Wednesday, July 31, 2013


LOVE those lemon trees.

At them moment the citrus trees are thriving.

The lemon tree in the chook run is doing pretty well
but curiously, despite all the chook fertiliser,
the trees which receive less sun and looking lusher with more fruit.

A sunny winter with lots of rain (go figure) has resulted in most of my lemon and lime trees looking might fine.

But it's also a time to look out for pests and disease which can ruin your crop.

Check out Peter Cundall's excellent article here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bee aware

BEES are facing a battle according to the Weekly Times.

VFF's beekeeping president Gavin Jamieson said there are more tough times may be ahead for beekeepers with areas not expected to flower for years.

A good incentive to nurture the bees in your area by planting as many appropriate flowers as you can.

Gardening Australia have some good ideas here...

Another good idea to eliminate using poisons in the garden as these can really hammer bees and other 'good' insects.

Australia's chemical regulator is looking at whether labels on neonicitinoid insecticides should be made clearer, as part of ongoing research into the effect of the common pesticides on bees.

Meanwhile, let's do what we can ti support these vital creatures.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Companion planting

CHOOKS make the ideal companion to the vegetable garden.

I know, you are thinking how the little devils can so often dig up a bed of newly planted seeds or devour a whole row of broccoli seedlings in one fell swoop.

But once your plants are established, particularly the hardier types such as pumpkins and potatoes, the hens will happily scratch away and leave them alone.

Not only will they eat caterpillars and other pests straight off the pumpkins, they kindly fertilise the soil nearby.

When you need a garden bed dug up and turned over in preparation for the next season of crops, these little humdingers have no no rival.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fruitful plantings

THERE is nothing like picking your own apples, cherries, peaches or lemons.

Making food from fruit is a wonderful feeling.

Last week I enjoyed a marvellous time baking lemon butter cakes using eggs from the hens and lemons from my trees.

In Peter Cundall's latest Weekly Times article he talks about the benefits of growing your own fruit.

Fresh figs, warm from the sunshine and eaten in the garden
straight from the tree - this defines summer bliss.

Last summer I stood under my flourishing fig tree and ate its glorious fruit warm from the tree - bliss.

Now is the time to think about putting in fruit trees so you can enjoy the crop for years to come.

Winter often seems like nothing much is happening in the garden, but it's the prefect time of year to get your fruit trees sorted.

Don't delay - no-one ever regretted plating another fruit tree!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The beauty of leeks

LEEKS are one of the easiest and most delicious vegetables to grow.

In today's Weekly Times, Peter Cundall has an excellent article on growing these great vegies.
 Here's a nice recipe to make and share with friends and family. 

Leek and Spud Soup
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1 brown onion, halved, chopped
3 cloves of garlic clove, crushed and chopped
4 medium (about 700g) peeled desiree, pink eye or pontiac potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes
2 leeks, pale section only, washed, dried, thinly sliced
1.25L (5 cups) vegetable stock
4 thick slices day-old white bread, crusts removed, cut into 2cm cubes
125ml (1/2 cup) low-fat greek yogurt or thickened cream
Pinch of salt
2 tbs finely chopped fresh chives or corriander

Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for three minutes or until the onion softens.
Add potato and leek and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until leek softens.
Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and gently boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until potato is soft. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C. Place bread in a roasting pan. Drizzle with remaining oil and toss until bread is evenly coated. Toast in preheated oven, shaking pan occasionally, for 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove croutons from oven and set aside.
Transfer one-third of the potato mixture to the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean saucepan. Repeat in 2 more batches with the remaining potato mixture.
Place the soup over medium heat. Add the cream and stir to combine.
Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until hot, then taste and season with salt.
Ladle the soup among serving bowls and sprinkle with chives and top with croutons.
Enjoy with friends!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


SOME of the best things in life are free - including plant food made from comfrey.

There's a good article in the latest Guardian on how to make great liquid plant food from this versatile plant.

While comfrey dies down in winter, it's very hardy and will grow in pots too.
I planted some near the compost bins so i can pull of a few leaves each time I add some material to the mixture.
These leaves seem to help break down the compost more quickly.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beautiful brocolli

ALL the amazing rain has seen the broccoli go gangbusters.

It's been marvellous seeing how quickly the florets have been shooting up and I'm not the only one to notice - Hilda and the rest of the feather riot have been poking their necks through the wire to nibble on the broccoli leaves.

So last week I made a delicious spaghetti with broccoli, tomato, lemon and garlic accompaniment. At the end of of an icy cold day it was perfect to enjoy buy the fire.

 Just cook some spaghetti as normal and while this is simmering, place the trimmed broccoli heads in a pan with some olive oil, freshly chopped garlic and toss about.

In a separate saucepan heat up one can of tinned Italian tomatoes 9fresh is best but hey, it's July) and add some fresh basil. Tip the sauce and broccoli mix into a large casserole dish, then mix in the sauce and drained spaghetti.
Squeeze in some lemon juice to taste and stir.

Here's one broccoli head next to a big egg of Hilda's

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Seaside compost

ONE of the benefits of living on the coast is collecting seaweed for compost.

It sounds like a conundrum - adding something salty to the garden, except it isn't.

Read this great article by Peter Cundall in today's Weekly Times...

I usually run the seaweed through a compost bin before adding it the garden - it breaks down really well.

You need to check with council if you plan on taking away a heap of it.

Check your local beach after a storm or some wild weather and you'll be amazed at the variety available to help out your garden.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Butter Biscuits

IT'S cold, it's wintery and you need some comfort so what better way to warm up the kitchen and your self than baking yummy butter biscuits?

