Flowers in the garden and as food!

In recent months we have been enjoying a beautiful yard of flowers, flowers in our newly formed herb garden,

13our recently renovated flower garden,

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22 21on our numerous native and exotic shrubs

34 and trees, in the vegetable patch

3133as well as in the fruit orchard.

32 I just hope our bees have appreciated it too and make plenty of honey over the summer months.

3536Our flowers have attracted many pollinators to our garden too. A side benefit to all these increased insect numbers is that there have been a lot of good bugs to ward off and even eat many of the bad bugs. With an increase in insect numbers we have seen a marked increase in bird numbers too, especially insect eaters as well as nectar eating honey eaters.

 

14I took a few photos of some of our flowering plants during February so I hope you enjoy them.

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17In our local paper recently I spotted the following article by a regular garden writer.

“A flowering addition to the palate

By horticultural writer, John Gabriele

Flowers have been used in the cuisine of many cultures around the world for centuries and our gardens are often full of delectable botanical offerings ready for picking.

The vegie and herb garden is a great place to source edible flowers. Zucchini flowers

2lightly fried in a tempura batter will have you looking for seconds and the flowers of squash and pumpkins can also be used in the same way.

The flowers from herbs such as mint, coriander, oregano,

29pineapple sage, rosemary, basil, hyssop,

24chives and dill

30can all be used as garnish or in meat dishes and salads.

Summer salads are particularly enjoyable when the mix is made of produce from the home garden.

To make a salad even more enticing the addition of flowers will jazz things up.

Many common ornamental garden plants have edible flowers that will provide a delicate flavour and visual appeal that can enhance even the most simple meals or be devoured on their own.

For something a little spicy, nasturtium flowers

12with their peppery taste and vibrant colours of yellow, orange and red contrast well with leafy salad greens.

Even gladioli,

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7hemerocallis and fuschia have edible flowers.

Petals from citrus flowers can also be used but do so sparingly as their sweet and highly fragrant nature can overpower a dish.

For sweet subtle flavours, roses, lavender, carnations, violets and jasmine can be used to flavour and garnish desserts or drinks.

With the larger flowers remove individual petals; remember subtlety is the key so less is often best.

Fresh is always best when it comes to flowers, especially edible ones.

Pick flowers that have just opened and use them immediately rather than storing them as they will wilt quickly and lose their appeal and flavour.” [end of quote]

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I thought this article contained information which I am sure others would appreciate.

 

1920Although I am not one to eat flowers in a salad, some do end up in my casserole. At other times I do collect the nectar from flowers like the large Grevillea spikes by shaking it into my hand then licking it off.

18No wonder bees and nectar loving birds, like honey eaters, love flowers so much.

 

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23If we are watching a tv cooking show using flowers, my wife and I often look at each other when we see a flower being used which we normally consider being toxic, causing illness from a mere allergy to nausea and sometimes death.

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Increased insect numbers means there are a lot of good bugs to ward off and even eat many of the bad bugs

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The warning is; BE CAREFUL, anything can be poisonous if placed in the hands of the wrong person, used inappropriately or too regularly.

 

I like flowers!

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What has been happening at our place during January?

January is Tamworth Country Music month. It is often hot

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and dry but some years it can be wet, very wet, enough to flood the campers out of their make shift camping sites on the sporting fields next to the Peel River.

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We have had a few storms around recently, but no where near as much as the coastal areas.

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As a result, our grass is growing and our plants don’t need as much water as normal whereas during heatwave weather they do need more. In the 2nd week of January we had some days in the high 30’s°C and one day 40°C.

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Last year we recorded 756mm of rain, about 83mm of rain above average, even though we had some months closer to zero. Too, last year we had an early winter frost in May which did a lot of damage to our perennial plants which was followed up by a late frost in September, again doing perennial plant damage, resulting in some of our fruit trees producing less than normal, or even no fruit.

One of our grape vines

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usually starts picking in mid January but came early in late December and another variety

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started the 1st week of January

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rather than mid January.

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The apricots usually finish picking in early January but were all this year, all being finished in early December, and with a very small crop. Although we missed out on our breba fig crop, our normal summer fig crop has started on time, although 3 of the youngest trees have failed to flower this year, I think due to the frosts.

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Our other stone crops of peaches and nectarines are producing very small crops this year too.

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In the vegie patch

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it was great to see the bees collecting pollen.

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I have been busy growing gold bantam sweet corn

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which we started to harvest in the past couple of days as well as planting a new, but late, crop of red Aztec corn.

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Our spring potato crop

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was harvested in January this year rather than December as per normal.

