Know and Identify Your Chilli Species

Rocoto-Manzano-chilli

Chilli peppers (Capsicum species) are members of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes. They are native to the warm climates of South America and Central America, and they’re perennial plants in tropical and subtropical climates, but are grown as warm season annual plants in the cooler temperate climates as they don’t tolerate the cold.

Chillies have become a very important spice worldwide due to their spicy hot flavour which is primarily produced by the chemical  compound capsaicin.

 

There are five major domesticated chilli species, each with their own identifying characteristics and unique properties:

  1. Capsicum annuum
  2. Capsicum baccatum
  3. Capsicum chinense
  4. Capsicum frutescens
  5. Capsicum pubescens

Let’s look at each in turn and see what’s special about each of these five chilli species!

 

Capsicum annuum

zimbabwe-birds-eye-chilli-flowers
Zimbabwe Bird’s Eye chilli flowering

The most widely grown chillies are from the Capsicum annuum species, such as the Jalapeno, Paprika, Cayenne and Serrano peppers. The sweet peppers, also know as bell peppers or sweet capsicums, which aren’t hot, are also part this group. They’re the most diverse in shape, colour and heat rating.

The species name annuum means ‘annual’ even though most chilli species are perennial in their native regions. As we mentioned, earlier in cooler climates they grow as annuals because cannot tolerate the cold.

The distinguishing feature of this species is that flowers are produced singly, not it groups or clusters, and the filaments which support the anthers are not purple. The corolla (flower petals) are milky white (but sometimes purple), the fruit flesh is usually firm (though it may be soft in certain varieties),and the seeds are straw-coloured.

In the picture of the Zimbabwe Bird’s Eye chilli flowers shown above for example, we see single flowers which have white filaments (the long parts coming from the centre of the flower with the little bumps on the ends). This plant is compact in form, only growing to 30cm, making it ideal to grow in a container indoors.

 

Capsicum chinense

The hottest chilli varieties, such as the Scotch Bonnet, Habanero and the infamous Bhut Jolokia ‘Ghost chilli’ (which the Indian government uses to make control crowd agents), are Capsicum chinense species.

Despite the botanical name, ‘chinense’, meaning ‘from China’, they’re not native to China at all, but native to Central America, the Caribbean Islands and the Yucatan region of Mexico. They were mistakenly named by an early botanist who thought they were from China, and the species name has stayed ever since.

Even though these chillies vary widely in heat level, flavour and size, what distinguishes these chillies in terms of taste is their intense spiciness combined with a fruity aroma. With this species the flowers appear in pairs or clusters (two or more flowers at each node), but occasionally flowers may be solitary, appearing singly. The corolla (flower petals) are greenish-white (sometimes milky white or purple), without any diffuse spots at base of each petal, the fruit flesh is firm and seeds are straw-coloured. The plants are compact, with multiple stems and an erect habit. Leave are pale to medium green, and usually large (up to 15cm long x 10cm wide) and ovate in shape. A distinguishing trait of the Capsicum chinense species is that the leaves are usually crinkled.ovate-leaf-shape

These plants are very productive, but need plenty of warmth to get started.

 

Capsicum frutescens

chenzo-chilli
Chenzo chilli, showing the characteristic clusters of flowers and conical ellipse shaped chilli pods of the Capsicum frutescens species

The Capsicum frutescens species includes varieties such as the Tabasco, Thai and Chenzo chillies. These chillies are esteemed for their dry, smoky flavour. The species is well known because of the Tabasco cultivar used to make Tabasco sauce.

The botanical species name ‘frutescens’ means bushy, shrubby, or twiggy. These plants are ideal for growing in containers, and perfect for growing indoors, as they are usually compact in form with with short stubby growth, and they flower heavily in clusters, making them very productive. Plants tend to need a long growing season.

This species is of the easiest to identify – the flowers and chilli pods are produced in groups or clusters, the pods are on the smaller side and are are usually a conical ellipse shape, with the stems growing fairly vertically and weeping down at the tips where the fruit is borne. without any diffuse spots at base of each petal, The corolla (flower petals) are greenish-white, without any diffuse spots at base of each petal, fruit flesh is usually soft, and the seeds are straw-coloured.

