Bill Brosch: Bake a grapefruit cake (I found a recipe online and was pleasantly surprised how delicious it was) and/or freeze the juice for another day.
Sonia Martinez: I separate and preserve the peels, and then poach the flesh with sugar and freeze.
Meg Montague: Grapefruit and lime/lemon cordial is a great way to use excess grapefruit. Grate the zest and squeeze the juice of about 4 grapefruit plus a couple of limes or lemons, put fruit skins in bowl too; then add half a cup of stevia (or sugar if you prefer, the amount can actually vary depending on how sweet you like the cordial), 2 dessert spoons of citric acid and one of tartaric acid; pour on boiling water, about a litre to cover; stir to dissolve stevia/sugar; leave overnight; strain, bottle, keep in the fridge and dilute to taste. I have also made this with added squeezed juice from pomegranates which add a marvellous pink tinge and exotic flavour.
Kerin Tulloch: I freeze juice for later use in cordials, cakes, etc. I have also just made a winter warmer with Beechworth honey (see recipe). I am also in the process of making some all-purpose citrus cleaner (see recipe).
Claire Smith: Add some sugar and tartaric acid to make a lime cordial. Add a bit of juice to boost the flavour.
Wendy David: It would make a good all purpose cleaner in a spray bottle. Citrus is a great cleaning product.
Angelo Eliades: Both rats and possums will eat the peel off citrus. If you net the fruit and the problem stops then you have possums, as they can’t get through netting, whereas rats can chew through it. Fruit bats are not known to be a pest of citrus trees.
Olwyn Smiley: Our lemons were being left naked like this by possums. A local backyard fruit grower told me that she used cloudy ammonia: a few centimetres in small jars that she hung in or around her fruit trees. In the morning, she put lids on the jars and, in the evening, she opened them up. It proved to be a handy trick because our possums stopped skinning the lemons. I am not as organised as my informant though – I just leave the bottles un-lidded and topped up the ammonia when necessary.
Wayne Tonissen: It could be snails, particularly if they are Meyer lemons.
Bruno Tigani: Use kaolin clay (which is also effective against Queensland Fruit Fly). I think you can buy it as a wettable powder, then mix with water in a spray unit. Take all usual care when working with fine powders as, whilst it’s organic, it can irritate eyes and lungs.
Deb Thomson: Follow the instructions from the Eco organic garden website. [This includes releasing green lacewings, eco-oil and eco-neem.]
James Petty: You can try making an organic horticultural oil to spray – ¼ cup organic cooking oil (vegetable/peanut/olive) plus ¼ cup organic/natural laundry or dish soap to five litres water plus (optional, for extra oomph) a few drops of organic eucalyptus/peppermint oil. Such a spray will, however, also kill other insects on the plants (including whitefly predators). Another option is giving everything a brutal prune – in my experience, the most effective response to whitefly is getting rid of what they are eating. It’s sad but effective. Finally, you can compost the leaves, especially if have enough for a hot compost which will kill the eggs.
Angelo Eliades: The photos are taken too far away for accurate diagnosis but if the brown patches have a yellow halo around them and they are on older leaves which eventually drop, then it’s likely to be the fungal disease Alternaria leaf spot. This disease is more prevalent when dry and rainy periods occur, or when plants are watered overhead wetting their leaves, especially in the evening. Harvest sweet potatoes when the leaves and ends of the vines begin turning yellow.
[Editor: I harvest when the vines die back but, if in doubt, I leave them a bit longer as most of the bulking up is done in the last few weeks.]
Mick Sheard from Imbue Distillery: We use prickly pear fruit in our gin. It is very difficult to buy in the shops and we usually get ours by either foraging (e.g. in Wattle Glen) or from roadside stalls (e.g. in Melton).
Linda Wall: I’ve seen them for sale at Preston Market. I also have a prickly pear cactus in my garden and am happy to sell some of the fruit.
Karen Olsen: I have found custard apples at the Vic markets and several Asian food grocers. I discovered custard apple when I moved into my first share house at university. Every week, one or two housemates would do the weekly shop at the Vic markets – the variety of the whole market, including custard apples, was a food revelation!
Helen Simpson: Many years ago I used to buy them in Coles. We used to have an ‘unusual fruit tasting’ every week and custard applies often featured.
Choon Yeok: I have bought custard apples from Woolworth and Coles before.
