Monday, 26 March 2012

Coffee for your garden...

Did you know coffee beans are just as good (if not better) for your garden than cow or horse manure?  Coffee is high in nitrogen which is an essential component for soil and plants alike.  With the number of cafes throughout the suburbs these days, it’s got me thinking we are throwing out a lot of useful nutrients which could be better used in our garden than landfill sites.

Cafes generally throw out hundreds of kilos (sometimes tones) of coffee each week.  With only a 10year lifespan left for Brisbane’s landfill sites, why not help out your local environment and use coffee beans to boost the nutrients in your garden’s soil? 

Lucky for me Site Café, located at Banyo in Brisbane are more than happy to fill my buckets with their coffee goodness.   I have now been using the ground beans both within our compost pile and also sprinkling on plants throughout the garden. 

For backyard composters and gardeners, coffee grounds provide a convenient and effective nitrogen source without the pathogen concerns of manure handling (National Geographic,  The worms love it, and instead of working with manure, I am now smelling the sweet scent of coffee in the air. 

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott of Washington State University recommends adding no more than 20 percent by volume of grounds in the compost pile, to boost the supply of nitrogen and ensure quick and nutrient rich composting (National Geographic).

If you only have a small garden or balcony garden, the coffee from your own coffee machine may be sufficient as a nitrogen source for your garden.  However if you have a large garden and compost pile, sourcing the coffee beans from a cafe would be better for your requirements. 

I bet most cafes would be more than willing to fill your buckets with their used coffee beans, as this is something they would be throwing in the bin anyway.  So why not next time you are having a coffee, ask the café if they wouldn’t mind filling some buckets for you to use in your garden.  I bought two 20Litre nappy pails for my coffee to go in, but I am sure any sealable bucket would be just as good. 

If you have already been using coffee in your garden, I would love to know how it has gone!

Happy gardening, Roberta

Friday, 23 March 2012

Z is for zucchini or C for Courgette

It's been a while since I last made a post... we have had a sick baby with tonsillitis, away for a long weekend to Jervis Bay and visited both sets of grandparents, not forgetting that I am back to work part-time (but doing a full-time workload)! But I suspect this is only the start of things to come now that I am a mother. My multi-tasking skills have definitely increased significantly in the past 9 months.

Now back to task...

As I align myself with being more"Italian" than "French" - we call them zucchini's in our house. Now this alignment is purely imaginary - we have no relatives of either variety in our family and I can not speak either language. However I could imagine myself living in Tuscany or near Lake Como in a villa, with a beautiful garden and a large table full of friends and family sharing delicious meals

This year we brought a four pack of Lebanese zucchini's. This time around I got them in the garden as soon as I walked through the door (I have  a habit of buying punnet of seedlings and forgetting about them until they are all wilted and almost dead - needless to say I waste a lot of money on delightful little seedlings that never result in produce). After less than 2 days in the garden our chickens (Nugget and Zinger) and destroyed half the crop - a good thing that they have those funny little furry bits on them once they get bigger (our chickens wont touch them once they are about 30 cm). 

After much contemplation and with Andrew reminding me that zucchinis are not his most favourite vegetables we decided to stick with just our 2 plants.  And this was a a very good thing, because we have had the most abundant crop ever! Turn your back for a few days and they grow to be massive. And the best thing about growing them is that they require minimal love and fertiliser (we don't add anything to ours).

This season the Hegerty house has feasted on stuffed flowers, zucchini soup, frittas, zucchini chips, and the most favourite of all - fritters! So far every version of our fritters have been different from the combination of ingredients to the way I have cooked them: some like pancakes, others shallow fried and some deep fried to crisp little parcels of goodness (not too sure about the health impact though). However they need to all be served with a minted yogurt dressing and lemon.

 So our top 3 zucchini recipes for the summer: 
  1. Zucchini fritters with feta and ricotta - the tip here is the split the eggs and beat the whites until they are stiff and fold them through. I combine the concepts from the  zucchini pattie and the zucchini and fetta fritters recipes from Stephanie Alexanders Cooks Companion  to make my own version (s) - based on the ingredients I have in the house at the time. 
  2. Mini zucchini pancakes with cream cheese and salmon - perfect canape or breakfast treat
  3. Stuffed zucchini flowers with a crispy tempura batter... yum! (Kitchen Garden Companion)
And a good standby for when you are feeling lazy and the warmth of summer has disappeared Zucchini and Mint Soup with Flat Bread. And even making the flat bread is not hard - Easy Flat Bread Recipe.

