Canna edulis

One of the hardiest of the Cannas. Attractive large lush bright green leaves and thick stalks forming clumps up to 2m high. A versatile plant – good as both an ornamental and a produce plant, producing high yields in good conditions, but able to survive and produce in poor dry soils as well as cope with light frosts. Takes full sun to part shade. The typical canna red flowers are not as showy as the ornamental cannas, but still attractive. The leaves can grow large enough and strong enough to use as picnic plates. Can grow in temperate, subtropical and tropical areas, but will be slower in the cooler regions.

Leaves have a higher protein content than the tubers and can be fed to farm stock.

Growing arrowroot
Easy! Plant all year round (except perhaps winter in cooler regions). Cover tubers with soil.
As the clumps grow and expand, they can be divided up.

Using arrowroot
Much better to use the tubers when they are small (tennis ball sized) as this way you avoid the fibres that form in older larger tubers.

They can be eaten raw, in stews/casseroles/soups/stir fries, steamed, roasted, chipped, diced and sliced! Commonly used to make flour, which has the added bonus of being gluten free. Great as a thickener which doesn’t make the sauce go cloudy, thus excellent for fruit sauces. VGery useful for thickening acidic foods such as sweet and sour sauce. Also prevents ice crystals forming in ice-cream.

Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than does flour or cornstarch and tends to thin again at higher temperatures, so don’t over heat. Substitute two teaspoons of arrowroot for one tablespoon of cornstarch, or one teaspoon of arrowroot for one tablespoon of wheat flour.

Arrowroot flour
Peel tubers, slice/dice/mince or blend into a pulp, adding cold water as needed. Put into the largest bowl you have and fill with water, stir around and then leave for a few minutes. The pulp will sink to the bottom and a brown fibrous material will float to the top. Drain this off. Add more water, stir and repeat the process until no more fibre rises. Drain off the water and tip the pulp onto trays or pans, keep to 1cm thick. Dry in a warm sunny place. When the pulp is dry it produces soft and flaky white flour. Store in an airtight container and it will keep for months.

Artichokes (Globe)

Artichokes (Globe)

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Globe Artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are large thistle plants native to the Mediterranean, cultivated as a delicious food source. The plant itself has beautiful foliage, with large deeply lobed silvery green leaves which can be a stunning feature in both vegetable and ornamental gardens. There is a lovely purple-green leaved variety also available. Within the plant’s spiky leaves lies a tender artichoke heart that has a delicate, slightly nutty flavour which yields a mild lingering sweetness. This heart (or globe) is the immature flower head of the plant.
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Artichokes (Jerusalem)

Artichokes (Jerusalem)

Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberous) can also be known as Sunchokes. It is curious that they are neither true artichokes… nor are they from Jerusalem! They are in fact a member of the sunflower family originating in eastern North America.

The plant is a hardy, tall, herbaceous perennial growing up to 2m tall. It features attractive yellow flowers, however it is recommended that the lower buds be pinched out to increase the yield of the edible tubers underground. The tubers are used a bit like a potato, and they are similar to a ginger root in appearance. Jerusalem Artichokes have a unique, creamy, smokey flavour.

Jerusalem Artichokes are easy to grow, but can run wild in the garden. Contained garden beds or large crates are ideal growing spaces to keep them in check. It is essential to dig up all the bigger tubers and replant the small ones each year so the quality and taste does not deteriorate.

Avoid feeding them with too much nitrogen, but use a good supply of potassium such as Sulphate of Potassium and chicken manure, otherwise the top green growth will grow at the expense of good fleshy tubers.

The tubers can be harvested 4-6 weeks after flowering. Jerusalem Artichokes contain Inulin which makes them low in calories as well as promoting good gut bacteria. Their delicious taste is opposed to the flatulence they can cause in their digestion (just a polite warning). After the tubers are harvested, well washed and peeled they can be mashed, baked or chipped. They also give a delicious creamy, smokey texture to soups.

Handy tip: An old method of lessening the flatulence is to boil up the peeled tubers and toss out the water. Repeat the process twice more before eating.

Asian Greens

Asian Greens

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

You know some of them, in the supermarket there’s Bok Choy, Baby Bok Choy and sometimes Pak Choy. What you may not know is that there’s a lot more Asian greens out there and that they are perfect for planting when the weather is cool. After all, you need to plant something when it’s too cold for tomatoes!

Asian Greens are the quickest growing vegies you’ll ever grow. You can harvest the outer leaves as soon as they’re big enough, which can be as little as 2-3 weeks. Otherwise, harvest in 5-6 weeks.

Asian Greens include mustards and the more bitey leafy greens, they are most often used in a mixed stirfry, but they’re also a great addition to a salad or on sandwiches. Also try them stirfried on their own with garlic and coated with soy and oyster sauce.

These plants like to grow quickly so they need a lot of fertiliser and water. Pick a sunny spot, dig in loads of well rotted manure and compost at planting. You can top dress your Asian greens patch with blood and bone every 6 weeks or liquid feed them every 2 weeks with either worm farm juice, compost or manure tea or the many available ready made organic liquid fertilisers like Charlie Carp. Make sure you wash them well before eating.

Plant them from autumn to early spring, they love the cool weather and tend to bolt to seed if the weather is too hot or if the soil dries out.

These types of vegetables are in the cabbage family, so in mild weather, the cabbage white moth will lay eggs on these plants, later a green caterpillar will hatch out and devour your plants in a real hurry. You can either create a flywire screen to cover these plants, inspect the undersides of leaves for little pointy yellow eggs and squish them or try to find the green caterpillars and remove them. Otherwise, if you see some caterpillar damage, protect your plants with natural sprays like Dipel and Success. Also, watch out for slugs and snails.

Try these varieties…

Bok Choy
A quick growing plant prized for its broad, white stemmed leaves. Small, compact, non-heading and slow to go to seed.

Pak Choy
Just like Bok Choy, only bigger.

A very vigourous japanese mustard. Mild flavour when young. Stays tender for a long time in the garden. Tall, grows to 1 metre, with attractive serrated leaves. Frost hardy, so great for the colder months. Plant in rich soil from autumn to spring in a sunny spot, 40 cm apart. Liquid feed regularly and protect from cabbage white moth, slugs and snails. Harvest when the leaves are to size, or in 6-8 weeks. Great in stirfies, salads or sandwiches. Plant it at the back of the garden as mizuna can grow to a metre tall. Also great in pots.

