Saturday, 9 December 2017

Raingardens, Chives and Peonies to Delight You.

What’s On The Show Today?

Creating raingardens in Design Elements, a veggie that was once used to tell fortunes in Vegetable Heroes, finding out about Biodyanamics for the soil in Backyard Biodynamics segment, and which flower is an omen of good fortune in Talking Flowers?


Creating Rain Gardens
Getting a lot of rain lately or not?
Maybe you need a rain garden but it’s not what you think.
We’re not creating rain, but using the rain to help us grow plants without that bit of the garden turning into a quagmire or just being washed away.
So how do we do that?

Let’s find out how
I'm talking with Peter Nixon of Paradisus Design

So you know now that raingardens are designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns.
If you have a water pooling problem you have got to create a course for the water to go.
Of course you cannot divert the water onto neighbouring properties so the best solution is to create that rain garden.
When the garden fills up with water, gravity the pulls the water into a dispersion pit at the terminal end of the garden.
What you need to do, ( Peter explains in the podcast) but briefly, is to excavate a trench to 850cm - 1.2 metres at the low point.
The trench needs to have sloping sides.
Put in your slotted PVC ag pipe then cover with two layers of GEO fabric.
On top of that add riverstones.
What ever you do, DON'T cut the geo fabric.
You can plant up with plants that can cope with dryness and temporary inundation such as Eleiga, Restios, Alocasias and Dwarf Papyrus.
Did you know though that rain gardens are efficient in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff.?

If you have any questions about raingardens either for me or Peter, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Allium schoenoprasum-Chives
Chives are botanically Allium schoenoprasum in the Lilliaceae family, that includes, Garlic, Leeks and Shallots.
The Botanical name means rush leeks, and chives are sometimes called them, but I bet you’ve only heard them called chives.
Chinese are the first to have used chives from around 3000 years B.C.
Romanian Gypsies have used chives in fortune telling.
Folklore would have you believe that you should hang bunches of dried chives around your house to ward off disease and evil.
Also the Romans thought that chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat.
The Romans also wrongly believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and acted as a diuretic. Totally untrue.

The Chive plant is a hardy perennial. Chives have round, grass-like leaves with a hollow stem, and pretty mauve pompom flowers in summer and autumn.

The bulbs grow very close together in dense tufts or clusters, and are elongated looking, with white, rather firm sheaths.

There are two chive look-alikes that are also grown:

Garlic chives, sometimes known as Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum), and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). The leaves of both species are flat rather than tubular, but they’re grown in the same way as chives and can be substituted for them in any recipe that calls for chives.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) apart from having larger, flatter leaves have a milder garlic flavour. Garlic chive flowers are white but, look like common chives,

When to Sow
All chives can be grown from seeds just as easily and are great for growing in pots.

It's a good idea to remove the flowers before they go to seed because the leaves will have a better flavour if the flowers are picked before they’re fully developed. but and I’ll tell you about using the flowers a little later on,

In tropical areas sow chives between April and July, in temperate zones, you have September through to May, in arid zones, July through to March, cold districts have September through to April and sub-tropical areas win the jackpot by being able to grow Chives all year round.

In cold climates, chives will die right back in winter but, but because the plants are perennial they will live for a number of years.

New leaves will shoot up in spring.

Graham, cool climate gardener has written in to say that his chives are hardly affected by frost and after drying to straw in winter, come back fresh and green.

Germinating Chive seeds have been problematic to some, and when I worked at Yates, they weren’t on the most troublesome list.

But if you do have trouble germinating chive seeds, here's what you can do.

After you lightly sown the seeds onto a punnet, wrap the seedling punnet with a clear plastic bag, ( a recycled one would be good), blow it up like a balloon and tie off with a rubber band. That’s my cheap method of a mini-green house.

Usually works for most seeds that I’m having trouble with. Chive seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is in the low 20’s.

What Chives Need to Grow.
  • Chives will grow in any well drained ordinary garden soil or in a pot filled with a good quality premium potting mix. 
  • The plants need at least half a day's sun light. Feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser, every couple of weeks to keep them growing strongly. 
  • Once or twice a year spread some slow release or organic fertiliser around the base of the plants. 
  • You might think that Chives, are drought tolerant and are have a bit hardy in the garden but that’s not the case. 
  • Water your chives regularly because they have a shallow root system and some generous mulching won’t go astray either. 
  • The recent hot spell in my district saw the chives I had growing in full sun getting somewhat brown and crispy. 
  • Make sure you protect the young leaves from snails and slugs and watch. for pests such as aphids. 
  • Although I’ve never known my chives plants to be bothered by anything at all. 
  • Keep in mind, never spray your edible herbs with chemicals. 
  • If you do get aphid attack or something similar just wipe the leaves with soapy water. 
How Best to Harvest Your Chives.

The best and really only way to pick chives is to just cut leaves from outside of the clump with a pair of sharp scissors.

Like most plants the flavour of chives will always taste better if they are picked just before you are going to use them.
Snip the leaves into smaller sections then sprinkle onto soups, eggdishes or salads.
Even though you can easily grow chives from seed, they’re usually propagated by dividing the clumps in spring or autumn for most districts.

In places like Adelaide for example, you can divide the clumps in late winter.

