Saturday, 16 June 2018

Thistles, Rooftop Gardens and Plants From Afar

What’s On The Show Today?

When a co-presenter’s garden features in a gardening magazine, we want to know about it, that’s in the Plant Doctor segment, something you might throw not grow in Vegetable Heroes, and a shrub that's  super fast growing in Plant of the Week, plus a a flower whose names comes from looking like a golden thread in Talking Flowers.


Steve's Garden On Show
Have you ever wondered how gardens are chosen to feature in gardening magazines?
Well, it all starts with a photo.
Steve's Garden photo Brent Wilson
Perhaps you’ve sent in a photo of your garden to a magazine editor hoping that they would think it worthy enough to come around and photograph?
If you haven’t, and you have such a garden, then it may just be timely to start taking photos, then choosing some of the best ones to send in.
RWG contributor from the Plant Doctor segment did just that.
Let’s find out how it came about.
I'm talking withSteve Falcioni General Manager of

Steve has a rooftop garden in the inner city of a major city, so it’s subject to many plant unfriendly conditions like strong winds, blazing sun or cold hard shade.
Over time time with the correct plant choices, and possibly some bad ways along the way that got turfed, Steve managed to create a suburban oasis.
Steve Falcioni’s rooftop garden shows he’s mastered the art of gardening on concrete (Photo credit – Brent Wilson for ABC Gardening Australia magazine)
Steve mentioned Aptinia cordifolia, Ficus pumila. Tracheospermum asiaticum, as ground covers to protect the potted plants behind.
When asked if Steve ever grew Dichondra repens " Silver Falls," he said that because it went " off" ( looked tatty) during the winter months, it wasn't appealing enough to keep.
There are also indoor plants featured in this garden in a light filled apartment.
If you have any questions either for me or Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Globe artichokes or Cynara ascolymus belongs to the Thistle family.

What a history this vegetable has!
There’s an Aegean legend about a girl called Cynara…who to cut a long story short got to be made into a goddess.
However she was spotted returning to her earthly family whom she missed and for her troubles was turned into the plant we know as the artichoke or Cynara ascolymus.
This legends originates about 370 BC.
Globe Artichoke Flower
Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and as well as an aphrodisiac.
Artichokes, including leaves, were thought to be a diuretic, a breath freshener and even a deodorant.

It’s also known as the French artichoke and the globe or crown artichoke, but is not related to the Jerusalem artichoke, which is actually a tuber. 

What is an Artichoke?
The artichoke ‘vegetable’ is actually the flower head which is picked and eaten before it flowers.
Only the heart and the fleshy base of the leaves is edible.
The floral parts in the centre and base of the flower (the choke) must be removed before eating. 

  • Even after artichokes are separated from their parent plant they’re still living organs in which respiration processes become the main function because their nutrient supply has been cut off. 
  • In short, artichokes can be very vulnerable and temperamental if they’re stored in poor ventilation,. 
  • What you’ll get is fermented artichokes if CO2 levels and atmospheric oxygen supplies aren’t enough for what they need 
  • That means you need to store them as if they were a cut flower, in a container of water. 
  • A centimetre should be cut off the stalk so there’s a fresh end to absorb water. 
  • If it’s not practical because you’re short on space in your a fridge t, they’ll still remain fresh when sprinkled with water and stored in a plastic bag. 
What does the plant look like?

Like a very, very large grey leaved thistle plant, and up through the middle of the plant comes this big fat segmented looking flower bud.
This is the bit you eat before it turns into flower.

When to grow you Globe artichoke

August until November for sub-tropical and temperate areas.
September through November in cool temperate areas and for Arid areas, June through to December.
In Tropical areas, grow Globe Artichokes from April to July. 

How Big Will They Grow?
  • Artichokes need a bit of space to grow - a mature plant will end up about 1.5m high and across. 
  • Because the plants are perennial and will stay in the same place in the garden for a number of years, pick a spot you don’t mind them being for a few years. 
  • For cold districts, Globe Artichokes won’t put up with the really cold winters because they don’t like temperatures below freezing. 
  • For these gardeners, choose a cold hardy variety from your local garden centre and grow it as an annual. 
  • They prefer an open, sunny spot in the garden, with well-drained soil, and of course add some compost and decomposed manure or fertiliser. 
  • Artichokes can be planted from seed now, but it’s far easier to plant suckers. 
  • A mature plant usually has a main stem and a number of lateral suckers. 
  • If you know of someone with a plant ask them to separate sucker using a spade. 
  • Trim back any woody leaves or roots and plant in a suitable place in mid-late winter. 
  • Water plants well until they are established and protect them from frost and later on from heat stress when they’re still young. 
  • Once mature, they’re fairly resilient. 
  • Next autumn build up mulch around them, and cut stems back once the leaves go yellow. 
  • Mature plants will appreciate a boost of fertiliser and mulch each spring. 
When to harvest those globe artichokes.

Not in the first year, because that’s when you take off any flower heads so that the young plants have a chance to grow and produce leaves.

From the second year on, pick the artichokes (generally 10-12 heads) once they are swollen, but before the scales have started to open and turn brown on the tips.
When picking your artichoke, leave a few centimetres of stem.
Small buds can be picked early in the season and eaten whole.
Globe artichokes will get crown rot if the drainage isn’t any good, and give them a good rinse to get rid of any earwigs and other insects.

