Real World Gardener Growing Bananas part 2 in The Kitchen Garden

June 25th, 2021

Growing Bananas part 2

Harvesting your bananas

Now it's time to get down to the pointy end of growing bananas.
It is really easy to grow those banan plants so don't be discouraged.

  • You may remember that the banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb and the stem is known as false stem or pseudo stem because it consists of compact cluster of overlapping and spirally arranged leaf sheaths.
  • No bark, or cambium layer at all.

So what else is there to banana growing?

How much fertiliser?
To get your bananas ready for harvest, fertilise your banana plants well.
Fertilise well with a bucket of organic fertiliser around the base every month in the warmer months.

Or the permaculture way is to dig a pit right next to the trunk and put in fresh food scraps. Cover well so your chickens or rats and mice can't dig the scraps up.It does take quite a while, up to 6 months for the bananas to ripen after the fruits appear.
You can take down the whole bunch, but for the home gardener, that is too many bananas that will ripen at once.

  • Instead, take off a single hand at a time, and bring them into the kitchen to ripen.
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  • Looking at the photo on the right, you can see that there are layers  or groups of bananas that make up the whole bunch.
  • Each layer can consist of up to 10 or more individual bananas or 'fingers' that are connected at the same point. This layer is called a 'hand.'
  • Several hands make up a banana bunch.
Fertilise well with a bucket of organic fertiliser around the base every month.
Or the permaculture way is to dig a pit right next to the trunk and put in fresh food scraps. Cover well so your chickens or rats and mice can't dig the scraps up.
 
The big tip is to be patient because it can take up to 6 months before your bananas become ripe.

The other tip is the whole bunch is harvested when the angles on the fruit have almost disappeared and the fruit is evenly filled.

You can also take off a hand of bananas and see if they ripen in your kitchen perhaps in a brown paper bag.
Have a listen to the podcast.

I'm talking with Toni Salter https://theveggielady.com/growing-backyard-bananas/
If you want more information about bananas why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Real World Gardener Growing Bananas part 1 in Kitchen Garden

June 25th, 2021

KITCHEN GARDEN

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Banana Growing parts 1 & 2

Did you know that bananas are the world's largest herb. Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to grow your own bananas?

 You may have seen the plants for sale in a couple of plant catalogues and thought to give it a try, but never got around to it.
Would it help if I told you that a number of gardeners around Australia already do it and it’s surprisingly not that difficult.
  • I'm growing the sugar banana or "Musa 'Ducasse.' The flower is pictured here and yes, it's a big plant.
  • The trunk is actually layers of tissue that are wrapped like a swiss roll.
The key to fruiting is keeping the amount of stems or suckers down to a manageable number so the plant doesn't take over your garden.
 
A good number is three which includes the mother plant which has an active flowers on it, then one sucker ,and a smaller sucker.
  • Get rid of all the others by chopping them to the ground.
Once the mother plant has finished flowering, it won't produce anymore, so cut the stem to the wrong and mulch it up for the garden.
 
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Banana 'Ducasse' growing in my garden photo M Cannon
 

NOTE: You have to buy banana plants from a QABN-Quality Approved Banana Nursery, that way you are buying a disease free plant.

You can't just take a sucker from somebody else's garden.

Bananas do like a lot of moisture so during periods of drought, the banana plant do not throw as many flowers.
 
The other suggestions which I thought was worth a try, is to bury some kitchen scraps in the ground near the main stem of your banana plant.
 
Have a listen to find out more.  
 

If you want more information about bananas why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Real World Gardener Two Best Banksias are Plant of the Week

June 11th, 2021

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Banksia ericifolia and Banksia spinulosa: what's the difference?

Scientific Name: Banksia spinulosa

Common Name: Hairpin BanksiaBanksia%2Bspinulosa.jpg

Family: Proteaceae

Plant height: Mostly a multi-stemmed lignotuberous shrub. Varies greatly in height 1 -3 m 

Position: Full sun, frost hardy including Canberra winter frosts.

Leaves:long and narrow, 3-8 cm long by 2-7 mm wide, and variably toothed. Leaf margins often recurved which is an adaptation to dry environments.

Flowering:The flower spikes range from 10-20 cm in length. A spike may contain hundreds or thousands of individual flowers, each of which consists of a tubular perianth made up of four united tepals, and one long wiry style.

Position: Prefers to grow in the open where it makes a nice rounded shrubs.

Shade makes it spindly.

Banksias are an import source of nectar during autumn and winter when flowers are scarce.

Scientific Name: Banksia ericifolia

Common Name: Heath Banksia

Family: Proteaceae

Plant height: Mostly a multi-stemmed shrub. Varies greatly in height 3-6 m

Position: Full sun, frost hardy including Canberra winter frosts.