In all areas, replant them straight away into the garden or pots.
When you divide the clumps, leave about six little bulbs together in a tiny clump, which will spread to a fine clump by the end of the year.
Set the clumps about 20 – 30 cm apart..

Dividing your chives this way is the best option for a quick return.

The unopened flower buds of both types of chives can be used in stir fries, or break up the flower heads and use them in salads or as a garnish for potato, pasta or rice salad.

The Chive contains a pungent volatile oil, rich in sulphur, which is in all of the Onion tribe giving them that distinctive smell and taste.

Why is it good for you?
Chives are an excellent salt substitute and a perfect aid for those on a low fat, salt restricted diet. Chives contains vitamins A, B6, C and K. Several minerals are also found including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Chives are also a good source of folic acid and dietary fibre.

Backyard Biodyanamics

Biodynamic Composting
Have you ever asked the question, “why don’t my plants grow?” or why is my neighbour/friend/relative’s garden so much more healthy than mine?
Usually the answer lies in the health of the soil.
How do we know if soil is healthy?

It’s back to that question of why won’t my plants grow.
Healthy soil will have healthy growing plants and we need compost to make healthy soil.
Most gardeners will either have a compost heap or at least know the basics of making a compost heap.
Building a compost heap the Biodynamic way is something else.

Let’s find out how it's different to making regular compost.
PLAY: Biodynamic Composting 29th November 2017

I'm talking with  Dianne Watkin, Principal of Biodynamics Sydney and an avid gardener.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about Biodynamic preparations either for me or Dianne, why not write in to


There are a couple of types of Peony.

There are many species and cultivated varieties of peonies but they are broadly divided into two groups in the garden:
  • tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa Hybrids), which are shrubby plants not trees that do not die down below ground in winter
  • herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), smaller growing plants that do die down to below ground in winter and reshoot in spring.
Mercedes is talking about the herbaceous peonies in this segment.
All peonies need cool climates and are best grown only in the colder parts of Australia including mountain districts, parts of Victoria and Tasmania.

  • Peony roses are strong growing perennials that flower late spring to early summer. They make beautiful cut flowers and last well in a vase. Prefers a well drained position in full sunlight. Plants will die down over Winter and re-grow each year forming a leafy clump. Spread lime towards the end of flowering to improve root development and improve flowers for the following year.

The best time to buy Peonies is when they're supplied as bare rooted plants.
Meaning of Peony.
One legend has it that the peony is named after Paeon, a physician to the gods, who received the flower on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. And another tells the story of that same physician who was "saved" from the fate of dying as other mortals by being turned into the flower we know today as the peony.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recording live during Real World Gardener radio broadcast. (recording not complete.)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Water Jars, Water Chestnuts and Olive Trees

What’s On The Show Today?

Grow the relative of rice but easier in The Good Earth. Lower your cholesterol with this Vegetable Heroes, used in hedge laying in Plant of the week, and which flower means an apology in Japan, and rejection in Europe in Talking Flowers?

water chestnuts photo Margaret Mossakowska


Growing water chestnuts in the home garden

Do you remember biting into something crunchy when you tried some Chinese food for the very first time, probably when you were very young.
Did you ever wonder what that crunchy sensation actually was?
If you were clever enough to find out that they were water chestnuts you might have also discovered that you could only get the canned variety.
But now we can grow them ourselves.
Let’s find out how
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of Moss house

Water chestnut plants look very similar to reed rush.
You can grow water chestnuts in a waterproof pot, old laundry sink or bathtub in the home garden.
Allow for a depth of at least 20cm.
Like rice, water chestnuts need to be grown in a watery medium.
Margaret recommends flushing the pot with water every couple of weeks to get rid of mosquito wrigglers.
You can buy the corms from Diggers Seeds or Greenharvest
Harvest your chestnuts  by digging them up in June/;July Water chestnuts are just like the chestnuts that grow on trees in that they have shells which need to be peeled.

The good news is that you can grow them in cold climates if you have a nice warm or sheltered verandah.
Water chestnuts and turmeric plant. photo M. Moxxakowska
If you have any questions about water chestnuts either for me or Margaret, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Olive Trees
Well, it’s not a vegetable, perhaps more a fruit, and that is Olives or Olea europeae.

The olive tree is a symbol of joy, peace and happiness.

Did you know that the Mediterranean diet which includes plenty of olives and olive oil has long been known as one of the healthiest?

Another interesting fact is that residents of Crete in the Mediterranean have the highest consumption of olive oil per person in the world but Australia is second; the Cretians though have the lowest rate of death from heart related diseases in the world which we can’t say about our diet yet.
Olive Tree
Olive trees can look good in any garden with their silver grey-green leaves. 
Would you have guessed that growing olives dates back 5,000 years and that olive trees can live up to 2,000 years?

Some people have mistakenly bought ornamental olive trees thinking that they will also fruit, but that’s not the case.
These ornamental olives have darker green leaves and only produce pea sized fruit which isn’t much good.
The good news is that true olives can grow right from Queensland through to Tasmania and across to South Australia.
Not only that, olives can grow with neglect and start producing fruit again with a bit of care plus they make excellent wind breaks and great for gardeners with black thumbs.

What Do Olive Trees Really Like?

