DIY: Changing a light globe

DIY is not always about building or renovating. Sometimes it can be the simplest of tasks, like changing a light globe. Because I have always changed our light bulbs myself, as did both of our fathers, we were quite shocked to find that many people don’t know how to change a light globe. For the record, Lynne does know and can do – she just prefers not to stand on a ladder or play with electricity! In this short post, I show you how.

You will know your light globe needs changing when it stops working or when it flashes. This flashing may occur as soon as you switch the light on, or it might happen after several minutes of the light being on.

Changing a light globe is generally a quick and easy DIY project. Recently, I had reason to change all the light bulbs in a three-bedroom unit and the job was over in less than half an hour, which included moving the steps and carrying the box of light bulbs from room to room.

To get the job done, you only need the correct globe and  a set of steps or a ladder (if the globe is above head height). You may want to wear gloves in case you break the globe when removing it.

There are two types of globe: screw in types, often called Edison screw, and bayonet mount. The Edison screw is exactly what it says it is: you unscrew the old light bulb and screw in the new one. The bayonet mount has two pins opposite each other. It requires you to push in and twist to remove the old light globe and replace it. If this is the first time you have changed a globe in your place, you will need to remove the old globe to find out which type of globe is needed.

The first thing do do is make sure the light is switched off. My father-in-law used to insist on the entire light circuit being turned off. He was a very cautious man; he also insisted that I did not do anything electrical on a metal ladder. His father had been an electrician and that’s where he learnt that rule. Some people use a fibreglass ladder as a substitute.

It’s up to you whether you only turn the switch off at the wall or whether you go outside and turn all the lights off. Your family may not appreciate you turning off all the lights at night and you will need to hold a torch while you’re trying to change the light globe if it’s dark; or, at the very least, you will need someone to hold a torch for you.

You may also need to allow a couple of minutes for the globe to cool if the bulb has only just blown.

If your globe is above head height use a set of steps or ladder to safely reach the globe. Overreaching or “balancing on your toes” may cause you to break the globe or, worse still, fall from the ladder.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Turn off the light.
  2. Remove the light cover (if fitted) by releasing the clips or screws holding it in place.
  3. Remove the globe and wrap it (or use packaging from the new one) for safe disposal.
    • For the screw type: screw it anti-clockwise until it is free of the mount.
    • For the bayonet type: push the globe into the mount and twist anti-clockwise.
  4. Replace the globe
    • For the screw type: screw the globe in clockwise until it is firm. Do not overtighten.
    • For the bayonet mounted: align the pins on the globe base with the slots in the base, push into mount and twist clockwise.
  5. Turn on the light.

If the light does not come on:

  • you may have put the old globe back in the socket (I have done it!)
  • the “spare” globe you had may have been broken or you may have saved an old one in used packaging
  • there may be a fault requiring an electrician

Hope that helps!
Mark 🍅

Disclaimer: Any information given in this post is general in nature. The owners of Hillside Homegrown & Handmade will not be responsible for any consequences of following these instructions.

CABBAGE

Cabbage is a well-known vegetable throughout the world. Although it is known, it is not universally loved. My dad loathed raw cabbage but ate it cooked.

As a child, I had a love/hate relationship with cabbage. In my early years, the only cabbage dish I knew was boiled cabbage, the way dad liked it. I don’t think we had it very often, it doesn’t loom high in my memory like the alternating daily diet of (frozen) peas or beans!

As a teenager, I was introduced to cabbage as a salad vegetable in the form of coleslaw and I loved it. Not the over-diced, over-dressed version we sold in the delicatessen of the supermarket where I worked, but homemade coleslaw, sliced with a knife (not a machine) and dressed sparingly so that the vegetables could be tasted and still had some crunch.

As a young married woman, I started adding diced apples to my coleslaw which made cabbage-detesters, like Mark, pay attention!

My other favourite way of eating cabbage is in a noodle dish, the recipe of which was given to my mother by a Burmese woman. Based on egg noodles, we could never get it to taste as good as Mrs Pereira’s version but it was still delicious. Mum served the noodles with veal schnitzel, I serve them as a meal in themselves!

HISTORY

The origin of cabbages is unknown as they were developed from wild plants that look nothing like modern cabbages. One theory is that hearting cabbages were domesticated in the West from an original plant with thick leaves that could withstand the cold. 1 Non-heading cabbages were were known in China 6,000 or more years ago, and these were domesticated in Central Europe.1 The mention of cabbages is shown in Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greeks writings.1 In Ancient Rome, cabbage was considered to be superior to other vegetables.1

Heading cabbages were developed in the cooler climates of central and northern Europe by Celtic and/or Nordic peoples.2 In 14th century Britain, there were two different words for cabbage, depending on whether it had a ‘hard head’ (caboche) and non-heading types (coleworts). Red cabbage was first mentioned in English literature in the sixteenth century.2

DESCRIPTION

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (2006, undated 2020)describes three types of cabbage available here: ballhead (roundhead), conical (sugarloaf) and drumhead. Round head cabbages are around soccer-ball size. Sugarloaf cabbages are smaller and have a conical-shaped head. Drumhead types are larger and flatter than ballhead types. They also mention savoy, those with crinkled leaves, and Chinese cabbages (aka wombok) an elongated cabbage with broad leaves and less densely packed heads.3
(photos used with permission of owner)

Cabbages come in both ‘white’ (green) and red varieties. The colour of the red varieties is more intense in colder weather.

