Growing herbs – fresh, easy and cost effective.


Have you ever gone to the fridge to grab the fresh cut herbs you bought from the supermarket, only to find they are limp and lifeless? Wouldn’t it be nice to just nip out to the back yard or your balcony and pick herbs that are home grown? Growing herbs are both easy and cost effective.

Tips for getting a herb garden started

To grow herbs you a need a position that gets about 6 hours of sunlight a day.

For a small window box or raised planter, use potting mix to ensure good drainage.

Start with the staples of parsley, sage, thyme and oregano.

Generally coriander loves the cooler weather, and basil does its best over the warmer seasons. Most other herbs will will thrive all year round.

If planting in pots, it is wise to grow rosemary and mint by themselves, as these large growing herbs will otherwise dominate other varieties.

A mixed window box, with chives, thyme, oregano parsley and basil would make a perfect combo.

Feed regularly with liquid fertiliser. It’s important to keep herbs happy, or they can run to seed.

Replace old plants regularly to keep your herb garden fresh.

Once you get a bit more adventurous, try herbs like French tarragon, chervil and lovage.

As well as having access to your own personal garden full of herbs, they are also cost effective. Buying cut herbs from the supermarket might cost you $150-$200 a year if purchased regularly. For less than this, you can set up your own herb garden at home. The greatest satisfaction of growing your own is that you are cooking with the very freshest of ingredients and ones that you have grown yourself. 

When there is surplus produce, this is when herbs really shine. Drying oregano or making basil pesto are clever ways to save more dollars from your annual food budget. There is no doubt about it, growing your own herbs makes good “cents”.

Zinnia becomes the first to flower in outer space.

Ahhh, this time of year the zinnia’s love the warm Melbourne weather. If its cold and wet, they very quickly succumb to some bacterial spots on the leaves. Warm days and enough water however and zinnias thrive.

But now, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has tweeted images of the first flower to be grown in space – and its an orange zinnia !

“First ever flower grown in space makes its debut,” he tweeted.

However, growing the plants were not without their problems. On December 28, Mr Kelly tweeted a picture of the flowers in distress.

After tending to the plants over the holiday period, two zinnia plants died, and the remaining two continued to thrive.

On January 8, Mr Kelly posted an image of the impressive turnaround and tiny buds beginning to sprout. He tweeted, Some of my space flowers are on the rebound! No longer looking sad! #YearInSpace

NASA said the zinnia flower was chosen because it can help scientists understand how plants flower and grow in microgravity, not for its beauty.

 The space agency said growing flowering crop is more challenging than vegetative crop, and the issues faced by Mr Kelly presented a good learning opportunity for scientists.



Tropaeolum majus

The nasturtium is a bit of a rambler. It is a fast growing annual plant that comes from Peru and Ecuador in South America. It has large round leaves and red to orange or shades of yellow trumpet like flowers. It can be grown all year, but will flower mainly in Spring to Autumn.

The two main seedling varieties available being ‘Jewel Mix’ which is more sprawly, and ‘Alaska Mix’ which is more compact and has variegated leaves. In seed packs there are more unusual varieties which include single colours and double flowers.



The best way to grow it is from seed. You just poke a finger in the ground, or in a 10cm pot and simply drop a couple of seeds in. Seedlings can also be planted, but try and find the youngest and shortest ones possible, as they can get very lanky very quickly.

It would make a good plant for school garden, as the large seeds are easy to direct sow into the garden and will germinate in just a couple of weeks. The growth of the seedling is then quite rapid, something somewhat impatient children will appreciate.

When growing on, it doesn’t need much fertiliser and in fact too much manure and it will go all leafy and not flower much at all.


This plant is perfect for hanging baskets, pots, retaining walls and garden beds. It can be quite dramatic when trailed over walls. It is also often used in vegetable and herb gardens where it is believed to attract insects away from the food plants.

A big claim to fame for this plant is that it has edible flowers which are used in salads. The seeds and leaves are also edible and many chefs around the world have incorporated them into foods such as pesto, where they apparently add a peppery taste. Funnily enough, watercress have round leaves and they’re a little peppery too.


One of the traits of this plant is that it easily self seeds, which means it can take control of parts of your garden, competing staunchly against other plants, so much so it is considered to be an environmental weed in some regions. That makes it a great city plant, but maybe it shouldn’t be grown in a country garden. It can be controlled by pulling out young seedlings, or digging deeper to remove larger ones. It still may come up a couple more times, but persistently removing it will eventually stop it.

 For keen photographers, try capturing balls of water that form on the leaves. Yes, it is probably the leaf of this plant that is arguably more interesting than the flower. They are an interesting shape and a rather appealing mat green.

Bumper harvest from the summer that was.

By James Wall

As summer concludes, there is an element of fondness for the good things in life that the season has brought before us. There are lots of memories.

Spaghetti sauce with home grown tomatoes – not out of a can. Jars of chutney. A little bit of chilli added to the dish once the kids are served. Capsicums of all shapes and sizes. The peppery flavours of wild rocket, thrown on a pizza just before serving. All this and not one visit to the shops. Oh what a pleasure it has been.