The picture of the Chenzo chilli above shows these characteristics.

 

Capsicum baccatum

The Capsicum baccatum species are the Peruvian chillies, and mainly consists of the South American Aji chilli varieties, such as Aji amarillo, Aji panca, Lemon Drop and Bishop’s Crown. This species are renowned for their characteristic smoky-fruity flavour that no other chilli species can reproduce. The heat range of the chilli pods can range from mild to very hot, but even at the hot end of the range, there is still a mild sweet fruity taste which imparts a unique flavour.

The botanical species name ‘baccatum’ means ‘berry-like’ , because the chilli pods are more berry-shaped than other chillies, their shape being smallish and squat, wider than they are long, averaging 2.5-5cm (1”-2”) long x 5-7.5cm (2”-3”) wide, producing colourful orange, yellow and red wrinkled pods when mature. The plants are generally tall growing with an open habit, growing around 1.2-1.5m (4’-5’) high and 1m (3’) wide).

This species is easily identified by its flowers, the corolla (flower petals) are white or greenish-white, with diffuse yellow or tan spots at base of the petals on either side of mid-vein, and the anthers are white but turn brownish-yellow with age. The fruit flesh is firm and seeds are straw-coloured.

flower-structure-diagram

Capsicum pubescens

The Capsicum pubescens species, which includes the Rocoto and Manzano pepper, originate from the  mountainous regions the Andes,  which means they are cold tolerant and can grow in cooler climates, growing as perennial in temperate climates.

The species name ‘Pubescens’ means ‘hairy’, and this plant does have hairy dark green leaves, along with purple flowers and chilli pods which contain black seeds, making it very easy to identify.

manzano-hedging-chilli-flower
Manzano chilli flower is a distinct purple colour with purple filaments and white anther, the plant also has furry leaves. Yellow nectar spots are visible in the lower white-coloured portion of each petal.

The plant form can vary from a compact form around 60cm (2’) high to an erect habit (which is sometimes sprawling and vine like) growing up to 2.4m (8’) high. Quite interestingly, this species of chilli cannot cross pollinate with the other domesticated species.

The flower corolla (petals) are purple (occasionally with white margins at the base of the petals), without diffuse spots at base of the petals. A drop of yellow nectar may accumulate at the base of the petal to look like a corolla spot, but the drop of golden liquid is easily distinguished from a marking. Flowers grow either singly or in pairs, but may grow in clusters of four, though this is uncommon.

The chilli pods are pear or apple shaped, and as they ripen they change from green to purple, then finally becoming a red or yellow colour. These chillies are unique in that they’re quite fleshy and juicy, with thick walls, much more like a smaller sweet pepper (capsicum).

The Rocoto Tree chilli pictured below produced red pods prolifically all year round in a temperate climate, and grows to around 2m (6’) tall. This one is growing in a corner against a north facing wall (facing the midday sun in the southern hemisphere) and is around ten years old. They can be grown from cuttings or from seed in springtime.
Rocoto-Manzano-tree-chilli
Rocoto Manzano tree chilli, fruiting prolifically mid-winter in temperate Melbourne, Australia

 

The Manzano hedging chilli pictured below grows up to 1m (3’) high, and has been flowering through autumn and ripening chillies in winter. This plant is planted out in the open in a garden bed with vegies and other plants, and has coped with cold weather perfectly well.

Manzano-hedging-chilli
Manzano hedging chilli, recently planted, producing its first chillies mid-winter in temperate Melbourne, Australia

 

 

 

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Tree Pruning, How to Remove Tree Branches Correctly

The first step in pruning a tree, before making and cuts to change the shape or size of a tree, is to remove any dead, diseased or broken branches. If removing a branch completely, it’s important to make the cut correctly so as to not cause any further damage to the tree.

Thinner branches around the thickness of your thumb or smaller, that is with a diameter of 20mm (3/4”) or less, can be removed with a sharp pair of secateurs or a two handed pruning lopper. Thicker branches can be carefully cut off with a pruning saw.

When removing branches, DO NOT make the pruning cut flush with the trunk or parent branch as this will damage the branch collar.

pruning-tree-branches-collar

At the base of every branch is a distinct bulge where it connects to the trunk of the tree or an older branch, known as the branch collar.

