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grow naturally, eat fresh, live sustainably NOVEMBER/DECEMBER







Vol. 5 No. 4 November/ December 2014 AUS $6.95* NZ $7.90 (Both incl. GST)








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Pot’n all™ biodegradable tubes are made only from coir using rubber latex as the binding agent. Coir, (coconut fibre, a by-product of coconut production), & latex, (from the rubber plant), are both sourced from managed plantations. Once planted, Pot’n all™ pots become compost instead of landfill! Regardless of your gardening skills, you will appreciate how quick and easy Pot’n all™ is to plant and there’s no plastic to remove and dispose of! As roots grow in a Pot’n all™ pot, they work their way into the pot wall where they are naturally air pruned for as long as the pot is above ground. Once planted, the roots continue their growth into the surrounding soil while the coir pot decomposes.

Pot’n All™ Heart Starters chillies – From Zero to Hero ®

Pot’n All™ have joined with The Chilli Factory to present the definitive chilli range, Heart Starters. This range of 27 varieties caters for everyone with heat levels ranging from the zero of the extra-tasty Mini Capsicum to the hero status of Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. Here is a sample of the varieties available…

Chill l Yellow Jelly Bean

Mini Capsicum Capsicum annuum

Capsicum chinense

A compact plant with loads of jelly beansized fruits that go ‘bang’ in your mouth.

No heat but lots more flavoursome than regular Capsicums. Great for stuffing.

hhilli illi

Chilli C ZERO



Black Prince Capsicum annuum

Chilli hilli l

Thai Hot

Capsicum annuum

This hot chilli suits Asian stir fries and makes a tasty, tangy garnish to many dishes.

A mild chilli that suits salads, wraps and Mexican or Italian-style cooking.





Pot’n All™ Harvest Starters We have assembled a whole range of healthy options for the productive backyard. Here are just a few varieties included in the Harvest range…

Blueberry Sunshine Blue

BBlueberry Blueberry y Blue Rose

A mid-season fruiting variety that yields 2-4 kilos of flavoursome fruit.


A mid-season prolific fruiting variety that yields large fruit.

Rubu u Thornless Blackberry Bears richly flavoured fruit from mid-to-late summer. Hard to buy fruit, so grow your own!


Boysenberry A vigorous, trailing grower that’s actually a cross between a Pacific Blackberry and a Raspberry. Its purple-blue fruit has a wonderful, slightly tangy taste.


Black/purple berries appear during summer in abundance. It has a vigorous, trailing habit and is a prolific producer of fruit.


Hybridised in Australia and a member of the blackberry family, Silvanberry bears luscious large berries in abundance from early summer.

Rubuu s


*Pot’n All Harvest Starters available nationally. Not available in WA.


Habanero White Capsicum chinense

Chill l Trinidad 7

A fiery hot Habanero with large, jelly-bean-shaped pods that add flavour to many dishes.


Chill lli

Pod Pink

Capsicum chinense

Attractively coloured fruit is hot enough to flavour seven pots of stew! Tasty too!

Naga Bhut Jolokia Yellow Capsicum chinense This seriously hot Naga, AKA the Ghost Chilli, was once the world’s hottest.

Chilli Chilli


Peach Ghost Scorpion hhilli

Capsicum chinense


Cross a Ghost Chilli with a Scorpion and you get sexy coloured fruit and serious heat!


Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Capsicum chinense Highly flavoursome and EXTREMELY hot! Produces 2-3kgs of fruit per season.

Available from all Masters Home Improvement stores • Pot’n All™ is a registered Trade Mark of Ramm Botanicals Pty Ltd.



Contents 6


Editor’s Note Another wonderful year for our magazine plus great ideas for Christmas The Grapevine Is CCA-treated timber safe to use in the garden? Jo Immig gives the answer


10 Readers’ Forum Melissa King answers our readers’ questions about homegrown berries 12 Clever Crops Jennifer Stackhouse reveals all about clever luffa and parsley



4 | Good Organic Gardening

CONTENTS 14 Plant Profile Climbers, vines and creepers can be the most versatile producers in your garden 18 Power Plant Hibiscus sabdariffa’s traditional use for high blood pressure is backed up by science 20 Family Heirloom Melissa King tells about the treasure trove of old and colourful corn varieties 24 Corn recipe A delicious salad for you to make using sweetcorn or an heirloom variety 26 Gardening Folk Lucy Miller left city life to enjoy her 20 acres and organic garden

30 Gardening Folk Jana Holmer relates the history and creation of her very special family garden 34 Gardening Folk A young couple have created an edible forest from front fence to back boundary 40 Time to Plant Melissa King tells how to grow two useful edible natives: lemon myrtle and lilly pilly 42 Things to Do It’s time to be vigilant in the garden, so Jennifer Stackhouse gives some useful advice 46 Pest Patrol Stinkbugs can wreak havoc on your citrus, but dont’t despair — there are non-chemical controls 40 74

48 The Underground Mulch is not compost and compost is not mulch — Claire Bickle explains 52 Short Shoots Innovative ideas for your garden from our young organic gardener 88


54 Weekend Gardening How to make a nesting box to attract native birds to your garden 58 The Shed Step-by-step instructions for installing a drip irrigation system 62 Feathered Friends Chook expert Megg Miller tells about the beautiful and personality-plus Ancona 66 Amazing Garden Uniting the local community by creating an edible garden on the nature strip 70 Professional Organics The story of Four Leaf Milling, established in 1968 to produce certified grain and associated products 74 Garden to Table Four seasonal edibles — how to grow, harvest, store and preserve — plus Christmas recipes from chef Joanna Rushton 96 Cover To Cover The latest books for gardeners and cooks reviewed — perfect for gifts 97 What’s New Our Pick of the Crop of products and services for gardeners and cooks

Good Organic Gardening | 5

Editor’s note NOVEMBER/DECEMBER Editor Diane Norris Managing Editor Kerry Boyne Designer Katharine McKinnon Senior Prepress Operator Cathy Ward Contributors Claire Bickle, Kerry Boyne, Neville Donovan, Jana Holmer, Jo Immig, Melissa King, Lucy Miller, Megg Miller, Diane Norris, Joanna Rushton, Erina Starkey, Jennifer Stackhouse, Graeme & Cathy Stuart Food photography Diane Norris Advertising Manager Miriam Keen Ph: 02 9887 0604 | Fax: 02 9878 5553 Mob: 0414 969 693 Email: Advertising Production Coordinator Hannah Felton Cover Photo Kiwifruit by iStock

Chairman/CEO Prema Perera Publisher Janice Williams Chief Financial Officer Vicky Mahadeva Associate Publisher Karen Day Associate Publisher Emma Perera Circulation Director Mark Darton Creative Director Kate Podger Editorial Production Manager Anastasia Casey Print Production Manager Lilian Ohanessian Prepress Manager Ivan Fitz-Gerald Marketing & Acquisitions Manager Chelsea Peters Subscription enquiries: 1300 303 414 Circulation enquiries to our Sydney head office: (02) 9805 0399 Good Organic Gardening Vol. 5 No. 4 is published by Universal Magazines, Unit 5, 6-8 Byfield Street, North Ryde NSW 2113. Phone: (02) 9805 0399, Fax: (02) 9805 0714. Melbourne office: Suite 4, Level 1, 150 Albert Road, South Melbourne Vic 3025. Phone: (03) 9694 6444, Fax: (03) 9699 7890. Printed by KHL Printing Co Pte Ltd, Singapore. Distributed by Network Services, Phone: (02) 9282 8777. UK Distributor: KLM Partnership, Phone: +44 019 9244 7544. Singapore & Malaysia Distributor: Carkit (F.E.) Pte Ltd, 1 Charlton Lane, #01-02, Singapore 539631, Phone: +65 6282 1960, Fax: +65 6382 3021, Website: This magazine may have some content that is advertorial or promotional in nature. This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Enquiries should be addressed to the publishers. The publishers believe all the information supplied in this book to be correct at the time of printing. They are not, however, in a position to make a guarantee to this effect and accept no liability in the event of any information proving inaccurate. Prices, addresses and phone numbers were, after investigation and to the best of our knowledge and belief, up to date at the time of printing, but the shifting sands of time may change them in some cases. It is not possible for the publishers to ensure that advertisements which appear in this publication comply with the Trade Practices Act, 1974. The responsibility must therefore be on the person, company or advertising agency submitting the advertisements for publication. While every endeavour has been made to ensure complete accuracy, the publishers cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This magazine is printed on paper produced in a mill which meets Certified Environmental Management System ISO4001 since 1995 and EMAS since 1996. Please pass on or recycle this magazine. ISSN 1837-9206 Copyright © Universal Magazines MMXIV ACN 003 026 944

We are a member of


he team at Good Organic Gardening is celebrating another rewarding year and we thank all our advertisers, contributors and particularly you — our organic gardeners and readers. The feedback has been extremely thoughtful and enthusiastic, so we thank those who have taken the time to write, email and visit our Facebook page. It’s the time of the year that we’re thinking about gift giving and, for some, the true meaning of Christmas. A lot of people are turning away from consumerism and finding more considered choices for gifts, whether for family, friends or colleagues. So here are a few ideas that might be useful. If you would like to give something to people who need help, a card (or donations) to OXFAM Unwrapped costs as little as $10. Visit for more information. Likewise, other environmental or humanitarian charities would welcome support, too. How about a living gift? You can give a fruit tree, punnets of edible plants or a couple of terracotta pots accompanied by several different herbs or packets of organic seed — the perfect gift that will keep on giving. If you have children it’s fun to create pretty designs on plain brown paper. Cards can be made from coloured cardboard in any shape you like — oval, circle, star, diamond. With a personalised hand-written message, perhaps in gold ink, it’s something truly appreciated by the receiver and a good way to recycle or reuse. Enjoy your garden during this time of the year. We thank you all very much for your enthusiastic support during 2014 and we look forward to the next growing year. Everyone in our team wishes you a safe, happy and relaxing festive season full of fun and good cheer. Happy summer gardening!

Diane Norris

See us on facebook at GoodOrganicGardeningMagazine or contact us via email:

Living Christmas tree A Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) can grow well in a pot for many years so makes a great Christmas tree or a thoughtful living gift. For more information see

Diane Norris is the editor of Good Organic Gardening. She has written for Burke’s Backyard magazine, Backyard & Garden Design Ideas, Gourmet Kitchen, Greenhouse Living and WellBeing Organic Gardening. She was the editor of Sustainable & Waterwise Gardens and Good Gardening Guide. Diane has lived an organic lifestyle for more than 27 years and is committed to doing things the way Mother Nature intended. Unashamedly earthy, she promotes sustainable and organic living solutions while advocating an awareness of nature and wild places through her photography and writing.

Grow: The Gardeners Almanac for 2015 Another wonderful gift idea is our fantastic diary for 2015. It’s a stunning, detailed gardeners almanac filled with important monthly gardening advice and tips. There are 36 edible plants featured, complete with growing instructions and gorgeous photographs — a lovely gift for a gardening friend. See page 96 for more details. Or you might like to buy a subscription to Good Organic Gardening magazine for yourself or a special friend and receive a free gift. See page 106 for details.

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the grapevine Environmental news and updates compiled by Jo Immig

CCA-treated timbers and your garden eyes. Arsenic, chromium and copper can also leach out and become concentrated in soil and water around CCA timbers, which is a risk for young children who are known to eat dirt. Arsenic in soil and water can also contaminate food crops grown nearby.

Regulator concerns

CCA-treated timbers are distinctively light olive green in colour

’m often asked, “Is CCA-treated timber safe to use in my garden?” The answer is yes and no, according to Australian regulators. Copper chromium arsenate (CCA) is a widely used wood preservative for pine timbers. Copper is added to control fungi, arsenic to control termites and borers, and chromium to fix the copper and arsenic. The finished treated CCA timbers are light green in colour. Other countries such as Indonesia, Germany, Sweden and Japan have banned or restricted CCA timber, noting concerns about health risks and the potential for contamination of the environment during the manufacture, use and disposal of CCA-treated timbers. In the US, CCA timbers can’t be used in domestic environments.


CCA preserving products (not the timbers themselves) are regulated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). In 2005, the APVMA released its review findings on the safety of CCA, stating that there could “possibly be a health risk for people, particularly children, who had frequent and close exposure to CCA-treated timber”. The APVMA report recommended cancelling the use of CCA in situations where people might come into frequent contact with the treated timber used in garden furniture, picnic tables, exterior seating, children’s play equipment, patio and domestic decking and handrails. CCA timbers can continue to be used in places where people would not have frequent or intimate contact, such as telegraph poles, fencing and structural timbers in buildings, agricultural and industrial uses. The APVMA also recommended that CCAtreated timber should be clearly labelled, which is especially important when it comes time to dispose of treated timbers. CCA timbers should never be burned in fireplaces,

barbecues or bonfires and must be disposed of in an appropriate landfill.

Existing CCA-treated timber If you already have CCA timbers in your home or garden, it would be wise to review the risks according to the advice provided by the APVMA above. If you have CCA timber in a high-use area, such as a children’s cubbyhouse for instance, it may be safer to replace it. Consider avoiding the addition of any new CCA timbers, especially in areas where children frequent or in food-growing areas. Even some fencing applications may still pose a risk if you plan to grow food on or near the fence. While not specifically mentioned in the APVMA’s restricted list, common sense dictates avoiding CCA-treated timber for children’s sandpit enclosures, vegetable beds, trellises for edibles and garden edging. There is little information to support the idea of painting or sealing CCA timbers to eliminate the risks.

Arsenic can increase in some root crops The CSIRO has found some evidence of an increase in arsenic levels in root crops such as carrots and beets grown against treated timber. They recommend growing root crops more than “100mm from treated timber garden edgings or lining the edges with

The key health risks associated with CCAtreated timbers are related to the arsenic and chromium content. Arsenic is known to cause cancer when it’s ingested and chromium (V1) is toxic if inhaled. Just how much arsenic you’d have to ingest to cause cancer is a complicated question, which I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, even though arsenic occurs naturally in the environment, a cautionary approach is warranted, especially with children. Exposure can occur when particles become dislodged during contact, then exposed hands end up in the mouth and

8 | Good Organic Gardening

Untreated Australian hardwood is a good choice

Sandstone or stone is safe near edibles

Photos: Diane Norris

Health risks

New rules

Garden furniture and children’s play equipment were commonly constructed of CCA-treated timber

plastic” and state that “the arsenic is in a safe organic form and most of it is removed with peeling”. They found no evidence of it being absorbed into above-ground food crops such as grapes, tomatoes and cucumbers. The use of treated timber sawdust or chips as mulch is not recommended because you can’t control where the mulch ends up and it may contain levels of heavy metals that breach Australian Standards. CCA wood shavings should not be used for animal bedding. In terms of fencing, if you have horses you may like to consider the fact that they are apparently attracted to the “salty” taste of CCA fencing and may chew the timber. If there has been a house fire or a bushfire and CCA timbers have been burned, the ash left behind can be highly toxic and needs to be carefully removed. Keep all animals and children well away.

As of July 2012, the APVMA stipulated that CCA treatment products were “restricted chemical products”, which means these products can now only be supplied to and used by suitably trained persons authorised under state or territory law. While the APVMA has the authority to regulate CCA products used to treat timber, it does not have the power to control how people use structures made from the timber. If you have concerns about the particular use of CCA timber at home or in a local park, for instance, you should contact your relevant state or territory regulator. The facts about CCA-treated timber: Arsenic timber treatments — Chemical Review: 

Jo Immig is a writer and photographer who is passionate about all things organic. She’s the co-ordinator of the National Toxics Network, a not-for-profit organisation working to eliminate toxic chemical pollution, and an environmental scientist with expertise in issues such as pesticides, genetically engineered food, indoor air pollution and children’s environmental health. Jo represents the environment sector on the Community Engagement Forum of the Commonwealth industrial chemical regulator, NICNAS. She has published several books and contributed numerous articles on household chemical issues and sustainable living. Contact Jo at the National Toxics Network or visit

Around 60% of our rubbish in landfills can be composted for all you need to know and products that will help you produce compost.

Good Organic Gardening | 9

Q&A | Readers’ Forum

ask melissa Horticulturist and TV presenter Melissa King answers your cultivation questions

Ripening raspberries


I’ve made the mistake of picking raspberries too early and they’ve been sour. How do I know when they’re ripe? Raspberries don’t ripen after they’ve been picked, so it’s important to let them ripen on the vine. You’ll know the berries are ripe when they are large, plump, deeply coloured and pull easily off the stem. If you have to tug hard at the fruit to get it off, it’s not ripe. You might need to go out into the garden every couple of days to harvest the ripe ones. It’s also best to harvest them on a sunny day when the berries are dry and pat off any moisture with a paper towel before putting them in the fridge. Or, better yet, devour them straight from the bush! Raspberries will last for about five days in a covered bowl in the fridge or freeze them in a single layer on a piece of baking paper and then pack the frozen berries into airtight bags or containers. Raspberries are delicate fruits that can be easily bruised, so treat them with respect and wear gloves when you are harvesting them to protect yourself from spines.


10 | Good Organic Gardening


My son eats blueberries by the punnet full, so I’d like to grow my own bushes. Can you recommend some good varieties? Among the deciduous types, ‘Blue Rose’ is a top blueberry variety. It’s a good cropper, producing mountains of sweet berries from mid to late summer. If you’re after intense flavour it’s hard to beat Blueberry ‘Caroline’, a late-season Australian variety that ripens through late summer and early autumn and grows brilliantly in pots. Blueberries can also be wonderfully decorative garden plants, so I love a variety like ‘Reveille’ for its attractive pink spring flowers and vibrant autumn foliage colour. If you live in a warmer area, you might like to try ‘Sunshine Blue’. It’s a semi-deciduous variety with a low-chill requirement, so it displays a good crop of summer fruit even in subtropical areas. For the sweetest flavour, leave the berries to ripen on the bush.

While they are more commonly grown commercially, there’s no reason why you can’t give them a go at home. If you can grow blueberries successfully, you can likely grow cranberries. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t like to be submerged in water but they do like to be grown in moist soil, so you’ll need to keep up the water. They also like full sun, acidic soil and plenty of organic matter. They dislike competing with weeds, so keep on top of weeding, particularly in the first year. Don’t expect to be picking too much fruit in the first couple of years, but give them time and you’ll have more than enough to go around. Cranberries are a little like strawberries in that they throw out runners so they like room to grow. Once those runners are established they’ll begin to grow upright branches, which produce flowers and fruit. Not much is required in the way of pruning — just trim them back to shape after fruiting. On a commercial scale, cranberries are most often harvested by flooding the area, loosening the ripe berries with a machine and then collecting the cranberries, which float to the top. At home you can simply pick the berries by hand. You’ll know your cranberries are ready to harvest when they are deep red and the seed inside is brown. The ripe berries last for weeks on the plant, so you’ll be picking fruit from October to December, just in time for Christmas dinner. They also freeze well. Freshly picked organic cranberries


Are cranberries difficult to grow? I love the thought of homegrown cranberry sauce with my Christmas turkey. The cranberry is a wiry evergreen groundcover that’s native to North America. The plant displays pink flowers followed by tart-tasting berries that start out white and turn dark red when ripe. It is well worth growing for its sumptuous berries, which are delicious dried or made into jam, sauce or juice. Cranberries are also a great source of vitamin C and high in antioxidants.

Email your queries to Melissa at

Photos: Bigstock & Diane Norris

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CLEVER CROPS | Luffa Push natural soap up into the loofah

Loofah vs sponge Don’t confuse the two! Although both can be used for ablutions, the loofah is derived from a vegetable, while a sponge is a sea animal. As well as using homegrown loofahs in the bath, they are excellent cut into smaller lengths as a natural scrubbing brush for the kitchen. Tip: You can gently push a piece of natural soap up the centre of your whole loofah to give a nice soapy, soft exfoliator for your skin at shower time. Left its full length, the loofah can be used effectively to keep your back clean and smooth.

Luffa aegyptiaca When don’t you eat an edible? When you use it to scrub your skin instead Words by Jennifer Stackhouse


uffa, also known as loofah, is a type of vegie in the cucumber family and a clever customer. Although edible when small, it matures to form coarse, fibrous internal membranes. It’s at this stage that its other role as a bathtime accessory becomes obvious. The spongy part of the loofah is the xylem. To grow long, straight loofahs (or luffas, if you prefer), train this vigorous annual climber up and over a trellis or pergola so the fruit can hang down unimpeded. A sturdy trellis 2–3m-high is ideal. When the fruit is large, feels soft and leathery and has turned from yellow to brown, it’s time to remove it from the vine. The rattling seeds inside can be saved for sowing

12 | Good Organic Gardening

next spring. To remove the seeds and begin to peel the loofah, just break off the base, shake the seeds out, then peel or cut away the skin to reveal the spongy membrane. Wash the membrane to remove any remaining sap, squeeze out the excess water then set the loofah in the sun to dry. If you want to try eating your loofahs, pick the fruit while it’s small (no bigger than about 12cm). Peel and steam, boil or chop and add to a soup or stirfry. The very small fruit can also be pickled like a gherkin.

Growing tips This tropical to subtropical annual needs a warm, frost-free climate. In temperate and cool climates the loofahs may not have a long enough growing period to fully mature.