Why are they good for you?
High in vitamin C and dietary fibre.
Current research is showing benefits to the liver from cynarin, a compound found in the artichoke's leaves.
Silymarin is another compound found in artichokes that has powerful anitoxidant properties and may help the liver regenerate healthy tissue.
Artichokes are nutrient dense, so, for the 25 calories in a medium artichoke, you're getting 16 essential nutrients!


Pittosporum " Tasman Ruffles"
Pittosporum tenuifolium "Tasman Ruffles."

Are you interested in a screening hedge that can grow to a metre a year?
This next plant has varieties that have delicate lacey leaves that are contrasted by that very dark coloured bark. 

The genus comes in a variety of shapes and sizes from quite small and almost self hedging to the larger screening shrubs.

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of

Let’s find out more about them

Originating in New Zealand, these plants are pretty hardy and even second line salt tolerant.
Pittosporum Golf Ball 
Jeremy also grows Pittosporum Golf Ball, which grows into the size of a basketball.
This pittosporum is ideal because it's practically self shaping with the internodes being much closer than you would expect to see on a pittosporum.

Pittosporums are generally tough plants but there is one exception though.
If you’re trying to grow a pittosporum on the shady south side of a fence in just half a metre of soil next to a pool, be prepared to be disappointed.
The bottom half will lose its leaves and you’ll eventually see them die off one by one.
This is the experience of a neighbouring garden which is little more than pool, these poor pittosporums and a patch of lawn.
If you have a question either for me or the plant panel why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Crocus vernus ( Dutch Crocus), Crocus sativus.(Saffron Crocus)
In the Iridaceae family

The latin word crocatus, meaning saffron yellow, gives the Crocus flower it's name. 
The crocus is the first to flower in Spring, although in some districts its Jonquils.
Looks like a light bulb so some people call it the light bulb flower.

 Growing Crocus
Plant crocus bulbs 8-10cm  deep (with the pointy end up).
Plant dormant bulbs in Autumn.
Crocuses needs a period of winter chilling, and will not persist long in warmer areas. Dormant Crocus corms require 6-8 weeks chilling in a refrigerator before planting out in warmer areas. Crocus are best treated as an annual in warmer areas.

Did You Know?
It takes 165 crocus flowers for 1 gram of expensive saffron spice. Saffron is the stigma (female flower part) of saffron crocus but you can grow.

I'm talking with Floral Therapist, Mercedes Sarmini of

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Dive into Garden History, Little Pea Shoots, and Medicinal Calendula

What’s On The Show Today?

What some directors of Botanic gardens got up to in the Garden History segment, grow something that’s super quick and super easy in Vegetable Heroes, and a plant that covers the ground in part shade, plus a flower for the medicinal garden in Talking Flowers.


William Guilfoyle
How’s your garden history knowledge?
You may have heard of Gertrude Jekyll, an Australian Garden Designer of some note, but have you heard of William Guillfoyle?
Melbourne Botanic Gardens' Volcano planting photo : Stuart Read
Possibly not, but this next segment is about to change all that.
Why are we talking about William Guillfoyle?
Because first and foremost, he had a lot to do with making Melbourne Botanic gardens the beautiful space it is today.
Let’s find out some history
I'm talking withStuart Read committee member of the Australian Garden History Society.

William Guillfoyle was not a botanist, but a horticulturalist, so had a different view of how a botanic garden should be presented to the public.
He came from a family of nurserymen/women and first worked in his parents' famous " Exotic" nursery in Double Bay.
Melbourne Botanic gardens volcano planting photo : Stuart Read
The Exotic nursery was one of the major nurseries in Sydney from the 1840's and imported thousands of Fuchsias, conifers, and ferns
. Plus it also had collections of Australian plants grown from seed collected on expeditions.
Guillfoyle was Director of Melbourne Botanic Gardens from 1873 - 1910
Plus, William was responsible for making available all those Jacaranda seedlings which now make Sydney and many regional centres so popular with Jacaranda tours in November.

If you have any questions either for me or Sotuart, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Small Stuff: Microgreens

Growing peas as microgreens, or shoots.
Peas are of course Pisum sativum scientifically speaking.

You might think that growing sprouts or shoots which have be re—branded as Microgreens is a relatively modern invention.
If you did, then you’d be wrong because medicinally and nutritionally, sprouts have a long history.

Did you know that Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago?

But though accounts of sprouting appear in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, it took centuries for the West to fully realize its nutrition merits.

In the 1700's, sailors were riddled by scurvy which is of course caused by a lack of Vitamin C.
Because of scurvy sailors suffered heavy casualties during their two to three year voyages.
From 1772-1775, Captain James Cook had his sailors eat limes, lemons and varieties of sprouts; which has heaps of Vitamin C.
These plus other fresh fruits and vegetables and a continuous program of growing and eating sprouts were credited with the breakthrough, thus solving the mariners' greatest casualty problem.

We obviously don’t have problems with scurvy now so why should we grow Pea Sprouts or Pea shoots as some people call them?