Bruno Tigani and Lyn Richards both wrote it to say that it is ‘apple scab’, which is a common disease caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis.
Bruno referred Vicki to this web page.
Lyn added: My guess is that golden delicious are vulnerable for just the reason that we grow them – thin skin, moist fruit, deteriorate rapidly off the tree. The good news is it’s cosmetic only, doesn’t harm the fruit, but pity the apple farmer who gets it. And it clearly can get nastier – if you Google ‘apple scab’ you get horrific images of far worse damage than you have, and to the leaves as well. Control measures are the usual for fungus – clear fallen leaves and fruit, keep base of tree clear, avoid overhead watering. Read this Agriculture Victoria page. Plant resistant varieties – I can’t find a list of them, but one appears to be my heritage Rome Beauty apple – not a spot on its huge red fruit.
Here are some suggestions:
- Abundant Layers (Nar Nar Goon): australorps, sussexes, hamburgs, orpingtons, araucanas, plymouth rocks, barnevelders, welsummers, wyandottes, salmon faverolles, silkies, pekins, Polish, light sussexes and Belgium d’uccles.
- John Damiano (Doreen): faverolles, frizzles, vorwerks and wyandottes.
- Kinhaven Chickens (Kangaroo Ground): polish bantams, australorp, wynadottes, plymouth rocks and pekins.
- Misty Valley Hens: (Kangaroo Ground): bantams, Belgian D’uccles, orpingtons and wyandottes.
- Peter The Chicken Man (Preston): orpingtons, brahmas, Japanese bantams, barnevelders and cochins.
- Yummy Gardens (St Andrews): australorp utilities, silkie bantams, buff cochins, crested cream legbars, cuckoo legbars, French wheaten marans, light sussex bantams and pearl guinea fowl.
Yummy Gardens got the most nominations. As Gina Wilson said: Greg [Parsons] has been breeding and selling chickens for years, with my latest chicken from him being a crested cream legbar who lay blue eggs (see the dark brown chicken in the photo). He also builds chicken coops, like mine, to suit individual needs and backyards. And he designs and constructs vegetable gardens.
Tom Danby: The bokashi juice is the contents of plant cells, released by the fermentation/rot process, so it is not surprising that the worms object. It should be diluted at least 1:20 or 1:100 before spaying back over the plant. It is concentrated minerals, enzymes, plant proteins and more, so technically chemicals but with no pejorative overtones.
Robin Gale-Baker: Bokashi mix contains living micro-organisms, wheat bran, rice husks, water and molasses – none of which are ‘chemicals’. It is an excellent addition to compost.
If I had to choose between a compost heap and a worm farm, I would always choose compost but they have different applications so both are valuable for the gardener. If you do not want to attract vermin to your compost, then a combination of bokashi and worm farm works well for food scraps.
Lucinda Flynn: Bokashi bins use a process of fermentation to break down organic waste, as opposed to decomposition (which is what happens in a regular compost bin). The powder that you sprinkle on a bokashi is not a chemical as such; rather, it is living microorganisms stored in an inactive form in a grain base. You can compare it to freeze dried baker’s yeast, which remains inactive until you mix it with warm water. Once the grain base is sprinkled into the bokashi bin and gets wet, the organisms come to life and start fermenting your food scraps.
When you put your bokashi scraps into a compost pile, the worms might not like it initially because it is probably a bit acidic – think of wine or vinegar, both fermented. But it is still good, healthy material to add to your garden.
Angelo Eliades: There aren’t any ‘chemicals’ with bokashi. It utilises a combination of microorganisms to ferment food scraps and the end product is acidic, just like yoghurt. Fermented bokashi can be dug into the ground or put into compost bins.
Most people don’t understand which garden recycling systems should be use for what purpose. Compost is for garden waste, prunings and clippings which break down slowly; worm farms are for kitchen waste which breaks down quickly; and bokashi is for kitchen waste, including foods that can’t go into worm farms. Food scraps can go into compost (and many people do it) but it attracts rodents and worm farms and bokashi are better systems for processing them. If there are worms in your compost, this is an indicator that ready to use and should be placed in the garden.
I have written a number of relevant articles on my website: Bokashi composting, how to process waste that can’t go in your compost or worm farm; What materials can you put into your compost bin and what not to compost; and Can you put earthworms in the compost bin?.
