Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Strawberries and Brown Cuckoo doves

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on

Wildlife in Focus:Well it’s not a cuckoo and it’s not a dove so what is it? It even uses it’s tail to hang on branches of trees when it searches for food. Listen here for the full segment.
Vegetable Heroes:      Strawberries or Fragaria sp, meaning fragrance in Latin.     Strawberries are grown all year round in all states of Australia.  They are frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants. Make sure you don't grow strawberries where other strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, capsicums and chillies (peppers) or eggplants have grown in the last 3 years. Otherwise your strawberries might get verticillium wilt, a fungus that's starts in the soil. It attacks through the roots and eventually blocks up the water conductivity system in the plant. The plant dies, rots away and you think - what have I done? Just don’t replant in the same place with new strawberries. And don't forget nurseries do sell certified virus-free stock, and that's the safest way to grow new strawberry plants.  You'll find most strawberries flower in spring, set fruit which is harvested late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter.    There are also everbearing varieties available which can set a second crop in autumn . 
When planting a strawberry plant make sure that about a third of the crown is above the soil. If you plant too deep or shallow the plant might die.
 Varieties  include Redlands Crimson was developed  in south east Queensland so it does very well in subtropical climates  sending runners everywhere.
Tioga's - is better suited to a cooler climates and Torrey is suited to warmer climates.

Design Elements:      I have a friend that doesn’t like flowers. Strange as it might seem, there are a few people who might be like this whether is allergies or asthma. Perhaps a scheme that involves only green is the answer? Listen here to Lesley Simpson garden designer and Marianne discuss green in the garden as a design element.

Plant of the Week:      Grasses might sound a bit boring but the best of botanic gardens include ornamental grasses as a focal point in amongst their borders. Grasses come in all shapes, sizes and colours too.
Just to put your mind at rest, this Pennisetum alopecirpodes Pennstripe, that we just talked about is a native species to Australia and not Pennisetum setaceum or the highly invasive African species.
Some nurseries have apparently sold the African incorrectly labelled as native. Double check if you think there’s been a mix up. Pennstripe has never produced viable seed so it won’t spread into native bushland and cause a problem.
For more information on Penniseteum visit

Friday, 23 December 2011

Cool Colours in the Garden

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on
Design Elements: Ever thought of looking out into a cool relaxing garden? How do you get that?  Maybe you want a meditation garden, how do you get that? Listen here for all the info with Lesley Simpson, garden designer and Marianne (host).

Vegetable Heroes:eggplants, aubergines to some and Solanum melongena to botanists.
    Eggplant is a short lived perennial plant that is usually grown as an annual. Eggplants grow best when the temperatures are at least 250C or above.
    Eggplants or aubergines particularly resent frost and so far my plants from previous years never survive the cold and I have to start all over again.
  Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.Maybe a bit late for you guy, but you could give it a try this week maybe?
  Eggplants have to have full sunlight or they simply won’t grow well.
Any spot that gets about six to eight hours of full sun.
The seedlings don’t need to be planted too far into the ground. Just enough so that the soil covers the roots is fine. After the seedlings have been transplanted, give them a little water and leave them to grow.
Don’t overwater your eggplants as they are susceptible to root rot.
When you pick your eggplant fruit is really up to you. As soon as the “skin” of the fruit is glossy, it is typically ready to be picked. If the skin has turned brown then you’ve waited too long to pick the fruit.
Why not try ROSA BIANCAVigorous Italian heirloom variety, heaps of fruit that are  rosy lavender and white heavy teardrop shaped fruit with a mild flavour. 
How about TURKISH ORANGE?  Beautiful red-orange fruit, round to 7.5cm, lots of fruit in 65-85 days.    For cooler districts, why not try the funny soundying UDUMALAPET
  Yellow-green teardrop shaped fruit with vibrant lavender stripes, best eaten small at 8cm.
Plant of the Week:        OK. It’s a tropical plant but plant nuts, plant addicts, plant collectors, call us what you will, we try and grow the impossible. Can we do it for this one in your district? 
Family: Rubiaceae has shrubs in this family native to Africa, Madagascar and Asia. All are grown for their showy sepals-not unlike Bouganvilleas.
Bracts or sepals?-The showy part of the Mussaenda flower is composed of enlarged sepals, either white or pinky salmon  colours and even red. In a "typical" flower, the petals are the showy component while the sepals (which form the calyx) are usually green and relatively inconspicuous in the open flower, but not on this plant.
Mussaenda is a rounded evergreen tropical shrub or sub-shrub that will grow to 3m  tall in tropical areas, but more likely will reach 1-2m  tall in containers. Clusters (corymbs) of small, tubular flowers with five spreading lobes bloom in summer, however it is the large and colourful, ovate, leaf-like sepals (to 1m long) that provide the real ornamental display (in somewhat the same way as with Bouganvilleas). Some individual flowers in each cluster will develop a single enlarged sepal. Elliptic to ovate, bright green leaves (to 6î long). Hybrids sold in commerce typically...
Mussaenda erythrophylla cv Flamingo has large brightly coloured sepals of flaming pink. M erythrophylla Queen Sirikit has pale pink sepals.
M. Philippica is a dense spreading shrub with large clumps of ivory coloured sepals and tiny orange flowers, Very showy. This plant was discovered in the Philippines on Luzon Is in 1834.
Mussaendas need fertile  well drained  humus rich soils with an acid pH
.Full sun to part shade- somewhat cold sensitive and prone to spotting. A thick layer of mulch will protect the roots and help conserve  moisture.
Winter hardy - grow in containers that must be overwintered indoors. Use a well-draining potting mix and keep soils consistently moist.
 Grow in full sun to part shade. Best bract/sepal colour in full sun, but plants also appreciate some mid-day filtered sun in hot climates. Bring containers indoors in fall when night temperatures start dropping below 100C. Overwinter in a greenhouse or a warm sun room. Cuttings may be taken in late summer for overwintering.

