Saturday, 12 October 2019

Ground Cherries, Persian Roses, No More Lawns and Easy Gardening

Battery operated line trimmers
We’re talking the new wave of battery operated tools in part 2 of this segment in Tool Time growing an unusual berry in Vegetable Heroes, starting a new series on lawn alternatives in design elements, plus bloomin' Ranunculus flowers in Talking Flowers.


Battery Operated Garden Tools part 2
Last week, part 1 of the topic of battery operated garden tools was aired because there was so much to be said about them.
This week, it’s part 2 with a brief summary of what points that were touched on in part 1.
So, the new wave of garden tools are battery operated.
Let’s get into the topic
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

Batteries for garden tools can be purchased as 3, 4, 5, and 6 Amp Hours.
How long the battery lasts depends on which garden equipment you are using and how much load you will be putting on that particular piece of equipment.
It's advisable to buy two batteries at the initial purchase so that one can be charging while you are using the other.
Typically, recharging batteries takes between 30 - 45 minutes.
TIP: batteries aren't interchangeable between brands.
Battery operated lawnmowers don't leave a tread.
Make your brand selection based on the range of equipment that meets your needs.
Battery powered tools are easier to start, lighter, have no petrol smell, and best of all are much quieter and cheaper to run.
If you're wondering whether or not a battery operated lawnmower will cut through buffalo or kikuyu lawns. Tony says, no problem at all, and no tread marks on the lawn because the lawnmower is so much lighter.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Cape Gooseberry: Physalis peruviana syn. P. edulis  also sometimes called the ground cherry.
  • Cape goosebrerries can be grown in all parts of Australia, although they do best in temperate and subtropical areas, however, we can grow them elsewhere with a bit more care.
Did you know that Cape Gooseberries are thought to have originated in Peru and were one of the few fresh fruits of the early settlers in New South Wales?
So What Does It Look Like?
Cape gooseberry
  • The plant is a straggling bush up to one metre tall with yellow fruits inside a brown papery envelope.
  • It’s a short lived perennial  and can tolerate some frost so growing it further south shouldn’t be a problem.
  • In colder climates treat the cape gooseberry as an annual, much like you would tomatoes.
The cape gooseberry is related to tomatillo, and husk tomato, in fact, all in the genus Physalis.
TIP:Don’t confuse the Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana with an entirely different species referred to as Gooseberry bush. Ribes uva-ursi
The Gooseberry bush will produce very sweet, tart berries, but the cape gooseberry is quite different- and nice!
  • Cape Gooseberries taste like tiny cherry tomatoes .
    Cape gooseberries are surrounded by a husk

The best thing is that Cape Gooseberry is very easy to grow and as the fruit are popular with birds and plants can be easily spread around the garden.
The berry is the size of a cherry tomato,1-2 cm in size and is very aromatic and full of tiny seeds.
How you know that the berries are ripe is when they turn a golden orange and drop to the ground.
When to Sow
  • The time to sow Cape Gooseberry seed in every region except Tropical is now until December.
  • For Tropical zones, March through to August is the time to sow seeds.
  • If you sow the seeds in Spring and/or Summer you’ll get an Autumn harvest.
  • They’re not fussy about soil types and even do very well in poor soils and in pots.
  • The preference thous is for sandy to gravely loam.
  • They need lots of water throughout the growing year, except towards fruit-ripening time.
How to sow the seeds
Sow seed at the usual depth rule-3x the diameter of the seed.
Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 25°C
Space plants: 50 cm apart if you want to go into production otherwise just try one plant first because they do produce quite a few fruits.
Harvest in 3-4 months or 14-16 weeks.
To get the most fruit from your cape gooseberries, they need to be in a sunny place as long as there is no risk of frost.
  • Water them regularly and, when they grow flowers, feed them every two weeks with a tomato food.
  • Cape gooseberry plants get the same pests as what you’d get in your area from the common tomato. No surprises there.
  • So it would be a good idea to plant them amongst your flower border where they will grow quite happily and confuse the nasties at the same time.

