Archive for September, 2010

Mini Salad Garden

September 28th, 2010

Seed Sprouts

Although there are many varieties of sprouts available in supermarkets, they can sometimes be a bit of a disappointment when you get them home if they are not fresh as can be.  Sprouts are the crop, if you are looking for an easy to grow salad ingredient and you can get no fresher than ones you grow yourself!  The sprouting method I use requires no specialised equipment and a crop can be harvested in as little as 3 days for some varieties.

You can use mung beans, alfalfa or  whole lentils, they are all delicious raw in salads or tossed into a stir fry at the last moment to add a little crispness to your meal.  Always buy seeds that are intended for sprouting as many garden seeds are treated with chemicals.

Here is how I do it:

  • Measure 1-2 tablespoons of seeds on to a sieve and give them a bit of a wash, picking out any that are cracked or broken.  Soak the seeds over night or around 9-12 hours.  I do this in a nice big jar with a wettex cloth over the top held in place with a rubber band.
  • After the seeds have had a nice long soak it is time to drain the seeds (if you tied the wettex cloth over the top you can just tip the water out to drain it).  Now the jar has to go into a cupboard or somewhere dark, so they can sprout.  Make sure it is a cupboard where they will not be forgotten 🙂
  • Now comes the ‘tending’ part of the deal:  At least twice a day rinse the sprouts by filling the jar with cold water and then draining off thoroughly.  In hot weather you will need to rinse at least 3 times a day.  Continue to rinse regularly until the sprouts are ready to harvest.

Growing sprouts is fun and only takes a couple of minutes a day.  You can use them in wraps, sandwiches, salads and they are very healthy and good for you!

Happy gardening!

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September Plant

September 25th, 2010

Christmas Cactus (Zygocactus truncatus)

Christmas Cactus -Schlumbergera Species

Of course, this should really be the plant of the month for December, but here in Melbourne it flowers towards the end of winter and into early spring.  In fact, it tells of the beginning of the spring and is a welcome patch of colour for the end of our winter months.  The Zygocactus is a Forest Cacti and in its home in Brazil are found attached to trees in woodlands and jungles.  So it is not surprising that they are so different in form and requirements form the spine-covered desert cacti.

Forest Cacti

Perfect for hanging baskets it has leaf-like stems and a trailing growth habit.  Flower colours include pink, mauve, purple, orange and red.  The plant needs short days and long nights to start flowering, a bit like me really.

Cuttings root easily.  After it has flowered you can take stem cuttings in the summer.  They really don’t mind if you forget to water them, in fact they prefer to be a little on the dry side and it is only once they begin to flower that they need a little more frequent water and a little liquid fertiliser, say worm poo, but at about half the strength of what you use for other plants. 

Forest cacti – perfect for adding to that enchanted corner in your garden.

Happy gardening!


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Enchanted corners

September 20th, 2010

Woodland magic

Once upon a time there was an enchanted forest alive with fairies and fireflies.  Magical creatures captured at dusk.  Romantic and adventurous, the woodland conjures an enchanted atmosphere of quiet walks and forest fairies.  In my garden I like to try to add little magical, enchanted corners where fairies might visit.  A sprinkle of magic fairy dust and the addition of a few pretty plants can create just the atmosphere you want.

Paths must meander and shady corners call for shade loving plants such as Clivia, Japanese windflowers or the strappy Oyster plant.  The Winter Rose (Helleborus orientalis) are another magical plant, with simple, openfaced flowers in purple, pink, green and white.  They flower in the depth of winter, cheering up the coldest day.  They seem so shy, hanging their dear little heads.  You can plant them in shady places and the flowers are perfect to cut and put in old fashioned float bowls as a flower arrangement.


The cyclamen too seems to conjure the fairies to play in amongst their leaves and to sit up on their flowers, of course, each time you look at the flowers, you just miss seeing the fairies, who heard you comming and have slipped away to hide in amongst the leaves.  But, if you are quick you just might catch a glimpse.  Most gardeners think of cyclamen as a delicate indoor plant, however tiny miniatures can be growen outside.  Just perfect for that little fairy plot!  Indoors cyclamens need plenty of natural light, like near a window.  Do not put them near a heater or near the fire.  They like cool nights, and like being put outside with the cat before you go to bed!  Remove the spent flowers to promote further blooms.

Happy gardening!

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September Jobs

September 17th, 2010

It is spring & time for the ducks and me to get busy!

Well, spring is here and I have got the bug for growing things, so I plan to try and plant out some little seeds.  Can’t tell which ones as yet, because I haven’t bought any, but that is the plan.  I love looking at all the different little seed packets and dreaming just a bit, and why not?  Seeds are so cheap, it is worth giving it a bit of a go.