  • We have to remember that the olive originated in the Mediterranean region and will grow well in areas of Australia with a similar climate—cool/cold winters and hot summers. 
  • Even though olives are evergreen trees, they still need a cool winter so they can rest to prepare for their main shooting. 
  • Many mature olive trees will survive and crop well even in the very cold areas of Australia. 
  • Some varieties will also fruit well in 'no frost' areas as long as the winters are cool enough; 
  • Winter chilling is needed; winter temperatures fluctuating between 
  • 1.5°C and 18°C and summers long and warm enough to ripen the fruit. 

Having said that, the olive industry in Australia has been doing research into what olives do well in warm winters and wet summers.
Some of these are warm winter varieties include: Arbequina, Arecuzzo, Barnea, Del Morocco, Koroneiki, Manzanillo and Picual.

Tip: If you already have an olive tree and experienced very few olives; hot, dry winds or rain at pollination time in late spring can reduce fruit set..

How To Grow

Olives will grow in most soil types as long as they are well-drained  and have a subsoil pH range of 6.5–8.5.

The olive three’s worst enemy is too much water.

If your soil holds too much water when there’s been a lot of rain, then you need to improve the drainage or raise the bed that your olive tree is growing in.

Fertilising: When it comes to fertilising, olive trees have similar needs to Australian eucalypts except for the fact that they’re not phosphorous sensitive.

Traditionally all you need to use to fertilise your olive trees are well rotted manures and mulches; anything else and you risk over fertilising your trees.

Problems with Olive trees.
Lots of rain at harvest-time, can reduce oil content due to the higher water content in the fruit.
The most common pest is black scale, which also affects citrus.
Olive lace bug (not to be confused with beneficial lace wings) can also be a problem.

All of these pests can be controlled, but they should be positively identified . If you’re not sure what’s attacking your tree, take a piece of the affected branch to your local garden centre.

Use an organic spray so that you won't kill beneficial insects as well..
The main fungal problem is peacock spot, which results in  leaf fall and poor fruit set:It’s more common in humid areas.

You need to prune to allow enough air flow through the leaves to help keep it under control.
Anthracnose, or fruit rot, can also affect olives.
Copper sprays can be used for (any both of these) fungal diseases.

Olives are also harmed by some soil-borne pathogens such as phytophthora, verticillium and nematodes common to other fruit trees.
If that still doesn’t put you off growing them, here’s part of what you have to do to preserve olives.

Harvesting Olives

In about February - March, some of the fruit begins to turn from plain green to purplish black.
When some of the olives begin to change towards black, it will be fairly safe to pick the green olives for pickling
If you have ever tried to eat an olive straight from the tree, you will know what I mean - it's VERY bitter and VERY hard.
If you use the method I’m going to talk about, you’ll end up with wonderful sweet olives and you can add all sorts of herb combinations to create your own special marinated olives.

•Make a slit in each olive or crack each one open carefully with a wooden mallet. THAT’S RIGHT, EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE!

This bruising, pricking or cutting will allow the water and salt to penetrate the fruit, drawing out the bitterness and also preserving it

•Put the olives in a large bowl or bucket and cover with water with ½ cup of coarse salt for every 10 cups of water.
Place a plate over the top to keep the olives submerged.
•Change the water daily for about 10 -12 days to extract the bitterness and make the olives "sweet".
Test an olive to see if all the bitterness is gone.
•After 14 days, drain the olives and place in a solution of cooled down brine; 1 cup of salt for every 10 cups of water that has been boiled together first.
Then all that’s left is bottling the olives in brine topped up with 1 cm of olive oil.

By the way, olives will keep for years in the freezer.

Why are they good for you?
Olives are nutritious and rich in mineral content as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine
Olives provide essential vitamins and amino acids.

Olives contain oleic acid, which has beneficial properties to protect the heart. THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY

Hawthorn tree

From a story on ABC’s landline "Growing hedges actually was the latest agricultural innovation in England and it naturally came to Australia, they tried looking at local things like the prickly mimosa which grows on some of the hills around Victoria.
Hawthorn Tree in Young. photo Glenice Buck
"They found they weren't suitable and instead chose(the hawthorn tree)what was the ideal thorn shrub to grow, they found it did particularly well in Australia and particularly well in Tasmania."
This large shrub also has pretty flowers.

Let’s find out

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley and Karen Smith of

There were tens of thousands of kilometres of hedges around Tasmania in the early days of white settlement, records indicate there are 3,000 kilometres of historic hawthorn hedges left.
When wire fencing developed, new highways were built and small five acre lots were developed, many were pulled out, others died or went into ruin

If you want to know more or if you have any questions about the Hawthorn tree, why not write in to

Hydrangea is in the Hydrangeaceae family
The name comes from the Greek words for water, hydros and jar, angos.
Native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia)
The most popular types or the "mophead" hydrangea and the 'lacecap" hydrangea.
Mopheads are sometimes called "grandma's showercap."
Mophead Hydrangea
Hydrangea shrubs can grow 1-3 metres.
Flowers-early Spring to late Autumn. 
The colour of pink or blue hydrangeas depends on your soil pH. Blue hydrangeas grow in more acidic soils and pink hydrangeas grow in more alkaline soils.
The time to change the colour of your hydrangeas is in winter when the plant is dormant.

White hydrangeas should not change colour.
Some are repeat flowerers, eg Endless Summer.
Did you know that in Japan, they are said to be a sign of apology or gratitude because an emperor gave them as apologies to his maidens.

