Thursday, 2 August 2012

Learn How to Grow Rocket says the Wise Boo Book Owl

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.

Wildlife in Focus: with ecologist Sue Stevens.

Southern Boobook Owl  There is much myth and folklore about owls. Some are light- hearted like in the U.S.: if you hear an Owl-cry you must return the call, or else take off an item of clothing and put it on again inside-out!
 Boo Book Owls are found all round Australia, from forests to desert regions, but need hollows in trees to nest. We can help these birds if we realize that, in the environment, dead trees are as valuable as living ones, and they should be left for homes for wildlife.
Find out more about this wonderful with a rather nice call.

Vegetable Heroes:

Rocket or Arugula and scientifically Eruca sativa.  Arugula belongs to the Brassicaceae family along with Broccoli, Mustard greens, Kale and Cauliflower. The spicy leaves can be grown all year round but are best in cool weather. I’ve found that certain plants like Arugula or Rocket and Coriander just bolt to seed in summer and it’s pointless getting the varieties that are supposedly slow bolting, because they always bolt in temperate zones anyway. The reason being is that long days and warm temperatures initiate flowering in this plant so you can’t fight nature. In temperate and arid districts, you can sow Arugula seeds from August until November, in cool temperate areas wait until September unless you have a greenhouse or even a mini-greenhouse, but sub-tropical districts can sow Arugula or Rocket seeds from March right through til November. Lucky them. For those of you that have a soil thermometer and actually use it, the soil temperatures for germination should be between  4°C 14°C Arugula is best grown from seed and sow them a couple of weeks apart to have a continuous crop, and be brave let one or two plants go to seed so you have fresh seed for next season. Sow the seeds very shallow and keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge. The plant grows to about 40cm high so thin out the seedlings so they’re 20cm apart. During the cooler months grow Rocket in full sun. In warmer districts, rocket will tolerate partial shade. Rocket also copes with light frost.  Rocket or Arugula is one of those plants that’s easy to grow so would suit your kids or gran kids if you’re trying to get them into gardening. I’ve been growing the Wild Rocket in my garden and it seems to be hanging in quite well through all the rain and cold temperate zones have experienced this winter. Wild rocket has more narrow leaves and the flavour is quite mild. Buy online from  or

Design Elements: 

Over the last few weeks, Design Elements has been all about different ways of achieving structure in the garden. So far, it’s been about what is structure, and structure with hedges that some people find boring, but gardeners in Europe think otherwise. Then there’s been built structures, but today, can you achieve structure with everyday plants?  Let’s find out with garden designer Lesley Simpson..

Plant of the Week:

Together with horticulturalist Sabina Fielding-Smith, we're talking about Camellias.If you want a large flower scented Camellia with fragrance there is only one. Camellia japonica “High Fragrance,”  bred in NZ in 1986. In the show I mentioned that I like to graft slow growing Camellias onto Camellia sasanqua root stock. June is the best time of year to do this in temperate zones, and you may just get away with it on colder districts.
Anyway, last year I grafted a Camellia reticulata "Red Crystal" onto Sasanqua stock and I’m pleased to report I have my first flower. It’s a brilliant crepe paper red with a huge central boss of yellow stamens. Just spectacular . There's a lot to be said about growing Camellias in the right conditions, that is, slightly acidic soil with plenty of humus. Most problems occur when the Camellia plant is not receiving it's requirements. In the last few years, Camellias around Australia have been attacked by Camellia T-mite. This occurred during the drier period and has persisted since. Preventative control is possible by spraying the Camellias, (after flowering) with horticultural oil.  There is also now a registered Neem Oil product from eco Organic Gardening. See their website. Mature Camellias are reasonably drought tolerant, but that depends where you live. As a preference, Camellias like a bit of moisture at all times, but not soaking wet otherwise they'll develop root rot. Flower balling is another problem that can occur with multi-petalled varieties such as Camellia japonica W.H Davies. This often meanes that the flowers received direct sunlight after a heavy dew, causing the petals to fuse. Light coloured flowers, prefer dappled midday to afternoon sun. In the past, a mulch of cow manure was recommended, but after hearing about the toxicity and variability of some manure products, I don't recommend this. It seems that some manures contain a high content of salts which will stress the plants and also cause flower balling. Go easy on the manures and possibly stick to pelletised or synthetic fertilisers. Camellias in many neglected or older gardens appear to flower without any fertilising, so perhaps easing back on fertilising mature shrubs is a better alternative. If you need to prune your Camellias, wait until after flowering and no more than one-third off the top. If you’ve inherited a mature straggly Camellia, and I’ve seen this done at historic Camden House in southern Sydney, mature Camellias, including reticulatas were heavily pruned; even reduced to a bare frame!


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