Luffa label Common name: Loofah or luffa, vegetable sponge, sponge gourd Botanical name: Luffa aegyptiaca Group: Annual vine Requires: Full sun, rich, well-drained soil Dislikes: Cold conditions Suitable for: Tropical or subtropical gardens, quick screening plant Habit: Vine Needs: Support such as a pergola or trellis Propagation: Seed Difficulty: Moderate

Photos: Bigstock & Diane Norris


The vines need four to six months to produce mature loofahs. Plants are seed-grown with the seed sown as soon as the soil is warm in spring and there’s no chance of frost. Select a warm, sunny spot with deep, moisture-holding soil. Keep the small plants weed-free and well watered. Fertilise through the growing season with an organic fertiliser for flowering and fruiting. Loofahs have separate male and female flowers. The large yellow flowers attract bees for pollination, but if pollination is slow, the female flowers can be hand-pollinated. Tip-pruning when the vine has covered its support and twisting lateral stems back on to the climbing frame help to manage the plant and encourage more flowering. One vine can grow up to 10m without pruning. If you are growing more than one vine, space plants 1–2m apart to give them plenty of room. 


Parsley label Common name: Parsley Botanical name: Petroselinum crispum Group: Herb Requires: Full sun, rich, well-drained soil Dislikes: Dry conditions Suitable for: Herb gardens, vegie gardens, large pots Habit: Small biennial branching herb, 30–50cm high Needs: Regular water Propagation: Seed Difficulty: Easy

Parsley Petroselinum crispum If you grow only one herb in a pot or your garden, let it be this most useful one Words by Jennifer Stackhouse


arsley is one of the most recognisable of all herbs. Even kids know what it looks like and most will happily eat this leafy herb. Its genus name is Petroselinum, which literally means “rock celery”. This name is somewhat misleading. Although parsley and celery are in the same family (Apiaceae) and have a certain similarity in their look, parsley has no real affinity with rocks! The ancient Greek herbalist Dioscorides coined the name parsley centuries ago. I’m sure that even Dioscorides would recommend growing this lush, leafy herb in a good, well-drained, stone-free garden soil. The parsley Dioscorides probably knew best is the one we refer to today as Italian, Continental or flat-leaf parsley. The other familiar form of parsley has very dark-green curly leaves. Cooks, chefs and others argue about which is best. It really is a matter of taste and possibly your culinary inheritance.

How to use parsley If you only had room for one garden herb, parsley would probably be it as it is both versatile and easy to grow. Serve it as a dish (think tabouli) or add it as a garnish. Even the stalks are useful and can be added to stocks and soups. Parsley is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron along with vitamins A and C. You can grow parsley in the herb garden, but its talents don’t end there. This attractive herb is an excellent edging plant for a garden bed and can also be grown in a large pot. I was delighted one summer to see parsley used to hedge ornamental raised garden beds

that decorated the city streets in Sydney. If you want to grow parsley in a pot or as a border, select a compact, curled-leaf form.

Growing tips Parsley grows easily from seed and, once established, may self-seed. Although it’s often grown as an annual that’s planted in spring and harvested through summer into autumn, a plant that’s growing well can keep powering on through winter to keep growing into the following spring. To keep it growing well, regularly apply an organic liquid plant food and make sure it doesn’t want for water. The appearance of a flowering stem indicates the parsley plant has reached the end of its life cycle and it’s time to replant. Water stress may also lead the plant to begin flowering and winding down. This herb has few pests or diseases; however, one that can be annoying is a leaf miner. The larvae of this tiny insect burrow through the leaf tissue, causing silver trails to form. The pest is more likely to be noticed in

Hamburg parsley Although parsley is mainly grown for its leaves and stalks, one variety forms a large, tuberous root. This form is called Hamburg parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum). The edible root resembles parsnip. Harvest after the plant matures and add to soup or roast like a parsnip. While you are waiting for the root to grow, the leaves can be harvested just like regular flat-leaf parsley.

the flat-leaf forms. To control it, simply pick off any affected leaves, as this removes the pest. Water and fertilise to encourage new growth. 

Parsley tea Parsley tea has been used for its therapeutic properties for centuries. Parsley is one of the most valuable herbs for providing vitamins and minerals to the body and is widely considered nature’s immune-enhancing plant. Parsley is particularly rich in vitamin C and vitamin A. These are both powerful antioxidants that destroy free radicals that are responsible for the development of many medical conditions, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon and cervical cancer and asthma. Drinking parsley tea helps to prevent salt from being reabsorbed into the body tissues, so is a kidney cleanser. Makes 2 cups 2 cups water 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (or 1½ tbsp dried parsley) Squeeze of lemon (optional to taste) Method Fresh parsley: Add chopped fresh parsley to a cup and pour on boiling water. Let steep for 5–10 minutes before serving. You can drink the herbs. Dried parsley: Use like loose-leaf tea leaves and do the same as you would for fresh parsley. Or heat the water in a small saucepan to boiling, then turn off the heat. Add the dried parsley and let sit for about 5–10 minutes. You can strain into a cup if desired or pour straight from saucepan. Tip: Boiling herbs and spices too long may reduce some of the health benefits.

Good Organic Gardening | 13



harvest 1

Compiled by Diane Norris

limbers, such as vines, creepers and trailing plants, include many edibles. They grow and climb in different ways: some twine their stems around a support structure; others have adventurous clinging roots along their stems that grip securely to a wall; some use tendrils to find support. Many climbing edibles need sturdy support, while others are happy to meander up a structure or throughout the garden. Gardeners love climbing edibles because of the huge diversity in growing habits, giving enormous scope for extending a vegie patch. In pots, over pergolas, along fences and walls, through trellises or over wooden supports — they add graceful forms and textures to the garden. Climbing edibles can be used for covering walls, fences, archways, pergolas and trellises. On arches and pergolas they can be a unique focal point rather than the expected flowering


14 | Good Organic Gardening

climber. Deciduous climbers such as grapes or kiwifruit on pergolas provide summer shade while allowing winter sun to filter through. In smaller outdoor spaces and on balconies, climbers can add a clever vertically-grown crop when there isn’t room for trees, beds or large pots. Some can be used as ground covers: sweet potato, pumpkin and cucumber, for example. All will inevitably make a statement. Many climbers are fast-growing and gardeners relish their seemingly instant effect. Some are valued for their foliage, while others produce stunning blooms, such as the exquisite passionfruit flower.

How they climb Climbers have many clever ways of creeping and this will influence your choice of plant, where you place it and how you support it. Some, such as passionfruit, use tendrils to cling and secure themselves to wire or wood.

A number, including beans and berries, twine themselves around the nearest support (and can be given a hand to do so) whether growing on a frame, teepee or fence. Others, like kiwifruit and grape, are woody vines that should be tied into place as they grow. Yet others just spread themselves around — pumpkin and sweet potato, for instance — providing a food-producing living carpet. These plants generally require some kind of framework if grown against a wall. If using a wooden trellis, make it either cypress pine or hardwood — not timber that has been treated, such as CCA-treated pine (see page 8). Pantyhose, soft rags or plant ties can be used for tying the climber to the support. Packs of purpose-designed plant holders are available at hardware stores and garden centres, which you can use to attach climbers directly to concrete or brick surfaces. Thin-gauge wires held to a wall by plugged screws can be used as an inexpensive 

Photos: 123rf, Bigstock & Diane Norris

Climbers, vines and creepers, with their specialised plant parts, can be the most versatile produce in your garden


5 6

2 3


1 Grape varieties can be trained onto fences or a trellis 2 The striking zucchini flower 3 Kiwifruit are perfect climbers on pergolas 4 Choko is an old-fashioned and realiable climber 5 Exquisite passionfruit flower 6 Pumpkin varieties that grow on meandering vines 7 Sweet potato vines also have gorgeous blooms 4

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8 9

support if the climber is not too heavy. Supports should be placed far enough from the wall to let the plant creep behind them. Many can be trained to grow up a pole with wire mesh around it. Some vines, such as passionfruit, are vigorous and become very heavy, so you’ll need to give them solid support. If climbers roam too close to your gutters or eaves, snip them off as they will become intrusive and could cause damage.

How to grow Good soil preparation is essential for all edibles, especially climbers and vines, as once they are planted some of them are there permanently. Don’t plant too close to a fence or wall as moisture can be wicked away and you’ll have

to pay particular attention to watering. Regular mulching will help conserve water and will also help keep the roots cool as they spread. You may need to fertilise regularly because climbers tend to put a lot of energy into growing fast and flowering often.

Some edible climbers Beans (Phaseolus spp.) Beans are warm-season vegies that come in bush varieties or tall twining climbers that can reach around 2m. They’re best sown from seed. As the twining varieties grow they will need to be trained onto a support such as a stake, tepee, wire mesh or trellis. When climbing beans reach a good picking height, simply snip out growing tips as they appear. They like full sun and a moist soil.

Don’t plant too close to a fence or wall as moisture can be wicked away and you’ll have to pay particular attention to watering. Regular mulching will help conserve water and will also help keep the roots cool as they spread. 10

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Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus) or runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are worth trying. For more information about beans (and broad beans) see issue 4.3. Choko (Sechium edule) Perennial relatives of gourds, chokos grow in summer and fruit in autumn and early winter. The frost-tender vines will grow anywhere but do best in rich, moisture-retentive soil in frostfree areas. The fruits are large, light-green and avocado-shaped. Grow a choko vine by planting a fruit that’s begun to sprout. Hold off planting until after the last frost. Don’t bury the fruit — just nestle it into the soil. The roots and shoots appear from the same end of the rather large fruit. Provide a trellis or fence for the vine to climb on (issue 4.2 has more detail). Grape (Vitis vinifera) A grape-covered pergola can be a beautiful feature, offering shade and delicious fruit, and the vines can live for decades. Grape canes can grow 10m or more in ideal conditions — ie in subtropical, Mediterranean, temperate and semi-arid zones, but also in milder parts of cool temperate zones. They are frost-tolerant, but areas prone to high humidity aren’t recommended. Grapes fruit in early spring. These vines like infrequent, deep watering and are pretty hardy. Don’t mistake edible grape vines for the commonly grown ornamental type. Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) The kiwifruit plant is a vigorous deciduous vine that loves a strong trellis or pergola to cling to. Ideally, the vines take on a T-shape with a tall leader trunk that reaches the top of the trellis or pergola. From this strong trunk come the fruiting branches, which will produce fruit that hangs beneath the leafy canopy. Despite their rather picky growing requirements, pest and disease attack on kiwifruit vines is rare (issue 5.2 has the lowdown on this productive vine). Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca) There’s more about this clever plant on page 12. To cultivate long, straight loofahs (or luffas), train this vigorous annual climber up and over a sturdy trellis or pergola so the fruit


loofahs (or luffas), train this vigorous annual climber up and over a sturdy trellis or pergola so the fruit can hang down unhindered. A 2–3m-high trellis is ideal. The fruit is small and edible but it’s grown for the spongy part (xylem) that can be used as a bathing accessory. Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) From the grape family, muscadine is droughtresistant and woody, reaching 30m long. The fruit is dark — black, bronze or deep purple — and forms in clusters. For best results, plant the vine on a wire support or pergola in full sun and water regularly. Muscadine is well adapted to the warm, humid conditions where European grapes are unsuitable. Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) These evergreen vines with an 8–10m+ spread fruit in spring to autumn and boast the most intricate of flowers. They are warmclimate plants, but grow in all but the coldest parts of the country. Cold conditions and wet soils lead to poor growth, death of the vine or poor fruiting, so always plant passionfruit in a warm, sunny but sheltered spot with free-draining soil. Passionfruit vines also need lots of space for their root systems,

8 Ripening passionfruit 9 Try growing edibles, like cucumbers, upwards on strong stakes 10 Beans find their own way up teepees or frames 11 Climbing French beans

so they don’t do well in pots. They demand strong support, too. One thing to watch for is suckering — snip off as soon as possible (see issue 4.4 for more information). Pumpkin/zucchini/squash These three are annual vegetables from the Cucurbita (pumpkin) family. Vines typically are 3–10m long but pumpkins can easily exceed that. The leaves are large and simple and the characteristic bellshaped flowers are yellow and quite large: 7–15cm wide. Plant these vigorous groundhugging edibles in full sun to partial shade and water regularly. You might also like to try training them upwards on a sturdy teepee or frame. Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) The sweet potato plant forms a lush vine that scrambles over the ground. Where it forms roots, the tubers we know as sweet potatoes grow beneath the soil surface. These can also be called yam or kumara. One vine can cover over 3m of ground if given free range. This perennial ground cover likes full sun and a deep, well-drained soil, and dislikes frost. Sweet potato is featured in issue 5.2. 



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POWER PLANT | Hibiscus

Hibiscus sabdariffa Known also as rosella and often used in Australia for making jam, Hibiscus sabdariffa has many well-documented therapeutic powers Words by Kerry Boyne


part from its usefulness for jammaking or prettying up a glass of bubbly, the main reason for growing Hibiscus sabdariffa is for its cardiovascular benefits. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t choose it for its rather plain-Jane looks — unlike its more beautiful ornamental cousins whose very appearance says tropical paradise. Still, cardiovascular health is a very strong selling point. Many of us see a creeping rise in blood pressure and cholesterol levels as we age, but have no desire to go on medication. It’s far preferable to try to control these things naturally with diet and exercise. It seems that a tisane (herbal tea) made from the calyces (sepals) of Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers can match the effectiveness of some blood-pressure medications, decreasing systolic pressure by as much as 11 per cent. Note that the studies demonstrating this effect have been on subjects with mild or pre-hypertension — not high enough to be on medication. Serious

hypertension is another matter and definitely not something to try to manage on your own. It’s not only scientific trials that offer positive assessments of the benefits of hibiscus tea, or sour tea as it’s also known due to its tart, cranberry-like flavour. It has been traditionally used to control blood pressure in many countries, from Africa and the Middle East to the Caribbean, Asia and the Philippines. It has a dizzying array of names to reflect this, including our own “rosella”, as well as nicknames like “drink of the gods” and “tisane of the pharaohs”. Getting back to the scientific trials, studies on animals have consistently shown that consumption of an extract from this plant lowers blood pressure in a dosedependent manner. Now studies on humans have shown similar results. A 2009 study compared the antihypertensive effectiveness of hibiscus tea with that of black tea in 60 type 2 diabetic people with mild hypertension. It was found that the hibiscus tea was as effective at lowering blood pressure as

A 2009 study found that hibiscus tea was as effective at lowering blood pressure as the commonly used medication captopril — but with no side-effects. 18 | Good Organic Gardening

Hibiscus tea Pick and separate the calyces from the seed pods as they ripen and dry by your favoured herb-drying method. To make the tea, place a couple of teaspoonfuls of the dried calyces in a pot and steep in boiling water for 10 minutes. For a richer flavour add some slivers of fresh ginger and a small piece of cinnamon bark, or experiment with other spices. You can make tea with fresh hibiscus, too, but drying it ensures an ongoing supply. The therapeutic dose is 2–3 cups a day.

Photos: iStock


the commonly used medication captopril — but with no side-effects. Similarly, a 2010 randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 65 pre- and mildly hypertensive adults not on medication, who were allocated either three cups of hibiscus tea daily or placebo for six weeks. The results showed that the tea significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. More than half the studies of the plant’s effect on lipid profiles have shown that the tea lowers total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Scientists have looked at a number of mechanisms to explain these effects, including its kidney-protective effects, its mild diuretic action without impacting on electrolyte levels and its tendency to reduce sodium concentrations without affecting potassium levels. Perhaps the most important factor is the antioxidant effects of the anthocyanins and

Can you afford not to buy an AUSTRALIAN GROWN Flaxseed Oil? the organic acids, including citric, malic and tartaric, which give it its sour taste. It also contains acidic polysaccharides and flavonoid glycosides that give it its characteristic deep-red colour. The important rider to this is if you want to enjoy its therapeutic effects you need to consume it every day. Some of the studies mentioned showed that when participants stopped drinking the tea for just three days, their blood pressure began to creep upward — systolic pressure by 7.9 per cent and diastolic by 5.6 per cent. Once you develop a taste for this delicious tea — made even more flavoursome by the addition of fresh ginger and a piece of cinnamon stick — you’ll find drinking it daily no hardship. While it is an ingredient in some herbal teas, most notably Red Zinger, often along with rosehips, pure hibiscus tea is very expensive to buy, so it’s well worth growing your own.

Growing A West African native, Hibiscus sabdariffa is widely naturalised in northern Australia, including southeast Queensland — so much so that it’s regarded as an environmental weed in WA and NT. It likes warm climates and rich, well-drained soils. A perennial that’s usually grown as an annual (the first crop is its best), it can reach 1.5–2m in height but will need plenty of water and full sun for most of the day. The plant needs a long growing season to crop — at least five months — so plant in spring when the soil is starting to warm up; late spring in southern areas; and early spring in tropical regions. The seed can be sown direct if the soil is warm enough, or plant out seedlings when they have four or five leaves. Cover seed with 12mm of soil and plant 50cm apart. Use a pinch of fertiliser when planting in the ground and water in with a Seasol solution or similar. Three or four plants should give a good crop of calyces for tea-making. During summer, the plant produces dark-red-centred yellow or white flowers that turn pink over the day, followed by red fruit. The papery flower petals give way to a fleshy, bright red calyx (sepal) encasing the seed pod. This is the part we harvest, about 10 days after flowering, when red and fleshy. If left too long it will go dry and brown. The plant has few problems though it can be attacked by hibiscus beetle and metallic flea beetle. Control with a soap spray. 

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Good Organic Gardening | 19

FAMILY HEIRLOOMS | Sweetcorn EarlyPlump, Leamingmulti-colored

bell peppers

Sweet corn This staple of many traditional diets comes in a range of shapes and colours Words by Melissa King

’d say I eat sweetcorn at least twice a week. It’s one of those vegetables that’s so sweet and delicious you can almost forget you’re being healthy. It’s also one of the few vegies that my picky son will eat without bribery. Sweetcorn is undoubtedly one of those crops that taste better when it’s fresh. If left too long, the natural sugars in the kernels turn to starch, which makes them tougher to eat and not as sweet. So the best way to enjoy cobs is freshly picked straight from the garden. Corn is perhaps the most tinkered with of all vegetables, having been selectively bred over thousands of years to increase sugar content and produce a diversity of varieties of different sizes, shapes, colours and resistance to pests and diseases. In fact, people with diabetes may be better able to tolerate heirloom varieties of corn than the super-sweet hybrids of today. Corn is also one of the most genetically modified vegetables — all the more reason to grow and harvest heirloom corn at home.


decorative white and slate-black kernels to ‘Pennsylvania Butter-Flavored Popcorn’, which apparently tastes like butter without any butter added. But if you’re looking for easily available, tasty heirloom corn, look no further than ‘True Gold’, a traditional open-pollinated variety with delicious buttery yellow kernels that taste just like real corn should, or ‘Golden Bantam’ with tasty, rich, yellow cobs that dates back to 1902. Corn is so versatile that it can be grown for eating fresh, boiling and barbecuing, popping or making into flour, depending on the variety. Some are so decorative that you can grow them for their ornamental value alone, like the aptly named ‘Painted Mountain’ with kernels in a rich tapestry of colours from white, yellow and black to burgundy and red. Beyond its decorative qualities it’s a great variety for grinding into flour or drying for popping. Popcorn fans might also like to try ‘Ontos Oval’ with white oval-shaped kernels that pop beautifully.

In fact, people with diabetes may be better able to tolerate heirloom varieties of corn than the supersweet hybrids of today. Corn is also one of the most genetically modified vegetables — all the more reason to grow and harvest heirloom corn at home.

Heirloom varieties The internet lists a treasure trove of old varieties, from ‘Black Mexican’ corn with

20 | Good Organic Gardening

Growing Sweetcorn is a sociable plant that likes to be planted in blocks some 5–6 rows wide. It’s wind-pollinated, so planting in this manner assists pollination and encourages a heftier crop. Planting in this style does take up 

Sweetcorn |


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space but you can underplant them to make your patch more productive. In fact, there’s a Native American tradition of interplanting corn with beans and squash, known as Three Sisters. The corn provides a climbing frame for the beans; the beans fix nitrogen into the soil to help feed the corn and the squash; and the large squash leaves act like living mulch, helping to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. It’s a winning combination! Sweetcorn enjoys a warm, sunny position. Ironically for a plant that is wind-pollinated, it does need protection from strong winds, which can blow tall plants over. It’s a fast-growing, heavy-feeding crop, so add lots of well-rotted animal manure and compost to the soil before planting. I also like to hill compost around plants as they grow to encourage stronger, more stable plants and help nourish the soil. Because plants are shallow-rooted they can be susceptible to drying out, so keep the water up, particularly when the “tassels” (male flowers) appear on the tops of the stems, until they are ready to harvest. Don’t forget to also remove unwanted weeds, which compete with plants for water and nutrients.

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Photos: Courtesy of The Diggers Club & Stami Donovan, Greenpatch Organic Seeds

4 5

Sweetcorn |


1 Golden Bantam 2 Corn Anazasi 3 True Gold 4 Corn plants in full bloom 5 Corn Anazasi 6 Corn Golden Bantam 7 Early Leaming 8 Painted Mountain


Sweetcorn is easy to grow from seed and in most areas can be sown in spring for a summer and autumn harvest. Simply sow the large seeds (kernels) into a hole 2–3cm deep and protect young plants from hungry slugs and snails.

