Friday, 30 September 2011

Spot The Diamond Bird

REAL WORLD GARDENER ON 2RRR 88.5 FM and across Australia on the Community Radio Network
Wildlife in Focus:Pardalotus punctatus, sounds like it’s a funny way of excusing yourself, but it’s actually the botanical name of the Spotted Pardalote. Pardalotus means spotted and is one of Australia’s smallest birds. The pardalote family, there’s more than one you see, are sometimes called diamond birds, listen here to the full segment. The call of the Spotted Pardalote is provided by Tony Baylis from

Vegetable Heroes:Tomatoes - Lycopersicon lycopersicum.
 RULE NO. 1-Tomatoes has to be in full sun at least 6 hours.
RULE NO 2 -When you plant your seedling, this is about the only plant I know that you pile the soil higher than it was in the pot.That way, it grows extra roots to support the plant.  At the same time, put in a tomato stake of some kind and sprinkle some Dolomite around the plant.
REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE- Keep the soil moist by regular watering and using a mulch of some kind.    Sometimes it’s hard to keep the water up to them but I no longer recommend putting water crystals in the planting hole because when the soil dries out, the crystals actually draw water away from the plant and make it dry out faster.
 Just make sure they don’t dry out to prevent a problem called “blossom end” rot, when they get a black bottom. Which also means a lack of Calcium. 
 Another problem with not enough watering or drying out of the soil or compost is that in very hot weather you will get the fruits splitting. The inside grows faster than the skin, splits and unless eaten quickly, disease very quickly enters the damaged area and the tomato disposed of.
  Mulch with Hay, lucerne tea tree or some home made compost, which will break down over the next few weeks. As soon as your tomato gets the first yellow flower, you need to start fortnightly feeds with a liquid tomato food. Cow Manure is not enough…it doesn’t have anywhere near the right amount of Potassium.
 That’s needed to bring on the flowers and fruit.
 When you get to four trusses (or branches of flowers) nip out top of the plant. By this stage you should have plenty of fruits forming that need to grow and ripen. 
 Whether it’s  Tomato Riesentraube For Tasmania, Black Russian Oxheart, Mortgage lifter,Golden Roma, Graf Zeppelin,Longkeeper, Mr Stripey and Banana Legs, just to name a few, you can’t go past growing your own.
Design Elements: How do you grow a garden on a deck? Find out by listening to Mariane and Lesley Simpson, garden designer give you the nuts and bolts of this project, Listen here. 

Plant of the Week: Judas Tree-Cercis siliquastrum.  A slow growing deciduous tree that belongs to Fabaceae family with heart shaped leaves and pea like purplish flowers that start in Spring.
a)  I first noticed the tree growing in clay soil at the college where I studied horticulture. The flowers cover the trunk of the tree, making it a very striking specimen tree for the garden. The deep pink flowers are produced on year-old or older growth, including the trunk in late spring (cauliflory). The leaves appear shortly after the first flowers emerge. These are heart-shaped with a blunt apex, which occasionally has a shallow notch at the tip. The tree produces long flat pods that hang vertically.
b)    Cercis grows to 6-10 metres so will suit a smaller garden or courtyard.
c)    This tree usually has a short main trunk with several main branches 1-2m from the base.d)  Cultivars include:   'Alba' - white flowers 'Bodnant' - dark pink-purple flowers and 'Rubra' - dark pink-purple flowers. I have seen the white variety advertised in Diggers plant catalog.

e) prefers deep, fertile, well-drained soils and a position in full sun or partial shade. It is drought tolerant. Best foliage colour in full sun, but avoid hot, exposed and windy sites .

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pass the Cucumber Salad Leaves

REAL WORLD GARDENER Across Australia on the Community Radio Network
Design Elements: Gardening without a garden shed is like trying to play football without the ball. Well maybe not quite, but close. Without a garden shed close by, you'll wind up spending more time running to and from the garage or possibly laundry, instead of doing what you love - gardening. Listen here for design ideas for garden sheds.