The branch collar is comprised of interlocking layers of cells of the branch and the trunk, and it plays an important role in healing the wound left by the pruning cut, sealing it off to reduce decay and prevent the entry of disease pathogens. A correctly made pruning cut leaves the branch collar intact and undamaged.

On some trees the branch collars are large and clearly defined, making them easy to spot, while in other trees they may be harder to distinguish, but they’re always there, so always make branch removal cuts with the intention of preserving the branch collar.

 

Removing Branches Using Secateurs or Loppers

Thin branches can be removed with secateurs of loppers in a single cut. Most secateurs are rated for a branch thickness of 20mm (3/4”) and the largest ones made for gardeners with large hands can handle branches up to 25mm (1”) if you have sufficient hand strength to make the cut.

Secateurs are one-handed tools and you can get a bit of extra force squeezing with the second hand, but they have their limits. Loppers are basically larger two-handed versions of secateurs, requiring much less effort and strength to cut thicker branches. They have a branch thickness rating which is related to the length of their handles and any mechanisms which impart mechanical advantage, such as with cantilever or ratcheting loppers.

To make the cut, place the cutting blade side of the secateurs or loppers towards the side of the branch crown when making the cut, this prevents the flat part of the blade crushing the bark and plant tissue.

pruning-blade-facing-branch-collar

 

Removing Branches With a Pruning Saw

When removing large branches with a pruning saw, three cuts are made  to prevent tearing off the bark and damaging the tree as the branch comes off.

tree-cut-methid-pruning-tree-branches-saw

  1. Undercut the branch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent bark tearing. Only cut part way through the bottom of the branch.
  2. Move a short distance away from the first cut, further out on the branch and cut al the way through to remove the entire branch. This will eliminate the weight of the branch, allowing you to make the final pruning cut. If the falling branch tears the bark off the trees as it drops, the bark tear will stop at the first cut.
  3. Start the third pruning cut on the outside edge of the branch-bark ridge and cut through the branch to the outside edge of the collar swelling on the underside of the branch. Remove only the branch; do not damage the trunk or branch collar.

When removing tree branches, don’t ever cut the branch flush with the trunk or parent limb, be sure to always leave a short stub, to preserve the branch collar so the tree can heal over the wound more easily.

 

 

 

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How To Plant a Fruit Tree

eureka-lemon-tree-planted

“He who plants a tree plants a hope.”
-Lucy Larcom

Planting a fruit tree is truly an investment in the future, it may take a year or three before a tree begins to bear fruit, but most fruit trees can be productive for 20 to 30 years or more. To give a fruit tree its best chance at a good start in life, a little preparation and forethought goes a long way.

 

The Best Time to Plant a Tree

Is the tree you wish to plant a deciduous tree, which loses its leaves in autumn and goes dormant in winter? Best time to plant deciduous trees is in winter when they’re dormant, but they can also be planted in spring and autumn, when they’re actively growing.

If you’re planting an evergreen tree, which is in leaf all year round, then the best time to plant is in spring, and the next best time is in autumn. The reason? In spring or autumn the weather is mild, and the tree is still growing, so the roots can grow to reach more water as the tree needs it.

Planting in summer is a bad idea as the roots can’t grow fast enough to access more water when extreme heat and wind strips moisture from the leaves. Unless you plan to water daily, or several times a day, then avoid summer planting.

Evergreen fruit trees are not planted in winter because their roots don’t grow in winter, the rootball remains the size of the pot the tree came in until the weather warms up. On dry winter days, cold winds will strip moisture from the leaves, and once the pot-sized rootball dries out, the tree won’t be able to access any more water, causing the tree to dry out.

It’s important to pint out that tree purchasing time doesn’t have to be the same as tree planting time, it’s okay to buy trees earlier and plant them at a later date. Evergreen trees can be kept in pots over winter, and just like any other container plants, will need to be checked for water, and watered when they need it. An evergreen fruit tree can be planted in the ground in winter, but if it is, it should be treated just like it’s growing in a pot (because the roots are the same size  as in the pot) and watered as often as one growing in a pot would be!

