Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Semi-Shade for Herbs

Perhaps here on the Coffs Coast we need to grow some of our herbs in semi-shaded positions to extend their harvest. This is most certainly the case for potted herbs - they can really get heat affected during hot days.

Some classic shade loving plants:

Basil - can be extended by growing in semi-shade and interestingly, it is tastier!

Chives - also a good one to have on hand and they don't mind a shaded position.

Coriander - this one is best grown in the winter here on the Coffs Coast, however if you want to give it a shot over the summer put in a really shaded area in your garden.

Ginger - will take some semi-shade as well as sunny positions. We have some that is huddled up against some Turmeric and they seem to get along quite well.

Horseradish can really take off.... so best to grow in deep pots.

Lemon balm - this is a relative of mint and doesn't mind being in semi-shade.

Lemongrass - will grow in either position, full sun or semi-shade however it does require regular watering.

Mint - everyone knows that these do well under a dripping tap but also tolerate shade very well. Best not to grow in the garden as mint can be a dominate plant!

Oregano - Golden, this one is more shade tolerant than ordinary oregano.

Parsley - both curly and Italian both grow well in a semi-shaded position and don't bolt to seed so readily.

Tarragon - French, this herb enjoys early morning sun to perform well.

Thyme - this little beauty can be tolerant of both sun and semi-shade, simply a must!

Wasabi - why not give this one a shot, interesting and fun, grate to make your own wasabi paste.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Spider Wasps

Image Brisbane Insects
Recently I saw quite a few of these insects in our garden, and of course it begged some research to discover if it was a good or bad guy!

Spider wasps (family Pompilidae) are solitary wasps. They prey on spiders to feed their larvae or they parasitise other spider wasps. They do not form colonies to defend nests and are not aggressive.

They are active in gardens during the summer months. They have a habit of flicking their wings on landing and moving with a jumping motion. I just could not get a decent image so have used an image from Brisbane Insects.

The wasps we would generally see are female wasps preparing nest chambers for their larvae. On finding a spider, which may be twice as heavy as itself eg a huntsman the wasp stings and paralyses it and then drags or flies it back to the burrow. She then lays an egg on the spider's body and seals it in a chamber or cell at the end of the burrow. The larva hatches and feeds on the body of the spider before pupating in a thin silky cocoon in the cell.

Some spider wasps sting the spider and lay an egg on it and leaves the spider in situ, the larva hatches and eats the spider. A small number of Spider Wasps steal spiders from other Spider Wasps for their own larva. This behaviour is known as klepto-parasitism.

Thursday, 15 February 2018


Flower of the Month - February 2018

KINGDOM:  Plantae

CLASS:  Magnoliopsida

ORDER:  Malvales

FAMILY:  Malvaceae (Mallow)

GENUS: Hibiscus L.

Beautiful red ones, beautiful pink ones, beautiful apricot ones, beautiful yellow ones. It is always so hard to pick a favourite.

Hibiscus tiliaceus - image Wikipedia
The Australian native hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) is a tree rather than a shrub and more commonly called, sea hibiscus, beach hibiscus, coastal hibiscus, coastal cottonwood, green cottonwood, native hibiscus, native rosella, cottonwood hibiscus. There are many growing around Coffs. The bronze foliaged variety is the tiliaceus rubra.

Bring along your favourite for the competition table this Saturday.

For more information on native Hibiscus' see this Gardening with Angus page. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

2019 Pictorial Calendar

image M. Bell, Dorrigo garden

For those CHGC members who are a dab hand at taking images of gardens this is a wonderful opportunity for you to showcase your talent.

Garden Clubs of Australia (GCA) have a photo competition where they select images to be included in their pictorial calendar. The 2019 calendar competition closes on 1 March 2018 and if you would like to know more about it please see here. This link will take you to the GCA website where there is lots of information about prizes etc and how to enter.

Member Laurie G. has been most successful in the past with some of his images being chosen for the main monthly photo and also had some others used as  'filler' images (small ones that are used in the body of the calendar). There have been other members who have also submitted photos that were used in past calendars.

Good luck!  

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Making the Most of Chilli Crops

Chillies grow quite well on the Coffs Coast and perhaps we need to know how to extend their harvest - or deal with the glut of ripening fruits! Following are just some different ways to dry chillies to preserve them for further use during the months when they aren't available to pick fresh.

If you would like more information on growing HOT chillies, I wrote a post early in 2017 and that article can be seen here. If you had some success with growing your chillies, you'll have to deal with that crop soon. Drying chillies is a very efficient way to preserve them for later use and can be kept for months or even years! Drying intensifies their heat and flavour and these in turn can be pounded down to make chilli salt or mixed with other herbs for rubs.

Good results can be achieved by drying - listed here are two ways to do this - air drying and oven drying.

How to Prepare the Chillies

When drying chillies only use good quality, fully ripe chillies with no visible signs of damage or disease. Any that aren't quite perfect can be used for chutneys, pickles, jams, sambals etc.

It is worthwhile to remember that the larger the fruit, the longer it will take to effectively dry out and care should be taken that the chillies have completely dried out before storing.

Firstly thoroughly wash your chillies, drain and dry well.

First method: Air Drying

This is the traditional method of drying and is commonly used throughout the world for preserving chillies. This method is very simple and it relies on having access to the right location to achieve the best results.

Tie (or thread) the chillies at their stems along a length of string or heavy cotton thread. Keep them well spaced and avoid letting the chillies touch as much as possible (because it is paramount to have excellent air circulation). However tightly threaded chillies look fabulous hanging in a kitchen, this can be done after they have completely dried and they can be bunched up for maximum effect. You have to bear in mind though this is really just an aesthetic use for dried chillies, as they lose their flavour if stored in the open air.

Hang the string in a very dry, airy but warm location - having direct sunshine will assist in the drying process but can also bleach the fruit so best to shoot for somewhere that is bright without extended sun exposure. Depending on how dry the atmospheric conditions are will determine how long the chillies will take to fully dry....... a bit like just how long is a piece of string? Having said that though, the chillies should be dry in a week or so under dry conditions.

Second Method: Oven Drying

If it is far too humid to even attempt the air drying method (and we all know that the Coffs Coast can be very humid) perhaps this method might have better and more consistent results for you. Place your chillies on a non-stick baking tray, or lined baking tray in a single layer without touching. Have your oven at the lowest setting (you don't want to actually 'cook' the fruits), turning the fruits every hour or so for even drying. If they start to burn or sizzle - folks you've got the oven too hot..... remove the chillies, and reduce the temperature before returning them to the oven. Some experienced folk actually dry their chillies like this overnight - might be best to start off during the day when you can 'keep an eye' on the process before attempting the overnight method.


Chillies once dried should be stored in an airtight container whole in a cool, dark place. Stored for long periods, these chillies will lose some of their 'heat' and flavour but they should be OK until your next crop matures.

Dried chillies can be ground up finely for chilli powder or added to other herbs to make excellent rubs. Chilli salt can be made easily by roughly pounding (or crumbling) the dried chilli and adding to salt. 

Curing chilli is very simple too - mince fresh chillies, place in a jar with salt and thoroughly mix. This mixture can be used immediately, but the flavours will develop and intensity as it matures. If a liquid develops at the bottom of the jar, either add more salt, or drain it off for use as a very powerful liquid seasoning. Once the salt has soaked up all the liquid, it will last indefinitely in a cool, dark place and can be used in any dish that requires an intense salty heat.