Sunday, 17 February 2019

Lilies That Are Pineapple and Sage That Is Just Sage

Introducing a new contributor who has some sage advice in plant of the Week, a crunchy but sweet root veggie in vegetable heroes, No shade for outside dining in Design Elements plus Talking Flowers is back with pineapple lily flowers to delight.


Sage as Herbal

Herbs are great plants to grow in the garden because they’re so useful in cooking.
But perhaps you’re not using your herbs to fullest?
Even if you just made a tea, you’re expanding the usefulness of that herb.
But what kind of benefits would you get from just drinking a freshly made herbal tea?
Let’s find out … I'm talking to new contributor Simone Jeffries, a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist.

Sage is Salvia officinalis which you may already know, means it’s the one for medicinal use.
There’s no point buying a Pineapple sage plant and using it’s leaves, it just has to be the medicinal sage which is also the culinary sage. 
There are heaps of benefits of drinking Sage tea but Sage tea is an acquired taste.

Put 6 fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water and let steep for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Somone says "Sip throughout the day for control of night sweats for post-menopausal ladies."
So, if you really want the benefits, then you’ve just got to drink it as Simone says, maybe add a dash of honey.
For sore throats: Make a strong tea and lemon juice and honey and gargle it.

If you have any questions either for me or Simone why not write in to


Yacon is in the Daisy or Asteraceae family.

Scientifically speaking: Smallanthus sonchifolius (syn Polymnia sonchifolia)
Yacon is sometimes called, Peruvian ground apple, strawberry jicama, Bolivian sunroot, llacon, ground-pear, and pear of the earth.
We’ll stick to Yacon-which is the name this vegetable mostly goes by
Yacon is native to the Andes- Colombia and Ecuador but did you know that until as recently as the early 2000s, yacón was hardly known outside of South America?
You probably won’t see it any time soon in your veggie shop but you can buy Yacon tea or Yacon syrup.
So what does this plant look like and which part do you eat?
Yacon is a hardy, attractive herbaceous perennial from which you get quite a few tubers.
The plant grows to 1.5 to 2 m tall with light green angular leaves that look a bit like a milk thistle’s leaves or even a Jerusalem artichoke.
When it flowers, you’ll have male and female daisy-like yellow to orange flowers that are pollinated by insects.
Each plant forms a underground clump of 4 to 20 fleshy large tuberous roots.
The plant itself is extremely hardy tolerating hot summers, drought and poor soils.
The part that you eat is underground.
Yacon tubers look a bit like sweet potatoes, but they have a much sweeter taste and crunchy flesh.
The tubers are very sweet, juicy and almost calorie free but more on that later.
I would say that the tubers taste like a cross between apple and watermelon, but with more sweetness.
Generally it’s a bit tricky describing the taste of a new food, but everyone agrees on the crunchiness.
If you can grow Jerusalem artichokes or Parsnips, you can grow Yacon.
Yacon has a long growing season-up to 7 months so generally suits temperate to tropical areas.
But you can grow it in cooler districts.
Yacon can be planted all year round in frost-free areas as it is day-length neutral.
In tropical areas grow Yacon during the dry season before the wet sets in.
It appears to be drought tolerant compared to other vegetable crops and so far, pest-free.
Planting in Cool Climates

Two Types of Tubers
Yacon actually produces two types of underground tubers, reddish rhizomes directly at the base of the stem that can be eaten but are a bit stringy and tough so they’re mainly used for propagation.
Then there’s the larger brown or purple tubers-these are the ones you eat.
Prepare the soil by loosening well with a fork and working in compost.
To plant, cover a large rhizome/tuber which has several sprouts, with soil to a depth of 3 cm.  Space them 0.5m apart.
But you might just want to start with one plant which you can buy online or some garden centres.

Mulch well because yacon will grow up through the mulch, just like potatoes.

The stems of this plant are brittle so if you haven’t got a wind break tip prune the stems to make the plant lower and more bush.
Because this plant creates dense shade when it grows you probably won’t have to do any weeding. Bonus!
TIP: Yacon grows fast even in poor soils but gives you much bigger tubers in rich, friable, well-drained soil.

So when do you pick this strange vegetable?