I'm talking with floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini from

Recording live during Real World Gardener broadcast.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Take A Seat in the Garden For All Things Lemony and Sweet

 What’s On The Show Today?

It’s Citrus Pest watch on Plant Doctor, growing a sour leaf in Vegetable Heroes take a seat in Design Elements and a flower that royalty in Talking Flowers.


Citrus Pest Watch
Hopefully you’ve finished your spring cleaning but now it’s time to check out that citrus tree you’ve got in your backyard.
Our plants put on lots of fast growth in the garden but so do the bugs good and bad.
Being pro-active is the best way to beat the pests that seem to plague citrus more than any other plant in the garden.  
Some gardeners do this by spraying their citrus over the winter months with horticultural oil.
For a lot of insect pests, sprays are effective if you’ve timed it correctly, because as the pests mature or evolve into the next stage, sprays may become ineffective.

Let’s find out what to look out for. I'm talking with was Steve Falcioni from

Two types of pests to watch out for and for some states, the extra pest of fruit fly.
Group 1 is the sap suckers which include aphids, mites, mealybugs and the citrus stink bug.
The best time to hit these pests in Spring, particularly the citrus stink bug. The reason being that coming out of winter, the juveniles are small, pale green and susceptible to the oil sprays such as Eco Oil.
Citrus pests photo M Cannon
Group 2 are the chewing pests. such as citrus leaf miner and caterpillars. The leaf miner pest is actually a very small moth that lays its eggs on new leaf growth.
The hatching larvae then tunnel into the tissue causing the leaf disfigurement or curling and the silver trails.
Leaf miner can be organically controlled with pheremone traps that are hung in the trees.
As for the caterpillars, a lot of the will turn into beautiful butterflies, so decide what you would rather; a few chewed leaves or some orchard swallowtail butterflies?
If you have any questions about citrus pests either for me or

Steve, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Garden Sorrel
      Garden Sorrel  (Rumex acetosa) and French Sorrel (Rumex scutatus) are members of the                    Rumex family , found mainly in temperate climates all over the world
Some people think Sorrel’s are all alike
Did you know that there’s a Garden Sorrel or Common Sorrel and French Sorrel?
French Sorrel is not quite so sour.
 The word "sorrel" comes from the old French surele, which derives from sur, "sour".
The Cambridge World History of Food and Drink claims that “sorrel” actually comes from a Germanic word also meaning sour.
Yes, we get the picture, it’s sour to taste.
Have you been given a pot of something and planted in out in the garden, only to think a few weeks later, “where did I plant that?”
Common or Garden Sorrel
I was given a pot of what is most likely the French Sorrel over the weekend which I accepted gladly because I couldn’t remember where in the garden my sorrel had got to.
Sorrel Soup
The flavour of sorrel is memorable – astringent and a lemony taking me back in time when I was very young.
I was given some Sorrel soup and although eating it, complained that I had been given soup made of grass.

How things change.
Sorrel originates in Europe, North America, and Asia.
Sorrel is a close relative of the weed dock, with large, arrow-shaped leaves.

If you know the weed Curled Dock, you’ll know what I mean.
  • Sorrel, whether French or the Garden variety, grows best in a rich soil, but will grow in any well-drained soil, and can be planted in sun or partial shade.
  • Sorrel grows anywhere in Australia, and for Tropical and Sub-tropical climates it’s a good substitute for Spinach, which tends to run to seed in those areas.
  • Prepare the bed by digging in generous amounts of aged manure or compost.
  • An occasional side dressing of compost doesn’t hurt during the growing season either.
  • The plants should be kept moist, so water well during dry summer months.

French Sorrel is a perennial (means in will continue growing year after year) grows to about 15-45 cm high, and about 60cm wide if you put it into the garden.
The mid green leaves are shaped like squat shields.
Plants can be bought from a garden centre or started from seed.
Better still, if you know someone with an established sorrel plant, ask for a small cutting.
The plants will grow into fairly sizable clumps, anywhere from ½ metre high, and will produce tangy, edible leaves approximately four months after thinning.
Remove the greenish brown flowers when they appear in summer by cutting the flowering stem, or the plant will put its energy into seed, not leaf, production.
When your sorrel plant is established, it's easy to propagate by using a sharp knife to cut small sections from the main root.
Blood Sorrel, is just like French Sorrel but with red veins.
Autumn is the best time to do this and these sections should be potted up to give away or planted back in the garden and watered in well.
Once the plant has matured, it can be treated as a 'cut and come again' crop.
Sorrel is pretty much a self-care plant.
Just don’t forget where you planted it in the garden.
So what do you do with Sorrel?
If you pick the leaves when they’re young they’ve got a fresh, palate cleansing taste and make a delicious addition to a salad.
Older leaves can be pureed to make green sauce for fish, French Cream of Sorrel soup, or a variety of Russian borscht.
Sorrel leaves go well with avocado in a salad or on a sandwich.
Add some shredded leaves to scrambled eggs, omelets and frittata.
Quinoa salad loves the tangy addition of sorrel as do seafood and tomato dishes.
Why not stir finely shredded sorrel through a basic white sauce to give a real zing to vegetables.
Tough, outer leaves can be fed to rabbits and chooks or tossed into the compost bin.
Picking the leaves is simple, either pinch or cut the leaves off with a knife at any time during the growing season.