Charles Dickerson: Bokashi does not use ‘chemicals’ at all. You either spray a liquid or sprinkle a bran inoculated with microbes onto your food waste. These microbes then ‘pickle’ your food waste (hence the vinegary smell). You can then either add it to the ground directly or add it to the compost bin. I think of bokashi as a pre-compost step and the longer you keep it in its container the more pre-composted it gets.
To add it to the ground, dig a hole and bury the waste at least 10-15 cm down is the traditional method. Place wire netting over the hole to keep your dog from digging it up. It is completely broken down in a month.
To add it to a compost bin, mix some straw/leaves through the waste beforehand to blot up any liquid (if you add the neat waste it will upset the worms as it is acidic). I also place a 30-50mm layer of straw/leaves in the compost bin first as this keeps the waste away from the worms until it has broken down.
The benefit of bokashi over a worm farm is you can put any sort of food waste in the bin. Citrus, oil, meat can be added to bokashi whereas that’s a no no for a worm farm. Regarding oil, blot it up with shredded copier paper (from a home paper shredder) and then add that to the bokashi bin.
Mary Rogers: “My compost bin is a worm farm. I think the worms are the garden variety and they love living there.
Angelo Eliades: If the rusty discolouration visible on the potato is only skin deep and has ragged edges, then the problem is potato scab. This condition is worse in light soils under dry conditions. To prevent it, dig in compost before sowing tubers and do not add lime to soil. If, however, there are large holes eaten in the flesh of the potato tuber, that’s a sign of slug damage (slugs can burrow and feed underground).
Aimee Maxwell: It looks like potato scab to me. Read the treatment suggestions Plant Natural Research Center website.
Vera Herman: If Pauline searches for ‘potato diseases in Australia’, there are lots of info and pictures of potato diseases. Did Pauline check that her soil was slightly acidic? Did she plant seed potatoes & practice crop rotation? Diggers recommends a 3-year crop rotation for potatoes, i.e. don’t plant potatoes in the same spot for 3 years.
Nillumbik Council: Unfortunately we have not been able to source any options for recycling plastic netting material.
REDcycle: Whilst the material itself may be able to be REDcycled (only if it is polypropylene PP, LDPE or HDPE, not if it is actually nylon), the problem with this is that they have had long exposure to the sun, meaning the plastic has already started to deteriorate (and some are often quite dirty as well). Any materials in this state cannot then be used, as it impacts the structural integrity of the final products made from the plastics. Further, unfortunately we are not actually able to accept commercial/industrial or large volume soft plastics like this. Even if the bird netting is clean, it would all need to be cut to A3 size pieces or smaller before we could accept it, otherwise it becomes entangled in the processing machinery.
Susan (replying to her own question): I have done some investigating myself and the bugs I have are whitefly. I have found that vegetable oil combined with dishwasher liquid diluted with warm water in a spray bottle works a treat. I have sprayed my beans, tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers and the bugs are now mostly (95%) dead. The plants remain lush and healthy days later.
Angelo Eliades: Tiny white flying insects that swarm when you spray then with water sound exactly like whitefly. They are tiny moths and can be controlled with eco-oil, neem oil or horticultural soap. Horticultural oils should never be used when the temperatures may reach 30 degC or more, as the leaves will burn, and that sounds like what might have happened with Susan. On really hot days, just hose the bugs off with a moderate pressure spray to reduce their numbers.
Clare Quinlan: It sounds like whitefly. A vacuum cleaner can be great to sucking the majority off. Constantly disturbing them is great to, but can get exhausting and boring standing there all day disturbing tiny creatures from eating their dinners. Garlic spray and eco can work but only if it gets on the actual fly apparently. I aim to leave whitefly up to beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. I also leave my fennel to go to flower which creates a ladybug nursery where their numbers grow over summer.
Anjana Mukherji: Try 1 litre of tap water 2 drops of washing liquid soap and 4/5 drops of Neem oil. Shake well and spray.
James Petty: I have had similar problems. They fed on my tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, eggplants, jerusalem artichoke (stems and leaves), rocket, parsley, coriander, rosemary, carrots, parsnip, potatoes, cornflowers, and everlasting daisies. They killed several potato plants and (I suspect but don’t know) were the vector for a virus in my tomatoes. I initially assumed that they were whitefly, except that they weren’t white. However, after I sent them a photo, Museums Victoria IDed them as probably vegetable leafhopper (Austroasca viridigrisea). Here is AusVeg guide to the vegetable leafhopper.