 

The Best Place to Plant a Fruit Tree

Trees and plants use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to photosynthesize, producing sugars which they use for energy. More sunlight equals more energy, which equals more fruit.

All fruit trees need a minimum of 6-8 hours of bright, direct sunlight while they are in leaf to bear fruit.

As sunlight is reduced, fruit production drops, and beyond a certain point, fruit trees will not produce anything at all, and in some instances, can become much more susceptible to diseases.

If you have a spot in the garden that is sunny throughout most of the year, but in deep shade in winter, then plant a deciduous tree there, winter shade won’t matter as the tree won’t have any leaves at that time.

Planting a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees? Plant the deciduous trees closest to the sun and the evergreen trees behind them. The deciduous trees need to be facing the sun so the soil warms up faster, allowing them to come out of dormancy earlier in spring, and to ensure that they receive enough light as their new leaves emerge.

evergreen-deciduous-trees-planting-position

Soil Preparation for Tree Planting

A few minutes of soil preparation before tree planting can save countless hours of work trying to fix a problem that isn’t easily fixed! Seriously, initial soil preparation can make all the difference between success and heartache when it comes to growing healthy, productive fruit trees.

All soils are made of various mixtures of sand, silt and clay, and each has its benefits and problems.

Sandy soils drain well, but don’t retain moisture and nutrients, which can be a real problem in the peak of the summer heat.

Clay soils retain moisture and nutrients well, but don’t drain very well and can become waterlogged during wet winter weather, causing tree roots to rot.

Both of these extremes and any other soil problems can be improved by adding organic matter, such as compost and manure. Mixing organic matter into the soil improves moisture and nutrient retention in sandy soils and drainage in clay soils.

Compost restores the soil structure, but does not contain much nutrients, so if the soil is quite depleted and lacking fertility, it is best to also add some manure to provide nutrients for the tree’s growth.

 

How to Plant a Tree in 6 Easy Steps

  1. Dig the hole, which should be three times the width of the pot the tree came in. If the tree came in a 30cm (12”) pot, then dig a hole 90cm (36” or 3’) wide. Dig the hole to the same depth as the rootball, so the top of the roots in the pot sit at exactly the same level in the ground.
    planting-tree-01
  2. Mix some compost into the soil at the bottom of the hole to improve the soil below the rootball.planting-tree-02
  3. Take the soil from the hole, and mix it in a bucket in the following proportions – 7 parts soil, 2 parts compost, one part manure. If manure is not being used, use 7 parts soil and 3 parts compost instead. It’s easy to measure with a spade, garden trowel, potting mix scoop, or small empty plastic pot.
    planting-tree-03
  4. Sit the tree in the hole, holding the trunk straight and vertical, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the top of the soil.
    planting-tree-04
  5. Fill around the tree with the soil-compost-manure-mix, then water it it, don’t pack it down! If the soil level settles down lower after watering, and more soil-compost-manure mix and rewater. Mix some seaweed extract into a watering can and water around the tree. Seaweed extract contains compounds called cytokinins, which are natural root-growth stimulants, which help a newly planted tree establish itself and put its roots down quicker.
  6. Stake the tree to support it (if required), this prevents the new roots from being torn when the tree sways in the wind. Place two stakes outside of the filled hole (not through the rootball against the trunk!), and tie the stakes to the trunk using purpose-made soft tree-tie fabric strip (or pantyhose) in a figure-8 shape to support the tree.
    planting-tree-05

Feed the tree with a balanced fertilizer in at the start of spring, then again in the start of autumn (September and March) to support healthy growth of roots and branches.

Most fruit trees won’t fruit the first year they are planted because they divert all their energy for growth into producing new roots, branches and leaves. After this, they will be more better established and able to reward the gardener with home-grown fruit!

 

 

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Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – July

It’s July, Midwinter has arrived! As all of Nature’s energies turn inwards, and life comes to a standstill, we finally have a chance to rest and reflect too. This month temperatures will hit their lowest for the year, rain will fall for half the month, and the windiest time of the year in Melbourne begins.

There are still a limited range of seeds to sow, and lots of opportunity for winter pruning, relocating deciduous plants and planting new ones!

