deeply in the pot.
A hole the length of your finger to the second knuckle is all that is necessary. Cover lightly and then walk away.
Sit the pot in a lightly shaded spot, water each day and walk away. Do not poke around in the soil to see how it’s going.

When germination does occur, your heart lifts with pride but, it is time to put your parental instincts aside and NOT help the little unfurling infants to get their heads out of the soil.
If, for some reason, and it does happen, the curled head of the plant, bearing it’s seed case as a hat, does not completely open it’s leaves by itself, it will be sickly for a very long time.
Shedding the seed case seems to be part of the process and cannot be denied.
Soon the dicot leaves will be fully open to the sun and the growth of your plant can continue.
Something to remember after the plant has surfaced, is that before and during the process that you have been watching, the roots have been busy establishing themselves and getting into position to support and feed the emerging plant.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to feed the roots, not the plant.

Nitrogen based fertilizers will push much growth up and into the leaves, but the balance of the plant will be inadequate for later robust growth.
Once again, we prefer to be patient and we feed the pots with a seaweed based fertilizer rather than a fish emulsion.
Generally speaking, if the pot that you have planted into is large enough (roughly a 6′ pot), then you will not have to repot or transfer your plant until it is time to go into the ground.
We recommend allowing the plant to reach approximately 30 cm in height before planting out.
The young plants will require little from you during this period and are best enjoyed without bothering them or fussing over them.

Because the seedlings are emerging in Summer they should only take one month to germinate, at most.
There is quite a lot of flexibility in this timeline and you can expect different germination periods from the same batch of seed.
They are very social plants and once one is up, more will usually come soon after.
Even young Coffee plants are not voracious feeders and, while they grow at a reasonable pace, it is unlike anything you would have in your vegetable garden.
Most Coffee trees keep their leaves for several years without replacing them, so they do not produce more than they need.
This time in their lives should ideally be spent in part shade and watered often, as needed. Once again, not wet all the time, but they do not take well to drying out.
As in their native environments, they thrive on organic matter and love to have leaf mulch at their bases.
The root system is comparatively high in the soil and while they will send some roots down to anchor themselves, their main feeding roots are only just below the surface.
This explains why they do not like to dry out and why coarse, loose mulch, is coffee friendly.

If you have a shade house or protected outdoor living area, then they will be happy there until late Winter.

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Grow some Peanuts

Good food like the humble peanut is often overlooked when planing the vegetable garden but it is without a doubt, the most ‘giving’ of plants that you will ever include in your garden.

After you receive your peanuts (in their shells) there is no rush to sow them just yet. It is best to wait until Spring. There is no advantage in them sprouting early as they will not produce any more or any sooner.

Kept in a dry environment like a drawer, they will be fine for a year or so.

If you remove them from their shells then they will need to be planted sooner rather than later.

We do not remove them from their shells at all and sow the whole thing in a pot of seed raise mix.

They will produce two or three plants from each shell and these are easily separated for planting out when they are roughly 100 mm tall.

Sow the young plants in a trench and mound them up as they grow to support their stems.

Water weekly but not if you have had rain. Do not be tempted to lift the bushes until the foliage has begun to turn yellow and die back.

There will be no need to save some for next year as we have found that no matter how careful we are in harvesting, we always seem to leave plenty in the ground inadvertently.

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Pumpkins and Squash

Pumpkins are not particularly recommended for small gardens because of the plants’ size but they are not difficult to grow and are fun for children.
Pumpkins are closely related to winter squash and to other vine crops like cucumbers. They are also grown very much like winter squash.
Pumpkins can be eaten cooked, either boiled, steamed, baked, or microwaved.
Large varieties grown for carving at Halloween tend not to be flavorful and don’t store well.
Smaller traditional varieties are better for eating on their own, for use in pies, and for storage.
Most pumpkins, when they are mature develop a hard rind that resists pressure. In general, harvest pumpkins after the first frost kills the vines but before a hard frost.
Cut stems of mature pumpkins leaving a ‘stalk’ or handle if you intend to keep for a long period.
Store pumpkins in a warm, well-ventilated room to dry (or “cure”) for about a week, then store in a dry, cooler place for up to 6 months, checking regularly for soft rotting spots.
It is important to remember that Pumpkins are not at all fussy whose pollen the bees will deposit when they are ready accept.
For this reason many gardeners get quite a shock at the result of their harvest when it looks more like the bloke down the roads pumpkin than what was intended.
Sow the seed at the beginning of Spring and harvest in late Autumn.

Some varieties will very conveniently climb a trellis and bear fruit in air.

Ours often share an overhanging grape arbour which frees up quite a lot of space on the ground, all you need to do to help the fruit ripen to full maturity is to use an ‘onion bag’ to help the vine hold up the weight. As illustrated.