As for treatment, they resisted everything I tried: horticultural oil, neem, coffee spray – nothing worked. The most effective was a combination of vacuuming (daily) and ‘puffing’ diatomaceous earth all over the plants (leaves, stem, underside leaves). However, this took a long time and the puffing is also likely to impact beneficial bugs like predators and pollinators. And within a week, the hoppers were back to full numbers anyway. I have resigned myself to their presence and tried to reduce their habitat. They seem to love rosemary so I pruned it back to a stump.
Angelo Eliades: There are three questions that need to be answered to identify the cause:
- Has the tree been pruned? Trees will manage their resources and will drop fruit that they cannot carry and ripen. This will happen if the tree is not pruned.
- Is the tree supplied with sufficient and consistent irrigation? If the tree runs dry then it will get stressed and drop fruit.
- Was the tree fertilised in Spring and with what product? A potassium nutrient deficiency will cause fruit drop, and only complete fertilisers contain this nutrient.
Angelo Eliades: Whitefly and thrips can be controlled with horticultural oils such as eco-oil or neem oil sprays, but it’s better to let predatory mites do the job. These beneficials thrive in mulch layers above soil, so it’s important to keep the soil mulched to give them a home. Also, don’t dig up every bit of soil, as this destroys their habitat and kills them (and all the other soil biota too).
Heather Miller: In a spray bottle, mix together, 1 litre of warm water, 1 tablespoon of molasses and 1 squirt of dish detergent (preferably organic). Mix and spray over the affected plants, making sure to spray on both sides.
Angelo Eliades: Ornamental grapes are either Vitus vinifera, whose leaves look like regular grapevine leaves, or Vitus coignetiae, also known as Crimson Glory Vine, which has broad, slightly lobed leaves. Here in Australia, both our table grape and our wine grape varieties are the Vitis vinifera species.
So, if your ornamental grape is Vitus vinifera, you can graft fruiting grapes onto it.
If your ornamental grape is Vitus coignetiae, I’m not sure if you can graft fruiting grapes onto it. A literature search yielded no results but it is common practice in agricultural settings to graft Vitis vinifera onto other Vitus species rootstock for disease resistance, and several other grape species are used for the purpose, so it’s quite likely that you can do the grafting.
They are spitfire sawfly larvae (genus perga, family pergidae, suborder symphyta, order hymenoptera).
Stuart Rodda: They move vigorously when touched (with a stick) and can spit out a nasty liquid as protection. If you do disturb them, don’t stand under them unless you want a shower.
Anna Sanders: There are 200 known species of sawfly in Australia and we have found some in our garden too. Have a look at this video of them that I recently made. Read this page about spitfire sawflies.
Jeanette Lynch: Read this post about spitfire sawflies on the South Australian Government website.
Museums Victoria: they are one of the species of sawfly in genus Perga but it is not clear which. Despite the name, sawflies are actually more closely related to wasps than to flies. The larvae can exude a distasteful substance which probably makes them unpleasant for birds to eat. Contrary to what you might have been told as a child, they don’t actually spit at people but rather dribble an unpleasant tasting substance.
Wikipedia: During the day, the larvae congregate in clusters of 20 or 30 for protection and disperse at night to feed. When threatened, the larvae will raise their head and eject a strong-smelling yellow-green liquid, consisting predominantly of eucalyptus oil, to deter predators. This action gives them their common name of ‘spitfires’.
Jules Jay: There are big differences between the terms biodegradable, compostable, and home compostable. This page from the CSIRO website explains some of the differences.
Biodegradable items (like the coffee lids) should be avoided if possible, as they’re often made from plastics that simply ‘break down’ into millions of tiny pieces (becoming microplastics), rather than reverting to natural substances that feed soil. This degrading process can take many years, so they’ll likely never break down in a compost bin.
Compostable items can also be confusing, as they fall into two categories. Much of what’s labelled ‘compostable’ can only be broken down in industrial composting facilities at high heat levels over a specific time period – and certainly not quickly in a home compost bin. Unfortunately, as there are a limited number of industrial composting facilities in Australia, not all compostable materials placed in the recycling bins will go to a proper facility.