Tomato San MarzanoIf you got your tomatoes in by cup day, then bar any disasters, you should have got a good yield. Yes January was cooler, but the temperatures were still high enough to set fruit and without the extremes of really hot nights, pollination and fruit formation was excellent. Pictured is San Marzano Roma from Oasis seedlings.

Capsicum Long Green is always a favourite of mine and this year the yields were excellent. After stripping the fruit bare around christmas time, it flushed with a second bounty which we have been picking ever since. They were not all long either. There was a circular one too !

Zucchini didn’t go as well for me this year, but there were enough to keep us happy. We probably planted them in slightly shaded area, which combined with a cooler January wasn’t perfect for formation.

My thai chillis and long hot cayenne (pictured above) were quite hot. Jalapeno though is still quite mild even though it is red. Chillis get hotter as they get more sun so a cooler January has probably lowered overall heat levels. Don’t worry if your Jalapeno turn black – this is a normal progression from green, then they go black before finishing red.

I visited a vegie patch in Merricks which included this giant Tomato Sweet Bite plant. It was covered in fruit, but what really impressed me was this very solid staking system that included “reo” – you know the thick wire mesh they use in concrete. This won’t blow over ! And what about these climbing beans below.

The Merricks garden also had sunflowers which I just couldn’t resist.

Sunflowersw st MerricksTomato Grape from Oasis came on strong in February when trusses like these coloured up beautifully. These grape shaped tomaotes are even sweeter than the cherry types. Quality seedlings of a high performing variety like this make it all worth it.

Tomato Mr UglyTomato Mr Ugly is actually quite a beautiful fruit. For cooking it just can’t be beaten.

Tomato Green ZebraFor heirloom tomatoes, I loved growing these Green Zebra. They fruited over such a long period and with such a nice fleshy inside, I eat them with just about everything.

This tomato was meant to be a Father Tom variety, but we laughed when we saw it because it looked so like a strawberry. Not sure who ate it, but somebody did. Pictured below is a gnarly old beetroot – usually you pick them tennis ball sized or less. Beautiful though.

Gnarly old beetroot.

 After months that included preparation, digging, liquid feeding and mulching, thew harvest was my favourite part. It made me smile ! Bye summer.

Pansy flowers as a garnish.

If the food in this cafe was not already delicious by itself, today it was beautifully garnished by their chefs. They have used freshly picked pansies – plants from the viola family. Pansy flowers are actually edible and are sometimes seen in salads,along with other edible flowers such as nasturtiums and calendula. This time they have combined them with sprigs of rosemary, to make the perfect garnish. It is a simple idea for your next dinner party.

Pansies also make great pressed flowers which can be used on gift cards. Of course the big old phone books used to be perfect for this, but you ca also buy a flower press.

Pansies are in full flower during spring, but you won’t find that many for sale in your local nursery because the little seedlings are best planted the autumn and winter to be flowering at their best in the spring. You can however buy them in advanced pots for some instant colour.

Pansy flowers are larger during the cooler weather. In colder climates in Europe, the large flowering pansies will flower much larger than in the warmer climates of Australia. As we head towards summer, the pansy plant will actually flower smaller during the hotter weather. It also tends to stretch and although some of the newer hybrid varieties can be cut back and grown again, most gardeners treat them as an annual and remove them. Petunias are a similar alternative, but of course are not edible.

Pinching off flowers will also encourage new  flowers. Watering the base of the plant and keeping the flowers dry will prolong flower life immensely. Water pansies earlier in the day rather than late at night andthis will help prevent diseases like mildew occurring. Liquid feed regularly t o maintain good plant health.

Boil garlic to remove volatile compounds and improve flavour.

Get 20 cloves garlic, peel them and then bring to the boil in salted cold water. Repeat the boiling process, then simmer until tender. This removes the volatile compounds that give a harsh taste, creating a rich, delicious, complex flavour.



– Popular houseplant

– Cyclamen Persicum most widely grown

– Known as Persian Cyclamen

– Related to primrose



One of Australia’s favourite houseplants, particularly in the cooler regions down south. These plants are usually sold in 5cm up to 20cm pots but you can buy now buy the minis in punnets of up to six plants from autumn to early spring.

Their unusual upside down petals and their vivid colours are highlights.

The bulb, or round tuber, is grown half in the ground and half out. Roots, stems and leaves grow directly from it.


When you buy a fully grown plant as a houseplant, put a saucer underneath or use a cover pot so as to catch excess water. Do not however let excess water sit, but remove so as not to be a diseased risk. Put finger in potting mix and water only if dry. Water base of plant and keep leaves and flowers dry. Remove spent, marked or damaged flowers by twisting flower stem and at the same time pulling. This will remove stem cleanly from the bulb at the base. Snip off any damaged leaves or if leaves become too many. Feed with a balanced liquid fertilser monthly. Put plant outside occasionally, as a heated house will cause plant to open p a little and flowers to spread. A couple of cool nights undercover will help freshen it up. Don’t expect plants to last forever. Many people treat them as an annual, but you may choose to grow them longer, and the challenge will be to get them through the warmer summer weather.