How Do You Eat Cape Gooseberries.
Cape gooseberry once extracted from its husk, can be eaten raw tasting bit like ordinary tomatoes maybe a bit more zingy.

They can be added to salads, desserts and cooked dishes, they are delicious stewed with other fruit, especially apples.
They also go well in savoury dishes with meat or seafood,  as a flavouring, and in jams and jellies.
They can also be dried and eaten much like raisins or other small dried fruit.
Cape gooseberries contain large amounts of pectin, and are therefore suitable for jams and pies
Grab some cape gooseberry seeds from online seed suppliers, sprinkle a packet over your garden & go nuts!
The variety Golden Nugget grows to 1m
Why are cape gooseberries good for You?
Apart from their taste, Physalis is a good source of nutrients, minerals, vitamins.
Vitamins A, C & B, high in protein and rich in iron.
Put some berries in the bottom of a cup and mash them with a
wooden spoon.
Add some water into the cup. The mashed fruit should float, and the seeds will sink to the bottom.
Strain off the mash and water and dry out the seeds on clean tissue paper.
Sow the seeds thinly on the surface and cover them lightly with more compost.
Put the pot in a see-through plastic food bag/mini greenhouse and
tie the end up. This is to keep all the moisture in so the pips don’t
dry out.
 The seeds will germinate in a few days, so you will need to check them every day.
If the compost looks dry, give it a little water. When the seeds have
sprouted, remove the plastic bag and put the pot on a sunny
windowsill. Once the seedlings have four or five leaves, they will
need to be potted up in separate pots, using the same compost.
Repot your plants as they grow.


Lawn alternatives: considerations
Do you have places in the garden where your lawn just will not grow?
Perhaps it's in a shady part where moss seems to appear in winter instead of green lawn.
Or is it under or near trees where the tree root competition is too much and the lawn is patchy?
Then again, you may be just tired of the constant mowing during the warmer months of the year and want to swap mowing for low maintenance lawn alternatives.
So what are the considerations?
Let's find out.I'm talking with Glenice Buck, landscaper and consulting arborist with 

Lush lawns need lots of maintenance such as watering, fertilising and mowing.
If you live in a region that experiences periods of intense heat and drought, this type of lawn may not be possible to maintain. 
Add caption
Looking at brown lawn is not that much fun so exploring other options that need less frequent irrigation is a good alternative.
Unless you make the right lawn alternative choice, you may be swapping the mowing for the weeding.
Over the coming weeks, Glenice will talk about what lawn alternatives suit high foot traffic and low foot traffic areas.


Family:Ranunculaceae also includes anemones, clematis, delphiniums, nigella and hellebores.
Grow from claw-like tuber or corms but now referred to as thickened rhizomes.
Growing tips:
These plants are very hardy and will grow in a wide range of conditions.
If you missed planting them out in autumn for a spring show, treat yourself with a bunch of ranunculus from your favourite florist.
Mercedes Tips:
  • Cut the stems straight across before placing them in a vase.
  • Place them in water that has been filtered or standing for 4 hours so that all the chlorine has evaporated off.
  • Throw in a few ice cubes to perk up your ranunculus flowers
  • Flowers have a vase life of 8 - 10 days.

As they prefer to have their roots kept cool and moist, plant Ranunculus species in a sunny or partly shaded position with moist well-drained soil.
Don’t like clay soils.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini florist, and floral therapist.
This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show in Sydney.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Sweeteners, Silver Princesses and Battery Garden Tools

We’re talking the new wave of battery operated tools in part 1 of this segment in Tool Time growing a natural sweetener in Vegetable Heroes, a native tree with many things to love in Plant of the Week plus bloomin' Tiger Lily flowers in Talking Flowers.


