Thursday, 31 August 2017

Italian Tomatoes

The meaning for tomato in Italian, is 'golden apple' because most tomato varieties were yellow to start off and the red tomato is a 'relatively' new development. The botanical name is Lycopersion meaning 'wolf peach' most probably because it is closely related to the nightshade plant. It is a native of America, and is grown and consumed throughout the world and forms the key ingredient in many dishes both raw and cooked.

The term "determinate" is used to indicate that the plant stops growing when it terminal flower cluster develops often called bush tomatoes. "Indeterminate" are those that just keep on growing until they are killed by frost or some other external agent. They are most commonly staked and pruned. 

Italian heirloom tomatoes reflect their end use with large salad varieties, and those with plum shaped fruits are better suited to making puree (passata) and drying. No other vegetable is as versatile and it is without doubt one of the most important ingredients in Italian cooking.

If you are looking to purchase good Italian tomato seeds this is a really good website to trawl through to find the perfect one to grow in your garden during the coming summer months.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Growing Beans in the Subtropics

The link for Arno King's article on growing beans in our climate was first shared on the CHGC blog in April 2015.

As it is so relevant for the Coffs Coast vegetable gardener it's time for it to get another 'airing'. Arno has given so much thought and there is such a wealth of information, it is a must read if you are even thinking of growing beans!

In his article, Arno recounts how his Dad grew this favourite vegetable, gives the history of beans, the many varieties available and which climate they are best suited to.

Here is the link to read Arno's excellent article - Growing Beans.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Hurry Only One Week to Go!

Standard Burgundy & White Iceberg Roses are a feature of this garden

We are into the last week that entries will be accepted in the 2017 Coffs Spring Garden Competition.

Diverse categories mean that there is something for everyone - Strata or Community Title, Small, Medium, Large and Huge block sizes, 75 years or older gardeners, Rented, Relocatable home, Whole gardens of flats/units/villas, Patio/courtyard, gardens maintained by a disabled person, most attractive Front Garden, Vegetable Gardens - small and large, New Home/New Garden built within the last two years AND Best Garden Feature - this can be a special water feature/pool surrounds or for example the lovely path featured above edged with roses.

Of course there are School and Industrial/Commercial and Community categories as well.

Waterwise categories are judged in accordance with criteria set down by Coffs Harbour City Council.

So there are categories abounding! See here for more detailed links within this site.

The Champion Gardener will receive return flights to Brisbane and two night's accommodation, with the dates being the choice of the winner. 

Reserve Champion will receive two night's accommodation for two people at The Observatory Apartments plus a $100 meal voucher at Latitude 30 Restaurant, both these prizes can be used anytime - just make the bookings when convenient.

All Residential entrants will be eligible for a random draw for a family pass to Dolphin Marine Magic AND first time Residential entrants will be in a separate draw for a voucher from Park Avenue Florist.

The New Home/New Garden has a first prize voucher to the value of $100 and second place, a $50 voucher. 

All other categories receive $50 first place voucher and $25 second place voucher. 

All Residential entrants receive a $5 Total Gardens Voucher.

Judging will be 10-12 September with the Presentation Night on Friday 15 September.

Winning gardens will be open the weekend 16-17 September from 10am until 4pm on each day. Details will be posted on this website at 8:30pm Friday 15 September. The Advocate will also have details of the all the winning garden addresses too in their Saturday 16 September edition.

It is a condition of entry that winning gardens are open to the public.

Further information Maria 6656 2429 or

Friday, 18 August 2017

Mandarins From Seed

Emperor Mandarin

A neighbour a few years ago gave me some seeds from his prolific mandarin 'cropper'. I DID have some success germinating the seeds, which made me exceedingly happy, unfortunately there was an extended period away from home and the mandarins (along with a lot of other propagated material) suffered their demise.

Mandarin trees grow very easily from seed (as evidenced by my own experience), patience is required as the seed-grown tree can take several years to be large and mature enough to produce any fruit. It has to be said though, that not every type of mandarin comes true from seed but the Emperor variety is one that does and crops (relatively speaking) quite quickly. Most citrus, including mandarins are usually grafted or bud grafted (the process connecting the cambion of the scion [the graft] to the cambion of the rootstock) on to two year old rootstock. These plants should be fruiting within two years of purchase. 