  • Pea sprouts/shoots or microgreens are great for small spaces – they grow fast, taste delicious and are rich in Vitamin C, A and protein. 
  • They’re easy to grow, they’re also perfect to try if you’re starting out. 
  • Seeing (and eating!) the fruits of your labour in just in two or three weeks is rewarding and motivating. 
  • Plus, pea shoots are a good choice for a shady spaces or to grow inside over winter – just sow a stray or two and keep near a bright window. 
So How Do You grow pea sprouts? 
The Water Method
  • Start with a tray that has a water reservoir and a sort of mesh or grate above it.
  • Fill the reservoir with water.
  • Place some moistened paper towel over the mesh or grate section.
  • Place your soaked pea seeds very close together; no more than a pea's distance apart.
  • Place near a sunny windowsill.
  • Keep the reservoir topped up.
  • Mist daily.
  • Sow your microgreen seeds.
  • In a few weeks you'll have microgreens sprouting everywhere.

The Soil Method
  • Firstly, soak the peas in water for 24 hours (dried peas sold for cooking will normally grow fine and are much cheaper than buying seed packets). 
  • Soaking the peas in water for 24 hours isn’t essential – but it helps to speed up the process of germination and they should double in size. 
  • Secondly, Select a container 6-9 cm deep. 
  • An old tray or Styrofoam box from a market stall will do fine – just make sure it has holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out. 
  • The trays sold in gardening stores for seed growing are about the right size, too. 
  • Next Fill your container with compost or potting mix, about1 cm deep to 1 ½ cm below the top. 
  • It’s always a good idea to use the best quality potting mix you can find – but having said that, pea shoots are pretty unfussy – and almost any mix seems to be OK. 
  • After that, water the mix then sow the seeds on top of it. 
  • If you want to use worm castings, never put more than 20% or 1/5 casting with the mix because you don’t want to burn your new shoots. 
  • You can sow them very closer together – I try to leave a gap the size of a pea between each seed. 
  • If you wanted to grow full sized pea plants, you’d sow the seeds further apart. 
  • But as we’re only growing shoots, we can get away with close spacing 
  • Cover with seed raising mix or potting mix– about the thickness of a pea. 
  • Then finally water the surface lightly again. 
  • TIP: if you’re using cheap potting mix, add some vermiculite to increase the water holding capacity and water your sprouts with a seaweed solution every time you water. 
  • That’s it! All you need to do now is keep soil is moist – check it everyday for the next 7 – 10 days using the thumb test. 
  • Use your thumb to press against the top of the soil. 
  • If your thumb comes off clean and dry, water the peas. 
  • If your thumb comes off even slightly moist or with a little soil, you’re good until tomorrow. 
  • Another test is to lift the tray. 
  • As you gain experience with growing sprouts and shoots in the container, you’ll get to know how heavy or light the tray is. 
  • Light trays means it probably needs water. 
  • If you are growing on a windowsill, or where there you have light coming in from just one side, you will want to rotate the trays so that the shoots will get sunlight more evenly. 
  • In two to three weeks (a bit longer in cold weather) your crop will have grown 7 – 10 cm tall. 

All you need to do now is pinch off each shoot just above the bottom leaves. Some of the pea shoots will regrow again giving you a second harvest.
You don’t have to eat them all at once but instead store harvested pea shoots or sprouts in resealable bags in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
TIP: don’t wash the pea shoots until ready to cook with them.
The extra water from washing will deteriorate the pea shoots faster.
Keep the shoots dry and the pea shoots should stay fresh for over 2 weeks!
If you find that there is moisture in the bag, take a single paper towel, and place it in the bag.

What next?
When the crop has finished, put the roots in your worm farm or compost heap if you have one. Worms seem to like them very much!

Why are they good for You?
Pea Shoots are a nutritious leaf with high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A.
A 50g bag of these tasty greens offers more than half of the RDA for vitamin C, a quarter of the RDA for vitamin A and significant amounts of folic acid plus Calcium, Iron and Phosphorus.
But wait there’s more, they also contain amino acids and they’re quick to prepare providing a tasty and convenient way to help people achieve their ‘5 serves of veg a day’ – especially as they are ideal partners for other vegetables whether served hot or as part of a mixed salad.


Ajuga reptans " Ruby Glow"
Carpet Bugle
Do you want a ground cover that suits shade, still flowers and provides plenty of colour?
William Turner, a 16th century physician and naturalist described it as ‘It is a blacke herbe and it groweth in shaddowy places and moyst groundes.’-
This can only be Ajuga reptans.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of
Let’s find more about it

Not only does Carpet Bugle cope with shade but it copes with sun as long as it gets sufficient watering.
It's great as a weed suppressing ground cover because it tightly hugs the ground and creeps along very lightly to form a dense cover.
If you want extra plants, simply divide the plants in Autumn and either pot up straight away or place in another garden location.
Nobody knows why it’s really called Bugle flower , it’s one of botany’s mysterys.
If you have a question either for me or the plant panel why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Calendula officinalis: Pot Marigold
Calendula derives from the Latin calendas, 
The reason is possibly because the plant flowers every month even in winter where temperatures aren’t too low.
The petals are edible and can be used fresh in salads or dried and used to colour cheese or as a replacement for saffron.
A yellow dye has been extracted from the flowers
You can toss them into a salad or soup; the taste is tangy and the bright colour enhances food.
Growing Calendula
Sow direct or in pots after the last frost has passed.
Companion Planting
Calendula repels a number of bad nematodes in the soil, but may attract slugs. 
Plant with tomatoes and asparagus.
Where will it grow?
Calendula grows best when sown directly into the garden. It tolerates any type of soil and will grow in partial shade to full sun.