Only packaging labelled as ‘home compostable’ will break down to become organic soil in the compost bin. So, it’s always best to check for the ‘home compostable’ logo (see picture right) and go for these products if possible.
Carrie Newbold: I spoke to one of the companies that sells them a few years back. They are only made to decompose in the high temperature commercial composting facilities. I am pretty unimpressed by this, as no one can access one of these (although I do believe the zoo has one). So I became one of those annoying people who would tell anyone who’d listen the ‘truth’. Pretty sure my effect has been nil though.
Angelo Eliades: Many ‘biodegradable’ materials, such as the coffee cup lids, only break down under hot composting conditions that sustain high temperatures of 55-65 degrees Celsius for extended periods (2-3 weeks), such as those of commercial composting operations, or home hot composting systems, or over very long periods of time (years) in cold composting systems.
Hot composting systems will also make woollen jumpers, cotton shirts or leather boots disappear over the same period of time, just to keep things in perspective. Even though many of these materials don’t break down very easily in slow cold composting conditions, they are technically still ‘biodegradable’.
Katrina Forstner: If the rats are in the compost bins, you can do a few things. 1. Pop some neighbour’s bokashi bin contents in as the fermented scraps is something they abhor. 2. Use galvanised aviary wire on the bottom of the bin (although I’ve seen determined rats still get through). 3. Mix your compost regularly, give it a loud tap every time that you go past and water the compost from time to time. I’ve heard (though not tried) that opened containers of toothpaste deter rats. Finally, I protect my edible plants with upcycled freezer baskets that I’ve found in hard rubbish, plus I’ve recently found that aviary cages are perfect with their small gauge or mesh.
I have used rat traps bought from hardware shops effectively. The problem is disposing of the caught rats.
There are many YouTube clips using a large (usually glass) bowl filled with olive oil, sometimes with a ‘walking plank’ with a food lure overhanging the oil. The plank collapses and the mice/rat can’t get out because it’s too slippery.
Place orange nets of cat hair around the garden. This also deters possums.
Rebecca Haschek: Worm juice as described by Doris is actually called leachate and is the product of an over-moist worm farm. An over-moist worm farm leads to anaerobic conditions and can actually be a breeding ground for bad bacteria. A healthy worm farm is moist but does not produce leachate … if you take a handful of bedding and squeeze it, it should at most produce one or two drips. Leachate can be used on the garden but, as it is possible for it to have bad bacteria, it is not recommended for edible plants and should certainly be kept away from edible leaves. Having said that, many people who don’t know this use it without a problem. If you want to make worm tea for your edible garden, you can make a worm casting tea bag, then steep it in some aerated water overnight. An old aquarium air bubbler or similar will keep the water aerated and stop any anaerobic activity. Worm tea can be used on edibles as long as they are rinsed thoroughly before consumption.
As an aside, sometimes worm farm instructions suggest pouring water through the farm periodically. However, as well as creating leachate, this can make the bedding too moist for the worms and attractive to unwanted creatures such as pot worms and mites.
Angelo Eliades: Worm farms only produce leachate when there is excess water. If your warm farms are kept outside, keep the tap open with a bucket underneath. After it rains, there will be a bucket of worm wee to collect. Most fruit and vegies are around 80-90% water so, if you’re adding enough kitchen scraps, there should be excess water and there will be small amounts of leachate draining through into the bottom tray of the worm farm. Using a worm blanket or whole newspaper to cover the food scraps helps retain the moisture and creates a moist, protected environment for the worms to feed in. The bedding material of any worm farm should be as moist as a squeezed out sponge; if it’s drier than that then it will soak up any moisture released.
Maria Ciavarella: Winter food scraps tend to be less wet than the scraps that you might supply your worms in the warmer weather. So that’s why there’s less worm wee output in winter. It won’t harm your worms to give them a little shower every now and again and you’ll soon hear the dripping of the leachate going into your liquids’ tray. Do this by using a watering can over the worm blanket covering so as not to shock them instantly! Also, it might be a good idea to lift off the worm trays and see what is happening in the liquid accumulator tray. You might find a lot of castings have made their way into this tray and are blocking the tap.
Sam Dixon: I get more worm juice when I very carefully aerate the contents of the worm with my hand trowel. I do this at least once a week.
