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Common Germination Problems.

The most common causes of seeds not germinating are:
1. Soil was too heavy (Clay).
2. Soil was allowed to dry out. (Only once is enough to kill the emerging seed)
3. Seeds were not given enough time to germinate before sower gave up. (Many seeds
have slow or erratic germination.)

The most common causes of seedling loss are:
1. Damping off, caused by over watering or fungi.
2. Using containers that don’t hold enough soil. (Containers need to be at least 6cm deep and
filled to the top with seed-raise mix.)
3. Using potting mix, common garden soil, or previously used soil. (It’s best to start fresh
each time to avoid fungi, etc.)
4. Insufficient air circulation.
5. Planting in previously used containers that were not properly cleaned. (Wash containers in
a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water before re-using.)
6. Overcrowding. If you’ve planted too many seeds and they’re all competing for space and resources.
7. Introducing seedlings to full sun or outdoor conditions too quickly (not “hardening off”).

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Coffee 1 . Grow from seed.

A civilised twist on the term ‘Home Brew’….
It’s really not as hard as you might believe.
Coffee trees, or shrubs to be accurate, are really quite efficient survivors and will generally tolerate a reasonable amount of abuse or neglect.
They require much less work to grow than do their cousins the Gardinia’s.

Firstly we only use (and sell) seed from the last harvest.
The seed that we keep for germination, is kept with the skin of the cherry still on.
The seeds are shade dried and allowed to experience the changes in humidity, moisture and temperature that make up the seasons.
Secondly, we only plant seed from October until March. (Late Spring to late Summer)
While is is possible to germinate coffee seed at almost any time of year, given heated germination trays and enclosed hothouse or propagation tunnels, the strength and robustness of the plants is compromised and the trees are often unfit.
Thirdly, we sow one cherry or two beans, into a pot of quite coarse potting mix. (They are very fond of lots of organic matter in the mix). Some ‘Perlite’ or ‘Vermiculite’ is quite OK in the mix but soil is not necessary, and can be detrimental at this stage.

Seed raise mix, jiffy pots, between sheets of wet paper towel and even damp hessian are often recommended, but are so unreliable that it is ridiculous to try.
Sowing in pots does hide the process of germination from view, but, if it is going to happen it will, and you just have to be patient.
Do not plant the seeds too deeply in the pot.
A hole the length of your finger to the second knuckle is all that is necessary. Cover lightly and then walk away.
Sit the pot in a lightly shaded spot, water each day and walk away. Do not poke around in the soil to see how it’s going.

When germination does occur, your heart lifts with pride but, it is time to put your parental instincts aside and NOT help the little unfurling infants to get their heads out of the soil.
If, for some reason, and it does happen, the curled head of the plant, bearing it’s seed case as a hat, does not completely open it’s leaves by itself, it will be sickly for a very long time.
Shedding the seed case seems to be part of the process and cannot be denied.
Soon the dicot leaves will be fully open to the sun and the growth of your plant can continue.
Something to remember after the plant has surfaced, is that before and during the process that you have been watching, the roots have been busy establishing themselves and getting into position to support and feed the emerging plant.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to feed the roots, not the plant.

Nitrogen based fertilizers will push much growth up and into the leaves, but the balance of the plant will be inadequate for later robust growth.
Once again, we prefer to be patient and we feed the pots with a seaweed based fertilizer rather than a fish emulsion.
Generally speaking, if the pot that you have planted into is large enough (roughly a 6′ pot), then you will not have to repot or transfer your plant until it is time to go into the ground.
We recommend allowing the plant to reach approximately 30 cm in height before planting out.
The young plants will require little from you during this period and are best enjoyed without bothering them or fussing over them.