CULINARY & MEDICINAL USES

Cabbages can be prepared and eaten in a wide variety of ways: they can be eaten raw as in coleslaw, pickled, fermented as in sauerkraut, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, stewed or even baked.

In traditional and folk medicine, cabbage was used for a wide variety of ailments: stomachache, intestinal ulcers, osteoporosis, asthma and morning sickness. Lactating women often put cool cabbage leaves on their breasts to soothe swelling and discomfort.4

Eating cabbage, especially red cabbage, is said to help prevent diabetes, inflammation and heart disease.5

HOW TO GROW

In general, cabbages like cool, moist conditions but they grow in most parts of NSW.3 It is just a case of choosing the right variety for you area. You local seed bank, seed library or quality garden centre should be able to guide you in appropriate choices. The agricultural areas of the Hawkesbury and Sydney region are one of the highest cabbage production areas in New South Wales.3

Preparation

Cabbages will grow in a wide variety of soil types. The addition of lots of organic matter makes a huge difference to the cabbage yields. The pH should be relatively neutral, between 6.0 and 6.5. Water -logged cabbages will rot quickly.

Propagation and Transplanting

Sow seeds according to the seed packet instructions. This is generally twice the depth of the seed itself, around 5-6mm, into seed-raising mix, well before the time you want to transplant the seedlings. Germination should occur within 7-10 days, but may be faster or slower depending on soil temperature and moisture.

Transplant seedlings to the garden when they have at least 3 pairs of adult leaves. This will be around 6 to 8 weeks after sowing the seed.

Feeding / Fertilising and Care

We feed all our vegetables with a solution of an organic ‘fertiliser’ every two weeks. We try not to use the same feed week after week referring to mix it up with worm casting tea, compost tea, weed tea or commercial organic liquid fertilisers. If using a commercial product, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Overfeeding plants is not beneficial to the plant.

Cabbages, like all brassicas, will need protection form cabbage white butterfly and cabbage moth throughout the growing season, particularly in warmer weather or an unusually warm winter. We net our vegetable garden to keep the blackbirds from digging up our plants but we have found that it is reasonably successful in keeping the butterfly art of the garden 2. It is not so effective against cabbage moth. Land Cress planted near your vegetable garden will attract the cabbage moth which will lay their eggs on the plants. The plant contains saponins which, when ingested by the caterpillar, cause it to die.

Harvest

Cabbages are a long-term crop, although it is possible to get early, mid and late-maturing varieties. if you plant all of these varieties at the same time, you will have some ready for harvest earlier in the season, some ready for harvest in the mid-season and some ready for harvest at the end of the growing season. Early season varieties can be ready in as little as 60 days; while late season varieties can take 150 days or more.

FUN FINAL FACT

China produces more than 33 million tonnes each year! Australia ranks at number 51, with a mere 87,000 tonnes produced each year.6

Until next week
Lynne 🍅

REFERENCES

  1. Vegetable Facts, History of Cabbage – Where does Cabbage come from?
  2. Aggie Horticulture, Of Cabbages and Celts
  3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cabbage Growing
  4. RxList, Cabbage
  5. WebMD, Benefits of Cabbage
  6. AtlasBig, World’s Leading Cabbage Producing Countries

WINTER SAVORY

We were watching Escape to the Country the other day. The couple who were involved in the quest for a house were visiting a museum which had a kitchen garden from the Edwardian period. One of the rarely-used-today herbs mentioned in that segment was Winter Savory.

I love the scent of Winter Savory leaves and often rub it as I walk past, just to get that smell on my hands!

Cabbage is a well-known vegetable throughout the world. Although it is known, it is not universally loved. My dad loathed raw cabbage but ate it cooked.

As a child, I had a love/hate relationship with cabbage. In my early years, the only cabbage dish I knew was boiled cabbage, the way dad liked it. I don’t think we had it very often, it doesn’t loom high in my memory like the alternating daily diet of (frozen) peas or beans!

As a teenager, I was introduced to cabbage as a salad vegetable in the form of coleslaw and I loved it. Not the over-diced, over-dressed version we sold in the delicatessen of the supermarket where I worked, but homemade coleslaw, sliced with a knife (not a machine) and dressed sparingly so that the vegetables could be tasted and still had some crunch.

As a young married woman, I started adding diced apples to my coleslaw which made cabbage-detesters, like Mark, pay attention!

My other favourite way of eating cabbage is in a noodle dish, the recipe of which was given to my mother by a Burmese woman. Based on egg noodles, we could never get it to taste as good as Mrs Pereira’s version but it was still delicious. Mum served the noodles with veal schnitzel, I serve them as a meal in themselves!