I have some pot plants that are calling out to be repotted, so that is on the list for this month as well.  Sadly, my gardenia is looking a little sad and I might need to give her some TLC.  She seems to have some sort scale insect on her leaves and I will need to sit down beside her and give her a good wash with some water mixed with a few drops of detergent & vegetable oil.  This is time consuming but effective.  After that I will give her a special feed of slow release fertiliser, she just loves that.  We aim to make her happy, for a happy pot plant is one that will flower happily!

my potted bulbs are still looking pretty

Last summer I bought and planted a little baby, oh so cute, Oleander.  I will need to give the little thing a bit of a prune, even though it seems a little sad to do so, it needs all the length it can get.  But it has to be done if I want any flowers as they flower on new wood, and cutting it back just a little will make it grow some.

Apart from the above there is of course, the weeding and mulching.  An ongoing job.

Happy gardening!

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Spring Beginnings

September 13th, 2010

A quiet spot to sit and think

Creating a garden is an ongoing process.  There are always new beginnings, and there is no better time to take stock than at the beginning of Spring.  Outside my garden is full of buds and new shoots.  New beginnings.  Although there is always heaps of jobs to be done – weeds to be weeded, this time of the year it is good to take some relaxing time out, make a few plans. I like to think about any new directions I might want to take in my garden world.

bulbs flowering

I plan to visit some Open Gardens and notice how the designers have landscaped gardens around the house, browse through gardening magazines and books and take time out to dream.  Dreaming is very important to creating.  Ideas can come from any number of places.  You can start a scrapbook of pictures and plant names and habits.  Or set aside a Manila folder, box or drawer for your collected information and inspirations.  When deciding on a garden style, take your cue from the style of your house.  Look at your favourite colours, shapes and objects.  Collect gardening books that inspire you.  I love to do these things. 


Getting waterwise is something we need to think about with summer coming up. Being waterwise is all about matching plants to suit local conditions, choosing dry hardy plants, building up the soil so it holds moisture and mulching to lock in the moisture.  It is about smarter gardening.

Gardens are a moving feast, a picture in constant flux, an evolving paradise.   I like to think of my garden as a series of pictures, each revealing itself to me as I walk through.  I would love little winding paths leading me to a quiet sanctuary.  I haven’t got there yet, but I am enjoying the journey.

Happy gardening.

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The September Garden

September 6th, 2010

Spring is here

One of the most wonderful things about living in the mountains is being woken by the birdsong in the morning.  I love waking up when it is still dark and lying there listening to the birds getting ready for the day.  There is a great flurry of activity now, as they are starting to make their nests.  I have a good little population of wrens in the garden and I need to be careful when I am cutting back plants, that I don’t expose one of their little nests.

little bulbs are everywhere

Spring is such an exciting time of the year, the sap is rising and new growth is pushing on out everywhere you look.  It is also a time to do some judicious tip pruning.   The secret to good gardening is fertilising, mulching and sensible pruning.  I will be very busy in the garden in the next week or two doing just that.  Of course, the weeds have all got away on me again and need a great deal of attention as well.

Gardening does seem to go better with a bit of a plan, a routine.  Good exercise habits keep the body healthy, fit and functioning and in just the same way garden routines keep your garden happy and performing well.  Spring is the time to mulch!  Mulch, mulch, mulch, you cannot over do the mulch.  Do it early in spring to prepare for the summer heat to come.  I like to do it bit by bit, weeding then spreading on some manure, [cow, sheep, or duck, whatever you have handy] then mulch.  Don’t you just love that word?  Spread thick over the garden beds it helps retain moisture, of which we seem to be blessed with a great deal of at the moment, and it stops the weeds. OK it doesn’t stop the weeds completely, but it slows them down and that is a grand thing!

Well, I am off out to begin on the weeds.

Happy gardening!

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September Recipe

September 1st, 2010

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

My lemon tree is still full of lemons, so I thought I would share this recipe with you.  As the cake contains oil and yoghurt in place of solid fat is is very easy to mix.  It is a great cake to make on the weekends with the kids. 

  • rind of 2 lemons;
  • 1 cup of oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain  yogurt
  • 3 Table spoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups self-raising flour

Grate all the coloured peel from the lemons into a mixing bowl.  Add the oil, eggs and sugar and beat with a rotary beater until thick and well blended.  Add the yoghurt and lemon juice and beat again while adding flour little at a time. 

Then pour the cake mix into a prepared tin and bake at 180C for around 30 -40 min depending on the sort of cake tin you are cooking it in. 

I like to serve this plain with a little icing sugar sprinkled on top.


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