Feature Interview:      Organic Neem oil sprays can protect garden plants from chewing insects and fungal diseases and protect people and animals from biting bugs. Talking to Gary Leeson from OCP let's find out what neem oil is all about..


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Silvereye In The Sky

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.

Wildlife in Focus"Silvereye"- Zosterops lateralis. Quick. No other word can really describe these birds, They move extremely fast from one plant to the next, Seem to come and go in a flurry. Makes them hard to photograph.Listen here to Kurtis Lindsay, ecologist and Marianne (host) talk about this little bird.

Vegetable Heroes:Summer Button Squash is the yellow or green saucer shaped members of the Cucurbit family that includes pumpkins, melons and zucchinis. Cucurbita pepo. Squash can be grown all year round in hot, subtropical climates, from spring onwards in temperate zones and only in early summer in cold regions.So squash can be grown somewhere in all parts of Australia right now..
Squash like to spread out, but will follow a trellis if the vines are tied to one.  Seeds are planted on small mounds, three to five to a mound.  Pinch out weak seedlings and leave the strongest.
Squash are, like most vegetables, heavy feeders and need lots of fertilizer and water don’t overfertilize with chook poo pellets or you’ll have big plants and no squash.
There’s a French heirloom variety Squash Jaune Et Verte - the flesh is sweet and buttery and the tender skin cooks to lime green. Takes 7 weeks from seed to harvest.
New Gippsland Seeds-Golden Ruffles Hybrid is a Yellow Button Squash-
Eden seeds_EARLY WHITE BUSH SCALLOPED Known pre 1722.
Try these online suppliers.
 Design Elements: Designing with hot colours is this week's topic.Why not try red lilies  repeated down the border, they can creat an impact and the orange-red of the flowers could be softened with silver foliage. Listen here for the full segment with Lesley Simpson, garden designer and Marianne.

Plant of the Week: Staghorn Fern-Platycerium bifurcatum-P. superbum
These ferns grow in warm, humid forests. and occurs naturally  from far Northern Queensland to southern New South Wales. It's best suited to highland, tropical gardens, and lowland coastal gardens, as long as it's protected from salt spray and hard frosts. These plants grow equally well on tree branches, fallen logs and rocks.
There are two types of leaves on the staghorn fern- flattened sterile shield fronds protect the anchoring root structure and take up water and nutrients. This ‘nest’ frond is designed to collect falling leaves and insects and funnels it to the feeding roots giving the plant potassium and calcium, needed to grow the large fronds. It is from this frond that the fern attaches itself to the host tree.
The second type of leaf are green, pronged fronds coming out from this base-there are the fertile antler fronds coming from low on the nest frond and can grow down to 2m. They are broad and multi branching in habit.
Staghorns do well in tropical and subtropical regions but are surprisingly hardy and tolerate the cold of Melbourne which is considered in the temperate zone.
The best position is in light shade with occasional patches of sunlight (not hot afternoon sun filtering through, in dry climates). Although they'll cope with light frosts, these plants will need more protection in really cold areas.
The best position is in light shade with occasional patches of sunlight (not hot afternoon sun filtering through, in dry climates). Although they'll cope with light frosts, these plants will need more protection in really cold areas. Perhaps throw over some protection like a fleece and protect from wind.
Water regularly throughout growing season behind the sterile fronds. Increase water as temperature rises.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Wheel Of Colour in the Garden

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on
Design Elements: Good garden design involves knowing how to combine colours so that the final product will be one we like Listen to the first in the series on Colour in garden design is to get you started towards ways to use colour in the garden successfully.

