Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hedging with Rosemary and Entertaining Tropically

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.
STREAMING LIVE ON 2rrr at Wed. 5pm

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
In a lot of places in Australia, the days have begun to be quite warm, so thinking of tropical plants for an area in the garden suddenly has become quite appealing. Even if you live in an arid zone or cool temperate area, you can still achieve that tropical look with plants that grow well in your local district. Knowing how to arrange them is the key to achieving that tropical look, and around the entertainment area, it might be de rigour. Listen here to find out....

The whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical. If you live in a cooler  or arid area, you might have a tropical theme within your garden style. Somewhere in your garden where you like to sit and read or think, you can add a tropical touch here and there, with plants that are suited to the climate you live in. There is a microclimate that suits those plants that were mentioned. You get the idea.

Vegetable Heroes:    

  •      Pumpkins !. After Ian complained last week that his pumpkin vine only had male flowers, I decided to do a whole segment about growing them.
  •   Pumpkins (Cucubita spp.)  (could be Cucurbita pepo, or C maxima and son on)are members of the Cucurbitaceae family along with zucchini, gourd, squash, melons and cucumber.
  • Honestly., for those of us who have a compost heap, one of the most often things to grow out of the heap is the pumpkin. Usually a Butternut or Queensland Blue.
  • Just as well that Pumpkins like compost heaps because the vines need fertile, compost-rich, well-drained soil in full sun and are most easily grown as ground-cover plants. There is a bush variety called Golden Nugget, that can be grown in a pot but all the rest grow way too big for pots.
  • Vines can be trained over frames provided they can support the weight of the heavy fruit.
  • In temperate zones, plant your pumpkin seeds from September until the end of December.
  • Arid zones have from September until February, sub-tropical regions have between August and February, Cool temperate districts have between October and December, and once again, like Zucchinis, Tropical areas have to wait until it cools down, so between April and July is the time for you to plant your pumpkin seeds.
  • There are as many different varieties of pumpkins as there are of tomatoes, almost.
  • Golden Nugget is best for small gardens, for a medium sized pumpkin, try Hybrid Grey Crown or Queensland Blue.
  • Turk’s Turban is an exotic-looking pumpkin (although its flavour is a little dry).
  • You might prefer the stronger taste of Jarrahdale, from Western Australia.
  • Pumpkin seed needs a soil temperature of 20˚C for germination. You can either sow them individually in 10cm pots and plant them out when the pots are filled with roots.
  • Or, sow seed or plant seedlings into mounds of rich compost, with lots and lots of chook poo, made over loosened soil.
  • Plants take 70–120 days to mature. That’s 10 17 weeks!
  • Pumpkins are shallow-rooted they need regular watering in dry or windy weather. Even moisture helps prevent fruit splitting.
  • Pinch out growing tips, otherwise they may take over you whole backyard!
  • When I worked at Yates, getting those pumpkins to fertilise was the bane of quite a number of people’s veggie growing.
  • The complaint was lots of leaves and few flowers or that the embryo fruits and flowers fall off.
  • Pumpkins produce short-lived male and female flowers that can close by mid-morning.
  • Female flowers open above the swollen, distinctive embryo fruit and male flowers produce pollen. If the embryo fruit falls off, that usually means it didn’t get pollinated.
  • Native and honey bees are normally able to complete pollination, but sometimes ants harvest pollen before this occurs.
  • High temperatures can affect fruit formation – over 30˚C, hand pollination is useful for improving fruit set.
  • To hand pollinate, pick male flowers, remove petals then dab pollen on the stigma of female flowers. Squeezing female flowers aids pollination in wet weather.
  • If you remember, last week I advised Ian that sometimes female flowers take two weeks or longer before they start appearing.
  • This is because the pumpkin vine has to grow to a decent size-one where it can support fruit, before the female flowers appear.
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Plant of the Week:

  • Have you been avoiding growing hedges because it’ll mean that you have to prune it? Maybe you’d prefer a less formal look? If so, these new plants will help create either of these looks with a lot less effort. A plant that’s self shaping is always useful in any garden because it looks after itself.
  • Have you ever wanted a drought tolerant hedge of a native plant that looks like those evergreen hedges that you’ve seen in your travels to England, or Europe?
  • Not that Buxus species aren’t drought tolerant because they are, but what about native species, that might also be more likely to attract small native birds, lizards and other beneficials to your garden.
  • Westringia species   The Native Rosemary or Coastal Rosemary as it is also known is an extremely hardy plant that will tolerate almost any situation.
  • It has beautiful small white flowers to lavender flowers for most of the year and grows to around 2 metres high and wide. It’s salt tolerant, frost resistant down to about -7oC and is often mass planted and used very effectively as a clipped hedge. It also makes a great small screening plant that will accept full sun or part shade and can be pruned to shape.
  • The flowers are tubular or funnel form with orange landing spots for native bees. In fact native bees are the main pollinators because they are able to do what’s called buzz pollination.
  • In Westringias, the pollen is firmly attached to the anther, so the bees, grab the anthers with their hind legs and give it a shake. They can do this because they can vibrate their thorax. Something that European bees can’t do and apart from that, European bees being too large to fit into these tubular flowers.
  • In a lot of cases European bees bit the bottom of the flower to get at the nectar, destroying the reproductive parts of the flower in the process.
  • Ozbreed Aussie Box® It is much more drought tolerant than exotic box plants, but it will need slightly more pruning to keep in a box shape. Aussie Box grows to approximately 60cm x 60cm unpruned.
  • Position-Ozbreed Aussie Box® requires full sun to light shade. It is suited to most soil types.
  • Grey Box™ is the perfect grey colour contrast for Ozbreed Aussie Box®. It is an even more compact form than Aussie Box, growing 30-40cm high and wide unpruned. It can be pruned down to 20-30cm.
  • This tough drought and frost tolerant Westringia looks great when pruned to shape or left in its natural ball shape.
  • Position-Grey Box™ requires full sun to light shade. It is suited to most soil types and has been found to work well in sandy and heavy clay soils.
  • Grey Box is similar to the new Aussie Box, but with great grey foliage colour contrast and white flowers instead of mauve. It is a much more compact form than Aussie Box and grows to 30-40cm high and wide unpruned.
  • It can be kept pruned down to 20-30cm in size.
  • Propagation:soft tip cuttings in spring and semi-hardwood cuttings in autumn.

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