Calendulas will do well in almost any soil, and semi-shade as well.
Calendula takes well to pot culture, and is easily grown in a variety of pots and window boxes on a balcony or deck.
I'm talking with florist, Mercedes Sarmini of

Video record live during broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney, Wednesdays 5pm.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Tight Spaces with Onions and Lilacs

What’s On The Show Today?

Preparing your plants for winter in “gardening in tight spaces” part 2 in the Backyard Biodynamic segment, something to make you cry in veggies, but why? in Vegetable Heroes, and plants that hide fences really well in Design Elements, plus best suited for a cold climate in Talking Flowers.


Gardening in Tight Spaces part 2
Keeping Your Plants Warm.
Last segment was all about how to keep the heat off your pots, but now we’re in the depths of Autumn, soon to be Winter so we want that warmth.
For every avid gardener, we want to use all the spaces we have to grow plants.
But what do we do with the cold to protect out plants especially if your space gets little sun?
Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Diane Watkin, Principle founder and member of Bioydnamics Sydney.

The same technique of keeping the sun off your pots is used to keep your plants warm.
the main difference is that you want the warmth during the day, so you are mostly reversing what you did in summer to keep the sun off.
Erect some sort of cover for your pots and put this on at night, but take it off during the day so the plant can enjoy the sun's rays.
You may have a glass cloche, but most likely you'll have to rig something up using sticks, twigs, shade-cloth, or other material.
TIP: Using diamotaceous earth, put a handful in a bucket of water, mix it up and then spray onto the soil. The silica in the diamotaceous earth will raise the temperature of the soil by 1-2 degrees, which may just make the difference.
If you have any questions either for me or Diane you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives.

Most of these have corms or bulbs or underground stems with long thin leaves and clusters of varying numbers of flowers. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Did you know that onions were grown as a crop and eaten since prehistoric times?
Onions are even mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto a banquet table.

Allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives. 

When to grow Onions? 

In sub-tropical, cool temperate, warm temperate and arid climates you can plant them from April until August.
Onions are sensitive to the day length for formation of flowers, so it’s important to select the right variety (early – mid-season – late).
These varieties have different requirements in the length of daylight hours.

Early varieties are short day length onions, mid-season varieties are medium day length onions, and late varieties are long day length onions.

If planted out of season, onions may bolt to seed prematurely.

For example in temperate climates mid-season onions are sown in winter, growing through spring and harvested in summer. These include Sweet Red and Brown Spanish Onions. 
They love sunny well drained beds, especially when the bulbs mature in summer. 

So why Grow Onions?
  • Onions are a good companion plant. 
  • Grown around the garden they repel pests. 
  • They contain sulphur which is a strong disinfectant. 
  • Did you know that onions were was used to heal gun shot wounds and during World War 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in the juice as a wound dressing. 

How to Grow Onions with Success.
  • Remember to always lime your soil well a week or two before planting onions. 
  • They love a sweet or alkaline soil. 
  • Don't forget avoid applying manures and blood and bone to the beds in which you're about to grow your onions because they prefer alkaline soil. 
  • You can use spent mushroom compost instead of cow manure. 

Sowing seeds with Success
  • Onion seeds can be sown into seed raising mix into punnets. 
  • Or if you want to sow them directly into the garden, make it easy for yourself, mix the seed with some river sand-say one packet of seed to one cup of sand and sow it that way. Bit like sowing carrots! 
  • They can be transplanted to garden beds when the seedlings are around 3 inches (8 cms) tall. 
  • According to the “Vegetable Patch” website, there is a secret to planting onion seedlings. 
  • Instead of planting them sticking straight up, lay them down in a trench and move the soil back over their roots. 
  • In about 10 days they're standing up and growing along strongly. 
Some tips to keep your onions growing strongly is
1. Hand weed around onions to avoid disturbing their roots and bulbs.
2. Keep away from nitrogen based liquid fertilisers when your onions are maturing. Otherwise their efforts will go into their leaves instead of their bulb.
3 Regularly water your onions. Lack of water can delay growth or split the bulb. 
4 Because of their strong taste pests generally leave onions alone.

When Do you Pick Your Onions?
Harvest onions (except spring onions) when the tops yellow and start drying.
This usually takes 6 months, so if you plant seedlings today, yours will be ready in December.
Add a couple of weeks if you’re using seeds.
Pull the whole plant from the ground and leave it to dry in the sun.
Turn it every few days and avoid getting them wet (eg dew or rain).
Hang them in a cool dry place for around 3 weeks to cure.
If you store them in a cool dry place they should keep for a year.
This explains why you can buy onions all year round.
Eat the bulbs without a good dry skin first .

Why do we cry when we cut onions?
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds.
When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place.
First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odour.
Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulfur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Keeping Onions in the fridge can help with this problem.
To avoid a bitter flavour never, never buy onions that have begun to sprout greens from their stem portion.

This means they’re more than a year old.

If you see sprouts forming in your onions stored at home, simply snip them off and use the green part like chives, put the rest in the compost.

Why Are They Good For You?
Some health studies have shown raw onions to be effective in lowering overall cholesterol while raising HDLs, the good cholesterol.
Additionally, onions kill infectious bacteria, help to control blood sugar, aid in dissolving blood clots, and may help to prevent cancer.