Vegetable Heroes: Cucumbers.Cucumis sativus..
In tropical districts, you can grow them all year round, in Temperate zones-spring andSummer and in cold districts, late spring to late summer is the time you can plant the seeds. Choose a sunny, well-drained position.because Cucumbers need full sun. pH of 6.5 is ideal.
Make a mini mound of soil, plonk in 4-5 seeds and when they germinate pick out the strongest and discard the others.
Don't overwater-if you’re watering too much and wondering why nothing is germinating, that’s because the seed has rotted away. 
   Water regularly at the base of each plant – keeping leaves dry will reduce the risk of powdery mildew disease – and feed every couple of weeks with an organic soluble plant food.
After 7 weeks your cucumbers should be ready. Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip. They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge.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. Online seed supplies from -
Plant of the Week: African Violets, Saint Paulia. to join or go to a show.
Secrets to Success:-
  1. African violets need:• Ten to twelve hours of light each day • Light that is bright enough to cast a sharp shadow,• No direct sun, except a little in winter, or early in the morning . Under cupboard lighting in the kitchen is ideal to extend the hours.
  2. Use the wick-watering method.It prevents the plants becoming too wet or too dry, and especially avoids the dry-wet cycle that is especially damaging to African violets. African violets should be watered when the soil feels dry to the touch. Water should be tepid or room temperature.
  3. An open and friable potting mix is essential-it needs to hold water but let it drain away reasonably quickly. If you can't get African Violet mix, add Coco peat, Vermicullite, Charcoal and Perlite in equal quantities.
  4. The diameter of the pot should be approximately one-third the diameter of the plant.
Climate Change Action:
   If you go to The Ryde/Gladesville Climate Change Action group has a list of things you can do on their website regarding Climate Action, a monthly e-newsletter and you can become a supporter of this group also.     Call Pamela or Jo to find out the next meeting which probably be next year. Monday 5 December 2011 at 6.30 pm. Call Pamela on 0422 532 586 or Jo on 0414 375 149 for details.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cool Designs with a Common Koel

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Wildlife in Focus: The young cuckoos, when they finally leave the nest, fly exactly the same migratory routes as their real parents How do they know which way to go? That remains a mystery, but find out some facts about the Common Koel by listening to ecologist Kurtis Lindsay and Marianne (host.)
Vegetable Heroes: Rungia klossi or Mushroom Plant.
Mushroom plant has dark green, glossy succulent leaves with a prominent yellow veins. The leaves are oval shaped and waxy. Grows to about 60cm x 60cm if planted in the ground.
Blue flowers in spring. It sends up new stems from the base.
Mushroom plants grow best in tropical and subtropical regions, and in temperate zones do well in the warmer months.
The potted plants that I have, stayed green throughout this winter, whereas previously they died right down.
Gardeners in cold climates could grow this plant because it always springs back to life after the cold months, when the weather warms up. I would recommend keeping it in a pot for those areas.
I ‘ve had several growing in pots for at least 2 years and they’ve so far never flowered.
These plants are best bought either from a large garden centre or perhaps through suppliers online
Tolerates most other soils, but it must be well-drained and kept fairly moist. RWG recommends a semi-shaded position, with morning sun.
It’s a very tasty herb and there should be more of it around.
The mushroom taste gets stronger with cooking.Go to your local markets and buy one todayTry these sites for sources of the    
Design Elements:    Living in a cool climate, particularly if you’re in a mountainous region, might be your idea of paradise. What about the garden? Do you make it sympathetic to the surroundings or do you create your own oasis?    Listen here for some tips:

Plant of the Week: Bouganvillea spp.Bouganvilleas will grow in all parts of Australia except the coldest parts. Not Tassie then and marginally in Melbourne and Adelaide
FERTILIZATION-These vines are heavy feeders and respond best to almost constant feeding .
With high light and constant feeding, the plants will flower at least 11 months of the year in tropical areas. Everywhere else only in summer. You can use controlled release fertilisers or organic fertilisers as long as they are high phosphorus with micronutrients, as well as additional iron and magnesium.
Plants grow best with small amounts of nutrients constantly available. Do not apply fertilizers to dry soil – Do not overfertilize – in this case less is better than more
WATERING-These plants flower best under stress. Keep the plant slightly on the dry side, and allow the plant to become root bound.
Give the plant a good, thorough soaking just before it reaches the wilt stage. Remember during the summer heat plants will use up water quickly, so inspect often.
If you want to be successful with bougainvillea keep containers moist but also they need to be well drained. No sitting plants in standing water!
DO NOT USE SAUCERS under your bougainvillea pots.
Pruning:after flowering and so it doesn’t become a large sprawling vine, thin out the oldest wood and shorten back the flowering wood leaving 3 or 4 nodes.
Training the branches horizontally will encourage better flowers. Upright branches don’t flower well.