Battery Operated Tools part 1

Have you ever cut through the electric cord of your electric hedge trimmer?
I know I have. Thank goodness for the safety cut off.
They may be light than petrol powered hedge trimmers, but apart from the risk of cutting through the cord, there’s the meters and metres of cord that you may have to run.
Especially if you have a long back yard and need to get to a hedge.
So what’s the alternative?
Battery powered edger
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

Lithium ion batteries for battery operated garden tools now have now no memory so they don’t have to be fully discharged before charging again. The power tools themselves are so much lighter.
The big tip is how much gardening do you need to do with the tools?
Base it on amp hours.
4 amp hours will go for 25% longer than 3 amp hours and 5 amp hours will go 50% longer than e amp hours.
Battery lawnmower
But the cost increases on the batteries also.
Important Tip: The batteries are not interchangeable between brands, so make your selection based on the range of tools that you need for your garden. If the brand you like doesn't have everything you need, as well as spare parts, choose another, but reputable brand.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Stevia: Stevia rebaudiana
There’s a few plants whose leaves are quite sweet and have been used to produce sugar alternatives without the calories.
Stevia is one such plant.
Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.
Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.
So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.
Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.
So what does Stevia plant look like?
Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like.
stevia plant
  • Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn.
  • Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C.Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant.

Stevia plants also hate being water logged.
By the way, I’ve grow my stevia plant in a pot for several years now without any problems and it’s survived several bouts of dry hot summers and lack of watering during spells with a house sitter.
But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.
  • During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant. But don’t plant your Stevia in waterlogged soil and don’t overwater it.
  • Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy and a layer of your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.
  •  Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content. Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.
HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter. Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.
If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.

How do you store Stevia leaves?
If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secateurs before stripping the leaves.
TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevio-side as do the leaves.
 If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning).
These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates.
In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop.
Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey.
Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option.
I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.

So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a moderately warm day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. (Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of the final product.)
If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand,  in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Stevia flowers

Why are they good for you?
 Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.


Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess
This week we have a native plant that is a medium sized tree with outstanding features.
Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess or gungurru has interesting bark, leaves and flowers.)
It’s in the Myrtacaea family and it is a gum tree.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.

I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.
PLAY: Eucalyptus Silver Princess_25th September 2019

Silver Princess trunk and fruits are covered in the grey to whitish bloom, except for the leaves and flowers themselves.
If you rub the bark you’ll see the mahogany colour under that bloom.
Silver Princess grows to about 8m in height, but as Adrian says, it's a leaner.
That means unless you are keeping on eye on it as it grows, the tree will develop a 45 degree lean.
Formative pruning helps, but for some reason it aspires to lean.
Adrian will almost coppice his leaning Silver Princess in the hope that it will resprout from it's ligno tuber as it does in the wild.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of this tree, please write in to

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Bristlebirds, Turmeric and Water Gums

What's On The Show Today
Marianne is talking with ornitholgist Dr Holly Parsons about an indigenous ground dwelling bird in Wildlife in Focus, growing turmeric , a root veg that is too easy, in Vegetable Heroes, Tristaniopsis laurina or water gum is a native tree with many things to love in Plant of the Week plus what to do about indoor plant pests in Design Elements.


Rufous BristleBird
Did you know that Australia has ground dwelling birds other than emus, brush turkeys, and Cassowary?
Out of all those birds I just mentioned, gardeners might prefer the Rufous Bristlebird digging around in their garden.
Rufous Birstlebird
Do you know why it's called a bristlebird?
Let’s find out.

The Rufous Bristlebird (Dasyorni Broadbenti) is only found in Australia and mainly along coastal areas in south-western Victoria.
Bristlebirds are generally shy birds that skulk in dense vegetation during the day. They prefer to run away to avoid danger, but are capable of flying short distances. Bit like the brush turkey.
Usually they hang around in pairs 
The common name of the family is derived from the presence of prominent rictal bristles - three stiff, hair-like feathers curving downwards on either side of the gape.
As with fantails and flycatchers, their bristles assist in catching insects.
Bristlebirds have previously been seen in south-western Western Australia and south-eastern South Australia, but unfortunately frequent burning has led to their extinction in W.A.
Have you seen a Rufous Bristlebird?
If you have any questions for me or for Holly, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Turmeric or Curcuma longa.
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. And it’s surprisingly easy to grow.