HISTORY

The origin of cabbages is unknown as they were developed from wild plants that look nothing like modern cabbages. One theory is that hearting cabbages were domesticated in the West from an original plant with thick leaves that could withstand the cold. 1 Non-heading cabbages were were known in China 6,000 or more years ago, and these were domesticated in Central Europe.1 The mention of cabbages is shown in Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greeks writings.1 In Ancient Rome, cabbage was considered to be superior to other vegetables.1

Heading cabbages were developed in the cooler climates of central and northern Europe by Celtic and/or Nordic peoples.2 In 14th century Britain, there were two different words for cabbage, depending on whether it had a ‘hard head’ (caboche) and non-heading types (coleworts). Red cabbage was first mentioned in English literature in the sixteenth century.2

DESCRIPTION

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (2006, undated 2020)describes three types of cabbage available here: ballhead (roundhead), conical (sugarloaf) and drumhead. Round head cabbages are around soccer-ball size. Sugarloaf cabbages are smaller and have a conical-shaped head. Drumhead types are larger and flatter than ballhead types. They also mention savoy, those with crinkled leaves, and Chinese cabbages (aka wombok) an elongated cabbage with broad leaves and less densely packed heads.3
(photos used with permission of owner)

Cabbages come in both ‘white’ (green) and red varieties. The colour of the red varieties is more intense in colder weather.

CULINARY & MEDICINAL USES

Cabbages can be prepared and eaten in a wide variety of ways: they can be eaten raw as in coleslaw, pickled, fermented as in sauerkraut, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, stewed or even baked.

In traditional and folk medicine, cabbage was used for a wide variety of ailments: stomachache, intestinal ulcers, osteoporosis, asthma and morning sickness. Lactating women often put cool cabbage leaves on their breasts to soothe swelling and discomfort.4

Eating cabbage, especially red cabbage, is said to help prevent diabetes, inflammation and heart disease.5

HOW TO GROW

In general, cabbages like cool, moist conditions but they grow in most parts of NSW.3 It is just a case of choosing the right variety for you area. You local seed bank, seed library or quality garden centre should be able to guide you in appropriate choices. The agricultural areas of the Hawkesbury and Sydney region are one of the highest cabbage production areas in New South Wales.3

Preparation

Cabbages will grow in a wide variety of soil types. The addition of lots of organic matter makes a huge difference to the cabbage yields. The pH should be relatively neutral, between 6.0 and 6.5. Water -logged cabbages will rot quickly.

Propagation and Transplanting

Sow seeds according to the seed packet instructions. This is generally twice the depth of the seed itself, around 5-6mm, into seed-raising mix, well before the time you want to transplant the seedlings. Germination should occur within 7-10 days, but may be faster or slower depending on soil temperature and moisture.

Transplant seedlings to the garden when they have at least 3 pairs of adult leaves. This will be around 6 to 8 weeks after sowing the seed.

Feeding / Fertilising and Care

We feed all our vegetables with a solution of an organic ‘fertiliser’ every two weeks. We try not to use the same feed week after week referring to mix it up with worm casting tea, compost tea, weed tea or commercial organic liquid fertilisers. If using a commercial product, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Overfeeding plants is not beneficial to the plant.

Cabbages, like all brassicas, will need protection form cabbage white butterfly and cabbage moth throughout the growing season, particularly in warmer weather or an unusually warm winter. We net our vegetable garden to keep the blackbirds from digging up our plants but we have found that it is reasonably successful in keeping the butterfly art of the garden 2. It is not so effective against cabbage moth. Land Cress planted near your vegetable garden will attract the cabbage moth which will lay their eggs on the plants. The plant contains saponins which, when ingested by the caterpillar, cause it to die.

Harvest

Cabbages are a long-term crop, although it is possible to get early, mid and late-maturing varieties. if you plant all of these varieties at the same time, you will have some ready for harvest earlier in the season, some ready for harvest in the mid-season and some ready for harvest at the end of the growing season. Early season varieties can be ready in as little as 60 days; while late season varieties can take 150 days or more.

FUN FINAL FACT

China produces more than 33 million tonnes each year! Australia ranks at number 51, with a mere 87,000 tonnes produced each year.6

Until next week
Lynne 🍅

REFERENCES

  1. Vegetable Facts, History of Cabbage – Where does Cabbage come from?
  2. Aggie Horticulture, Of Cabbages and Celts
  3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cabbage Growing
  4. RxList, Cabbage
  5. WebMD, Benefits of Cabbage
  6. AtlasBig, World’s Leading Cabbage Producing Countries

SWEET PEAS

Traditionally planted on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March, sweet peas are grown for their pretty flowers and sweet fragrance. All parts of the plant are poisonous*, so why grow them in an edible garden? Read on and find out!

HISTORY

The antecedents of the modern sweet pea came from southern Italy, Sicily and islands in the Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea. In the late seventeenth century1, Francis Cupani, a Sicilian monk and botanist2, sent the seeds to collectors and botanical institutions around the world. 3

Henry Eckford, a Scottish plantsman, hybridised the plant, changing a wildflower to a popular garden and cut flower specimen. He was awarded a Victoria Medal of Honour in 1905. This award was from the Royal Horticultural Society, of which he was a member. In 1926, author C.W.J. Unwin wrote: “he found the Sweet Pea little known and as little valued, and transformed it into that glorious annual which is now found in almost every British garden.” (Sweet peas: their history, development, culture ) 4

DESCRIPTION

Sweet peas, Lathyrus odoratus, a popular annual with home gardeners, come in two types: bush, which generally grow less than one metre, and vine, for which you will need a fence or trellis. Open-pollinated, heirloom varieties are available, some of those have been around for more than a century. Generally these have smaller, less showy flowers than modern hybrids; however they have a much stronger scent.