If your plant flowers don’t bother with any seeds you might bet because they’re mostly un-viable.
Yacon is almost always propagated from cuttings or tubers.
Why the tubers keep sweetening during storage is because of starch conversion.
You can put them in the sun for a couple of weeks to speed up the sweetening process.
The tubers can be eaten raw as a refreshing treat on their own, finely sliced and mixed into salads, boiled or baked, fried as chips or prepared as a pickle.
There’s plenty of eating tips, too many to mention, but I’ll post them on the website. For those without a computer, write in to me and I’ll send you a fact sheet.
First remove the outer brown skin and inner white skin by peeling with a knife as the skin has a resinous taste.
Inside is amber coloured sweet crunchy flesh.
Like all tubers there are no seeds to remove, so it is quick and easy to prepare.
Chop the tuber into chunks and add it to green salads where they impart a great flavour and texture. I
When cut into long strips, they make an interesting addition to a plate of raw vegetable crudites for dipping into your favourite guacamole or cream cheese dip.
It can also be boiled, steamed or baked with other vegies. In cooking they stay sweet and slightly crisp.
If boiled 'in the jacket' the skin separates from the flesh and can be peeled off like a boiled egg.
Yacon can also be used in a dessert crumble or pie with apples, pears or choko.
In the Andes, they are grated and squeezed through a cloth to yield a sweet refreshing drink. The juice can also be boiled down to produce a syrup. In South America the juice is concentrated to form dark brown blocks of sugar called chancaca. The young stem can be used as a cooked vegetable.
Why is it good for you?
Nutritionally yacon is low in calories but it is said to be high in potassium.
Yacon tubers store carbohydrate in the form of inulin, a type of fructose, which is a suitable food for type II diabetics.
Plants with the sugar inulin such as Jerusalem artichokes and yacon can be useful additions to diet of people with type II diabetes.


Pineapple Lily: Eucomis comosa

Grows in the wettest parts of South Africa where it orginates.

Member of the Asparagaceae family.

Pineapple lily is a bulbous perennial with a basal rosette of lime-green leaves.

Mercedes will say, Mr Pineapple Lily, because it starts from a bulb.

The thick stem  carries hundreds of small star-shaped flowers with a tuft of green bracts at the top.

This sort of looks like a pineapple top, hence it's common name.
The Pineapple Lily as a cut flower will last for several weeks in the vase.
Cut the stem straight across, because the flower arises from a plant with a bulb, therefore Mr Pineapple Lily.
Remember to always use filtered water.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener at 2rrr 88.5 fm radio studios 


Garden Walkways

Today’s garden challenge is for those gardeners that don’t want hard surface garden paths.
Concrete, brick or other types of paving for paths can be a bit harsh in areas where the garden is quite natural.
In this segment, garden designer Peter Nixon explores some softer alternatives.
Let’s find out…
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer.
Peter’s not a fan of pebbles on paths.

Instead why not try a combo of bark chips and shell grit, or decomposed granite, perhaps Lillydale topping and bark or woody mulch.

You would need to run the plate compactor over these surfaces to compact the path.

If you have any questions about what to do for your garden paths in your garden, or have some information to share, write in

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Birds, the Bees and Anthuriums

What’s on the show today?

A beautiful bird regails us in Wildlife in Focus, the elusive pollination problem in vegetable heroes, a an alluring indoor plant in Plant of the Week plus Why Don’t Plants Last in Design Elements.


Beautiful Firetail Finch: Stagonopleura bella
Over the years, Australian birds have featured on this program, but how good are we at identifying the calls?
It’s not that easy is it?
Beautiful Firetail finch
What about placing a particular bird in the correct family of birds?
That should be easier so where do finches sit? Parrot family or Passerine?
Let’s find out .
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

Amazing to see in the wild, males and female Firetail Finches are similar, being small and chunky, with striking barring and a pale blue eye ring.
Let’s hope listeners that people don’t mistake them for mice scuttling about the long grass looking for grass seeds.
They also like the seeds of Casuarinas and Tea-Trees.
Can you imagine this little bird building an exact bottle shaped nest tipped on its side? 
The nest is built from grass and carefully woven by both of the birds.
Not found in urban settings that much, but in shrubby settings.

If you have any questions either for me or for Holly, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


The reason this topic is being mentioned is because although gardeners realise that pollination is vital in a plants reproductive cycle so that seeds, fruit or veg is formed.
The problem is though, gardeners often struggle with the question,
“ why haven’t I got fruit on my zucchini plant, when there’s plenty of flowers, and plenty of bees buzzing around.?
Substitute what fruit or vegetable that you’ve had trouble with getting it to fruit in place of that zucchini, it could be beans.
Sometimes it seems so random, for example, last year, I had plenty of flowers on my passionfruit vine, but not a single passionfruit.
This year, though, there’s plenty of passionfruit.
So what happened?
First , let’s start with what is pollination?
Put simply, during plant reproduction, pollination is when pollen grains move from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower.
Insects can pollinate flowers, and so can the wind.
Insect-pollinated flowers are different in structure from wind-pollinated flowers.
Insect pollinated flowers are large and brightly coloured, mostly scented and with nectar.
All of this is needed to attract the insects.
  • The pollen grains are sticky or spiky so that they stick to the insect good and proper.
  • Inside the flower, the anthers are stiff and firmly attached so that they remain in place when an insect brushes past.