Harvesting 7 8

You’ll know that sweetcorn is ready to harvest when the silks at the top of the cobs turn brown. You can also push your fingernail into a kernel to test for ripeness. If the juice is milky, the corn is ripe and ready to pick. If the fluid is clear, it needs more time to mature. To harvest, simply twist the cob off with a quick downward movement. I like sweetcorn boiled, steamed or barbecued with just a hint of butter and pepper. It’s best eaten fresh, but if you’ve got loads, simply blanch and freeze to enjoy later. 

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Sweetcorn & Baby Spinach Salad This staple of many traditional diets comes in a range of shapes and colours


Ingredients • 3 corn cobs • Olive or coconut oil • 3 cups baby spinach leaves • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts • 150g fetta, cut into small dice • Juice of 1 lemon • 1½ tbsp olive oil • Sea salt & pepper to taste

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Method 1. Give the corn cobs a light smear of oil and cook on a barbecue or griddle, turning frequently, until some of the niblets start to turn golden on the edges and are tender inside, about 20 minutes. 2. Using a sharp knife and holding each cob on its end over a cutting board, slice off the niblets and allow to cool. 3. Place leaves in a salad bowl and add corn niblets, chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts and fetta cubes. 4. Mix together the lemon juice and olive oil and drizzle over salad. 5. Season to taste and toss.

Photos: Kerry Boyne

his salad is particularly good with lamb cutlets, chicken or fish, especially if you are barbecuing. The corn is sweeter and more caramelised if cooked on the barbecue or grill, but you can also boil, steam or roast it in the oven. Makes enough to serve 6–8 as a side salad.

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GARDENING FOLK | Lucy Miller Lucy has raised a beauty! This handsome organic cabbage was successfully protected by the fine vegie net

A lucky escape Lucy Miller describes her escape from the relentless chaos of the city to 20 acres of her own private haven on the NSW mid north coast

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Lucy Miller | GARDENING FOLK Lots of edibles can fit into a small space

Rosella seeds are saved for next year’s planting

Corrugated iron from the old sheds was up-cycled to make raised garden beds

Trying new vegies each season means I am, in essence, practising crop rotation without needing a formal plan. Words by Lucy Miller was born and raised in the city but never felt quite at home there. So as soon as I was given the opportunity to move out of suburbia, away from the chaos, traffic, noise and relentless daily grind, I bought 20 acres on the NSW mid north coast. About half of the property was relatively untouched bushland while the other half resembled a dumping ground, complete with truck parts, rubbish, old fencing materials and three sheds well beyond repair. The little house sat exposed to the elements, surrounded by weeds and weed grasses. Much of the topsoil had been removed when the land was levelled, exposing compacted clay, crusher dust and gravel. Many people would have blanched at the unkempt state of the property, but what I saw was 20 acres to nurture, experiment


with, create in, relax in and enjoy: 10 acres of “blank canvas” lacking any sort of biodiversity and 10 acres of beautiful bushland worthy of protection. My dream was to create a wonderfully productive vegetable patch, protected and supported by fruit trees, within a thriving native landscape. My initial focus was on establishing windbreaks, planting small clusters of fruit trees (which may take years to fruit) and building raised garden beds for herbs and vegetables. The house relies on tank water, so I had a pump installed to service the gardens from the dam. The house also has a septic system that drains into the front yard. Water run-off from the vegetable garden eventually seeps back into the dam for reuse. Hardwood timber and corrugated iron from the old sheds was upcycled to make raised garden beds, which were filled with bought soil. Turning these garden beds into healthy

diverse ecosystems was a big challenge that began with improving the soil structure.

Soil staples To improve the soil, I mix through coco peat and blood and bone and then top it with organically certified sugarcane mulch. Coco peat retains water and is a favourite food for worms. I’ve been rotating through the beds in-situ worm farms made from old plastic buckets. I fill the buckets with coco peat, kitchen scraps, goat manure and occasionally some shredded newspaper. Before long, the earthworms move into the compost, then out into the garden bed. When people ask me what I do with my land, saying that I grow vegetables and have a cat doesn’t seem to cut it. That’s why I acquired two Boer goats. My goats are organic lawnmowers and poo producers for my worm farms. Apparently, a goat is as intelligent as  Good Organic Gardening | 27

GARDENING FOLK | Lucy Miller Lucy is passionate about her organic garden

Pretty and unusual Lagos spinach

Tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vine

Intricately exquisite Cape gooseberries

a three-year-old child. Goats can be toilet trained, for example, but they also have cheeky, inquisitive toddler minds, complete with the stubborn never-give-in attitude. I love their personalities! Goats do such a good job of processing what they eat that their manure won’t burn the leaves of plants and can go straight into the worm farm. As browsing animals, goats eat a variety of foods, which means their manure contains a much more diverse range of minerals and nutrients than other animal manures. Unfortunately, though, their efficient digestive systems strip most of those nutrients out, so goat manure is considered a soil conditioner rather than a fertiliser. Nevertheless, the worms love it, so I use worm tea as a liquid fertiliser and add worm castings to each bed before planting and mulching.

In the gardens around my house, I’ve planted an eclectic mix of vegetables, herbs, flowering plants, natives and exotics. Each plant is there to create biodiversity, to fix nitrogen, to deter pests, to attract bees, to attract beneficial insects or simply to be eaten. I plant annuals among the perennials to take advantage of each growing season. When the annuals are replaced, I can turn over the soil around the perennials while they become established. In my raised vegie beds I usually plant crops I have had success with in the past, along with many that I have not grown before.

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Photos: Lucy Miller & Diane Norris

Productive gardens

Lucy Miller | GARDENING FOLK Eggplants are easy to grow

Potatoes grow profusely and easily in a netted cone

Malabar greens (also known as Ceylon spinach)

The wallabies love to eat the leaves off my strawberry plants, but they don’t like chives, so I plant a ring of chives around the perimeter of my strawberry patch. Trying new vegies each season means I am, in essence, practising crop rotation without needing a formal plan. There are so many choices when it comes to edible plants that, if you don’t need to produce commercial quantities, different species can be planted each year to provide the same benefits. For example, last season I grew Malabar greens and this year I’m growing Lagos spinach. Growing unusual plants keeps things interesting. I also try to grow fruits and vegetables that are expensive to buy: figs, blood plums, Davidson’s plums, rosellas, avocadoes, tamarillos, purple carrots, pomegranates, mangoes, red paw-paw and macadamias, to name a few. These make great gifts for friends and family and excess can be made into simple jams or chutneys, dehydrated or even brewed into beer! I get great satisfaction from sharing the more unusual things I grow and exploring the tasty rewards nature can provide. Quirky things such as yacón, Cape gooseberries, spaghetti squash, Mexican sour gherkins and persimmons can excite and engage. People are always interested in bush tucker and things that are a bit different; they want to know what mangelwurzel tastes like, if Egyptian walking onions actually move about and whether there are benefits in eating golden beetroot over red beetroot. Many people don’t realise that loofah sponges grow on a vine and peanuts begin as a flower. The garden can provide many a conversation starter and more than a lifetime of learning.

Clever solutions One thing I have learnt is that, if you look hard enough, there will inevitably be an organic option for solving a problem or treating a pest or disease. Pesky resident wallabies are managed simply by leaving patches of lawn for them to graze, growing additional quantities of the crops they like and arranging plants strategically (basically, hiding them) when they need protection. The wallabies love to eat the leaves off my strawberry plants, but they don’t like chives, so I plant a ring of chives around the perimeter of my strawberry patch. Any runners that escape the chives barrier are fair game and the wallabies are welcome to trim them for me: companion planting with a twist! I also tried a range of things to protect my brassicas, including white oil, eco neem, plastic butterflies and CDs. Then I invested in some vegie netting and the results were amazing. Throughout winter I harvested big perfect cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers — organic success! My attention has now turned to the 10 acres of bushland. Fires came through the area in 2013 and I feel an obligation to ensure that native plants, rather than the stronger weed species, regenerate the area. It’s time to put my conservation and land management skills into practice. It’s important for us to regenerate pockets of native habitat and local vegetation corridors. Learning for me is a

lifelong passion, so I will continue to study, attend gardening workshops and events, read everything I can get my hands on and listen to the experiences of others. And whenever I’m given the opportunity, I hope to share my knowledge and teach others what I have learned. Finally, I’m beginning to see areas in my garden that are reaching critical mass, which means less toil for me. Pockets are becoming self-supporting and resilient. There is life in the soil and health and vigour in the plants. There are bees, birds, insects and myriad scents in the air. Each day I do a few jobs around the place and they are all adding up to big improvements. Slowly but surely, the barren land is being transformed into a garden that is welcoming and a joy to be in. The productive vegie patch, orchard and native gardens are all taking shape. 

Lucy’s top tips 1. Ask lots of questions — listen and share what you learn. 2. Let nature do the hard work for you — compost and mulch. 3. There is always an organic solution. 4. Create biodiversity and reach critical mass, then things will become self-supporting. 5. Crop-rotate without a plan by simply planting new things.

Good Organic Gardening | 29

GARDENING FOLK | Jana & Pieter Holmer Pieter enjoys special time in the garden with our daughter Holly

Full circle Descended from generations of food growers, this family is carrying on their farming family traditions in inner-city Melbourne

Word & photos by Jana Holmer ’m a carer for my husband Pieter, who was disabled by an accident. I’m also a mum, a qualified builder and I write for Faith FM radio as well as for gardening magazines. My parents were farmers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pieter’s father farmed in Holland. I recall our time at my grandmother Manda’s in Bosnia-Herzegovina where she grew corn, wheat, plums, cabbages, apples, pears and grapevines. She also grew tobacco and raised


30 | Good Organic Gardening

livestock including sheep, ducks, hens, pigs and cattle, along with keeping bees. I would often wake up early to milk Miliva the cow alongside my Aunty Anica. We would dip our fingers in the warm milk to lubricate them first. Each morning, we made cheese, butter and yoghurt and drank lashings of cream. Manda had a cellar filled with meat and food she’d grown. When Aunty Rosie arrived from the US, my mother and I had to move into the cellar because Manda’s house was

so small. We slept on a stinky chopping table. By morning, my hair smelled of garlic and pork. I couldn’t wait for my aunty to return to the US. I’d lie awake each night, counting the stored food above my head. I recall three pigs’ heads, pigs’ bottoms and a couple of heavily salted beef carcasses; plus jars of olives, capsicums, peaches, plums, tobacco leaves, corn and plenty of drying garlic swinging from the trusses.

Jana & Pieter Holmer | GARDENING FOLK Our beehive sits nicely on a concrete trough stand topped with a marble slab

Edibles grow right up to the main entrance of our home

For beneficial effects, we selectively companion-plant herbs and vegies together

Kale thrives in one of our repurposed wine barrels

My mother came to Australia in 1960. In her new home in Sydney she replaced buffalo grass with vegetables and flowers with onions and tomatoes, and there was always a plum or a fig tree on the property. So gardening has always been part of my life.

Inner-city haven Pieter bought The Manor with his superannuation in 1997. Situated in Coburg East, Victoria, and resembling a country

estate, it’s on 997sqm nestled behind 35ha of Merri Merri Creek, once an abundant water and food source for the Wurundjeri people, who hunted emu and rufous hare-wallaby here and harvested yam daisy and native lilies. Today, it provides wildlife habitat for local residents to explore. The local climate attracts wonderful indigenous wildlife to our suburban property and throughout the year Merri Creek waters flow continuously. My daughter

Holly especially enjoys the sound of the Pobblebonk frog in springtime. We can often see birds such as scarlet robins, striated thornbills and rufous whistlers from our kitchen window, frolicking in our rich chocolate soil, digging for fat and juicy worms. When we arrived in Coburg we discovered CERES 2km north along Merri Creek bike track. It’s the last surviving inner-city market garden, having been farmed by Italians and Chinese for over 150 years.  Good Organic Gardening | 31

GARDENING FOLK | Jana & Pieter Holmer

My grandmother Manda (left) and Auntie Lilly

Holly loves exploring the garden on the smooth paths

I’d lie awake each night, counting the stored food above my head. I recall three pigs’ heads, pigs’ bottoms and a couple of heavily salted beef carcasses; plus jars of olives, capsicums, peaches, plums, tobacco leaves, corn and plenty of drying garlic swinging from the trusses. We found that Merri Creek Market Gardens has community members helping to plant and harvest produce. With this in mind, we set our sights on replicating a sustainable garden to share with our tenants, who live above us.

Evolving garden Pieter and I moved into The Manor on our wedding day and began work on the garden before renovating the house. First, we removed three Norfolk pines, nine cyprus trees, two oak trees and 38 bushes and replaced them with 37 cherry trees, peach, apricot, mandarin, plum, fig, pear and grapevines. I painted four wine barrels and drilled holes for drainage. Using organic soil and organic blood and bone, I allowed the soil to settle for a few days then topped it up with organic matter sourced from garden beds and added dry leaves from my neighbour’s oak tree. I watered it well before planting seedlings. That was the beginning. We continuously evolve our garden to suit our lifestyle. We now have raised garden beds to retain water, minimise weeds and provide easy access for Pieter. At times when he isn’t coping so well, venturing out to the garden helps to restore his confidence. It’s specially designed for disabled access to the miniature fruit

32 | Good Organic Gardening

trees and abundant herbs growing along the pathway. Every year for each of our birthdays, a new miniature fruit tree is planted in the disabled garden. Holly has enjoyed the garden since she was six months old. She started eating parsley, strawberries, herbs and tomatoes back then. We’ve attempted to grow bananas. Our neighbours say we are crazy. No one grows bananas in inner-city Melbourne! I chose a wind-protected, full-sun position beside the

house near a brick wall. The soil is rich in organic matter, well-drained and fertile. I mound up the soil so the roots don’t get too wet. Apart from bananas, we grow black muscat and sultana grapes, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, pears, figs, blackberries, blackcurrants, whitecurrants, cherries, chillies, strawberries, spinach, kale, silver beet, onions, garlic, almonds, broccoli, lemons, oranges, mandarins, apples, stevia and all kinds of herbs and spices.

Jana’s gardening tips • When renovating, cover your soil to protect against contamination by paint, chemicals and heavy metals. • Improve your soil with all manner of beneficial organisms and bucketloads of compost and forest leaves. • Soil needs air for life. Ensure it’s not too wet and keep it friable and moist. • Heap compost in a corner of your garden. No need for tumblers and bins. • Dig no further than three inches down and top with organic material. • Replace your normal shoes with garden boots. You may not realise how many pathogens and pollutants your shoes carry to organic soil beds. • Collect seeds and label and date them. • Never plant vegetable crops in the same area two years running. Rotate corn, potato and tomatoes particularly to avoid disease. Legumes planted after corn will fix nitrogen in the soil, replacing what the corn depleted. • Sprinkle lime after each harvest to eliminate disease in the soil. • Weeds can grow harmoniously with food plants, but keep them under control.

Jana & Pieter Holmer | GARDENING FOLK Wine barrels blend naturally into our vegie garden — we can grow just about any edible in them

Every year for each of our birthdays, a new miniature fruit tree is planted in the disabled garden. Jana’s organic pest control • Fungal diseases: Dissolve 2 tbsp of bicarb soda in a litre of water. Pour into a spray bottle and spray affected areas every couple of days until the problem ceases. • Powdery mildew: Combine equal parts milk and water and spray on infected plants 2–3 times a week. • Insects and fungal diseases: Combine 1 tbsp cooking oil, 2 tbsp bicarb soda and a few drops of ivory soap in a litre of water. Spray until problem ceases. • Insects on fruit trees: Combine lime sulphur and olive oil and spray weekly on tree and trunk of dormant fruit trees. • Ants: Leave a couple of mint teabags where ants are most active. Crushed cloves also work as an ant deterrent. • Cockroaches: Spread bay leaves or garlic in active areas. • Fleas: Plant the annual fleabane daisy (Erigeron speciosus) to repel fleas. • Mosquitoes: Marigolds give off a fragrance that bugs and flying insects hate. • Flies: Place a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a scrap of absorbent paper or cloth and leave in areas where flies are a problem.

We can step out and easily harvest our vegies any time of the year

Over the years, I’ve dug compost holes and put scraps straight into them. For me, it’s a better way to compost than using expensive bins and elaborate boxes. I don’t have a worm farm, either, but I always manage to uncover healthy earthworms in my garden at weeding time. I attribute this to earthworms’ need for a continuous supply of calcium and the addition of lime raises pH and adds calcium. Earthworms don’t like soil that’s too acid, alkaline, dry, wet, hot or cold, so their presence is a good indicator that the soil conditions are right for plant growth. Weeds are brought under control by hand weeding or smothering with mulch or pea straw. What we can’t grow I buy from Aussie Farmers Direct. It supports local farmers and I’m guaranteed to receive seasonal produce that we don’t normally eat. It’s always fun to see what turns up.

Milk and honey Our goat Maggie is a joy to watch. She has been part of the household for over 13 years. She stomps on snakes that enter the property during drought periods. Her manure is the best fertiliser; it has fewer odours and is easier to work with — it spreads evenly and composts more quickly than other manures. It’s higher in nitrogen than cow and horse manures, though. We found Maggie’s manure is excellent for improving the soil’s texture. Water is used more efficiently and more oxygen reaches the plants’ roots. Maggie eats fresh lawn clippings each month when the lawns are mown and every morning she eats a half a bucket of chaff. We have beehives, too, and our goal is to keep them populated and raise awareness of the parasite Varroa destructor, a flea-

sized mite that weakens honeybees and spreads a virus that can kill whole colonies. The second major bee killer is colony collapse disorder, which results in the worker bees mysteriously dying off. It doesn’t exist in Australia yet. We need to encourage councils to establish urban beehives in neighbourhoods to boost pollination and help maintain the genetic diversity of our honeybees. Feral bee swarms can be captured and relocated to strengthen the wild bee genetic line. I stopped using any kind of chemicals in my garden and house long ago. I use baking soda, vinegar, charcoal, apple cider vinegar, lemons and salt to clean outdoor furniture, windows and pathways. Now that we are growing as much of our own food as possible, milking our goat and keeping our bees, life has come full circle. 

Good Organic Gardening | 33

GARDENING FOLK | Aaron Hodgson & Rebecca Tyndall Aaron, Rebecca and River in their productive front yard

Food front

and centre A suburban edible forest grows from the street frontage to the back fence of this Hunter Valley home 34 | Good Organic Gardening

Aaron Hodgson & Rebecca Tyndall | GARDENING FOLK Bountiful organic harvest

“Where we live is full of fairly bland front yards with neat lawns and a few ornamental shrubs. Our front yard is overflowing with banana trees, pumpkin vines, sweet potatoes, strawberries and mulberries.” Words & photos by Diane Norris his gardening couple live in Thornton, between Newcastle and Maitland in the NSW Hunter Valley. They have two sons — threeyear-old River and baby Marley — and are passionate about sustainable living. “It’s important to us in retrofitting our house to be more sustainable, being part of Transition Newcastle (a Transition Towns initiative) and involved in multicultural events,” says Aaron. Their block is about 790 square metres and the garden takes up all of the front yard and more than half of the backyard. It enjoys quite the perfect climate for growing all sorts of edibles — warm and humid in summer and cool to cold in winter.


It all began about seven years ago when Aaron and Rebecca dug up a patch of lawn to create a small garden bed for a few vegies and herbs. “We did manage to grow a lot in this small space but quickly realised we wanted to grow more,” says Aaron, “so we gradually dug up more and more lawn to make room for vegie gardens. Once we started, we just couldn’t stop. “We both had families who grew some vegies, so we did know how tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins etc grew. We think it’s important that children know how ‘real’ vegies and fruit grow — and taste them straight off the plant. I’m sure that seeing this as kids influenced us to start growing our own once we had our own place.”

Easy organics “Organic gardening is not hard,” Aaron says. “In fact, it’s often easier and cheaper than non-organic as you are generally not worrying too much about adding fertiliser and, of course, no pesticides etc. Most vegies grow easily without too much intervention, so really it’s not difficult to be an organic gardener.” The couple’s garden comprises flat garden beds built up with good organic soil and regularly topped up with compost and manure. Their focus is mainly on cultivating vegetables and fruit, in particular those things they really like to eat. They have a few ornamentals and natives, too, but have limited those to hardy species that don’t  Good Organic Gardening | 35

GARDENING FOLK | Aaron Hodgson & Rebecca Tyndall

River and one of his favourite hens

Pumpkin vines meander over the front yard

Sunflowers are glorious bee attractors

Their edible forest provides a magnificent bounty: bananas, limes, tangelos, chillies (a few varieties), silver beet, beetroot, eggplant, pumpkin, green beans, snow peas, lettuce, tomatoes, mulberries, basil, papayas, leeks, onions, spring onions, broccoli and cauliflower. require a lot of attention and water. They also have a hive of native stingless bees. Their edible forest provides a magnificent bounty: bananas, limes, tangelos, chillies (a few varieties), silver beet, beetroot, eggplant, pumpkin, green beans, snow peas, lettuce, tomatoes, mulberries, basil, papayas, leeks, onions, spring onions, broccoli and cauliflower. The fruit and vegies thrive with the addition of worm juice from their worm farms, seaweed solution, chicken/cow manure and fish emulsion. They have two medium-sized black compost bins for garden cuttings and some food scraps. They also return a lot of garden and lawn cuttings direct to garden beds. Near the garden are four black plastic (Can o’Worms) worm farms, which are given most of the food scraps. Aaron says sensible and safe pest control is quite easy. They net some individual fruits and will try netting the entire mulberry tree in spring as they have struggled with fruit fly. Near the brassicas, I noticed cute little plastic white butterfly shapes, which Aaron says seem to deter cabbage white butterflies. And the two free-ranging chickens are adept at keeping down snails, slugs and curl grubs as well as producing eggs.