Plants to hide that fence
Are you the sort of gardening that doesn’t think too much about the look of the fence?
Perhaps you’ve had the fence so long that you’ve gotten used to the idea of looking at it without realizing that it’s really an eyesore.
Montanoa hibiscifolia: Mexican Tree Daisy
It’s really important to conceal the fence for a few reasons.
You may remember that last week I said, no-one is saying “ my garden looks too big.”
Plus it’s not all about climbers, climbers climbers, to hide the fence.
Let’s find out. 
That was Peter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Hiding the fence will make the garden look bigger.
So, Peter mentioned
Viburnum odoratissimum “Dense Fence” or Viburnum odoratissimum “ Quick Fence.” if you’re wanting a free standing shrub.
Mexican Tree Daisy or Montanoa hibsicifolia
For Cool Temp districts:
Prunus lusitanica - Portugese Laurel Prunus laurocerasus - Cherry Laurel 
  If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to


Syringia vulgaris: Lilac
We all love the Lilac but all can't grow it.

Lilac is a deciduous medium to tall shrub. 

Highly fragrant flowers appear to cover the bush Spring.

What Lilacs Like:
Lilac Shrubs in Vienna: Photo M. Cannon

Prefers good, rich soil in cooler districts but not clay soils; prefer sandy, gravelly soils. 
Tolerant of lime, resents acid soils.
The Story Behind The Name
The story of lilac, according to Greek mythology, begins with a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac's botanical name). Captivated by her beauty, Pan, the god of the forests and fields, chased Syringa through the forest. Frightened by Pan's affections, Syringa escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush – the flower we now refer to as lilac.
In A Vase:
Lilac flowers can last up to a week in the vase if you singe the bottom of the stem.
Because of the sap in the stem, it's best not to mix with other flowers in the same vase.
I'm talking with florist, Mercedes Sarmini of 

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 23rd May 2018

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Sweet Peas and All Things Purple

What’s On The Show Today?

What to grow in tight spaces part 1 in the Backyard Biodynamic segment, purple veggies, but why? in. Vegetable Heroes, and plants that suppress weeds in Design Elements, plus the sweetest of flowers in Talking Flowers.


Gardening in Tight Spaces.
More and more gardeners across Australia have downsized and only have only a very small patch of dirt, or just a balcony.
You might only have a window ledge or a couple of steps but you still want some sort of garden.
Pity that apartments weren’t designed to follow the sun, can you imagine if they did?
You might have a beautiful sunny balcony in warm weather but it's dark, and cold in the cooler months. The reverse is true of course.
So what can the hungry gardener do to grow a few plants on their balcony?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Diane Watkin, Principle founder and member of Bioydnamics Sydney.

Diane shifts her pots from one side of the garden to the other every 6 months so she can catch 4-5 hours of sunlight to grow her herbs and veggies in pots.

It’s up to you really as to whether or not you choose plastic pots, some garden centres do accept plastic pots, but I’m not sure what they do with them. 
To keep the heat off your terracotta pots, before planting them up, soak them in water for about twenty minutes.
After potting, wrap an old tea towel or piece of hessian that you have wetted.
Spray the outer material every day when it has dried to keep up the moisture.

Diane has a particular recipe for filling garden pots, however, this may not be feasible, and too heavy for your particular situation. 

Remember, find out the weight bearing load of your balcony before you start filling tip with terracotta pots and garden soil. 

If you have any questions either for me or Diane you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Purple Vegetables are Go!

Today it’s about growing purple veggies.
What veggie can you think of that’s purple?
Did you say eggplants and then were a bit stumped? 

  • What about purple carrots and beetroot?
  • Ok beetroot is sort of a reddish purple, but it can be considered purple, I’ll tell you why in a minute.
  • There’s also purple cauliflower and purple sweet potato not to mention purple chilli peppers.
  • Let’s not forget purple podded peas and purple king beans, red/purple mizuna, red Russian Kale, Red/purple cabbages. Need I go on?
  • So there are a few purple veggies out there.

Why should we grow purple veggies and why are they purple in the first place?
They’re purple is because purple vegetables contain pigments called anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red wine.
Think blueberries that are marketed as a superfood.
They also contain other health-promoting pigments such as betacyanins and carotenes.
Those anthocyanins and other pigments are good for our health.
Did you know though that anthocyanins are not the only cause of red colour in fruit and vegetables.
Betacyanins, members of the betalain family, are distinct from anthocyanins and the two pigments are not found in the same plants together.
Betacyanins also have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which contribute to health.
Here are some growing information for some of these purple veggies.

Purple cauliflower
In Arid zones, plant direct into the garden from April until June.

In cool temperate and temperate zones, February was the recommended time to sow seeds but you can sow seedlings until the end of May.
If your district is sub-tropical, transplant seedlings until the end of June also.
Purple caulie is a lovely coloured vegetable that contains all of the health properties of white cauliflower with the added bonus of extra anthocyanin (that lovely antioxidant that's so great for you!).
Just don't be surprised when it turns green once cooked. You can use purple cauliflower in any recipe that calls for cauliflower.

Purple Cabbage.
To sow cabbage, in temperate, sub-tropical and arid districts, March until June is the best time, but temperate and sub tropical districts can have another go from August until November,
In cool temperate areas March until May is best then again in August.
Purple cabbages are not only lovely in colour, but extra good for you with more than double the amount polyphenols than green cabbage.
Purple Vegetables: Shutterstock
Purple Carrots.
Purple carrots can grow year round in subtropical and arid climates.
In Temperate zones, you have from September through to May,.
In Cool temperate districts, September through to February, and in the tropics you can grow carrots from April to June.
Different-coloured carrots carry different health properties. The purple carrot specifically has 28 percent more of the antioxidant anthocyanin than orange carrots.

Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.
This pretty, purple-skinned vegetable also contains some of the most potent antioxidants: phytonutrients found in the skin.
Eggplant is also a good source of iron, calcium and a host of other vitamins.

Purple Potatoes.
Purple Potatoes can be planted August to October, in temperate and sub-tropical districts.
Arid areas August until December is your best time.
In cool temperate zones, September through to January.

These potatoes add more than four times the antioxidants in comparison to regular potatoes, according to reasearch, and score as high as kale and Brussels sprouts in antioxidants.
Purple potatoes were once considered the "food of the gods,

Why are they good for you?
Did I mention the anthocyanins? Of course.
Why grow them? Let's take a look at Cabbages: contain 90% water and are really low in kilojoules.
Also high in vitamin C, you need only eat 100g to get your daily requirement.
They also have dietary fibre, folate, potassium and help balance fluids when you’ve eaten too much sodium-salty foods. 



Plants That Suppress Weeds

We all lead busy lives and want a garden that not so much low maintenance, after all I’m not sure that exists, but want a garden that doesn’t need so much work.
Cyanotis somaliensis
Garden designer Peter Nixon suggests it’s all in the choice of our plants, but our heart often rules over our head and we end up buying plants that need plenty of maintenance.
So what can we do to make gardening tasks easier?
I'm talking withPeter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.
Let’s find out.

Peter mentioned Diclipetera suberecta
Dicliptera sub-erecta syn. sericea – with sage green leaves and orange trumpet flowers;this plant takes sun or shade so it can grow in the hot west or the southern side of the house.
Cyanotis somaliensis-you may have heard it called furry kittens or pussy ears.
Polia cristata - Commelina relative

If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Lathyrus odorota: Sweet Pea: 
Queen of annuals: Sweet pea's history can be traced back to 17th century Italy, when a Sicilian monk, Franciscus Cupani, sent its seeds to England. 

Sweet peas come in over 250 varieties. Annual varieties prefer full sun, regular watering and soil with plenty of humus.
Perennial sweet peas survive in average soils with moderate watering.
Sweet peas are wonderfully fragrant and were originally grown in the fields of Sicily.
Most types grow from 1-5' tall, though some may reach 2m+
Sweet peas are climbing plants that do well on supporting structures.

Growing Sweet PeasT
here are few pests or problems associated with sweet peas, but they are sensitive to too much heat. According to superstition, seeds sown before sunrise on Saint Patrick's day will have larger and more fragrant blossoms. Unlike their edible relatives, sweet peas can be toxic in large quantities.

I'm talking with florist Mercedes Sarmini of 

Recorded live during radio broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2rrr  88.5 fm in Sydney

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Chrysantheumums, Naughty White Birds and Perfumed Climbers

What’s On The Show Today?

Pesky white birds in Wildlife in Focus; what’s the difference between spinach and chard in. in Vegetable Heroes, and plants the hide the fence and climb in design elements; Lastly, beautiful flowers in Talking Flowers.


Little Corella
Some people love them some people hate these mostly white birds that arrive in huge numbers.
They're one of those birds that like to skid to rooves of silos, or swing around telegraph wires or the blades of a windmill.

  • When you see them in flight they do look like a few other similar birds.
  • Can you tell the difference between a Little Corella, and a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo?
  • Let’s find out about these naughty birds. 

I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons Manager of

The Corellas are still a biggish bird, measuring around 42cm long and weighing just under 500 grams.
The distinction is the long beak and the pale pink section between the eye and the beak called the "laws."
The also have a bluey coloured eye ring.
The West Australian newspaper writes
“White corellas will soon outnumber seagulls and will be one of the State's most serious animal pests, causing damage to homes and many businesses, according to wildlife experts.
Department of Environment and Conservation chief zoologist Peter Mawson said the rapidly expanding numbers of the Eastern States native, introduced in WA after pets were released into the wild, more than doubled in the Perth area each year and would continue to do so.”

Rather dramatic and perhaps overstated.
The beak is the dead giveaway if you’re looking up at a flock.
If you have any questions either for me or Holly, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Perpetual Spinach
Beta vulgaris supbs. vulgaris

Not just Spinach but Perpetual spinach
Did you know that Spinach and silverbeet seed was sent out from England in 1787 with the First Fleet but in the new colony they found spinach difficult to grow?

They found growing silverbeet much easier, which is why Silverbeet is sometimes called spinach in Australia, but true spinach has smaller leaves and a much sweeter, milder flavour.

I was asked recently about why perpetual spinach seeds looked more like beetroot seeds?

  • You might be wondering the same thing at home. 
  • The reason I ask is that both spinach and beetroot seeds in seed packets are not just one seed but a clump of seeds 
  • Saying that the perpetual leaf spinach is the same as beetroot seed, is correct because they are very similar. 
  • Here’s the thing; Beetroot and chard are multigerm seeds, meaning that they are actually a cluster of three or four seeds in a corky shell. 
  • Perpetual Spinach is not a spinach at all but actually a type of chard with short stems and large leaf blades; therefore each perpetual spinach seed is actually a dried cluster containing multiple individual seeds. 
  • So then the question came, “ why is it called spinach then?” 
  • Perpetual Spinach is called that simply because it looks like and tastes similar to real Spinach and so that name has become the norm since white settlement. 
  • The scientific Name is Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris. Common Name: Silverbeet 'Perpetual Spinach', 
  • Whereas, true spinach is Spinacia oleracea. 
  • spinach seeds
  • You might be surprised to learn that another name for chard is in fact ‘perpetual spinach.” 

