GARDENING, PLANTS - HANDY HINTS & TIPS
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If you have just one bed to devote to edible plants, here's an idea -
Edge it with parsley, deep green and spilling over the edges, interspersed, perhaps, with bunches of golden shallots.
Inside have a mixture of frilly red lettuces, calendulas, poppies (in summer) and primroses and pansies (in winter), and a few heads of ornamental kale, with their pinks, blues and purple-yellows.
Perhaps in the middle there could be a rugosa rose, with deep red hips in winter. At the back put taller cornflowers, bronze fennel or artichokes.
Edible gardens are fun because they're unexpected.
Throw some very young citrus leaves into the base of a custard dish -they give a fine fresh flavour to the custard, much better than boring old vanilla.
Dry one or two (no more) avocado leaves and add to stuffings to give an avocado flavour.
Very young grape leaves are nice torn and tossed into salads. Older grape leaves are great for stuffing (similar to stuffed cabbage rolls). Dip them in boiling water for a few seconds, then chill in cold water so they keep their colour, then stuff with a cooked rice and meat mix or whatevery you choose - bake in olive oil until hot.
Collect the sunflower seeds after they have flowered - you can hull them and eat them raw or they are also nice and crunchy added to salads at the last minute or sprinkled on salad sandwiches.
Many wattle seeds are also edible - though not the ones most commonly grown in backyards.
Resist the temptation of the warm May air to have a plantfest that will only wither when Winter really hits. It's also best not to 'clean up' the garden as all the corn stalks, withered beans etc. will help provide frost protection for other plants during the winter months.
They also help protect the soil against the extremes of weather. Best not to clean up any bit of garden unless you have an immediate use for it. In Winter at least - messy gardens are often healthier.
There are four mains to plant in May - broad beans, peas, long keeping onions and something to flower through late winter and early spring ( Primulas are one choice).
In hotter areas that don't experience frosts you can let yourself go a bit - lettuce, beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, english spinach, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, radish & table turnips. In subtropical to tropical areas, almost anything can be planted in May.
More vegies than ornamental kale and multi-coloured Swiss chard or silber beet can be beautiful.
Bright red chillies are so striking that they can be grown for their colour even if you don't like using them. Tall Jerusalem artichokes produce bright yellow flowers over several months in autumn - then you dig up the edible tuber below ground. Globe artichokes also give you enjoyment through summer with purple flowers and silvery-grey leaves. Potatoes were, in fact first grown in Europe as ornamentals - it took a hundred years or so for them to be accepted as vegies.
Remember to plant onions out closely, say just 2-3cm apart, so that from the time they reach pencil thickness they can be gradually thinned out and used as shallots. The rest, when approx. 10cm apart, can be left to mature to full size.
Both onions and peas prefer a limey soil with about a handful per square metre of complete plant food worked in before sowing or planting out the onions, and for peas this amount per running metre on either side of the rows.
When sowing dwarf peas, as an alternative, make a shallow spade width furrow, spread the fertilizer along the base, cover with 1-2cm of unfertilized soil, scatter seeds over this then cover with 2-3cm of soil. Give one watering then no more until plants appear, unless the soil becomes very, very dry.
Plant rhubarb in a well composted soil that has not been recently limed as it prefers acid conditions.
June & July are the main rose planting months in Australia. Remember when choosing that strong growth and a free flowering habit are very important considerations.
However, it is fairly safe to sat that any rose in the general range offered for sale these days is worthwhile. Because so many new introductions come onto the market each year, nurseries are forced to discontinue stocking any unreliable varieties, or their range would soon become unmanageable.
When planting bare rooted roses the most important point is not to let the roots dry out at any stage. Do not unwrap them until you are ready to plant, then for good measure stand the roots in a bucket of water while the hole is being adjusted, but don't leave them soaking for more than half an hour.
Have the soil just damp at planting but not wet or sticky. If the soil is very sandy it helps to mix up to one-third of moistened peat moss or well rotted compost, but do not add fertilizer. Heavey clay soils also benefit from the addition of well rotted compost or sand.
June is also a good time to plant deciduous trees as these are treated similarly to roses. Preferably make a hole at least twice the width of the root spread to allow for the addition of improved soil around the roots.
Keep house plants a little drier if they are in rooms which are cold at night. Allow their soil surface to dry out to about a cm depth before watering again. Ferns are an exception as they prefer a continuously damp soil.
- Plot out your garden on graph paper first. You can alter your ideas on paper, rather than making mistakes in the garden.
- Keep up regular weeding. Hand weeding is the only permanent and environmentally friendly way of keeping the lawn clear.
- Enrich the soil regularly. You can make your own compost out of vegetable and fruit scraps, and make mulch from clippings and prunings. Put compost on twice a year - in June or July, before the spring planting, and in September or October before the summer planting.
Roses may be pruned during June in warm, frost-free districts. In all but warm temperate districts, mid July is early enough to prune and August or even a little later in the coldest districts. In the latter cases the reason for delaying pruning is to avoid frost burn of new growth which tends to be stimulated by pruning.
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