36 | Good Organic Gardening

Little challenges Aaron says the soil under the front lawn was dead before they dug it up and turned it into a garden. It had been over-fertilised with commercial fertilisers and repelled water. It didn’t even have insects and bugs living in it. “We had to work hard to build it up into a healthy soil that would bring back the worms and other beneficial creatures, as well as grow plants for us,” he says. Rebecca explains that a little trial and error happened, too. “We didn’t always choose the right plants for our environment. We chose some ferns that just did not like the heat and required too much water for us to maintain. We also chose some natives that didn’t survive. Learning to garden means trialling different plants to see what will work for you and there will always be some difficulties and some failures. We just took note of what worked and what didn’t and moved on.” Their garden is amazing and they are rightly proud of it. “We feel we have a good system of planting vegies that works well for us, and at the right time so we get a good yield,” says Rebecca. “Where we live is full of fairly bland front yards with neat lawns and a few ornamental shrubs.

Our front yard is overflowing with banana trees, pumpkin vines, sweet potatoes, strawberries and mulberries. Everybody who goes past our house can see what we grow and our house stands out in our street. “Recently, a Pacific Islander man knocked on the front door to ask if he could have some banana leaves for a hangi (barbecue). He told us our banana trees were the best he had seen growing in the area and asked if he could have a banana tree sucker. This made us proud. We want people to notice our garden and to realise they can grow real food in their own gardens easily. We also want to share our plants and produce when we can.”

A different approach Aaron and Rebecca’s front yard breaks the mould. They want people to see what you can grow in your own yard and try it themselves. They say they’re not afraid to experiment and see what works, although they only persevere with plants that are not too needy of attention and that produce well. “We try to be sustainable in most ways we live our lives,” says Rebecca. “We think about our consumption of goods and try to limit the resources we are using. We try

Aaron Hodgson & Rebecca Tyndall | GARDENING FOLK to buy second-hand and recycle our own unwanted items to others. “We have been retrofitting our home to be more sustainable over the past few years. We have water tanks that provide water to the whole house, including drinking water, as well as solar panels and many other features that contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.” They are also connected to mains water to supplement if the tanks run dry. The jewel in the crown, though, is their garden, which is something worth emulating — and they’ve proved it’s a satisfying and easy road to take. 

Rebeccan helps River search for strawberries

Aaron in the composting and worm juicing spot

Espaliering apples in small spaces has proved successful

Aaron and Rebecca’s top tips 1. Growing produce in your front yard attracts great interest from neighbours. It creates good communities by starting conversations, trading and giving away excess produce. Great-looking vegetables inspire others to take on their own edible gardening projects. 2. Well-aged leaf and wood mulch is great for vegie gardens as it lasts much longer than straw, is best at reducing evaporation and greatly improves soil quality. 3. Be creative with small yards by maximising space using vertical walls, front yards and verges. Don’t be afraid to change things around in your yard to allow more space for growing. For example, instead of a Hills Hoist taking up space, install a retractable line in a side passage. 4. Allow plants to self-seed as a cost-free way of gaining new seedlings; excess seedlings are easily removed or given away. 5. Growing unusual fruits and veg can be fun and interesting but it’s best to mainly stick to produce you regularly eat and trade.

Good Organic Gardening | 37



Ever wondered where the food on your plate comes from and how far it has travelled to get there? Vancouver couple James and Alisa found that the average ingredient travelled up to 3000 miles — leaving a carbon footprint big enough to undo all their efforts at living sustainably. So, with very little planning or thought, they made a pact to eat only foods sourced within a 100-mile radius of their home — for one year. Find out how they went with The 100-mile Diet.


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TIME TO PLANT | Lemon myrtle

Backhousia citriodora The leaves of this fragrant tree will add a wonderful lemony flavour and aroma to many dishes Words by Melissa King


rush past a lemon myrtle and you won’t be able to resist crushing and smelling a leaf, so strong is the citruslike fragrance. The lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) is an Australian rainforest tree that is native to subtropical Queensland and may also go by the name of lemon ironwood or sweet verbena tree. In the garden it’s a lovely evergreen tree to around 8m tall with dark-green leaves and a low-branching habit, with foliage almost to the ground. In fact, the branches are so low they often take root where they touch the soil — a useful way to propagate them. The leaves are intensely fragrant and one of the world’s best natural sources of citral oil. In autumn it displays pretty clusters of white flowers, which are beautifully scented, too.

40 | Good Organic Gardening

Oil made from the leaves of lemon myrtle is said to have antifungal, antiviral and

Other uses Lemon myrtle is used by florists as a foliar filler in bouquets and will permeate a room with a distinctive lemony fragrance. The leaves can be dried and used as an air freshener in wardrobes, cupboards and small rooms — any place that needs a lift. Lemon myrtle essential oil is used in soaps and body lotions, shampoos and lip-balms. For more information about lemon myrtle, visit Delicious recipes using lemon myrtle can be found at category/bush-food-recipes.

Growing Growing conditions: Lemon myrtle is a subtropical tree but can be grown successfully in cooler areas. It prefers a warm, sheltered, well-drained spot in full sun or part shade. Cooking ideas: Break the spines of the leaves and add them whole to dishes. Try hearty lemon myrtle chicken, zesty lemon myrtle cordial or make a citrus dressing from the leaves for fresh summer salads. Storage: Store fresh leaves for extended periods in the fridge or freezer. Leaves can also be dried and stored in an airtight container for up to seven years. Caution: Always identify bush foods correctly before consuming.

Photos: Stuart Green & Diane Norris

Lemon myrtle

calmative properties. It has also become a popular bush food with lemon myrtleinspired dishes appearing on the menus of modern restaurants. The leaves are used in much the same way as bay leaves: thrown whole into dishes to inject a delicious lemon-lime flavour. You can even make a refreshing, calming tea from the leaves. 

Lilly pilly | TIME TO PLANT

Native birds, like this rainbow lorikeet, love lilly pilly blossoms

Lilly Pilly Syzygium smithii, formerly Acmena smithii Commonly used as a hedging plant, this Australian native produces edible berries with a multitude of uses Words by Melissa King


s a garden plant the lilly pilly has a lot going for it: glossy evergreen foliage, colourful new growth, fluffy creamy-white flowers in spring and summer, and decorative berries.

Health benefits • High in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps eliminate free radicals in the body • Assists in regeneration and protection of skin cells • Helps promote collagen and elastin production for increased suppleness of the skin • Has astringent properties, which cleanse and freshen the skin, improving firmness and youthfulness • Has fruit acids, which help exfoliate the skin

It also clips really well, which makes it ideal for hedging and topiary. What is less known is that the attractive fleshy fruits it produces are edible. The berries, which vary in colour from white to pink, mauve and purple, can be eaten fresh from the bush or used in jellies, jams, chutney, sauces, syrups and confectionery — candied lilly pilly berries sound pretty good to me! They are also very attractive to birds, but a word of advice: don’t park your car underneath the birds’ roosting places. The berries have a tart flavour often described as cranberry-like with just a hint of spice, so try adding them to apple crumble or fruit pies for an interesting sour kick. In the wild, Syzygium smithii grows naturally in rainforests along the east coast from northern Queensland to Victoria and even on King Island, so it can be grown in both warmer and cooler areas, in sun or part shade. In its native environment it’s a big tree growing up to 20m high but is more

commonly around 7m tall in gardens, and nowadays there is a huge range of more compact and dwarf forms on the market, from the “minor” variety, which grows to just 3–3.5m tall, to ‘Hedgemaster’ which makes a lovely hedge around a metre high. Syzygium smithii is a good choice among the lilly pillies because it is rarely affected by lilly pilly psyllid, a nasty pest that causes the leaves to go all pimply and disfigured. 

Growing Growing conditions: Full sun or part shade, with well-drained soil. Harvest: You’ll know the berries are ready to harvest when they deepen in colour. Ripe berries fall easily off the bush. Cooking tip: Wash berries before cooking to remove grit and dirt. Gently squeeze each berry to remove the hard seed inside before you add them to your dishes. Cooking makes the berries less sour. Storage tip: Whole berries can be frozen. Growing tip: Lilly pillies are reasonably dry-tolerant once established, but they look better with adequate water. Trim regularly to keep plants compact and promote more colourful new growth. Caution: Whole berries (seed and all) can cause an upset stomach in some people. Always identify bush foods correctly before consuming.

Good Organic Gardening | 41

GARDEN DIARY | Late spring

Things to do in

November Spring has really morphed into summer now as temperatures increase and days get longer. The garden is going great guns By Jennifer Stackhouse Vegetables

given a light prune. Also clear away fallen fruits to remove breeding places for fruit fly. Apply fertiliser for fruiting plants (for example, an organic citrus food) along with homemade compost and one of the seaweed products on avocado, citrus, pawpaw and other summer crops. Watch out for aphids, caterpillars and grasshoppers on most plants. Many of these pests can be squashed as a quick and safe way to get rid of them.

COOL & TEMPERATE With the warmer weather comes the need to be ever more vigilant in the vegie patch. Daily watering is needed in many areas and the everyday wander with the hose or watering can is a good time to check for pest infestations and to pull up weeds. Be ready to squash small caterpillars and eggs. Check for slugs, snails, various vegetable bugs (often called stinkbugs) and grasshoppers, which may also be about. Early spring plantings may be flowering (especially tomatoes) or even producing a harvest such as cucumbers, so take your basket with you.

Fruit COOL & TEMPERATE The heady spring perfume of orange and other citrus blossom gives way to a mass of

42 | Good Organic Gardening


small fruits as the season progresses. Keep trees well watered to encourage the fruit to hang on. If the tree has produced an excess of fruit, or if the weather turns cold or windy, expect some of the tiny fruits to be discarded. Other fruit crops are also forming now, including stone fruit and pome fruits such as apples and pears. Thin fruit clusters to encourage larger fruit to develop. To do this, just remove one or two fruit from each cluster. TROPICAL We tend to think of fruit as being produced by trees, but watermelons are a good way to cover the bare earth and produce a refreshing summer fruit crop. Plant now for fruit in late summer. Also put in a crop of rosellas (hibiscus), especially if you are partial to homemade rosella jam or wish to make hibiscus tea (see page 18). Attend to fruit trees that have finished their harvest, such as guava and mango, which can be

COOL & TEMPERATE Make sure bare ground is well covered with organic mulch. As the mulch breaks down it nourishes the soil, but as we move into the warmest time of the year a layer of mulch also keeps the soil cool and helps retain spring moisture. As well, it makes it harder for weeds to germinate. If anything does grow in the mulch (including peas, which may germinate in pea-straw mulches), simply pull out the young plants and lay them on top of the mulch to break down. TROPICAL The rains that should be coming soon quickly deplete soils of their nutrients. Protect the soil from leaching by covering it with compost and mulch. Using your homemade compost on the garden now also frees up space in the compost heap for spring and summer prunings. Chop up or mulch pruned materials as you add them to the compost pile. Smaller pieces break down faster than big chunks. If you have dense, shrubby plantings, you can also lay prunings directly onto the ground as you go. 

Photos: Bigstock & Diane Norris

TROPICAL If you’ve resolved that this summer your vegie patch is to provide something for each meal, now’s the time to make sure you get planting. Sow seeds or plant seedlings each week to ensure there’s something to harvest over the weeks ahead. Leafy greens and herbs do well in raised garden beds and make a quick and refreshing base for any salad. Grow cherry tomatoes and beans (such as snake beans) and plant cucumbers up a teepee or along a trellis. Keep the harvest coming with sweet potatoes and stands of sweetcorn. For something completely different, plant loofahs (see page 12 for details).

Compost & soil

Late spring | GARDEN DIARY

4 1. Keep citrus trees well watered to encourage the fruit to hang on 2. Check for slugs, snails, various vegetable bugs and grasshoppers, which may also be about in temperate zones 3. Cucumbers need good support, so plant them up a teepee or along a trellis 4. Watermelon plants are a good way to cover the bare earth and produce a refreshing summer fruit crop 5. In tropical areas raised beds are ideal, especially for leafy greens and herbs 6. Sort out then chop up or mulch pruned materials to add to the compost pile

2 3

5 6

Good Organic Gardening | 43

GARDEN DIARY | Early summer

Things to do in

December It’s now summer and productive plants are growing apace. Make the most of the season by planting extra crops this month to keep the garden bountiful right through summer and look for productive ideas so you can give gifts from your garden By Jennifer Stackhouse Vegetables

Compost & soil 1


indicate the presence of scale, mealy bug or aphids, which may be feeding on new growth in your patch. Horticultural spray oils, such as Eco-oil, reduce infestations of these pests while a banding of beeswax or barrier glue around the trunk stops ants. Check citrus trees for stinkbugs such as bronze orange bug or spined citrus bug. Squash those clustering on the trunk on hot days or remove by hand with care — wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the stinging liquid they exude. Use a dedicated pair of tongs to grab these bugs, then squash or bag them to prevent them getting back to the tree. See page 46 for more information.

COOL & TEMPERATE I hate to bang on about it, but in fruit-fly zones it’s vital to protect maturing stone fruits against fruit fly using baits and traps, but look for the organic ones. Cover fruit clusters with exclusion bags — most are reusable so are a good investment. Ants are sometimes considered pests, but they are extremely useful and can

TROPICAL Here’s a tip if you are waging war with birds and bats over who gets the most of your homegrown fruit. Keep trees pruned low enough to be able to be netted. Use a bird-safe knitted netting (white is the safest colour). Even though this form of netting is less likely to snare wildlife, always check the

TROPICAL Think cool while you garden and avoid the sun. Follow the shade as you work. Even if you are outdoors for only a short time, protect yourself with long sleeves, sunscreen and a hat, and have fresh water handy to drink (don’t be tempted to drink from your hose!). Even though it’s hot and humid, there’s plenty to grow and eat in the tropical garden, with cucumbers, snake beans and lashings of Ceylon spinach.

44 | Good Organic Gardening

COOL & TEMPERATE The summer warmth makes this a great time of the year to turn garden waste and lawn clippings into compost. Compost heaps dry out in hot, dry weather, so hose them from time to time to keep them moist but not wet. Layer green and dry leaves to encourage rapid decomposition. Extreme temperatures can kill worms. Those in the soil and compost heaps move to where it’s cool, but worms in worm farms can’t escape the heat. Over summer, move worm farms into a cool location and on very hot days keep them cool with a layer of damp cloth or sacking. TROPICAL Replenish nutrients lost to torrential downpours by applying pelletised manures or tropical-strength fertilisers. Covering the soil with mulch and compost also protects it from rainstorms. As an alternative to the usual mulches, grow living mulches. These do very well through summer. Great choices include sweet potato (productive or ornamental), lemongrass or betel leaf, as these plants also protect and hold the soil. 

Photos: Bigstock & Diane Norris

COOL & TEMPERATE Get into the routine of inspecting vegetable crops once or twice a day. Most crops need daily watering and regular weeding. If a hot day is forecast, water plants early in the morning and, if a heatwave is on the cards, cover new plants and leafy crops with some form of shade protection. A pull-over length of shadecloth can help your crops survive a hot day. Remove at night. Keep well watered as heat-stressed leafy plants can bolt to seed, making them inedible. Plant another crop of tomatoes, cucumbers and beans to extend your harvest right through summer. If you are finding only male flowers on pumpkin vines, tip-prune, water and fertilise — female flowers will follow.

nets daily to make sure nothing has become entangled. An alternative to temporary netting is a permanent bird-excluding enclosure around your orchard — maybe a summer project! Turn excess or damaged fruit into jams or chutneys for Christmas giving and eating. Remember also, a mix of over- and under-ripe fruit can increase pectin levels for improved setting. Fruit to harvest now include pineapple, mango, custard apple and pawpaw.

Early summer | GARDEN DIARY

2 5 3 1. Ants can indicate the presence of scale, mealy bug or aphids on fruit trees 2. Tip-prune, water and fertilise pumpkin vines to encourage female flowers 3. A pull-over length of shadecloth or arch like this can help your crops survive a hot day 4. Protect yourself when summer gardening with long sleeves, sunscreen and a hat 5. To protect fruit trees from birds and bats, keep trees pruned low enough to be able to be netted 6. Don’t leave worm farms in the summer sun — move to a shaded and cooler spot

1 6


Good Organic Gardening | 45

PEST PATROL | Stinkbugs In November, young bronze orange bugs are out and about on citrus

Bronze orange bug Musgraveia sulciventris Commonly called stinkbugs, bronze orange bugs can wreak havoc on your citrus, but there are safe and eective controls for these pests Words by Diane Norris ronze orange bugs, normally known as stinkbugs, are found in temperate and tropical areas, mainly along the east coast of Australia. Originally, they would have eaten native limes but are now a major pest for all types of citrus.


Late spring and summer (notably November) is when stinkbugs appear, sometimes in plague proportions. Adult females lay their pale-green eggs in groups on citrus trees. These hatch and the nymphs are found most commonly on the undersides of leaves during winter.

The nymphs are small, pale green and considerably flatter than the adults. As they grow, they become bright orange to bronze with a prominent black patch on their abdomens and are shield-shaped and bronze to nearly black. As adults, they are nearly black, 2.5cm long and look like spiny cockroaches. If you have citrus, you need to be vigilant because at every stage they can cause damage to your trees by sucking sap. Their most notable attribute, though, as their popular name suggests, is they stink! Even if you can’t see them on your citrus leaves, their distinctive foul smell is a dead giveaway.

Early control is essential to catch the bugs before they reach their adult and breeding stage. This could result in them not being seen again until the following spring. We suggest spraying your citrus fortnightly with certified organic Eco-oil from early spring, following instructions on the label.


Adult stink bugs look like large spiny cockroaches

46 | Good Organic Gardening

The caustic fluid squirted by these bugs is dangerous and painful, particularly to the eyes. Always wear goggles as the bugs can squirt their smelly, acidic liquid into your eyes.

Photos: Jan Anderson, Emily Sephton & Diane Norris

Prevention and control



Eggs are quite easy to see on citrus stems or leaves

What garden bloggers say • When using any sort of oil or homemade spray, make sure both sides of the leaf are sprayed. • Control stinkbugs in winter by spraying with a soap spray to kill the overwintering eggs. In spring, get a stick and knock them off in the juvenile stage — when green or orange and visible. They don’t fly in the juvenile stage, so are easier to control before they morph into the black flying adult. • Knock the stinkbugs off the tree into a bucket, then put them on the ground and stamp on them (wearing rubber boots). • Instead of knocking them off with a stick, try using 10mL neem oil and 5mL pure soap per litre of water. For the soap component, try pure soap flakes. Dissolve one-third of a cup of soap flakes in hot water, then add to a five-litre sprayer along with the oil. It’s best to use all at once, as the soap can thicken and clog up the sprayer.

This will discourage the bronze orange bug as well as citrus leaf miner. Spray in the evening, on both sides of the leaf. There are also ways to get rid of them manually, but it’s very important to proceed with caution. Stinkbugs squirt out a caustic fluid that is dangerous and painful, particularly to the eyes. Always wear protective goggles, long sleeves and gloves. When I was little, I remember my father diligently doing daily inspections of our citrus trees and squashing stinkbugs between two wooden garden stakes. I don’t consciously kill insects, but I do know this control method is quick, safe and effective.

Hand removal (wearing gloves) is possible. Use a bucket of hot or soapy water to knock the bugs into. Alternatively, use long-handled kitchen tongs but keep them in the tool shed just for this purpose. Some gardeners use an old vacuum cleaner, with disposable bags, to suck the insects off citrus leaves. The horrible smell would definitely linger in the machine, so it would have to be kept in the garden shed as well, but it’s a swift method of getting rid of them. Put the vacuum bag, with its smelly cargo, into the garbage. Don’t compost. The natural predators of the stinkbug are the assassin bug and a few types of birds. 



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Good Organic Gardening | 47

THE UNDERGROUND | Mulch Feeding my annual flowering seedlings with a pelletised manure fertiliser before mulching

Mulching matters Getting the lowdown on when and how to mulch your garden 48 | Good Organic Gardening


2 3



Words & photos by Claire Bickle ulch is not compost and compost is not mulch. There, I’ve said it. That said, compost technically can be used as a mulch, but there are a few drawbacks, such as lack of weed suppression because the compost creates a water-absorbing base for weed seeds to bed into and germinate. Another catch is that during heavy downpours it won’t really slow the rain down and there will inevitably be erosion caused by rain and wind. Compost is best applied to garden beds before your mulch of choice is spread. Then the compost can feed your plants while breaking down and adding vital organic matter to your soil, rather than be washed or blown away or promote a weed infestation.


The benefits of mulching Mulching in the home garden is just recreating the natural fall of leaf litter in our forest ecosystems. The benefits include:

• Preventing erosion from wind and rain • Protecting soil from severe temperature fluctuations • Stopping excessive weed growth • Helping the soil retain moisture around the root zones of plants * • Creating a micro ecosystem for beneficial fungi and insects to dwell in • Improving soil structure and releasing nutrients as they decompose • Allowing plant roots to more effectively use

Chop and drop Plants such as comfrey and a variety of legumes can be cut and placed around fruiting trees or in garden beds to act more like a slow-nutrient-release mulch than a weed-suppressing one. Materials such as cardboard and paper can also be used effectively under other mulching materials, but they really need to be torn into smaller strips to allow water to penetrate the soil. Wet down before using.