Our new autumn potato crop is being planted in mid January.

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Just as our October plantings of lettuce came to an end in early January,

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my December transplanted lettuce of 4 varieties became ready to pick.

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I have been too busy and exhausted to get my second tomato bed (a new wicking bed) ready,

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so unless I can do it now I will probably leave it this year and concentrate on getting the winter tomatoes happy in the hot house.

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I have also picked a couple of water melons, rock melons

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and canteloupes.

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I will also be planting peas at the end of the month for an autumn or early winter harvest before the frosts come.

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I was speaking with an old mate the other day and I suggested he plant peas on the day school goes back. He just looked at me and said “they are too much bother for an old fellow like me” because he can’t bend over now. I said what about climbing peas and he just looked at me as if he didn’t believe me. I told him I had purple pod peas and again he looked in an unbelieving manner. I will give him some along with climbing snow peas.

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Throughout January (and every month as far as that goes) I have put chook turned compost or composted cow manure on most plants as well as worm leachate on all plants. Every day the worm colonies have been watered and fed some sort of organic material, the cow manure compost pile has been added too and the chooks get at least a bucket of greens and other organic materials for their chook turned compost pile.

As we head into the last week of January and 15.5mm of rain overnight and showers predicted for coming days, it is time to sow more seeds of lettuce and beetroot.

Seedless Strawberries…..anyone?

You have heard of seedless melons and apparently there are near seedless tomatoes, and many plants like potatoes don’t even need seeds to continue their line.

My parents used to hate strawberry and fig jam which had seeds in them. The seeds would get under their dentures.

Did I mention strawberries?

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Well during December I ended up with seedless strawberries. I didn’t realise I had seedless strawberries at the start but what I noticed were picked green and partly ripe strawberries laying in the inter row areas of my strawberry patch.

 

The strawberries started to run at the beginning of December so I was pinching off the runners as I saw them during picking each day. I also had cut my finger nails about the same time so I was having a little difficulty pinching off the runners and picking the fruit for a few days so I thought I must have somehow flicked the fruit so they fell off the plants.

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So I took extra care and observed what I was doing by looking back behind me and even walking the rows after I finished and noticed it wasn’t any of my activity knocking off the odd strawberry.

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A few days later a lot of strawberries were coming off each day. I knew I had a few slaters and slugs but had never seen this type of damage before so I started to check at night time and could hear crickets around too. I spoke to a few fellow gardeners and none could help.

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A few more days had passed, then all of a sudden I noticed that the fruit were being gathered into clusters and I noticed when I handled them they were smooth, apparently seedless. A closer examination showed seed hulls on the ground.

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Damage was fairly high. I had been picking at peak time 3 litres of fruit per day during October but by December it had dropped back to about 1 litre per day. In mid December after a very favourable fall of rain production rose to 2 litres a day again and on one particular day I picked 1 litre of fruit and retrieved 1 litre of fruit from the ground.

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The chooks really loved this period of strawberry eating but unfortunately no strawberry flavoured eggs.

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I solved it then, MICE!!!! There had been a few around. I reset my bait stations and within a few days I could smell the offenders. It has taken at least another fortnight to get the last of them.

Khaki Weed, Alternanthera pungens

One weed which I would constantly be asked about for control was Khaki Weed. Unfortunately, it has a name which some people synonymously give to other weeds because they too have prickles in the seed head. For some unknown reason some also call it bindy, probably mixing it up with bindii.
Khaki Weed, Alternanthera pungens, belongs to the amaranth family and is native of South America. It is easy to see from the Latin word pungo meaning to prick, little hole, puncture or stab why this weed is so nasty in lawns injuring someone with bare feet or the soft paws of animals.
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It appears that its name could be associated with the colour of the army uniforms when it became a major problem in the Transvaal during the Boer War. Unfortunately the Australian armed forces brought it home with them from South Africa.
Khaki Weed is a prostrate perennial plant spreading out to a metre sized patch with dark green to yellow oval to roundish leaves, spreading out with stolon like stems from a central carrot like tap root. At the nodes along each stolon, roots may be set down to grow into another perennial taproot. href=”https://sustainablegardeningwithjim.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/4.jpg”&gt;4563<a
This plant is spread by seed, especially when it becomes attached to soft materials such as rubber tyres of vehicles and our footwear. It can also be spread by root fragments and broken pieces of stem which can reset roots from the node when the plants are cultivated during moist weather.
There are some herbicides which control the seedling plants but the concentrations or the stronger herbicides needed to destroy mature plants, especially the taproot, damage is done to the surrounding beneficial plants. Cultivation will destroy the plants but root fragments or buried stolons will reshoot after rain so further cultivation is required. In smaller manageable areas, hand digging with a sharpened knife or chisel cutting the taproot about 2-3cm below the soil surface is enough to kill the rest of the root. If flowering is or has occurred then dispose of the plant to reduce future contamination from seed.