A fast growing asian green with long narrow leaves to 45cm. Tastes like bok choy with a firmer leaf and a mustard-like flavour. Great in cooler months. Plant in rich soil in a sunny spot from autumn to spring. Protect from cabbage white moth, slugs and snails. Great for stirfries, salads and sandwiches. Liquid feed regularly. Like all the asian greens, they grow fast so are hungry crops.

Aromatic and tall plant to 90cm. Great in stirfries and stews. Stems can be blanched.

Mustard Spinach
Large, light green leaves, a lovely, nutty mustard flavour.

Giant Red Mustard
Large, tender, purple-red leaves with a hot, strong mustard flavour. Height to 40cm. Use leaves in salads and stirfries and the seeds in cooking. Also a striking ornamental for foliage contrast. Very hot when eaten raw but when cooked will lose its heat whilst retaining its mustard flavour.

Mixed Mustard Greens
A mix of green and coloured mustards, available as seed in hot or mild mix.

Grows compact, spoon shaped leaves on a plant that grows flat to the ground. A very cold hardy plant, great cooked and often used in salad mixes.


Asparagus are a hardy perennial vegetable that is highly versatile in the kitchen. They are great on the bbq and fantastic in stir frys. Asparagus are best grown from crowns in winter as they are guaranteed to be male plants, which are generally thicker and higher yielding than females. They can also be purchased and planted from seed-grown stock at any other time of the year, however there is no guarantee the plants will be male.
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Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Beans are great plants for your patch because they are easy to grow and produce loads of food. They are a climber so are excellent where space is an issue.

Full sun is the order of the day for beans but provide a bit of temporary shade cover in super-hot, dry, windy weather. As most beans are climbers (unless you go for the dwarf or “bush beans”), you need to think about that before you whack them in. They need support as they get up to about 2m high. A wire trellis, fence lines, frames or similar can be used to prop them up. Why not make a tee-pee, or an A-frame walkway to grow your beans along? They look awesome, the kids will love them and they’ll add some real height and interest to your patch.

Soil for beans should be rich, deep, pH neutral and organic. Compost is perfect for soil preparation. You could also use an organic, complete pelletised fertilizer at planting time. Mulching your bed is really important but ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the stems of the beans. Soil needs to be well-drained but note that beans don’t really like sandy soils very much. So improve your sandy soil with nicely aged compost.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Feeding beans is totally unnecessary except for a bit of blood and bone sprinkled around at planting time. Make sure seedlings don’t come in direct contact with the Blood and Bone. Beans have a wonderful relationship with bacteria in the soil that enables them to ‘fix’ their own nitrogen from the atmosphere. Feeding beans with a nitrogen rich fertilizer can harm these bacteria and also reduce bean production… all in all a pointless exercise. Feed with a seaweed tea at flowering time to promote higher yields of tasty beans!

The biggest water issue with beans is not so much under-watering but over-watering. That’s right, people are killing their bean stalks with love! Over watering is a significant issue if planting beans from seed or when seedlings are very young. Leaves can become really yellow if drainage is poor and the plants are getting too much water so keep an eye on this. When planting seed, whack them in a damp (not soaking) soil, then leave them for a few days. Soaking seeds of beans in water before planting is totally unnecessary and is a waste of time and water.

Depending on the varieties of beans you have planted, expect to be chowing down on bundles of beans between 12 – 14 weeks (10 weeks if you’ve gone the dwarf varieties). Pick bean pods when they are young, tender and at their tastiest. Do this before the seeds have swollen to make the pod lumpy and they’ll taste better. It’s best to harvest manageable numbers of beans regularly as this will promote more flowering and more tasty bean pods. I collect beans every three days… this seems to work out pretty well.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Beans are simple to grow, but it doesn’t mean that they are without their issues. We’ve seen that they don’t like too much water, dislike too much fertilizer and hate being touched by mulch. There are a couple of other things to keep an eye on, like fuzzy stuff on the leaves. This is probably powdery mildew and this can be caused by humidity, water on the foliage or poor air circulation. An easy solution is when you plant your beans to give them some “personal space”. We all need room to breathe, beans included. Try to avoid watering the leaves as another good preventative measure.

Halo blight is another funky fungal issue and first appears as leaf spots with holes. Leaves will eventually progress to becoming light green with dark green veins and it will eventually kill infected plants. The best thing to do here is to remove and destroy all infected plants (but not into the compost). Plant your replacement bean seeds in a different spot.

Let’s talk green manures. Green manure is essentially a crop grown in a patch (or on a farm) that acts to improve the nutrient content and organic matter in the soil. Beans, peas, clovers, lupins and alfalfa are all legumes – plants that have a relationship with nitrifying soil bacteria. So growing any of them will assist in “fixing” atmospheric nitrogen and returning it to the soil. With leguminous green manures, the idea is to plant seeds of these plants (they can be bought premixed) and let them grow until they begin to flower. I then whack them with the whipper snipper, and allow the slashed plants to lie on the surface of the soil or just tilled in. Do not plant in your green manure bed for at least 6 weeks after slashing. Green manures are a great, sustainable way of improving your soil.



Beetroot is so simple to grow in your vegie patch and, without doubt, home-grown beets taste ten times better than the canned stuff.   Beetroots are chock full of betaine, a great assistant in maintaining cardio-vascular health.  A known anti-oxidant, beetroots are also reported to increase “sex drive”, an unlikely result from a fairly unsexy vegie! 

Planting Time: July – April

Position: Full sun – part shade

Water Needs: Moderate

Difficulty: Easy

How Long: 10 weeks + (except baby beets)

Some saucy varieties include:

Baby Beets: As the name suggests, these beetroots are sweet, small and quick to mature.  Best results and flavour is obtained by pulling from ground quite young.

Chioggia: An unusual heirloom variety with red and white concentric striped flesh.  Impress your mates with this one!

Derwent Globe: An incredibly popular variety, Derwent Globe is a deep red, globe shaped beetroot, grown for its tender flesh and sweet flavour.