It‘s native to southwest India and has been grown in cultivation since 500 BCE where it’s an important part of AY-YURR-VEDDIC (Ayurvedic )medicine?
Ayurveda translates to “science of life.”
In India, inhaling fumes from burning turmeric is supposed to alleviate congestion, also turmeric juice was used to help with healing of wounds and bruises, and turmeric paste was applied to all sorts of skin conditions – from smallpox and chicken pox to blemishes and shingles.
  • Did you know that in Hindu religion there’s a wedding day tradition in which a string, dyed yellow with turmeric paste, is tied around the bride’s neck by her groom?
  • This necklace, indicates that the woman is married and capable of running a household.
  • You may have seen Buddhist monks with their saffron or yellowy coloured robes. This is where the natural colouring properties of Turmeric comes in.
  • Not only is it used to colour Buddhist robes, but has been used to dye clothing and thread for centuries.

Turmeric plant
What does it look like?
Turmeric grows to about 1 metre in height, with alternating lime green leaves about a metre long; in other words quite big as you’d expect in a rainforest setting.
The flowers are pure white and extend upwards on floral spikes, up to 20cm long. Suitable for picking too.
The rhizomes have tough brown skin and deep orange flesh inners.
To get hold of some Turmeric rhizomes you need to go to an organic fruit and veg market where you can buy fresh turmeric roots throughout summer, and you may be able to use those to sprout a plant.
Otherwise, you’ll have to find a local nursery or online store that carries them.
Note: Sometimes it’s sold as hidden Ginger online but we aware that there are different kinds of hidden ginger, but only the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, Curcuma zedoaria and Curcuma aromatica should be grown as spices.
How To Sprout Turmeric Tubers
Turmeric tubers
  • To get your rhizome to sprout just place it in a paper bag in a warmish spot in the kitchen, say by a window and you should see sprouts in a few days. Once you have a fresh rhizome or root, all you need to do is plant it. 
  • A large root will have several fingers to it.You can cut these apart and start more than one plant if you like.
  • Another way to get it to sprout is to just bury the rhizome 5 cm deep into loose potting mix.
  • If there are any knobs or buds on the root, turn it so they are facing upwards.
Now Keep It Growing
Keep it damp but not sopping wet or the root may rot.
In a month or so, you should see sprouts come up.
If you are going to grow turmeric outside, you can transplant it out in late autumn.
For indoor plants, you can do this anytime.
Turmeric is a rhizome so like Jerusalem Artichokes, and Ginger, you plant them in the soil when the rhizomes are dormant
Most books will tell you to plant your rhizome in Spring, but the first lot that I bought withered and shrivelled and it wasn’t until late December that I purchased another lot.
This time the rhizomes were fresher looking and sprouted in a couple of days using the paper bag method.
Sprouted turmeric does OK in  a pot

These were then potted up and placed in a shady spot where all the young plants get put in my garden.
The plant had reached about 30 cm in height by the end of January.
Why grow Turmeric?
Even if you don’t ever make your own curry paste or even cook with Turmeric, the Turmeric plant is very lush and tropical looking.
The whole plant is edible; the roots are boiled, dried and ground up to produce turmeric powder, the leaves make a wrap for steamed fish, and even the flowers can be eaten as a vegetable, like lettuce.
For those that use Turmeric in cooking, did you know that if you make your own Turmeric powder from the rhizomes, it won’t be as bright as the processed store bought version?
Because the root can harbour mould and foodborne pathogens, turmeric is typically irradiated to kill pathogenic bacteria.
Irradiation also creates a brighter powder, but if you don’t want irradiated Turmeric, either buy organic powder or grow your own.
Where to grow it.
Turmeric plant
Unless you live in a tropical, sub-tropical or temperate zone  in Australia, the majority of people who are going to grow turmeric will have to do it indoors, and it does grow fine in pots.
In temperate regions your Turmeric will die down over winter and return the following year, and  in cold temperate zones unless your ground freezes over it may just pop up again in Spring.
Choose a pot that’s at least 30cm across and the same in depth to give your plants room to grow.
Water your potted turmeric regularly to keep the soil damp, and weekly feedings with mild or diluted fertilizer won’t go astray either.
If you’re growing it in the ground, only put it in full sun if the ground is constantly wet, otherwise shade in the middle of the day is best.
Turmeric will cope with drought and even boggy soils, probably because where it naturally grows, the average rainfall is between 1000 and 2000mm a year
If the plant is stressed by drought or too much sun, the leaves will hang
When to dig it up?
  • You’ll have to wait at least 8 -10 months before you can dig it up.
  • When the leaves turn yellow and start to dry out that’s when your turmeric is ready to dig up.
  • You’ll have to dig up the whole plant and cut the rhizome away from the stem.You might be lucky and manage to dig up only a small part because storing it in the ground will keep it fresh the longest.If you’re growing it in a pot, it’s pretty simple to turn the rhizome out, take what you want, and then put it all back.
So how else can you use Turmeric?
To store your Turmeric just keep the unpeeled roots in an air-tight container in a cool dark place and the rhizomes should last for up to 6 months.
To use fresh Turmeric in cooking, just slice them thinly or mince instead of using powder.
If you are used to cooking with dry and ground turmeric from the store, take care when using fresh. It’s much stronger in taste and you will only need a small amount to really add its peppery zest to a meal.
Turmeric Flower is edible

