Helen McKerral

About Helen McKerral

Horticultural journalist, photographer, contributor to many garden magazines, and author of 'Gardening on a Shoestring'. Adelaide Hills, South Australia

How to find and use cheap landscaping stone

With its unique natural beauty, stone is a favourite of gardeners everywhere. Whether used as steps, paving, retaining walls or buildings, this most original and durable of landscaping materials settles into its surroundings, ageing gracefully with a natural patina that appeals to our primitive aesthetic instincts in the same way as do forests and oceans. Continue reading

Extending the harvest (or avoiding the glut!)

Prolific vegetables – such as zucchini – produce more fruit each season than you know what to do with, but others bear for a short time only. Successive planting of vegetable crops is a reliable way of spreading the harvest through the season, but other tricks are less well-known. Read on for practical tips if, like me, you don’t religiously sow a line of seed every three weeks! Continue reading

How to brine black olives

A few months ago a friend gave me a wonderful gift of about fifteen kilos of olives…. and not just any olives. Peter Taverna had picked them but was too busy to brine them – would I care to do the honours? You bet I would! When he arrived with a food grade 20L bucket and the olives, I was gobsmacked. The fruit were enormous, way bigger than the giant Greek kalamatas we occasionally see in shops. Most fruit measured 50-55 mm in length, with some even bigger. Continue reading

How to grow and prune summer and autumn raspberries

Raspberries are expensive to buy but easy to grow in Australian temperate climate zones. If you plant autumn and summer varieties, you’ll have fruit from December to April. Autumn bearing raspberries are varieties like Heritage, Lloyd George, and Autumn Bliss. Summer bearing raspberries include Chilcotin, Neika, Nootka; Williamette bears lighter crops but from both first and second year canes. Continue reading

How to grow tamarillo or tree tomato

The tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) must surely be the most under-rated and under-planted fruit tree in my region… and yet it is unfussy, extremely fast-growing and bears delicious fruit (peel the rind after dunking in boiling water for 3 minutes, or halve fresh and scoop out the inside). The red cultivars are tart – ideal for preserves, pies, salads and desserts, whereas the orange ones are lovely eaten fresh as well. Continue reading

How to eat your garden – preserving the harvest

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Plant, Grow, Harvest, Cook. But this is after the Great Zucchini Glut. Anyone who’s grown zucchinis knows what this is and, believe me, it’s not pretty. Baby zucchinis, raw zucchinis, zucchinis fried, julienned into spaghetti, stuffed, in salads, in stir fries, dried into chips. Zucchini Nano Alba, Striata di Trieste, Black Jack. The pea and zucchini soup was actually quite nice, but by then we were so damn sick of them! And although the last plant was – thank God! – pulled up today, horribly, lurking in the spare room, are yet more marrows and spaghetti squash. Continue reading

Minuscule harvests

Hooray, hooray, it’s my first avocado harvest! Yep, that’s avocado harvest, singular. It was delicious – not quite the bushels I planned to give away to family and friends, but at least Geoff and I enjoyed half each as a mid afternoon snack… a small snack, as the avocado was not very big! Here it is: Continue reading

Wildflowers of the Dolomites, Italy – Part 3

During our 2013 trip to the Dolomites in northern Italy (Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 1 and Part 2), we were captivated by the mountains and scenery, and were lucky enough to revisit them in 2015. Carrying less gear in our packs (but still too much – next time we’ll be going ultralight!) – we once again used several of Gillian Prices’ Walking in the Dolomites Cicerone Guide books , plus topographical maps. Continue reading

Promenade du Paillon in Nice, France: A Public Open Space that Works!

Why are public open spaces so often empty of public? Sometimes it’s obvious – my hometown Adelaide’s infamous Festival Centre Plaza’s concrete desert is blazing in summer and icy in winter, and images of the proposed AUD $90 million facelift suggest little to change that. Adelaide’s Torrens Linear Park and Parklands greenbelt girding the CBD are magnificent, but the latter is most full of the public when it’s fenced off for pay-per-visit events, such as Clipsal or Womadelaide! Continue reading

Magic(al) mushrooms

It’s easy to overlook fungi in a garden… until they bother the plants we want to grow! We blast wilts, blights, rots, mildews and rusts with sulphur, copper, lime or potassium bicarbonate, or with the many proprietary chemicals on the market. Then there’s Phytophthera cinnamoni, widespread throughout the Adelaide Hills. Along the Heysen Trail, boot brushes on the edges of parks (or infested areas?) are meant to remove spores, though I can’t help but think that these apparently unmaintained dusty brushes are more likely to transfer spores between shoes Continue reading

How to protect soft fruit from millipedes

Ah, the luscious taste of strawberries straight from the garden – YUM! Unless they have a millipede inside: then it’s definitely BLECCCHHH! Millipedes aren’t toxic but they produce a highly irritant fluid when handled – or chewed! – that’s so foul-tasting and -smelling that many chickens won’t touch them, although apparently ducks will. Unfortunately, any duck that eats your millipedes will also eat everything else in your vegie garden! Continue reading

Fruit and vegies to grow in the shade

Most gardening books tell you that it’s impossible to grow vegies without at least six hours of direct sun daily – maybe true for the UK’s weak rays but, here in hot, sunny Oz, that maxim simply isn’t true. Sure, some vegies fruit less than what market gardeners require, but home gardeners can still harvest a crop to be proud of. Other vegies actually prefer a bit of protection from our blazing summer sun, and there are many ways to manipulate shade and microclimate. Read on for tips I’ve used with great success in my own garden, with its southerly aspect plus fences and trees to the north! Continue reading