Michelle Cheah: It seems that earthworms are attracted to moisture. They come out of the ground on a rainy day not to escape drowning in the ground but because the extra moisture helps them take in more oxygen through their skin and also to migrate longer distances across soil. They can move further over wet soil overground than they can underground by burrowing. The pool of water in the birdbath is concentrated moisture so that is probably what is drawing them towards it. I have also found that earthworms don’t drown per se and can live fully submerged underwater for days, although extended exposure to sunlight can paralyse them and make them appear dead. I suggest that Paul checks the bird bath daily and rescues any that he finds. Alternatively, raise the bird bath if practical to do so.
Deb Thomson: I am assuming the earthworms are seeking out that extra moisture and then drown. Perhaps Paul could try wiping the outsides of his bird bath, down to the ground, with eucalyptus oil to see if this deters the worms on their suicide mission.
Tracey O’Neill: I have seen birds dropping earthworms into a bird bath. Perhaps they don’t realise how deep the water is and are unable to fish the worm back out?
Peta Heywood: I think birds (magpies) go to have a drink and leave their worm behind. I can’t prove it yet.
Angelo Eliades: The easiest way to keep possums out of veggie beds is to cover them with 10mm woven bird netting or, even better, 2mm insect exclusion netting (which also provides 20% shade). Just use some cloche hoops or other supports to hold the netting up to give the plants root to grow. The insect netting, as the name suggests, will also keep insect pests out and comes as either 2.8m wide or 6m wide netting on a roll, so you can purchase the length you require to cover the garden bed.
Elle Lawrence: A hungry possum will eat anything; goodbye to anything with flower heads on them also. The only way to protect your hard work in the garden is to have a barrier they can’t get into. I’ve used possum repellants of every type but they don’t work. I finally resorted to building a walk-in, wire-covered structure with gates. As shown by the scat on the ground, they crawl over the top of the wire roof trying to get in.
Melissa Tripodi: I am studying naturopathy and have plenty of resources on medicinal herbs to share with Darryl. The Shift Network has some courses on aspects of mind body medicine.
Pam Jenkins: the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food at Monash University runs a free, three week online course entitled Food as Medicine.
Angelo Eliades: The fruit is edible but very gritty, tasting like strawberries and sand mixed together!
Karin Motyer: I’m sure that you and others know that Velyne’s photo is of and Irish strawberry. [Editor: well we should know because Karin herself sent in a picture of one for our 13th May newsletter.]
Maude Farrugia: I wrote a guide to them in the latest issue of Pip Magazine, including recipe for very yum Irish strawberry jam.
Pam Jenkins: I have never tried them but you can make jam with them. I have heard that they are not very tasty just straight off the tree and that the jam is not much better!
Ros Hardy: As Velyne says, the birds love them but I am not sure if they are suitable for human consumption.
Shelley Evans: Last week I made feijoa and Irish strawberry sorbet. I then used this as flavouring for my homemade ice cream. My very fussy family loved it and want more but they will have to wait until next year’s harvest.
Stephen Onians: The fruit is edible when ripe. It has a slight narcotic effect and should not be eaten in large quantities. It makes good jelly. Your local council may have it listed as a weed.
Velyne Moretti: I think it is because the tree may have been in mild drought and must have received some big, big rain which quickly expanded the trunk, causing it to split. So nothing is wrong with the tree.
Carrie Newbold: We had a similar occurrence with our kaffir lime tree this year. We blamed rats for eating the bark. The fully ringbarked branches eventually all died. Thankfully the tree is a 3-4m monster, and has seemingly brushed off their alleged poor behaviour.
Bruno Tigani: The black or purple stripes are very likely to be anthocyanin development in the fruit. This is probably due to colder temperatures, such as the very cold nights recently, with the anthocyanins being a protective mechanism in the plant against the temperature. Many vegetables exhibit this discolouration if it gets very cold, such as purpling in broccoli. The capsicum fruits are ripening very slowly now and may not turn red at all, as it is too late in the season here in Melbourne. If the fruit did mature to full colour, then the streaks would fade and you would be left with a red capsicum.
Pauline Webb: My observations of my own capsicums when they have dark marks or lines is that it is always late in the season when there is a lack of both sun and heat. At this time of year, no capsicum can turn red. It pays to pick them before they have little visitors inside as caterpillar frass is near impossible to wash out.
Moira Tucker: I think it is just a natural mutation and/or a cross of colour types. Keep the seed and see if the colour variation is stable as it has potential as a variation!
