Saturday, 29 April 2017

Growing Garlic

The flavour of home grown garlic cannot be compared to store bought, which has been (usually) washed in chemical to prevent it from spoiling.

Some gardeners on the Coffs Coast prefer to grow the large Russian garlic or Elephant garlic however for first timers it might be a good idea to give all a go and see what works best for you.

Firstly choose a very sunny area for your garlic. Good soil preparation is a vital key by using lots of old compost, blood and bone (if you don't have any roaming dogs!) and manure. What is required is a rich, friable, well-drained bed for your garlic.
Plant the cloves (separated from the bulb). Select large, firm, free from mould, unblemished healthy knobs and only use the outer big cloves for planting - the smaller ones can be used for cooking. If possible, buy the garlic cloves from nurseries, organic growers or farmers markets - anywhere you have access to untreated cloves.
For the Coffs Coast now (in Autumn) is an excellent time to plant garlic. As garlic is a daylight sensitive plant - forming leaf growth as daylight shortens through autumn into winter and with bulb growth as daylight lengthens in spring and summer. A general rule of thumb with garlic is, plant on short days and harvest on long days. 

When planting your bulb be mindful to plant so the pointy end is facing up and the clove around two centimetres below the surface and plant 10-15cm apart. Mulch lightly with a loose material like sugar cane or pea straw (although I often find that the pea straw can become problematic when it shoots). Once the garlic has grown a bit, further mulching material can be added.

Garlic doesn't like competition, so this is not a set and forget crop - it will need to be weeded frequently, sorry!

Garlic will require regular watering and fertilising with seaweed extract to keep the plants growing vigorously until the bulbs start to form in the spring. Once the bulbs have formed pull back on the fertiliser as excessive nitrogen can cause side shoots to form.

To harvest garlic - if planted now (in Autumn) you should be harvesting garlic by early summer, it rather depends on the season. However, for a guide when to dig it up is: when most of the green shoots have yellowed but there are still a few greenish ones attached, (and before the stems topple over), dig the garlic up. Some folk like to braid the stems; store in a cool, well-ventilated spot. 

During the growing season some of the green stems can be cut and used for flavouring.

If you wish to learn more about growing garlic in Australia and what types there are visit you will be blown away by the many different cultivars and groups.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Flood Damage

image GardenDrum

Judy Bigg from the Northern Rivers of NSW has spent the last 8 years creating a wonderful garden including regenerating the area along their (usually) small creek with a mix of natives and exotics. The significant rain event in late March had a harrowing effect on her garden. Rain of 1,000 mm in 48 hours - yes 40 inches in the old scale - created a raging torrent through her garden with devastating results (debris indicates just how deep this creek became during the flood).

You can read more about this from the GardenDrum blog.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Pumpkin Competition - Sydney Royal 2017

This competition is a very popular one with the public. 

There will be some pumpkins that 'blow' during the 14 day period they are on display...... this IS NOT a very happy circumstance as the smell is just woeful. So the pumpkins are carefully checked each morning before the doors open and any pumpkins that have 'soft spots' are GENTLY removed.

Unfortunately I didn't take note of the heaviest pumpkin weight...... it has now been removed.

Cute Easter themed pumpkins and the Ram a real beautie

Note the Donald Trump lookalike to the left of the bling pumpkin.

The chupa chups pumpkin was very clever

There were some really innovative decorated pumpkins this year and such fun to see. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Sydney Royal Easter Show 2017

The Sydney Royal Flower and Garden Section is broken up into seven sessions, this means that many of the competitions change throughout the duration of the show every second day. The following images were taken on day two of the show (that is Session 1). On this day there were competitions in Dahlias, Floristry Students, National Floral Designer Competition, Schools Australian Native Flora Competition, Schools Vegie Gardens and TAFE NSW Floral Displays.

The Dahlia competition was a little down on previous years but this was due to the recent heavy rain which wrecked havoc with the blooms. The exhibits 'benched' on this day were just stunning.

On day one of the show there's a competition for Students currently enrolled in Certificate III in Floristry. This supervised Competition is conducted as a 'Surprise Box' where all the horticultural material, accessories and sundry items are provided to the competitors and are a complete surprise to the them. Their work kit is the only permitted item for the students to bring to the competition. They can use any or all of the materials included in the surprise box and they are given a theme to work with - this is notified at the commencement of the competition. 

It's amazing just how diverse the works are when one considers all the competitors are working with the same materials - it's all up to interpretation and individual imagination. 

Certificate III Floristry Students Surprise Box

The general theme throughout the Pavilion this year is 'Kaleidoscope of Colour'. There are many static floor displays fulfilling this brief with amazing use of colour. These static displays stay in situ throughout the whole show (14 days) so any flowers that deteriorate during this time are replenished each morning before the doors open to the public.

This image was taken before the Sydney Royal Florist Shop had set up.
Another massive static display
This certainly fulfilled the brief of 'Kaleidoscope of Colour'

The blue backed floor displays are part of the invitation only National Floral Designer Competition. Competitors are selected by a panel of judges based on their display concept sketch. The 'Kaleidoscope of Colour' was again the theme for this competition. These displays were judged by International renowned designer Gregor Lersch.