You don’t have to make the powder but instead use it as you would fresh ginger.
How about a fruit and veg Turmeric smoothie, or Turmeric pickle?
For sore throats, add 1 teaspoon of Turmeric to your favourite milk, and heat. Add some honey to sweeten.
Drink this before retiring for bed.
It's also an excellent source of fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, and healthy amounts of vitamin C and magnesium.
But you don’t need to eat that much.
Even a small dose has health benefits.


Tristaniopsis laurina: Water Gum
This week we have a native plant that has Tristaniopsis laurina or Water gum is like the native version of Crepe myrtles, with interesting bark, leaves and flowers.
It’s in the Myrtaceae family but it’s not a gum tree.
Water gum in flower: I'ts not a gum tree.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.
I'm speaking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

But are the flowers perfumed? Adrian thought not but apparently they do have a perfume.
There’s an updated version called Tristaniopsis laurina ‘Luscious.”that grows up to 8m in height.
Leaves are dark green, shiny and large with a dense canopy.
New growth starts out a distinctive copper colour and further interest appears over time with the branches developing deep purple coloured bark which peels back to reveal a smooth, cream trunk.
Flowers are yellow and sweetly perfumed, appearing in clusters through summer.

If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of this tree, please write in to


Indoor Plant Pests Under Control
Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about what plants you can grow indoors wherever you live in Australia.

Quite a few in fact can cope with all weather conditions for the far north of Australia to Tasmania.
Despite all your loving attention though, some plants can be susceptible to pest attack, or just like plain unhealthy, making you think you did something wrong.
Not necessarily true, so let’s find out about looking after indoor plants
That was Julia Levitt Director of
PLAY: Indoor plants-pests_2nd August 2017
Even the best plant owner will come across pests.
The trick is to keep an eye on your plants and act quickly as soon as you see something wrong with your indoor plant.
Why are we having plants indoors again?
Apart from plants reducing carbon dioxide levels in your home, did you know that people with plants in their homes have less stress, and plants have been known to contribute to lower blood pressure?
If you have any questions about indoor plant pests why not email us

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Salt, Yams and Silver Shield plants

We’re talking about salt in the Spice it Up segment, growing Oca, a root veg, in Vegetable Heroes, Plectranthus argentatus or Silver Spur flower, whichis a native ground cover that bees love in Plant of the Week plus what does Nicole Miranda and friends from Henley Green Community garden get up to at this time of year?