Yummy Butter Biscuits

¾ cup plain flour - sifted

¾ cup SR flour - sifted

110g soft butter

½ tsp vanilla essence

1 egg

1 cup castor sugar


Turn on oven to 180-200 depending on your oven
Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy

Add egg and vanilla

Gently add flour and mix

Turn out onto a floured board and gently knead into a dough

Roll out to about the thickness of a 50 cent coin

Cut with your preferred biscuit shape cutter

Bake about 12 minutes until pale gold

Slide onto an airing tray


Monday, July 8, 2013

Cold weather coriander

WHILE you wake up on a shivering morning wishing for summer, outside some plants are thriving despite the icy cold.

Coriander is one herb which thrives in winter and seeds like crazy, without going to seed as it so often does in summer.

While I have planted out some pots in a sunny area of my deck, which is handy for when i need a small amount when cooking, I've also allowed one garden bed with coriander to self-seed.

Now it's popping up like crazy - just as well as I'm enjoying using the tasty herb as a key ingredient in soups, casseroles and even breads.

Here's a recipe for coriander chilli chicken I'm going to give a whirl next weekend.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independent cookie day

JULY 4 is when I traditionally think of my American friends.

Hello Pam and Larry!

So this morning before work I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies.

This is a recipe I found online and have modified a bit as it was a little more dough-y than the usual butter biscuits I make. But it was lots of fun and feedback from my newspaper colleagues (so far) has been positive.

Put on oven to 180 and grease 4 biscuit trays or line with baking paper and use the butter wrappers to grease the trays or paper.

300g softened butter

1 cup caster sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

3 and 1/2 cups plain flour - sifted

1 cup dark chocolate bits

1 cup milk chocolate bits
Beat 150g softened butter, caster and brown sugars and vanilla extract for three minutes or the ingredients are mixed well and smooth.

Beat in eggs.

Add plain flour in two batches - your mixer might be getting a big bogged here (my old sunbeam certainly was, so i had to keep de-clogging the beaters.)

Stir in 1/2 cup dark choc bits and 1/2 cup milk choc bits until evenly distributed.

Don disposable gloves and spoon small balls of the mixture into balls and place on the lined trays and press slightly. Press one chocolate bit on top for decor.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until light golden and cooked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week - but i think they'll go pretty quickly! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pruning the roses

PERFUMED roses are one of the most rewarding plants to grow.

Their exquisite fragrance, dazzling colours and beautiful flowers bring a smile to my face whenever I walk outside.

But they do require a bit of thought about their pruning in order to make sure they will bloom this spring and summer.

The latest column by gardening expert Peter Cundall in the Weekly Times talks about knowing your rose before you prune.

ABC TV Gardening Australia fact sheet advises...
But in winter roses need a stronger prune to encourage good, solid, new growth.
• Look for spindly stems. Follow these down to where they’re about the thickness of a biro. Then remove them.

• The best time to prune is in June or July. But if you live in a really cold area of Australia, then wait until early August so that the frosts don’t knock back the new shoots.

• Look out for branches that are totally dead – any that have die back – need to be totally removed, right down to the stump level.

• Try and open up the centre of the bush, so there’s more air circulating.

• Look out for any water shoots – these are an olive green or even pink colour – and are absolutely essential. Take care of the water shoots because these are the young growth and this is where the rose will have its flowers. Just prune it lightly, so it will shoot out and produce more flowers.

• Never be afraid to remove large sections of the rose bush. Do this every couple of years to rejuvenate new growth. Remove any old branches, or any stems that look warty and crinkly.

• If you’re a timid person, prune about a third back, but, if you’re a radical like me, get out your secateurs and prune back by about half. Always from the top. And if you do that, you’re going to find you get many more good shoots for flowers.

• Look for an outward facing bud and cut. The new growth will then grow outwards and produce flowers around the outside of the bush. If you cut to an inward facing bud the direction of the new growth will cluster in the centre.

• Aim to cut at about a 45 degree angle and make sure that the cut is sloping away from the bud so that rain and dew won’t collect in the area where the bud forms onto the stem. This will help stop fungal disease.

• Heritage roses don’t need a lot of pruning. Just prune them to shape and tip prune regularly. Remove any dead bits.

• Ground cover roses are easy to prune - so easy that you could practically run over them with a motor mower. But if you are using loppers just cut them back, almost to ground level. They will re-grow by spring, particularly with some fertiliser, and mulch.

• Fertilise about three weeks after you’ve pruned.

• Remove the clippings and prunings from the garden. Clear them up. Don’t put them into the compost, but into the rubbish bin. This stops the spread of disease.

• Spray them with lime sulphur while the plants have no leaves and are dormant. That gets rid of scale and other fungal type diseases.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lentil as...

LENTILS are coming into their own as winter rolls on.

You have to love 'em - delicious, nutritious, easy to cook and as cheap as chips.

And as the coriander is going gangbusters and the two go so well together, it seems rude not to combine them.

Yesterday in between weeding, removing old bean plants and keeping the hens out of the brassica beds, I made a big pot of red lentil and vegetable soup.

I meant to save it for dinner and then decant into smaller containers for lunch this week, but it smelled so yummy I did have a bowl for elevenses.

Alison's Red Soup

I x pkt red lentils
1 x onion, chopped
1/2 of a big pumpkin, chopped
1 x red capsicum, chopped
3 x carrots, chopped
2 x tins of chopped Italian tomatoes
handful of coriander chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 litres water

Rinse lentils then place in deep heavy bottomed casserole dish with water
Simmer for 25 minutes, removing foamy scum
Add carrots, capsicum, pumpkin, tomatoes, spices and cover with more water if needed
Simmer for an hour
Vitamise smooth
Serve with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of coriander