The flowering period for sweet peas last several weeks, if they are picked regularly. The colour range covers almost the full spectrum, except for pure yellow.3 The plants generally have slender stems with oval-shaped leaves. The flowers are similar in shape to edible pea flowers but much larger and showier.4 There is a variety of sweet pea which is perennial but has very little scent. 3

The seeds are the most toxic part of the plant, but the pods, leaves, stems and roots are also toxic.6
Do not eat this plant.

CULINARY and MEDICINAL USES

*Because all parts of these plants are toxic, I have not included culinary or medicinal information in this article.

GARDEN USES

The brightly coloured flowers of sweet peas attract a wide range of pollinators. The heady scent of the flowers confuses predators to the edible garden, especially in that early spring season when many brassicas are just beginning to yield their bounty.

The more flowers you pick, the more you will get; which gives a long flowering time and a natural air-fragrance for the house from the cut flowers.

Seed is easy to collect and regrow true-to-type as long as you started with open-pollinated varieties. The seed from hybrids is just as easy to collect and who knows what you might get if you plant the seeds you collect!

HOW TO GROW SWEET PEAS

Guest writer: Mischa Vlismas7

Sweet peas can be planted from St. Patrick’s Day till Anzac Day.  Of course this depends on the weather conditions.

Preparation

First: prepare the ground. Dig over to make fluffy.  If you remember, add some lime to the soil about 1-2 weeks before planting.  Erect a sturdy trellis 5 to 6 feet high.  The seeds love a soaking prior to planting.  Some people like overnight.  I sometimes get caught up with things and I don’t plant till they sprout. A bit lazy of me but then you will only be planting the sprouted ones and you won’t have bare patches.  You will still have success whichever way you go.

Sowing

Plant the seeds in a row beneath the trellis.  If there is a space from the ground to the beginning of the bottom of the trellis, guide them up – like all children need to be shown.  After a few set of true leaves, I pinch the top.  This will make the plant bushier. You can even do this again  as they find their way up the trellis.  I also like to tie some of the leaders against the trellis like a guide.  The reason for this, some of the leaders think they can do it on their  own but as they get bigger they can’t hold their position. So a little restraint and guidance is needed.; especially if it gets windy, they need that support.

Feeding / Feritilsing

There is a balance with fertiliser.  I like to make it easier for me so I throw in [slow release chicken] pellets at the time of planting the seeds. As the pellets break down, the roots of the sprouting seeds will take up their advantage.  

Too much fertiliser gives you a great looking climber but not much in flowers .  Still they need a push in the beginning. 

Harvest

If you have the room, staggering the planting is great in lengthening the flowering time. The heritage ones tend to bloom [later].

Pick them as much as possible in the beginning so the energy goes to the next lot of flowers.  The perfume of sweet peas permeates a room in a romantic, intoxicating way so that you find yourself coming up close to take in an extra inhalation of their sweet perfume.

Acknowledgement: Thanks, Mischa for all that information – your happy disposition shines through in your writing.

Until next week
Lynne 🍅

REFERENCES

  1. Catherine Boeckmann, Sweet Peas
  2. Julia Dimakos, Why You Should Grow Sweet Peas
  3. Mary H. Dyer, Learn About The History Of Sweet Peas
  4. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Henry Eckford
  5. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Sweet Pea
  6. Angelo Eliades, Are Ornamental Sweet Peas Edible?
  7. Mischa Vlismas, private email to author

D.I.Y. Raised Garden Bed

The saga of building a raised bed from metal in the pouring rain of an ‘east-coast low’.

Some time ago a friend replaced a metal fence when landscaping his backyard. I was happy to take some of the materials off his hands for a tailor-made raised bed.

Design Considerations

The site I wanted to use slopes in two directions so some digging in of the beds, of whatever construction, was going to be needed. To allow access all around, I calculated that I could have a bed 3.8m long and 0.8m wide. I wanted to try beds of about waist height (approx  800 mm), which is tricky using prefab beds.

preparing to cut metal fencing with angle grinder

I could have used the panels sideways and joined with timber posts but was concerned that they would bow under the pressure of soil and water. Although more complex, I decided to use the posts and rails available to make “fence panels” to form the beds. As the panels were 1800mm high I cut them in half using an angle grinder to give panels of 900mm.

Construction

1. The end panels

metal posts and fencing panels

Corner posts were made by cutting posts to length and joined at right angles.

The top and bottom rails were cut to length then the bottom rail was added and secured with screws to the corner posts. The panels were inserted and finally the top rail fitted and secured.

I repeated this process, and had two end panels completed (under cover).

2. Clearing the site

The site was cleared to get a “lay of the land”. The photos below show the land as it slopes towards the left and towards the photographer.

3. All the pieces on site

pieces of metal posts and metal panelling on muddy ground

This was made very difficult on a clay site, in bucketing rain. What made it worse was coming up against a rock shelf, not far below the surface at the higher end of the site. Fortunately, since I am building a deep bed, plant roots aren’t going to need to get through that sandstone!

All the pieces needed, sides, ends and posts were gathered together, to be assembled on the site.

4. Putting it all together

I began by adding one side to one end. First, the bottom rail was secured to the corner post, then to the first of the mid-posts along that side. Three panels were inserted between the mid-post and the corner, then the top rail added. The first two photos show the view from inside and outside the bed.