1. Coarse sugarcane works well around perennials and permanent plantings 2. Lucerne hay adds nutrients galore as it breaks down 3. During times of drought it’s always a good idea to pull the mulch back to check soil moisture 4. Scoria comes from volcnaic rock

the top few centimetres of soil where there can be abundant nutrients • Slowing water runoff down by helping with infiltration • Keeping certain crops such as strawberries and cucumbers off the soil and less susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases • Providing minerals (if using pebbles, gravel or crushed brick as mulch) * Mulching just 6cm deep can reduce moisture evaporation from the soil by up to 60–70 per cent. For balcony gardeners, potted plants benefit from being mulched just as much as those in the ground. With pots it’s best to use finer mulches, though, such as chopped  Good Organic Gardening | 49



sugarcane or tea-tree, or you can get creative with decorative pebbles or glass beads. Even good old nut shells can work — just make sure they’re not from salted nuts as the salt will burn the plants.

Possible drawbacks There are not many negatives about mulching except when certain mulches are laid on too thick. This can create a watertight layer (thatching) and water and air may have difficulty penetrating to reach the roots of plants. During extended periods of drought you may need to pull back the mulch and handwater individual plants to ensure their root zones are receiving adequate water. Even using a rake or garden fork to loosen mulch that has thatched can be helpful. Grass clippings used as a mulch can be guilty of doing this, so they are really best composted and used underneath mulch rather than as a mulch on their own. High-carbon mulches such as woodchip, pine bark, sawdust and the like can draw

Say no to black plastic Being impervious, plastic will stop water and air from penetrating the soil and reaching the plant roots; a large percentage of water will just run off. Black plastic can also heat up substantially in the summer months and cause soil-life imbalances in the top layers of the soil. Keep in mind also that the use of petroleum-based products in its manufacturing is expensive and there are issues surrounding its lack of biodegradability.

50 | Good Organic Gardening


nitrogen out of the soil, but applying a fertiliser high in nitrogen before spreading your mulch can abate this. Seeds that require broadcasting may have difficulty germinating where there is a thick layer of mulch, as it can prohibit the seeds from finding a suitable moisture-absorbing layer to bed into. Certain types of mulch may also be dusty; if this is the case, wet down before applying and wear a dust particle mask. Some wood-based mulch can attract and harbour white ants (not for long if you have chooks freeranging, which can then mean you’ll find your mulch broadcast all over the place as your feathered friends hunt for termites). Keep these types of mulches away from wooden structures. Remember, too, that compost, mushroom compost and composted pine bark fines (small particles) can create a water-absorbing layer that makes an ideal weed seed germination layer.

Which mulch? Organic mulches Organic mulches that decompose readily add nutrients to the soil reasonably quickly while breaking down. Lucerne, pea straw, rice hulls, composted pine bark fines, straw and sugarcane are some of the most common organic mulches used in gardens. These mulches not only perform the various tasks of moisture conservation and weed suppression, but as they break down they actually add nutrition to the soil, in turn feeding your plants. The trade-off is that these organic mulches don’t last as long as some other organic mulch options because they break down more quickly and therefore need to be topped up at least annually and possibly more often.



Organic mulches that decompose more slowly and eventually add nutrients include pine bark, woodchip, forest mulch, hoop pine, tea tree and sawdust. Bark-type mulches come in an array of grades, from fine to medium and coarse. Coarse forms allow water to penetrate through to the soil more easily. Wool mulch mats are made from pure wool and recycled wool waste and are often used on revegetation projects where plants largely have to fend for themselves. These mulch options are effective and slow to break down. They can also provide excellent coverage and stop erosion on sloping sites without being washed away. Wool is biodegradable and will also release nutrients into the soil when it finally does break down. These are just some of the organic mulches that have a reasonably long life as garden mulch. They can save you money in not having to replace mulch as often and less time spent on maintenance. The trade-off for using these mulches is the very reason they last longer: they have a higher carbon content compared with mulches that decompose more readily. This means it’s advisable when spreading these mulches to apply a nitrogen-based fertiliser underneath, such as blood and bone or pelletised chicken manure, to combat the nitrogen drawdown when it occurs. Inorganic mulches Inorganic mulches include pebbles, stones, glass beads, scoria, gravel and crushed brick. These types of materials take a very long time to break down, which is great, but if they are likely to be littered with leaves and debris the effect can be lost, with the garden surface looking like a big mess. Plus, it can be very hard to remove the leaves from the pebble/gravel areas. Still, they do


look very decorative and remain functional when used in pots. Stones and gravel allow water to easily pass through into the soil and some types can actually add beneficial minerals and trace elements to soil as they very slowly break down over time. This would be fairly minimal, though. All these inorganic choices will deliver most of the benefits of mulching.

How to mulch We sometimes assume that everyone knows how to mulch, but if you are new to gardening

Nitrogen drawdown: what does it mean? As soon as you apply mulch to garden soil, organisms get to work on breaking it down. This is when nitrogen drawdown occurs. The soil bacteria and fungi need soluble nitrogen from the soil to help break down the carbon component of the mulch. The more carbon in the mulch, the more nitrogen is used up by the soil organisms.

you may never have had the need or opportunity to apply mulch before. First, remove any weeds or grass growing in the bed you are going to mulch. I find it’s a good idea to give the garden a really good soaking before laying the mulch, too. How thick? Generally, it should be 4–8cm thick. Be sure to keep the mulch away from trunks and stems, as it can cause collar rot and similar fungal issues by creating moist areas around vegetation. In cold climates, thick mulching can actually slow plants’ growth because it can keep the soil cooler for longer as the season moves from winter into spring. With the exception of inorganic types, no matter what mulch you choose, topping up will be necessary to maintain the desired thickness. And remember: if you want to use compost to feed your plants it’s best applied before the mulch. Also remember that highcarbon organic mulches need a nitrogenbased fertiliser applied under the mulch layer. I find open bales of lucerne, gardengrade straw or sugarcane are generally the cheapest way to buy them and they come apart easily in biscuit squares, which can be laid down on the garden and then loosened up for spreading.

9 5. Litter from the chicken coop can be used as a nutrient mulch 6. Straw is generally used on seasonally changed gardens 7. Coarse organic sugarcane 8. Forest mulch is generally a high-carbon mulch 9. White quartz can be used in rockeries or pots

Mulch maintenance A nice, thick layer of mulch doesn’t mean you never have to water. In fact, as mentioned, thick mulch can even act as a barrier for water/ rain penetration and absorption and you may need to actually pull it back and hand-water around root zones, then put it back. It’s advisable in any event to pull mulch back regularly to check soil moisture, especially during times of drought and hot or windy weather. 

Good Organic Gardening | 51

SHORT SHOOTS | Earthy ideas

5 1


Do your tools measure up?

Any long-handled tool can be turned into a handy measuring stick. Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground and next to it place a tape measure. Using a permanent marker, record desired intervals on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart you’ll already have a measuring device at hand.

Top Tips Words by Erina Starkey


Window display


Create a windowsill garden to bring colour, fragrance and clean air into your home. To start, select a sunny window with eastern or northern exposure. Select attractive pots with drainage holes and line the bottom with a layer of pebbles. To ensure your windowsill isn’t damaged with watering overspill it’s a good idea to put saucers or trays under your pots. Culinary herbs make ideal windowsill plants, as continually clipping them for cooking will ensure their size is kept in check. A regularly trimmed plant will fit the space better, while the plant’s efforts go into producing new edible growth.

Tough turf


Be sure to mow your lawn frequently during the spring and summer months. Keeping your lawn at a short height (minimum 3cm is good) will reduce the workload and weight placed on the root system. Also, varying your mowing pattern each time — one week mowing in a north-south direction, the next an east-west direction — prevents grass from bending, wear patterns and ensures upright growth. Maintain sharp mower blades otherwise you can create torn and ragged brown grass tips, which can also be vectors for disease.

52 | Good Organic Gardening

For a lusher, greener lawn, a dose of Organic Dynamic Lifter pellets may be in order.


Embrace the Natives

Planting native species attracts local birds and wildlife while creating a long-lasting, low-maintenance bio-diverse ecosystem. Australian natives have the benefit of being hardy, drought-tolerant and water-wise, thriving in a dry Australian climate and saving you time and expense on maintenance. Natives are also renowned for their bold and interesting colour, texture and form. Grow bottlebrush, banksia, correas, kangaroo paw and wattle to provide cover, nesting material, seeds and nectar for birds, as well as native violets and grevilleas to attract insects and lizards. A native garden is not only beautiful but instils a greater sense of responsibility for the natural environment.

Bee careful


While bees are vital pollinators in the garden, they can also deliver a painful sting. If stung, ensure the stinger is removed — the longer the stinger stays in the skin, the more severe the reaction will be. Quickly wash the infected area to clean away bacteria that could cause infection. Calamine lotion or a cool, wet chamomile teabag are great choices for soothing the pain, complemented by a cloth-covered ice pack to minimise the swelling. Natural home remedies include the topical application of baking soda and vinegar or a smear of toothpaste to neutralise the acidity of the sting. Ironically, honey is believed to be an excellent cure, providing relief and helping to heal the wound through its antibacterial, antiseptic and disinfectant qualities.

Photos: Waugsberg & Diane Norris



Fresh bathing


To ensure your garden is always filled with birds, provide a bird bath and keep it clean from algae and scum. The water in your birdbath should be changed daily and ensure you scrub out any decaying organic material regularly. While bleach is often touted as the best solution for algae removal, residue can be harmful to wildlife, so don’t use bleach or any chemical to clean in or near the birdbath. A natural solution is to scrub with diluted organic apple cider vinegar or with grapefruit seed extract — or simply vigorously with warm water.

Patty plants


Starting your seedlings indoors will help them thrive during the vulnerable germination period, resulting in earlier fruit and flowers. Repurpose your cupcake tin by filling with paper patty pans, potting mix and seeds in each case. Once the seedlings have germinated, the whole paper case can be planted directly into the ground.

A sign of the thymes


While there are many ways to create plant labels, one of the most natural and simplest methods is writing the name of the plant with a permanent marker on the face of a stone and placing at the base of the plant. Using a variety of different stone shapes and sizes will produce a decorative effect, while also offering a home for little lizards and insects.

The best arrangement


Instead of buying cut flowers from the local supermarket, visit your local markets instead. Not only does this support local growers directly, you’ll also get a better price, more variety and fresher flowers (the earlier you arrive on the day, the fresher your flowers will be). For long-lasting blooms, ensure your bouquet has plenty of unopened buds rather than flowers that are all open and test the buds with your fingers to feel if they are firm and healthy. Before adding your flowers to the vase, remove any leaves that will touch the water. Place your vase in a cool place away from direct sunlight and top up the water regularly to ensure longevity.

Money matters


When deciding on plants for your kitchen garden, consider the varieties that are the most expensive to buy in the supermarket. Herbs, tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, mange tout peas and artichoke are quite expensive in the shops while they are easy and inexpensive varieties to grow at home. Our last issue featured some of these in detail. 

Good Organic Gardening | 53


Birds welcome here Want to attract native birds to your garden? This easy-to-make nesting box will do the trick 54 | Good Organic Gardening

Nesting box | Native plants, like grevillea, attract native birds to your garden


Wood Oil ( or BioPaint ( Don’t use creosote or any form of petrochemical. The inside of the box, however, should always be left natural — untreated and unpainted.

Hanging tips To make a comfy lodging, add a couple of handfuls of shredded bark or wood shavings to the bottom of the nesting box, again making sure the material you choose is untreated. Ideally, the lid should be hinged and slope down from the back to the front of the box. The lid should overhang the front and sides of the box by at least 25mm. Three small (less than 10mm) drainage holes need to be drilled in the bottom of the box along the front edge to allow for drainage. Roughen the inside walls with coarse sandpaper or notch with a circular saw before construction as this will enable the chicks to climb out when they’re ready.

Placement Nesting boxes should be placed where people, cats, foxes and dogs will not disturb them. They need to be sheltered from the prevailing wind and the hot sun. They can be attached in various ways, but make sure they are firmly positioned and stable with a slight forward lean to assist young birds to exit and also help drainage. Place a strong piece of wire through an old garden hose and hang from a fork in a tree so the nest box rests against the trunk. Don’t tighten the wire around the tree as it will damage the bark. Avoid disturbing the nest box once it’s installed. It may take some time for birds to accept it and take up residence.

Words & photos by Diane Norris any native birds rely on hollows in trees for nesting and breeding. As suburbia expands, trees are often removed, reducing the number of havens birds can find for breeding. The introduction of one or more nesting boxes into your garden space is a wonderful way to provide shelter for birds and a safe place where they can lay eggs and raise chicks.

Western red cedar is another good choice or you can use Australian hardwood species, though these are heavy and solid to handle. Marine ply can be considered, too, as it is waterproof and durable. Never use CCA (copper chrome arsenic) or other chemically treated pine as it is toxic. Also, don’t use chipboard as it’s feeble and will virtually dissolve when wet. Galvanised or nickel-plated screws are best for joining all parts.

Suitable materials


Timber is the best material for a nesting box because of its insulating properties. Ordinary building or pressure treated pine is suitable.

For weatherproofing it’s preferable to use a water-based lacquer or natural oil finish. The best finish I could find was Livos Natural


What you need • 1.5m × 19cm × 1.25cm piece of untreated timber • 20cm × 2.5cm galvanized nails • 3cm × 2.5cm self-tapping screws • Drill • 32mm or 54mm hole-saw drill bit (for entrance hole) • Wood saw or circular saw • Sandpaper • Screwdriver • Tape measure & pencil

Good Organic Gardening | 55

WEEKEND GARDENING | Nesting box 1a



Carefully mark the timber into six sections, clearly writing the panel part on the timber as you go. The measurements are: back panel 45cm × 19cm; base 15 cm × 19cm; front 20cm × 19cm, one-piece roof 21cm × 19cm and two side panels each 19cm wide and 25cm on the back and 20cm high at the front. This allows the roof to slope.




Cut the wood along the pencil lines using a wood saw (or circular saw) and sand the rough edges.



Nail or screw one of the sides to the base of the nesting box then nail them both to the back section. Be careful to hammer gently to avoid splitting the wood.


Using the hole saw, make the entrance hole for the birds before fixing the front panel to the sides. Rest the front panel on spare timber to do this. Lightly sand the hole.



Secure the other side panel into position.

56 | Good Organic Gardening

Nesting box |





Place the box on its back and secure the front panel to the sides. The panels should all fit together snuggly without any gaps.


The lid can be screwed on now. The use of screws makes it easy to remove the lid to clean out the nesting box.



Paint or lacquer the outside of the nesting box only (leave the inside raw — unpainted and untreated) and secure to a tree.

Good Organic Gardening | 57

THE SHED | Drip Recycling irrigation

Wet and winding Drip irrigation is the most eďŹƒcient system to get water to your garden beds

58 | Good Organic Gardening

Drip irrigation |


Words & photos by Diane Norris roperly installed irrigation systems deliver water to your garden efficiently and effectively. Drip irrigation is still the most watervaluable system as it provides the most even distribution of all watering products and also eliminates overspray and evaporation issues. Before venturing to your local irrigation supply shop, draw a rough plan of all the areas in your yard you want to water with an irrigation system.


One-step dripline Dripline is a one-piece poly-pipe with the drippers bonded inside the pipe during the manufacturing process; it’s a one-step method of drip irrigation installation. The tube is generally brown with little holes (the dripper outlets) usually spaced at 0.3m to 0.5m intervals.

Spacing in the garden The dripline should be laid in a grid pattern, usually at 0.3–0.4m spacing. This is good for sandy or loam soil types. In heavier clay soil, spacing can be up to 0.5m between lines. Techline, which is manufactured by Netafim, is good for steep slopes as the drippers are pressure-compensated so the water output is unaffected by the gradient of the land.

Accessory selection When installing any type of drip irrigation system you must attach a good-quality filter at the head of the line (the tap end). A good-quality pressure-reducing valve (PRV) is recommended as dripline is designed to run at a much lower pressure than that of of your tap. You also need a flush valve, which flushes out any accumulated debris from the line each time the system is turned on.

What you need • Teflon tape • Battery-operated timer • Ratchet clips • 19mm black UV-stabilised poly-pipe • Wire pegs • Multigrips • Dripline • Accessories (your irrigation specialist will advise)

Good Organic Gardening | 59

THE SHED | Drip irrigation 1


We used a Galcon battery-operated programmable timer. It lets you select day, time and length of watering. Before attaching the timer to the tap, wrap Teflon tape around the thread to seal.




Join the timer to the filter/pressurereducing valve (PRV), making sure the washers are in place.


Attach the timer to the tap. The Galcon runs on a nine-volt battery, which lasts about six months or more.




Connect the 19mm black UV-stabilised poly-pipe to the outlet at the bottom of the timer. The ratchet clip secures the pipe to the fitting and ensures no leaks.




Wire pegs hold the black poly-pipe firmly in position.

60 | Good Organic Gardening



Using sharp secateurs, cut the poly-pipe in readiness to connect to the dripline.

Drip irrigation | 7



Attach a reducing T-intersection to fit the 19mm black poly-pipe to the 13mm dripline. Use ratchet clamps to secure.

Lay the dripline along your garden beds, spacing each row about 0.3– 0.4m apart. Hold to the ground with wire pegs. Cover with mulch. Each dripper will emit water directly onto your garden plants.


An air valve (left) is recommended as it stops any debris being sucked into the system, causing blockages after each watering. A flush valve (right) drains the system after watering, ensuring inundation doesn’t occur at the lowest point in the line.






Each hole in the dripline emits water directly into the soil of your garden. Always mulch to stop evaporation.

Thanks to Aaron Lee from Dural Irrigation NSW for advice and assembling our step-by-step instructional photographs. Dural Irrigation offers nation-wide distribution and guidance on everything you need to install an irrigation system. See for more details.

Good Organic Gardening | 61


Italian belles The busy, beautiful and personality-plus Ancona is a breed well worth considering for your flock 62 | Good Organic Gardening

Photos: Courtesy of Megg Miller

Ancona respond well to handling and can become very quiet

Ancona |


Ancona are keen foragers and love catching beetles or worms

Words by Megg Miller ew chooks! It’s exciting when the opportunity arises to introduce some new “girls”, but with all the breeds available it can be hard deciding which is best. Best will mean different things to different people. If the backyard is small, the breed of choice may be quiet bantams that potter around. Smallholders may be after a robust bird like the Sussex, discussed last issue. It’s well able to cope


out in the orchard and is the sort of bird that steals a nest, then turns up later with a brood of busy chicks. But I’m a townie and I value egg lay above all else. Because it gets very hot in my area, the new chums need to have reasonable heat tolerance. As well, it’s important to support pure breeds and one way to show support is to buy them for the backyard. The decision? Some Italian belles — busy beautiful pullets that should cope with the summer heat and are known for good

The pretty appearance of this breed belies their practical properties. Fine-boned, moderately sized birds, the females are very feminine and males show-offs with large combs and flowing tails.

egg lay. They are called Ancona and are a relative of the Leghorn.

The breed Never heard of the Ancona? Actually there is a port of that name in Italy on the Adriatic Sea where sailing ships picked up cargo in the early 19th century. Local fowls were collected en route to England where they were given the name Ancona upon landing, in lieu of any other appellation. The pretty appearance of this breed belies their practical properties. Fine-boned, moderately sized birds, the females are very feminine and males show-offs with large combs and flowing tails. Plumage colour and pattern are a delight. The traditional Ancona has lustrous greenblack plumage, each feather tipped with V-shaped white. This contrasts with the large red comb and wattles, the comb daintily

Good Organic Gardening | 63

FEATHERED FRIENDS | Ancona With large comb and wattles they have extra exposed areas to help dissipate body heat on hot days

Let Ancona free-range away from valuable garden areas

Owners have boasted that their cheeky pullets settled down to become pets that happily perched on garden wheelbarrows as they were wheeled around. falling to one side on the female. A neat white earlobe compliments the face. Legs are yellow evenly mottled with black. A Red variety is a recent creation but less commonly encountered. The main colour is chestnut, the white tips separated from this by a narrow black bar. The effect is striking. Large and bantam forms of Ancona are available. Expect a large hen to weigh 2.25– 2.50kg, a little more for males, and a bantam hen to be around 680–790g.

Breed behaviour This breed is a bright, lively one. They are sometimes described as flighty, but this is a little unfair as they respond well to handling and can become very quiet. Owners have boasted that their cheeky pullets settled down to become pets that happily perched on garden wheelbarrows as they were wheeled around. They are keen foragers, wandering considerable distances and catching beetles or worms. This means that let loose in the garden without supervision they may relandscape it for you. Their enthusiasm can be managed by fencing off valuable garden areas, limiting the forage time or restricting them to the orchard or heavily grassed areas.

Henhouse and yard Plan accommodation so that if Ancona have to be kept in, they have activities to keep them busy. A high perch will please them and if designed with one side like a ladder with rungs they will be up and down over the day.