Golden: Sweet and tasty, these beetroots with golden flesh do not bleed, and are quick to mature.
Position-wise, beetroots aren’t overly fussy. They’ll tolerate full sun to part shade and even do fairly well in dappled light under a deep rooted tree.  Beets do beautifully in containers, especially the polystyrene fruit boxes you get from your green grocers

Like most root vegies beetroots need a rich, well-drained soil, chock full of organic matter like compost and manures. Drainage is the key so, if you’re faced with a heavy, clay soil, improve its structure with lashings of delicious compost! And maybe consider putting in some raised beds.

Just like carrots, beetroots tend to do best if planted from seed rather than seedlings. The seed itself is a weird looking “cluster” of a few true seeds in a corky coating. Unlike carrots though, these seeds will benefit from a soak in water overnight… you’ll get better results, and it’s worth the extra effort.

To plant the seeds, make a 2cm deep trench, and pop them in about 2cm apart. Cover the seeds lightly with seed raising mix or a fluffy compost. Keep the area damp (not soaking wet) and in about two weeks your baby beets will appear. You will probably find you need to thin them out, so do this by spreading and removing beets so that there is around 6 – 8cm between each beet plant. This will give them the personal space they need to grow!

The faster beetroot grows the tastier and more tender it will be. The key to this is feeding. At planting time, add some organic chook-poo based pellets to give your beets a kick along. Follow this up periodically with a drink of seaweed-based fertilisers as these contain everything needed for good healthy roots.  As with all root vegies, fertilisers high in nitrogen are unnecessary and totally counter-productive. Nitrogen puts on top leaf growth but does nothing for the roots beneath.

Water deeply and keep the soil around emerging seedlings damp. Regular watering will help keep the beets from going woody but don’t flood them.

Beetroot, as root vegies go, is one of the most obliging in terms of letting you know when it’s ready to harvest. This is because you can see beetroot crown above the soil surface. This makes it dead easy to assess the size of your beets and harvest when appropriate. As a rough guide beets grown from seed are ready to roll from about ten weeks onward, depending on the size of the beets required. Make sure you harvest them before they get too big – I generally remove mine before they are 6-7cm across, otherwise the flavour can be compromised.

Beetroots are amazingly pest free especially in a diverse, well-monitored patch. The only thing that will really knock them for six is too much water at an early age. Really wet soil leads to what’s known as “damping off”, a highly technical term that explains why seedlings fail. Essentially it’s a fungal disease that thrives in cold, wet soil, and picks on the weak and vulnerable e.g. seeds and seedlings. As they say, timing is everything, so plant beets when soil is warming and the wet season has well and truly passed.

When harvesting, leave a bit of stalk (about 3cm) attached to the beetroot. This makes them much easier to handle, especially when storing and cooking and means you won’t hurt their delicate skin and make them bleed. Second tip is that the leaves can be eaten! They make an awesome, colourful addition to really boring leafy salads! Go on, make your mates green with envy!

Broad Beans

I know… you hate broad beans. Perhaps they were served to you as a kid… boiled to within an inch of their lives, until they were the colour, taste and texture of cardboard.

But have you tried eating them when they are picked young? Take them from their pod before the tough coat has had a chance to form on the beans. They are the colour of fresh spring leaves, and are light in flavour. There’s nothing better than cooking up some spaghetti or fettuccine, toss this in a hot pan with fresh broad beans, garlic, sea salt, olive oil, ground pepper, some anchovies and serve with shaved parmesan. Mmmm… a true spring treat.

Broad beans are great to grow in autumn and winter. Mature plants are frost hardy too. Sow them from late summer through autumn and winter. The beans take 3 months to mature, so you’ll normally have your broad bean eating frenzy in spring. Plant them in blocks so the plants support each other, and you may need to tie string around them to keep them upright (especially in the case of the taller varieties). Broad beans are easy when planted from seed. They are large seeds, so they are easy to handle (great for kids!) and you get loads from a pack. Plant the seeds 5cm deep and water them in well. You won’t need to water them again until you see their heads pop up (unless it’s abnormally hot or windy.)

Broad beans are not hungry crops, so you only need to lightly manure the soil. Sprinkle around some dolomite or garden lime and fork through the soil. Pinching out the tips after the first flowers appear will encourage the pods to set.

I love the broad bean flowers, they’re white and black. So very unusual. You can also get a crimson flowered variety from Diggers seeds. (see the pic above for how great they look!)

Two tried and true old fashioned varieties are:

Aquadulce – has long, well filled pods with a nutty flavour.

Coles Dwarf – A heavy cropper with long pods to 20cm but on a shorter plant, may not need tying if planted into a block.

Broccoli & Broccolini

Broccoli & Broccolini

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Broccoli is a favourite for the autumn / winter vegie patch. It can be steamed, boiled, battered, stirfried, steamed with white sauce in side dishes, chopped into florets, boiled in stock or blended into tasty, nourishing soups. Broccoli is also packed with vitamins and freezes well after blanching.

Broccoli likes to grow fast, is a hungry feeder and needs regular watering. So save your rainwater for them and plant them into limed and manured soil to keep them happy and strong. Also watch out for hungry green caterpillars!

Broccoli is ready to harvest in 10-12 weeks from planting so for winter harvest, plant in late summer or EARLY autumn. Yes, we know it seems so early but it needs to be done or you’ll have to wait until spring to be eating them.

For spring harvest, plant mid-autumn – early winter. You can also plant again in late winter – early spring for early summer harvest.

Broccoli produces a large central head, followed by smaller side shoots when you harvest the centre. Dwarf Broccoli is also available, the central head is smaller and therefore takes less time to mature. Be aware though that the plant takes up just as much space in the garden. Height 40cm x Width 50cm.

All types of broccoli will produce side shoots but some are specially bred for their superior side-shooting tendencies like Brocolette, Green Sprouting Calabrese (Seed), Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Seed).

Choose a spot to plant in full sun that hasn’t had Brassicas (Cauliflower, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts) planted in it the year before. Sprinkle some dolomite or garden lime on top, tip a heap of cow or sheep manure on then dig it all in. Alternatively, just dig in a heap of mushroom compost instead as it already contains lime. Le the soil rest for a week or two if you can, but otherwise, just make sure the manure is blended thoroughly before planting.

