Edible Ornamentals & Organic Pest Control
Edible Ornamentals – My Top Ten
Growing your own ginger generally involves searching out
sprouting sections of fresh root ginger from the local
green grocer and planting them in a well drained,
nutrient enriched soil. Just plant the sprouting,
knobbly sections that are too small to peel. Plants die
down in the cooler months, so it is wise to place a
marker to indicate where the ginger has been planted.
Any unharvested rhizomes will emerge the following
season. To harvest, simply slice off a section of
underground rhizome, leaving the remainder of the plant
to continue growing.
Fresh galangal rhizomes suitable for planting are
available from fruit shops and supermarkets, but some
nurseries also stock potted plants. Galangal
provides a sharp, aromatic taste to dishes and is most
easily recognised in Thai soups. There are two types of
galangal (greater galangal and lesser galangal). The
smaller growing, lesser galangal has exquisitely
perfumed, white flowers, while greater galangal produces
spikes of small, unperfumed blooms.
There are hundreds of different types of rosemary, some
of which have remarkably different aromas. I grow
several different types, but the variety I prefer for
cooking is known as Tuscan Blue. This is a particularly
vigorous variety with a good flavour. It has straight,
thick stems perfect for using as skewers when making
lamb kebabs. Rosemary loves it hot and dry, so it is
perfect for pots or exposed, neglected parts of the
garden. Tuscan Blue also makes a great low hedge.
If you need a fruiting hedge of screen plant this
species is worth considering. Jaboticabas look a little
like native lillypillies. Fruit is borne directly on the
stems and branches. This allows you to trim the outside
foliage to any height or shape you like without
affecting fruiting. The fruit is an attractive shiny,
black ball that varies from marble to walnut size. The
skin is slightly bitter and need not be eaten. Inside
the flesh is sweet and grapelike. The fruit makes a
great tasting, maroon coloured jam.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
The leaves of the Kaffir lime are generally used in the
same way as a bay leaf, that is they are added to dishes
during the cooking process, but not eaten. For a
stronger flavour you can cut the leaves up very finely
and consume them. This hardy citrus tolerates
regular trimming, but try to allow the plant to become
reasonably well established before you start harvesting
leaves. Like all citrus, the Kaffir lime requires
regular fertilising. Oil or soap sprays will keep scale,
sooty mould and citrus leaf miner at bay. You can
successfully grow a Kaffir lime in a pot.
Curry Leaf Tree
Believe it or not, the curry leaf tree is a relative of
the common murraya. It is a drought hardy small
tree. The leaves are harvested to flavour dishes.
They can be fried in a little oil or coconut milk along
with other spices when making curries or cooked and
added to salads or vegetable dishes. The curry tree is
very well adapted to growing in a container. I prefer to
grow mine in a pot as they can sucker in the garden.n
Prune away any seeds that form to prevent them
See Food Recipes for potato bahji
I love using fresh bay leaves and bay trees are really
easy to grow. They are perfectly adapted to growing in
pots and respond well to regular trimming. Plants can be
slow growing initially, so allow your bay tree to become
well established before harvesting too much foliage.
Scale and sooty mould can be problematic, but oil or
soap sprays quickly bring these problems under control.
Fresh bay leaves are also an excellent repellent for
ants. Crush a few fresh leaves and scatter them around
the pantry, windowsill or on top of your worm farm and
your ants will disappear.
This native tree (Backhousia citriodora) is
widely grown as a garden ornamental, but few people
actually use the leaves in cooking. It grows into a tall
shrub or small tree. It is trimmed as a tall hedge in
Brisbane’s Roma Street Parklands. The crumbled, dried
leaves make a nice marinade for chicken. The flavour is
quite strong, so do not overdo it. Fresh leaves are very
popular for lemon tea. Include lemon myrtle foliage in
your next vase of flowers and enjoy the aroma throughout
See Food Recipes for lemon myrtle
Supermarkets stock a great range of fresh chillies these
days. If you find the ones you like they can be a
great source of planting stock. The cold storage
that the fruits are subjected to does not seem to affect
the ability of the seeds they contain to germinate.
