Drying and storing herbs

We’re often asked for tips on how to harvest, dry and store herbs – so here goes! Our top tips on drying and storing herbs….

The woodier herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Bay and Oregano are often the easiest to dry because they don’t have high moisture content. Sure, air-drying can be a slow process but we love it because it doesn’t cost you anything and the herbs retain lots of their essential oils and flavour. Plus how pretty do they look all hanging in a row.

The best time to harvest your herbs is in the morning after the dew had dried and before they flower, that’s when their flavour is most intense. If you’re picking them for drying you don’t want any moisture on the leaves or they’ll rot – and be sure to shake off any dirt or insects that are trying to take a ride.

Harvesting your herbs helps to keep plants looking nice and bushy – just don’t cut the whole plant unless it’s time to replant it. About a 1/3 of the branch at a time is a good
rule of thumb.

I always remove the lower inch or so of leaves (you can save them for drying too) and then just bundle the cut herbs loosely together in a bunch – don’t jam too many sprigs in there – you want some air circulation. Then hang the bunch to dry in a warm, airy spot away from direct sunlight. Depending on the herb they’ll be dry in about ……xx

Or if you are a little impatient you could place the leaves and stems in the oven for 15 minutes at 150 degrees celcius. The leaves can then be stripped from the stems and kept in airtight containers. I like to store the leaves whole then just crush them before use to retain more flavour.

Some herbs like Basil, Chives, Mint and Tarragon can be successfully stored in airtight plastic bags in the freezer. 

Coriander is one of those wonderful herbs that you can use from root to tip. But because it’s a fragile herb it’s tricky to store well. So if you can, have it growing close
to the kitchen so you can pick and eat it fresh from the pot or patch.

 You can keep your coriander fresh for longer by treating it like a bunch of flowers. Simply cut the stems and pop it in a glass of water. Just don’t submerge any of the
leaves, re-cut the stems frequently and change the water every day or so. You can even put the jar in the fridge to keep it for longer. I’ve even stored chopped up
coriander in ice trays.

So there you have it – drying, harvesting and storing herbs Gardenettes style.

Fruit Tree Pruning Basics

Don’t be daunted by how to prune fruit trees – I’ve got a couple of simple guidelines that will help make the process easier.

Firstly start by removing the 3 D’s – that’s any dead, diseased or damaged branches. Then look for any crossing or those growing downwards.

As you go consider the shape – you can prune fruit trees to many shapes – but the main goal is to open up the structure of the tree. This will increase airflow amongst the branches which can reduce disease outbreaks. And pruning will also allow more light into the centre of the tree which will help with fruit ripping.

Let’s start with pome trees – that’s your apples, pears and quince – these trees fruit on obvious fruiting spurs – so we don’t want to prune all of these off! However still need to shape the tree – so look for last seasons growth – that’s the young thinner branches and cut them back to 5 or 6 nods to get the shape you want.

Peaches and nectarines fruit on wood “last seasons growth”. So this pinkish/reddish branch which grew last spring & summer, will produce this coming summers crop. But they need to be cut back by about half so the tree can support all this fruit! Cut just after one of these nodes – ideally an outward facing one – and cut at an angle.

If you had any fungal or pest problems last season then it’s a good idea to do a clean up spray of eco-fungicide mixed with eco-oil. And to help prevent leaf furl on peaches and nectarines, spray them mid winter with a copper based spray and then again right before the leaves emerge in late winter/spring.

If I’ve not talked about a fruit tree that you have or you need more help with pruning then check out if your local nursery has any classes OR carry around a handy book like “The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia” by Louis Glowinski

So know that you know how to prune fruit trees – well the basic tips anyway….go get snipping!

How get rid of black flies around indoor plants – Fungus Gnats

The pesky little black or grey flies darting around your indoor plants are fungus gnats!

While the flying adults are just plain annoying, it’s the larvae which live in the potting mix that can be doing some serious harm to your plants.

The adult flies lay their eggs into the potting mix and the teenie tiny, larvae hatch out and feed on organic matter including plant roots and soft tender stems. This can cause wilting and slow the growth rate of your plants right down.

But there are 3 simple ways to get rid your fungus gnat problems!

Number 1 – DO NOT overwater your plants. Fungus gnats love wet potting mix and outbreaks most often occur when the soil isn’t allowed to dry out between waterings. The eggs and larvae need continuous moisture to survive, so allowing the soil to dry out before you wanter can help break the lifecycle.

Number 2 – Kill the larvae in the potting mix using a soil drench of eco-neem. This is really easy to do – simply mix up the right dilution in large bucket. Then take each of your plants and allow them to soak in the mix until the air bubbles have stopped. Let them drain outside in the shade, before bringing them back inside. You’ll need to repeat this soil drench in 7 days because the flying adults can live for a week or more.

Number 3 – Do NOT allow water to pool around the roots of your plants. So tip out excess water that may gather in cover pots or saucers after watering. Leaving it will just encourage algae to grow, which the fungus gnats will just feed on!