Keep well watered, stick your finger in to see if the soil is dry or not. Every 2-3 days in the autumn / winter should be just about right. Liquid feed or side dress with manure or organic fertiliser regularly.

While the weather is mild, the green caterpillars of the white cabbage moth are still out and about. They adore broccoli and can devour seedlings overnight so control this pest by inspecting the undersides of leaves regularly for the little yellow pointed eggs and squash them with your nail onto the leaf. Also, look out for chewed leaves and little dark green ‘balls’ which is caterpillar poo. That’ll help you find the caterpillars, they like to hide along the mid rib on the underside of the leaf. Squash them onto the leaf too, (gently fold the leaf over it and squish, please kill them quickly and thoroughly) this should prevent other caterpillars wanting to eat there. Would you eat food that had squashed people all over it?

As a safe and effective last resort, (as even environmentally friendly sprays should be used with discretion) spray your plants with Dipel or Success, which are both made from a naturally occurring bacteria that’s particularly harmful to caterpillars, but safe for other insects and mammals. Wait 3 days after spraying before picking for eating.


Okay, so you’re always hearing about Broccolini and similar words like, Broccoletti, or Broccolette. These are hybrids of your common Broccoli crossed with Chinese Broccoli.

It came about in the late 1980’s in Yokohama, Japan. The Sakata Seed Company are responsible for selling 80% of the Broccoli seed and being run by successful business men, they asked themselves: “How can we sell more Broccoli?”. Common Broccoli has a relatively small window for commercial growing due to its love of cool weather. However its cousin, the Chinese Broccoli, aka Gai Laan, or Chinese Kale, is much more heat tolerant, and if you know it at all, it has succulent, sweet edible stems and leaves, rather than flower heads.

When they crossed the two, they came up with what is known today as Broccolini.

It can be grown over a much longer period and has a very loveable sweet flavour somewhat between Asparagus and Broccoli, and the whole lot is eaten, making less waste and quicker preparation.

There the story goes. The “Broccolini” seed is nearly impossible to buy in the Australian gardener seed market and consequently the name “Brocolette” is appearing in nurseries and from what we understand is the same as Sakata’s form.

But still we have some confusion. As when someone asks for Broccoletti, we have two options for them, the oh so similar sounding “Broccolette” discussed above, or the “Rapa” Broccolis, which are sometimes known as “Broccoletti”. The two are totally different from one another in looks and taste. Further on, you’ll find out more on Rapa Broccolis.

Ways of distinguishing the different types of Broccolis:

For the sake of this factsheet I’ll say “True Broccoli”: These plants form a main head and after the main head is picked they will prolifically produce side shoots for harvesting over an extended period. These are sometimes called “Calabrese Broccoli’, with varieties like Di Cicco, Purple Sprouting, Green Sprouting, Green Comet, Green Emperor, and Green Dragon, just to name a few. (Purple Sprouting are hardier to cool weather). In this range you’ll also come across dwarf types e.g. Magic Dragon, Mini Broccoli. These also produce side shoots after the main head is cut off, but will be smaller in size. An excellent variety to grow if you need fast developing Broccoli.

Then you have Chinese Broccoli, which as explained earlier is mainly a leafy vegetable with edible stems, and can be cooked whole (stir fried with garlic is delicious). Other names include Gai-Laan, Chinese Kale, Kai-Laan, and depending on whether you’re in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam or Malaysia, it could be another name completely. It’s great for growing in warmer weather.

The Romanesco Broccoli, an old Italian heirloom, which you’ll find are grown for their decorative central spiral head, must be picked before flowering shows or it’s too late. These need very cool weather to develop, so planting in late summer-early autumn is best.

Finally as mentioned before “Broccoli Rapa”, sometimes called Broccoletti is another variety that’s different from the rest. A super nutritious and traditional Italian vegetable grown for its tender stems, leaves and tiny button sized heads. The flavour is different to others, and is a mildly pungent and spicy. It does best when grown in cooler weather so planting late summer, or autumn is recommended. Eg. Cima De Rapa, Spring Rapini.

Brussels Sprout

Brussels Sprout

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera. Brassicaeae

Brussels Sprout – yep, that’s right, they’re Brussels Sprout not Brussel Sprouts – are one of the few vegetables that are almost guaranteed to get a strong reaction from people. Unfortunately, even those that have never tried these dear little cabbage-like balls are often put-off by the negativity surrounding them, even though they’re a superfood.

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Cauliflower – who can resist this great white wonder, especially in a baking tray covered in cheese! Although not the easiest of vegetables to grow, cauliflower is incredibly rewarding, looks great and is low in fat, high in folate, fibre and vitamin C. Have a crack at a cauliflower, including some of these varieties:

Planting Time: Apr – Aug

Position: Full sun, no wind

Water Needs: Moderate

Difficulty: High

How Long: 12 – 16 weeks

Paleface: Slow to get going, but very rewarding when it does, Paleface produces large, white heads that are incredibly tasty. Does quite well in cooler spots.

Snowball: This cute little cauliflower is a fairly quick grower, and produces pure, white, tight heads to about 15cm. Good variety for pots and smaller patches.
Purple or Violet Varieties: Stunning looking cauliflowers, these guys are vigorous growers with gorgeous violet heads. Fine in cooler spots, purple cauliflower will change to green when cooked.

With cauliflowers, the secret to success is position and timing. Choose a sunny position, protected from strong winds. When sowing seedlings, leave about 40cm between each plant.

Cauliflowers can be a bit fussy about their soil, so take a bit of time to prepare the
bed, about one month prior to planting. Ensure a well-drained soil, chock full of well-rotted compost and organic matter with a pH of 6.5-7. Correct soil pH should prevent a myriad of nutrient related issues, as will a light application of chook poo based fertiliser pellets when preparing the bed.

To minimise the risk of pests and diseases taking hold, ensure they are
not planted into a bed that has had cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts or other members of the Brassiacea family within the last three years.

Depending on the variety of cauliflower you plant, leave at least 40cm between each seedling, but, to allow for them to grow to their full potential, the more space you can allocate the better.

