Spring is sprouting

The spring garden at Buda, Castlemaine

I have just spent a wonderful weekend at Castlemaine in rural Victoria, talking to and learning from gardeners from all over Victoria. Budafest was held to raise money for the historic home and garden, Buda, but also to connect with and inform gardeners about growing communities. We found out about public gardens and the greening of public spaces, gardening for produce and pleasure, community gardening and heritage gardens. I learnt things like: Average Australian houses are bigger than any other houses in the world (even 10% bigger than American houses); that we are having more 1 in 100 year weather events; that we need to preserve our public spaces and how important they are to our well-being; that landscapes are designed for people so we need to understand how people relate to them and that there is such a thing as Nature Deficit Disorder. All of this and more, just from the talk given by John Raynor from the University of Melbourne.
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Hyssop, tarragon and five-seasons herb

Now is a great time to plant herbs, Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

It’s starting to feel like spring at last and this is a time when most plants start moving and growing again and it is an especially good time for herbs. Herbs grow prolifically through spring, so plant them now and reap a bountiful harvest of fragrant leaves and flowers in a very short time. Many of you will already have common herbs like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, growing in your gardens, but what about others like tarragon, or hyssop or five-seasons herb. Let me introduce you to some less common culinary herbs that are easy to grow, look fantastic in the garden and are really useful in the kitchen. Read more

Australia’s Open Gardens 2011-2012

This fabulous resource Australia’s Open Gardens National Garden Guide is out again. A must for every serious gardener it is full fascinating and beautiful gardens that will be open over the next twelve months. Also articles Gardens as therapy, What it’s like to open a garden and the story of Harvey Ottley: Crocs, cheating death and her own top end oasis. This year the one’s I won’t be able to miss are Pat and John Anderson’s garden show casing sustainable water use (17th & 18th of March), The plant fair at Cruden Farm (3rd & 4th of March), Pepper Tree Place community garden in Coburg (18th & 19th of Feb) and Nancy’s Haven (4th & 5th Feb). And these are just a few in Victoria.Grab a copy from your local newsagent, borrow it from your library or buy one online from the Open Gardens Australia website

Australia’s Open Gardens 2011-2012, $19

Broccoli the easy Brassica

I have been harvesting a handful of broccoli every few days for months.

I love broccoli for its versatility, because it is so easy to grow and because it’s full of the nutrients and anti-oxidants that are so important in combating our modern ills. Broccoli is in the same family as cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustards and even wall flowers and stocks. I planted seed into small pots in mid summer and planted the seedlings out in the garden in late summer and have been harvesting a handful of flower heads every few days for months now. In cool and temperate climates, broccoli can be planted for most of the year except perhaps the middle of winter, so now is good time to get some seeds in. For years now I have only grown the sprouting types like Green Calabrese and Purple Sprouting. These grow with an initial ‘head’ but once this has been harvested, goes on producing small florets from side branches for a few months more. Read more

Smart Gardening

Smart Gardening: Grow Your Own Fruit and Vegetables by Marcelle Nankervis is packed with useful information for the home gardener. Marcelle grew up on a small farm, has a degree in Horticulture and a wealth of experience in gardening. She has worked in the horticultural media for more than 16 years. Part one of Smart Gardening covers all the garden basics from water, sun, soil, fertilising, mulching and pruning, to growing and harvesting fruit trees and vegetables. Part two encompasses the bulk of the book and is a really useful month by month guide divided into tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and cool regions. I would buy it just for the lists of what to sow when because I always forget and plant things too late. My only quibble is the layout. There are no pictures (which is fine) but I find it hard to navigate my way around. Perhaps that will come with time and familiarity. The information is all there though, and this would make a great gift for an organic gardener who is just starting out. To purchase a copy go to any good bookstore or Exisle Publishing

Smart Gardening by Marcelle Nankervis, Exisle Publishing, $34.99

Fleming’s Fruit and Ornamental Tree Guide

This is an updated edition of the classic Fleming’s Guide and while many of the plants listed are exclusive to Fleming’s, the cultural advice is much more widely applicable. Fleming’s Nursery is renowned in southern parts of Australia as a wholesale supplier of  productive and ornamental trees. This guide details a huge range of productive trees including currants, cherries, apples, figs, pears, persimmons and more. As well as the new naturally hand pollinated F2 crosses between apricots and plums, and fruit trees grown on dwarf rootstock. Ornamental trees range from maples and hibiscus, to ginkgo and crab apples. The photos are superb. Useful for landscapers, retailers and avid gardeners the book can be purchased from Fleming’s Nursery website.

Fleming’s Fruit and Ornamental Tree Guide, Fleming’s Nursery, $29.95 (incl. postage in Australia).

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