The Dirt

The Dirt


tips, tricks & advice

Vasili, I have a 7ft-tall devil plant and I was wondering how to go about propagating a cutting from this so as I can graft plants onto it. When is the new series coming back on SBS? Thanks, Dave Sam & Dave, Moorabbin, Vic
Hi Dave, To propagate the plant, simply cut the side shoots off, keeping them about 200mm long, remove the leaves, then bruise the bottom part of the stem (use a hammer and hit it once or twice lightly at the base, but don’t crush it completely). Then plant it into a 150mm pot filled with propagating mix. Keep it in a warm spot with plenty of sunlight and water regularly, within a few weeks new shoots will appear indicating the plant has set roots. Wait a further four weeks before grafting.

Hi Vasili You have a great fun show. I am in the process of preparing olives, as per your recipes of a few weeks ago. I have been preparing them in the water now for two weeks, changing the water every day, but the olives still have a very bitter taste. Should I have cut or pierced the olives before starting the process? I am actually, doing a double amount of olives to the same quantity of water as stated on the fact sheet. Would this matter? My question: how do you know if the olives are ready to be put into the salt preparation stage? Thanking you Julia Nuich, WA
Hi Julia, Generally, the olives will still have a bitter taste even after two weeks in water, which you should have been changing every day. Cutting or piercing the olives speeds up the cleansing process but isn’t imperative. So after the second week, just follow the procedure and prepare the brine solution as per the recipe on the show, but there will be an effect with the end result if you have used more olives than specified in the recipe, so you might need to keep them in water for a few more days. You will also need to increase the quantity of brine according to the additional olives used to ensure good coverage with minimal loss of flavour. Maresi!

Vasili My sister in Perth tells me she saw something about adding aspirin to vegie plants to make them grow beautiful. Please, could you tell me more. I am a Canadian and live in the UK. Diane Haffendon-Donaldson
Hello Diane, my Canadian UK friend, Aspirin (acetylsalicylic) is made from the white willow tree and is an activator of systemic acquired resistance (SAR). All plants, when under stress, naturally produce salicylic acid, but not fast enough and not in sufficient quantities to really help them out in time. So the bugs get them and diseases get them and they show even more stress. Giving plants aspirin boosts their acid levels, which not only clears their headaches but also keeps the bugs away. Vasili

Hey Vasili, Great show, great website. You got any ideas to keep the caterpillars off my caulis? Maresi. Mick,
Hi Mick, You can do one of three things: 1. Pick the caterpillars off the plants by hand, which will require you to be out there at night or in the early hours of the morning — you may need a torch. 2. Squash a handful of them and stir the squishy mess into a bowl of boiling water, cover and allow to ferment for a couple of hours, then strain and spray the juice back onto the plants. 3. Make garlic oil solution and spray it onto your plants. You’ll find the recipe in the Garden Problems section of the magazine (page ???).

Dear Vasili, I’ve noticed that my tomatoes were starting to stunt and I found purple veins in the leaves. I did the bacterial wilt test where you cut the stalk and suspend it in water to see if any milky fluid comes out, and none did. Could you please recommend any products/cures for this problem? Kind regards David Hunter, Berwick
Hi David, If you did the test and nothing came out, it would be for either of these two reasons: 1. It may be spider mites, which are not noticeable to the naked eye. They create a silvery tinge on the upper side of the leaves and purpling of the veins. Mites are very hard to combat, so it’s always important to apply some preventative sprays using organic oil to stop them from spreading. 2. Your soil may be too acidic, which also causes the leaves to curl, burn at the tips and develop purple veins. Do a pH test on your soil to see whether it’s too acidic — you can buy a pH soil test kit from all good garden centres. If the results show it is too acidic, you will need to add some garden lime to balance the pH, but don’t apply it too close to the plants and remember not to add any compost or manures to the garden for a while. Vasili