Angelo Eliades: Bulleen Art & Garden nursery sells bulk cow manure. You can either get it delivered, fill a trailer, or borrow the courtesy trailers that they have.
Claire Smith: Whilst it is bagged, it is possible to get free manure from the RSPCA in Burwood East. If you ring them (9224 2222) and ask for The Barn then they can tell you how to access it.
Moira Tucker: Try a wool grower as they often accumulate manure beneath their shearing shed. It is a pity that the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show was cancelled this year as there would be have been a lot of shepherds there. There are many small specialist flocks where the fibre is grown for hand spinners. The Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria (based in Carlton North) may have some useful contacts.
Heather: Woolly aphid. Cute, but naughty.
Angelo Eliades: Woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum). They cover themselves with white, cotton-line secretions to form a protective cottony mass. They are a common pest of apples. You can spray them with eco-oil to get rid of them.”
Judith Chivers: the latest newsletter from Leaf, Root & Fruit has an article about woolly aphids, which includes the following sentence: “Although not majorly detrimental to the tree in small numbers, in large numbers they can cause significant stress and damage the tree.“
Rats, mice, brushtail possums, deer, kangaroos, wallabies or wombats?
Robin Gale-Baker: Rats. I once saw a half acre full of beautiful pumpkins devastated by rats overnight. Hundreds of them devoured! I picked 3 pumpkins high up in our feijoa tree before the stem withered as, the moment they ripen, the rats go for them.
Pam Jenkins: Rats. They don’t mind climbing a trellis. Unlikely to be possums as they don’t like being on the ground. I’ve never heard of rabbits eating undamaged pumpkin – I hope they don’t!
Joanne Driver: Rats. I have had the same trouble this year with tomatoes and some apples. Our cat has a daily home on the compost pile near the bins and we have seen a few results.
Kris Filmer: Rats. We have had the same problem, as well as our potatoes being eaten underground.
Peter Bevz: Rats or mice, almost certainly. I’ve had identical issues in the past. Nowadays, when my pumpkins are ripening, I check them every day and, at the first sign of any nibbling, I harvest them all.
Marsha Merory: Brushtail possum. I lost 5 pumpkins (2 golden nuggets and 3 jap pumpkins) to a large brushtail possum. I then put metal waste paper bins on my last 3 pumpkins, with 2 bricks on top of each – so far, so good.
Angelo Eliades (before seeing Duang’s response below): Rats or possums, as rabbits aren’t capable of eating veggies hanging 1 metre off the ground, and birds wouldn’t eat that much and would leave tell-tale pointed pecking marks. The simple way to tell if it’s rats or possums is to net the pumpkins: if possums are the culprit then the pumpkins will be protected by the netting, but if rats are the problem then they will chew through the netting and eat the pumpkins!
Duang Tengtrirat: Deer. When we lived in Research, our pumpkins were eaten and the carcass looked just like the one in the photo. We first blamed the kangaroos then the rabbits, both of which there were plenty. After installing a camera, however, it became clear that the culprit was actually deer (a big deer with antlers).
Angelo (after seeing Duang’s response): Kangaroos and wallabies, maybe. If you live somewhere rural, then kangaroos and wallabies, as well as deer, would also be possibles. But, unlike rodents, none of these animals would chew through netting.
And Angelo again: Wombats, maybe. At Bulleen Art & Garden nursery (BAAG), we once caught a wombat on our security cameras eating the blueberries in the driveway!
Stuart Rodda: It looks very similar to one I have been growing for a decade or more from saved seed (see photo). It is a Roma-like tomato called ‘reggae’, which is a smooth-skinned, smallish, indeterminate tomato (4-6cm long, 2-3cm wide). It is resistant to disease and pest attack, keeps well after ripening, develops fruit in large clusters, is not fussy about soil quality and does not need regular watering (i.e. does not split if a dry period is followed by rain). The flavour is good and it is easily sliced. All in all, an excellent tomato for most uses, albeit a bit small.
Vanessa Reynolds: It looks to me very much like one of the egg-shaped Italian types, such as Roma or San Marzano, both of which are good for passata or canning.
Guy Palmer: If it is the fruit that you are after, I think you would be wasting your time but, as an experiment, I think it could be quite interesting. I have both avocado trees and banana plants. With quite a lot of effort on my part (e.g. shade cloth in both Winter and Summer), these plants now thrive, and they even have baby fruit, but the fruit never mature and ripen. My understanding is that mangoes are even more difficult to achieve success with in Melbourne. However, they are included as a possible in Louis Glowinski’s book.