Leaves: The linear dark green leaves are small and narrow, 9–20 mm long and up to 1 mm wide, generally with two small teeth at the tips. 

The leaves are crowded and alternately arranged on the branches..Banksia%2Bericifolia.jpg

Flowers: cylindrical flower spikes are quite large at 4-6 cm wide and up to 30 cm long

Differences: Banksia ericifolia has much narrower leaves and is fire-sensitive in that it does not have a lignotuber for vegetative regeneration after bushfires. The species relies on seed for regeneration - seeds are retained in the cones for many years and are released by the heat of a fire.

Pruning:

People are afraid to prune Banksias because they think of them as being a bit tricky.
If you’re not sure what type of Banksia you have, then only light pruning.
If you know your Banksia has a woody rootstock (lignotuber) then it can be heavily pruned.

  •  Only low phosphorus fertilisers should be used if at all. I’d recommend Blood n Bone.

Here's an interesting tidbit: Historically B. ericifolia is supposed to be the first specimen collected by Sir Joseph Banks at Botany Bay in 1770. 

For some reason, Banks did not describe this new discovery however and it was left to Carl Linnaeus who later named the genus Banksia in honour of Banks in 1782.

Have a listen to the podcast.

I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, qualified horticulturist and avid native plant expert.

 

Real World Gardener Ginger and Galangal in Spice it Up

June 11th, 2021

 GINGER AND GALANGAL

What's the difference?

Are you into Asian cooking?
Not with the pre-made pastes but starting from scratch.
Even if it’s just a stir fry, you may be wondering about two items you can buy in the supermarket.
Both are used in Asian cooking but one is a more reddish brown colour and the other a sort of light brown.

Both are rhizomes,and both are members of the Zingiberaceae family, so what’s the difference?
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Galangal tends to get used in South East Asian cooking.

Galangal has a very different and somewhat stronger fragrance to ginger.
Centuries ago, powdered galangal was used as snuff!
  • There's two varieties of Galangal,
Greater galangal is used mainly in cooking.
Lesser galangal is used mainly for medicinal purposes.
Some alternative names for galangal is Laos powder, and Siamese ginger.
Ginger can be bought fresh as a brown rhizome, but it's also available in various preserved forms.
Candied ginger; ginger in syrup; pickled ginger (pink in colour); ginger powder is derived by slicing the ginger root, then drying it and pummeling it into a powder. 
 
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Ian's Tips

  • If you often buy fresh ginger from the supermarket, or even grow your own, the best tip for peeling it is not with a knife or a vegetable peeler, but scraping it off with a spoon.
  • The other tip is to use a ceramic grater especially designed for grating ginger and not the skin off your fingers.
  • Fresh ginger should not be fibrous.
  • The longer the ginger stays in the ground, the hotter and more fibrous it gets.
  • What great tips from Ian!

Can you substitute galangal for ginger?

Use about half but do not use it in sweet cooking because it has more of a savoury flavour.
 
You can grow your own ginger even though it's a tropical rhizome. 
Growing it in a container in cooler climates is perfectly acceptable.
 

So let’s find out more.

I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au

If you want more information about any herb or spice, why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Real World Gardener Dehydrating Tomatoes and Other Fruit in The Good Earth

May 29th, 2021

Preserving Tomatoes and Other Food Part 2

Last week on the good earth segment, we talked about which tomatoes are best for passata, and preserving.

 
Margaret's cut tomatoes for grilling. photo M Mossakoska

It's time to delve into the world of dehydrating not just your tomatoes, but apples and other abundant fruits in your garden.

Why Dehydrate?

But what about dried tomatoes?

Can you do that without buying one of those fancy air dryers?

  • Dehydrating food preserves most of the nutrients-only losing 3-5% of the nutrients and reduces the volume of your fruit. Dehydrating temperatures can be as low as 30 degrees.
  • Canning loses 60 - 80% of nutrients.
  • Grilling or making passata, also loses nutrients but not as much as in canning.

Sunlight is not the answer for dehydrating, because UV light affects the nutrients of food.,

 

The simplest method is to place the fruit on flyscreens or similar and place under shade, or as Margaret does, under a metal roof, perhaps a back porch.

 
Dehydrated apples. photo M. Mossakowska
  • The next choice is to use a commercial dehydrator.

Choice magazine has reviewed dehydrators.

The overall score is made up of: drying performance (60%) and ease of use (40%). You can see the whole article on the Choice Magazine website (you either pay subscription or pay just to view the article): https://www.choice.com.au/home-and-living/kitchen/benchtop-cooking/review-and-compare/food-dehydrators or get a copy at a local library for free.