Feed your cauliflower weekly with a seaweed or compost tea, especially in the month leading up to harvest. As heads appear, a drink from your worm farm liquid will improve size and shape of the heads.

Cauliflower will become stressed if not watered deeply and consistently. It is important to ensure water reaches the roots, so, if area is mulched, consider subsurface irrigation or pull mulch away when watering. Avoid wetting foliage, as this is an open invitation for mildews to move in. Cauliflowers will suffer badly in waterlogged soil, so ensure good drainage and check soil moisture BEFORE watering.

Cabbage white butterfly and their caterpillars are a pain for most members of this family (cauliflowers included), especially if the weather is still mild. As a preventative, place white egg shells in the garden, or make some sticks with strips of white plastic bag tied to the top in a “bow tie” fashion. Both of these will confuse the Cabbage White Butterfly, and she will move on without laying her eggs on your cauliflowers.

As a safe and effective last resort, (as even environmentally friendly sprays should be used with discretion) spray your plants with Dipel or Success, which are both made from a naturally occurring bacteria that’s particularly harmful to caterpillars, but safe for other insects and mammals. Wait 3 days after spraying before picking for eating. Keep an eye out for snails, and, if problems arise, whack down a beer trap and catch them.

Cauliflowers can also get a bit pummeled by aphids, so place a few bright yellow plastic dishes (like Vegemite lids), half filled with water, near your crop. Aphids are strongly attracted to yellow but are not great swimmers. This is a safe, chemical free alternative to traditional aphid control, and works a treat in Brassica patches.

Depending on the cauliflower varieties planted, they can take anywhere from 12 weeks upwards before they are ready to harvest. Look for firm, tight, well-formed
heads that have not begun to flower. Cut off heads with a sharp knife as required. When cooking, dunking lightly cooked cauliflower into cold water will halt the cooking process and keep the florets bright and crisp!

Whack into a patch with good friends like: dill, sage, mint, nasturtium,
rosemary, beetroot, beans, lettuce and cucumber.

Avoid planting cauliflowers with: garlic, rue, tomatoes and strawberries.

Chicory, Endive, Radicchio and Witloof

Chicory, Endive, Radicchio and Witloof

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

This group have so many different common names: we will try to cover them all and nail them down.

Radicchio Cichorium intybus
Also called Italian chicory, red endive and red chicory. Originating in the northern Italy town of Chioggia, giving the most commonly grown variety its full name of Radiccio Rosso di Chioggia. Similar in form to a cabbage but with vibrant purple red leaves and stark white ribs. Eaten fresh, it has a bitterness that cuts into rich fatty foods like salamis, prosciutto and pancetta, as well as soft and hard cheeses. The flavour contrasts well with the sweetness of pears and the saltiness of anchovies. Radiccio salad with pears, blue cheese, anchovies, prosciutto and scattered candied pecans, light balsamic dressing – heaven on a plate. Growing in Melbourne: Grow in a sunny spot over winter. Will cope easily with a light frost. Our hot summers tend to lead to bitterness, best in the cooler seasons. Protect from slugs and snails, but not particularly pest prone.
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Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Eggplants (Solanum melongena), also known as aubergines, are a member of the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family to which tomatoes, potatoes and peppers also belong. They are not a naturally occurring species but were possibly cultivated in India or China in the distant past. Their origins are a bit of a mystery but the earliest references in Sanskrit literature may date to 300 BC and many references have also been found in ancient Chinese literature, the earliest in 59 BC.
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Alpinia officinarum

A hardy, perennial root spice to 1-2 metres tall with long stems and leaves (6cm wide) which shoot directly from the roots called rhizomes. Creamy-white, waxy, orchid like flowers form in clusters. Each flower spike can have over 300 flowers. In its raw form, galangal has a sharp, strong aroma and hot, clean taste with citrusy, piney, earthy aroma, with hints of cedar and soap (saponins) in the flavor; its flavor is a complement to its relative ginger.

Like ginger, the edible parts are the knobbly, orange-brown rhizomes (young rhizomes have a pink hue), usually peeled then sliced or grated, and is used in curries and other Asian dishes


Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Garlic has been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as the Egyptian pyramids. It has been widely used as both food and medicine in many cultures over the years. Garlic is really easy to grow if you plant it at the right time. If you would like a garlic flavour in your cooking all year round you can plant garlic chives as well. When buying garlic to plant, be sure to buy healthy, firm bulbs from a garden centre or garlic farm. You cannot grow bulbs bought from the supermarket as they are treated to prevent them from sprouting. (Supermarket chains generally don’t like the idea of their customers becoming self-sufficient.)

Another great reason to grow your own organic garlic at home is that ALL imported garlic, under Australian customs regulations, is sprayed with methyl bromide (a toxic biocide). Doesn’t sound too tasty does it?

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Green Manure

Green Manure

Lupins photograph by Cecily Chenault

Not enthralled by the tastes of autumn and winter vegies? Broccoli and Cabbage not your thing? Then give something back to your soil. Plant a green manure crop to prepare for your spring vegetable beds.

Green manure is sown from seed usually in autumn and winter. It adds valuable organic matter to the soil, opens heavy and compacted soils, suppresses winter weeds, is an alternative to buying in compost to dig in and most importantly it ‘fixes nitrogen’.

Green manure is a crop that’s grown to purposely dig into the ground to improve the soil. Green manure is normally a plant from the pea family (called a legume) or has a legume in the mix. Legumes often used in a green manure are plants like peas, beans and lupins. It’s good to grow green manure crop every few years of as part of a crop rotation cycle. The lupins in the photograph above are close to being ready to be dug in as a green manure – as flowers are developing, but before seed is set.

We have a great mix available in our seed section, that seems to thrive in the cold when nothing much else wants to grow. It contains oats, dunn peas, lupins and rye corn.

It’s so easy to do, grab a bag and throw it generously around the area, rake it in a bit, water it and wait. You’ll see the green manure come up within a week. It’ll grow like crazy, if only the broccoli grew that fast!

Dig it in at flower fall (as flowering finishes, before seeds develop) or at least 1 month before your next crop. Chop it up and fold though with your spade. When you dig it in at flower fall, the plant is at it’s biggest and most nutritious before it starts to put it’s goodness into it’s seed. It’s important to give at least a month for the green manure to compost down in the soil before planting your next crop. Green manure grows well all through autumn and winter.