Vegetable Heroes:Vegetable Hero is in fact a sort of herb, maybe part of your salad even.
Sanguisorba minor (Salad burnet.)
 It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing to 30 cm tall, typically found in dry grassy meadows, often on limestone soils. It is drought-tolerant, and grows all year around in mild climates. in a sunny location. In the sub-tropics you can grow it successfully in semi-shade. Keep up the water to this plant during dry spells.
 In those zones where the winter is very cold and frosty, Salad Burnett will come back by itself in the Spring.
Herbs can not grow in a tropical garden without excellent drainage. A raised  bed is one way to get excellent drainage. Because the tropics get high rainfall, herb gardens there should be open and airy to minimise fungal problems.
Salad Burnet is one of those plants that don’t like hot sun and heavy rain so if you really want this herb, grow it in a container under an awning or the dappled shade of a tree.
Salad Burnett grows from seed sown in Spring or in early Autumn in mild climates-temperate to sub-tropics. Remove the flower heads to encourage growth and pick the leaves when young. Burnet will self-sow.  
Salad Burnett, like a lot of herbs prefers good soil, but will grow in poor and sandy soil, that a lot of gardeners who live near the coast seem to have.
Burnet will remain green during a mild winter but it is better to re-sow every year to obtain tender leaves.      Attention balcony gardeners, Salad Burnett can be container grown.
What does this herb look like?    Burnet consists of a flat rosette of spiky-toothed leaves from which a flowering stem grows.. Burnet will grow to a height of 30cm.
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Plant of the Week: a)    is a tree in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States. This tree I planted when I first moved into the house. I pulled it out soon after. I found new seedlings of it growing in the front yard. By this stage it was only 2 years old, and it was tough to pull out. I’m glad I did.
b)The black Locust is now on Australia’s most wanted weed list.
c) Now it’s used as the understock for R. psuedoacacia “Frisia” and the mop top Robinia pseudoacacia 'Umbraculifera.'
d) R. psuedoacacia “Frisia”  is a small/medium tree to 8m. This vigorous, medium sized tree has beautiful golden-yellow foliage which grows stronger in autumn. It has pendulous pea shaped white flowers and grows in almost any situation. Very popular for its foliage colour.
e)If you damage the trunk of the tree by either mowing too close, with a whipper snipper, or weeding around the base, you’ll probably cause the understock tree to sucker. Once that starts, there’s no stopping it and it will suck for the rest of its life. Treating it with Glyphosate will most likely kill the tree

Feature Interview: Talking Australian Conifers with Elizabeth Anderson, volunteer guide at RBG Sydney. Talk and Walk series on Sat 24th Septemebr 2011, at 2pm To book ring 9231 8394

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

Friday, 9 September 2011

"Aw My Gourd" Said The Honeyeater!


Wildlife in Focus:Yellow Faced Honey Eater.Lichenostomus chrysops  Sound of the Yellow Faced Honeyeater is provided with thanks to Tony Baylis of the Australian Wildlife Sound Recording Group. Listen to ecologist, Kurtis Lindsay talk about the habitat and features of this beautiful bird.

Vegetable Heroes: Gourds those funny shaped vegetables that provide more that just food. Lagenaria siceraria  or Gourd spp. from the Cucurbitaceae family.    In tropical climates, the vine grows all year round, so those gardeners can have 2 crops of gourds every year. For the rest of Australia, it depends what part of Australia you live in, normally from Spring (mid September to early December) after the danger of frost has passed.  In temperate climates, sow the seed when temperatures are around 200C to 300C. In colder climates this means waiting until summer weather has come.
  To grow Gourds, soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water.
   Sow the seeds in mounds of well composted soil about 30cm ( a ruler length) apart.  The seeds should be planted around 2 cm deep.     Add some organic pellets of fertiliser to the planting hole.
   You can grow Gourds in pots, but make them at least 30cm wide. It’s also a good idea to stop the plant growing when it reaches about 1.5 m by pruning off the tip.
 Tip: Gourd plants don’t transplant that well, so either use one of those pots made from coco peat, or a jiffy pot, that can be planted into the soil, or plant them where you want them to grow.    
 One problem you may get, and it’s the same with pumpkins is lack of fruit set.    Hand pollination is a very simple procedure. It simply involves shaking or tapping pollen from the male flower (that you have picked) over the female flower. You can pollinate several female flowers with just one male flower.
  It’s very easy to tell male from female flowers as the female flower will have the small gourd shape below the flower, and the male flower grows on a stem without the ball shape below the flower. Vines will start fruiting after 3 months, but take 2-6 months to dry, depending on the thickness of the skin.
You can eat the flesh when the fruit is young, otherwise they taste bitter. Good in curries and stews.