Is salt a spice a seasoning or something else?
Is there more than one type of salt?
Why should we use it rather than leave it out?
Did you know that culinary salts come in two basic categories - sea salt and mined salt?
All this and more about salt. I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from
Let’s find out Salt is actually a mineral, not a spice which means it doesn’t lose its flavour over time like spices and herbs do.
Salt is used as a seasoning, and is just NaCl or sodium chloride.
Most dishes that would be spiced will contain salt.
There are many types of salts on the market but they fall into two categories.
1) salts with impurities, that give a different flavour.
2) salts with different textures.
An example the first is Murray River pink salt. The colour is pink because of the minerals that the aquifer has flown through.
Rock salt is mined salt.
Murray River Pink Salt
  • Indian Black salt is also mined salt. Initially  the big chunks that are mined are deep purple to almost black in colour. However, when it is crushed, it becomes a pale pink in colour. Exudes a pungent odour.
  • this salt is a key ingredient in  'chat masala' which also contains cumin, coriander seed and asefetida. 
  • if requestingd the salted version of the drink lassi , it will contain chat masala.
All salt originates in sea water, but sea salt is evaporated from liquid ocean water, while mined salt is taken from ancient deposits left by long-dry seas.
Ian's Secret Tip: salt is cheap and heavy and added to some spice blends to make them cheaper so watch out and just buy the best.
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Oca,   New Zealand Yams Scientifically Oxalis tuberosa.
They were originally grown in the high Andes and are still a very popular variety of vegetable in South America.
It’s no surprise then that they were a staple food of various ancient cultures throughout the continent.
Oca tubers were brought to Europe in 1830 as an alternative to potato.
Potatoes were considered more versatile so that oca tuber never really caught on in any great scale.
30 years later they were also introduced to New Zealand, where there was a very different reaction.
They were adopted as a firm favourite and are still hugely popular today (and known simply as ‘yams’).
NZ Yams or Oca
  • Unlike potatoes, oca tubers can be eaten both raw and cooked.Well that’s not strictly true, I remember as schoolkids, we occasionally would bite into raw potato, but it wasn’t that nice.
So why should we grow Oca?
  • When they’re raw, they have a fresh lemony flavour with a crisp, crunchy texture not unlike the crispness of a carrot.
  • The skin is edible too and can be left on when raw. Slice them up into a salad to add some fresh zest.
  • When they’re cooked, the lemony flavour disappears and the tubers have a nuttier taste.You can cook them in much the same way as a potato — boiled, baked, fried, grilled or added to a soup or winter stew.

What Does The Plant Look Like?
A compact, attractive, bushy perennial plant with clover-like leaves to 20 - 30 cm high.
Oca tubers look like stubby, wrinkled carrots.
Oxalis tuberosa
Oca is suit to temperate and cool temperate climates for spring planting.
Cool temperate districts can plant it as late as mid-summer but spring is recommended.
Oca is resistant to low temperatures grows best in moderately cool climates but freezing will kill the foliage.
If the tubers are already established it will re-sprout.
This one is not suitable to plant in subtropical or tropical climates over summer.
Winter temperatures in frost-free areas of Queensland are ideal to grow oca. The summer is simply too hot, humid and wet.
How To Grow Oca
  • Temperatures above 28°C cause the plant to wilt.
  • Grow the oca tubers in much the same way as you would grow potatoes.
  • Tubers start forming 4 months after planting and production peaks at 6 months.
  • Oca tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH.
  • The oca plant will begin to form tubers as the days shorten and the temperature drops — in other words, in the autumn.
  • The tubers will grow in size throughout the autumn, so the longer the tubers are left in the soil, the better.
  • Typically, the best time to harvest the tubers is after the frost has destroyed all of the above-ground foliage or it naturally dies off.
  • Keep several for planting next season, by storing them in sand or sawdust.

Like the potato, the oca tuber can be stored for several months, so you’ll have them for an extended period after harvest.
Why Is It Good For You?
Each variety differs in its nutritional content, but generally they’re a great source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, iron and potassium, as well as being a source of protein.


Plectranthus argentatus: Silver Shield
This week we have a native plant that has velvety leaves, sage green foliage and blue flowers.
It’s in the mint family, so it’s got square stems.
I’m not sure why some people think that only exotics come from the mint family.
Australia has quite a few members that fit into this category.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.I'm speaking with new contributor, Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

  • Plectranthus” is a combination of 2 Greek words that mean “spur” (plectron) and “flower” (anthos).
  • Argentatus is Latin for silver.
Plectranthus argentatus or Silver Shield prefers partial shade but will grow in full sun as long as the soil’s not too poor.