I then repeated this same process on the other side to complete one half of the long bed (i.e. 2.4 x 0.8m) – see photo (right) above.

5. To complete the bed

A second u-shaped post was added in the middle of each side to hold the other panels. The posts were pre-cut to size and attached 125mm higher than the existing height to allow for the change of level. The bed will be stepped up at this point, because of the rock at ground level at that end. A brace, 125mm wide, will be placed across the middle to strengthen the middle and stop the long sides from bowing out.

Everything is ready to complete the bed but the torrential rain, and the the sticky clay have brought the project to a standstill!
You’ll have to wait to see the completed project 🙂

to be continued …

See you next time!
Mark 🍅

CARROTS

Acknowledgement: the cover photo used was taken by Mali Maeder and made free to download from Pexels.com

Our grandchildren assure me that there is nothing like a freshly picked and washed carrot – the taste is different and far superior to the store bought variety.

Other gardeners sometimes ask me, ‘why grow carrots when they are so cheap to buy?” Our grandchildren have the best answer!!

The ubiquitous orange carrot, was made popular for generations of children by the famous (or should that be ‘infamous’?) Bugs Bunny, who was never seen without one. I am sure many children were told, as I was, that eating carrots was “good for your eyesight”.

Carrots, botanically Daucus carota, are the tap roots of a biennial plant from the Apiaceae family, commonly known as ‘umbellifers’. This name arises from the umbel shape of the flower heads, reminding some of the shapes of upturned, open umbrellas. As biennials, they are sown in one season and flower the spring of the following year. They are related to parsley, parsnips, celery, dill, fennel, caraway, cumin and coriander.

The umbel shape of the flowers makes the plants a magnet for many types of pollinators and, therefore, they are easily cross pollinated IF they are of the same species. Carrots can be cross-pollinated by Queen Anne’s Lace (sometimes called False Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus Carota) so, if you want to collect the seed to sow in the following season, ensure that there is no Queen Anne’s Lace flowering nearby at the same time as your carrots are in flower. Carrots of one variety will also cross pollinate with carrots of another variety.

HISTORY

Carrots were first domesticated in an area around the Himalayas and in another area around modern-day Turkey. Originally, wild carrots were white or pale yellow. After domestication about 5,000 years ago, they developed into purples and yellows. It is likely that some of the yellow carrots leaned towards orange in colour, and these were selectively bred to develop the orange carrot we know so well. 1

Carrots became popular in Holland in 1500s, where Dutch breeders found the orange varieties grew well in their climate. At that time, Holland was a centre of botanical breeding and cultivation. Orange carrots spread from there to other parts of Europe where they became the ‘norm’. 1

The orange colour of carrots comes from beta-carotene, which is also found in red and yellow carrots. The human body converts beta-carotene to Vitamin A. Lacking Vitamin A can be a cause of ‘night blindness’. 2 This may have helped in the continued propagation of the myth relating carrots and good eyesight. Yellow carrots contain the most lutein, an antioxidant, which may help macular degeneration2. Amazingly, like so many other myths, there is some truth to the story!

CULINARY & MEDICINAL USES

Carrots are a staple in many home across the world. Like most root vegetables, they are a high-carbohydrate crop, giving calories (energy)3 as well as nutrition. They can be eaten raw, or cooked in a variety of ways: I have had them baked, steamed, stir-fried, boiled or slow cooked in stews and casseroles. They add sweetness to smoothies, bulk to soups and stews, and colour to coleslaw.

Traditionally, around the world, carrots have been used as a poultice for burns, as an overall tonic, a diuretic, against diarrhoea, and as a remedy for anaemia. 4 Carrot seeds have traditionally been made into a tea and used to reduce colic, stimulate the appetite, alleviate menstrual cramps and as a contraceptive! 4

HOW TO GROW CARROTS

Being a root crop, carrots do not like to be transplanted. Therefore, it is best to sow carrot seeds where you want carrots to grow. Carrots are a long-term crop and the greens can take up a lot of space in your garden. We planted carrots along the edge of the garden thinking that they wouldn’t take up much space but the greens are at least 60 cm across; that is, each leaf is approximately 30 cm long.

Carrots grow lots of greens but very little, if any, tap root in highly nutritious soil. Therefore, it is best to sow carrot seed into garden soil that has not been recently amended with any type of compost, manure, or nitrogen-rich material. If practising crop rotation, it is best to plant carrots in an area where very hungry plants have previously been; things like corn, tomatoes, cucurbits or brassicas. Forked carrots are generally a result of too much nitrogen in the soil.

Before sowing carrot seed, bring the soil to a fine tilth. This means to rake over the soil surface, ensuring that there are no lumps in the soil. If there are any lumps or rocks in the soil where the carrot root will grow, it will bend and head in another direction thus leading to crooked carrots. These are still completely edible but won’t look like the carrots that you see in the supermarket.

Carrot seeds germinate best in the dark yet, being small, they need to be sown fairly close to the soil surface. To counteract this, place a plank or a tarp over the place with the carrot seed has been sown. Remove the plank or tarp when 50% or more of your carrots have germinated. The sprouting seedlings will be pale and yellow-looking but they will recover after a couple of days of sunlight.