  • The stigma, usually higher than the anther, has a sticky surface to which pollen grains attach themselves when an insect brushes past.
  • Wind pollinated flowers are often small, dull green or brown with no scent or nectar.
  • The flower usually has hundreds of thousands of pollen grains that are smooth and light so that they can easily be carried by wind without clumping together.
  • Anthers are outside the flower, and usually looks quite long.
  • All the better to easily release pollen grains.
  • The stigma is also outside the flower and looks more like a feather duster so it can more easily catch those drifting light pollen grains.
  • That’s important to remember if you think about sweet corn which is from the grass family and therefore wind pollinated.
When it comes to insect pollinated flowers, the different heights of the anther and the stigma is designed by nature so that the plant avoids self-pollination or inbreeding.

Did you know that most plants are hermaphrodites because they have both male and female parts in the same flower?

Even corn is a hermaphrodite but because it’s in the grass family, it has separate male and female flowers on the same plant rather than on different plants like Spinach.
In Corn the male flowers are position above the female flowers, ie, silks, below containing the ears.
The flowers are self-compatible with pollen being spread by wind and not insects.
This means it’s subject to inbreeding depression, so seed savers need to replant at least a hundred plants for true to type maintenance.
  • Pumpkin and zucchini is another variation in that the separate male and female flowers are on the same plant and are self –compatible just like corn, but relying on insects.
  • Without insects to transfer the pollen there would be no fruit.
  • Did you know that our favourite vegetable, the tomato, is a hermaphrodite too?
  • Botanists call the flowers of tomatoes, perfect flowers because they have male and female flowers within the same flower.
  • That means they are self-pollinating and don’t need cross-pollination by wind, birds or insects.

Now to that sticky question, “why isn’t my plant fruiting?”
There’s plenty of flowers and insects but still no fruit.
Weather conditions are key factors in successful pollination.
High humidity creates sticky pollen which does not transfer well.
Plants in the cucurbit family rely on honeybees for pollination, and honeybees do not fly in cool, cloudy weather.
Male Flower of Zucchini
  • If you need to you can hand pollinate the cucurbit’s flowers.
  • As temperatures reach the high 20's, the success rate for pollination declines.
  • A heat wave in the thirties, will result in poor if any, pollination.
  • To help with fruit set, try misting the flowers early in the morning with a spray bottle of water.
  • When the weather is very hot and dry with temperatures over 290 C,  the pollen becomes very dry and isn't easily transferred.

Zucchine female flower and fruit
  • Again, it’s a good idea to try misting the flowers with water occasionally and keep up the mulch around the base so the plants don't dry out too much.
  • This is common with many plants, especially with more northerly climates.
  • The cure, shade cloth covers.
Another factor is plant stress:
In nature when a plant is under stress, it will not produce fruit.
Or, it will abort existing fruit.
It’s a survival mechanism, allowing a plant to focus upon survival first.
That stress is caused by:
Water: too little or too much water.
The Cure: Keep soil consistently moist, not wet and not dry.
Another reason is a Soil pH imbalance: this could be pH levels are too high, or too low.
The Cure:: Get your soil tested. Alter pH levels as indicated by the test.
And if you don’t have enough insects like bees visiting your garden, you know what to do, plant more bee and other insect attracting plants like Borage and Alyssum around your garden.


Anthurium "Allure."
Listeners in southern states will have to keep this plant outdoors, however if you live in Townsville or around the Top End, outdoors will be no problem all year round but not in full sun.
But what is this alluring plant with dark green luscious, tropical leaves.
Let’s find out …

I'm talking with the plant panel where were Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith editor of

Anthuriums are evergreen, subtropical small plants with dark green glossy heart shaped flowers and leaves.
They’re great for indoors as houseplants but if you live in the tropics, they also make beautiful underplanting for shady and part-shady spots.

If you have any questions either for me or Jeremy or Karen why not write in to

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Festive Flowers, Basil and Cucumbers

What’s on the show today?

Plenty tips about growing and cooking with Basil in the Spice It Up segment with herb and spice guru Ian Hemphill,; get those cucumbers growing in Vegetable Heroes; Festive red flowers but are they in Plant of the Week and which fence for your garden in Design Elements?


Basil: Ocimum basilicum
At one stage the Greeks and Romans believed the most potent basil could only be grown if you sowed the seed while ranting and swearing.
Maybe that’s why the French say semer le baslic (sowing basil) means to rant.
Well I hope you don’t have to swear and rant to get your Basil seeds to germinate, just have your pencils at the ready if you want to know how to grow, use and store
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

Herbs take on a different flavour when they're dried, because they lose their top notes.
Dried herbs are best added at the beginning of cooking so that they have time to infuse the dish with their flavour.
Fresh herbs on the other hand, need to be added at the very last minute so that their flavour doesn't disappear in cooking.

