Friday, 10 August 2012

Ranting with Basil

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.

Spice It Up.   NEW SEGMENT

At one stage Greeks and Romans believed the most potent basil could only be grown if you sowed the seed while ranting and swearing. In French, semer le baslic (sowing basil) also means to rant.Well I hope you don’t have to swear and rant to get your Basil seeds to germinate, just have your pencils at the ready if you want to know how to grow, use and store Basil in the next segment with Ian Hemphill from

Vegetable Heroes:

Amaranth or Amaranthus cruentus is  from the family Amaranthaceae which includes the vegetables spinach and beetroot.   Many people might think that Amaranth is just for flowers in the garden and don’t know that that Amaranth has been used as a leafy vegetable and grain for centuries.  This Amaranth leaf, comes in many shapes and sizes and colours, and can be sold  as Amaranthus cruentus or Amaranthus tricolor in the garden centre. The Amaranth I’ve seen for sale as seedlings at the produce market I go to, has dark red foliage and if you ever let it flower, it has spectacular long reddish to purple arching tassels that contain masses of seed/grains. Depending on the variety, Amaranth can be anywhere from 60cm up to 2 metres tall. I’ve got to say, until I saw it for sale a few months ago in the herb section, I didn’t realise that you could eat it like spinach or with your salad greens. In sub-tropical areas such as Kempsey, and arid regions like Alice Springs you can sow Amaranth seeds from August until April, so nearly all year, in temperate zones, plant the seeds of Amaranth in September –through to March, but in cool temperate districts you only have from September until November. So order those seeds now. Soil temperatures need to be quite warm-18°C and 30°C.  Sow the seeds of Amaranth, which are quite fine, either straight into the garden bed or into seedling punnets.  Amaranth prefers humous rich moist soils but will grow in any type of soil. This is because, Amaranth is one of the plants classed as having C4 type of photosynthesis. This is quite a complicated chemical process which involves fixing CO2 in a different way. C4 plants include sugarcane and maize, are more adapted to surviving high daytime temperatures. For us gardeners this means it’s pretty drought tolerant once it’s passed the seedling stage when the roots system is established.  Although it will look like it’s wilting during a warm day, it will spring back to life in the evening.       Amaranth is fast-growing and it’s better to pick the whole plant as the older leaves get tough and bitter. Another tip is to pinch out the growing tips so your plant becomes bushy.  So why grow Amaranth?  Firstly, it’s decorative, secondly the leaves are great in salads or a substitute for Spinach, and for the permaculture devotee, or the gardener who takes advantage of plants that self sow. This is one of them. All species of amaranth make great companion plants especially for pest management. Amaranth traps leaf miners and some other pests, and breaks up compacted soil, making it easier for the roots of neighbouring plants to penetrate the soil.  Amaranth has also sparked interest commercially because for a plant that’s not a legume, ( that is a pea or bean plant,) the seeds have an unusually high content of protein-around 16%

Design Elements:

Ever wondered if you’re garden is romantic or even how to create a romantic garden? What makes a plant romantic? Is it just the colour, maybe pink and white together, or do you have to plant a lot of red roses?   Let’s find out with garden designer Lesley Simpson.

 Plant of the Week:

If the cold dreariness of winter is getting your down, even just a couple of these bedding annuals known as Polyanthus can brighten the balcony, verandah or garden bed, pots or hanging baskets. Information supplied by John Robb of Paradise Plants, Kulnura, Aust.                In 1990, Bob Cherry, owner of Paradise Plants, Kulnura, Australia and plant enthusiast, was growing the ‘Pacific Giants’ strain of Polyanthus for sale in pots and, seeing the shifting trend towards the P. acaulis type plants, decided to combine the great colours of the Poly with the compact habit of the P. acaulis. The breeding of Polyanthus is not an easy task, as every single flower needs to be pollinated by hand to set seed! If you have one thousand plants to cross pollinate, that’s quite a bit of work. John Robb says, "We have been breeding Polys for many years (in fact I am picking out our parents plants for seed production today! -4th august). our focus has always been on good weather tolerance, earliness to flower and disease resistance.
Nowadays, ‘Primula x Polyanthus’ is generally the name used to describe plants with the ‘taller’ habit of the original Polyanthus, and ‘Primula acaulis’ is the name given to the more modern compact forms. Just to add another spanner to the naming issue, it is my experience that the taller Polys will grow compact in some seasons and the shorter P. acaulis will grow quite tall late in the season! So the next time someone asks you the difference between a Polyanthus and a Primula acaulis, you will know just what to tell them!" Apart from painstakingly hand-pollinating each flower- "The resultant seed is distributed throughout Australia by Ball Seed, and there are many growers Australia-wide. I could not say that ‘most’ of the polys in Australian nurseries are the Paradise lines (in general, most potted-colour lines like pansies, petunias, polys etc. are not branded),  but you can tell the Paradise strain because of their prominent flowers held up well above the foliage."
These plants are frost hardy, sun tolerant (although they prefer light shade) and generally tough. Pull off the dead flowers to keep the plants looking bright. Although in cooler, protected areas the poly will persist over summer, it is most often treated as an annual in Australia, as the heat of summer generally finishes them off. Sow seeds in January for plants flowering in May-Oct

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