Angelo Eliades points out another problem: the mango seed is likely to be fertilised and thus its DNA will be a combination of both of its parents rather than a clone of its mother. So, for example, just because the mother plant is hardy enough to survive in Melbourne doesn’t mean that the seed will be. More generally, it is because most fruit trees don’t grow true to seed that they are usually propagated by grafting or cutting rather than by seed. Putting this another way, if you plant a seed from a Granny Smith apple, you might well get an apple tree but it certainly won’t be a Granny Smith apple tree. And, indeed, all the Granny Smith apple trees throughout the world have originated by grafting or cutting from a single chance Australian seedling from 1868. Finally, Angelo points out that, if Keryn decides to plant the seed, she can find mango seed planting instructions on The Western Australian Government website.
Angelo Eliades: In my opinion, February is the month to plant, with the harvest time of 14-28 weeks that will mean harvest in mid-June to September before it gets too hot.
Bruno Tigani: There is a large Brussels sprouts grower in Coldstream. Their transplanting season runs from November to February, growing different varieties all the way through and harvesting from March to September.
Guy Palmer: The farm that Bruno is referring to is called Adams Farms. I spoke with the farmer there, Jeremy Adams, and he confirmed Bruno’s timetable, which means that their seeds are planted from September to end December. I asked Jeremy when home growers in North East Melbourne should plant their seeds and he said that it all depended on the variety. For example, whilst Gustus is a cool season variety which should be planted in late December, Gladius is effectively a warm season variety which they plant in September. He said that people could ring him in November on 0433 396 444 and get some seedlings from him. Thanks, Jeremy!
Meera Govil: According to Jamie Oliver’s website, wash the herbs gently, dry on kitchen towel, chop finely before packing them tight in ice cube trays and covering with water before freezing. Delicate herbs like coriander, chives, dill are good for this method. More robust herbs, like rosemary, oregano, mint, lemon verbena, are better dried. My mum cuts the herbs on a coolish day, washes and dries them on a cloth kitchen towel for about 1 hour before snipping off the thicker stems and laying the herbs out in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper in semi sun. She brings them in every evening for 3 days before grinding them in a little spice grinder and then putting them into small glass bottles for her (grown up) grandchildren.
Samantha Patterson: I have tried this and continue to practice it, finding it has its place among other ways to preserve excess herbs. However, one must be aware of its limitations. The freezing process does bruise the herbs (especially softer ones like basil), and one must be careful with ‘when’ in the cooking process the oil-herb cube is added – if added at the start, the herbs can over cook and the flavour is quite different. I successfully use oil-herb cubes in soups and casseroles, or used as a ‘rub’ on toasted bread for bruschetta. It also works well for a quick light ‘stir fry’ of leafy greens like kale. And I also use this oil freezing process with crushed garlic.
Tracey Bjorksten: All herbs are going to fade a bit when dried so it all depends what shade of green you are aiming for. Here is a picture of my peppermint and oregano, which were dried in a Miele oven at 80 degree C, fan-forced, for probably somewhere between 30 min and 1 hour. Time will vary between batches according to the water content of the leaves, the quantity being dried etc so they need to have an eye kept on them. I consider these to be a good shade of green. The flavour is also excellent.
Robyn Currie: I just gather bunches of oregano, about a half inch in diameter, tie and hang upside down in an out of the way place in the kitchen (usually a cupboard doorknob). After a couple of weeks or more, the leaves are dry and a dark green.
Pauline Webb: Sylvia Allen, wife of Pete the Permie, knows all about goats. I’ve spoken to Pete and he agrees with Pauline and said that people are more than welcome to ring Sylvia and himself to ask their questions. Phone number: 0418 665880.
Fay Loveland: PIP magazine has published a podcast interview with Maria Cameron about keeping goats in a shared backyard context. Maria is from Hibi Farm in Heidelberg West, where she shares some goats with some of her neighbours.
Julie Cabrol: Darebin Council has made the following bald statement: “there is currently no recycling option for corks in Australia.” According to the Ecobin website, this is because corks are not virgin cork and contain other resins.
Lucinda Flynn: whilst they no longer get collected for the zoos, they are fine to put into the compost.