Posts Tagged ‘Garten’

Summer Herbs II

This post is for Alexa who wrote to me asking for more information regarding summer herbs. I thought that many of you might find this topic interesting so I have posted my response here for everyone’s benefit.

That reminds me that it is time to give my Thyme a haircut!

Alexa – hi Im in high school and I need to do this hospitality project, part of it is that I have to name 5 summer herbs but Im struggling to find any! I was wondering if you could list a few for me it would really help me, thanx 🙂

Hi Alexa,

Thanks for your question. I can see how this could be quite confusing as there is a lot of talk about herbs on the Internet but, mostly the information is non-specific in terms of their seasonal classification. It can also be tricky in some parts of the world, like here in Australia, where we don’t necessarily have clearly defined seasons. In cold climates for example it would be much easier to tell that you have “summer herbs” because they would be the ones that either can’t survive in winter or go dormant during that time. However, in my garden that is not quite so evident – because many of the perennial herbs that would, in a cold climate garden, go completely dormant, don’t. Sure, they start to look a little tired and die back a bit but, after a good prune they reshoot and continue to grow into the autumn and winter. Mint, sage and oregano are just a few of those continual growing “summer herbs” that I have in my garden.

So, I would say that “summer herbs” are those that like the warmer weather and do most of their growing during the spring and summer months. They are herbs that we plant in the spring to enjoy harvesting during the summer. They will often be the type of herbs that die down at the end of summer (but, not always!) or in the case of perennials, ones that need to be cut back hard before the frost arrives.

One place that might give you a good clue as to which are “summer herbs” and which are “winter herbs” is to look at a few recipe books. For example mint is one of those herbs that is used a lot in summer dishes and drinks. Pineapple sage and lemongrass are beautiful in fruity, summer iced teas and are also a nice accompaniment to bottled fruits like peaches. Basil is another important summer herb – very often teamed with fresh tomato dishes because they share the same growing and harvesting seasons and also because of their naturally superb flavour combination.

The following are some of the summer herbs that I have growing here in my garden. I have listed their Common names and their Botanical names for easy reference. I hope this helps.


Every Day In The Garden’s Summer Herb List:

  • Basil Ocimum basilicum
  • Chamomile Matricaria recutita
  • Chives Allium schoenoprasum
  • Comfrey Symphytum officinale
  • Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
  • Horseradish (or Seeradish) Armoracia rusticana
  • Mint Mentha spicata
  • Oregano Oreganum spp.
  • Lavendar lavandular angustifolia
  • Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
  • Lovage Levisticum officinale
  • Parsley Petroselinum crispum
  • Pineapple Sage Salvia elegens
  • Summer Savory Satureja hortensis

Rainy Day Activity #3

Ok, its raining outside and you’re looking for any excuse to stay indoors. Well, I have a great activity for you to do while you’re sitting down watching Ellen /when you’re not dancing that is!

Tomato Ties!

Yes indeed. You can make your own tomato/any-plant ties while you’re sitting in front of the TV and you don’t need to buy any fancy materials to do it!

To make your tomato ties you will need:

A sharp pair of fabric scissors

An old t-shirt or any other light knitted fabric like jersey. Scrabbies will come in quite handy here. What’s a Scrabby I hear you ask? According to “The Meaning Liff*” – a Scrabby. (noun) is a curious-shaped duster given to you by your mother which upon closer inspection turns out to be half an underpant.

Stretchy fabric. Note that from thumb to thumb is "across the knit".

Now for the fun stuff:

If you are using an old garment, first cut off all of the seams so that you are left with clean pieces of fabric that, you could stitch back together to make a slightly smaller garment than before. No, no, we mustn’t get distracted!

Don’t throw away those seams! You can use them as ties too.

Now quite simply cut your fabric into strips, cutting across the knit so that you are left with stretchy strips that when pulled will curl inwards. I usually cut mine about 2cm wide by about 20cm in length. Suit yourself though as I usually use my eyeometer. You can make them wider or longer just not shorter or they won’t allow you to tie them securely.