Creeping Oxalis or yellow wood-sorrel, Oxalis corniculata

Creeping Oxalis or yellow wood-sorrel, Oxalis corniculata

Some of my blog entries will feature weeds or other plants that are common to my region.
Recently I listened to a discussion on local radio about the weed, Creeping Oxalis, and its control and thought you might like to learn more about it too.
Creeping Oxalis or yellow wood-sorrel, Oxalis corniculata , is a small perennial plant which grows producing prostrate, creeping stems and a woody tap root and is typically found in lawns or bare soil areas around perennial garden plants. Creeping Oxalis sets many viable seeds. Unlike other Oxalis species it doesn’t form underground bulbs. It is a native of Europe.
The leaves are trifoliate, of three inverted heart shaped leaflets on short leaf stalks or petioles, which make up each leaf. Small yellow flowers with 5 petals form during spring and summer which develop into a pod full of many seeds which spread by the pods dehiscing in late summer. Seeds can be flung 750mm high and possibly a metre from the parent plant.
Creeping Oxalis is usually found in low fertility dry soils but can tolerate poorly drained or more fertile soils and readily invades turf situations.
Creeping Oxalis is difficult to control using traditional herbicides, especially without doing damage to lawn areas or other plants. Herbicides do not usually kill the tap root from which the plant will reappear the next season. Healthy turf situations can help prevent invasion of this species, therefore a strong well watered lawn on a good loam soil is needed. Make sure the lawn is not mown too short, and that it isn’t too acidic which can be remedied by adding lime and feed using an animal manure.
Creeping Oxalis can be managed by digging out individual plants before they flower and set seed.
Acknowledgement and References: The thoughts and observations about this plant are my own. I do have a small reference library on weeds and plants and at times will refer to them for extra information. They include JN Whittet’s Weeds; NCW Beadle’s UNE Students Flora of NE NSW (Parts I-VI); WT Parsons and EG Cuthbertson’s Noxious Weeds of Australia; M McKemey and H White’s Bush Tucker, Boomerangs and Bandages; TG Hungerford’s Diseases of Livestock and H Greenish’s Materia Medica. At times I may undertake an internet investigation to update a plant’s botanical name. Unless otherwise advised, I have taken the photographs myself.

Why I Garden

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I consider myself an average person trying to supply enough things from our garden to satisfy all our family’s needs as well as have some to share and give away.

I live near Tamworth, NSW, Australia in a valley which is reasonably protected from many of the extremes experienced more on the plains, however, some of our winter frosts spill from the New England Tablelands being brought by katabatic winds.  As a result, some of our gardening techniques have been adapted to get more due to the colder starts and shorter sunlit days.

Our latitude is 31°S and being a couple of hundred kilometres inland, our climatic circumstances would equal many across inland temperate Australia away from the coastal influence with a reasonable winter and summer rainfall distribution.  The winter temperatures can go as low as -10° on a frosty morning and into the low 40°s during summer afternoons.  Although we live in a 670mm rainfall zone, the rain can be irregular meaning we cannot successfully garden without some form of irrigation set up using both stored fresh rainwater and have access to bore water.

My working career ended abruptly in mid 2000 with serious illness which meant some major changes in my life.  I have concerns with numerous allergies so have had to take control of the things I associate with or take into my body to relieve symptoms and try to retrieve some of my previous health and hopefully improve it with time.

I have always had an intense interest in gardening from about age four, both with annual and perennial plants and over my life have been involved with developing quite a few gardens.  I love to create then recycle as many nutrients as is possible in my garden.  I grow things out of season and eat out of season too!  My experiences have been accumulating so that now I feel confident to be able to share many of these things including when to plant and harvest.  Hopefully I can tell you things which you can’t find written in the text books and things the experts forget to tell you.

I was trained in agronomy and botany so my love of plants will become evident as time goes by.  I started collecting weed samples when I was 10 and my working career was involved with weed control so over the years I developed a broad knowledge of plant identification and control methods for weeds while encouraging favourable plants.

As earth’s resources rapidly diminish I have become even more aware for the need to become sustainable in all our endeavours, so we employ various photovoltaic apparatus’ and tweak our home environment to reduce our carbon footprint.

I enjoy life and with it being fairly restricted I hope you appreciate where I am coming from and the things I can share with you.