So don’t let fungus gnats invade your indoor plant jungle and remember….there is anyways room for one more plant!

You can buy eco-neem from Bunnings & all good garden centres OR online here: https://ecoorganicgarden.com.au/produ…

Grow your own mushrooms

Check out or buy these kits here

Coffee lovers listen up! Our favourite drink also produces a TONNE of waste….in fact – in Melbourne CBD alone it’s estimated that nearly 5000 tonnes of ground coffee waste is thrown away every. single. week.

But thanks to a couple of clever lads, some of this coffee waste is being used to grow mushrooms! Life Cykel Mushrooms grow their shrooms on urban farms in shipping containers and then cleverly selling the super fresh mushies back to the cafes who gave them the coffee grounds! But so we can all be mushroom farmers – they created these brilliant Home grown Mushroom Boxes.

These kits grow the stunning Oyster Mushrooms which have a velvety texture, smooth taste and dense nutrient content. They’re also packed with B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous and iron – in fact they often get called the vegetarian steak!

Getting them growing at home is simple. Just open the grow window, cut a cross in the plastic and then mist the opening with water twice a day. All that white stuff inside the plastic is the mycelium or mushroom roots – that have grown in the waste coffee grounds and are revved up, ready to grow once you open the bag and add humidity.

You don’t need to put these babies in the dark – just keep them sitting on your kitchen bench and the crop will be ready to harvest in about 7-10 days. But as soon as you notice they aren’t doubling in size each day, you can pick the entire crop. And each mushroom kit will give you 2-3 flushes of growth, just turn the plastic bag around!

Cook these up however you fancy, but I can’t go past mushrooms on toast. Of course though, this classic cafe dish wouldn’t be hipster without a sprinkle of microgreens….but don’t worry there is a coffee waste kit for that too!

A kids friendly vegetable garden

I’m going to create a pint sized patch – perfect for kids!

It’s gonna be filled with kid-friendly vegetables, oodles of pretty edible flowers and I’m gonna do it all organically.

I’ve chosen a range autumn and winter growing veggies to suit the coming seasons, but of course if you are planting in spring or summer then you’d reach for kids favourites like tomatoes, cucumbers and corn. I’ve already mixed through some compost into these veggie planters, so they are ready to go.

My kids go mad for peas, I’m going to plant 2 types. A snow pea and also a podding variety called Bounty. Now both of these are dwarf varieties which means they won’t need staking and their pickings will be in easy kiddie reach! This Bounty variety is a really early cropper, in just 7 -10 weeks we’ll be picking handfuls of full sized pods.

Next in goes some broccoli ‘Bambino’, this is one of the branching broccoli’s, so it will still produce a central head but if you lop that off when it’s about the size of a 10 cent piece you’ll get oodles of side shoots that you can pick for months.

Kids love colour, so I can’t forget this rainbow silverbeet – these brightly coloured stems keep their colour, even when cooked!

And you can’t bet mini carrots for a quick veggie garden snack. This is a variety called “Little Fingers” and they are ready to harvest in 4-6 weeks – and best of all they’re perfect picked when they’re about 8cm long.

To really make this patch eye-poppingly pretty I’m going to include some edible flowers too – you can use these to decorate cakes or toss through a salad. I can’t forget some herbs either – these Mixed Punnet Eziplanters are super handy coz you get 6 different herbs all in 1 punnet.

Get the kids excited about these veggies growing and get them involved in caring for the patch as well. So once a fortnight give the plants a dose of the certified organic fertiliser eco-aminogro and then to really amp up production pop in some eco-seaweed too.

With this organic combo your veggies will be sweeter and more tender, which of course the kids will love and with this productive bunch of plants you’ll be picking from the patch in no time!

How to plant a bee friendly garden

Bee’s – what’s all the buzz about and why do we need them in our garden?

When I tell you that 1 in mouthfuls of the food that we eat is thanks to the work of bees and that 90% of all food crops are pollinated by bees… then you begin to understand just how important these supply!

So attracting bees into your garden not only helps pollinate your fruit and veggies, but it can actually help pollinate fruit and vegies on farms up to five kilometres away – because bees will travel that far for the sweet nectar.

Creating a bee-friendly garden at your place is easy – it can be as simple as some pots of flowering plants or as elaborate as a full flowering mass planted border just make sure you’ve got things in flower in every season.

Bright and sweetly scented flowers like these Bidens are irresistible to bees and I can smell why! Bidens are long flowering with a low growing habit and masses of these sunshine yellow, long-lasting flowers. They love full sun and a good trim back once they’ve finished flowering.

You could also try including some Pentas to bring in the bees – these tiny star-shaped flowers come in red, white or lavender shades and the bees just love them! Cut these plants back hard in winter to encourage oodles of new growth in the spring.

Now of course once you’ve attracted bees into your garden you want to make sure that you’re not going to harm them or worse kill them! So if you need to use an insecticide or a fungicide choose one from the eco organic garden range these are certified organic and absolutely safe for bees. Check out the range from eco organic garden here: https://ecoorganicgarden.com.au/