Leaves grow upward on a strong stem, so they don't get gritty, like spinach.
When picking the leaves, remember the smallest leaves are the most concentrated in flavour.
To keep your sorrel patch going at full strength, start new plants from section cuttings every few years.
That's all the work there is to growing sorrel.
Sorrel is basically disease and insect free - aphids may show an interest in the young leaves.
These can be removed with a sharp spray of water. Even slugs rarely bother this potherb. It's a great plant for the organic gardener.
Why Is It Good For You?
Sorrel is considered to be good for you in much the same way as Spinach.
Sorrel leaves are rich in potassium and vitamins C and A, and will keep its beneficial qualities and great taste for a long time, but they are especially good when fresh.
To store, put French sorrel into a sealed plastic bag and keep in the fridge. Sorrel doesn’t dry well, but it can be frozen.
Sorrel is high in oxalates and not good for people with kidney stones or arthritis.


Great Garden Seating.
What’s the last word in garden seating for you?
Perhaps you can’t be bothered with garden benches, tables and chairs and an old milk crate or just perching on a step will do.
However big or small your outside space and whatever your taste and budget, there is an alfresco seating option perfect for you. 
But with so much choice, and we've certainly moved on from the good ole’ cast iron table and  two chair setting which is terribly cold on the bottom, not to mention hard. 
Perhaps you’re looking for a spot for an evening drink, a place to lounge or an area that will accommodate the whole family for lunch?
Garden Seating -Anne's Garden:photo M Cannon
Things have moved on considerably in the last thirty of forty years though with new fabrics and materials that look like "rattan."
Let’s find out what’s Peter’s last word in garden seating.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, principle of Paradisus Garden Design

Anne Johnsons' Garden photo M Cannon
You can make a complete living room if you have the space with a couch, easy chairs, ottomans and attending side tables. 
Make sure all the materials are long lasting and weather proof. 
Peter's favourite on a hot summer day is loll about on a lazy hammock strung between two shady trees. 
A garden with lots of places to sit is a user friendly garden. "Sitting places" don't have to just be just seats.
You can sit on top of a wall, a grassy slope, the edge of a pond, on garden steps, or even a large rock

Seating and lighting go together so rather than the awful floodlight stuck on the side of the garage, why not think about 12V lighting to compliment night time seating with your friends and family?
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about garden seating, why not write in to 


Sweet William

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)  is a species of Dianthus native to southern Europe and parts of Asia which has become a popular ornamental garden plant.
Sweet Williams flowers are in the Caryophyllaceae family.
Sweet Williams are herbaceous biennials or short-lived perennial plants growing to 13–90 cm tall, with flowers in a dense cluster of up to 30 at the top of the stems.
Each flower is 2–3 cm diameter with five petals displaying serrated edges. 

Mercedes recommends that you strip the leaves off the stalk before putting in a vase with water only midway up the stems.
Flowers should last 6 - 10 days in the vase.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

 Recorded live during radio broadcast of Real World Gardener Show.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Spring Cleaning Along That Great Garden Path Where You Grow Waratahs

What’s On The Show Today?

Spring cleaning made easy in Tool Time, how hot can you go in Vegetable Heroes; walking down the best path in Design Elements and NSW's emblem  in Talking Flowers.


High Reach Cleaning Made Easy
Do you Spring clean or have you put that task off for a little while?
You might think cleaning is a bit of a stretch for a gardening show, but the house is in the garden and it needs to be clean too.

Not to mention garden furniture and ornaments that could probably do with a clean.
You might be temped to get up on a chair or a ladder, but why become another statistic of falls in the home or garden?
Let's face it our reflexes may not be as good as they used to be?
Getting up on ladders to prune is bad enough but for cleaning it’s even worse, because you tend to wave your arms about a bit more vigorously
Let’s find out how to do it safely.…. 
I'm talking withTony Mattson from

The safest way to clean up high is to use a lightweight extension pole with your feet planted firmly on the ground.
Look for lightweight aluminium extension poles that extend from 2-6m, costing around $100.
This should reach the eaves on a two-storey house if the house is on level ground.
Taller than that you need a carbon fibre pole which is around $AUS400
Something to remember
If you are using a ladder you should always have 3 points of contact at any one time. 
Shoulders should be near the top of an extension ladder, but no higher.
If you’re carrying something then you’re in trouble.

If you have any questions about high reach cleaning either for me or Tony, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


CHILLI - Chilli peppers or Capsicum annuum or C chinese. 

They come as red, green, orange or almost the brown colour of chocolate.
They can be pointy, round, small, club-like, long, thin, globular or tapered.

Their skins may be shiny, smooth or wrinkled and their walls may be thick or thin.

You guessed it - chillies!”

Have you ever witnessed someone, perhaps a fellow diner at a restaurant, gulping lots of water or waving their hand in front of their mouth because their mouth feels like it’s on fire?

Maybe you were that diner at an Indian restaurant.

Want to know the best way to get rid of the burning sensation?
The heat in chillies comes from the compound “capsaicin.

Capsaicin is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn't dissolve in water but readily dissolves in fats and oils. 
And this explains why, something with a lot of fat in it - like yogurt or milk - is going to dissolve the compound and wash it away, and not water. 

