Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Bird Named Barry

REALWORLD GARDENER Wed 5pm, Sat 12 noon 2RRR 88.5fm

Wildlife in Focus: Kurtis Lindsay talks to RWG about the Pacific Baza. We jest when suggesting that this bird is named Barry, but listen in for the interview.

Vegetable Heroes: They look weird, but taste great, the Chinese Artichokes are making a comeback of sorts. Chinese Aritchokes, or Crosnes. Stachys affinis)      You can grow them in a flowerbed, around a landscape shrub and maybe in a spare patch of ground, but probably not a veggie bed as they tend to spread a bit.   You can only get them as tubers to grow some, and August September, are the only months that you should plant them.They will grow anywhere in Australia.   
Plant the tubers, 30 centimeters apart and 8–10 centimeters deep. Chinese artichokes grow in the same way as mints, to which they are related. They prefer rich soils, full sun to part shade and a moist position. You know what happens to mint when the soil becomes too dry. The soil must always be kept moist. Allowing the plant to dry out will make it go dormant. Plants take 5-7 months to form the tubers.
What do Chinese Artichokes look like?    It’s a low-growing, herbaceous (means it does dies down in winter) perennial bush, 30-50cm high, (that’s between 1-2 ruler heights)
Chinese Artichoke is a bit sprawling to about 30-50cm across, with bright-green leaves that look a lot like lemon balm, to which its related, but the leaves have scent. Chinese artichokes form small, spiral-shaped tubers 4-6cm long, that have an attractive pearly-like sheen. An attractive gourmet vegetable with a crisp, crunchy texture and a sweet, nutty flavour,
Design Elements: So you've had enough of the lawn, the weeds, the mowing. Why not put in a bird attracting garden instead? Lesley Simpson, garden designer and Marianne (host) talk about ways to remove the lawn before planting something instead.
Listen here for the podcast.

Plant of the Week. Snowing in Summer, or even Spring is probably not unheard of, but on just one tree. That's different. The multistamenous flowers of Melaleuca linarifolia is jst the thing for a spectular native tree for a bird attracting garden.
Snow in Summer or Narrow Leafed Paperbark. Melaleuca linarifolia.
Where does it occur naturally?     East coast of New South Wales and southern Queensland usually along watercourses and swamps. Grows in heath and dry sclerophyll forest in moist or swampy ground; on the coast and adjacent ranges, north from Bawley Point.   Melaleuca linariifolia is usually a hardy tree to about 8 metres in height. It is widely available in general horticulture and is used for both home gardens and in landscaping. A number of shrubby forms are known and some are in general cultivation. These include "Snowstorm", a shrub to 1.5 metres and "Sea Foam", a larger plant to 2.5 metres.
The white flowers look like fluffy clusters which cover the plant in late spring and summer to almost exclude the foliage from view. It is this flowering habit that has given rise to one of the plant's common names, "Snow-in-Summer". The leaves are linear in shape and about 25 mm long.
For more information on M. linarifolia visit

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Twisting by the Pool

REAL WORLD GARDENER since Sept 2009, 
2RRR 88.5 fm wed. 5pm. Sat, 12 noon

Design Elements: Lesley and Marianne will have you twisting by the pool with these great ideas about how to beautify your pool fence. Listen here to avoid planting problem plants that could interfere with your pool's plumbing.

Vegetable Heroes: Barley Grass.  Barley is a cereal grain derived from the annual grass Hordeum vulgare.  To grow Barley grass,
  • Soak Barley Grass seeds for 12 hours, so overnight is good.
  •  Spread the seeds over seed-raising mix in a tray, much like the ones you see in nurseries containing potted colour or seedlings. The soil depth should be about 2 inches or 5 cm.
  •  Cover the seeds with a light coat of coco peat or vermiculite, or if nothing else, just some more seed raising mix.
  • Water the seeds gently using a mister or spray bottle.  Germination time is anywhere from 1 to 3 days.  Keep the soil moist and watch the Barley grow. 
  • Place the tray in indirect sunlight either in a plastic bag or mini greenhouse.
  •  Cut the grass when it reaches about 7 inches or 18-20cms-that should be in about 3 weeks!
  •  Wheat grass or barley grass can be grown indoors behind a window or on a balcony or verandah in seed boxes.
 Here’s a tip. Barley grass, and other grass that are used for juicing lose their potency in a matter of hours, so it’s actually better to grow your own. The stuff you buy from  juice stand might be just grass juice without the benefits if it’s too old.Plant of the Week: Buddleia davidii, Butterfly bush. Weed species that has some great alternatives.

Feature Interview: RWG talks to Ann Martin about the Talk and Walk series at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. "By Gum" is all about the some of the special Eucalypts, Corymbias and Angophoras that are growing in the Botanic Garden. If you missed the show, stay tuned for the walk next time round.
For info on Talk and Walk series or ring 9231 88304

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Browsing on Thyme

Community Radio like no other.
Wildlife in Focus: Kurtis Lindsay talks about the Brown Falcon, an Australian raptor. Hear about what it looks and sounds like. Real World Gardener thanks Tony Bayliss, from the Australian Wildlife Sound Recording Group for providing the sound file of the Brown Falcon.

