Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH DEBBI GIB­SON, HORTICULTURALIST

AN of­ten over­looked plant that is easy to grow and a guar­an­teed per­former, known for its brightly coloured flow­ers, is the nas­tur­tium.

Con­sid­ered by some as old fash­ioned, this or­na­men­tal plant also has culi­nary and hor­ti­cul­tural ben­e­fits.

Tropae­olum bet­ter known as nas­tur­tiums orig­i­nated in South and Cen­tral Amer­ica with around 80 species of both an­nual and peren­nial flow­er­ing plants.

There are three com­monly grown gar­den va­ri­eties in Aus­tralia; Tropae­olum

ma­jus, Tropae­olum nanum and Tropae­olum pere­grinum.

Nas­tur­tiums are tough and flour­ish in hot, sunny con­di­tions.

They flower best in full sun, but still grow well in part shade.

They tol­er­ate a wide range of soil types, pro­vided they have good drainage.

Nas­tur­tiums thrive on ne­glect and don’t re­quire much fer­til­is­ing.

If too much ni­tro­gen rich fer­tiliser or ma­nure is ap­plied, the plants will pro­duce lots of green fo­liage and few flow­ers. Nas­tur­tiums are eas­ily grown from seed.

Sow the seed di­rectly into the gar­den as seedlings don’t trans­plant very well.

In North East Vic­to­ria seeds can be sown from spring to early au­tumn.

The seeds will ger­mi­nate in two weeks and be­gin flow­er­ing af­ter eight weeks.

Nas­tur­tiums flower in sum­mer and con­tinue through au­tumn.

To ex­tend the flow­er­ing pe­riod, pick the flow­ers reg­u­larly.

Nas­tur­tium flower colours in­clude shades of or­ange, red and yel­low with sin­gle, semi dou­ble and dou­ble flow­ers.

Nas­tur­tiums are also ed­i­ble, renowned for their strong pep­pery taste; the flow­ers, buds and leaves are all ed­i­ble and high in vi­ta­mins A, C and D.

Nas­tur­tiums are also ben­e­fi­cial com­pan­ion plants.

They se­crete a mus­tard oil, which many in­sects find at­trac­tive and are drawn to, lur­ing pests away from more de­sir­able plants.

Planted near cab­bages, they at­tract the cab­bage white moth and near cu­cum­bers and squash plants, they de­ter cu­cum­ber bee­tles.

Nas­tur­tiums also dou­ble as habi­tat for ben­e­fi­cial preda­tory in­sects like spi­ders and ground bee­tles.

Some to try in­clude: Tropae­olum ma­jus - “Jewel of Africa”, “Cherry Rose”, “Blue Pepe”, “Em­press of In­dia”, “Gleam Moon”, “Gleam Scar­let”, “Gleam Dou­ble hy­brids mix”.

Tropae­olum nanum - “Jewel mix”, “Dou­ble Jewel Sal­mon”, “Peach Melba”, “Whirly­bird Red”, “Whirly­bird Mix”, and Tropae­olum pere­grinum - “Ca­nary Creeper”.

Happy gar­den­ing.

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