Can also grow in full shade and tolerate light frosts, that’s down to -2 C.
Excellent in dry shade.
The best spot for it though is in well drained soil near trees, also a great plant for containers.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of the Snow Wood tree, please write in to

Henley  Green Community Garden Update

There are many reasons to join a community garden: learn a new skill, teach your kids where food comes from, save money, help the environment, have a reason to get outside regularly and share with others.
Chickens at Henley Green Community garden
These reasons — and many more keep the people who grow food at a community garden.
Let’s catch up with what’s happening in the local community garden at Henley.
I'm speaking with Nicole Miranda from the Happy Hens Community garden in Henley.

If you are interested in joining the community garden at Henley you need to first register your interest by filling in a form from their website
If you have any questions for me or for Nicole, please write in to

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Mulch, Coriander and Snow Wood Trees

We’re talking mulches, why and what in the Plant Doctor segment, growing those leafy herbs that go great in Asian stirfries, in Vegetable Heroes, a native tree that has the flower and the fruits to impress in Plant of the Week and Indoor plants for cooler climates in Design Elements.


Mulches,Mulches, Mulches
Here we are again, talking about mulches when you probably want to hear about something more interesting right? There’s a reason why gardeners keep talking about mulches, and that is, it’s an important part of gardening whether we like it r not.

And, there’s a right way and a wrong way to spread the mulch.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from
Let’s find out

Mulches are important, especially in areas that are drought affected or are experiencing water restrictions.
The mulch locks in soil moisture and keeps soil cool in warm weather.
Applying mulch can be a bit of a chore, but it's worth it in the long run.
The reverse is true in cold weather, where the mulch acts a sort of blanket and helps retain heat in the soil layer.
Mulch also acts as a barrier to weed seeds and helps with wind erosion.
Over the years the advice as to how much mulch to apply has changed.
Fine mulch shouldn’t be more than 1cm thick, but chunky mulches, can be around 5cm thick.
Remember of course, that organic mulches bring microbial life to your soil, whereas the inorganic, mostly chunky mulches are just a layer of protection.
TIP: Leave some space around the trunk of trees, as it may encourage fungal growth or collar rot if right up against the main trunk.
If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Coriander:Coriandrum sativum  
You may have come across the term Cilantro in recipes and wonder what kind of herb that was.
Believe it or not, the names of Coriander and Cilantro are interchangeable to a degree.
Well it’s just a bit of a technical difference to confuse us poor gardeners.
  • Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant and coriander refers to the seeds.
  • In Australia we call the leaves and the seeds coriander and some people even call it Chinese parsley.
  • So coriander leaf is nothing else but cilantro.
Love or Hate Coriander?
Coriander leaves
People either hate it or love Coriander because it does have a pungent citrus flavour to the leaves.
There’s even those that say it tastes like dead ants.
Would they have eaten dead ants? I think not.
Would you believe that the name coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, meaning bedbug, since the unripe seeds and leaves when crushed supposedly have a smell suggestive of a crushed bedbug?
If you’ve ever let your Coriander go to flower, you may have noticed that it looks similar to the flowers on carrots.
That’s because coriander belongs in the Apiaceae or carrot family, along with Parsley, dill and of course carrots.
On the other hand, Coriander has been grown for over 3,000 years.
Did you know that about half a litre of coriander seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen?
Because this plant doesn’t grow wild in Egypt, this suggests that coriander was grown in the gardens of ancient Egyptians.
The Chinese once believed it gave you immortality and in the Middle ages it was used as part of a love potions.
  • Coriander is an annual herb because it flowers, sets seed then dies in under a year.
So why should we grow Coriander?
Heaps of Coriander seeds are used in curries, tagines and many other Asian dishes.
In fact the whole herb, including the roots can be ground up to make Green Curry paste.
I just mash it up in a food processor when I make that paste. 

