Saturday, 25 February 2012

Fantails and Ezy Veggie Gardens

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 , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.
RWG survey is below.
Wildlife in Focus: Which bird is Australia’s best known fantail?  What is a fantail anyway?
Why does Willie wag his tail, and what does he eat?  So many questions can be answered by listen to Kurtis Lindsay, ecologist, talk to host Marianne about the this bird.

Vegetable Heroes:this week-I’m growing Brassica rapa var. rapifera or Japanese Turnip, the Kobaku type.
 Flesh is crisp but softer than a regular turnip and not woody or tough; they’re excellent in soups, salads and Asian cooking and seem sweeter when cooked.
 Japanese turnips can be sown in: -      Late summer and early autumn are the best times for hot subtropical areas, mid-summer to mid autumn in temperate zones, and for cold districts like Canberra, sow in now, late summer or again in early Spring.
Red turnips cope well with cold climates are reasonably hardy putting up with a few degrees of frost and little fertilizer, and their roots and stems can all be eaten.
 Japanese turnips take only 3-4 weeks for small turnips –around 8-10 weeks for larger ones and late summer sowings, but take up to10-12 weeks if you sow them in late autumn.
You can start picking them when they’re about the size of a golf ball, but can be still eaten when they grow as big as a tennis ball. (5-15cm).
 Turnips are best grown in an open site on soil that was fertilised last season. This same rule applies to carrots, which I talked about last week.
Sow the seed in situ, about 1 cm deep, although you can sow them in seed trays no problem, because they don’t mind being transplanted.
 As Japanese Turnips are growing you need to keep up the supply of water and nutrients otherwise they turn out bitter and tougher than you expected. 
 If you have sandy or poor soils, or any soil that dries out quickly, either improve the soil with lots of compost, humus or try putting them in containers. If you’re stuck for what to grow them in try those polystyrene foam boxes you can get from your local fruit and veggie store.
 One good thing for gardeners with heavy or clayey type of soil, Japanese turnips don’t mind these soils at all.
Try these seed suppliers for varieties such as Purple Top white Globe, Golden Ball, Scarlet queen and Tokyo Cross.

Design Elements: If your soils is too hard to work, or you may have mobility issues, why not consider raising the height of your vegetable bed?  There are lots of advantages to this, and Lesley Simspon, garden designer and host Marianne discuss the ways you can achieve this.
Plant of the Week: Plumbago auriculata  just Plumbago for striking sky blue flowers, butterfly habitat and water-wise plants, this plant can’t be beaten. Not only that, it can take the heat of summer, and will flower in full sun and semi-shade.      Did you know that Plumbago was traditionally to treat warts, broken bones and wounds.  It was also taken as a snuff for headaches and as an emetic to dispel bad dreams.
The name auriculata means winged like leaflets or little ears that are present at each leaf base, clasping the stem.
Native to tropical Africa and grows in full sun to semi shade.
The large flowers are clusters of 5 petaled individual tubular or salverform flowers, overall about 10-15cm.
The flowers have sticky gland tipped hairs on their calyces, which will stick to your clothing when you brush past.
I used to have a hedge of this plant until a couple of years ago. Plumbago grows very fast, and needs pruning 3-4 times a year to keep it neat as a hedge. Then, doing that, you end up sacrificing the flowers which are the best part of this sprawling suckering shrub. I would get terrible hay-fever after pruning the plant because there must’ve been variety of dust mites living in the hedges. Then when my neighbour copied my idea, even though it was in the back and his was I then front, that was the final straw, out it came. I’ve put in slow growing English box it it’s place.
It’s easy to grow, comes in three colours, light blue, darker intense blue called Royal Cape and white. Or Alba. Large full phlox-like clusters of flowers are produced in abundance from late spring to autumn providing gardeners with that rare deep blue flower colour .
This bush tends to sucker, and I hardly every fed it with anything over at least 10 years. Extremely tough plant  that is also first line salt tolerant, frost hardy and copes well in shady and mildly saline soils, and will grown in all areas of Australia.
If you just have one plant for the flowers and butterflies, you’ll need to give it lots of room. One plant if left to its own devise will grow to about 3m x 3m with long arching canes making it appear vine like. The stems are generally woody and dark brown and the alternate leaves are yellowy-green about 5cm long.

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