Until next time


Monday, 12 March 2012

Beautiful String Gardens

I have been a busy bee over the last couple of weeks, with the extension of my flower patch at our house to grow even more beautiful blooms and foliage for this year's weddings, in between baby feeds and social outings for the toddler.  I have found some interesting and unique old world blooms which I finished planting this afternoon, so now I can sit back and watch them grow over the coming months.

While looking for gardening inspiration on Pinterest, I stumbled upon this fabulous artist and I am in awe of his amazing plant creations/sculptures. I am still not sure of his name, however his business is called String Gardens and is work is seriously beautiful.

The idea is simple - individual plants hung in earth and moss ball masses hovering over the ground, however the creations he makes are truly marvellous and obviously complex using flowers, vegetables, trees for the hanging gardens.  Each are individual and different to one another based on the subject plant attached to the earth ball and how it is to hang above the ground.

I also found a tutorial on how to make these string gardens on Design Sponge so going to give it a go when I have a free moment.

Would love to know if anyone has tried making string gardens before and how it went!


All images sourced from

Monday, 5 March 2012

Growing Corn ~ Brisbane

We have only tried to grow corn twice now, and the last attempt was a sad failure.  The husks appeared, and within a couple of days were full of little bugs, so nothing we could eat.

This year however our crop of corn has been wonderful.  We planted them straight into the vegie patch by seed, and only added some blood and bone to the soil before planting.  We just bought a packet of corn seeds from the local Bunnings which was approximately $3, and only used half the packet when they were planted early January of this year.  Apparently for Brisbane climate you are able to plant between September-February, so will try my luck (although I am a little late) to plant another crop to pick in 2 1/2 months time.

I'm planning on making the corn and bacon fritters I found on shown below which should make everyone in the family happy.  Have included below some images of our corn which we picked this morning. 


Image from

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Oh faithful tomato! ~ Canberra

As I sit to write this entry it has been raining pretty much constantly for the past 3 days and my entire backyard is a muddy bog. Mind you my backyard is nothing in comparison to the flooding being experienced by a number of communities in southern New South Wales. 

This year I decided to invest in a variety of tomato plants – delightful cherries, trusty romas – including mini ones, the common supermarket make to a variety of heirlooms.  Over the years as my gardening experience has improved so too has our crop. A good thing about tomatoes is that they don’t require much love to prosper. This year we have been completely organic - no tomato dusty, fertiliser etc... just rain, good compost, lucerne and sunshine.

Unlike previous years I managed to get all of our plants in before Melbourne Cup (according to a colleague who is Canberra born and bred this is the key date, if you leave them much past this date you will miss a full season) and with our unseasonably wet summer we have had a bumper crop.

I don’t like to waste anything that we grow so over the past 3 weeks we have been eating tomatoes with every meal (along with zucchini, eggplants and celery). 

The top 3 dishes in our house have been:
  1. Semi dried cherry tomatoes with roasted garlic preserved in olive oil  - perfect in pasta, in chicken and I am hoping they will keep well for winter when all you get in the shops in tasteless tomatoes. 
  2. Tomato and ginger  jam (Gourmet Traveller - Feb 2012) – yummo with cheddar cheese,  bacon and eggs - I found though, that I needed to cook it for twice as long as what the recipe suggested
  3. Open cheese tart with heirloom tomatoes – perfect lunch or light dinner - used Donna Hay's Cherry Tomato and Basil Tart as the basis and then modified based on the cheeses, herbs and tomatoes that I had at home (every version so far has been different and they are all so tasty)
Semi drying tomatoes is so easy, just follow these easy steps:

tomatoes, salt, pepper, olive oil, rosemary, knob of garlic 
  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half – best to cut them across the tomato rather than top to bottom as it will make it easier to remove the seeds
  2. With a teaspoon remove half of the seeds
  3. Liberally sprinkle with salt
  4. Stand them upside down on a cooling rack to drain (I left them for about 10 minutes)
  5. Rinse of the salt with water – I used a colander to speed up the process and a slow running tap
  6. Pat them dry with kitchen towel
  7. Lay them on a baking tray covered with glad bake – cut side up 
  8. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary
  9. Put a whole knob of garlic on the tray (still in its skin)
  10. Bake at 100 degrees for 5 hours
  11. Peel the garlic
  12. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to sterilised jars and fill with olive oil
Tip: to sterilise a jar – wash well and then boil for 10 minutes (including the lid); kmart has the preserving jars for $2 each

Have a great weekend everyone,