Simply cut the fruit open, scrap out and wash the seeds
in water. Allow them to dry and then plant them.
Chilli plants are subject to nematodes just like their
related tomatoes and capsicums. Be sure to add
plenty of organic matter to the soil and plant them in
different spots around the garden. Where the
problem persists, you could try treating the soil with a
soil conditioner containing neem. Chilli plants are
short-lived perennials so you will have to replace them
every couple of years. If you live in a very cold
area, they will go very dormant over the winter, but
will generally come away again during the spring.
See Food Recipes for chilli jam
Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica) is an aquatic plant
popular in Asian cuisine, in fact you have possibly
eaten it unknowingly in vegetable based dishes. If you
have a pond or water feature you can grow kangkong.
Simply pot up some cuttings from a fresh bunch purchased
at your local Asian vegetable stockist. Cover the top of
the pot with pebbles to weigh down the potting mix and
plunge it into your water feature. It grows well and can
be harvested for around nine months of the year.
Kangkong dies down in winter but will generally reshoot
each spring or can be replanted from seeds available
from Asian grocery stores or from fresh cuttings. Use
kangkong as a stir-fry vegetable or spinach substitute.
Developments in Organic Pest Control
A pest or disease only becomes a problem when its
numbers increase to the point where serious damage is
inflicted on plants. Damage may be;
(leaf beetles on potatoes need to eat an awful lot of
leaves before the harvest is seriously affected).
Seasonal (broccoli planted out of season is plagued
by cabbage white butterfly).
Symptomatic of a
bigger problem (compacted soil or hungry plants are
more likely to suffer from pests and diseases).
Self Inflicted (inexperience,
overwatering/underwatering, pushing growth with nitrogen
fertilisers – organic or otherwise, trace element
deficiencies, growing susceptible varieties).
The pest or disease is not the problem, but merely
the symptom of something out of balance.
Even the best organic garden has outbreaks of pest or
disease problems from time to time. The Australian
Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is
responsible for determining which products can be
registered for use by commercial producers and home
gardeners. New organically based products available for
use by home gardeners include the following:
(Yates) - Spinosad at 10g per litre (produced by
soil borne bacteria) sprayed to control caterpillars
including cabbage white butterfly, diamond back moths,
heliothus (tomato grub), potato tuber moth, corn
earworm, light brown apple moth and cherry slug.
(Organic Crop Protectants) -
Contains Spinosad at .24gm per litre (produced by soil
borne bacteria), humectants (to allow it to remain soft
and effective for up to 7 days) plus sugars and yeast as
insect attractants. Use to control fruit fly. Spray the
entire tree at a low dosage or spray the lower foliage
only or nearby structure (eg fence) with a more
concentrated solution. Attracts and kills both male and
female Queensland fruit flies.
Eco-Rose (Organic Crop Protectants) - Contains
activated bicarbonate soda, plus seaweed based
additives. Registered for disease control including
powdery mildew in roses, grapes and strawberries as well
as black spot on roses. It alters the leaf surface pH
and the osmotic balance on plant surfaces which inhibits
germination of fungal spores. Commercial growers
purchase this same product in larger volumes as EcoCarb.
Eco-Oil (Organic Crop Protectants) - This is a plant
based oil (primarily canola oil), rather than petroleum
based oils (white oil) which tend to burn plants more
easily. It is used as an additive to make other products
such as Eco-Rose stick to the foliage. It can be used on
its own to repel citrus leaf miner and suffocate mites,
aphids, mealy bugs whitefly and scale and anything else
you can spray directly with the product (eg small
NatraSoap (Yates) - This potassium based soap
dehydrates plant pests and can be used to control mites,
aphids, mealy bugs, whitefly and scale.