64 | Good Organic Gardening

Litter on the floor up to 30cm deep will provide hours of scratching and dust bathing. Use chemical-free wood shavings or rice hulls. Regularly turned over, litter stays dry and friable and is usually free of odour as manure dries in it and gets scratched into dust. Another plus is that worm eggs cannot develop in dry litter, a great reason for housing hens if outdoor safety is an issue. Anconas will love a treat such as mixed grain scattered over the litter. A string bag hung from the roof and filled with greens provides another activity they enjoy. For exercise, hang it so the hens need to jump up or stretch to reach the greens. A straw yard attached to the henhouse is an asset. It doesn’t need to be any larger than the house but it is important to cover over the top with Laserlite or similar for year-round use. Ancona can fly if frightened, so you will be assured of their safety with a covered top. Wet yards are unhealthy and smell, so the covered top will prevent these problems. Just add in a bale of peastraw every couple of months and these busy birds will break it up for use in the garden. Weeds can also be added — the Ancona will make short shrift of them.

Feeding There is good news here. Ancona are economical eaters. It’s wise to offer a wellbalanced proprietary ration because, as high producers, they will struggle if given only table scraps and free range. Greens are a must. You may be surprised at how much they will consume. Don’t

forget that access to green feed results in lovely orange egg yolks. Shell grit is also a priority. Leave a container in their house and top up twice weekly. Shell grit, of course, helps keep eggshells strong.

Managing Ancona Ancona are extremely active but also capable of being very friendly birds. They love being talked to and enjoy human company. They are also smart fowls and quickly work out where the feed is stored and what you’re doing with a bucket of weeds. If you buy fowls that have had little handling, take it calmly and quietly, offering little treats as rewards for desirable behaviour. If really flighty, trim back the flight feathers on one wing (cut off about one-third); this will stop any panic flying. With the breed’s large comb and wattles they have extra exposed areas to help dissipate body heat on hot days. They enjoy a reputation for hardiness and this includes coping with summer extremes. Naturally, you will also need to implement basic hot-weather care. One thing you won’t need to worry about is broodiness; it’s rare in this breed. Shortcomings? Some strains of Ancona may be more nervous and flighty — ask about this before purchase. The main issue will be encouraging breeders to produce enough birds to satisfy the backyard market. If you are on the lookout for more fowls, you will find Ancona eyecatching birds with personality. And the egg basket will be kept full. For further information contact the Ancona Club of Aust, email:  Call us 0422 600 400 Over 45,000 Aussie Fans on Facebook

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Eggs are simply the best. We give them the best certified organic grain – no meat-meal (unlike others). We value the welfare of our feathered friends; that’s why we give them an idyllic habitat with plenty of space to roam, lots of deep mulch to scratch through, shady trees and lush pasture so our eggs are nutrient dense and rich in omega 3’s. We run no more than 600 hens per hectare. Our hens are always occupied so we don’t have to debeak.

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AMAZING GARDEN | Kids’ Vegies on the Verge

Taking to the street When you have a six-metre-wide verge in your street, bathed in sun all day, it seems criminal not to take advantage of it! Words & photos by Graeme and Cathy Stuart


n mid-2013 we decided to create a food garden on our nature strip for kids in our street. Our daughters, Jasmine and Alexa (then 12 and nine), delivered invitations to all the kids we knew of in our section of the street (plus a few more neighbouring streets), asking them to turn up at 1pm on Saturday with their gardening gloves and old clothes. We then waited to see what would happen. We knew a few people were interested but really had no

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idea if people would actually show up. On that first Saturday in August there were 23 of us: 14 kids and nine parents, most of whom stayed all afternoon! The grass was removed and a garden bed built using ACQ (alkaline copper and quaternary) treated pine —not the CCA-treated type with arsenic. There was so much enthusiasm that seven of the kids and four parents walked down to a local farmers’ market the following morning to choose organic vegetable and herb seedlings to plant.

In the afternoon the work continued and the first seedlings were planted the day after we started building the garden. Kids’ Vegies on the Verge was born! During the following week kids were often here after school, painting signs, planting more seedlings and seeds into pots and watering the new garden. There was an immense sense of pride and excitement in what we’d begun to create together.

Kids’ Vegies on the Verge|


For all of us, the garden is a great learning experience. A lot of the kids involved (almost all girls) now recognise different herbs: parsley, basil, rosemary, dill, chives. They identify fruit and vegetable plants ... Anyone is welcomed to pick from the garden

Respect our garden: the sign has worked!

Week two On the second Saturday we held our first meeting where a little working committee was formed with roles of Convenor, Treasurer and Secretary allocated. We do, however, have many other jobs as well as these three, including Special Events Manager, Special Projects Manager, Street Communications Manager and Watering Roster Manager! For all of us, the garden is a great learning experience. A lot of the kids involved (almost all girls) now recognise different herbs: parsley, basil, rosemary, dill, chives. They identify fruit and vegetable plants including potatoes, carrots, spring onions, beans, peas and snow peas, zucchini and cucumbers, 

Corn is harvested, cooked and sold at the streets Chicken Burger Night

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AMAZING GARDEN | Kids’ Vegies on the Verge

We receive so many positive comments from people walking past and we have incredibly supportive neighbours. We believe it’s important to do it with style and respect.

Cathy and Graeme Stuart decided to create a food garden on their nature strip

There is a real sense of community and ownership of the verge garden

installed two, with two more planned. One was a purchased worm tower and the other was made from an old plastic pot with the bottom cut out and holes drilled around the side. A large garden saucer was upturned for the lid. Once sunk into the soil, torn newspaper, a handful of composting worms, food scraps and some water were added. Apparently these little miracle workers will distribute their castings up to a metre from the worm tower, continually feeding the garden. Without the need to collect juice or castings and manually distribute them on the garden, this is a very low-maintenance system — simply fantastic. Having them right in the garden also means garden members easily understand the link between organic material breaking down to feed the soil and new plants.

Mutual benefit celery, lettuce, rocket, broccoli, rhubarb, watermelons, rockmelons and strawberries. It’s great. They’ll see and know a tomato plant popping up from compost we’ve added or corn plants coming up from seed. While we used organic soil from a local supplier, initially seedlings didn’t grow as well as expected. More compost and manures were needed to build up the nutrient level of this essentially sandy soil. Worm juice and comfrey tea (very smelly!) have also been added at various times.

Trial and error As with most gardens, not everything we’ve planted has been successful, but we see this is an important part of learning about growing food and understanding what different plants need. We planted broccoli too late last year, the coriander didn’t do very well and most of the carrots were munched by something before they were a few millimetres tall. Through all these experiences the kids are learning about how to improve soil, what

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seasons are appropriate for different plants and how to look after them. The broccoli was great this year! Before growing a crop of corn over summer, we built up some of the soil by following Esther Dean’s technique for no-dig gardening: a layer of straw, a sprinkling of well-rotted cow and poultry manures, a layer of lucerne hay, another sprinkling of manure and all topped with small piles of compost into which the seeds were planted. This crop of corn was harvested, cooked and sold at our street Chicken Burger Night to local neighbours amid comments such as “This corn is the best I’ve tasted!” and “Wow! How did you grow this corn?” With such wonderful success, we’ll probably do this again in a different spot in the garden.

Composting matters There’s a compost bin at the back of our block where we add prunings. We also use the benefit of worm farms in the garden itself — by using worm towers. We have

To fund purchases of seeds, mulch, hay, straw, manures, gloves and tools, we’ve had various events. Two neighbourhood chicken burger nights have been very successful, with produce used from the garden. Burgers were sold for $4 each, with garden members receiving a $2 discount. A mini-market stall with summer produce was also popular in the street. Although we didn’t ask our local council for permission to plant the garden, we know they support the idea of verge gardens and are currently working on a policy for such gardens. We receive so many positive comments from people walking past and we have incredibly supportive neighbours. We believe it’s important to do it with style and respect (to borrow the phrase from Michael Mobbs). If you are going to plant a garden on the verge, make sure you leave room for a footpath and for people getting out of their cars, that you don’t interfere with good visibility and you maintain it well. We are very fortunate to have such wide verges in our street, so having a garden plus good access was easy for us. Because the children go to six different schools they didn’t know each other very well

The notice board shows the latest news and produce for sale

(some not at all) before the garden, but that has all changed. Many of them, mainly the primary-school-aged girls, are now good friends who often play together. There was even a mega-sleepover one school holiday with nine girls from the garden camped on our lounge-room floor.

Future hopes We hope we will start to see more gardens on the verges of our streets and surrounding neighbourhoods. We know that a few families have already been inspired by Kids’ Vegies on the Verge to start a backyard garden and one of our neighbours was happy for us to plant a couple of fruit trees on their nature strip. Another neighbour who is an avid gardener and cook held a cooking class for the kids during the school holidays, teaching them how to make zucchini muffins. As one of our daughters has said, “We didn’t just build a garden. We built a community.” Kids’ Vegies on the Verge has not only turned a patch of grass into a productive vegetable garden but it has also transformed relationships in our street. It has helped increase the safety of local kids (as they now have so many more people they can turn to for help in an emergency) and helped build a real sense of community. Three families have moved into our section of the street since the garden began and in all cases they met quite a few neighbours in the first few days when people were catching up at the garden in the late afternoon. Not bad for one small garden!

Top tips 1. Garden with friends. It’s fun — and more engaging for kids. 2. Put worm towers in the garden for continuous, low-care feeding. 3. Plant stuff you’ll enjoy eating — we like snow peas, peas and cherry tomatoes that we can munch on while gardening. 4. Put stepping stones through the garden to encourage people to walk through it and explore. 5. Build a bamboo teepee — great for growing beans (but not so good for snow peas) and it looks good.




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PROFESSIONAL ORGANICS |Four Leaf Milling The team from Four Leaf Milling

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Four Leaf Milling |


Going with

the grain With a history of biodynamic practices that goes back 40 years, this family company is one of Australia’s foremost producers of certified grain products Words by Diane Norris Photos by Vanessa Size s long-time consumers of organic products, some of my family’s favourite foods come from the South Australian company. Four Leaf Milling. Established in 1968, this highly regarded company is situated in a pretty region of rich red-brown earth in the hills and plains of the Tarlee district. “Four Leaf Milling was established to process the grain from Four Leaf Farms and other selected certified Australian biodynamic and organic farms so we could maintain control over quality of the finished grain product,” says managing director Gavin Dunn, a founding member and first chairman of the Biological Farmers of Australia. “Our innovative stone-milling methods coupled with stringent certification and inspection requirements guarantee that our products are of the highest quality.”


A family company Gavin left school at 16 to work on the family properties. His real-life education began with an interest in agriculture, grain processing and precision engineering, so he began reading thoroughly on these three subjects. The study of agriculture ultimately led Gavin to biological farming principles and the realisation that it should be possible to farm without artificial fertilisers and pesticides. After considerable experimentation, he began to put this view into practice. Gavin says he wasn’t dogmatic about it but was prepared to “give it a fair go”. There are two Four Leaf properties in the Tarlee/Kapunda region, about 80km north of Adelaide. The land types consist of rangelands to river flats, with a wide range of soil types.

Eldest son Russell now manages the home farm at Tarlee. He produces prime lambs and cropping. Second son Phillip manages the South Gums property north of Kapunda, and daughter Helen is responsible for company accounts and paperwork. Currently, the production of grain on the South Gums property is the main undertaking because of the opportunity to value-add through milling. However, some of the Four Leaf 1994 wool clip was processed under BFA organic certification requirements, then made into beautiful sweaters and sold in Sydney by the David Jones retail chain.

Biodynamic methods To maximise the important biological activity in the soil, Gavin implemented biodynamic methods 40 years ago and they are still practised on the South Gums property under the management of a very experienced biodynamic sharefarmer. “We are very fortunate to have a biodynamic sharefarmer with such expertise and long experience,” Phillip says. “Leon Nietschke has managed his own property, situated close by, under the biodynamic system for nearly 30 years.” Biodynamic farming practices place great emphasis on continually improving the soil. The main crops grown here are wheat, barley, oats and rye and this area is said to produce some of the best milling oats in the country. Four Leaf’s own biodynamic rolled oats, when independently tested, were found to have very high levels of vitamin E. The farming operation is an ecological showcase, from the biological activity in its soil through to the tree-planting program. The Four Leaf property is fronted by 3km of trees, purposely planted, with various other  Good Organic Gardening | 71


The farming operation is an ecological showcase, from the biological activity in its soil through to the treeplanting program. the Four Leaf brand will be on the grocery shelves for at least another generation. Four Leaf Milling has always had a policy of only using grains grown in Australia. Phillip has a great rapport with organic and biodynamic farmers from southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. With the continuous growth of the milling business, the reliance on these farmers is ever increasing. As with anything of high quality, sometimes the products made with these grains are more expensive, but many consumers are happy to pay that bit extra knowing they are supporting Australian farmers, their own health and that of the environment. I know I am.  For more information visit plantations throughout the property. Gavin says these have changed the property’s outlook and, more importantly, impacted on the environmental conditions. “Many years ago, two ecological areas were fenced off to allow the regeneration of native flora,” he says. “This was long before it became fashionable to fence off areas of natural plant life. These are now delightful areas with native vegetation regrowth and wildlife, particularly kangaroos and some echidnas.” At South Gums, work is under way on an extensive planting program of 1200 river red gums for woodlot production.

To produce the millstones, the workshop was fully set up to cut and precision-dress the granite stones. Wholemeal spelt flours, wheat bran, wholewheat flour, light flour, wheat flakes, oat kernels, rolled oats, oat bran, oat flour, barley flour, cracked rye, rye meal, triticale flour and much more are produced at these stone mills. Also built in their own workshop was machinery to steam, roll and dry various grains. These “flaked” products include oats, wheat, spelt, pearl barley, rye, millet and rice.


Australian-grown, certified and consumed

To ensure the products are not only organic but traditionally produced, Gavin designed and built the milling equipment, including Sienna granite stones needed to meet the rigid specifications for high-quality flour milling. These ensure the grain is milled at slow speed without excessive heat, thereby preserving the integrity and vitamin content of the flour. In the grain processing division, practically all equipment was built in their workshop to Gavin’s design. This includes basic grain cleaning equipment, the specialised stone mills that grind the grain into flour, and equipment that de-husks oats, sunflower and millet seed and much more.

Four Leaf Milling products are certified with ACO, Demeter and Kosher. While there are considerable export opportunities available and a certain amount has occurred, the feeling is that the home market is much more important. Gavin handed over the management reins of Four Leaf Milling to Phillip nearly a decade ago and is confident of the continuing success of the enterprise through biodynamic farming and streamlining of the milling production. Four Leaf Milling has grown into the most diverse processor of certified grain products in Australia, now producing over 60 lines in pack sizes from 300g to 20kg bags. Gavin is certain

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Christmas lunch & afternoon tea with recipes by Joanna Rushton, The Organic Chef

76 Christmas turkey Roast Turkey with Sage, Onion & Bacon Stuffing

80 Baby corn Medley of Baby Corn, Baby Carrots, Asparagus & Snow Peas

84 Chinese cabbage Salad of Chinese Cabbage, Snow Pea Sprouts, Sliced Pear, Fennel, Toasted Almonds & Pomegranate

88 Dates Raw & Gluten-Free Date Christmas Pudding

92 Banana Banana Pikelets Banana Preserve

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Four Seasonal Edibles | GARDEN TO TABLE

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| Christmas turkey

Star ingredient: Turkey

Roast Turkey with Sage, Onion & Bacon Stuffing • Celtic sea salt • Ground pepper

Sage, Onion & Bacon Stuffing Ingredients • 100g butter • 100g nitrate-free bacon, chopped • 1 large onion, diced • 1 garlic clove, minced • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage • 100g fresh sourdough breadcrumbs or gluten-free alternative • 1 tbsp chopped parsley • 2 eggs

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Turkey weight

No of serves

2.5kg/size 25 4.5kg/size 45 6.75kg/size 67 9kg/size 90

4–6 8–10 10–12 15–20

Method 1. Heat butter in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. 2. Add onion and garlic and stir for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. 3. Stir in the sage, then remove from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. 4. Combine the cooled onion mixture in a large bowl with the breadcrumbs, parsley and eggs. Season with Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then use your hands or a spoon to mix well. Fill the cavity of the turkey and follow roasting guidelines above. 5. Place the stuffed bird on a large roasting tray, rub it all over with melted ghee and season well. Cover with foil and place in a preheated oven. 6. Turn the oven heat down to 180°C/350°F/ gas 4 and roast for the calculated time or until the juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a skewer. 7. Remove foil for the last 45 minutes to brown the bird. Thawing time in fridge 2–2½ days 3 days 3–3½ days 3½ days

Cooking time for a stuffed turkey 1½–2 hours 3–3½ hours 4½–5 hours 6–6½ hours

Christmas turkey Thyme | COOKING WITH JOANNA RUSHTON

GROWING | Baby sweetcorn

Baby corn Zea mays Early cobs on sweet corn plant

Words by Jennifer Stackhouse


n recent decades, Australians have expanded their menus and palates to embrace many styles of Asian cooking. With the increased interest in Asian cuisine has come an enthusiasm for Asian vegetables. One that many cooks and gardeners still only know from a tin in the supermarket or Asian grocer is baby corn. Some greengrocers may stock this corn fresh while it is in season during late spring and summer, but growing your own means having access to fresh, organic, tasty baby corn.

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Baby corn isn’t grown as a special variety (although there are varieties selected to grow to produce baby corn) but rather it is harvested while the ears (the corncobs in their husky outer coverings) are tiny. When the husk is removed it reveals a tiny finger-sized corncob that can be eaten in its entirety. When sweet corn is immature the cob is soft, but as the corncob grows the cob becomes woody and is too tough to eat. The signal to pick baby corn is the emergence of corn silks from the tips of the ears of corn. Typically, the baby ears of corn will be just 4.5–10cm long.

Baby sweetcorn | GROWING

Corn in the vegie patch

As ears mature quickly, one of the keys to success is to keep an eye on the corn plants to watch for the first appearance of the tiny ear of corn. If it’s not harvested at the right moment for baby corn it’s better to leave the ears to mature and then to harvest the cobs as normal sweetcorn. It’s possible to harvest both baby corn and mature sweetcorn from the same plant. For baby corn, harvest the first ear just as the silk appears and then leave the rest of the crop to mature.

Growing corn To grow baby corn, simply follow the steps for growing sweetcorn. Sow seeds directly where they are to grow in spring after all threat of frost has passed and then make further plantings until mid-summer. In tropical areas corn can be grown all year round. Sweetcorn can also be grown from seedling but the seed option is quick, easy and adaptable. To grow baby corn, select the variety ‘Popcorn’ or one of the sweetcorn varieties. Select a warm, sunny spot with water-retentive soil (sweetcorn plants require regular deep watering). To be sure full cobs form, plant sweetcorn in blocks rather than long rows. Set out rows 60–90cm apart within the blocks and sow each seed about 25mm deep and 15cm apart (to be thinned to about 30cm apart). This close planting assists with pollination, which is done by the wind rather than bees. Cobs that form without a full complement of filled kernels have not been properly fertilised. Gently shaking the corn plants when the tassels are releasing pollen can also help aid good pollination and encourage fat, well-filled kernels. Sow seeds into damp soil that has received added nutrients such as compost or well-rotted manure. As the corn sprouts it needs to be kept well watered. If the seedlings are too close, they can be thinned out to leave 30cm between each plant. Apply a scattering of pelletised organic fertiliser around the plants after thinning the seedlings and then again as the cobs begin to form. The main pest of corn is caterpillar (corn earworm), which burrows into the developing cob and feeds on the

Healthy corn seedling

kernels. It’s hard to see until the cob is opened at harvest, but check the tops of the cobs for frass (droppings). Aphids may also congregate on the cob but can be removed by squashing or hosing off.

Health benefits Like traditional sweetcorn, baby corn is nutritious and high in fibre. Mature sweetcorn is packed with carbohydrates as the sugars in corn develop as the cob matures. Corn also contains protein, dietary fibre and vitamins, including folate. It’s also a rich source of magnesium and potassium. By growing your own baby corn you can also produce organic baby corn, which is hard to find otherwise.

Harvest and storage Baby corn is harvested when the cob is soft and immature. Remove the outer husk and use the tiny corncobs whole either cooked or raw. If the baby corn can’t be used immediately it can be stored in the refrigerator or husked, blanched in boiling water for less than a minute and frozen. It can also be steamed then marinated in oil and vinegar to keep refrigerated for several weeks. 

Baby sweetcorn label Common names: Baby corn, candle corn Botanical name: Zea mays Group: Annual vegetable Requires: Warm, frost-free conditions Dislikes: Poor drainage, cold Suitable for: Vegetable gardens Habit: Tall annual Needs: Rich, friable soil, regular water and fertiliser Propagation: Seed, seedling Difficulty: Moderate

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Star ingredient: Baby corn

Medley of Baby Corn, Baby Carrots, Asparagus & Snow Peas Serves 6

Ingredients • 12 baby corn • 12 baby carrots • 1 bunch asparagus • 12 snow peas • 1 tbsp butter • Sprig of mint leaves

Method 1. In a double boiler, steam the corn and carrots for about 3 minutes. 2. Add asparagus and snow peas for an additional 2–3 minutes until cooked al dente. 3. Remove from heat, transfer into a bowl and add butter, tossing until melted and all vegetables are well coated. 4. Sprinkle with a little Celtic sea salt, transfer to a serving platter. 5. Tear up fresh mint and sprinkle over.