Ian Hemphill from Herbies Spices, recommends a spoonful of sugar to take the heat away. 

The chilli pepper comes from a pod-like berry of various species of the capsicum family found in Latin America.

Did you know that there are over 2000 different varieties of chillies most of which have some degree of pungency, hotness or fieriness.

TIP:The colour of chillies is no guide to their hotness 

All chillies begin life green and turn yellow or red as they ripen.

As a rule red fresh fruit are two or three times hotter than green fruit, and dried pods are up to ten times hotter than fresh pods.

Generally, the smaller chillies are the most pungent or hotter giving you the most burning sensation. 

Did you know that most of the heat is in the seeds and the membrane, so if it's your first time trying chillies, or you don't like too much heat, get rid of this part.
Soaking a chilli in vinegar also dilutes this effect.
If you then throw out the first lot of vinegar and soak the chillies again, you’ll further reduces the heat.
But wouldn’t you just use a milder chilli?

Now the burning question, how is hotness of the chilli measures. 

  • The unit of hotness is the SHU or Scoville Hotness Scale. 
  • Wilbur Scoville was an American chemist who devised a test based on repetitively diluting an extract of the pepper with sugar water until the heat was no longer detected. 
  • By the way, now testing is more carried out using accurate laboratory equipment, like a chromatograph, and equating 15 parts per million (PPM) of capsaicin with an increase of 1 on the Scoville scale. 
  • The heat comes from that same chemical compound called capsaicin which I’ve mentioned already,(the active ingredient in chillies), this intensifies as the chilli matures.. 
  • There is a theory that the heat in chillies caused by capsaicin was an adaptation to prevent animals from eating chillies so that birds, which are a better distributors for their seeds, can eat them. Birds don’t feel the heat of the chilli. 
How to Grow and When to Sow your chillies. 

Sowing chilli seeds can be done throughout the year in Tropical and sub-Tropical climates. Lucky guys.
Being a warm season plant the season is shorter in temperate climates only fruiting over the summer months and dying back in winter.
They’re totally not suitable in areas where frosts occur.
Perhaps try them in a pot and place it a very warm verandah because warm conditions over a five-month growing period are necessary for any good quality fruit.
Chillies need soil temperature of 15–30°C to germinate so if you’re in a cool temperate or even a temperate climate, start off your chilli seeds in a punnet or tray or pot using seed raising mix.
Chillies need a slightly warmer temperatures than tomatoes or cucumbers. For the best chillies in your town or suburb, temperatures for fruit setting are between 16°C and 21°C.
For good fruit development, night temperatures of 15–17°C and day temperatures of 24–30°C are best.
Make sure your Chilli plants are in a position that receives a good amount of light.
But chilli seeds can be tricky to germinate taking anything from 1 to 6 weeks so don’t give up.
To grow chillies well, add lots of high nitrogenous matter, like Nasturtium or comfrey leaves to the soil as well as compost and manures, so you won’t have to fertilise with chemical fertilisers.
There’s no special soil or potting mix that they need, just start to add a side dressing of fertilise when you see the flowers develop and don’t let them dry out too.

Protect your chilli plants from wind by tying them to supporting stakes.
There’s quite a few pests that like chilli plants like aphids and spider mites. Spraying with a horticultural or preferable a botanic oil to suffocate them, is the best solution.

The most common species of chilli peppers are: 

Capsicum annuum (common varieties such as bell peppers, paprika, rating of 2 out of 10,
jalapeƱos rating of 6)
Capsicum frutescens (includes cayenne and tabasco peppers having a rating of 8-9)
Capsicum chinense (includes the hottest peppers such as habaneros having a 10 out of 10 on the heat scale.
Capsicum pubescens (includes the Thai chilli with a rating of 9)
Capsicum baccatum (includes the South American aji peppers).

If you really like your chilli peppers and want to get the most heat out of your home grown plants, then you’ll need to start a worm farm and apply worm tea
or worm juice to your chillies. 
That’s according to Mark Peacock, a plant scientist from the University of Sydney, who in 2011 helped to cultivate the world's hottest chilli, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. 
Like all fertilisers, 'worm juice' is rich in nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, but what makes it particularly effective for bringing out the heat in chillies are the bodies of insects that have decomposed in the worm farm.
The insects in there are living and dying pretty rapidly, and bits of their shell will break down.
When you apply the juice to the plants' roots, the chilli plant responds as if it’s getting eaten by insects."
This in turn makes the plant produce more of their defensive compounds like capsaicin.

Why are they good for you? 

Don't include too many chillies in your diet if you're interested in: Weight gain.
Chillies contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits.
Also when you cook with chilli, it only loses one third of its vitamin C content so you don’t have to worry about eating them raw!
Chillies are also thought to help buffer pain from arthritis, and headaches
Chillies are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Dietary Fibre, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus.

One Chilli divided into a dinner for four doesn’t cut it though but you’ll get a small proportion.
Capsaicin in chillies will cause an unpleasant burning sensation to eyes and skin. Try to avoid handling them too much, wear gloves if possible, and be sure not to touch your face or eyes during preparation.
So happy chilli growing gardeners.