Because the seedlings are emerging in Summer they should only take one month to germinate, at most.
There is quite a lot of flexibility in this timeline and you can expect different germination periods from the same batch of seed.
They are very social plants and once one is up, more will usually come soon after.
Even young Coffee plants are not voracious feeders and, while they grow at a reasonable pace, it is unlike anything you would have in your vegetable garden.
Most Coffee trees keep their leaves for several years without replacing them, so they do not produce more than they need.
This time in their lives should ideally be spent in part shade and watered often, as needed. Once again, not wet all the time, but they do not take well to drying out.
As in their native environments, they thrive on organic matter and love to have leaf mulch at their bases.
The root system is comparatively high in the soil and while they will send some roots down to anchor themselves, their main feeding roots are only just below the surface.
This explains why they do not like to dry out and why coarse, loose mulch, is coffee friendly.

If you have a shade house or protected outdoor living area, then they will be happy there until late Winter.

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Grow your Own Dragonfruit

It’s hard not to love this cactus.

Like all cacti it has some needles but treated carefully and handled rarely, it is never a problem.
If you grow these from seed then you will have the whole experience but it will take a little longer than buying a ‘rooted’ cutting from our nursery.

The seed needs to just covered with a light, sandy potting mix either in individual pots or sprinkled in one large pot if you prefer.
Remember that if you sow in one pot or tray, once they have germinated you will need to separate them out, away from each other.
This can be avoided by sowing one or two seeds per pot.
They are so cute when they are little but they will still catch your fingers by surprise if you are not prepared.
We keep our seed grown plants potted for 12 months before planting them out.

If you have purchased a rooted cutting then it is ready to go out straight away.

Now it is time to choose your location wisely.
Many people have this romantic idea that they will plant their Dragon at the base of a large tree and encourage it to climb and ramble in a storybook fashion. This does work to a certain extent and your Dragon will climb a 20m tree without a problem, but you will never have flower or fruit, in your lifetime at least.

If you plan on enjoying the wonder of the Dragon flower and the delicious taste of the fruit then you need to provide an environment where it can ‘crown’.
This simply means reminding the plant that it can’t grow any farther than is comfortable for you to harvest the fruit. 2-2.5 m is usually adequate and the vine will stop, wave it’s stem around, realise that this is the top and settle down to produce buds.

You do not need a major construction job on which to grow your dragon but it does need to be sturdy.
Just a post, set well into the ground will do the job.
Frequently a cross bar at the top of a post will help to educate the plant that it’s many branches can all stop here!
Another mistake often made regarding the plant is that because it is a cactus it will love the dry, drought like climate of it’s cousins.

This would be a mistake.
It loves a good drink as often as you can and will always do it’s best fruiting before and after good rain.
Just like Aloe vera, it will survive the dry times but prefers not to if not necessary.

You will also need to remember that many birds have also formed a liking for the fruit so that making it possible to conveniently net or cover when fruit is formed can be necessary.

They are not happy with frosts and will often lose stem and condition if not perish all together, so some preparation will be required before Winter.
We have so many birds and insects visiting the 24 hour flowers that we are never sure who has done the best job but rarely does a flower go un-pollinated, and it is not unusual to have many flowers on one plant at the same time.

Generally, once the basic setup is complete there is no ongoing work involved in keeping and growing these dragonfruit and you may find yourself with a low maintenance orchard in a short while.        Continue reading Grow your Own Dragonfruit

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Grow some Peanuts

Good food like the humble peanut is often overlooked when planing the vegetable garden but it is without a doubt, the most ‘giving’ of plants that you will ever include in your garden.

After you receive your peanuts (in their shells) there is no rush to sow them just yet. It is best to wait until Spring. There is no advantage in them sprouting early as they will not produce any more or any sooner.

Kept in a dry environment like a drawer, they will be fine for a year or so.

If you remove them from their shells then they will need to be planted sooner rather than later.

We do not remove them from their shells at all and sow the whole thing in a pot of seed raise mix.

They will produce two or three plants from each shell and these are easily separated for planting out when they are roughly 100 mm tall.

Sow the young plants in a trench and mound them up as they grow to support their stems.

Water weekly but not if you have had rain. Do not be tempted to lift the bushes until the foliage has begun to turn yellow and die back.

There will be no need to save some for next year as we have found that no matter how careful we are in harvesting, we always seem to leave plenty in the ground inadvertently.