The listed prices are higher than in most shops. Margaret has the Ezidri FD500 model brand new from an op-shop for $10! 

Margaret's Super tip for storing the dried fruits

It's often humid in our kitchen and pantries.

So the best idea, put the dried fruit and jar in the oven after cooking has finished, so the air inside the jar dries as well.

Store in smaller containers so every time you open it, you are letting air in.

Use special moisture absorbing sachets that contain silicon, or make your own sachets from organza material filled with dry rice grains.

Let's listen to the interview.
The was Margaret Mossakowska director of www.mosshouse.com.au and sometimes a guest on Gardening Australia TV

If you have any questions about preserving tomatoes drop us a line to realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Real World Gardener Preserving Tomatoes part 1 on the Good Earth

May 29th, 2021

 Preserving tomatoes part 1

Pretty much everyone, from beginner gardeners to the experienced, just love growing tomatoes.
It's easy to see why, they are so rewarding and easy to grow, practically jumping out of the ground as soon as you sow them.
Despite all the problems that can beset your tomato crop, we still grow them year after year, because nothing beats the taste of a home grown tomato.

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Fruit Fly?

If you have had tomatoes but they were affected by fruit fly, then use exclusion bags, or net the whole tomato bed.
  • So you might be wondering, but what about pollination?
Tomatoes are mostly self-pollinated, so the pollen drops from the anthers to the tip of the pistil in each flower
Wind helps this to happen by vibrating the flowers, ensuring the pollen loosens and falls.
  • But if you've covered the bed with netting, it's still easy to pollinate the flowers.
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Just whack the stems with a stick to release the pollen, or use an electric toothbrush into the flower to move the pollen from the stamens to the pistil.

So now you planted, fertilised and then harvested, what next?
There's been a bumper season of tomatoes but what do you do with them all?
 

Tomato types and can they be preserved?

Salad tomatoes-not suitable for drying but can be made into passata.
Beefsteak tomatoes-large and fleshy, good for grilling, dehydrating and making passata. Margaret's favourite is Cherokee Purple.
 
Roma tomatoes-the most commonly used to make a sauce or passata.

Grape or cherry tomatoes- great if you don't want to bother with fruit fly exclusion netting. Not for drying, but eating fresh mainly. Good for beginner gardeners.

The was Margaret Mossakowska director of www.mosshouse.com.au and sometimes a guest on Gardening Australia TV

Real World Gardener Design Principles part 3 in Design Elements

May 27th, 2021

 DESIGN ELEMENTS

Design Principles part 3: Doing the design.

Do you have a particular favourite colour when it comes to plants or perhaps there are some colours that you just don’t want in your garden?

These are the sorts of things you need to think about when redesigning either all or some of your garden.

What to do next

  • Consider your colour pallette, what colours don't you like or do like?
  • Think about what plants your really want to include.
  • If you have an attachment to certain plants, think about using those as a guideline to what else you can plant.
  • Draw a scaled plan so you can work out the proportions of your gardens beds a bit better. A mudmap may be a good idea to start with but once you’ve decided on the plants you like, it’s time to think about drawing up a plan to scale so that you can be sure that all the plants you like will actually fit in. In some situations you may be able to get by with just the mud map.  
  • Think about design styles: Start collecting images of gardens that you like.
  •  
Cottage Garden Style

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A cottage garden is known for its flowering perennials with their soft, relaxed form and character. These gardens have a fairly informal style and are normally planted with flowering plants in muted and pastel colours. The plants tend to grow into each other, forming mounds and domes. 

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Formal Garden Style

This style of garden has the most structure and can be quite rigid in their style. The basis of a formal garden is symmetry, balance, tailored plantings, simplistic plant choice and a sense of majesty. The gardens and pathways tend to run in straight lines and form grid like patterns

 
I'm talking with Glenice Buck of www.glenicebuckdesigns.com.au

Real World Gardener Design Principles part 2 in Design Elements

May 27th, 2021

Design Principles part 2

Site Analysis
Are you all set to re-design your garden to give it a new lease of life?
  • Perhaps just one area needs re-doing.
  • Autumn is the best time to think about that but first there are a few basics to consider.

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Things to Consider
You first need to consider the factors that cannot be changed, these are:
climatic zone 
aspect
soil texture/type 
soil pH 
site hydrology or drainage 
the views into and out of the site 
water availability 
  • Having time to observe some of these factors can also work to your advantage as you can then see the difference in these elements through all the seasons.
  • The majority of gardening problems are caused by gardeners not understanding the climatic needs of their plants. It's important to note that Australia has a warmer climate than the countries of origin of most of our introduced plants. 