Carrots do well with consistently moist conditions and the plank will help maintain moisture around the germinating seed. As the carrots grow, ensure that they get regular, deep watering.

If you have sown your seed too thickly, allow the little seedlings to grow to about 3 cm then cut off the tops of the weaker seedlings until they are spaced about 5 cm apart. These removed greens are not wasted, you can place them in a salad or put them in a smoothie (or put them them in the compost).

Refer to the seed packet to learn how deep to sow the seed and how far apart each plant should be. The seed packet should also tell you how many days until the plants reach maturity. This simply means when an average carrot plant in ideal conditions should be ready to be pulled from the ground at an optimum length and weight. We have found that it is better to wait until the carrot has begun to push itself out of the ground and is at least 5 to 10 mm above the soil surface. This way you will also see the diameter of the carrot root.

It is always an exciting moment removing any root crop from the ground; you never really know what you are going to get. Carrots can be a little tricky but, once you have mastered the art of carrot growing, you will probably never go back to buying commercially grown carrots again..

FUN FINAL FACT

The high amount of antioxidants, lutein and beta-carotene, in carrots have been proven to protect eyes. So, what started as an ‘”old wives’ tale” has some truth after all! The myth itself arose from a propaganda campaign run in WWII where British pilots, who were using radar, were said to have had good eyesight due to the consumption of carrots! 2

Until next week!
Lynne 🍅

Disclaimer: The owners of Hillside Homegrown & Handmade are not responsible for any actions taken after reading this post. it is written for general information and entertainment purposes only.

REFERENCES

  1. Benjamin Plackett, Are carrots orange because of a Dutch revolutionary?
  2. Healthline, Are carrots good for your eyes?
  3. Eating For Energy, Carrots
  4. World Carrot Museum, Carrot Nutrition – Medicinal Properties

LEMON SCENTED VERBENA

As a child I grew up knowing the special scent of “Bromley Lemon” soap. The aroma of Lemon Scented Verbena reminds me of that same citrus fragrance.

Lemon Scented Verbena or, simply, Lemon Verbena, Aloysia triphylla (aka Aloysia citriodora), is also known as Lemon Beebrush. It is herbaceous, vigorous1, perennial shrub to about two metres. It originates from South America and was brought to Europe in the 17th century to Spain and Portugal.

The plant has dark stems carrying bright green, pointed leaves that have a very rough texture. We tried to extract the essential oils as an inset repellent but soon discovered those rough leaves tore the skin resulting in itchiness for him and a rash for me.

small, white flowers of lemon scented verbena

The flowers are small, dainty and mauve-white, and attract pollinating insects to the garden. 1

HOW TO GROW LEMON VERBENA

Lemon Verbena likes a warm situation with well-drained soil. It will grow in most areas of Australia but doesn’t tolerate frost. We live in the foothills of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, NSW. Our plant is protected from frost but is deciduous in winter.

The plant can become quite straggly so we prune ours hard just as it begins to bud in late winter or early spring. As the plant begins to grow in spring, we tip prune to make it more bushy. The flowers can be cut and brought inside to fill the room with fragrance. Harvesting leaves regularly will help the plant stay busier and more compact.

You could try growing it in a pot near a frequently used door way or in an outdoor living area so that you brush against it. The scent is said to keep mosquitoes at bay. 2

Take cuttings in summer. They should have set roots in six to eight weeks and can then be potted into their own induvial pots for planting into the garden in Spring. 3

USES OF LEMON VERBENA

  • leaves, fresh or dried, can be used to make a herbal, lemon-flavoured, tea
    • (not recommended for use by pregnant or lactating women 4
    • large amounts of lemon verbena may irritate the kidneys 5
  • in cooking: desserts, soups, marinades, salad dressings and preserves
  • as a replacement for lemon zest 6
  • in drinks, particularly cocktails
  • as an essential oil
  • used in traditional medicine to treat respiratory conditions and digestive issues 4
  • to aid in sleep quality (research is limited) 4
  • as an insect repellent
    • NOTE: rubbing lemon verbena on your skin may cause a rash or itchiness as we have both discovered!

FUN FINAL FACT

Lemon Verbena tea is a refreshing drink but it can also be combined with either ginger or mint, or both! 7

With so much going for it, why not plant one at your place?
Lynne 🍅

REFERENCES

  1. Flower Power, Lemon Verbena
  2. Joan Clark, Tips Bulletin, Plants that Repel Mosquitoes
  3. Jane Edmondson, Gardening Australia, Lemon Verbena
  4. Jillian Kabala, Healthline, 5 Potential Health Benefits of Lemon Verbena
  5. WebMD, Lemon Verbena – Uses, Side Effects, and More
  6. Ron Finley, How to Grow Lemon Verbena in Your Herb Garden
  7. Mudbrick Herb Cottage, Lemon Verbena

STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries, like their distant cousins, roses, are popular with home gardeners. They are the fruit of choice because they produce a crop in the first year, are easy to see and to pick, and are deliciously sweet if picked at the right time. They are also easily propagated from runners – if left to their own devices they will reproduce themselves anywhere they can get a plantlet to take root. Ours are now growing many metres from the original bed!