To grow outdoors, plant in pots or garden beds in a protected position. They would be perfect on an undercover balcony. Expect to have to remove spent flowers more often.

Seeds need to be covered and germinated in darkness at around 15 degrees. Seed sowing to young seedling stage takes up to 15 weeks and once potted can take another 20 weeks until ready for sale. Protect young seedlings from hot summer sun, but more light is better as you get into winter. Don’t plant the tubers too deep or they will rot. They need to be half out of the potting mix. Use a balanced fertiliser and water regularly to achieve strong and compact growth.


Perfect as a table plant and used regularly as table centres in functions. Also great on a coffee table or in a work environment as they are long lived and hardy.

Plant mini’s in mixed teracotta bowls or her pots. Could also work well under trees, adding colour in a dark spot and also being a little more protected.


In southern Australia, cyclamen are a favourite for Mother’s Day when thousands of them are sold in nurseries.

There are 23 species and most of them originate from Europe.

Most cyclamen you see today are hybrids that have been bred for their intense colours and pot performance.


A lovely couple of parsnip.

We just saw this funny picture in today’s Herald Sun and thought you may enjoy it. All we know is the gardener’s name is Pearl.

Parsnips and carrots grow well in open friable soils and we are suggesting these may have been grown in a heavier, denser soil, thus causing the vegies to fork as they look for the softer soil to grow through.


They certainly make a nice couple  and I guess would get on well with a few tomatoes I have grown.

Parsnip seed is best sown in Melbourne between September and February, so I guess you could almost squeeze in one last sowing today. Dig in some blood and bone or manure. Run a line in the soil with your finger and sow rather thinly. Once germinated, thin out weaker seedlings so as to allow remaining seedlings room to grow.

Some of the best varieties are Yates, “Yatesnip” and Goodman’s Hollow Crown.


Vegetable garden in April.

We were in amongst the vegetable garden this week and found some steady progress, as well as some pleasant surprises. April is a month with sunshine, but nights getting cooler. There are summer crops finishing, and autumn crops beginning. Lets have a look at what we have got happening.

sugarnap and snowpeas

Snow peas on the right have germinated better than Sugar snap peas on the left.

We took out the climbing beans and thought we’d leave the trellis in for the snow peas and sugar snap peas (with edible pods).  We put 3 seeds in every hole. The snow peas are pictured on the right and seem to have germinated a bit stronger. It will be interesting to see what height both these varieties get. Although the pea flowers don’t like frost, we should get a crop in before the coldest part of winter. With the trellis we could also protect them at night if need be. If your little seedlings like this go missing, you will need to protect them from black birds, or snails.

chocolate coloured capsicum

Unusually coloured capsicum.

These very dark purple capsicum taste delicious and provide a little bit of difference from the usual red and green ones.

Cherry tomatoes

Grown in a greenhouse.

garlic seedlings

The garlic has jumped away.








These cherry tomatoes should colour up as they are growing in a greenhouse with the Autopot self watering hydroponic system. There are a few secrets though. Close the house up at night to keep the temperature above 12 degrees, use a pollinating device, and the variety is a strong performing hybrid available from the hydroponics shop here at Gardenworld.

The garlic has been in less than a month and has jumped away. A well balanced liquid feed before winter will see these plants jump away again in the spring. We won’t let them dry out, and will mulch soon. Its not too late to get some in right now.

hydroponically grown cucumbers

hydroponically grown cucumbers

These cucumbers are ready to eat. They are grown hydroponically in the greenhouse, using the amazing Autopot system. The variety is a specially selected hybrid for these conditions.

Five eggplants

A nice surprise !

Sometimes, you get a nice surpise in the vegie garden. I knew we had eggplants in, but they were kind of smothered by nasturtiums and a few other things. I also thought it was a bit late in the season. Using two hands to pull the foliage away, there was a nice cluster of five plump eggplants. There were six ready to harvest in total. We decided to turn some of them int a moussaka dish for lunch.


Perfect size !

Off to the cafe.

The team in the kitchen is excited.








Moussaka is a classic Greek recipe that involves layering eggplant with a spiced meat. You then top it off with a creamy bechamel sauce baked until golden and maybe with some cheese on top.

As you can see, there is a bit happening in the vegie patch. Some gardeners don’t do much after the spring season, but we think it is a great time of year and adds diversity to your diet. What are you waiting for !

Vegies & Herbs to plant: Asian Greens, Beetroot,  Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Coriander, Garlic, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Leek, Parsnip, Onions, Oregano, Pak Choi, Peas, Radish, Spinach, Turnip, Thyme

Australian Open 2007

This photo was taken after the completion of The Australian Open of 2007. As you can see, the plants were still looking awesome.

The bed consisted of red celosia in the centre, surrounded by yellow celosia, blue salvia with some marigolds nestled in with them, and surrounded by some elegant white petunias. This display would last at least another 4 weeks – long after Roger Federer and Serena Williams had left Melbourne. Notice also the beautiful lemon scented gums in the backdrop (Eucalyptus citriodora).

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