When tying my plants I usually use what I believe is called a half bow knot. Particularly when tying tomatoes. Now, this will be interesting explaining how to do a half bow knot without a video handy. Here we go: You need to imagine that you were tying a bow in the usual manner except that when you get to the final loop you push the whole piece through so that you are left with one loop and two tails. You can then pull on the tail of the existing loop to release the knot without the need for scissors. How was that? Give it a few goes on your big toe first. Yes, I was tying it on my big toe while I was writing that description. Haha I told you there would be no fancy materials needed!

It is best to dispose of the ties after each use as they can harbor diseases that you don’t want to spread to other plants in your garden.

So now you can get a years worth of plant ties and recycle your old clothes AND you don’t even have to leave the front door!

Yay for you!

* The Meaning of Liff is a very funny dictionary of words which describe common objects or situations for which no word previously existed. The Meaning of Liff written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (two men who, I am positive, enjoy their whiskey).

Strawberry Season

Well folks we’re certainly in the thick of the strawberry season now.

It’s a good idea at this time of year to get out there and check the condition of your strawberry plants. Keeping them clean and healthy is the key to good yields.

Strawberries really are one of the easiest and most rewarding plants to have in your garden. You just need to make sure that they are planted in free draining soil that has been enriched with compost and sheep or cow manure (well, that’s just my preference!). It is a common practice to mound your soil, this is to ensure good drainage and it is certainly a good idea. Oh and don’t bother with black plastic, this is an agricultural technique and absolutely not necessary in the home garden.

Pruning your strawberries:

Use a nice clean pair of scissors to snip away dead or yellowing leaves. Cut low to the base of the plant to prevent left over leaf stems rotting and causing fungal problems. I like to use either a sharp pointed pair of scissors or nail scissors so that I can get deep down into the plant and also to avoid cutting healthy leaves. It can be a delicate job but definitely not a hard or time consuming one.

Don’t mind my dirty pot, I had a few other pots standing around it and it kept getting splashed with potting mix when I watered them. It’s beautiful and clean now but, I really should have cleaned it before my photos =) oops!

I do grow my strawberries in the garden by the way but, I have been testing some strawberries in the greensmart pot. They have done exceptionally well. I will have to replace the potting mix every second season to prevent disease and maintain the vigour of the plants.

Now, please don’t tug at the spent leaves as you will disturb the roots and possibly break your crowns. You don’t want that!

I give my strawberries a thorough clean up about twice a year. That said, I look at them often and if I see bits I don’t like they get the snip! I love my strawberries (and my plants) so I give them a bit of love from time to time and boy do they thank me for it. “Checkin’ the strawbs” it’s just one of those regular things I do when I’m wandering around my garden and it only takes a few seconds.

FYI – about 30 plants will be sufficient to feed a family of four. If you can’t afford to buy 30 plants in one hit well, fair enough! Buy what you can when you can. Buying them bare rooted can be quite an economical way to do it. If you look after your plants you will be able to propagate them as their runners develop during summer. When they have taken root snip off the runner and you’ll have a new plant to add to your collection.

One quick thing – when you harvest your strawberries leave a bit of the stem on as I have done in my picture below. These are a couple of my White Frais De Bois strawberries that I just picked now after tucking my chooks into bed. They may be tiny but they taste like sherbet and we love!

Frais De Bois

Check in tomorrow to see what I did with my strawberry harvest! Oh-la-la!

I think it might be a great time for a few strawberry recipes.

Tomato Cuttings

I can’t believe that I haven’t told you all about this one before! After all, I’ve been teaching anyone who would listen for the past few years. Did you know that you can get mature tomato plants mid-season simply by taking cuttings from established plants? Absolutely! It’s very easy and I will show you right now.

I have explained what laterals are in previous tomato posts but I will go over it again for you so that we’re all clear: Laterals are the shoots you get between the stem and the branch (see below). You know those “side shoots” that get long and dangly and make your plants a big leaning mess? Well, if they are large enough we can use them to grow new tomato plants.

Tomato - Lateral

This is the ideal time to take cuttings from laterals because by now your plants should be fairly well established and will no doubt be producing laterals thick and fast. Usually I would suggest that you pinch off the laterals when they are young and tender in order to keep your plants tidy and that’s not just me being fussy! By removing the laterals before they get too big you are helping your tomatoes to save the energy they would otherwise be wasting on lateral branches. This will encourage better fruit production. Having said all of that, if you allow a couple of laterals to grow you can use them for cuttings.