Steps to Growing a Mandarin from Seed

If you have a mandarin that is particularly tasty, juicy and large this might be an excellent start to your own mandarin tree. 

Initial steps - washing and sowing

Firstly gently wash the seed clean, allowing it to dry and then sow into seed raising mix. They can be sown into a small 10cm pot with one seed per pot. Moisten the mix before sowing and gently push the seed about 5mm deep and gently cover it over. After sowing, water the pot gently. There should be enough nutrient within the seed for it to germinate so there is no need to fertilise now.

Keep moist

Keep the pots in a warm position in a well-lit spot but out of direct sunlight. Mist the seed-raising mix so it doesn't dry out. Germination will normally take around seven to ten days.

Use liquid plant food

Once you see any emerging growth fertilise with a seaweed solution so the plant will establish strong cell structure. Once the seedling is around 5cm high, start a regime of a weak liquid plant food applied every 14 days or so. Once it shows signs of healthy growth, the pot can be gradually moved to a more open position.


Snails and slugs will relish the delicate new growth so protect your plants with some snail bait. Check the leaves for other pests including aphids and caterpillars - you can easily squish these.


When the seedlings are about 10-15cm high with a well-developed root system it is ready to go into a larger container - around 15cm diameter, with fresh potting mix. Continue to repot into larger containers as the plant grows and its roots begin to fill each new pot.

When to plant in the garden

Plant out in the garden after about two year's growth - or when the plant is around 30cm high or more.

Seed germinated mandarins may take from four to seven years to flower and fruit. Young trees with weak branches should be discouraged from fruiting by removing all the flowers and tiny fruit. Flowering occurs in spring with fruit forming in summer and ripening in early autumn.

Strangely enough I have never revisited growing a mandarin from seed again as it was felt that the time involved might actually preclude me from enjoying any of its fruit!

If you would like to learn how to do your own grafting this link has all the information you should need:

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


Flower of the Month - August

Image BH&G
KINGDOM: Plantae

ORDER: Ericales

FAMILY: Polemoniaceae

GENUS: Phlox

The Phlox genus has numerous species of annuals and perennials that belong to the Polemoniaceae family. Phlox are a variable group, ranging from carpeting rockery groundcovers through wiry-stemmed trailers to large bushy perennials with strongly erect stems. The genus name comes from the Greek word for flamean which is an apt description for the vibrant flowers in this genus. Phlox that grow well in Coffs are the annual phlox which tend to be small mounding bushes. If left alone they will readily self seed and come up to surprise you again the following year with their happy colours and sweet perfume.

In Miyazako, Japan there is the most amazing field of moss phlox, Phlox subulata planted adjacent to a farmhouse owned by the Mr & Mrs Kuroki.

Mr & Mrs Kuroki - Image GardenDrum
Mrs Kuroki had become blind and her husband wanted to entice her outside again, so planted a field of phlox. Today, thousands are drawn each year to experience this wonderful sight AND smell.

Swedish Landscapes - Summer

Summer wild flowers in Sweden

Once again Jovanna, some lovely images from your daughter, thank you for sharing.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Native Plant Society NSW - GardenDrum

Garden at Cloudy Hill

From GardenDrum - 'Swapping jobs in the nation’s capital for a tree change to the high country and a shed with a view on a rural property, Fiona and Alex moved to Fitzgerald’s Mount near Bathurst in 2008. There they built a house and created a garden that flourishes despite the harsh conditions of the high country of the central tablelands of NSW.'

To see some absolutely fabulous images of this garden throughout the four seasons, click on Native Garden.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Mealybug Predator

image Gordon Zammit

There is a mealybug predatory ladybird called Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, is endemic to Queensland and northern New South Wales. Unlike most other Coccinellidae, it is predominantly brown and has no spots. 

The large 5mm adult female beetles lay their eggs in the cottony egg-masses produced by mealybugs - one egg per mass usually and up to 10 of them per day for up to 50 days, so quite hard working little female beetles! The eggs hatch into white, shaggy-coated larvae which look like mealybugs - a classic example of a wolf in sheep's clothing. These too are fierce predators, growing up to 1cm long and consuming 250 or so small mealybugs and their eggs, enjoying the youngest ones first.