If you live in arid or sub-tropical regions you can sow Basil in late august in a mini greenhouse or indoors, but otherwise you can sow right through to December which is the best time to sow Basil seeds.
The seeds are best planted at soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C
For something different when not try sowing cinnamon Basil or Lemon Basil or even Holy Basil, that is the true sacred basil that is grown in houses, home gardens and near temples all over India.…
If you have any questions about Basil either for me or Ian, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 


Cucumbers or Cucumis sativus..
Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year.
Cucumbers are a member of the gourd or cucurbit family and have been grown for 4000 years!
Did cucumber start off in India?
No-one’s really sure.
Who Ate Cucumbers Throughout History?
Some pretty famous people have been known to be fans of cucumbers, even cucumber pickles.
  • Take, Julius Ceasar, he ate them everyday, Cleopatra, thought cucumber pickles helped her skin complexion, and other pickle lovers included George Washington and Queen Elizabeth 1.
  • Would you have thought that Cucumbers are one of the world’s favourite vegetables?
  • I would’ve said the tomato, but there you go.
  • When is the best time to grow some cucumbers?
  • Cucumber plants do best in all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally need temperatures between 15-33°C.
  • Cucumbers are happiest when the average temperatures are around 210C
  • For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world.
  • Sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring and early Summer for cool temperate districts, spring and summer for arid and temperate zones districts, from August until March in sub-tropical areas.
    Cucumber seedlings on the right
  • Only the cooler months for tropical areas-so April until August unless you’re inland.
And where can you grow these delicious cucumbers?
You need to pick a sunny, well-drained spot, because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant, that needs full sun.
Cucumbers also want a decent amount of growing space in your garden. If you’re short on space, try growing them up vertically on a trellis or even on some netting, perhaps a tomato trellis?
In fact, growing up a trellis would be a great way to avoid all the mildews and moulds that cucumbers are prone to in still humid weather.
There’s also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in pots.
  • Try Mini White- one of the most popular. The 10 cm long fruit and is best picked when young. Gives you lots of fruit per plant and it’s burpless  
  • Or you could try Cucumber Mini Muncher as well.
  • You’ll need to go to a seed mail order place for those, or if you’re in Adelaide, go to the shop in the Botanic Gardens.
The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils.

However, do you find your Cucumber seeds sometimes don’t germinate?
They’re big seeds but if you’re raising them in punnets and the seed raising mix dries out, then the seed most like has dried up as well;
  • and if you keep it too wet, then the seed rots.
  • If this keeps happening, try using another type of seed raising mix, or even some good quality potting mix and try again.
  • What cucumbers like is soil that’s well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
  • Add in plenty of organic compost and fertilisers like chook poo or cow manure.
  • When your seeds have germinated, pick out the strongest couple and throw away the others so you don’t get overcrowding.
  • When your cucumber has gotten going, water it  regularly at the base of the plant, that way the leaves stay dry and you lessen the chances of the leaves getting the white powdery stuff growing on them, powdery mildew disease.
What is Powdery Mildew?
Advanced stages of disease.
  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
  • Look for white to grey fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves become brittle then start to die off.
  • There are some types of cucumbers that resist this disease for a time anyway.
  • You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole milk to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.
  • Better still apply eco Fungicide from 
Don’t forget to feed your cucumber plants every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.
There’s so many now on the market, an some come with seaweed added into them as well.

Who out there hasn’t tried a cucumber that’s tasted bitter?

  • I’m sure some time in your life, that’s happened hasn’t it?
  • There’s seems to be a few theories for bitterness in cucumbers
  • One theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
  • Usually the bitterness accumulates at the stem and below the surface of the skin of the cucumber.
    Cucumber Biet Alpha
  • According to this theory it’s a genetic problem.
  • Newer cucumber hybrids seem to have fewer problems with bitterness.
  • I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin.
  • Found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
  • Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress, and can make the fruit taste really bitter.
  • The concentration of these compounds varies from plant to plant, fruit to fruit, and even within the individual fruit itself.
  • Did you know that the ability to taste detect bitterness or cucurbitacins also varies from person to person.
  • Even insects have varying preferences for cucurbitacins- the compounds attract cucumber beetles but repel other insects, such as aphids and spider mites.
  • Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!
  • By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.
Cucumber Flowers
Just like zucchinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. 
Cucumber flowers
Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after. 
Cucumbers should be ready at about 50-60 days and picking fruit often stimulates more to start growing. 
When to Pick?
Some of you probably have realised that if you pick your cucumbers when they’re quite small, this is when they’re at their sweetest.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.
They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy
Why are they good for you?
Cucumbers have lots of Vitamins C but why you should eat them is because the silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, you know, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
Cucumbers have some dietary fibre and Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin.


