Party Season Planting

Gardening guru Matt Leacy from Landart Landscapes shares his tips on creating gardens that are both edible and beautiful for the end of year party season and Christmas Day celebrations.

Whether it’s a simple get-together with friends or a joyous banquet with the whole family, Matt has come up with these smart and easy gardening ideas to help your garden produce edible and decorative props to be enjoyed over the coming months.

1. Potted mint

Growing mint by seed can be painfully tricky, so head to your local nursery for inexpensive seedlings.  Once it’s under way, and with regular water and a little shade, mint will grow vigorously, so pots are the best option – and will ensure that surrounding plants aren’t overtaken or destroyed. With just a little TLC, you will have flourishing mint all summer long to garnish your classic lemonades, iced teas, watermelon salads or to shred through jugs of mojitos.

2. Grow rocket yourself – at home

Baby rocket is ideal to have on hand in your garden for summer salads, to add crunch to sandwiches and for side dishes. Baby rocket is sweet and nutty as opposed to grown rocket which is often quite spicy. The advantage of growing rocket at home is that it grows extremely quickly, and is also easy to grow from seed. Simply sprinkle the seeds on soil, lightly cover with seed-raising mix and water gently for a moist start to some healthy salad greens. You can’t go wrong with a light rocket, watermelon and pine nut salad as a tantalising entrée.

3. Plant tomatoes in the sunshine

Red and juicy tomatoes are always a crowd pleaser, particularly when it comes to fresh salads, pasta sauce or just a healthy summer snack.  And home grown tomatoes that have soaked up plenty of sunshine are always so much more full of flavour than store-bought tomatoes that have often been stored in cool rooms. Lots of strong and direct sunlight will also help make tomatoes nice and stocky. Planted now, you will be harvesting a good haul of garden fresh tomatoes before Christmas.

Enjoy weekend brunches of bruschetta using your diced red tomatoes mixed with olive oil. Place on top of toasted, crusty bread and garnish with a bit of basil (also from your garden!) to really be transported to the hills of Tuscany.

4. Use versatile lillypillies for festive gardening

While lillypillies are hardy and generally easy to maintain, they can be prone to pests and diseases – especially psyllids, so check for any deformed new growth, little lumps, or spots before you buy, and check regularly once you have your plant at home.  A quick wipe or spray with White Oil insecticide will cure most issues for lillypillies. Syzygium leuhmanii is completely psyllid resistant.

Lillypilly hedging and topiary are perfect for low maintenance and quick growing ornamental decoration in gardens. Lillypillies provide anything from a vibrant pink to creamy white flowers and red, purple or white berries for an added festive feel to garden settings, ensuring they are an ideal addition to all outdoor entertaining areas.  They also grow well in pots as well as garden beds, adding to their versatility.

5. Grow your own Christmas tree

Wollemi Pines are great for creating an authentic and very merry Christmas vibe around the house and garden. By having your own native Christmas tree, not only will you not need to buy another one next year, but you will also be helping conserve a unique endangered species (the Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest trees and was discovered in Australia).

The look and shape of the Wollemi Pine is perfect for a decorated Christmas tree, or for something less traditional try another Australian native – the bottle brush (decorated with garlands wound through the branches, already festooned with festive red bottle brush flowers), or prune a lillypilly into a cone Christmas tree shape.

For a softer, fuller-looking Christmas native, try Adenanthos sericeus. Native to West Australia, it looks a bit like a pine tree but is as cuddly as a teddy bear.

With Christmas just around the corner, these tips will make sure you enjoy home-grown condiments for chilled drinks and summery salads, as well as bringing life to outdoor entertaining.

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How to grow bananas

Bananas will grow in any large garden as long as there is no sign of frost or freezing temperatures at any time of the year. They are truly a sub-topical plant needing warm soil, and air temperatures all year round.

The plant grows from a rhizome that sends up shoots to make the tuburous stems and large flat green leaves. The plants need space as they can reach heights of between 2 to 6 metres.

These plants need warmth, sunshine and shelter from strong winds and are best planted near fences or sun trapped corners of the garden. The soil needs to be enriched with rotted compost and be slightly on the acidic side, so no need for liming.

Plant new plants in the spring or summer and water well while the plant is forming. It will take three years for a new young stem to produce a flower, and then a whole year of development from the time the first purple, tubular flower appears until fruit is ready to pick.

This plant needs a tonne of water. Any sign of drought conditions and the bananas will droop. They will not appreciate standing in water-logged soil, so ensure drainage is adequate. A good mulch of grass clippings, and the ash from a fire place will give the banana plants extra nutrition as well as protection from dry conditions.

To create the biggest and best bananas they need fertiliser. Feed regularly with a nitrogen enriched fertiliser with plenty of micronutrients added. Trim away excess shoots at the bottom of the plant to concentrate one or two stems producing fruit and once the fruit has set, remove any other flowering stalks to help bring the first one along.  The bananas don’t need insects to pollinate, but plenty of bees and wasps will hang around the nectar rich flower. Snails, earwigs and slugs can damage the leaves, but pose little threat to the fruit.

The banana fruit will ripen in summer after plenty of sun. As ‘hands’ of the fruit become ripe they can be picked. If some bananas don’t appear to be ripening quickly, place a plastic bag over them and secure. Otherwise plump green fruit can be picked to ripen off the tree.

After the large stalk has produced a bunch of bananas it won’t fruit again and is best to be chopped down to allow new shoots to come through.

The fruit can be stored green in a cool dark place, or can be frozen or chilled. Any cold temperatures will bring on browning of the skin, even though the flesh remains tasty and intact.


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