Things to Do This Month:

  • Plant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines and cane fruits. Wait till spring for planting citrus.
  • Divide existing perennials and plant new perennials.
  • Protect plants that are not frost-hardy in frost-prone areas. Frost-tender plants in pots are more vulnerable as roots are above ground, wrap pots of plants with plastic bubble-wrap or hessian.
  • Install windbreaks, such as the plastic tree guard sleeves, around newly planted evergreens.
  • Prune deciduous fruit trees (not apricots, best to prune these in late autumn when the leaves start yellowing, during dry, preferably windy weather to prevent diseases entering the pruning cuts). To prune fruit trees, first cut away any dead or diseased wood, then cut away any branches growing inwards towards the centre or crossing other branches (to prevent rubbing and bark damage), and finally, prune tree to shape using the appropriate technique for that species.
  • Prune deciduous shrubs (and it’s rose pruning time in July too!)
  • Finish pruning grape vines and take hardwood cuttings from these for propagation.
  • Finish pruning currants and gooseberries and take hardwood cuttings from these for propagation.
  • Apply organic fertiliser to fruit trees at the end of July, so that the slowly released nutrients will become available when the new growth commences.
  • Spray peaches and nectarines to protect against leaf curl fungus. Use lime sulphur or a copper fungicide at the bud swell stage (just before the buds begin to open) but before pink bud stage or colour shows. It is too late to spray once flowering occurs.
  • If you use horticultural glue bands on tree trunk to prevent winter insects crawling up the tree to lay their eggs, now is the time to replace the glue bands with new ones.
  • Relocate any deciduous plants (trees, shrubs, vines) or herbaceous perennial plants growing in the wrong place in winter. (Evergreens can only be moved in autumn and early spring, where they have time to regrow roots – remember, they retain leaves in winter which transpire and lose water!).
  • Sow seeds from berry producing trees and shrubs. Stratification (exposure to cold) over winter will break seed dormancy.
  • Some perennials can be propagated from root cuttings, which can be taken through winter.
  • Continue propagation of hardwood cuttings which began in autumn – prune off 30cm long shoots of current season’s growth, cut off the soft growing tip, cut off the bottom end below a bud, and dip end into rooting hormone. Make a ‘slit trench’ by pushing a spade into soil and rocking it back and forth. In clay soil, add some coarse sand for drainage. Put cuttings in so 2/3 is below the soil, and press the soil down around them. Cuttings will root and be ready to plant next autumn.
  • Continue planting strawberry runners and shallot bulbs.

 

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in July Harvest (weeks)
Beetroot ds 7-10
Lettuce ds 8-12
Mustard greens d 5-8
Onion ds 25-34
Peas d 9-11
Radish d 5-7
Shallots d 12-15
Snow Peas d 12-14
Strawberry runners d 11
Strawberries (seed) s 12 months

Key:
d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – July

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Chop and Drop Gardening (Sheet Composting)

winter-vegetable-garden

Permaculture is all about working efficiently and in harmony with Nature. We can garden far more efficiently, with far less effort, and improve the soil at the same time by emulating Nature’s soil building processes through practising Chop and Drop gardening.

How do most sustainable gardeners garden? At the end of each season, many gardeners pull up all their annual vegetables which have finished up and thoughtfully put them into the compost, then prepare the soil for the next season. As part of that soil preparation, finished compost from many seasons ago is usually retrieved from compost bins and dug into the garden beds along with some manure. Mulch is usually purchased and laid over garden beds in late spring to conserve soil moisture during the peak of summer heat. The cycle repeats each year, season after season…

Is there an easier and possibly better way to manage a vegetable garden full of annuals? Perhaps Nature has some answers!

 

WWND (What Would Nature Do)?

When I do talks about Permaculture, which in essence is ecological garden design, for the sake of perspective I always like to begin by reminding people that Nature has been growing plants for 460 million years and trees for 370 million years, whilst modern humans (Homo sapiens) first appear in the fossil record in Africa about 195,000 years ago, and agriculture was invented relatively recently around 10,000 years ago. It’s safe to say that Nature has been managing plant life for quite a while, and we’re quite new to the game.