So what’s the difference between Perpeutal Spinach and Chard?

Perpetual spinach or perpetual silverbeet, has smoother leaves than other silverbeet with narrower, greenish stems.
It’s tender with a taste more like English Spinach but it’s hardy and drought resistant.
This beginner-friendly plant is a cut-and-come-again crop that just keeps on giving.
The perfect plant for small but busy gardens
Perpetual Spinach
In all but the coldest districts, you can grow perpetual spinach for most of the year.
The bonus is that Perpetual spinach will continue on through to summer and autumn and possibly even into the following year.
Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
Plant your seedlings/seeds around 7cm apart in rows about 30 cm apart.
For once a vegetable that grows well in partial to full sun.
Spinach seedlings
Perpetual Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil.
  • Using a mulch of straw or grass clippings can help to keep moisture and warmth in the soil plus add plenty of compost and the usual organic matter to so that your spinach will grow well. 
  • Having a worm farm or compost bin really does help your veggie bed no end! 
  • Perpetual Spinach doesn't like acidic soils, a good pH is around 6.3 -6.8. 
  • Add lime to the soil if you need to a few weeks before you put the seeds in. 
  • Spinach like all leafy vegetables is what’s called a heavy feeder –ie, needs lots of Nitrogen to grow well. 
  • If you haven’t already applied Blood and Bone or cow manures to the soil a month or two ago, your soil will run out of nutrients. 
  • During the cooler months of winter, organic matter doesn’t break down that much and to get the needed Nitrogen, applying liquid fertilisers such as compost tea or fish emulsion often will be the best way to go 
  • Another thing to remember is that Spinach grows on shallow roots, so don't dig vigorously around it. 
  • If you get weeds because you didn’t mulch, carefully hand remove them. 
  • Water frequently to keep up with the fast growth of the plants. 
In about 8-10 weeks, your Spinach plant has put on enough big leaves so you can pick them one by one like you might lettuce.
The leaves will keep regrowing for quite a while.
Otherwise pick the whole plant for Spinach pie etc. 

TIP: When you want to store Spinach in the fridge a tip to remember is that Spinach is highly ethylene sensitive.
To stop leaf yellowing don’t refrigerate with apples, or tomatoes.

TIP: Water liberally in dry periods. Unlike true spinach, spinach beet won't bolt when exposed to a full summer sun, but don't let plants flower as this will shorten your cropping season.
Picking off flowerheads encourages the plant to grow leaves, not flowers.

TIP:Possums or even rats may eat the seedlings, so either cover with nets or grow under other plants.
Slugs and snails love young leaves, so set up a slug pub and organise a midnight watch if necessary.

Even if you can't use the spinach in your own kitchen, keep picking!
Give it away if you have too much, just don't saddle the plant with overgrown leaves as this will inhibit its growth.

TIP: Pick to eat and freeze, washed and dried leaves for cooking.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a veggie plot or it’s full up with other things like onions, broccoli, cabbages and the like because Perpetual spinach's is a great veg for container growing on a sunny ledge: thin and pick as and when required.

Why should you grow your own Perpetual Spinach?
Because Spinach is best eaten fresh and it loses nutritional properties every day.
Putting it in the fridge slows the deterioration, but half of the major nutrients are lost by the eighth day after harvest.
Why is Spinach good for you?
The amount of iron in spinach comes way down the list after vitamins A and C, thiamin, potassium and folic acid (one of the B complex vitamins).
Dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach, contain carotenoids.
If you have any questions about growing spinach or any other vegetable write in or email me. 


Stephanotis floribunda photo M Cannon
Useful and Beautiful Climbers to Hide That Fence.

  • Anything you can do to hide that fence in your garden has an expansive effect on your garden and who wouldn’t want their garden not to look bigger.

  • I can’t hear people saying “ My garden looks too big.”

  • They say instead, “ I’ve only got a small garden” then give out a sigh of lost hope.

  • The Stephanotis pictured is growing happily in a tall pot.

  • Let’s find out about them.

I'm talking with Peter Nixon  Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Peter mentioned

  • Dalechampia dioscoreifolia or the Costa Rican Bow Tie vine. 
  • Hibiscus geraniodes, with mauve flowers. 
  • Manettia bicolour or cigar vine and Manettia cordifolia John Ellerslee. 
  • Also for the perfume garden Stephanotis floribunda.
Both of these will suit the smaller garden, but don’t let that stop you planting it in a larger garden.
If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Greek prefix "chrys-" meaning golden (its original colour) and "-anthemion," meaning flower,
Chrysanthemum flower is one of the most popular flower in the world, next only to Rose.
Chrysanthemum flowers photo M Cannon
 There are 10 different flower types which are defined by the way in which the ray and disk florets are arranged.
Pom pom, Anemone (a-nem-mon-ee), spider, single. Semi-doubles,
intermediate curve, irregular incurve-giant flowers, reflex-florets curve downwards, decorative, spoon, quill, Bush, exotic.
Chrysanthemum flowers photo M Cannon
Botanical Bite
Chrysanthemum flowers are composed of many individual flowers (florets), each one capable of producing a seed.
The disk florets are in the centre of the bloom head, and the ray florets are on the perimeter. 
The ray florets are considered imperfect flowers, as they only possess the female productive organs, while the disk florets are considered perfect flowers, as they possess both male and female reproductive organs.