'Kaleidoscope of Colour' theme for Sydney Royal Easter Show 2017

The TAFE NSW designs were fantastic to see develop in the days leading up to the show. They are just terrific and there were many people taking photos to use for inspiration in their own gardens. These designs remain the same throughout the entire show.



In the Pavilion there is an opportunity for groups to have a stand to promote their interests and give information to the public.

Five Dock RSL Orchid Society - always a beautiful stand

The Australian Plants Society, just stunning and full of information!

Information on weeds - I was able to get more material to write further posts

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show - Catherine Stewart GardenDrum

image GardenDrum

Catherine Stewart like many garden designers, flocked to the MIFGS 2017 to see what was trending in design. She gives her impressions of the show in this GardenDrum blog

The article is well worth reading as there are wonderful images of some of the gardens like the one pictured above - Christian Jenkins' garden for Beyond Blue, on show in Melbourne this year. 

Catherine writes 'For the past few years, MIFGS has been a real treat. I’ve been wowed over and over – not just by brilliant design, high-quality construction and exquisite planting but by something else, something that excites and inspires.'

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Growing Herbs - April 2017 Presentation from Simon

An interesting presentation from Simon for this month on growing herbs - a must read.

April Presentation from Simon from blogpwrpnt

Thanks for this presentation Simon it had some enlightening information.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Redlove Apple

image GardenDrum

This folks, is the VERY latest in APPLES! Yes, it does have the appearance of a rather nice looking plum but no, it's an apple. Doesn't it look fantastic? 

The journey from Kazakhstan has been a long one. The Redlove apple is the result of a twenty year labour of love from Markus Kobelt, a Swiss nurseryman who undertook the laborious task of cross-breeding until he achieved this wonderful result - now there's dedication and patience for you!

The Redlove apple has been released in Australia by Domus Nursery, not from Victoria or New South Wales as you would likely assume, but from a nursery in Western Australia. 

To read more about this fantastic release, see this article from Gardendrum's Sandy Lim. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt is a disease caused by a fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Lycopersici, which lives in the soil. It is often confused with verticillium wilt because both produce similar symptoms in tomatoes.

The fungus works its way up through the plant's roots, clogging water-conducting tissue in the stem. This then prevents water from reaching branches and leaves, starving the plant. Affected plants produce very few tomatoes and often the entire plant dies.

Symptoms and damage

Fusarium wilt begins with yellowing on the bottom leaves and works its way up the vine. Plants generally have brown or black lesions on the lower stem and upper parts of the roots. In tomatoes, seedlings show a downward curling of the oldest leaves. To confirm infection, split open the stems. If they reveal pink to brown discolouration, fusarium wilt is present. 


When planting, avoid all wet spots and build raised beds if your drainage is less than ideal. Maintain a pH of 6.5-6.8 (unfavourable for the disease) and use a nitrate-based nitrogen fertiliser rather than an ammonia-based nitrogen one. Keep young plants growing vigorously and take care not to damage their roots or leaves when transplanting AND practice crop rotation! The fusarium fungus can survive indefinitely in the soil. Plant tomatoes no more than once every four years in the same spot. Avoid planting other Solanaceous crops (potato, peppers and eggplant) in the same area as they are susceptible to the fungus too.

Management of Disease

There is no cure for this disease. 

Pull up and discard infected plants immediately. If you grow your own plants from seed it is imperative that all plant growing equipment and supplies are thoroughly washed using a 10% chlorine bleach solution and use sterile soil-less seed raising material.

David Jones from The Australian National University is working on the molecular basis of disease and disease resistance in tomatoes - in particular leaf mould and fusarium wilt. This disease is a very serious one, especially for commercial field growers and igloo or tunnel producers of tomatoes. 

We home gardeners have to do our bit too by responsibly disposing of any affected plant material in our green bins.

Saturday, 1 April 2017


President Sue's Fig, image M. Reid -

History of the Fig

Ficus carica is known by the Egyptians as the 'Tree of Life' and is an Asian species of flowering plants in the mulberry family. Simply known as 'fig' it is native to the Middle East and western Asia and it has been sought out and cultivated since ancient times and is now grown extensively throughout the world both for its delicious fruit and as a wonderful ornamental plant. 

About the fig tree

The fig is a large, deciduous, well shaped tree and is excellent as a shade tree and can be trimmed and trained into a manageable size, grown even as a hedge or espaliered in tight situations, they can also be grown in large pots. Figs prefer a Mediterranean climate - warm to hot summers and cooler winters, rather than wet humid coastal Coffs Coast. Having said that, there are still plenty of dedicated backyard fig growers enjoying good crops on the coast which makes their efforts even more worthwhile. Take for example this excellent fig grown at President Sue's garden at Corindi (leading photo). So if you are one who likes a challenge, it looks like the fig just might be a goer for you.

