An Open Day is a great way to get feedback from gardeners on what you’re growing and how you’re doing.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are global pollutants of groundwater, rivers and surface water. More recently it has been detected in rain.
Or more importantly, what are sword beans and aerial potatoes?
For aerial potato, think of an alternative to potato. For sword bean, think haricot bean alternative. Both are vines for warm climate food gardens. Fancy something different for dinner?
Aerial potato is a species of yam (Dioscorea bulbifera). It’s a tropical perennial that’s easily grown in a frost-free climate, producing edible tubers along its stems during late summer to winter. Just like passionfruit, Aerial potato can become weedy in tropical and subtropical gardens, so it’s important that if you decide to grow it you prevent it from growing over your fence or up trees adjoining neighbouring properties. Unharvested, aerial potato stems die during winter, dropping their tubers which then sprout the following spring. Vines can reach 5-10m each season, depending upon care.
I grow mine in a sunny spot in compost rich, freely draining soil. I train it on discarded fishing net attached to a sturdy bamboo wigwam. Originally I grew them over a bamboo archway. The key things are: 1 to provide a sturdy support, 2 to harvest what you grow and – most importantly – 3 site your plant well within your property boundary.
Aerial potato is sometimes available from community gardens and offered at city farms, like Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane. Use aerial potato like ordinary potato. Enjoy the sweet fragrance of their summer flowers and their lush growth. Feed them with compost and poultry manure from summer to autumn so you get a good yield. Store their tubers somewhere dry and well ventilated. If you find mealybug on the tubers during storage, dab these pests with methylated spirits. But above all, keep these vines tamed, trained and harvested, OK?
Sword bean (Canavalia gladiata) is another short-lived tropical perennial vine. It’s sometimes described as being an under-exploited food crop. Provide similar conditions, care and support as for aerial potato. Sword beans can grow 4-7m high in one season, but they are not invasive. They can be cut back hard in autumn, but plants often die in winter. The truth is they’re not reliably perennial, even in the frost free subtropics, and since they crop best in their first year I recommend growing them as an annual, sowing them in mid-spring.
In my garden sword bean flowers are pollinated by blue-banded bees. Large pods, 30-45cm long, are produced towards the end of summer and the seed gradually swell for several weeks (they fatten much more slowly than peas). It requires practice to identify when they’re fully matured, otherwise you don’t get much food out of a pod.
Fresh sword beans can be cooked and eaten. Seed must be peeled and then boiled, so adding them to stews is a good option. Peeling removes their outer skin which contains toxins. These toxins aren’t potent, but can cause nausea if you over indulge yourself. Dried seed cannot be peeled and so cannot be detoxified. Save them for sowing next year.
Neither crops (currently) have any serious pest or disease problems in Australia, but grasshoppers tend to nibble their leaves and leaf-cutter bees (which may also pollinate sword bean flowers) sometimes use pieces of sword bean leaves for making egg laying tubes.
10th August 2012
I have just moved to Byron Bay and have a bush turkey problem. Do you have any clues as to what I should do to get my veggie garden going?
Me and my veggie-head friend in Sydney love your work,
Vicki Continue Reading →
I love the smell of Stinking Roger, but my neighbour says it’s a weed to get rid of. Please do tell me what use I can make of it.
“My question is about eating potatoes that have gone green.
I have cautioned at least 3 times over the past 18 months my local supermarkets who mark down the bags of green potatoes to sell. I am fearful the very people who would go for such a bargain are the poor & uneducated who do not realise the harm these could do to an unborn baby.
I checked out my concerns via the CSIRO site & they seem to back up what I say. But even so everyone else thinks I’m crazy. I won’t buy green potatoes myself; my concern is for other who unwittingly does so not knowing they can be harmful.
Am I right to go on complaining at the point of sale?”
Adelaide, South Australia
I recently visited France and was lucky enough to eat a Greengage, it tasted amazing. I already grow one and I think it is a ‘Doree’ cultivar. Can you suggest where I might buy the cultivar ‘Reine Claude de Bavay’, also known in Australia as ‘old greengage’?
It was a wonderful fruit, I ate it in a number of French desserts. In Australia these desserts would have been served with strawberry or raspberry, but there it was greengages and they took pride of place.
Trish & Malcolm have finally solved their citrus fruit drop problem.
Autumn is an important season for citrus maintenance, especially if they’re growing in areas with summer rainfall.
This is because heavy rainfall leaches nutrients through the soil and citrus are really quick to show they’ve got deficiencies.
For a quick nutrient fix:
To four and a half litres (4.5L) of water add:
3 tablespoons of seaweed concentrate, 1 teaspoon of trace elements, 2 teaspoons of iron chelates
Mix it all well, and water it in around the roots.
We’ve been in touch since 2006. On 13.2.10 Gardening Australia screened one of my Citrus Care segments, and last September Trish & Malcolm emailed me to say:
Today I received confirmation from the head gardener at Buckingham Palace that the Royal Household will be growing ‘First Fleet’ lettuce once more in Britain. Carried from Britain by the First Fleet to be cultivated at Sydney’s First Farm in 1788, this doughty traditional vegetable has since disappeared from Britain’s market gardens.
I love this lettuce for two reasons. Firstly, generations of Australian gardeners have acclimatised this cool temperate plant to suit our various climatic regions, from warm temperate Sydney to subtropical Brisbane. Secondly, unlike most other leafy vegetables, whenever I grow ‘First Fleet’ lettuce it never gets attacked by pests like aphids and caterpillars. And that makes me a happy organic gardener.
Sandy, a ‘Bellis’ blog reader, is buying a 5 acre property in the Samford Valley, north west of Brisbane…
“I must say I was impressed by your patience in establishing the drainage and improving the soil. I may be organic, but I’m also impatient and that’s been my downfall in the little suburban garden we’ve been practicing on here in Sydney. But live and learn”…