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Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Tomato seed is probably the easiest seed for a gardener to germinate and it is not unusual for gardeners to base their gardening confidence on success with this fruit.
Some insist that the seeds need to be soaked before planting but this is unnecessary and it is highly possible to damage seed when taking it from a soft submersive environment to a coarse soil one.
Sowing in soil, fill your pot, tamp it down lightly, spread your seed, sprinkle seed raise mix over the seed to cover it, water gently and then leave them alone to do what they do best.
Preparing for planting
Tomatoes must be planted in full sun—they don’t like shade at all! Like most vegetables, tomatoes do best in relatively loose soil rich in organic matter.
If you don’t have soil like this, you’ll want to work in some compost, composted manure, or another soil amendment a week or more before planting into the bed(s) where your tomatoes will be planted.
Many growers use plastic mulch for their tomatoes because the plastic can increase yields, reduce disease, and give you an earlier crop with little or no weeding. You do not need to use plastic to have healthy, productive tomatoes, but if you don’t you will want to mulch with something else (leaves, straw, cardboard, etc.) to prevent weed problems.
On the day of planting, you should have some tools (a trowel and a hose connected to water), and some organic fertilizer handy.
Plant spacing
It’s tempting to plant tomatoes too close together because they’re small when you transplant them.
If you do this, your plants will compete with each other for light, water, and nutrients and/or grow into each other such that harvesting is difficult.
Most tomato varieties should be planted at least 60 cm apart, and 90 cm is better. Cherry tomatoes should be planted 1.2m apart.
Care after planting
Once your tomatoes are planted, they don’t need much care besides caging or staking and perhaps occasional watering.
If you have used plastic mulch, you may not need to weed at all. If you haven’t, you will want to weed around them thoroughly until mid-November and then mulch.
All tomatoes should be caged or staked and tied beginning shortly after transplanting. Cages are simplest and work well, but ONLY IF you buy or make cages that are tall enough and strong enough to hold up a mature tomato plant.
The short, narrow wire style (about 60 cm tall, with three little pieces you stick into the ground) sold in many garden supply stores are completely useless for most common tomatoes.
Though you can buy good cages, the best cages are homemade wire cages made of concrete reinforcing wire or woven-wire stock fencing. If made properly, these can be used for many years (and you can store them in the garden over the winter).

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Which Tomato to grow?

As with other crops, each tomato variety is either a variety bred in modern times (often a hybrid is the offspring of several very different varieties) or a traditional, open-pollinated variety unchanged since WW2  (We call that an “heirloom”). 
Within each of these two large groups, there are several importantly different types of tomatoes:

1) Slicers (large, fairly round tomatoes, often red, with a high water content, for use in sandwiches, etc.), 
2) Roma, plum, or Paste tomatoes (smaller, oval, with a lower water content, useful for drying or making tomato paste), and
3) Cherry or Pear tomatoes are small, bite-sized tomatoes of varied colors, shapes, and flavors, including yellow pear tomatoes and red cherry or grape tomatoes (good for eating whole, like grapes).

It’s good to know which of these you want before you plant!
Every tomato variety is also either determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain size (about 1.2-1.5 m) and then stop growing.
All of their fruit becomes ripe in a short time window, usually about 2 weeks, and then the plants begin to die, producing no additional fruit.
Indeterminate tomato plants, by contrast, grow from the time you plant them until they are killed by frost, and can reach heights of 2-3 m if they are supported.
They produce and ripen new fruit steadily until frost.
Both indeterminate and determinate tomatoes need to be caged or staked, even so-called “dwarf” varieties.

Most (but not all) modern hybrid varieties are determinate, including most large red slicing tomatoes and most Roma or “paste” tomatoes.
Most (but not all) traditional or “heirloom” varieties are indeterminate.
Most (but not all) cherry tomatoes are indeterminate and can grow very, very tall.
Before you plant a tomato, find out it if it is indeterminate or determinate!
Many people are disappointed when their determinate tomato plants die in May or early June, even though it’s completely natural.