History

In France, during the early 18th century, strawberries were bred from the common woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca). The production of strawberries that we would recognise today, began in France in the mid-18th century. Plants were brought to Europe from both the North American and South American continents.1 Many of these were cross-bred to create varieties that are the parents of the commercial and/or homegrown types we know today.

There are different varieties of strawberries (genus: Fragaria). Some grow well in the subtropics, producing fruit from May to October (Australia). Others grow well in temperature areas, producing fruit from October to June (Australia). 2

HOW TO GROW STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries can be grown from new plants bought from the garden centre. it is also possible to buy plants or bare-rooted runners by mail order. These are usually available in autumn. If you buy runners by mail order, you need to get them into the ground soon after their arrival at your home.

Some ambitious people have tried to grow strawberries from seeds, but I do not know of anyone who has been successful in this endeavour.

Because of their habit of growing runners, strawberries can be grown ornamentally in a hanging basket. The hanging ‘pups’ will not grow fruit but can be removed to their own container when they are big enough. However, we have found that it was difficult to keep the required amount of water up to the plants in a hanging container. Other people recommend growing them in rain guttering on a fence – we have also tried this option but, again, were not able to keep up with their water requirements.

Now that we are heading towards the end of summer, take some time to research the best varieties of strawberry for your location. You will then be ready to buy them when they appear in the garden centres or to order them online when mail orders for strawberries open.

CHILL HOURS – let’s get a little nerdy for a moment!

Strawberries require a certain number of “chill hours” to develop flowers.1 Chill hours, also called “chill units”, simply means that each variety of strawberry needs a certain number of hours of cold for it to produce flowers and fruit. Many types of strawberries require 200-300 hours of temperatures between 0°C and 7°C; that is, over the ninety days of winter, the temperature needs to be under 7°C for a minimum of three hours a day (on average). Therefore, it is important to know whether the variety you are considering is suitable for the area in which you live. Sydney has, on average, about 640 chill units3 — but your microclimate could be different!

Some varieties of strawberries do not produce a good crop until the second year but other varieties crop well in the first year. It is usual for strawberries to be replaced every three years or so. You can do that by purchasing commercial potted plants, commercial runners or buy using your own – disease free, of course!

STRAWBERRY PESTS & DISEASES

Humans love strawberries, and so do a huge range of other animals. Birds, lizards, insects, slugs and snails are quite happy to munch on your almost-ripe fruit!

To combat the birds, we cover our strawberry bed and it’s quite effective – as long as we only put the cover on after the flowers have been pollinated (the netting is effective at keeping bees out as well as birds). Friends of ours collected small ‘rocks’ and painted them to look like ripe strawberries. then spread them around the strawberry patch. While the real fruit was still green, the birds pecked at the hard surface of the fake strawberries and, by the time the fruit was ready to eat, the birds had stopped visiting!

The variety we grow here is called ‘Alinta’ which is considered to be one of the better varieties for growing in western Sydney. However, we have had all sorts of issues with our strawberry plants this year. Most of these can be attributed to the unusually wet weather.

strawberry leaves with black fungal disease spots

The biggest issue has been Cercospora Leaf Spot. This is a fungal disease which affects the leaves. Being a fungus, it can rapidly spread from leaf to leaf. It can occur from early spring onwards and is the result of warm temperatures and damp or humid weather.4

The weather here in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, much of Sydney and areas east of the Great Dividing Range, has been warm and humid for months. Almost all of our plants are affected by Cercospora to a greater or lesser degree. Affected leaves need to be removed from the plants. Dead or dying leaves also need to be removed from the ground because the fungal spores can overwinter in the soil.

This is one reason why strawberries are often grown on a mulch, such as straw, to prevent contact with the ground and the splashing of fungal-infected soil onto the leaves.

FUN FINAL FACT

close up view of strawberry fruit showing 'seeds'

Strawberries are actually not berries at all! They are a type of ‘aggregate accessory fruit’ – meaning the fruit does not come from the ovaries, as most berries do, but from the part of the plant that holds the ovaries. The ‘seeds’ on the outside of a strawberry are actually the ovaries, each containing a single seed! 1

Happy growing!
Lynne 🍅

REFERENCES
1. Berries Australia, About Strawberries
2. Plant Health Australia, Strawberries
3. PlantNet, Chill Hours Guide for the Home Gardener
4. Bonnie L. Grant, Cercospora Of Strawberries: Learn About Leaf Spot On Strawberry Plants

Compost Bin from Pallet Timber

A large bin or composting bay system could be made using whole pallets but by dismantling them bins can be made in the size or shape to fit your needs.

I wanted a bin about 500mm wide to fit beside the potting bench for spent potting mix, used cuttings etc. which gave me the opportunity to try making one to suit from previously dismantled heat-treated pallets.

Process

The process was quite simple:

dismantled heat treated pallet

Dismantle the pallet/s

Calculate the materials for the size required:

I had decided on 500mm x 500mm and about the same for height. 6 boards high gave me 530mm – great! Therefore I needed 24 boards, 500mm long and four corner posts 530 mm long.

pallet timber cut to size for a project

Cut the timber to size: the sides, front and rear were made by cutting the slats into 500 mm lengths and the corner braces from the base boards.