I'm talking with Glenice Buck of www.glenicebuckdesigns.com.au

Top tips:

  • Firstly, get to know your soil, the soil’s pH and how well does it drain, ie hydrology.
  • You can also look up soil texture test on the internet.
  • Consider water availability, particularly if you don’t have access to town water.
  • Then what views have you got and which need hiding.
Elements you can change.
  • Plants-move them if possible if they don't suit their location.
  • Look at lifespan of the existing trees or shrubs. Have they past their use by date? Have some sort of succession plan in place for these plants.
  • Decking or paving can be changed but think about re-using the material in the garden, or selling on a local buy, swap and sell, rather than throwing them into landfill.
Draw up a Mudmap
Now is the time to draw a rough map of you garden and house, including the boundary lines.
Mark structures that are going to stay, such as taps, clothesline, pathways, driveways.
Good to have this in your pocket to show to nursery staff to get ideas about plant quantities.
IMPORTANT: Mark out North on your map

Real World Gardener Blue Flax Lily in Plant of the Week

April 26th, 2021

Plant of the week
Common Name: Blue Flax lillies

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Scientific Name: Dianella revoluta; D. caerulea

Family: Asphodelaceae
Leaves: tufted clump forming perennial growing from a rhizome; with dull or bright bluish to green linear leaves 40cm  to 1.5m in length. 
Flowers: -spring to summer with with deep blue to purple racemes. The flowers stalks are held tall above the foliage and often have branching.
Fruits: blue to bright purple berries that stay on the plants for many months.
Height: many cultivars are now available from dwarf to 1.7m including the flower spike.
Distribution: All over Australia
Interesting fact: Indigenous people ate the berries during the summer months. The strappy leaves were also woven into bags and nets. The leaf when folded was also used as a snake whistle..
Hardiness: drought and frost resistant.
Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks. Can also be propagated by division.
Uses: rockeries; bird attracting garden, native garden; bushland garden;
Which Dianella for your garden?
  • Dianella 'Little Jess."dwarf  40cm high x 40cm wide.
  • Dianella 'Breeze" 40% larger than little Jess. 60 – 70cm high x 60 – 70cm wide
  • Cassa Blue: blue leaves;  50cm high x 40cm wide.
  • Dianella 'Tas Red' -will often get a red base in cold climates, or even change from green to green with reddish tinges at times. It has a dense tidy appearance with beautiful wide leaves and large purple berries in spring and summer,45cm high x 40-50cm wide

I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

 
 

Real World Gardener La Niña and Changing Weather in the Kitchen Garden

March 20th, 2021

 THE KITCHEN GARDEN

La Niña and your produce garden

Torrential rain is lashing the east coast of Australia as a write this while the west coast of enjoys a hot spell. Without sounding too dramatic, we’re starting off the kitchen garden segment with a topic about how the changing weather patterns are affecting the vegetable garden. At the moment Australia is in the grip of La Niña, a complex weather pattern, that bought rain for much of summer and now is causing flooding in many areas.
Last year's summer was quite different with bushfires in most parts of Australia.

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Torrential rain driven by La Niña in my garden.

We’re not so much spruiking climate change, but really it’s more about what you the gardener can do to mitigate problems in the veggie patch because of climate events like La Niña.

This summer, the produce garden is seeing cooler temperatures during the day, increased humidity, and higher night temperatures because of the consistent cloud cover.

For those gardeners on clay soil, the soil is staying damp even during the drier periods. Veggies do not like their roots in constant water.

For those gardeners who haven't prepared their gardens for these events, they may find collar rot around citrus and other fungal problems in the kitchen garden.

The answer for clay soil in produce gardens is build raised beds. Not only does this improve drainage, but saves all that bending to ground level.

Powdery mildew is a problem with all gardens in humid weather, particularly when the crops are coming to their end of their production.

Toni recommends using a bi-carbonate spray to change the pH of the leaf surface so that the fungus cannot thrive. This is only a preventative measure. Once the mildew takes hold.

Bicarb soda recipe:
1/2 teaspoon of sodium bi-carbonate
450ml water
couple of drops of vegetable oil to help emulsify it.

Spray both leaf surfaces well until run-off. Re-apply after rain.

Other problems can be fruit not ripening such as tomatoes staying green because of the lack of sunny days.

Dwarf beans are all descended from climbing beans when they perceive low light levels they will begin throwing out tendrils and revert to climbing beans. This can be just a run of cloudy days or overshadowing by trees or a neighbouring building.

Let’s find out-I'm talking with Toni Salter, the Veggie Lady. www.theveggielady.com 

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