Now here’s a big tip:
Coriander seedlings
  • Always grow coriander from seed, sown in the exact spot you want it to grow as it absolutely HATES being transplanted.
  • Transplanting coriander stresses it so that it goes straight to seed and then it dies. And you never get any leaves at all!
  • Coriander gets a has a big taproot as it grows so growing it in a pot won’t work either, it’ll go straight to seed as well.,
For sub-tropical and arid zones, you have August to September;
And in temperate districts, sow the seeds from September until the end of November,
In cool temperate zones, October to November,
  • Sow your seeds about 1 cm deep, cover them and keep them moist.
  • Coriander takes a couple of weeks to germinate, so go do it after my program.
  • Coriander grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall. 
  • You want about 5 cm between the plants if you grow it for the leaves.
Big Tip: Grasshoppers don’t like coriander, so plant it around the spinach to stop the grasshoppers eating holes in the leaves.
Coriander flowers attract beneficial insects
Leave a few plants to go to seed, yes, on purpose so you have a continuous supply.
When your plants are big enough, take the leaves off from the base of the plant.
Just make sure the plant is big enough to cope and leave some leaves on it so it can continue to grow.
As soon as that flower stalk appears, your coriander plant stops making more
  • Just remember when coriander plants get stressed, or in hot weather, or once they reach a certain age, they stop making leaves and instead start growing a tall flower stalk.
  • Another reason as to why you should let some coriander plants go to flower, is that coriander flowers are an important food source for beneficial insects, especially little parasitic wasps and predatory flies.
TIP:To attract many beneficial insects you want lots and lots of coriander flowers why not sprinkle some coriander and parsley seeds through your other vegetables under your fruit trees and in any other place you can fit them.
Keep watering and feeding your coriander plants well, and wait for the flower to develop and set seeds.
In hot weather this may take as little as 4 - 6 weeks from when you first put the seed in the ground.
Fresh cilantro (coriander) should be stored in the refrigerator in a  a container or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.  
Use as early as possible since it loses flavour and nutrients quickly if kept for longer periods.
  • Harvesting coriander seed is not too hard. All you need to do is wait till the flower heads are dry. There will be enough seed for the kitchen and enough to plant out more in the garden.
Thai Green Curry Paste
50g coriander seed
25g cumin seed
1 whole blade mace
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
9 garlic cloves, chopped
9 shallots, chopped
15 coriander roots, chopped, plus a handful of coriander leaves
19 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
250g galangal, chopped
5 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed, inner stalk chopped
5 lime leaves, stalks removed and leaves chopped
100g shrimp paste
handful basil leaves
Heat a dry frying pan and add the coriander and cumin seeds, mace and nutmeg. Roast until they begin to colour and release their aromas. Remove from the heat, then grind to a powder in a spice mill or blender.
 Put the garlic in a blender or pound using a pestle and mortar, then add the shallots, coriander roots, chillies, galangal, lemongrass and 2 tsp salt. Finally, add the lime leaves, shrimp paste, basil and the ground spices, then whizz or pound until you have a smooth paste.

Why Is It Good For You?
Coriander contains no cholesterol; but is rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fibre which help reduce LDL or "bad cholesterol" while increasing HDL or "good cholesterol" levels.
The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
It’s also rich in many vital vitamins like folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin- A, beta carotene, vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. 
Coriander is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K

Parachidendron pruinosum: Snow Wood Tree.
There are some plants, be it trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals, which don’t make it into the mainstream of plant shops, not even online.
Snow Wood fruits after opening.
Whether it’s because people aren’t aware of its existence or because it’s hard to propagate in large number, the fact remains, it’s just not out there.
But there are plenty of good reasons why you should grow a Snow Wood.
Let’s find out I'm talking with new contributor, to "plant of the week" segment,  Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

The fragrant flowers are pom-pom like heads, greenish-white or golden yellow and darkening with age.
Flowering time is October to January. The fruit pod matures from February to June .
Fruit pods are very attractive, twisting when they split open to reveal black shiny large seeds and look a bit like acacia fruit pods. 
Seeds are black, shiny and mostly flat, oval in shape. 
Germination tip:Scarification of the seeds helps germination, which is slow but fairly reliable.
Seen in Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney near the Moor building.
Pararchidendron pruinosum is an Australian rainforest tree naturally occuring from the Shoalhaven River in New South Wales to Herberton in north Queensland. 
Also found in New Guinea and Indonesia.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of this tree, please write in to