What does Fixing Nitrogen mean and what’s so good about it?

Legumes form a relationship with bacteria in the soil which then take nitrogen from the air and turn in into a form that plants can use. Nitrogen is a very important plant growth element. It gets used to grow lots of leaves and stems.

When you dig your green manure into the soil, the ‘fixed nitrogen’ is released as the plant breaks down. The nitrogen is then there for the next crop to use. Your next crop can be hungry spring and summer vegies like, tomatoes and corn, but green manure is also a great way to kick start a new garden bed for other plants too like trees and flowers.

Lupins photograph by Cecily Chenault

Growing Produce From Seed

Growing Produce From Seed

Packaged Seeds

Growing your own herbs, fruit and vegies from seed is fun, easy and will save you loads of money. Not everything is easy to grow from seed, but you will be surprised how many things are. We have been working hard over the past couple of years to really beef up our seed range, so if you decide to give growing from seed a go you will be pleasantly surprised at the wide variety you will be able to choose from.

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Heritage or Heirloom Varieties

Heritage or Heirloom Varieties

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Do you remember the amazing flavours from your grandparent’s vegie garden? Why don’t tomatoes taste like that anymore? If you are bored by the tomatoes available from supermarkets, heirloom varieties could be just the thing you are looking for. Tomatoes, and many other vegie and fruit varieties, can be exciting to the tastebuds and reminiscent of days of old if you delve into the movement to grow heritage vegies. The large growers have to grow fruit and vegetables that are easy to machine-harvest, keep well under refrigeration and can be transported long distances. When you grow your own fruit and vegies at home you don’t need to worry about any of these constraints, so why not get a bit experimental with your selections.
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Insect Repellent Plants

Insect Repellent Plants

Marigold Flowers (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

Natural Insect Repellents… Plants, recipes and ideas

I was amused, reading an article that stated “the success of insect repellent plants is part folklore, part experience and part wishful thinking.” I’d like to think that gardeners in earlier times used plants seriously for all sorts of purposes and that hundreds of years of experience has given truth to some of these uses. I also wish that as a society we could adapt natural methods of pest control. Too many toxic chemicals that poison our soils, our water, our wildlife, our plants and ourselves!

There is a vast array of information out there about using plants for medicinal remedies, as insect and disease repellents and for companion planting in the garden. I will give you a few ideas and some recipes to lead you down the garden path to more sustainable and friendly gardening.
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This member of the cabbage family is enjoying resurgence in popularity. Kale is a type of non-heading cabbage from which leaves are harvested for use over a long growing period. It may be grown year round but in Melbourne it is typically planted in autumn, as it develops a good flavour during cold conditions and is less prone to attack from the cabbage white butterfly, a lover of the cabbage family. It is a highly nutritious vegetable and highly ornamental also!

Plant kale as seedlings in autumn or propagate from seed in late summer. It requires a moist, rich soil containing plenty of well-rotted cow manure and compost, with dolomite lime added. If growing from seedlings plant them deeply, up to the first leaves, to establish a stable plant. Plant in an open sunny position and protect from cabbage white butterfly using a fine mesh netting or fly wire. If you do notice pale green caterpillars chewing holes in your seedlings then remove by hand and look on the undersides of the leaves for pale yellow eggs, which may be rubbed off. You can also simply remove affected leaves. If the caterpillars persist then you may spray with Dipel or use derris dust.

Harvest kale after 8 weeks and carefully remove individual leaves as required, taking care not to wrench the plant, as it may topple. Use kale leaves in any way that you would use cabbage. Kale can produce leaves for harvest for up to 12 months, before producing flower shoots which may be eaten like broccoli.


Tuscan Kale has very dark green leaves with a dimpled surface. Also known as Black Tuscan Kale, Cavolo Nero and Nero di Toscana.

Red Russian Kale has frilly curled leaves and light green leaves tinged with pink.

So called Ornamental kales can be eaten but are generally of poor quality.


One of the great versatile vegetables for cooler climates. They do best with temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees C. Leeks are an easy to grow member of the Amaryllidaceae family, easier than the onion, not fussy about its soil and can remain in the ground throughout winter until needed, a useful trait as they are one of the reliable performers and give you a harvest when home grown produce is a bit thin on the ground over winter. Grown for their blanched thickened stems (actually elongated leaf bases), their pungent but sweet flavour is great is soups and stews, savoury tarts and flans, as well as raw in salads and other dishes.

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Plant onions in an area that gets a minimum of 6 hours sun a day and is well drained. Then prepare to wait – onions take 6 to 8 months to mature. Before planting improve the soil with manure. Conventionally onions are planted in a line, but you can plant them in any fashion you like as long as they are spaced around 5-10cm apart to allow room to grow. If you are planting from seedlings, tease apart and plant each seedling so that only the root is below the soil, leaving the small bulb sitting just on top of the soil. They look a bit like chives at this stage and may flop over, but not to worry, in a few days they will perk up and stand vertical. If you have left the seedlings in the punnet for a while before planting out, and they look a bit long and leggy, just trim (as much as half can come off) them with secateurs, or even scissors, before planting. Water in well.

Harvesting: Harvest your onions as they develop if you need smaller, or spring onions. Otherwise wait until the leaves start to die back. Don’t leave until they flower – or the onions will go tough and hard.

Bolting/flowering: Onions tend to bolt (flower) when they are under stress. An early cold snap may send onions into flowering, if they show signs of flowering, give up and harvest them.  Cutting the flowering stem seems to be a bit of a fruitless exercise, they will send up another one.  Hot dry conditions will do the same, so keep water up in summer.


Brown skin and a mild, creamy flesh. Excellent storing variety. Harvest in 18-26 weeks or when the tops dry and fall over. Great for frying, roasting, stews and pickling. May be frozen.

Brown Odourless
A large and attractive truly odourless onion. Pale brown skin and tender, crisp, mild flavoured flesh.

Cream Gold
Long keeper. Good strong flavour. Well suited to Melbourne’s climate.