If we look at how annual plants grow naturally, seeds land in the soil, plants emerge and grow, and if they’re not eaten, they flower and possibly fruit, produce seed and then die down, eventually decomposing and releasing their nutrients and organic matter back into the soil. The roots rot down below the soil, opening up air and water channels which loosen the soil and help water penetrate deeper down. The dead plant matter on the soil surface creates a mulch, which further gets covered with fallen leaves, and breaks down into the soil. Earthworms feeding on the rotting plant matter dig it deeper into the soil and by digesting it transform it into highly fertile worm castings, possible the best possible plant fertilizer ever created.

As each layer of plant matter gets deposited on the soil surface, the bottom-most layer rots down first, then the one above it. New layers are always added to the top each season, creating a continuous soil building process without any digging or human intervention. It’s quite impressive! Over decades and centuries, the soil level increases, as does the fertility of the soil. That is what Nature does.

 

How to do Chop and Drop Gardening (Sheet Composting)

We can emulate what Nature does through the technique known in the Permaculture world as the  Chop & Drop system, which is essentially sheet composting. How does it work? It’s quite simple.

Chop and Drop Gardening in 4 Easy Steps:

  1. At the end of the gardening season, don’t uproot any vegetables that have finished, but chop them off at the soil level, leaving the roots in the ground.
  2. Drop the plant tops on the soil surface –  lay them down whole, or cut them up into smaller pieces first, by either using secateurs, placing then on a concrete floor and chopping them with a spade, placing them in a clear area and going over them with a lawn mower, or feeding them through a garden mulcher.
  3. Add a layer of manure.
  4. Cover with mulch, such as lucerne, pea straw, sugar can mulch, etc.

That’s all there is to it, I did promise it was easy! There’s no carting plant waste or compost back and forth, the nutrients go directly back into the soil, it’s very efficient.

Because the plant material, manure and mulch are all laid down in this layers or sheets, this is referred to as a sheet composting system. It’s a great way to save space as you don’t need dedicated composting areas in a garden, because the whole garden becomes a huge sheet composting system.

In case you hadn’t realised it already, this is also a no-dig gardening system. The digging is taken care of by earthworms feeding on the decomposing plant material, and soil aeration is further assisted by the cut plant roots rotting down below the soil, opening up new air and water channels, allowing water to penetrate deeper into the soil.

The Chop & Drop system is very versatile, it works with much more than just annual vegetables though, it’s excellent for trees too, but it works differently, you don’t chop the tree down thankfully!

 

Tree Chop & Drop

chop-and-drop-tree-prunings-permaculture

If you have fruit trees, an orchard or a whole food forest, you will need to prune trees. What to do with all the tree prunings? Mulch them and place them under the tree that was pruned, then throw some manure over the top to help it all break down. It works well, I’ve been doing it for over ten years now!

If you want to dress it up, place a layer of straw mulch around 5cm (2”) thick over the mulched prunings and it will look nice and tidy, good enough for a show garden. I did this with my urban food forest garden for the Australian Open Garden Scheme which presents the top tier gardens nationally, and of the many hundreds of people who visited over a single weekend, nobody had an clue what was under the neat and tidy looking mulch!

By placing mulched prunings below trees, nutrients are recycled in situ, enriching the soil, and saving on soil amendment materials. The woody material breaks down to create a very stable humus, and encourages mycorrhizal soil fungi which associate with tree roots and assist trees in accessing minerals and water beyond the range of their roots.

If prunings are way too big to mulch, large branches and even logs can be composted using a system know as a Hugelkultur bed. There’s always a sustainable and energy efficient way to processing any garden waste.

 

Chop and Drop or Rip Up and Compost?

Are there plants that shouldn’t be chopped and dropped? Actually, yes there are!

During some research on companion planting, I discovered that brassica cover crops grown as green manures suppress weeds during autumn by virtue of their vigorous growth, and after they’ve been chopped down and dug into the soil, their residues inhibit small seeded annual weeds. I also found that traditionally, turnips were planted heavily and left to rot down to clear areas of weeds. That’s because the brassica/mustard family (cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips, radishes, mustards, etc) are allelopathic, they release compounds which suppress seed germination and plant growth (including weeds) when they rot down. So, it may be a good idea to rip up these allelopathic plant and compost them before preparing the garden beds for warm season vegetables, or they can be left to suppress weeds if nothing else will be planted for a while.