Poinsettia: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Poinsettia plant’s leaves were used by the Aztecs to make red dye and the plants’ milky white sap was also used to treat fevers.
Great for festive decorations and considered a must have at certain times of the year.
The bloke that this plant was named after also founded the Smithsonian Institute in America.
Let’s find out..

I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Unless you've purchased a "Princettia" Poinsettia which is a genuine dwarf cultivar, the others will grow much taller if planted out.
The species Poinsettia, will grow to over 3 metres tall in the garden.
Those that are sold at Christmas time have been sprayed with a dwarfing compound.
Princettia Poinsettia
Did you know that also that the American Congress honoured Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day which commemorates the date of his death in 1851.
Poinsettias can be grown south of Brisbane right down to Coff's Harbour, and north of Brisbane they will grow as far as the land extends, although they can be difficult to grow in frost prone areas west of the coast.
They can also be grown in warm parts of South Australia and in Western Australia's coastal regions, particularly in the north.
If you have any questions about growing Poinsettias, why not write in to


Which Fence Style For Your Home?
What type of fence have you got and does it need replacing?
Paling fences seem to be de rigour, but there’s no need to settle for that because you’ll be looking at it for a long time.
What are the things you should consider though before deciding on a fence?
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Lesley Simpson garden designer.

Just goes to show that you don’t have to be limited with the type of fence that you can have for your garden?
If you’re stuck with a grey looking paling fence, you can always zhoosh it up with some bamboo screening.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

A Bit of Forest Bathing, Preserving Violets ,Growing Pineapples and Making Succulent Arrangements

What’s on the show today?

Find out what "forest bathing" is all about with one of the few guides in this feature interview.Plenty of violet flower but what to do with them in the Good Earth segment,; how do pineapples really grow in Vegetable Heroes; succulent arrangements in Plant of the Week.

Feature Interview:

Forest Bathing with Louise Kiddell
Sounds like a skinny dip in the lake, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's all about immersing yourself with nature and reconnecting. Not a bushwalk or a walk in the park, but an opportunity to slow down and allow nature to enter your body through all the senses.
Sound a bit far fetched?
Forest bathing
Just listen to this.
I'm talking with Louise Kiddell, a certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, one of the few in Australia.
It all started in the 1980's in Japan called "Shinrin Yoku" which translates as "forest bathing."
This is what they say, 
"A nature connection walk is not a strenuous hike, or informative naturalist walk. Rather, it is an opportunity to slow down and allow nature to enter your body through all your senses.”
Think of it as another form of yoga.
Just as with yoga, you can practise it alone but it helps immensely if you start with a guided walk to get you onto the right path, so to speak.
Find out more on Louise's website


Sweet Violets and How to Preserve Them
Some flowers lend themselves easily to uses in the kitchen.
Some decorative but others quite edible.
You might not know that this species in particular , sweet violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae) is the principal medicinal and culinary species used in Europe.
But apart from the fragrant, albeit very small flowers, there’s quite a few other things you can do with them.
Viola odorata
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from
Let’s find out.

You can use the petals fresh in salads, just remove the other parts of the flower to avoid that bitter after taste. 
Making Frosted Petals
Frosted violets
Preserve the petals with gum Arabic or egg white.
Paint the flower petals with an artists brush and then dip it into something like caster sugar.
Dry them face up on paper and either use them straight away or store in a jar for up to 2-3 months.
You can also preserve the petals in honey. Preserving them this way will help with dry coughs and even asthma possibly.
Margaret's Recipe for Violet Petal Vinegar ( or any other petal) taken from 
3 parts petals (300g)
1 part sugar (100g)
10 parts water ( 1 litre)
Leave to ferment for a couple of months.
The sugar converts to acetic acid so it's not bad for you.
  • Put the petals in the bucket and cover with the prepared sweetened water
  • Close the lid tightly.
  • In the first month open and stir every day. The pressure will build up in the bucket (particularly in warm weather) and needs to be released. This is also why flexible vessel needs to be used – a glass jar can shatter under pressure.
  • For the next two months stir occasionally. You will see a film of yeast and bacterial blooms showing on the surface. This is normal and as the mixture becomes more acidic, these cultures will die.
  • After three months in the bucket, strain/filter the liquid into plastic bottles for storage and compost the solids.
If you have any questions, either for me or for Margaret, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Pineapple or Ananas comosus from the Bromeliad family.
I wanted to talk about pineapples not many people are aware how they grow.
Would you have thought that the pineapple came from a tree, perhaps a palm tree?
Fiction or Fact?