Construction

timber board nailed to two supports

Make the sides by nailing the boards to the corner posts (you could use screws)

two sides of a wooden box, one laying, one standing

two sides made, one lying down, one standing up (out of the way)

timber box made from pallet wood under construction

Join the two sides together by adding the back boards.

old timber, roughly cut

Make sure you attach to the corner post not the side boards

timber box made from pallet wood under construction

Sides and back done, now add the front. Start at the top, in line with side boards but don’t attach the two lowest boards, these form the door.

wooden box under construction

Bin made, except for the door. Trim the corner posts to size.

Make the door

line for cutting timber marked in pencil

Mark the inside of the bottom two boards to show where the corner posts are.

two pieces of timber braced together with shorter pieces

Take the two slats and join them on the inside – the material used to join them needs to be inside the post mark. This forms the access door.

timber box made from pallet wood under construction

Finished bin with finished door. All that’s left to do is to fix the door in place and move the bin to its final position.

old pieces of timber screwed to frame

Secure the door. The simplest method is to screw the door on using exterior grade screws

A simple bin at no financial cost. The nails were also reclaimed from the dismantling and the screws left over from a previous project.

A top, if required, could be made like the sides, or use a piece of board, a canvas tarp, hessian bag, or similar, tailored to your requirement. I am using an upturned shallow tray I use when working at the bench.

Only hand tools were used in this project so no electricity was required.

You can paint it or leave it – the timber has been heat treated so should withstand the weather.

Hope that helps!
Mark 🍅

Mark is available to help you plan, prepare, measure and complete your DIY project. A free consultation of up to 30 minutes by Zoom, FaceTime, or phone is available. If you need more than 30 minutes, the consultation fee for the project will be negotiated between you and Mark depending on the size of the project.
Please note that Mark is not available to build the project for you. Instead, the aim is to teach you the skills you need to get the job done yourself.
If you live in the area around Emu Heights, New South Wales, Mark can come to your site (Tuesday to Saturday).
Please use the contact form on this website to get in touch with Mark.

OREGANO

Oregano, ‘the pizza herb’, is part of the mint family and, just like mint itself, can take over the garden as we have found! In fact, I thought the oregano plant had died under the mass of other plants that had filled the space but, with the warmer weather and the abundant rain, it came back, bigger and better than ever!

What is oregano?

Common oregano, Origanum vulgare, comes from the stony hillsides of countries around the Mediterranean. In its native habitat, Oregano grows in poor soil in an area that receives rain in winter and endures a hot, dry summer. Give it plenty of moisture and it will become rampant!

Is oregano the same as marjoram?

Oregano is sometimes called ‘wild marjoram’ which has led to some confusion about the two plants. They both have a similar, sprawling habit and their leaves have a similar shape. Oregano is a more olive-green plant when compared to the grey-green leaves of marjoram. Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is sweeter; oregano has a bolder, more earthy, slightly bitter taste. Marjoram can be substituted for oregano, but use only half as much due to its sweetness.

Is there only one variety of oregano?

There are, not surprisingly, different types of oregano, just as there are different types of mint, basil or thyme. To confuse the issue, common oregano is often called Greek oregano but sometimes Italian oregano!!

We have two varieties growing in our garden. Common oregano, the variety you find bottled as a dried herb or as part of Italian seasoning, and the type used on pizza is herbaceous in our garden. The smaller-leafed, upright type known as “Italian oregano” which has very distinctive seed pods (perhaps because they are upright and hang on the plant for long after the seeds have been dispersed). The common variety has a milder flavour than the smaller leafed Italian variety which, from a distance, looks like thyme.

These are not the only two varieties available. We have seeds for a Turkish variety, known as ‘Onites’ but have never successfully got it to germinate. Like many herbs, we have found it easier to propagate from cuttings rather than start them from seed.

Mexican oregano, Lippia graveolens, which is used in the making of chilli powder, is from a different family altogether. It has a very strong flavour and common oregano is a poor substitute if a recipe calls for the Mexican variety.

HOW TO GROW OREGANO

As stated earlier, it is not easy to raise oregano from seed. Buy a small plant at a garden centre or, better still, find someone who grows oregano and take some cuttings. The plants themselves are easy care. They grow best in a warm, not hot, position in full sun. If you like a really tidy garden, we would recommend a pot: common oregano can get out of control and take over easily. On the other hand, it makes a great groundcover and the unwanted runners are easily removed. These can be potted as cuttings and given away to friends. You could also freeze or dry the leaves and use them in winter when fresh oregano is not available.

Oregano plants are shallow rooted and survive in their native landscape by pushing their roots under rocks where the soil is cooler and more moist. Watch you plants closely in hot weather – they can dry out quite easily. Ease up on the water in winter when the plants are semi-dormant. Ours disappears completely in winter so we rarely have to think about it!

You can harvest the leaves from your oregano plant fairly soon after it has been planted. Once new growth is seen, the plant is established and harvest can begin. Take only a little to begin with and increase the amount you harvest as the plant increases in size.

close up of oregano blossom

The flowers attract bees, both honey bees and native bees, to your garden but the compromise is, once the plant starts flowering, the flavour of the leaves can become more bitter. The good news is that the flowers are also completely edible and, due to the nectar, are sweeter than the leaves.

FUN FINAL FACT

Oregano and its close relative, marjoram, were traditionally used for their medicinal and antiseptic properties rather than their flavour.