Creating a Great Garden Path

You probably do have a garden path, in but does that path work for you?
Is your path so dominant that you end up having a path with a garden rather than a garden with a path?
Perhaps your garden path doesn’t dominate but it just doesn’t work for one reason or another.
So what do you do?
Let’s find out. 
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, principle of Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned a few variations on the garden path. 
Salt textured concrete is the favourite.
You can press large leaves into the concrete before it's completely dry and weigh the leaf down with a brick overnight.
The next day, peel off the leaf and you'll be left with an impression; not one that jumps out at you, but a subtle impression that you need to be almost on top of before you realise how marvellous the path really looks.
  If you want to know more or if you have any questions about garden paths, why not write in to


Telopea speciosissima

What does the botanical name mean?

Speciosissima is the superlative of the Latin adjective 'speciosus', meaning 'beautiful' or 'handsome'. Telopea means seen from afar.

Waratah (Telopea) is an Australian-endemic genus of five species of large shrubs or small trees, native to the southeastern parts of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania). 
The one we see walking in the bush is the red flowering version and is also the NSW state emblem.
Grows to 3m tall. 
Can be tricky to keep alive in the garden.
If you've tried to grow a Waratah, make sure it has great drainage.

Dreamings about the Waratah focus upon the tragic consequences of lost love. 
Two Wonga pigeons live together in a rich, lush forest. One day the female bird notices her mate is no longer by her side, so she searches for him, calling out for him. She cannot find him, so in a panic she flies above the canopy of the forest where a hungry and ever-vigilant hawk sees her and, swooping down, grabs her and clutches her in his sharp talons. She manages to wriggle free and plummets down, finally falling onto a white Waratah blossom, her blood staining its petals to red. From then on, Waratahs are generally red; it is very rare to find one that is white.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Cinderella Pumpkin Plus Lavender Cakes and Carnations

What’s On The Show Today?
Choose the right cultivar for your cooking in Spice it Up, Cinderella will thank you for growing this one in Vegetable Heroes We’re talking touchy feely plants in design elements and a flower that royalty in Talking Flowers


Lavender in Cooking
Lavendula angustifolia
Lavender was first used in Herbs du Provence which is dried herbs used in slow cooked dishes. 
But the correct lavender to use in any cooking is important if you want the flavour to be pleasant and not reminiscent of camphor.
Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula spica or the ones to use.
English Lavender
Commonly called English Lavender.
But did you know that so much of this plant is grown in France that they called it French Lavender rather than English Lavender.
The true French lavender is Lavandula dentata, which has serrated leaf margins and much larger almost woollier flowers. French lavender seems to flower for most of the year.
This one has a high camphor content which is unpleasant to taste. 
Lavandula angustifolia or English lavender has smooth sided leaves and a very slender flower and a long stalk.
Confusing if you want to use the correct plant’s flowers in cooking.
Let’s find out  more about Lavender in cooking.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

For the lemon and Lavender cakes recipe go to this link Lavender and Lemon Cakes
Remember:The  Lavender we should use in cooking is English lavender or Lavandula angustifolia, has a smooth leaf and the flower head is on a skinny long stem.
Ian mentioned how Lavender bottles, a lost art. Just search the web on making instructions...there are plenty.
If you have any questions about which Lavender to use in cooking then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Pumpkins (Cucurbita spp.) (could be Cucurbita pepo, or Cucurbita maxima and so on) are members of the Cucurbitaceae family along with zucchini, gourd, squash, melons and cucumber.

Pumpkins are a little different from the other members of the Cucurbit family because Pumpkins are normally hard-shelled whereas the squashes have softer skin, but there are exceptions.

The name “pumpkin” originated from the Greek word, “pepon,” which means, “large melon

Did you know that technically pumpkin is a fruit, and has been in cultivation for more than 5,000 years?

So where did Cinderalla’s pumpkin come from?

In some countries you can get a pumpkin variety called Rouge Vie d' Etampes". roughly translated "Red Life of the Times which turn a deep red when they’re ready to eat.
Supposedly the illustrator for the Cinderella Fairytale used this variety of pumpkin for Cinderella's coach, so that today this pumpkin is better known as a "Cinderella".
They look just like the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage.

Pumpkin is considered an annual, and comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns.

Pumpkins can weigh anywhere from 1–600kg. The largest pumpkin on record was grown in the USA, weighing 667kg.

Honestly, for those of us who have a compost heap, one of the most often things to grow out of the heap other than tomatoes, is the pumpkin.

Usually a Butternut or Queensland Blue.

Just as well that Pumpkins like compost heaps because the vines need fertile, compost-rich, well-drained soil in full sun, and are most easily grown as ground-cover plants.

There is a bush variety called Golden Nugget, that can be grown in a pot but all the rest grow way too big for pots.

Vines can be trained over frames provided they can support the weight of the heavy fruit.

When to sow:

Start early, with your pumpkin seed planting, because, before you know it, summer is here and you’ve run out of time to grow it to maturity.

In temperate zones, plant your pumpkin seeds from September until the end of December. Arid zones have from September until February, sub-tropical regions have between August and February, Cool temperate districts have between October and December, and in Tropical areas you can grow them all year round.

Growing Pumpkins 
Pumpkin seed needs a soil temperature of 20˚C for germination.
You can either sow them individually in 10cm pots and plant them out when the pots are filled with roots. 

Here’s a tip you’ve probably never heard of before.

