Tuesday, 20 September 2011

On Kew with Ferns

REAL WORLD GARDENER across Australia on the Community Radio Network

Design Elements: Paths are essential to creating a sense of flow. “Without flow, a property is made up of a series of unrelated spaces,” Designing your garden path couldn't be easier with Lesley Simpson, garden designer. Listen here to the podcast.
Vegetable Heroes: Rumex scuttatus or French Sorrel. Sorrel is a close relative of dock, and has similar 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 is all that is required during the growing season.
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.
Once the plant has matured, it can be treated as a 'cut and come again' crop. 
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.
Plant of the Week: Doodia aspera or Prickly Rasp Fern. 
 Doodia aspera, commonly known as the Prickly Rasp Fern, was the first Australian fern brought to Kew Garden You have a shady spot in the garden, don’t we all? What about a native fern with the unfriendly name of Doodia aspera or prickly rasp fern or even common ground fern. 
Ferns require good drainage and it is important that some form of protection, such as overhanging trees, shrubs, a garden wall, the wall of a house or shade cloth, is provided. Where there are extremes of dry heat and cold, you can make a microclimate by closing off  an area with shade cloth or something similar to keep the humidity high.
 Ferns generally prefer filtered light and moist conditions and slightly acidic soils which is what the rainforest floor would be like.
 You don’t have to live in a rainforest to grow this plant. Grow it as an attractive pot plant for indoors or out, mainly due to the masses of pink/red new fronds which arise when the plant is in active growth. Good in the garden situation as it is tolerant of root competition and is very hardy. Also able to tolerate some direct sun.    This plant is one of the most drought tolerant native ferns and gets a tick of approval from the “grow me instead” group.  
For details on fern propagation, please visit
Feature Interview: Marianne talks to John Seimon, Project Manager of Plant Bank at  the Australian Botanic garden, Mt Annan. For more information on plant bank go to

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