Posts filed under 'Plants'

Sustainable Illawarra Super Challenge

We have signed up for the Sustainable Illawarra Super Challenge, and Monday night was the official launch of the programme.

The idea is for 120 households across the Illawarra to spend the next 12 months moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Sustainable Illawarra provides participants with information, workshops, guidance and resources (as well as some nice discounts and freebies from local businesses!) to help them achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. In return, Sustainable Illawarra will learn what the issues are for local families, and they’ll also get some stories and case studies they can use in getting the message out to the wider community.

To keep track of what our family is doing and how far we’ve come, we’ve set up a new blog: Feel free to have a read, leave some comments, and send us suggestions!

November 6th, 2008


Why do sunflowers always reach towards the sun? There are two schools of thought:

  • It’s due to differential growth of the stem. There’s a growth-regulator that builds up in the shaded side of the sunflower’s stem, making that side grow faster than the sunny side. This causes the stem to bend towards the sun.
  • Go outside, stand on your tippy-toes, stretch your arms out wide, and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Feels good, eh?

1 Dec 2001 13 Dec 2001 14 Dec 2001 13 Dec 2001 23 Dec 2001 23 Dec 2001

14 Dec 2001: The first flower is just starting to open (see picture above).

Oct 2001: Planted sunflower seeds in the top garden bed.

December 15th, 2001

Lettuce ‘Green Cos’

7 Dec 2001

Mr. Fothergill’s (seed)

Lettuce ‘Green Cos’. An excellent variety of cos lettuce, producing large, firm hearts with a crisp texture and good flavour. It is suitable for both Spring and Autumn sowing.

Sow: Spring and Autumn, a few seeds in each clump, 6mm deep. Cover with a fine layer of seed raising mix or soil, and water gently. Space the clumps about 20cm apart. Keep moist. Thin to the strongest seedlings. Feed with liquid fertiliser every 10-14 days. water often as lettuce have shallow roots. Make successive sowings at fortnightly intervals.

Harvest: Will be ready 8 weeks from sowing. Eat straight from the garden.

Green Cos is ideal for growing in large tubs, pots or troughs.

Early Dec 2001: Began picking leaves. They’re perfect for sandwiches and Caesar salads. Eight or ten plants provides more lettuce than the two of us can keep up with!

Late Oct 2001: Pricked out the seedlings, and planted them in the bottom garden bed.

Mid Oct 2001: Sowed lettuce seeds in the sand/coir mix.

December 11th, 2001


My favourite way to cook zucchini is in a small saucepan with butter and thyme. Towards the end of their fruiting life, I leave one or two zucchinis per plant to grow into a huge marrow. These are great stuffed with chilli-flavoured mince and topped with grated cheese.

28 Nov 2001 26 Nov 2001 1 Dec 2001

It pays to have plenty of bees around the yard to pollinate your zucchini flowers. Sunflowers are especially good at attracting them. If a female zucchini flower doesn’t get pollinated properly, it won’t form a proper fruit and will end up looking like this:

10 Dec 2001

You can tell male and female zucchini flowers apart by looking at the centre. The flower on the left is a female, the one on the right is male:

14 Dec 2001 15 Dec 2001

13 Dec 2001: Picked 3 more zucchinis.

12 Dec 2001: Picked 2 more zucchinis today. They’re starting to pile up in the fridge – if you know any good zucchini recipes, email me!

10 Dec 2001: Picked 1 zucchini.

9 Dec 2001: Picked 4 zucchinis today.

Early Nov 2001: Planted zucchini seedlings from punnets.

December 9th, 2001

Lettuce ‘Tuscan Salad Mix’

There were four types of lettuce in the punnet -?La Roma Green, endive, radicchio and La Roma Red. The photos below are in that order (thanks to Luc Dedeene from for helping me figure that out!).

9 Dec 2001 9 Dec 2001 9 Dec 2001 9 Dec 2001

Floriana (seedlings)

Lettuce ‘Tuscan Salad Mix’. A mix of La Roma Red, La Roma Green, Radicchio and spidery endive for a perfect salad blend which may be picked leaf by leaf. Suitable for containers.

Lettuce prefer a well drained, friable soil and should be protected from snails.

Position: Sunny to lightly shaded.

Plant: 25-30cm apart.

Planting Time: All year round.

Maturity: 6-8 weeks.

Uses: Salads (radicchio can also be?barbequed).

6 Dec 2001: Maryanne bought this punnet of mixed lettuce seedlings, but then didn’t have anywhere suitable to plant them out. After sitting on her garden bench for a few weeks, I planted them in our garden for her.

December 9th, 2001

Banksia Harpin

The common name is Banksia Harpin (botanic name Banksia Spinulosa). I’m planning to plant it halfway along the back fence to help screen out the neighbours’ house.

12 Nov 2001

Kiama Council (seedling)

Banksia Harpin (banksia spinulosa). Red-orange flowers in Autumn to Spring. Grows to 1-4 metres.

11 Nov 2001: Kiama Council gives away free trees to ratepayers. They hold a stall outside the Council Chambers every few weekends – I can never remember when they’re coming up next, and so usually miss them. I happened to be driving past today and the stall was on, so I stopped in to check out what they had. It was late in the day, so there wasn’t much left, but I picked up this fantastic red-orange flowering banksia. For now it’s just growing in a pot on the back verandah.

November 11th, 2001

Salad Alfalfa

25 Nov 2001

Buying seed in the small Yates packets turns out to be expensive – you need to use at least a couple of teaspoons of seed to get a useful quantity of sprouts. I’m going to try and get a larger seed packet from a health food shop or a nursery.