I'm speaking with florist Mercedes Sarmini of

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio program on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Funky Fungi,, Garlicky Garlic and Gorgeous Gardenias

What’s On The Show Today?

Not just ordinary mushrooms but wild mushrooms on the Good Earth segment. Find out why you need to grow your own garlic in Vegetable Heroes, and plants the scramble as well as climb in design elements; Lastly, one of the most aromatic of flowers in Talking Flowers.


Preserving, Pickling, and Drying Wild Picked Mushrooms
If you want to pick wild mushrooms, then you only have one opportunity which is this Autumn.
Where do you go? Any State Pine Forest as they are open to the public.
Take a guide with you if your are new to wild picking mushrooms.
Saffron Milk Caps
 So what do you do with them if you pick 5 kg of mushrooms to take home? 
Let’s find out about this wonderful problem.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska of

If you’re going wild picking, pick the ones with gills underneath, Saffron Milk Caps or ones with sponge underneath, which are the Slippery Jack. 
Slippery Jack Mushrooms
If you’re not sure, go with an experienced guide, like Margaret before you go foraging.
Slippery Jacks by the way taste similar to Porcini mushrooms.
Remember Margaret’s tip: microwave ovens don’t dry mushrooms.
Pickling mixture can be the same as for cucumbers. If you have any questions either for me or Margaret, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Your Own Garlic
Garlic-Allium sativum comes from the Onion family. Alliaceae

You might have guessed that in medieval times, hanging Garlic outside your door warded off vampires.
Not exactly in the same league as vampires but did you know that eating garlic helps keeps mosquitos away?
Growing Your Own Garlic
There’s even a fact sheet from the DPI about growing garlic
There’s also a website devoted entirely to garlic growing in Australia.
I'm talking with Dr Patrice Newell, Manager of Elmswood Farm in the Upper Hunter Valley.

 Dr Newell's farm has diversified into not only growing garlic commercially but also olives, and honey.
Best Tip: Plant out your garlic bulbs before they have sprouted so that the bulb can form roots before the vegetative growth.
However, if your little bulbs have already sprouted, don't throw them away, they will still grow for you. 

Types of Garlic to Grow

Like onions, there are early, mid season and late varieties available.

There are softneck and hardneck varieties.
  • Softnecks are the most common garlics grown, and are the ones found in supermarkets. 
  • Softneck garlic usually doesn’t have a flowerhead and have a longer shelf life (up to 9 months).There’s one called “Italian White” that’s available online. 
  • Monaro purple, and Rocambole- are Hardnecks variety and these do have flowerheads like onions, and usually bigger cloves. 
  • They don’t have as good a shelf life as the softnecks and prefer cooler winters. 
  • Rocamboles have excellent flavour, glamorous red-purple skins and easily peeled, with a single circle of 6-12 plump cloves. 
There’s also the extra large garlic called Elephant or Giant Russian garlic and has a milder flavour but is great for roasting.

This is actually a type of leek that you can get these from some markets that are around or from an online bulb company.
Remember most garlic in supermarkets comes from China and has been sprayed with Methyl Bromide in quarantine.
When to grow
Sow direct in garden where they are to grow.
Garlic grows best when the temperature is between 13º to 24ºC.
That’s why Garlic is traditionally planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest").
You can plant Garlic blubs now in all districts of Australia, including cool temperate.
For cool districts, you’re right on the edge of when you can plant, so don’t delay, plant today.


Beautiful and Useful Scrambler Shrubs
When is a shrub not a shrub?

When it’s a climber shrub or is there such a thing?
You may have even heard of scrambling climbers such as Bougainvillea.
These are climbing plants that have much thicker stems and sort of support themselves partially, in fact I think of them as leaning against a support rather than twining, weaving or twisting into one.
Let’s find out about them.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Peter mentioned Solandra longiflora, which has thick stems but a manageable habit.
Jasminum multipartitum or Jasminum nitidum for a shadier spot. 

There are plenty of scrambling climbers or climber shrubs in the rose family also as well as Pandorea jasminoides, or Bower vine, Hibbertia scandens sometimes called guinea or snake vine. 
Pandorea Jasminoides
If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Gardenia is named in honour of Scottish born Alexander Garden (1730-1791) who moved to Charleston, South Carolina in the 1750’s and was a botanist, zoologist, and physician,
The Gardenia is a group that is made up of 142 species.
The most popular cultivated Gardenia species is Gardenia Jasminoides (also called Gardenia Augusta, Gardenia Grandiflora, Gardenia Schlechteri or Gardenia Florida), commonly known as Common Gardenia .

These are great flowering plants and they are actually going to be found mainly in tropical and subtropical climates.
The gardenia is actually an evergreen shrub, and is one of the most aromatic of garden flowers. The flowers are a waxy creamy white that contrasts with the dark green glossy leaves.
They love heat and are native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australasia and Oceania.

BUT, they’re not the easiest shrubs to grow with “ my gardenia has yellow leaves” being one of the most asked questions on gardening talkback radio.
They grow best in frost free areas north of Sydney and Perth but will grow in Adelaide and Melbourne in a warm spot. 

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio program in Sydney. Unfortunately only the first two minutes came out.