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GROWING | Chinese cabbage

Chinese Rainbow Thyme cabbage chard Thymus Beta vulgaris vulgaris Brassica rapa Words by NevilleWords Donovan, by Melissa Greenpatch King Organic Seeds Chinese cabbage ready to harvest

Tip Chinese cabbage produces masses of small flowers in the spring– summer, making these plants very popular and attractive to visiting native and exotic bees as they seek out pollen.

Words by Neville Donovan, Greenpatch Organic Seeds


hinese cabbage originated before the 15th century in China. Many varieties were developed in villages and provinces over the centuries and it also reached Korea in early times. The name Chinese cabbage is commonly used and can refer to several varieties of brassicas. It’s hardy in cold temperatures, easy to grow and delicious to eat. There is some confusion around the proper naming of these vegetables, but overall in Australia the name tends to refer to either wong bok, with its several layers of closed, crisp leaves and wide centre midribs that form an upright head, or bok choy and pak choi, producing multiple leaves with varying centre midribs and an open growing habit. The centre midribs can vary in colour from white to light or dark green. They are all eaten and used in similar ways, either fresh or lightly cooked, including the leaves, stalks and flower buds.

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Fortunately, Chinese cabbage varieties are now available in many countries. They are well worth eating for their vitamin A and C content and also calcium, iron, magnesium and sodium. Their flavour, colour and texture allow for culinary creativity in many dishes.

How to grow Chinese cabbage prefers cool growing conditions with ample soil moisture, tolerating cold conditions in a mainly full-sun position, but will also do well in a part-shade position. It enjoys well-drained, reasonably fertile soil for strong, leafy growth. To help improve the soil and increase nutrients, add a layer of well-rotted compost, animal manure or green material, which can be dug in, with a sprinkling of lime or dolomite also dug in before planting. If these are difficult to access, a handful of organic pelletised chicken manure can be used for each plant.

Chinese cabbage | GROWING

Chinese cabbage

Varieties Bok choy has broad, white stalks, large medium-green leaves with prominent veins and open habit to 40cm high at eating stage. Pak choi is a medium grower to 30cm tall, with smooth– medium green leaves and a semi-open habit with greenish white stalks. Shanghai pak choi has a more compact habit to 20cm high, with green spoon-shaped leaves with small white stalks. Tatsoi has small dark-green spoon-shaped leaves arranged in an attractive flat rosette habit to 15cm high and 30cm wide. Choy sum flowers and buds are the main parts used. Wong bok has a similar form to cabbage, a conical shaped head with white stalks and soft green leaves.

Troubleshooting Chinese cabbage will naturally bolt to flower when the warmer weather arrives, especially as the daylight hours get longer. By growing the plants in healthy, enriched soil, they are less likely to go to flower in the earlier stages, though the young yellow flower buds are edible. If you are saving seeds, be sure there are no other varieties from the Brassica rapa group flowering at the same time as they are easily pollinated by bees and other insects. At flowering time the plants will stand up to 1.5m tall. Green pods will form on the stalk and they mature into a yellow colour then turn pale-brown. This is the time to harvest — they rattle as they are picked. To collect the pods, simply cut the dried stems and place in a bag to dry further. The seeds will shatter easily from the pod, which can then be screened in a sieve, the seeds dried and stored in an airtight container for future sowing.

The Chinese cabbage varieties are prone to cabbage white butterfly and cabbage moth, both of which can infest plants and almost destroy them. With regular inspection the dark-green caterpillars can be picked off plants easily. Early use of fine netting will exclude butterflies from laying eggs on the leaves. To cover plants at seedling stage, construct a small frame for support, then drape the netting over and add some weights at the base. Simply pull back the netting to harvest. Regular spraying with Dipel, a biological control, will keep caterpillars at bay. Slugs and snails enjoy feeding on plants and congregate among the leaf stalks. To keep populations down, organic snail pellets, beer traps and coffee grounds are all effective.

Harvesting, storing and preserving When to plant Cool climate Sow seeds August–May, avoiding the coldest winter months. Temperate climate Sow seeds March–August, avoiding hot, dry conditions. Subtropical climate Sow seeds March–July, avoiding hot, wet conditions. Tropical climate Sow seeds April–June, avoiding hot, wet conditions.

Propagation Seeds are sown in containers or directly into the garden on finely raked soil. Sow seeds sparingly, then cover with 3–5mm of soil, keeping moist but not wet. Germination takes around five days. Chinese cabbage is fast growing, so it’s essential seedlings are moved into more direct sun so they don’t become spindly. When seedlings are about 5cm high, separate into single containers to grow for another 2–3 weeks, making sure to sun-harden seedlings before planting out in the garden. Space plants 30–40cm apart and water in well. Regular watering is essential for the first two weeks until seedlings settle in.

With most of the open varieties, the outside leaves and stems can be picked as required over several months or the whole plant can be used by cutting the stem at ground level. The florets can be picked regularly with up to 7cm of stem or just before it starts to feel firm. Greens can be stored in a bag in the fridge for up to seven days. Before using the greens fresh in a salad or for cooking, wash and drain them well. Chinese cabbage can also be preserved by using a pickling method that involves fermentation of the leaves and is known as kim chi, Korea’s national dish. 

Chinese cabbage label Common name: Chinese cabbage Botanical name: Brassica rapa Family: Brassicaceae Needs: Sun to part shade; fertile, well-drained soil Climate: Cold, temperate, subtropical, tropical Habit: Upright and open habit Difficulty: Moderate

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Star ingredient: Chinese cabbage

Salad of Chinese Cabbage, Snow Pea Sprouts, Sliced Pear, Fennel, Toasted Almonds & Pomegranate Serves 6

Ingredients Salad • ½ Chinese cabbage, finely sliced • 1 pear, thinly sliced • ½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced • 1 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted • 1 cup snow pea sprouts • 2 tbsp pomegranate Dressing • Juice 1 lemon • 1 tsp honey • 3 tbsp olive oil • Pinch Celtic salt, to taste

Method 1. In a large bowl combine all salad ingredients together. 2. Blend dressing ingredients and fold through salad.

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Date palm Phoenix dactylifera Ripe dates on a branch

Words by Jennifer Stackhouse


ates grow on palm trees, but not all palms produce dates. Commonly grown palms such as the Cocos palm and the misleadingly named Canary Island date palm produce lots of date-like fruit, but these are only palatable to birds. And, just to add to the confusion, there are other species of Phoenix found in gardens that are grown as ornamentals rather than for edible fruit. To harvest the true mouthwatering date it’s necessary to grow a date palm. This is a big investment in space and

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may necessitate a move to a hot climate as date palms are large trees that grow best in hot, arid regions. They come from the Middle East. In Australia, commercial date plantations are found in the Northern Territory around Alice Springs and in the Riverland region of South Australia.

Growing tips Dates produce male and female flowers on separate trees so unless you live in an area with plenty of date palms, it’s necessary to have both a male and female tree. Male


Bags protect ripening dates on this date palm tree

Suppliers It can be hard to find edible date plants to grow in gardens or plantations. Named varieties as suckers or tissue culture plants are available from Gurra Downs Date Palms in South Australia (see for details).

Commercial growers recommend annual applications of organic cow manure or a high-potassium fertiliser along with a layer of mulch to deter weeds. Although very young dates need frost protection, established trees tolerate frost and indeed cold winters may improve spring flowering and lead to better fruit production.

Health and environmental benefits Dates are sweet, nutritious and high in dietary fibre and are eaten fresh (also called soft), semi-dry or dried. As they keep so well once they are dried they are valuable for cooking in breads, cakes, muffins and scones. As well as the health benefits provided by the sugarrich date fruit, the trees themselves are beneficial in dry climates as they are tough, tolerant of high temperatures and adaptable to a wide range of conditions. This means dates can be established to create a shaded microclimate. In many areas where dates are grown, other heat-tolerant productive plants are grown in their shade, including bananas, pomegranates and citrus. Dates can also be grown in saline conditions and in areas with low rainfall and drought conditions.

Care, harvest and storage flowers are feathery and filled with pollen. In commercial orchards female flowers may be hand pollinated. Unpollinated fruit does not ripen. The trees take four to eight years to reach maturity, so the fastest way to grow a date palm is to start with a potted plant. Date growing is a small industry in Australia and the number of varieties available is tiny compared to the hundreds grown in other parts of the world. Dates have also been selected to perform in a range of climates, from their native desert climes to Mediterranean and coastal zones. The most commonly available variety is ‘Medjool’, which produces a succulent date. Also available is ‘Barhee’, which is adaptable to higher summer rainfall zones and also can be eaten when the fruit is immature. Once established, date palms grow rapidly and eventually reach around 20m tall and 5m wide. To give these trees the room they need and to allow for good air circulation, space them 9m apart. As date palms produce suckers around their bases, it’s necessary to remove these to maintain a tree with a single trunk. Dead fronds are also removed (watch for the sharp spines at the base of each frond!). Although adapted to desert conditions, date palms grow better with watering, especially as young plants are getting established and developing strong root systems.

Dates flower in spring and are harvested in autumn and winter as the fruit changes colour to red or yellow and they are at their maximum sweetness. Dry heat is necessary for good ripening to occur. High humidity or rain during the ripening time can damage fruit. Dates contain a single stone. Fruit can be eaten fresh or preserved by drying. Dried dates can store for extremely long periods without any chilling. 

Date label Common name: Date palm Botanical name: Phoenix dactylifera Group: Fruiting tree Requires: Sun, warmth Dislikes: Poor drainage Suitable for: Gardens, street trees, plantations Habit: Tree Needs: Frost and wind protection when young Propagation: Seed, seedling, suckers, tissue culture Difficulty: Moderate

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Star ingredient: Dates

Raw & Gluten-Free Date Christmas Pudding Serves 6 3


Ingredients • 225g fresh pitted dates — about 10–15 dates, depending on their size • 250g dried Turkish apricots, chopped • 100g wild white mulberries • 1 tbsp good-quality brandy • Zest 1 orange • 1 tsp vanilla-bean paste • 150g (1½ cups) almond meal or fresh ground almonds • 1 tsp ground cinnamon • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg • ¼ tsp ground ginger • Double cream (raw if you can get it)

Method 1. Soak the dates, apricots and mulberries in the brandy for 1 hour. 2. Strain fruit from the liquor (keep the liquor) and combine the fruit mix with orange zest, vanilla, ground almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a food processor. Process until mixture is combined and crumb-like.

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3. Transfer mixture into a large bowl and add ½ tsp of the leftover brandy. Your pudding mix should come together in the hands when lightly squeezed. 4. Divide puddings into 6 small puddings. The best way to do this is to line the base of your desired mould with biofilm (clingwrap) and press the pudding mixture into it firmly. Invert the pudding and remove the clingwrap. Repeat for all puddings. 5. Serve puddings cold or warm with cream or desired topping. 6. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Jo’s tips • Serve warm if you wish and if you don’t want to use cream you can top with either traditional vanilla-bean custard, mascarpone or whipped coconut cream if you prefer a dairy-free option. • Make small balls from this mix if you want bite-size dessert pieces.


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GROWING | Banana

Banana Musa acuminata

Words by Jennifer Stackhouse


o you recall when cyclone damage to Queensland’s banana plantations saw banana prices soar to luxury levels? Did you have to forgo the pleasure of eating bananas? Those with bananas growing in their gardens continued to enjoy this traditional Aussie staple while the rest of us could only dream of a banana smoothie.

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Although bananas are a tropical crop, with the major commercial production in Far North Queensland, they can be grown in backyards in many parts of Australia. I have even heard of bananas grown on the northwest coast of Tasmania, which is certainly a long way from the balmy tropics. In very cold areas, they are grown in glasshouses. The main drawbacks to growing bananas in temperate or cool zones are that plants grow slowly and ripening

Banana | GROWING

takes months. Even in ideal conditions, it takes 15–18 months from planting to harvesting a crop. In cold areas, temperatures below 13°C may damage fruit and cause foliage to yellow. Frosts may kill plants. In cool climates the ornamental rather than fruiting bananas are more usually grown. They are planted as perennial foliage plants to add a tropical look to gardens.

Growing bananas Bananas are curious plants. Although they look like trees, they are perennials more closely related to ginger plants. Their tree-like trunks are made up of layers of leaf bases that eventually produce a flowering stem. If the stem is damaged or broken, that plant will not fruit until another sucker takes its place. Cultivated edible bananas don’t produce seed. Because they are seedless, it’s necessary to propagate bananas from a sucker or a piece of rhizome or corm (also called “bits”) from an existing clump. Choose a sucker that’s 45–60cm high with narrow leaves to ensure you are planting a healthy new plant. Many varieties are also grown by tissue culture; these are available for home gardens and provide a guaranteed healthy or “clean” plant. Bananas are governed by regulations to protect commercial banana plantations from disease. Regulations restrict the varieties grown, number of plants per garden, sources of plants and movement of banana plants in growing areas. Home garden varieties that are available and permitted to be grown in most areas include ‘Blue Java’, ‘Bluggoe’, ‘Ducasse’, ‘Dwarf Ducasse’ (also called Kluai namwa khom), ‘Gold Finger’, ‘Lady Finger’ and Pisang ceylan. Check with your local agriculture department for restrictions that may apply in your state. For success with backyard bananas select a warm, sunny, sheltered, frost-free spot with deep, fertile, welldrained soil. A northern aspect is ideal with shelter important to protect the plant from wind damage. Spring to early summer (September to December) is the ideal planting time in most areas. Before planting, dig in compost and organic poultry manure to further enrich the soil for these hungry, fastgrowing plants and also to mound up the soil to improve drainage. Waterlogging quickly kills banana plants. Bananas form large clumps, so allow 3–4m between each plant. For good growth and large fruit, select one main stem (the leader) and one to two suckers (followers). Remove other suckers by cutting them off at the base of the clump. Suckers start to appear four to five months after planting. The follower is important as the main stem dies after the crop is produced. The follower then grows up to take its place and keep the bananas coming. Apply generous amounts of organic fertiliser around each plant throughout the year and water them well, particularly during dry periods. Fertilisers should be high in potassium and applied every three months. Sprinkle dolomite around each plant annually in spring. Mulching

around the plants keeps the soil moist and nourished. Composted grass clippings are ideal for bananas. When the plant reaches maturity it flowers and the fruiting cycle starts. The flowering stem appears with a pointy tip known as the “bell”. This grows upwards at first then hangs down. The male flowers form beneath the female flowers, which develop fruit. A stem of banana fruit is known as a bunch, with each row of fruit called a hand. Bananas are also known as fingers.

Health benefits Bananas are packed with nutrition and fibre. They contain vitamins B6 and C along with magnesium. They are very easy to eat, highly portable sealed within their easy-topeel skin and ideal for snacks. Bananas are among the first foods given to babies as they are introduced to solid foods. When you eat a banana, don’t waste the skin by tossing it away. Banana skins are rich in potassium so they are a nutritious addition to the compost heap.

Care, harvest and storage As well as applying regular fertiliser and water, keep banana plants free of dead or diseased leaves and clear of weeds. The two main diseases of bananas are bunchy top, which is a fungal disease, and Panama disease, which is a virus. As they can’t be cured, both need to be avoided by careful hygiene and by planting disease-free plants. When the banana bunch is fully formed, cover it to protect it from birds, bats and weather. There are commercially available blue sleeves (open at the base) to cover the ripening bananas once the last hand has formed. At this stage, remove the bell. Expect bananas to take many months to ripen. They are ready to harvest when the fruit begins to look rounded and has lost the ribbing that’s characteristic of immature fruit. The fruit will still be green. Cut the stalk above the top hand to remove the bunch. To ripen bananas over a period of time, remove hands to ripen indoors. Ripe bananas can be frozen for use later in cooking. Bananas can also be dried or made into fruit leather to preserve them. 

Banana label Common names: Banana, plantain Botanical name: Musa acuminata Group: Perennial Requires: Warm, sheltered, frost-free conditions Dislikes: Poor drainage, cold Suitable for: Plantations, backyards Habit: Perennial 3–7m tall Needs: Rich, friable soil, regular water and fertiliser Propagation: Sucker, rhizome, tissue culture Difficulty: Moderate

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Star ingredient: Banana

Banana Pikelets Serves 6

Ingredients • 3 bananas • 3 eggs • 3 tbsp coconut flour • 2–3 tsp cinnamon • Butter for sautéing • Crème fraîche or cream to garnish

3. Heat about 1–2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan on a medium heat. Ladle a small amount of the mix into pikelet-sized portions and sauté for a couple of minutes on both sides. 4. Serve garnished with cream and another shake of cinnamon.

Method 1. In a stainless-steel bowl, mash the bananas and eggs together, keeping the mix fairly lumpy. 2. Mix in the coconut flour and cinnamon and allow to sit for 5–10 minutes.

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Jo’s tip A dairy-free alternative to cream that goes beautifully with the pikelets is coconut yoghurt.


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Banana Preserve

Ingredients • 5 small bananas • 2 cups coconut sugar • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Method 1. Fill the water-bath canner with water and bring to a boil. 2. Wash the jars, rings and lids. Fill the jars with very hot water to sterilise. 3. Put all the ingredients in a pan and stir occasionally. 4. Let the jam boil for five minutes. 5. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving .5cm head space (clear space) at the top.

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6. Wipe the rim of the jars to make sure they’re clean. Put the lids and rings on. 7. Using the jar lifter, lower the jars into the boiling water and process for 10 minutes. 8. Remove from the water-bath canner using the jar lifter and allow to cool completely on a towel on the counter.

Jo’s note Water-bath canning is a safe method for preserving high-acid foods. You will need a canning pot, rack (if you don’t have a rack you can use a folded towel in the bottom of the pot) and a jar lifter.

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Cover to cover

Leafing through books for gardeners and cooks

Small Space Organics: Creating Sustainable, Edible Gardens By Josh Byrne, Hardie Grant, RRP $27.955 Many of us would like an edible garden but too many of us live in cities where space is at a premium. Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne lays out a practical strategy for the greening of the small backyard with a step-by-step record, lavishly illustrated with plans, sketches and before-and-after photos, of how he developed a garden on a tiny plot in inner-suburban Fremantle. Water management is a prime concern, so the book moves logically from the site itself, its structure and hardscaping, to hydrozoning: the detailed planning of sustainable water use via greywater and drip-irrigation systems. He also shows how to build an edible water garden, as well as explaining perennial gardening challenges like trellising and propagation. With such a clear, concise guide at your fingertips, there’s no excuse for a waste of space — no matter how small.

Dig Deeper: Seasonal, Sustainable Australian Gardening Meredith Kirton, Murdoch Books, RRP $69.99 In the 10 years since Meredith Kirton published her comprehensive bestseller Dig, gardening — like everything else — has gone through enormous changes in both practice and attitude. As she said then, “A garden starts but is never finished,” so now it’s time to Dig Deeper, with updated information on new discoveries in pest control and plant breeding from a greener, more sustainable perspective, especially where drought-proofing, low maintenance and water conservation are concerned. Like Dig, the new book uses beautiful colour photography to take the reader through the year, with each season broken down into annuals, perennials and bulbs, grasses and groundcovers, shrubs and trees and herbs, fruit and vegetables. Throughout are close-ups on featured plants, step-by-step projects such as trellises and worm farms and handy checklists of seasonal to-dos. So, dig this book then get outdoors and dig in.

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Fermentation for Beginners: The Step-byStep Guide to Fermentation and Probiotic Foods Drakes Press, RRP $16.99 There’s a reason every culture has its own fermented food, whether Korean kimchi, Japanese miso, German sauerkraut, Eastern European kefir or Greek yoghurt. Historically, fermented foods have been not only vital to human survival — promoting digestion and a healthy gut — but also a source of flavour, nourishment and pure pleasure. Consider these words from the introduction to this slim but info-packed book: “Without fermentation, we’d have no wine or cheese. We also wouldn’t have salami, prosciutto, bread, beer, yoghurt or sourdough.” So right there is a bunch of good reasons to discover the pungent delights of fermentation through 60 easy-to-follow recipes for everything from dill pickles to fish sauce. There are also tips on the equipment required to set up your home fermentation lab plus a glossary with internet links to everything you need to go probiotic.

Grow: The Gardeners Almanac for 2015 Diane Norris, Universal Magazines, RRP $19.95 This is not just a typical hands-ondairy to keep track of events, birthdays and special occasions — it’s much more. We have brought you a stunning detailed gardening almanac filled with handy monthly tips and advice. Also, there are 36 edible plants featured, complete with detailed growing instructions and gorgeous photographs, to set you on the right path to growing fresh, organic produce in your own garden space. And, as a special feature, the back pages contain a summary of how to deal with garden pests and weeds in an effective, safe and non-chemical way.


