Monday, 4 June 2012

Minor Birds and Shady Gardens

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 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.
This episode aired in Sydney 16th May 2012, and across Australia on 26th May 2012
Wildlife in Focus:Mynah and Minor birds, friend or foe? These days we're paying the penalty, with the Indian Mynahs displacing native species and attempts to control their numbers largely unsuccessful. They're considered by many to be the scourge of our backyards and parklands. Indian Mynah birds were introduced to Australia to control insects but have become an invasive pest themselves. Listen here to Guest presenter author, and TV personality, John Dengate talk about these birds.
Vegetable Heroes: Green Manure Crops. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Fix all your soil problems by growing a green manure crop. No hard work involved, just benefits for your soil.
At this time of year try faba bean, field pea, oats and wheat. This will improve your soil incredibly, and, for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort. At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
How do you  do this? I hear you ask, well here are the steps.
Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed.
Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop. Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats. 
Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies. You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well. Legumes like beans and peas are especially good, since they’ll fix nitrogen in the soil, but anything else you have will help. Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square meter. Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them.
Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing.
Let the green manure crop grow 7-10 cm tall. Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop.  
Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because  the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process. 
With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead of the one you want.
Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground. If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower. Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.            Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.
What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
Design Elements: This series of Design Elements. All about Garden Design Problems. If you have any email or write in to 2RRR, PO Box 644, Gladesville 1675        Today the problems are dealing with different types of shade in your garden, and can you have too much sun? so pencils at the ready....!

Plant of the Week:       What do the names Dianthus 'Sugar Plum' Dianthus 'Candy Floss' Dianthus 'Passion' Dianthus 'Slap n Tickle' Dianthus 'Cherry Sundae'Dianthus 'Rosebud' suggest?
Some people know them as cottage pinks, More commonly known as 'garden pinks' these dainty dianthus are- compact evergreen, dry tolerant and easy to grow, long flowering - and best of all, fragrant perfume! There’s a Dianthus for everyone’s taste in any climate. ideally suited to small spaces, containers, edging as well as general garden use.
a)   Dianthus plants are sun lovers and prefer average, well-drained soil. They appreciate a bit of humus in the top soil layer, but they will not survive long in a damp, highly fertile muck. Do not use mulch around pinks because their crowns tend to rot beneath it.
b)   Whetman Pinks have been the main grower and distributor of scented Pinks in the UK since 1936. And now they’re being propagated in Australia from UK stock plants, so virus free. 
c)   Two types that I know of from that range are Candy Floss:
d)  Sugar pink and beautifully perfumed.  Approx flowering height 28cm . A great variety for patio planters where you can enjoy the perfume on warm summer evenings.
e)   Coconut Sundae:  Coconut Sundae is a beautiful white sport of Raspberry Sundae and produces a mass of perfumed flowers with a maroon eye.  It is really eye-catching.   Flowering height approx 20cm . 
f)    There may be others yet to be released in Australia so stay tuned for titles like sugar Plum, Tickled Pink and Romance!
g)   The problem with the some older varieties of Dianthus or Pinks is that they have an inherent virus in their leaves. I used to wonder why they would all die on me after a few years, but it wasn’t because I had a brown thumb. I discovered this fact from a plant breeder, so that’s why it’s great to learn that there is virus free stock coming into Australia. Sad news for some, NOT ALL of the old varieties, but these new ones have great scent as well.
The virus actually means the decline of the plants,ie, slowly starts to fade away.

h)   They are very drought hardy growing in very free draining soil. Also very easy to propagate from soft tip cuttings any time of the year. A bonus if you do actually have a yen for growing your own plants.
i)     Generally summer flowering but spot flower from time to time. Plant some now for next summer colour.
j)     There’s a nursery near Bowen Mountain in Sydney which specializes in the old varieties with names like Napolean  III, Olde Enlish Mauve, Paisley, Strawberry Fields, Tudor Tart and Tuscan Lace.  The last being a typical 19th century form and very fragrant.

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