 

 

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Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – June

June brings us the start of winter, with colder, wetter weather, but there are still some sunny days to be had, winter vegies to harvest, and some tidying up to do around the garden.

As deciduous trees and shrubs shed their leaves and become dormant, it’s a good time to both plant new ones and prune existing ones. Winter pruning of deciduous fruit trees and grape vines begins now.

Harsh cold winds can be a problem, drying out plants very quickly, so it’s important to put up windbreaks such as plastic sleeve tree guards or shadecloth around young evergreen trees to prevent wind burn.

In frost-prone areas, vulnerable plants will need to be protected. When frost is anticipated, cover the plant overnight with hessian, shadecloth, plastic sheet, cardboard, straw or newspaper – make sure that the cover is not airtight and that air can still circulate.

Things to Do This Month:

  • Plant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines and cane fruits (and roses!). Wait till spring for planting citrus.
  • Divide existing perennials and plant new perennials.
  • Gather and compost fallen leaves.
  • Protect plants that are not frost-hardy in frost-prone areas.
  • Install windbreaks, such as the plastic tree guard sleeves, around newly planted evergreens.
  • Prune deciduous fruit trees (not apricots, best to prune these in late autumn when the leaves start yellowing, during dry, preferably windy weather to prevent diseases entering the pruning cuts). To prune fruit trees, first cut away any dead or diseased wood, then cut away any branches growing inwards towards the centre or crossing other branches (to prevent rubbing and bark damage), and finally, prune tree to shape using the appropriate technique for that species.
  • Prune deciduous shrubs (rose pruning is done in July!) and vines (such as kiwi fruit).
  • Prune grape vines and take hardwood cuttings from these for propagation.
  • Finish pruning currants and gooseberries and take hardwood cuttings from these for propagation.
  • Prune tall shrubs to reduce height to better resist winter winds.
  • Relocate any deciduous plants (trees, shrubs, vines) or herbaceous perennial plants growing in the wrong place in winter. (Evergreens can only be moved in autumn and early spring, where they have time to regrow roots – remember, they retain leaves in winter which transpire and lose water!).
  • Collect and sow seeds from berry producing trees and shrubs.
  • Some perennials can be propagated from root cuttings, which can be taken through winter.
  • Continue propagation of hardwood cuttings which began in autumn – prune off 30cm long shoots of current season’s growth, cut off the soft growing tip, cut off the bottom end below a bud, and dip end into rooting hormone. Make a ‘slit trench’ by pushing a spade into soil and rocking it back and forth. In clay soil, add some coarse sand for drainage. Put cuttings in so 2/3 is below the soil, and press the soil down around them. Cuttings will root and be ready to plant next autumn.
  • Continue planting garlic, strawberry runners and shallot bulbs.
  • Harvest parsnips, they will taste the better now that they have experienced some cold.

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in June Harvest (weeks)
Broad beans d 12-22
Garlic d 17-25
Lettuce ds 8-12
Mustard greens d 5-8
Onion ds 25-34
Peas d 9-11
Radish d 5-7
Shallot bulbs d 12-15
Snow Peas d 12-14
Strawberry runners d 11
Strawberries (seed) d 12 months

Key:
d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – June

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Book Review – The Simple Life Guide To RV Living: The Road to Freedom and the Mobile Lifestyle Revolution by Gary Collins

 


The Simple Life Guide To RV Living: The Road to Freedom and the Mobile Lifestyle Revolution

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The Simple Life Guide To RV Living: The Road to Freedom and the Mobile Lifestyle Revolution by Gary Collins is an excellent book for anyone considering stepping into the world of mobile living. If you’re thinking of purchasing a mobile home, RV or trailer, with the intention of using it for travel or going off the grid and going mobile, then reading this book should be the first thing you do before anything else!

Gary Collins has a way with words, straight and to the point, telling you exactly what you need to know, without glossing over any details or downplaying any of the facts. This information in this book is reliable and authoritative, the author shares relevant parts of his personal journey along with what has and hasn’t worked in his experience. It’s like having a mentor providing guidance and sharing knowledge, which is invaluable for anyone taking their first steps into the world of RV living.