The Gardeners Almanac for 2015

2015 Permaculture Calendar with Moon Planting Guide Permaculture Principles, RRP $12.95 Something of a hardy perennial in the world of gardening publication, the Permaculture Calendar blooms again, this year with a planting guide that will help you plan your garden according to the phases of the moon — wherever you are on the planet — plus a dozen beautiful photographs that illustrate the 12 principles of permaculture. For “Observe & Interact” there’s a close-up of a springtail, a tiny animal that spreads spores and helps control fungal disease; while for “Use Edges & Value the Marginal” there’s a photo of a free bus-stop library and book exchange in Clovelly, a suburb of Sydney. True to permaculture values, the calendar is printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks so, at the end of 2015, it can go straight into the garden as mulch for next year’s crops.


pick of the crop Our selection of products and services for gardeners and cooks Heritage seeds to grow and save


Now that summer is almost here, it’s an excellent time to announce the new catalogue for the seasons ahead. Greenpatch has some new exciting additions to the catalogue, which includes over 50 new varieties of seeds and plants as well as popular varieties of vegetables that are easy to grow. Most are heritage varieties, having been grown and established in Australia for over 50 years. Much care and commitment have been put into seed production and quality. The Greenpatch farm is used for preservation of heritage seeds and rare plants, supported by a handful of dedicated seed growers sharing the same passion. Heritage seeds 2014/15 are special. They have characteristics of great flavour, higher nutritional value, strong genetic makeup and longer harvesting periods; they help to maintain biodiversity and, of course, you can save your own seed for next year’s crop. All seeds are non-hybrid and non-GMO. Bring on summer! Ph 02 6551 4240,

Robinvale’s story: organic wines & non-alcoholic delights Steve, Bill and their families established the winery in 1976 and have been certified biodynamic since 1985. Robinvale’s renowned nonalcoholic sparkling beverages (with natural flavours) are all made from biodynamically grown grapes. They are a wonderful substitute for alcohol for adults and are loved by kids of all ages. The 100 per cent pure biodynamic red and white grape juice is an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, immune-boosting antioxidants, cancer-fighting phytochemicals and flavonoids for a healthy heart. They are a natural source of energy with no added sugar and are suitable for vegans/ vegetarians. The Sparkling range includes Mango-Tango, Ruby, Cooler, Ginger, Passion, Premier Muscat and Strawberry. Robinvale also produces award-winning red and white wines, sparkling wines, fortified wines, preservative-free wines, vegan/vegetarian wines, packed or bulk dried fruit (perfect for baking) and organic chocolatecoated diamond muscats. Ph 03 5026 3955,

Liquid gold! Boost your omega-3 intake by drizzling a little Organic Golden Flaxseed Oil over steamed vegetables, rice or pasta; or combine with milk, quark and blueberries for a replenishing energy milkshake; or create a raw beetroot salad so tasty that you’ll never cook beetroot again! Since 1992, Stoney Creek has produced the best-tasting Organic Flaxseed Oil in Australia. Non-GMO, it is cold-pressed in small batches from 100 per cent Australian-grown flaxseeds, contains 60 per cent omega-3 (as ALA) and has a fresh, nutty taste that combines well with just about any food. Available from your local organic or health store, independent supermarket or selected pharmacy (RRP $33.70, 500mL) or buy online at

IT’S TIME TO CUT THE CROP! Good Organic Gardening Magazine is delighted to present the ‘Good Organic Gardening magazine People’s Choice Garden Idea Awards.’ We have a bountiful harvest of products and services that we think represents good gardening ideas and we want you to choose this year’s pick of the crop from a range of categories. Head to and submit your vote today!

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Angove Family Wine Angove Family Winemakers has been growing grapes and crafting fine South Australian wines for five generations. The range of organically grown and made wines includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and a Shiraz Cabernet. As any winemaker will tell you, the quality of a wine begins in the vineyard and is driven by the quality of the grapes. Organic grape growing ensures that the entire vineyard environment is managed for maximum natural nutrition for the vines and their resulting grape crop. At all levels of viticulture, organic systems help the vine produce better fruit. Organically grown vines tend to be smaller, with lower crop levels than ordinary vineyards, resulting in more flavour-filled grapes. In the winery these wines are crafted with just the gentlest touch of the Angove winemakers to ensure flavour-packed pleasure in every glass.

Off to a great start

PowerFeed Organics Seasol introduces a new product to its organic range with PowerFeed ORGANIC. This premium certifiedorganic fish fertiliser is suitable for all plants, including edible crops, flowering plants and natives. PowerFeed 225 ORGANIC is a fast-acting liquid that goes to work immediately whether applied to the foliage or the soil. This PLANT FOOD ensures the maximum amount of natural nutrients, vitamins, proteins, amino acid and trace elements to sustain healthy productive growth. The dual effect of PowerFeed ORGANIC naturally conditions the soil through its highly active liquid compost. This helps to break up clay soil, reduce nutrient loss in sandy soil and make nutrients easily available to all plants. Team PowerFeed ORGANIC with certified organic Seasol for an amazing health treatment. Seasol promotes healthy growth in all plants all year round. It stimulates root development, enhances flowering and fruiting and increases resistance to heat, drought, frost, pests and diseases. *based on foliar application

The new Harvest Starters range is the latest addition to the impressive Pot’n All plant range. Already incorporating the ornamental Garden Starters and exciting Heart Starters Chillies, Harvest Starters presents backyard edible plants led by a broad range of nutritious berries including blueberry, thornless blackberry, silvanberry, boysenberry and youngberry. These varieties start out life in Ramm Botanicals’ tissue culture laboratory, so the plants available at retail are extremely healthy, vigorous and ready to produce. The Harvest Starters range boasts other tasty choices, including a range of six different strawberries, seven different passionfruit and the increasingly popular goji berry. The plants are presented in the Pot’n All biodegradable tubes, which are quick and easy to plant as they are planted pot and all. Pot’n All advanced tubestock is priced around half that of larger pots, so they’re a very economical way to get your garden growing. Harvest Starters are available from Masters Home Improvement stores.

ORGANIC For Fruit, Vegies and Herbs Promotes sustained healthy growth Adds liquid compost to soil

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Breathing easy Good news for the many fans of compostable, breathable clingwrap! It’s back in stock in a new, exciting package. The pack has a cutter and tabs at the end to lock the roll in position, making it more convenient. The pack also illustrates the unique and highly convenient “pinch and tear” feature. As before, the film clings well. It’s highly breathable, so foods stay fresher longer.


Composting made easy Simon says: worth every cent! A customer asked Simon at Organigrow why organic free-range eggs are a lot dearer than conventional free-range eggs. “First, I must feed my hens certified organic layer mash — almost twice the price of conventional feed. My feed is also vegetarian, so no meat meal, which is based on offal and meat-processing residue and can contain hormones, antibiotics and many other chemicals. Second, my hens free-range all the time and my stocking density is around 600 birds per hectare. Conventional freerange hens are in big sheds with 15,000–30,000 — even as many as 60,000 — hens competing for enough space to stand up! Plus, I bring up my birds from day one. The little darlings have a great time foraging in the clover and lush grasses, and get such a great start in life that they are brimming with health and vitality. This is why our eggs are so superb.” Keep up with Organigrow’s news, get great recipes and find out the goss by liking them on Facebook or by googling

The Composting Cannon makes composting as simple, clean and efficient as can be. The compost is created exactly where you need it so you never have to turn it, shovel it or move it anywhere. The system’s unique design allows you to create fertile hotspots anywhere in your garden. Pests such as cockroaches and rodents can be a problem with some composting systems, but not with Composting Cannon. The kit comes with galvanised steel mesh caps that cover the top of the cylinders so pests can’t get in. The plunger and mesh lids are reusable, too. You can order a cylinderonly pack containing three new cylinders and start the process again in another section of your garden. Simple! The Composting Cannon works so well because it attracts the worms to where they naturally live, creating healthier soil right where your vegetables are growing. Healthier soil is achieved by natural worm movement as they circulate through the garden bed. Simply put your scraps in the cylinder, tamp it down and, as it gets broken down and used, just add more.

Go with the wind!

Egg Skelter — stylish and practical Attention all chicken keepers, avid bakers, egg lovers and proud parents of chicken-crazy children! You’ve probably faced the conundrum of how to safely store your excess eggs. Why not try the Egg Skelter, which allows you to efficiently and stylishly display your precious produce in order of their date? No more having to remember which eggs were the freshest or what to use up first — just add new eggs to the back of the queue and take from the front. The Egg Skelter holds up to 24 medium to large-sized eggs and is available in a range beautiful colours, so there’s a Skelter to suit every kitchen decor. This quirky egg-cessory is a must-have for anyone collecting fresh eggs each day or who just wants an adorable kitchen piece. Available eggs-clusively from Backyard Chicken Coops. You’ll be the envy of your poultry pals! Call 0422 600 400 or visit

Why a weathervane? Apart from their useful function, they make a real statement. It’s like wearing your team’s colours at a sporting event. They can signify your deep appreciation for a bird or animal, early-model cars, a tractor, a boat, a ship or a train. “One of our designs is of a surfer, which signifies the interest while giving the essential wind information a surfer needs to know,” says Rob Neander, owner of Glenview Products, which has the largest range in Australia. Some are imported but most (the really good ones) are made here in Australia. The designs are the result of countless attempts at perfection and Rob believes this has been achieved. Made from stainless steel, when installed they’re up there for life. In fact, you can safely bequeath them to your grandchildren — they will still be indicating the direction of the wind for them! Glenview Products has operated from a workshop in West Pymble, Sydney, for 40 years and mainly trades through the website. If you want to visit the workshop, it’s essential to phone beforehand. But first up, visit the website to see the fantastic range of weathervanes and other products to enhance your home, garden or property.

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Clever sprinkler design

The fruit and vegie mincer The benefits of the fruit and vegie mincer include being able to make cold-press frozen desserts, ice-cream, gelato and sorbets — great for summer — as well as dips, sauces and baby food. It’s easy to clean, easy to use and now compatible with all Kuvings model juicers. RRP $69 available at or phone (02) 9798 0586.

Water only when needed with the Toro Precision™ Soil Sensor The Toro Precision™ Soil Sensor reduces water waste by measuring moisture levels in your soil and determining when to allow your controller to water. “We’ve taken the same technology found at professional golf courses and sports fields and created a sensor intended for residential use,” says Ben Hall of Toro Australia. The Precision Soil Sensor is a two-part system that includes a battery-powered sensor and a receiver connected to your irrigation controller. Communication between the sensor and receiver is wireless, with up to 152m line-of-sight range. It’s very easy to install and no digging is required. First, connect the receiver to the controller, then find a representative area of your property for the sensor. Push the sensor probe in the ground and it will automatically calibrate itself to your soil type and begin communicating wirelessly with the receiver.

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The new Clever Drop sprinkler has innovations many home owners have been looking for in a small area sprinkler. As houses get bigger, the average-size lawn and gardens are often reduced to courtyard size. So Wobble-Tee has produced a sprinkler that’s water-efficient and has enough flexibility to be easily adapted to add extra sprinklers to create a sequence of up to eight, all watering simultaneously. Aptly named the Clever Drop, each sprinkler has four pressure-regulating discs that can be easily installed by hand, no tools required, to reduce the diameter of each individual sprinkler. This allows you to regulate each sprinkler in the row to the best diameter for the area without reducing the flow to the additional sprinklers downstream. Clever Drop sprinklers have a low angle of trajectory to reduce wind drift and a small nozzle size to lower the precipitation rate, as well as a large screen filter with an ingenious flow-through design. Plus, the sled base is purpose built to sit evenly on corrugated iron, which allows it to be used for roof cooling on bird aviaries, workshops or even houses. This base can be tilted to multiple angles, too. Low water consumption reduces wastage and in many instances this water can be captured and recycled by using a tank and a small pump. This sprinkler is flexible for many applications. It’s truly a Clever Drop.

Get creative with growing food Do you have some small people needing good organic food? Are you both busy parents? Hmm ... time poor? Surely you can set aside one full weekend to build a raised garden 800mm x whatever length you can spare x waist height. Use recycled material from the tip — eg corrugated iron, some old angle iron (for the corners) and some star posts for the outsides. You’ll find all the information on DIY on the PLANTA-GENDA website. No digging, no weeding, no bending = no work! Planting seeds is cheaper and more sustainable; use the PLANT-AGENDA to keep you organised and make your life simpler when planting and collecting seeds (so easy, cheap and also on the website). Help is only an email away.

PICK OF THE CROP Strawberry Spinach — pretty, nutritious and delicious

All your renewable energy needs Rainbow Power Company has been supplying renewable energy for 27 years — their latest innovations being simple, user-friendly solarpowered systems for every household eventuality. Rainbow Power Company also specialises in solar pumping, solar lighting kits, energysaving devices and 12V and 24V accessories, including fridge/freezers and composting toilets. Composting toilets are an ideal solution to today’s water crisis, saving up 35,000 litres of water a year with no risk of pollution to waterways and water tables; the end result is beautiful compost you can use in your garden! The Nature Loo & Sun-Mar range of composting toilets meets relevant Australian standards and health requirements. Spare parts for composting toilets, such as fans, enzymes and pedestals, are also available for sale. Call RPC on 02 6689 1430 for all your renewable energy needs.

Pest-safe chook feeders Having chooks in your backyard is an exciting thing to do but involves a little bit more than just feeding them scraps and collecting their eggs. The overall health of your flock is very important, so keeping their feed safe from rats, birds and mice is crucial as these pests spoil your expensive feed with their urine and faeces bringing unwanted diseases into your chicken house. A Red Comb Chook Feeder solves all these problems and saves you quite a bit of money from lost feed over a year. Your neighbours will be happy as well as they can get quite upset when rodents move into the area looking for chook feed. So you’ll be doing your part in keeping the neighbourhood free from these unwanted pests. Buy Australian by purchasing your feeder from Red Comb and receive two lube drinkers FREE, for a limited time.

This exotic but very easy-to-grow spinach is pretty well unknown to most Australian gardeners but one that will become very popular in the future as more and more people come to discover it. It is native to North America and Europe and grows low to the ground, looking like any usual spinach until at maturity it begins to develop 50cm-long tendrils, which form fruit in the axis of each leaf. The fruit of Strawberry Spinach is bright red and about 2cm in diameter. As the fruit fully matures it changes to a dark-red colour and becomes sweet and juicy. The leaves look and taste like any common spinach and are used like any spinach leaf. The fruit can be tossed in a salad mix for added colour and an exciting taste bonus or made into a jam with the addition of sugar. It even teams well in jams when blended with many other types of fruit. A bowl of the delicious red fruit topped with a scoop or two of vanilla ice-cream is enough to temp just about anyone. The plants are very easy to grow and you can get your seed from Rangeview Seeds.

Happy hens — supplements for your chickens Planet Poultry has a range of natural supplements for chickens (Happy Hens products): Garlic Granules: This herb has been universally used as a medicine and tonic food for thousands of years. Garlic stimulates the immune system and is an antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasite. Seaweed Meal: Contains over 70 naturally balanced elements, minerals and amino acids, including vitamins A, B1 and E, cobalt, copper, magnesium, iron and natural iodine. Molodri: A mix of molasses and fine diatomaceous earth (non-toxic fossilised diatoms). Regularly used, may assist in the control of worms and coccidiosis. Diatomaceous Earth: Used for the control of lice and mites on birds and in their housing. Apple Cider Vinegar: Causes an alkaline effect in the fowl, which reduces the likelihood of illness and helps fight existing maladies by supporting the immune system. Specially formulated double-strength, unpasteurised and still retains “the mother”, which is vital in preserving all vitamins and minerals.

Good Organic Gardening | 101


GOT CHOOKS? Rodents and birds eating their food? Tied down to daily feeding?

GRANDPA’S FEEDERS, developed and sold in New Zealand and Australia for 15 years, have become hugely popular and are now considered standard equipment for keeping chickens. Go to our website to see the feeders in action!

Automatic Chook Feeder 4 Feeder lid opens when chicken stands on platform 4 Strongly constructed with galvanized steel 4 Water proof 12 Months Satisfaction Guaranteed or Money Back!

Standard holds 9kg - $195 plus p&p. Large holds 18kg - $275 plus p&p PHONE 0406 154 274. Email:

341 Barwon Heads Road, Marshall, Vic 3216.


..... are designed to save you time and money by eliminating the need for daily feeding and to prevent the signifi cant amount of food lost to rats, mice and wild birds. These top of the range feeders allow you to enjoy the goodness of your own farm fresh eggs without attracting pests and their associated diseases. They’ll allow you to get away from your property knowing that the problem of how to feed your chickens while away is solved. Our 12 month satisfaction guarantee gives you the peace of mind that this is a top quality product that will make your life easier and save you money for years to come. Whether you have one or one hundred chickens, these are the ideal feeder for you.

Robinvale Wines is a family run and owned certi¿ed Organic and Bio-Dynamic winery and vineyard in NW Victoria. We have a large range of Wine, Juices, dried fruits and Non Alcoholic Beverages.

For all our Organic product range check our website Phone: 03 5026 3955 Email: Mention this code UM0814 to receive a discount when you order

Go Green at Home

Feathered World Pty Ltd Trading as Planet Poultry

Suppliers of a large range of natural products for poultry including Diatomaceous Earth, Garlic, Kelp, Apple Cider Vinegar & Molodri. Ph: 0437 542 422

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Weathervanes • Windsocks • Sun Dials • Model Windmills • Water Pumps • Gate & Fence Panels

The Pure & Perfect Opportunity - All the ingredients for a successful business.

View the entire Glenview range online at For more information call Bob on 02 9449 9892

Extensive range - International Food Grade Certification. Be part of the global industry-boom in organics. Stream-lined consumer-direct delivery. Website, Support & Training provided. Flexible marketing strategies - tailor your business to your lifestyle. Choosing organics helps protect your health & environment. Customer-only inquiries warmly welcomed. Request a FREE info/trial pack. Contact Ind. Representative

(Leppington) Pty Ltd ABN 36 001 123 726

1675 The Northern Road Bringelly NSW 2556 Phone: (02) 4773 4291 Fax: (02) 4773 4104 Email:

Suppliers of certified poultry and cow manures. Fresh or composted delivered in bulk. Great for all types of agriculture industries. Poultry manure which can be spread in residential areas, golf courses, sporting ovals and parks. Also ask us about our reduced low odour.

Member M b off A Australian li O Organic i Association A i i



LADIE Don’t waS!it for him. YO CAN DO IT! U

It’s simple, efficient, clean and discreet - no need for a huge compost bin in the corner of your yard.

JUST ONE $69 MOULD PAVES ANY SIZE AREA • Super-smart patented mould makes/installs pavers in one go • Pave over dirt, no ground prep needed • No skill required • Stop-start any time, joins invisible • Quality hi-impact USA mould • Save 75% off retail pavers

DIY GARDEN EDGES $2/m A single $39 border mould will make 00’s metres of garden edges each day, straight, curved, coloured. No skill, easy to use, with full instructions. Order online, we ship Australia wide. See all our mould designs and “How To” videos at:

Phone: 0429 681 921 Email:

FULL KIT INCLUDES: 3 x 100% Reconstituted Cardboard Cylinders, 3 x Steel Caps, 1 x Recycled Plastic Plunger.

0479 095 576


Saarinen Organics

All natural skin care

‘E ‘Ea arrth th FFriiendl dly’ Organic Products r Fossil Shell Flou ON T STOREWIDE 5% DISCOUN NIC R GOOD ORGA PRODUCTS FO E READERS.. ZIN GA MA ut.. GARDENING cko che at GOGM5 Enter the code

0438 195 067 • sales@plantdocto

Australia’s No.1 Supplier of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Tumbalala 592 Balala Road, Balala NSW 2358 p. 02 6778 7065

Every Body needs living enzymes & digestive health For your sprouting needs & good health • Sprouting equipment, organic seeds, books • Cultured vegetables, ferments & spices • Kitchen companions for raw food meals & more... Phone: 07 4162 5136 Email: For products, how to sprout, recipes & more

Australian Made Wind Chimes Copper Rain Chains Buy online at or via our Facebook store Phone: (02) 6655 9899



2015 available in-store now 15 Diaries and Calendars av

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8/28/2014 11:38:35 AM

Fresh, environmentally friendly organic food... the way nature intended. We have a fantastic range of quality marke market fresh fruit & vegetables, groceries, dairy, bread, meat, chicken, bulk nuts, dried fruit and more.

Specialising in a unique multi-disciplined approach to enhancing your energy, personal health & professional performance.

682 Pittwater Road, Brookvale Ph 02 9939 1913 Free parking at the rear of the store!

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH Australian Organic Food Grade

Natures answer to pest & parasite control. Protect & revitalise your home, garden, livestock & pets(internal worms, mites, fleas etc) Telephone: 0447 962 119 Email: Bulk orders welcome

Go to our website for a FREE chapter of Jo’s book ‘Rocket Fuel on a Budget’. Join us at one of our nutrition and cooking demonstrations or retreats, see website for details or connect with us at the Energy Coaching Institute on Facebook for regular updates, and health and wellness tips. EnergyCoachingInstitute

Low rates. More options. Whether you’re building a new home or renovating your existing one, at bankmecu we provide you with a wide range of options that allows you to pick and choose features that best suits your lifestyle.

We also offer great features such as: Eco pause1 – the flexibility to pause your loan repayments while installing energy or water saving solutions. Lower interest rate – when you build a 7-star rated home under the Nationwide Housing Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS)2.

So what are you waiting for? Move into your dream home sooner with bankmecu. Visit or call 132 888 for more information on the latest home loan rates.

mecu Limited ABN 21 087 651 607 AFSL / Australian Credit Licence Number 238431 trading as bankmecu. Terms, conditions, fees and charges apply and are available upon request. Loans subject to normal lending criteria and approval. 1Loans must be established for a full 12 months and a maximum loan to value ratio of 80% applies. Pausing repayments will result in interest continuing to accrue on the loan, potentially increasing the term of your loan. Full conditions available from bankmecu. 2 To qualify for the goGreen Home Loan the home financed must have an energy rating of 7 stars or more under the Nationwide House Energy Rating scheme.

Issue#5.4 2014  

With summer approaching it’s a timely reminder on how we can install an efficient watering system, so follow the basic steps to install a dr...

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