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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Birdscaping with LadyFingers

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network. www.realworldgardener.com
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The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on http://www.cpod.org.au/ , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.
Streaming live at www.2rrr.org.au Wednesdays 5pm

 

Wildlife in Focus

with ecologist Sue Stevens.
Gardens aren’t complete without our wildlife visitors popping in for a snack or a drink. Sometimes we just like the look of them, or it’s their musical song that has us hooked. Yet, there you are toiling away in the garden and all you’re getting is the Common Minor or Indian Myna birds that shoo all the more desirable birds away.If that’s the case, you need to rethink your planting, and here’s some tips…

If you have nice wildlife visitors in your garden, drop the RWG team a line about who they are and what in your garden they’re attracted to? Or, send in a photo, because we’d love to hear from you. realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR po Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes:

  • Okra plant
  • The answer to the question What vegetable, was used to thicken soups and stews, and the seeds were toasted and ground then used as a coffee substitute? 
  • OKRA the way to pronounce is "Oh krah" not "Aukra"Okra is also known as Lady’s fingers.Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family and called Abelmoschus esculentus.
  • It used to be called Hibiscus esculentus so that may you give you a clue as to what the bush might look like.
  • Okra is related to cotton, cocoa, hibiscus and Rosella plants.
  • So what does the Okra bush look like? Okra varies in height from 60cm to 2m high depending on the variety of seed you buy. 
  • The leaves are heart shaped with plenty of yellow hibiscus-like flowers with a maroon throat. 
  • As you know, after the flowers comes the fruit that can be best described as a five-ribbed small pod. Much smaller than beans or cucumbers.
  • Pick these a week after the flowers emerge because the Okra, gets too tough and stringy after that.
  • I’m told the leaves can be used as Spinach. Doubly useful.
  • In sub-tropical districts, you can plant them in August and September and then again January and February.
  • In temperate climates, sow seeds in October through to December, Arid areas have between August and December to sow seeds directly into the soil. 
  • Cool temperate for you, the advice is to grow them in a greenhouse, but I discovered a blog from Adam whose from a cool mountain climate and Adam says “Okra does indeed grow in the cool areas, it just needs a bit of help to establish. Adam puts an old plastic milk bottle over the plant until it fills the bottle, then away it goes. Just pick the warmest part of your garden. You will get a small crop if you have a cold Summer, but should have heaps is the summer is warmer. Thanks Adam!.
  • Finally for Tropical districts, you’ve won the jackpot this week, because you can grow Okra all year round!
  • Okra seeds germinate reasonably well, but will be helped along if you soak them in a shallow dish of tepid water for 24hours.This will soften the hard outer seed coat.
  • Pick a spot that gets full sun and has plenty of compost dug into the soil.
  • One thing that Okra detests, and that’s wet, boggy soil or soil with poor drainage.
  • Okra will also be set back if you get a cold snap in your district.
  • Either sow the seeds directly or into punnets for later transplanting. I have heard that they don’t like being transplanted that much so you could try sowing them in pots made of coir, or make them yourself from newspaper or toilet rolls. A very permaculture thing to do.
  • Because they grow as a largish bush, space the seeds or seedlings if transplanting, about 50cm to a metre apart.
  • Water your Okra fairly regularly, and if your soil is too hard or clayey, grow some Okra in a pot no problem.
  • By the way, Okra are partial to high amounts of Potash.
  • During the growing period, water in lots of liquid fertiliser, such as worm tea and add handfuls of compost.
  • Tip pruning will also give you a bushier plant with more flowers and more Okra pods.
  • In warm areas of Australia, your Okra will be ready to pick in 10 weeks. In cold temperate zones however, it may take as long as 16 weeks.
  • Pick your Okra when they’re small and certainly before they get bigger than 10cm in length. Around 5 – 10 cm length is best.
  • Tip: Okra pods are referred to as mucilaginous. This can be a bit slimy in cooking, so if that bothers you, don’t slice them, keep them whole.
  • Alternatively, add a couple of drops of vinegar or lemon juice.
  • I’ve also read that you should avoid growing Okra where you’ve had tomatoes, capsicums or potatoes growing previously.
  • For different varieties of Okra, go to www.4seasonsseeds.com.au

Design Elements:

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
Photo:M. Cannon, Salzburg, Austria
Straight hedges, curvy hedges, hedges for privacy, secret rooms, and windbreaks.
If you’re hedge is too much work, gives you hay-fever, or just doesn’t look nice, pull it out. Yes, you can do it.
There’s so many varieties of plants that make great hedges that don’t spend any more time looking at the sad excuse of a hedge.
Plant a better one, or, plant another one alongside, you’ll be glad you did.
So many hedges to talk about.

This concludes the series on Living walls and vertical gardens, - great for small spaces, or even big spaces when we want to include an intimate or cosy part into our garden. You can’t go wrong if you listen into Design Elements’ Living Walls and Vertical Garden Series.

Plant of the Week:

You look out your kitchen window and you see swathes of green as far as the eye can see. Does that sound like your garden? 
Perhaps you could inject a bit of colour that says wow, that’s just gorgeous! In fact plum gorgeous all year round.
We're focussing on the burgundy coloured Loropetalum.
There is L. chinense var Rubrum and L. chinense var Burgundy.
Both have deep burgundy oval shaped leaves all year round and it’s hard to pick the difference between the two.
Flowers are a hot pink, fringy affair that look like a sort of like a fuchsia flower  and scientifically they’re described as this:each flower has four strip-like twisted oblong petals, in umbellate clusters of 6 to 9 flowers in the upper leaf axils. Flowering from late winter to mid Spring.
Make a great fuchsia alternative to cool temperate districts that can’t grow Fuchsias.
Grow to ½ metres, are very hardy, and can be pruned any way you like.
They like most soil as well as dry soil and are terrifically heat tolerant once established.
They will grow in all parts of Australia including those that receive light frosts.
Not overly fond of clay soils so add in a wheelbarrow load of humus or home made compost to the garden bed before planting.
Grows in full sun or part shade, but will colour better in full sun, giving a rich, deep burgundy leaf that makes a perfect foil in the garden.
I have dry sandy soil, that is extremely well drained and have no problem at all. I rarely give the hedge any additional watering during dry weather.
Loropetalums have a loose form and look best when pruned or as a tall plant at the back of the border.
NEW L. chinense Plum Gorgeous.
New variety which has closer branching and is a lower growing. plant.
Height 1.2m x 1.5m, takes full sun or part shade.Extremely drought tolerant once established.
Great for adding colour and depth to the garden. The deep plum coloured foliage is maintained right throughout the year providing an extended season of interest.'Plum Plum Gorgeous has a compact form, graceful habit and maintains its naturally dense shape.
In spring, and again in autumn, you will be rewarded with bright magenta tassled flowers.
Tip prune young plants to promote a bushy habit. Prune as a hedge if you like.
Fertiliser requirements: any general purpose organic fertiliser will do after flowering right through to the end of summer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions of course.
They aren’t overly fussed about being fertilised that much once mature.
Easy to grow and requires minimal maintenance. No major insect problems.
Propagate from semi-hardwood cuttings in Autumn, but don’t have a very good strike rate.




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