Long Tropea Red
Heritage variety. Medium to large with a mild and sweet flavour. A long keeper.

Mini Purplette
A sweet and mild specialty bunching onion. Glossy rich burgundy changing to rich pastel pink when cooked or pickled. Quick to mature, taking 60 days, only it can be dug at golf ball size or smaller and holds well in the garden. Great for salads or cooking. Good for small spaces as compact form allows for closer plantings.

Red odourless is a mild, sweet variety which is purple-red in colour. Harvest in 18-26 weeks or when the tops dry and fall over. Especially good raw in salads. Adds colour to many cooked dishes, can be pickled or frozen.

Red Shine
A beautiful bright red globe shaped onion. Has a mild flavour, perfect raw in salads. A better keeper than most reds.

Spring (Red)
Ruby coloured skin on bulb with snow white flesh. If left in ground will form a small bulb. Sweet / savoury flavour – enhanced by grilling or sweating.

Spring (Welsh / Bunching)
A tall, perennial bulb that produces delicious, edible, soft bulbs and foliage. Plant all year round. Harvest in 8-10 weeks or as needed. An essential addition to salads and stir fry dishes. Wonderful in almost any savoury dish. You can grow as a perennial if you harvest the green tops only and allow the clump to spread.

Tender with a sharper, more pungent flavour than brown or red onions.

White Lisbon
Can be used as a bunching onion or as a pickling onion when mature.



If you like parsnips and live in Victoria, then you are in luck, we have the perfect climate for them. Parsnips have a reputation for being tricky to grow, but that is a bit unfair. Yes, there are a few traps to avoid, but this is easily done, and good, sweet nutty roasted parsnips are such a joy that it is worth learning a few tricks of the trade. The humble parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) may not be everyone’s favorite vegetable, but grown well and prepared to a good recipe in the kitchen these white carrot relatives can be a delicious variation in your home grown meals.

A vegetable grown from ancient times, Parsnip was a solid staple harvested for winter eating where other foods may have been scarce. Parsnip is a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, Folate and Manganese.
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Peas (Pisum sativum) are cool season legumes grown for their pods and seeds, they’re part of the Fabaceae family, along with other legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
Like the other members of this family, peas are nitrogen-fixing plants, with nodules along their roots in which symbiotic soil bacteria live. These bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use as a nutrient.
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Perennial Vegetables

Perennial Vegetables

There’s finally room at BAAG for me to have the Perennial Vegetables bench that I have been trying to get for twelve months. As you can see in the pic, this is just the beginning… I will be adding more stock to the bench in the coming months. Be sure to have a look next time you are in. (It is in the herbs and vegies section over near the chook shed. Book Book)

Perennial vegetables can be a useful addition to the edible garden by providing an ongoing supply of vegetables that don’t need to be replanted each year. Well known perennial vegetables include asparagus and rhubarb, but there are many more out there that are available. As well as being low maintenance, perennial vegetables can provide other benefits to your garden such as habitat for beneficial organisms, soil building and edible landscaping.

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Photo from Wiki Commons

Potatoes have been a staple in our diet for hundreds of years. Growing them is easy, so why not start thinking about producing your own home grown potatoes. For those who love their spuds, you’ll love the variety of seed potatoes we now have available at BAAG. They come both packaged and loose and we stock a large range of popular varieties as well as many unusual, designer spuds like Lustre or King Edward.

There’s still plenty of time to plant, so get ready by preparing their beds for planting with loads of well-rotted manures and composts. Potatoes are hungry plants, so you can’t overdo it. Seed potatoes refer to the fact that they are disease-free. They still look like ordinary potatoes, not seeds! You can’t guarantee that the spuds that have started to sprout in your pantry aren’t carrying viruses, so sometimes planting those will lead to disappointment. Read on for more information on planting and available varieties.

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Photo from Wiki Commons

Rhubarb adapts well to all climatic zones and most soils with good drainage. It can be grown in full sun or part shade, but avoid planting in heavy shade. Rhubarb plants are gross feeders and beds should be prepared by working through liberal quantities of well-rotted manure. Plant crowns 1-1.5m apart with the top of the crown level with the soil surface. Harvest very sparingly in the first year.
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Rocket – Arugula

Rocket – Arugula


Eruca sativa
Super fast and easy to grow. Remember where you have planted them, because to my mind, they can look a bit like weeds, and you can absent-mindedly pull them out when weeding…

The leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. Older larger leaves can be very bitter, for the best flavour, use the leaves when still small, well before flowering starts. The flowers can be used in salads, decorating drinks etc. The deeply cut leaves have a wonderfully pungent flavour with a mild bitterness adding bite and piquancy to salads, sandwiches, risotto, pizza, pasta and loads of other dishes.
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Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Nothing compares to the taste of homegrown strawberries, and those monster things you buy in punnets at the shops are generally a poor (and expensive) imitation. So, why not grow some strawberries at home! Good position and good soil are the keys to successful strawberries. Strawberries are a European cool-climate plant, and need to be treated with a bit of love in our part of Australia. For those of you growing strawberries during the warmer periods of the year, we suggest growing under a little shade cloth cover. This is ‘slip, slop, slap’ for your strawberries to stop the sunburn… they’ll thank you for it! In the cooler months, a nice, warm, full-sun to part-shade spot is perfect.

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Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Sweetcorn is a pleasure to grow over the hot months of summer. When the wind blows the stalks rattle and rustle and the prairie calls… hang on, you’re standing in your backyard in Melbourne. It is an absolute pleasure to wrest a cob from the stalk and if you can’t be bothered throwing it into a pot of boiling water or onto the BBQ, you can just munch the milky goodness where you stand, in your pyjamas, your boots and your Stetson hat of course.

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Sweet Potatoes

Ipomoea batatas

Also known as Kumera, a perennial trailing tuber, developing over the warmer months. Plant in spring and harvest 4 to 6 months after planting. Highly digestible, rich in vitamin C, just as useful as ordinary potatoes in the kitchen, and have a distinctive sweet flavour.

Sweet potatoes are easy to grow but they do need a few things to grow really well. They need well dug, compost rich soil, and good drainage (essential). Plant in raised beds or on mounds 15cms high. This will avoid tubers rotting in wet weather. Before inserting the cuttings, spread a handful of all purpose fertiliser (avoid high nitrogen fertilizers or you will get lots of leaves and not enough tubers). Sweet potatoes don’t need much water and are vigorous with a habit of scrambling through the garden like pumpkin.