  • Pineapple is native to South America and was given its English name because it looks like a pine cone.
  • Christopher Columbus brought this native of South America back to Europe and later on sailors brought the pineapple home to New England.
  • There is a tale that goes where a fresh pineapple was displayed on the porch meant that the sailor was home from foreign ports and ready to welcome visitors.
  • Did you know that in 1723 England, a huge "Pineapple stove" needed to grow the plants wasw built at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
  • The garden still exists today, but I never saw this Pineapple Stove when I was there a few years ago so I assume it’s gone.
Botanical Bite
Did you also know that the pineapple is a multiple fruit?
Pineapple has  about 150 fruitlets
This means they grow from a cluster of fertilized flowers that join together.
The fruitlets are also known as the eyes of the pineapple; that’s the rough spiny marking on the pineapple's surface and there are approximately 150 on each mature pineapple.
So why grow pineapple?
Firstly, the pineapple plant is one of the few tropical fruits that are really well suited to growing in pots, and that means you can grow pineapples indoors.
That also means that you can grow them anywhere in Australia, really.
Secondly, if you plant them in the right spot they need virtually no care whatsoever.
So what are the pineapple plants’ requirements?
  • The pineapple is like a lot of Bromeliads in appearance, with blue-green sword shaped stiff leaves.
  • In general, Pineapples are best suited to humid coastal districts in tropical and subtropical regions of northern and eastern Australia.
  • But in a warm, sunny, sheltered and frost free position, they will cope with cool nights for short periods.
  • Tip: One thing most Bromeliads don’t like is frost.
  • Remember that pineapple plants are bromeliads.
  • Like all Bromeliads, some can take sun and some prefer dappled shade.
  • Usually the hardness of the leaf will indicate which situation the Bromeliad you have likes.
  • We all know that the tops of pineapples are very stiff and prickly, so that gives you an indication that Ananas or the pineapple Bromeliad can take full sun, but surprisingly, it will grow in dappled shade as well.
  • And like a lot of Bromeliads, you don’t want to overwater your pineapple bromeliad, because you may cause it to rot.
  • Bromeliads don’t like soggy waterlogged soils but can get by on very little water except of course during extreme heat waves.
  • In that instance you may want to cover any Bromeliad you have with an old sheet to prevent leaf scorch.
How to grow Pineapples.
One way to grow your pineapple and this comes from Mick in north Queensland who says, that he has never actually bought a pineapple plant.
He just plants the top of a pineapple.
They don’t fruit usually in the next spring/summer but the one after, and some have taken an extra year.
Each plant will fruit once a year and then throw a pup, the mother will then die and a year later the pup will fruit.
That’s how Bromeliads grow.
Growing Pineapples in Tropical and Subtropical Climates
Another way to grow pineapple plants, more so for gardeners in tropical areas is if you know someone who grows pineapples you may also be able to buy some "suckers" or "slips" (little plantlets taken of a mature pineapple plant).
After the first fruit is produced, side shoots (called 'suckers' by commercial growers) are produced in the leaf axils of the main stem.
You can pull these off to propagate new plants or just let them stay on the parent plant and keep widening.
Paul says, that he also found (maybe coincidence) that ones in pots fruited quicker than ground but they would be nice and hot all the time.
Pineapple plants grow up to 1 ½ metres high and wide, pretty much like the Giant Bromeliad, Alcantarea.
If you’re growing the top of a pineapple make sure you remove all the fruit flesh. You should also remove all the small bottom leaves.
Just pick the lower leaves off so you have a bit of a stem to plant, then leave the pineapple top in the shade of your verandah to dry out for a week.
The same goes for suckers.
If there are very small or dead leaves at the bottom pull them off.
Planting your pineapple top:
  • There’s no need to bury the pineapple top in the ground.
  • Mix compost in with your soil before you plant the pineapple, and then mulch thickly around it.
  • Just make a small depression in the ground or in a pot and stick your little pineapple in that.
  • Push the soil back in and firm it around the base so the pineapple sits straight and doesn't fall over.
  • You can use a couple of small sticks each side to keep it upright until your plant grows some roots in about six weeks.
  • Mulch around the plant to stop it drying out too much.
  • If the soil is dry give it some water.

Tip: If you’re growing it in a pot, use orchid or bromeliad mix so it gets plenty of drainage.
Give the plant a good watering at least once a week and fertilise with weak compost or comfrey tea once a month.
A pinch of sulphate of potash around the base of the plant at the beginning of the second summer will help with flowering.
In Australia, the major growing regions include South East Queensland, particularly the Sunshine Coast hinterlands, Maryborough and Wide Bay area, the Yeppoon district, and all the way up to Mareeba and Mosman in Northern Queensland.
Why are they good for you?
Did you know that Pineapples are one of the healthiest fruits around?
Did you also know that…
Two slices (or 164 grams) of pineapple provides half of your daily fruit requirements
Pineapple is a great source of Vitamin C!
Just 100g of pineapple equals 98.6% of your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI*).
Pineapples are high in fibre, and low in calories, sodium, saturated fats and cholesterol.
Pineapples contain Bromelain  which is an enzyme known for its ability to break down proteins making it great for digestion.
They’re also a very good source of copper and a good source of vitamin B1, vitamin B6, dietary fibre, folate, and pantothenic acid.