Many fig tree varieties crop twice each year - the first is called breba (or breva in Spanish) which develops in the spring on the previous year's shoot growth. You can often see the tiny fruits dormant on the tree over winter. Sometimes these figs don't always develop the rich flavour of the main crop so some people like to remove the breba so the tree's energy is given to the main crop. In really cold areas these breba figs often get burnt by severe frost - certainly not the case for the Coffs Coast!

The main crop develops on the current year's shoot growth in late summer in the leaf axil. 

An interesting fact about figs is that they flower on the inside - the pulp inside the fig fruit is actually lots of tiny little flowers. Many figs require a wasp to pollinate the flowers through the small white eye on the end of the fruit, so think very carefully before using chemicals and traps in your backyard that may harm these wasps. Having said that though, most commercially available varieties of figs these days are self fertile.

Growing Figs

Figs require good drainage as they hate 'wet feet' and are often planted in raised beds or mounds to ensure good drainage. As a test to see if drainage is good enough for a fig, dig a deep hole and fill it with water and if the water drains away within 30 minutes you are good to plant in that position. They do like a limey soil, so if your pH is below 6.5, you'll have to dig in some lime to correct the pH. Choose a site that has good early morning sun - the sun will dry off dew which will reduce the incidence of disease. A good layer of straw mulch and plenty of organic matter will also give your tree an excellent start. Also another consideration for choosing your site for planting is to remember that this tree will be a lovely shade tree to loll under on hot summer days!

If room is an issue, fig trees will happily grow in a pot or a small contained garden bed (this can be raised to assist with the drainage). Unlike most plants, restricting the spread of their roots encourages fig trees to be more fruitful and needless to say will also limit their actual tree size.

Pests of fig trees

You may have to fight with the birds and possums to be the first at the fruit. Invest in some netting to keep these voracious feeders away but be sure to check it regularly to ensure there are no creatures trapped in it. Though they are considered very hardy trees, figs can also be affected by a number of other pests and diseases:

  • Fig mosaic virus - this is a serious problem and affects leaf pigment and causes a mottled, yellow pattern on the leaf. The yellow spots sometimes become surrounded by rust coloured borders as the disease progresses. Affected plants need to be destroyed as there is no effective treatment for this virus.

  • Queensland fruit fly (Dacus tryoni) - is a major pest in many areas of NSW. Small, brown/black flies with distinctive cream to yellow markings on the mid-section, the female lays eggs in ripening fruit which then spoils. Pheromone traps will attract and kill the male fly. Fallen fruit should be destroyed.

  • Fig blister mite (Aceria ficus) - colourless to white, blister mites attack inside the fruit leaving rust coloured dry patches that affect the eating quality of the fruit. You won't know they are there until you harvest the first fruits. If you do find damaged fruit, destroy it to prevent subsequent fruits being infected as they ripen.

  • Fig tree leaf beetle (Poneridia semipullata) - Both larvae and adult can cause damage to the leaves. The larvae are responsible for most of the damage on new leaves and when they feed in groups (as they often do), they can destroy the new growth very quickly. The adult beetles are about 10mm in length, brown in colour with a black dot on the thorax and the base of the wing covers. The adults tend to be more solitary and eat the edges of both new and old leaves leaving a scalloped pattern to the leaves.

  • The fig leaf beetle caterpillar chews and skeletonises the leaves. These guys have a voracious appetite and if you're not on to them quickly they can clean up every leaf on the a small tree in a few days. Regular checks once or twice a week will keep numbers down. If you do see them, squish them immediately, spray them with a natural pyrethrum spray or knock them into a bucket of water which has some washing up detergent in it.

  • Fig rust and Anthracnose - both fungal diseases that may affect fig trees here on the Coffs Coast, fig rust produces powdery yellow spots on the leaves. Anthracnose forms small brown to black spots, which develop into a larger patch of infection. With both diseases, leaves will turn yellow and then fall. As with most fungal disease, copper-based fungicides are normally used for control and fallen foliage should be destroyed.


If your newly planted tree has a single stem this should be pruned at about 60cm and then three developing branches selected to form the initial framework. 

These developing branches should later be shortened back to allow for further branches to develop. This will enable a strong framework to be established in your tree. 

To encourage a good crop on vigorous new wood the annual growth should be cut back to about a third of its length each winter. Dead and diseased wood should of course, be removed.


When harvesting allow the fruit to ripen on the tree, they will be slightly soft to the touch and smell sweet. Figs will not continue to ripen once they have been removed from the tree. As they bruise very easily, handle them with care when picking.  A fig tree will usually start to bear fruit from 2 to 3 years after planting.

Figs are a very versatile fruit and can be eaten fresh, glazed, dried, poached, slow roasted etc etc. They are high in fibre and vitamin C and the sap of fig is reportedly useful in getting rid of warts..... (Some people can have an allergic reaction to the latex so caution should be exercised, use gloves and long sleeves when harvesting).

You can see more about figs from this excellent site The Food Forest is based in Gawler South Australia so a very different climatic condition from the ours here on the Coffs Coast. However, there is a lot of detail about fig varieties on their website and other interesting information.