herbs

Slowly switching to sub-tropical vegetables and herbs

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A selection of seeds suitable for sub-tropical climates.
A selection of seeds suitable for sub-tropical climates.

The coastal areas of Sydney sit half way between temperate and sub-tropical climates. This has historically been great for growing vegetables: just like a temperate climate, but without frosts and overall a bit warmer.

In recent years, however, Sydney has become hotter and more humid, at least where we live in Lewisham. This has led to vegetables prematurely bolting to seed, and to us losing the fight with powdery mildew (and its cousins).

So I’ve recently started to shift my mindset, to increasingly treating Sydney as a sub-tropical climate.

This was reflected in my last seed order from Green Harvest (who are located in Queensland):

  • Coriander ‘Slow Bolt’
  • Cucumber ‘Giant Russian’
  • Onion ‘Green Stem Welsh’
  • Cauliflower ‘Sixty Days’
  • Mexican Tarragon

These are all listed as being suitable for hot climates, slow to bolt to seed, and/or being disease resistant (in particular, powdery mildew).

We’ll see how they go!

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Afternoon tea

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Our chamomile plants self-seeded from last year’s crop, and are already flowering.

I made this chamomile and mint tisane by steeping 6 fresh chamomile flowers and 4 mint leaves in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Goes well with home-grown strawberries. Tastes even better when served in a posh cup.

Our herb garden in Spring

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In early Spring 2009, we established our herb garden. A year on, some herbs have really thrived, while others have been less productive.

We’ve had most success with our marjoram, lemon thyme, chives and flat-leaf parsley. All have grown vigorously and remained disease-free. We’ve only had one plant that didn’t make it — the French lavender — I presume due to Sydney’s humidity.

The other plants in the garden have been reasonably healthy throughout most of the year. In particular, the borage has improved now that it has been getting more water from the drip-feeder (it’s a water-hungry plant).

For an interactive photo of the garden, click on the photo above which will take you to our Flickr page.

Heartsease

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Our heartsease plants have begun to flower. What is heartsease? THIS is heartsease:

heartsease

I wanted to grow heartsease in the herb garden to add some interest and colour. Not only that, but the flowers and leaves are edible so they fit with my self-imposed rule of only planting edible plants in the herb garden.

Apparently heartsease has some health benefits too. However, the health benefits vary depending on what you read. Some places say it is good for remedying lung complaints (asthma etc). Others say that heartsease tea (made from dried and ground heartsease flowers and leaves) is great for sinusitis. Still others say the plant contains “cytotoxic characteristics” which apparently treats cancer.

Nevermind, I thought I’d try some heartsease tea made with fresh flowers to see if I would survive. The tea tasted like rocket. I am still alive, but not sure whether I’m feeling any better than I did prior to taking the tea! Anyway it’s an interesting experiment.

heartsease tea

Oh, and finally I’ve read the flowers are a colourful addition to salads, so I think we’ll stick to that 🙂

A very early Christmas

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A veritable cornucopia from the garden
A veritable cornucopia from the garden

On Monday I cooked Christmas lunch for my team from work, as is the tradition. (Yes Christmas! The price to pay for having two of the team going on maternity leave late this year.)

For the meal, the garden provided:

  • masses of silverbeet
  • carrots
  • spring onions
  • salad greens
  • herbs, including mint and dill

From this, and a a few store-bought ingredients, we had:

  • spanakopita (cheese and spinach pie)
  • roast chicken with baked potatoes
  • indian carrot salad
  • green salad

There’s still heaps of silverbeet left in the ground, and the spring crop is just coming into its own. It’s amazing how little has to be bought when the majority of ingredients can be pulled straight out of the ground an hour before the meal.

Useful flowers and herbs

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In a recent post, I shared a photo of my new garden bed, snug up behind the front fence. The strawberries that we received for free have gone in one half. I’ve also planted some flat leaf parsley and coriander, to serve kitchen needs.

The remaining space is being devoted a mix of flowers and herbs that serve a variety of purposes:

  • Borage – companion plant to strawberries, good bee forage
  • Chamomile – deters flies and mosquitoes, can be used as a fungicide spray
  • Hyssop – trap plant for cabbage moth, plant away from brassicas, good for bees
  • Pyrethrum – can be made into a natural insectiside

Sowing for Spring

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SowingLast weekend we planted seeds for both our future herb garden, and our summer veggies.

As you can probably gather from this pic, we have been collecting toilet rolls for several months to sow our seeds in. This way, we will be able to plant our seedlings and their protective toilet roll casing directly into the garden, thereby avoiding transplant shock.

We also bought some biodegradable pots from Bunnings to ensure we had enough for all our seeds

Now we’re just waiting for the seedlings to appear!