I’ve found that when you rinse the alfalfa, the shoots float to the top and the unsprouted seeds sink to the bottom of the jar. This makes it a lot easier to separate them for serving.

Yates (seed)

Salad Alfalfa. Alfalfa or lucerne is a real health food. It is rich in many nutrients, has high levels of vitamins and minerals. Excellent to eat in salads, sandwiches or with many dishes.

How To Use: Use a large coffee or jam jar.

  1. Place the seed in the jar, soak in tepid water for about 3 hours, covering the top of the jar with either muslin, cheesecloth or a cotton handkerchief.
  2. Pour off the water, placing the jar on a slant which will allow good drainage and ventilation.
  3. Fill the jar twice a day with tepid water, shake well and then drain off.
  4. In about 3-5 days, sprouts should be ready to be eaten.
  5. Once sprouted, sprouts can be refrigerated for about one week without losing flavour, provided they are placed in an airtight container.

18 Nov 2001: I started another batch, with about twice as much seed this time.

17 Nov 2001: Ate the alfalfa. There was only a few forkfulls, though – next time I’ll use a lot more!

11 Nov 2001: I soaked about half a teaspoon of alfalfa seeds in water to start the germination process, then poured them into a glass jar with a piece of fine gauze over the top. I drained them, then rinsed them twice a day. About 6 days later, the alfalfa was ready to eat. There wasn’t very much, though – next time I’ll use a lot more seed!

25 Nov 2001

November 11th, 2001

Beetroot ‘Derwent Globe’

Beetroot are excellent steamed for about an hour with their skin on – it peels off easily once they’re cooked. If you’ve only ever tasted canned beetroot, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the flavour of the fresh stuff.

Yates (seed)

Beetroot ‘Derwent Globe’. A rich red, globe-shaped root. Flesh is tender and sweet. Ideal Summer and Winter vegetable.

Sow: Each ‘seed’ is a cluster of 1-4 true seeds in a corky base. Soak for two hours before sowing to ensure water reaches the seeds. Sowing in trays of Yates Seed Raising Mix will allow all seedlings from each cluster to be transplanted later.

Care: Transplant when 3-5cm tall into a sunny well-drained position. Apply Yates Thrive Soluble Fertiliser occasionally and keep seedlings well watered. Obtain continuous supply by successive sowings.

Germination: 10-14 days.

Harvest: 10-12 weeks.

18 Nov 2001: When I checked today, the seeds were just starting to sprout out of the seed raising mix. They’ll be ready to prick out soon.

11 Nov 2001: I soaked the beetroot seeds in water for two hours before planting them out into the sand/coir box.

November 11th, 2001

Sweet Corn ‘Honeysweet’

25 Nov 2001

Yates (seed)

Sweet Corn ‘Honeysweet’. An early maturing variety of the popular new super-sweet corn. Large, even cobs with extremely sweet golden kernels. Very easy to grow.

Sow: When the soil is warm and all danger of frosts is over. Sow seeds in pairs in damp soil. No further watering is needed until seedlings appear. Thin out the weaker of each pair when approximately 15cm high.

Care: Plant in a well-drained, sunny position. Prepare soil by adding Yates Gro-Plus Fertiliser. Water regularly. Pick cobs when fine ‘silk’ has just browned. Protect seedlings from snails with Yates Blitzem.

A Hint For Better Crops: Sweet corn is best grown in blocks of short rows, which ensures better pollination and yield.

Germination: 6-10 days.

Harvest: 12-14 weeks.

1 Dec 2001: About three quarters of the corn seeds germinated this time – much better than last time, but still a bit disappointing. I planted them out with the rest of the corn seedlings – they’re a bit smaller, but hopefully they’ll catch up. If nothing else, at least the harvest will be spread over a longer period.

11 Nov 2001: I planted more seeds in seed trays. Hopefully these ones will do better than the last two batches!

10 Nov 2001: I transplanted the November seedlings into the top garden bed.Only about half of the seeds I sowed germinated. They seem to be doing OK so far, but I’m not sure why my germination rates are so low.

Nov 2001: More seeds were planted in early November in the sand/coir seed raising box.

Oct 2001: I planted corn seeds straight into the top garden bed. They didn’t germinate – I think they got too much water and rotted.

November 11th, 2001

Basil ‘Sweet Genovese’

Basil is a handy herb to have growing in the garden. You can knock up a pesto sauce at a moment’s notice, toss it through some pasta, and be eating dinner 15 minutes after walking in the door.

Mr Fothergill’s (seed)

Basil ‘Sweet Genovese’. This is an aromatic herb which has many culinary uses, and is particularly popular in Mediterranean dishes.

An annual, growing up to 38-40cm tall. It is a useful border plant and grows well in pots or tubs.

Sowing: during Spring in final position 5mm deep, spaced 30cm apart. Keep moist. Sow all year round if growing in pots on the windowsill. Basil thrives in a rich, well drained soil and a warm sheltered position.

Harvesting: pick the leaves as required, basil is best used fresh. Pinching out the tip of the main stem will encourage bushy growth or prevent the plants from flowering to prolong picking.

Culinary: the leaves impart a mild aniseed-clove flavour to salads, soups and omelettes and are delicious with tomatoes. Only add basil at the last minute when cooking or the flavour will be lost.

18 Nov 2001: The seeds are just starting to sprout. They should be ready to plant out in the garden within a few weeks.

November 11th, 2001

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