I have used laterals that are 15cm long or greater. This is the point at which these cuttings will be able to thrive on their own. I cut them off as close as possible to the stem. Now if you have laterals that you have removed during pruning which are very large, that’s quite alright. They can virtually be whole plants. However, there are two important things to consider:

1. As with all cuttings you need to remove 1/3 – 1/2 of the foliage. This is to prevent moisture loss. Don’t be afraid to cut! They will grow very quickly and before you know it you’ll have forgotten how much you had to remove. If you leave them as they are they will certainly wilt and you’ll be lucky if they survive! FYI – I remove the lower branches that would either go below the soil or sit too close to the surface. This is generally about 1/3 – 1/2 way up the stem.

Remove the lower branches.

I cut the rest of the larger branches in half and any remaining leaves that are on the large side (basically, anything you think might wilt) I cut in half too! It’s fine to do that.

Cut the branches by 1/3 - 1/2. Just the branches, not the stem.

Cut the leaves in half to reduce moisture loss

2. You need to make sure that your cutting is relevant to the size of the pot or hole that it will go into. If it’s too long cut the stem to shorten it so that it is happy holding itself up.

There are three ways you can use these cuttings:

  1. Plant them directly into a prepared area of soil
  2. Plant them directly into a pot
  3. Place the cuttings into a jar or a bucket with water and leave them there for 10-14 days. By that time they should have grown plenty of roots.

The latter is my preferred method. I have found that with the first two I have had about 50% success. It is inevitable that you will lose some this way. However, with the cuttings in the jar method, I have had about 95% success.

Place the cutting in a jar for 10-14 days

So, if you want to try a bunch of different types of tomatoes ask around and if your family or friends have different varieties see if you can take some cuttings from their plants. That way by the time your original plants start to get to the end of their time your new ones will be bearing fruit.

Duck Deficiency?

This post was inspired by Bill Mollison who said “You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency”.

We used to have ducks. They were great company, kept the more slimy pests in the garden at bay and were great fertilisers.

How we came to have ducks is a funny story but, it’s a long one so I won’t go into it here. Since my ducks have been gone for some time and my chooks aren’t at all interested in snails and slugs (I can’t blame them really) I have developed a duck deficiency. The most common symptom of a duck deficiency is: an increased number of snails and slugs in the garden.

With the very wet year we’ve had the population of snails in our garden has exploded. As you can see in the picture above I lifted a plank of wood and found where all of the snails have all been hiding the past few years. Now, most people would be pretty disturbed by such a sight and break out the snail pallets or beer traps. That’s just not my style. So, how do I treat a duck deficiency?

I put them in a container and take them to my local lake where there are heaps of ducks and geese that are only too happy to help.

If these were strawberries I’d get $7 a punnet. These ducks are getting a bargain!

Punnet of snails anyone?


Nettles, although generally viewed as a “weeds”, are actually a very valuable part of the vegetable garden.

  • They are great for the compost.
  • You can make a great garden tonic or “compost tea” with them.
  • They can be dried, juiced or frozen for use in the kitchen and they are very tasty.

That’s right, you can eat stinging nettles. Europeans have used nettles for culinary purposes at least since Roman times but could certainly go back as far as the Bronze Age or beyond when the plant was commonly used for its fiber.

Generally, when people think about nettles and their edibility, their minds wind back to a time when they have been “stung”. And yes they actually do sting you. They have tiny needle like hairs called trichomes on the underside of the leaves and on the stems, which penetrate the skin and inject a chemical cocktail of neurotransmitters, histamines and formic acid designed to protect the plants from being eaten. If we cook nettles, the heat causes those hairs to break down rendering them harmless. I think nettles add a slight sharpness, or a slightly piquant flavour to dishes. It really gives a dish that zing-a-zing! I think it’s the chlorophyll that gives it that edge but not being a chef or a chemist I couldn’t be sure. All I know is this: when I add it to soups like minestrone it completely changes the flavour profile.