Design Elements: Dramatic Plants. You need a focal point in your garden but you don't want statues or ponds, you prefer plants. Then listen here to Lesley Simspon (garden designer)and Marianne, talk about dramatic plants that might just fit the bill.

Plant of the Week: Smooth Barked Apple -Angophora hispida, something for the birds, a native small tree that sometimes gets confused with being a Eucalypt. This tree will suit all size gardens, growing to 6m.
a)      Angophoras are related to Eucalypts because they’re in the Myrtaceae family. What are the similiarities? Both have leaves that look like gum leaves.
b)      A lot of eucalypt or gum trees, the leaves go through up to 4 different stages. This means size shape and colour can change as the leaf grows older. In Angophoras, the juvenile stage, which is usually a rounded leaf, remains on the tree throughout its life. Where on older eucalypts, it’s extremely unusual to still see this young stage in the older part of the canopy.
c)      Young leaves on Eucalypt trees grow opposite each other on the stem and as they get older, they alternate, ie, leaf then stalk, then another leaf on the other side of the stalk and so on. Angophora leaves stay opposite each other on the stalk for the life of the tree.
d)     The other main difference is the capsules or gumnuts of both trees. In Angophoras, the gumnuts will always have ribbed sides to the capsules also they don’t have a bud cap/ Imagine the gumnut babies of May Gibbs,. The angophora gumnut babies wouldn’t have the hats.
e)      A similarity is that gum trees and Angophoras have lignotubers, although not all Eucalypts have this. E. grandis doesn’t. this means, that if you chopped the tree down, it would regrow from the underground part.
f)       A. hispida grows in the Sydney sandstone area, in open woodlands. It tolerates a wide variety of soils, and will tolerate some coastal exposure. Like the other Angophoras, it will not tolerate frost until over 1.5m in height.
g)      In the landscape, you can recognise A. hispida by its extremely hairy young stems and new reddy/purpley foliage.
h)      The trunk has flaky, grey to grey-brown strips of bark that can be found throughout the tree.

Everything Old Is New Again in the Garden.


Design Elements: Recycling Materials as features for your garden. Sounds quirky, but why not put a character stamp on your garden design by building something unique? Find out how in this week's segment.

Plant of the Week: Pyrus calleryana, Ornamental Pear.
a)      A tall fast-growing deciduous pyramidal shaped tree. High frost tolerance, dense canopy and wind and pollution tolerant. Don’t be afraid to pick a large tree for your backyard. Select a spot that doesn’t impact on the views from your house, or maybe you want to hide that 2-3 storey black of flats that has sprung up next door. Birds love them to perch on them. Deciduous trees also let light in the winter months and provide shade in summer.The roots system of pear trees is quite spare compared with large trees such as Liquidambers.
b)      These trees will tolerate dry conditions, slightly alkaline soils, air pollution and intermittently wet, heavy soils. While reasonably hardy once established Pyrus prefer some moisture, mulching surrounding areas to provide a cool root run or some irrigation during dry periods will assist with maintaining healthy growth Vegetable Heroes: Jerusalem Artichokes, Helianthus tuberosus,       
They grow best in full sun, and are easily transplanted.

In temperate climates September to December when the soil temperature is between 8°C and 15°C,is the time to plant.          In sub-Tropical climes, they’re best planted in Autumn-winter. You can plant them in tropical climates but they’re likely to rot off during the wet season. Tubers, or chunks of tubers can be planted in full sun or in part shade. In a row or higgledy piggledy. The ones in the shade will flowers that are a lot shorter than the ones in the sun, but they’ll be taller than you and you’ll probably have to stand on tiptoe to reach the flowers in the part sun plants. The sunflowers will make their first appearance in late spring or early summer and look like little baby sunflowers. If you are going to grow J. Artichokes or sunchokes, make sure to harvest them every year to prevent them from going taking over the garden.  Roots can be dug in the autumn after the plant dies back.  Store them in a cool place that isn't too dry. Wrapped in plastic in the fridge will do nicely. They will get bitter if kept too long in storage. It‘s best to leave them in the ground and dig them up as you need them. You can continue digging them right into early spring.
Feature Interview: Talking to Peter Tristram from the Bromeliad Society.    RWG recommends Bromeliads for shady and sunny spots in the garden. A genuine easy care plant that gives all year interest.