Archive | February, 2012

Swap Shuffle Share.

24 Feb

A while back I caught wind that a new site was about to be launched. It attracted me because it was all about taking a local idea around gardening and sustainable food to all of Australia. As you know I’m all for anything gardening….urban, backyard, guerilla, sustainable, vegetable or fruit (just not flowers and ornamental, waste of good space IMHO). So when someone gives me the option to connect, share and swap excess backyard produce I was keen to get involved.

Swap Shuffle Share was launched on Australia Day 2012 with a whole bunch of teaser’s on Facebook and I’m glad to say the site has launched well with a growing following and all the feature’s you’d want from a social site. The FB page topped 1000 likes before launch and has steadily grown to just over 3000 likes in less than a month.

The site is the genesis of Natasha Kuperman. She describes herself as “keen novice gardener with an unruly backyard”.She wants to build communities to support and connect people with the aim to avoid the frustrations of growing your own food. It’s great that she’s both a keen gardner and sharing the experience with her kids who “squeal with delight” when they uncover a strawberry. From what I can gather she has started a local food swap group in her area and figured there’s appetite (pun intended) around Australia, hence the site.

The site has all the features you’d expect from a social site including the ubiquitous activity stream, friending and communities. What you don’t always see that I particularly like is the “visit” feature, which is a simple way visit a random group or person. It’s similar to twitter’s “discover” but being local feel’s much more real and connected.

The groups or communities range from generic to specific and as expected it’s the generic that have the most members. Frugal Gardening tops the list with Cooking / preserving & permaculture not far behind. The more specific communities are largely around local area’s such as rural NSW and Tassie. My personal favourite is the “Worms, I got em” because I “got em” and I “love em”.

Outside of the communities there are forums. We don’t usually see these on social sites however forums real benefit is bridging the gap between the fleeting activity stream with the more permanent (and largely non-social) blog topics. Forums provide a semi-permanent discussion board to continue conversations that might be lost in the activity stream. One downside to the forums though is that they are disconnected from any associated communities / groups. Linking these somehow would enable users to raise awareness of conversations happening outside of the community.

The site also has a directory of relevant topics such as member blogs (like mine), local food swaps & community gardens. There’s also an events page that is member driven and displayed chronologically. This could be quite a compelling aspect of the site if it hits critical mass.

So what’s the verdict? It’s a great site with noble intentions. I’d personally love to see it gain in popularity and become a single resource for urban and sustainable gardening and most importantly, sustainable food. However it will suffer without a critical mass so it’s good to see a multi-channel marketing approach across Facebook and Twitter.

If you haven’t already, check it out and join the “Worms, I got em” group, cause really, you should!


Hand pollinating passionfruit.

4 Feb

A while back I posted my research on the passiflora and the passionfruit plant. And after about a year of growing in pots and transplanting to the garden I have a great vine growing now. More to come on that progression but for now I’ve been doing some reading on hand pollinating the passiflora to help it set fruit.

The passiflora has both male and female bits however they need to be pollinated from different flowers. The flowers can be from the same plant for most of the passiflora family. My notes are focussed on the Passiflora Edulis (or common purple) variety.

To hand pollinate you first need to know a thing or two about plant morphology (just a fancy word for what bits do what!)

Here’s a quick run down on the flower parts for reproduction aka fruit making are:

  • Stamen – the full length is called the stamen with the anther on the end that contains the pollen. On the passiflora there are 5 of them (believed to represent the 5 wounds of Christ)
  • Carpel – on the passiflora there are 3 (believed to represent the 3 nails used in the crucifixion) and their job is to collect the pollen. They do this through the commonly known stigma on the end of the carpel. The stigma collects the pollen, runs it down the pollen tube (known as the “style“) and into the ovary. Just like humans, it’s the ovary that’ll turn into a baby, in this case a passionfruit!

So with that easy bit of information, how can we hand pollinate a passiflora? Easy!

  1. Clip the anther’s off the end of the staman
  2. Using your hands or a brush, rub the pollen onto stigma that’s on the end of the carpel
  3. Done!
While handpollinating seems straight forward there’s a feature of the passiflora that throws some complexity into the mix. In the early 20th century rich and famous women wore the passiflora flower as fashion accessories. They are quite an attractive flower but what probably made them more attractive was that they only flower for 24hrs. Open, pollinate, close and wither! 
While this exclusivity made it a fashion favourite it obviously plays against us handpollinators. If you have a large vine you should fine with a few flowers open each day but for smaller and less mature vines you might need to either watch the vine every day or collect the anthers. I can’t find anything specific on the passiflora but I’d suspect the pollen will last 24 – 48hrs, maybe more if you keep it chilled in the fridge. Let me know if you do any experiments on keeping pollen. 
I hope that helps get you more passionfruit set. Have you had to hand pollinate your flowers? Any tips you can share?