Harvest once the leaves start to yellow. The longer you leave them in the ground the better, but must be lifted before any frosts or tubers will rot. Dig up carefully to try and avoid nicking or slicing into the tubers. Leave in the sun to dry for a few hours. Sweet potatoes can be used fresh from the ground but will be sweeter if cured. This is simply storing in a warm (30ºC) airy space for 7-10 days. You can line boxes or baskets with newspapers and leave in a greenhouse or any space where the temperature is stable. After curing, store in a cellar or basement, ideally at around 12ºC.

Taro (Dasheen)

Colocasia esculenta

A perennial, tropical plant primarily with large arrow or heart shaped leaves. Primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, but also as a leaf vegetable. Taro cannot be use raw.

The corms can be roasted, baked, fried, steamed or boiled, used in stews and soups, and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavour. The starch is easily digestible and grains are fine and small and often used for baby food. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.

Growing Taro
Plant taro as soon as the frosts have finished in spring and the soil has warmed. They require a minimum of 200 frost free days to mature, so get them in as soon as you can. Space 40cm – 60cm apart in rows at least 1m apart.

Taro corms can be planted in dry or wet settings. In Asia taro is often planted in wet paddys. In dry setting, taro corms are planted in furrows or trenches about 6 inches (15cm) deep and covered by 2 to 3 inches (5-8cm) of soil. Keep very moist and feed with a lot of compost and a rich organic high potassium fertiliser.

Tubers are harvested around 200 days after planting when leaves turn yellow and start to die. Lift the roots before the first autumn frosts. Leaves can be picked as soon as they open, but never strip the plant of all its leaves, just pick a few at a time.



Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Physalis philadelphica 

For those of us who are into our Mexican food, tomatillos are an essential ingredient. Salsa without tomatillo simply isn’t salsa. Distantly related to tomatoes and growing in a similar way, they are much easier to grow than tomatoes, coping with cooler weather, hardier, less prone to disease and somewhat shade tolerant. These are very productive plants, and given you need to have two as they absolutely need a cross pollinator, that will probably be enough for one family. However, the more the merrier and your friends will be happy to share in your largesse.

They grow in a similar manner to tomatoes and can be staked, but can also be left to sprawl, place approximately 1m apart. Unlike tomatoes, they are not heavy feeders so no there is need to fertilise. They also cope with cooler weather than tomatoes and need a shorter growing season, very useful in Melbourrne! If growing from seed make sure you get Physalis philadelphica and not its close relative the Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana). Technically Tomatillos are perennial, but they are generally grown as annuals. Harvest when the fruit has swelled to fill the husk but before fully ripe, when still green (or purple – depending on variety) and firm. The size is similar to a large cherry tomato, but the flesh is meatier. Leave the husks on until ready to use, store in refrigerator for up to 1 month (or freeze). When removing the husks, the fruit is smooth but slightly sticky, wash thoroughly and use.


Toma Verde – A prolific tomatillo with fruit the size of a small tomato. Sweet tangy flavour, fabulous for salsas and other Mexican dishes. Will lose the tangy aspect if allowed to ripen too much.

Tomatillo Purple – Another prolific tomatillo, purple in colour with a sharper flavour than Verde, making a fantastic salsa. An heirloom or heritage variety.



Tomatoes pic taken at a market in Italy by Maria Ciavarella

Who doesn’t love a tomato? Delicious home grown tomatoes are easy to grow, taste great, and you control what gets sprayed on them, if anything at all. Many different varieties are available including heritage varieties, from which you can collect your own seed to sow next season, and dwarf varieties suitable for growing in pots. Tomatoes are great for kids to grow, as they grow fast and produce lots of delicious fruit, especially cherry tomatoes. So even if you only have a balcony for a garden, you can grow delicious fresh tomatoes. You can raise tomatoes from seed or as seedlings, however to grow from seed you will need to have planted them by mid-September.

Please be aware that we stock tomatoes from late September due to customer demand for them, however late October to early November is the perfect time to plant your tomato seedlings. Tomato seedlings planted before this will need to be protected from cold temperatures and frosts.

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Vegepod Raised Garden Bed Kits

Vegepod Raised Garden Bed Kits give you the best of both worlds and more. You get the size of a raised garden bed with all the benefits of container gardening. Not only that, you also get the benefit of an Raised Garden Bed Cover that extends growing seasons and accelerates plant growth.

Garden maintenance is minimal and watering is only required during the early stages of plant growth. Vegepod Raised Garden Bed Kits are simply the easiest way to grow your own vegetables.


(Smallanthus sonchifolius, Syn.: Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia)

Cultivated for centuries in the Andean mountains this root vegetable is relatively new to Australia. Yakon produce two types of roots, the rhizomes which develop just under the soil surface and produce the aerial shoots and the large edible storage tubers which are attached to the rhizomes.

The plants are a vigorous herbaceous perennial up to 2m tall, with large triangular leaves which die back over winter. Tough: tolerating heat, drought and poor soils. The plants need 220 frost free days to produce the large tubers. The plants flower at the end of the season, after which the foliage dies down and then the tubers are ready to be harvested. For good production, protect from the heat of the hot afternoon sun and keep moist.

Why grow Yakon?

They are a wonderful crunchy crisp texture (similar to water chestnut) and a flavour described as a cross between an apple and watermelon. They can be eaten raw or their own or finely sliced and mixed into salads. They can be chipped, baked fried or pickled.

Like Jerusalem Artichoke (a close relative), Yakon contains fructooligosaccharides (an inulin). These taste sweet, but are indigestible and have a low caloric value – so great for those watching their weight. In addition they have a prebiotic effect (used by ‘friendly’ bacteria, promoting the growth of ‘good’ intestinal bacteria). They are reported to increase the absorption of calcium and possibly magnesium. (Note: Consuming large quantities of inulins can cause gas and bloating, and people with fructose intolerance should avoid them.)

You’re not likely to find this rare vegie in the supermarket, but now you can grow your own supply at home!