Information about tomato planting times.
Tomatoes have no frost tolerance and must be protected carefully if they are planted while there is still risk of frost.
It’s safest to wait until all risk of frost has passed before planting tomatoes.
Many growers plant a first planting of determinate tomatoes as early as possible, then put in a second planting of indeterminate tomatoes 4 to 6 weeks later.
The determinate tomatoes will yield a large amount of fruit quickly (good for summer canning, freezing, and eating), after which they stop producing and can be removed to make space for other crops. The indeterminate tomatoes start producing soon after and keep going until frost.


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Growing Macadamia

 Now, while Macadamias are not at all difficult to grow from seed, there is a degree of patience required for success.
We sell our seed nuts (intact) as this will guarantee at least seven years of viability before planting.
Fresh nuts are not ready to germinate, so all of our seed is at least 6 months old.
The seed can be planted intact and simply left to germinate of it’s own accord.
This is guaranteed to succeed as long as you are patient and willing to allow the seed to germinate as nature intended.
Your potting mix must be reasonably course. This will ensure that the seed does not rot while it is waiting to sprout.
Ours always germinate in a mixture of mulch and sand, up off the ground on a stand, and watered weekly.
To speed things along, you can scarify the seed coat to allow some moisture to penetrate the polished seed shell.
Cracking the outside casing is never the best method as it can damage the seed or simply provide access to insect , animal or fungal attack.
We use a bench grinder to simply remove the ‘polish’ from the seed coat in one small area only.
You can just as easily use a file to achieve the same result. Once the seal has been broken on the case, it can begin to absorb moisture at a natural rate and therefore signal to the embryo that it is time to get active. It seems very important not to help the seed escape it’s hard coating.
Almost as a right of passage, the growing seed must have the strength to break it’s way out to therefore become a robust plant. Seedlings that are helped along become weaker as time go by.

Once you have achieved germination do not shower the seedling with fertilizer, it does not need it yet.
The seed is quite able to supply enough energy to the emerging seedling.
Wait until you have at least four leaves on your seedling before applying a slow release pellet fertilizer.
Macadamias are quite tough and can be planted out when only 20 cm high.
Once again, these are a long lived tree, so don’t be impatient.

Download Macadamia PDF

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Growing Goji

If you have purchased fresh lycium berries, (Only possible during the fruiting season) they will come in plastic zip lock bags to maintain their moisture and viability.
The following instructions also apply if you have picked your own berries and are wanting to ‘plant on’.
Try and spread the pulp of the berry around.
It’s a sticky business but well worth the end result.
Extracting and planting the individual seeds usually just cuts down on the viability and is needlessly time consuming.
Three parts fill a tray or pot with seed raising mix, spread the berry pulp and seed and then sprinkle seed raising mix and sand lightly over the berry to about 3mm – 5mm in depth.
If you have purchased dry seed, it will need to be soaked for at least a day before planting or germination time is extended by up to three weeks.
Then carry one as above.
Germination is usually around 7 days but will vary with soil temperature and day length.

Once they have germinated…….
The pots must not dry out so be careful, but, after they have broken the soil surface they do not like to be too wet either. We water gently once a day until they are planted on or out.
Once they have achieved their second set of leaves you can tease them apart and give them an individual pot.
Keep them reasonably protected until they have reached 15 cm in height.

They will usually only generate one stem in pots so it is best to put them out as soon as the weather allows so that they can shoot multiple stems.
watering, but also need to have some air circulation within the pot as well, which is why seed raising mix and potting mix are preferable to soil at this stage.

If the seed raise mix that you have used, holds onto the water over the period of a day, then it is possibly too dense and is retaining too much moisture for the roots to ‘breathe’.

Some coarse potting mix will help to remedy this situation, added to the seed raise mix when you transplant.

If you have purchased seedlings then overall they are a very hardy plant but they tend to ‘sulk’ a little when posted or transplanted.
Their normal sulking position is ‘drooping’, which they can easily maintain for one to two weeks.
This is not usually a problem unless you panic and keep pumping water into them.
This will drown the roots.
Partly shaded, protected from wind, frost hail etc and a little patience is all that is required.
Do not forget that they are deciduous plants and in all environments will drop their leaves completely in Autumn/Winter.