Two quick notes:

  1. Only use fresh young leaves as the older ones, where plants have already flowered or gone to seed, may contain traces of calcium carbonate, which could cause urinary-tract problems.
  2. When you are harvesting and washing or preparing nettles, make sure you wear gloves =)

Garden Tonic – BEWARE, this part stinks!

Find yourself a bucket that has a lid on top. Fill your bucket with as many nettles as you have on hand – the nettles may be fresh, flowering or gone to seed it doesn’t matter, just don’t fill it to the brim if you do have heaps. Cover your nettles with non-chlorinated water and leave for about 2-3 weeks, checking it from time to time to see if it has started to ferment. When you see bubbles on the surface give it a stir and replace the lid and check again in a few days. Once the bubbles have subsided the fermentation process has finished and tonic is read to apply. Simply strain the liquid into another bucket or container and use diluted as directed below. You can store the tonic in plastic containers or on glass bottles. My personal preference is old plastic milk or vinegar bottles. They are large and easy to pour. And I use a lot of them!

This garden tonic is rich in nitrogen, potassium and magnesium. You’re plants will love it!

Just a couple of tips:

  • Don’t leave it in the sun because you may kill off some of the bacteria needed during the fermentation process.
  • If you want to keep your patch of nettles, just cut the plants down by half and use the tips.
  • If you want to be specific about the recipe use the following ratio: 4 lt water – 500g fresh nettles or 50-60g of dried nettles.

Dilute the tonic in the following ratios:

As a folia spray: 400ml tonic to 8lt water

As a soil drench: 800ml tonic to 8lt water

or as a herbicide: use it undiluted.

-The average bucket or watering can is 9lt-


Putting the fun in Fungi!

Over the Easter weekend we went out to Daylesford in Victoria for a Fungal Ecology Workshop with photographer and fungi enthusiast, Alison Pouliot.

Alison Pouliot

Her impressive collection of fungi was beautifully displayed around the room in their family groups, with field guides from around the world and interesting anecdotes about various species. It gave us a wonderful picture of the habitats and the diversity of fungi the world over. Best of all it enabled us to get up close and personal and to get a great sense of what’s what in the world of fungi.

Now, I thought perhaps I knew a thing or two about mushrooms. I mean, I know the different types that you can buy at the shop. However, from the minute I walked in the room and saw that fabulous display I realised that, in fact, I knew virtually nothing at all. That wasn’t a problem though because that’s precisely what this workshop was all about. By the end of the day we had learnt how to tell the difference between an edible mushroom and an inedible mushroom. We learnt where to find them and that there are mushrooms that glow in the dark! What?!

Later in the day we went out to the forest, where we got to see them in person, in their natural habitat, which made the world of difference. Getting out to the different sites to look for mushrooms was more fun and surprising than I could have ever imagined. At one site we had a plan to walk a kilometer or so along a particular track. I think Alison was quietly hoping that people wouldn’t stray too far so as to keep the group together. Well, as it turned out that wasn’t going to be a problem. After an hour and a half nobody had managed to get further than 150mt from the cars. This being such an amazing season there were different species everywhere we turned. The diversity in such a small area was outstanding. How Alison managed to drag us out of there I’ll never know =)

Oh, and we did find the glow in the dark mushrooms. I couldn’t believe it until I saw it!

Pictures courtesy of Alison Pouliot Photography

It was truly the best day out I’ve had in a long time. I would recommend Alison’s workshops to anyone young or old, novice or expert. There is something for everyone. If you’d like to join one of Alison’s workshops here are the details for the remaining season for 2011.

SATURDAY 07 MAY, CRESWICK – Bookings: 5345 2356 or

SUNDAY 08 MAY, CRESWICK – Bookings: 5345 2356 or

SATURDAY 14 MAY, TRENTHAM – Bookings: 5424 1354 or

SUNDAY 15 MAY, TRENTHAM – Bookings: 5424 1354 or


SUNDAY 22 MAY, APOLLO BAY – Enquiries:



Or go to Alison’s website for more details

Have fun-gi’s.

Saffron Milk Caps - I got em!

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