Visiting Ivy Alley: How to Make Succulent Arrangements
Floral arrangements are something that ‘s widely known and practised but what about other types arrangements?
Could you have a living arrangement of plants that were brought inside for a little while then left outside to keep growing?
Would they outgrow their pot or could you find plants that don’t need to be moved?
Today, we’ve got the answer and this is like a living display but how and what plants should you use?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Rachel Gleeson, horticulturist and owner of succulent and bonsai nursery, Ivy Alley.

PLAY: Intro to Ivy Alley_5th December_2018

Pick a couple or sculptural or architectural succulents and then fill in the spaces with spreading succulents such as sedums.

Rachel suggests Sedum “Green Mould” as a filler succulent and whatever takes you fancy, maybe Echeveria Topsy Turvy and another 1 or 2 architectural succulents to make your display.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Stocks, Beans and Satin Bowerbirds

What’s on the show today?

Wildlife in Focus presents a bird that collects blue things with Dr Holly Parsons; a couple of weeks ago we explained how to deal with bean problems and today we’re growing them in Vegetable Heroes; a stroll into a very unusual nursery in Plant of the Week and all about scented stock flowers in Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


Satin Bower Bird
Listeners would probably have heard about the Satin Bowerbird with its glossy blue-back with a distinctly coloured eye.
You may not know though that it takes up to five years before the satin bower bird male develops that full glossy colour.
Satin Bowerbird
Before that it's an olive green.
 Satin bower bird is a medium sized bird, similar in weight to a magpie and has good colour vision especially into the blue and ultra-violet spectrum. So why does it prefer the colour blue to adorn the bower? Is the bower also a nest?
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from
Let’s find out .

Sorry for Tasmania and South Australia, because you guys are missing out on this rather unusual bird.
The male builds that bower, a parallel row of sticks in a north south axis but that’s not where the eggs get laid, it just all about attracting the female with collected blue objects and a bit of dancing. 
The female bowerbird gives the bower a good look through several times before making up her mind up whether or not she wants to pair up with the male.
The bower of the satin bowerbird.
The female bowerbird does the nest building which is made up of loose twigs some 30 metres above the ground.
Just remember to snip the blue bottle tops before you throw them into the bin. If you have any questions, either for me or for Holly, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Beans: Phaseolus vulgaris .
Do you love your beans?
Did you know that beans have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years?

Bean pods can be green, yellow, purple, or speckled with red; they can be flat, round and a yard long.
Beans are a legume in the Faboidea or the pea family.
Clever Beans Have Nitrogen Fixing Nodules:
Growing beans is pretty easy and I would say essential in a veggie garden because beans, as well as other legumes, have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.
Yep, that’s right, the roots make nitrogen out of the air and deposit it into the soil.
Lightning storms are even better for that reason because they convert nitrogen into ammonium ions which is what plants need before they can take it up.
Bean varieties originated from different places or countries. 
  • Green bean originated from Central and East Asia, North-eastern Africa and the Mediterranean. 
  • Bean varieties such as green beans, French bean and long bean have been planted for their fruits or pods for vegetables in many regions in the world since 6,000 years ago
  • French beans appeared about 8,000 years coming from Latin American, Mexico, Peru and Colombia.  
  • The origin of the long bean was Southwest China.
  • Spanish explorers took the green bean back to Europe in the 16th century and introduced it there.
  • From there were spread to many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
  • Did you know that the Egyptians had temples dedicated to beans, and worshipped them as a symbol of life?
  • They must be good.
Beans, either climbing or Dwarf Beans, are sometimes called Green beans are also called string beans and snap beans.