Vegetable Heroes" Going for Thyme. Not a vegetable but still a hero.  You can grow the common Thyme from seed which is very small. The best time of year in any climate to sow Thyme seeds is in Spring except for in Arid regions of Australia. Autumn is the best time for that zone. The soil temperature should be between 150 C and 250.C. That doesn’t mean air temperature which is usually a few degrees higher.
  Either scatter the seed in a garden bed or start of in a punnet, then cover the seed lightly with something like Vermicullite, pop into a plastic bag and tie off, if you don’t have a mini-greenhouse.
 Thyme will start to look quite straggly after a couple of years, so cut it back quite hard after flowering. This is usually around late summer or autumn. Take some cuttings if you can be bothered with fiddling around with the very thin stems, otherwise dividing up the plants with a trowel will get you  a few smaller plants.  By the way, dividing plants that are 3-4 years old is best to get enough roots on each bit that you dig up.
 Why not try Caraway Thyme or Thymus herba-barona This Thyme comes from Corsica, is narrow leafed with a distinctive scent of caraway seed. Has lots of lavender pink flowers.
How about Pizza Thyme, sometimes known as Oregano Thyme. T. Pulegoides cv. This makes a soft mounded sub-shrub of about 15cm. This has wider leaves than most thymes.
 Then there’s my favourite Lemon Thyme. T x citriodorus. It smells like lemon and thyme all together and has been in gardens since the 17th century.
Thyme likes full sun, and prefers sandy or any other well drained soil. Fertiliser is not required.
Design Elements: Pruning Hedges Safely. Listen here to the whys and wherefores of pruning a hedge. Lesley and Marianne (me) also talk about the saftey aspects of using ladders when pruning.

Plant of the Week : Allard's Lavender or Lavandula allardii is the focus of today's plant plus a few fruity Italian Lavenders.
L. allardii
   “Riverina James.” Grows 1m x 80cm and prefers full sun, withstands dry conditions and coastal environments. Most noticeable feature of this lavender variety is the strong scent released from the slightest touch of its attractive, evergreen foliage. In addition, long lavender flower stems are also produced for a lengthy display over the warmer months. Dry and frost tolerant for difficult sites and coastal regions. Flowers will last a long time in a vase without water of course.
For more info: the site for Plant Growers Australia.
From the Ruffles collection of Lavenders, Lavandula Blueberry Ruffles and L. Boysenberry ruffles, and L. Mulberry Ruffles. These all grow to only 60cm x 80cm. Full sun and dry conditions for this Italian lavender.

Prune all Italian lavenders in summer after their main flowering period and to keep them bush. Boost with  some slow release fertiliser during spring. Avoid using Dynamic Lifter or other Chook Poo pellets-they don’t like it.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Thrifty By The Sea and Celery

REAL WORLD GARDENER 2RRR 88.5fm Wed 5pm SOON to be on the Community Radio Network! (CRN)

Feature Interview:  Interview with Jim Lykos, Camellia Research Society NSW past president and locator of missing Camellias extraordinaire.
Vegetable Heroes: Apium graveolens Celery.
Stop worrying about blanching your celery - it's all too hard, and most of us have ended with bitter, tough celery stalks. Now, just take the trouble of buying SELF-BLANCHING celery! Celery prefers moisture, well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Apart from Beetroot last week that can grow in partial shade-this is like a mantra to growing all vegetables. A short row can be squeezed into a garden, raised bed or you could even try dotting the odd plant into a border. If you have a tiny garden it's possible to grow celery in very deep, long pots.
Soil preparation•Dig the soil (in the spring before planting), removing big stones, weeds and incorporating plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure. •A week or so before planting, rake a general purpose organic fertiliser (90g per square metre) into the surface layer of the bed.
How to sow seeds•The seeds take 1-2 weeks to germinate.•Celery seed is tiny, so best started off in punnets. Sow across the surface of the soil. Watering from the top is likely to disturb the seed, so fill a bowl with water and put in the punnet. It can be removed once the water has been drawn to the surface.
•Finish by covering with a thin layer of vermiculite and putting in a heated propagator on a windowsill, in a plastic bag or in a greenhouse. Water daily to so they don't dry out.
Plants will be ready to go outside about five weeks later, when they're 8cm tall with at least 4 true leaves.TIP: The secret to fresh crisp stalks is plenty of manure and water, don't let the soil dry out as it has shallow roots. Celery will be ready in about 5 months-so January for you. Lift Celery with a garden fork ot pick individual stems.
Buy Self Blanching Celery online from
Design Elements: Lesley Simpson, Garden Designer and Marianne (me-Host of RWG) talk about looking after Indoor Plants. Listen here to the podcast.
Plant of the Week: Armeria maritime or Bee’s Lilac or SeaThrift.  15cm x 30cm.Armerias are very hardy growing in full sun and frost hardy to -10C Find new releases of Armeria in you nursery or Garden Centre. a)      Armeria Pink Petite has a slightly larger spread of 40cm and will take full sun/part shade and coastal conditions.b)      Like a lot of drought tolerant plants, an occasional deep water keeps it looking its best, particularly if you want a nice border.c)   Low maintenance plant.d)    Propagate from seed or cuttings, or by the careful division of well-established clumps. TIP:Soak Armeria seeds in warm water for 6-8 hours before sowing! Sea Pink seeds can be sown in the garden during late spring and summer months, up until two months before the first frost.
Hunter's Hill and Lane Cove Councils will be launching the Food Waste Challenge at the Moocooboola Festival on Saturday 7 August and at various locations in Lane Cove. They are looking for 100 Champions in Hunters Hill and Lane Cove to attend three two hour workshops in which you will learn about ways to reduce your food waste. You can become a Food Waste Challenge Champion by registering at the Moocooboola Festival, or online  at