This book is packed with valuable information, it contains everything you’ll need to know to get you on the right track, and at 112 pages, it’s a quick read. I managed to read this concise and thoroughly enjoyable paperback in a day, and what amazed me was how much I actually learned in that short time. Honestly, I knew very little about RV living before reading this book, and by the end of it I felt confident enough to be able make the right decisions if I decided to explore that lifestyle tomorrow!

The author guides the reader through the world of RV living in a very structured way, beginning with the critical first step – where do you start?

Since RV living may potentially entail a major lifestyle change, which is a rather significant event, Gary Collins gives the matter the attention which it deserves, sharing relevant parts of his own story and honestly addressing the questions and value decisions that people considering this journey may contemplate. There’s also quite a few snippets of profound wisdom throughout this book about “seeking the road to freedom” which the author shares, making for an even richer reading experience.

Following this is some background information on the history of RV living, which lays the foundations for the next section, an introduction to the practical side of the RV world, a detailed discussion of the various types and sizes of RVs and trailers, their benefits and disadvantages, their differences, and what may work best for your requirements. The author also addresses the subject of the tiny house movement for the sake of completeness.

The main body of the book is impressive in that it thoroughly explores literally every practical aspect of RV living. There is an very informative chapter on recommended equipment, which lets you know all about the extra things you’ll really need, and therefore must budget for when calculating costs. Critical topics such as heating, fuel, power generators and showers are all covered in detail.

The old adage “A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others” sums up one of the truly indispensable chapters of this book, ‘RV Basics – Tips to Make Your Life Easier‘. The information here is gold, as it explains to readers how to avoid the most common problems encountered, and provides many useful tips and brilliant ideas to make RV living much easier, ensuring a much happier experience for those taking their first steps. It covers seriously important matters such as waste and drinking water management, dealing with things freezing in cold weather, storage systems and other necessities such as anti-sway systems for travel trailers for example.

On the topic of avoiding preventable costly mistakes, there’s also a chapter on purchasing the right tow vehicle for fifth-wheels and travel trailers, and another on RV maintenance. Knowing what to expect can save a lot of fuss down the road, so to speak!

The author rounds off this book nicely with a chapter on RV creature comforts – no need to rough it out when you can have high-quality TV channels, mobile internet access, washer and dryer and dishwasher in your RV!

One of the closing chapters ‘What to Expect Living the Mobile Lifestyle’ really caught my attention, as it talks about a very different life, quite possibly the life that many of us secretly dream of but never have the courage to take the crucial first step. There are more ways to live than the way the majority of the population does, and this book is an excellent primer for anyone entertaining thoughts of doing things their own way and following their heart rather than following the herd.

 

The list of contents below shows how much information is packed into this book, and that all the relevant topics are addressed.

 

Contents:

Introduction 9

Chapter 1: My Story: How My Mobile Lifestyle Began 13

Chapter 2: So Where Do You Start? You Have Too Much Crap! 19

Chapter 3: Motorized Transportation and Recreational Vehicles: A Brief History 31

Chapter 4: The Mobile Journey Begins – My First Trailer 35

Chapter 5: RV Classifications 39

Chapter 6: The Tiny House Movement – Is It a Viable Option? 55

Chapter 7: My Recommended Equipment for Your RV 61

Chapter 8: RV Basics – Tips to Make Your Life Easier 73

Chapter 9: Purchasing the Right Tow Vehicle for Fifth-Wheels and Travel Trailers 83

Chapter 10: Creature Comforts While Living Mobile 91

Chapter 11: RV Maintenance 97

Chapter 12: What to Expect Living the Mobile Lifestyle 101

Final Thoughts 105

About Gary 109

References 111

 

Book details:

Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Second Nature Publishing; 1 edition (April 12, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1570673632
ISBN-13: 978-1570673634

 

This is the book to get before planning to get into the RV lifestyle, it covers every aspect of RV living, and provides readers with sound foundational knowledge from which to make educated decisions and choices. This book is definitely recommended!

Deep Green rating for “The Simple Life Guide To RV Living: The Road to Freedom and the Mobile Lifestyle Revolution” by Gary Collins is 5 stars!

5-star_thumb1

 

If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

 

 

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