 To grow beans you need up to four months of warm weather.
  • In subtropical climates beans can be grown almost all year.
  • For temperate and arid zones, mid-spring through to late summer are the best times to plant.
  • In colder districts, beans, don’t like the cold at all and they certainly don’t like frost.
  • You have until the end of summer, certainly you wouldn’t be expecting any cold snaps now.
  • Tropical districts, once again, need to wait until the winter months to sow beans.
  • Beans are best planted at soil temperatures between 16°C and 30°C so planting them from now on is ideal.
How to Sow and Grow Your Beans
  •  Sow your bean seeds about 2.5cm deep or depending on the size of the bean I guess.
  • Sow your beans, either climbing or dwarf beans either in rows or just scatter so the seed are 5-10cm apart (don't worry about the odd ones which are closer).
  • Cover with soil, potting mix, or compost and firm down with the back of a spade or rake.
  • Grown this way the beans will mostly shade out competing weeds and 'self-mulch'.
  • An important fact about growing beans is that they need well-drained soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and are sensitive to deficiencies or high levels of minerals in the soil-especially climbing beans.
So make sure you spread some chook poo or cow manure before sowing your bean seeds.
How To Water Your Beans
When growing green beans, keep the soil moist.
A good rule of thumb is to put a finger in the dirt and if the dirt is dry up to the first knuckle, then it needs about an inch of water.
Keep your beans watered and watch for vegetable bugs and green caterpillars
Pods won’t set at temperatures above 270 C.
Lynn Woods Beans in Ulverstone Tasmania
Did you know that if you pick the beans as soon as they’re ready, you’ll get new flowers?
If you neglect your bean plants and let your beans get large and stringy, flowering will slow right down and you probably won’t get any more beans from your plants.
Tip: To have beans all summer long, plant more seed as soon as the previous planting starts to flower.
Protect against snails and slugs by laying down straw or sugar cane mulch and sprinkling coffee grounds around the edge of the veggie bed.
Slugs and snails will completely destroy newly sprouted beans.
Beans do poorly in very wet or humid tropical climates because they get bacterial and fungal diseases.
Go easy on the fertiliser or you’ll get lots of leaves and no beans.
When picking your beans, pick times when your plants are dry.
Working with beans when the leaves are wet tends to spread any diseases.
When are beans ready pick I hear you ask?
Usually in about 10-12 weeks.

Pick them when they are about as thick as a pencil, smaller if you want a better, tender taste.
Barry emailed to see his beans had a bad aftertaste, why was that?
If you leave them too long on the vine the chances are you’ll get that bitter aftertaste.
That usually means that they are over-ripe, or they've been on the shelf a while.
As they grow, the natural sugars in them convert to starch, which has a bitter taste.
 As soon as you pick them, the sugars start to convert to starch too.
It can take a week or more for it to be noticeable.
It will change the taste, but it doesn't make them unsafe to eat, just throw them in  a pot of home made chicken soup or whatever.
They taste pretty good that way.
Why are they good for you?
Green Beans are a good source of vitamin C and also contain calcium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin A. But, the most important nutritional fact for beans is that they provide a major source of soluble fibre, which, when passing through the digestive tract grabs and traps bile that contains cholesterol, removing it from the body before it's absorbed.
Also is a source of folate .
Some varieties of the dwarf  beans are
Brown Beauty-flat pods
Dwarf Snake Beans-ready in 11 weeks.
Windsor Delight has long pods of about 15cm.
Blue Lake Climbing, long pods again but they’re round this time.


A visit to Ivy Alley Nursery
What kind of pots do you have in your garden?
Are they just plastic, or perhaps some concrete, terracotta, or even hanging baskets with coir peat liners?

Did you know, that before plastic pots, nursery people sold plants in either bare rooted, in terracotta pots, or "balled and burlapped" and intins?
Any old tin would do presumable as long as it had a drainage hole and was cleaned.
Pot plants at Ivy Alley
Today I’m about to take you on a fantastic journey with a nursery owner who goes beyond the plastic pot in her nursery.
I'm talking with Rachel Gleeson, horticulturist and owner of succulent and bonsai nursery, Ivy Alley.
Let’s find out.

Hopefully you’re inspired to use some unusual containers to pot up your plants.
Definitely take a leaf out of Rachel’s book.
Burlapping Plants:

Just a note about what I mention regarding burlapping a plant.
This involved digging a plant from a nursery bed, taking as much of the rootball as possible and wrapping it in hessian to keep the soil intact and help prevent moisture loss.

If you have any questions about potting up plants in different types of containers, why not write in to


All about Scented Stock Flowers: Matthiola incana
Stock flowers are members of the Brassicaceae family, so that's the same as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflowers.
  • Did you know that you can eat the flower?

Sow seeds of stocks into your garden beds or borders near where you will be able to enjoy the scent.
They prefer sandy, well drained soil that's has a neutral pH to slightly alkaline.
Plenty of added organic matter will help a lot to keep up the moisture in the soil.
What they also need is for you to mulch well to maintain that moisture and feed with a balanced fertiliser before flowering.
Stocks are a romantic looking flower suited for cottage gardens and definitely suit for the vase.
Stocks come in an array of colours: burgundy, lilac, pink, cream and now salmon.
  • Mercedes says Ms Stock (because it's grown from seed) needs to have the stems cut at an angle.
  • Re-cut the stems every second day and place in shallow water.
  • Ms Stock is highly ethylene sensitive and sensitive to heat.
  • Buy your flowers 3/4 budded.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney, Wednesdays 5pm.