Use Jiffy pots or pellets to limit the symptoms of transplant shock

Plant the seed with pointy end down, as this is where the roots start growing. This is not an issue when planting in the garden, but in small pots it becomes more important.

Or, sow seed or plant seedlings into mounds of rich compost, with lots and lots of chook poo, made over loosened soil.

The seeds are large so sow them about 2 cm deep.

Make sure you acclimatise your seedlings slowly to outdoor conditions before transplanting
Plants take 70–120 days to mature. That’s 10 -17 weeks or 2-4 months!

TIP: Pumpkins are shallow-rooted so they need regular watering in dry or windy weather.

It’s no good watering every other day in warm weather because your pumpkin will end up splitting.

Pinch out growing tips of those rambling stems to keep the plants in check, otherwise they may take over you whole backyard!

When I worked at Yates, getting those pumpkins to fertilise was the bane of quite a number of people’s veggie growing.

The complaint was lots of leaves and few flowers or that the embryo fruits and flowers fall off.

In fact, after Des wrote in that his pumpkin vine only had male flowers, I decided to include information about the flowers and fertilisation.

PUMPKIN FLOWERS and Fertilisation

  • Pumpkins produce short-lived male and female flowers that can close by mid-morning. Female flowers open above the swollen, distinctive embryo fruit and male flowers produce pollen. 
  • If the embryo fruit falls off, that usually means it didn’t get pollinated. 
  • Native and honey bees are normally able to complete pollination, but sometimes ants harvest pollen before this occurs. 
  • High temperatures can affect fruit formation over 30˚C, and here you may need to try hand pollination to improve fruit set. 
  • To hand pollinate, pick male flowers, remove the petals then dab pollen on the stigma of female flowers. 
  • Squeezing female flowers aids pollination in wet weather. 
  • Remember,, sometimes female flowers take two weeks or longer before they start appearing. 
  • This is because the pumpkin vine has to grow to a decent size where it can support fruit, before the female flowers appear. 
Jarrahdale Pumpking
Varieties of Pumpkin to Try:
There are as many different varieties of pumpkins as there are of tomatoes, except you can’t get the Cinderella pumpkin in Australia.
Golden Nugget is best for small gardens, for a medium sized pumpkin, try Hybrid Grey Crown or Queensland Blue.
Turk’s Turban is an exotic-looking pumpkin (although its flavour is a little dry).
You might prefer the stronger taste of Jarrahdale, from Western Australia.

For those who like something unusual, why not try Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia, with its thick knobbly grey-blue skin, and a rich deep yellow-orange inside. This one takes 100 days to maturity but keeps well. 

Pumpkin Galeux Deysines is another unusual pumpkin with whitish salmon-pink skin covered with peanut shell like warts. These warts are caused by the sugar in the skin as it ripens.
Don’t be put off by that, because the orange inside flesh, is sweet, and moist.

Harvesting and storing

Your pumpkin is ready to pick when it’s finished swelling which is when the vine is dying off, and they sound hollow when you tap on the shell.
This is when you remove them with as much of the stalk as possible.
Ripe pumpkins with unbroken skin store very well if kept in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space.
For the seed savers out there, seed can be saved one month after harvesting them.
Scoop seed from the flesh, wash, dry and store in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight.
To ensure seed-grown progeny comes true, save seed from one variety grown in isolation.

Why are they good for you?

The bright orange colour of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant, beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body.
They’re also a good source of vitamin C, with Queensland Blue coming top of the pumpkin class for this vitamin.
Pumpkins are a source of dietary fibre and supply (especially Golden nugget and Butternut) a good source of potassium.
One cup of cooked pumpkin has 2 g of protein, 3 g of dietary fibre.
Pumpkins are 90% water and a great for those watching their waistline
Why not make mashed pumpkin instead of mashed potato because Pumpkins don’t have a lot of carbs- just 12 g from 1 cup, but some of it is present as natural sugars, which is why they taste sweet.
Like Zucchini flowers, pumpkin flowers are also edible.



Creating Tactile and Sensory Gardens

For those gardens with just green leaves you need to zhoosh up the place with some touchy feely leaves.
So that when you walk along the garden path, you can brush your hand along the leaves of the plants for a nice intoxicating scent of just for the feel of the leaf;peculiar, sensational or otherwise.
But what else are gardens for?
Chelsea Flower Show photo M Cannon
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Peter Nixon, principle of Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned these two mostly
Sinningia bullata is like a fibrous bowling ball.
Kalanchoe beharensis-(pictured right) Madagascar felt plant has contorted silver grey leaves that looks wicked.

The best place to get these succulents is at African Violet societies for the sinningia and Succulent societies for the Kalanchoe beharensis.

Let’s not forget the textured aromatic leaves of Pelargoniums.


There are a lot of meanings for the carnation flower and each one varies with the different colours.
The scientific name of the carnation is Dianthus caryophyllus.
This translated means the "flower of love" or "flower of the gods" and one of the oldest cultivated flowers in the world.
The carnation dates back to the Roman era.
Carnations take up food dye very well so that the green carnations you see people wearing on St Patrick's Day is dyed that colour.
Carnations are easily grown in the home garden preferring limey  or alkaline soil.
Home grown carnations have a stronger scent than those grown in greenhouses.

All the more reason to grow your own.
I'm talking with floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers by Mercedes

Recorded on Facebook during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 1st November 2017