Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tropical Gardening Starts Here!

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, landscape designer.
What do you think of when the word Tropical garden is said? Saying palms, coloured cocktail drinks with umbrellas in them, lying in a hammock swaying gently in the breeze. Dipping you toes into a pool.
Perhaps you did all these things on your last holiday to a tropical isle, but wait, you can have it at home as well. Maybe not all of it, but at least some of the features.
Over the next five weeks, Design Elements will be talking about Tropical Gardens to suit any climate in Australia. Today, you’re going tropical around the pool.

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 there is a microclimate that suits those plants that were mentioned. You get the idea.

Vegetable Heroes:

  • ZUCCHINI or Cucurbita pepo.
  • Zucchini can be dark or light green, and generally have a similar shape to a ridged cucumber. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini is a deep yellow or orange colour. They are usually long, sort of cigar like, dark green, grey-green and even yellow.
  • Where to start. In temperate areas, plant out zucchinis from Septemebr through to January, in Cool temperate areas, you have been October and January, in arid areas, yes that’s you in Alice Springs and Broken Hill, you have a bigger winder, September through to March, sub-tropical, August to February, but for tropical areas, now’s too hot. Your Zucchini planting time is April to August. Very different from the rest of Australia!
  • .Having said all that Zucchinis are great for the beginner gardener because they are quick and easy to grow.
  • Prepare your soil with the usual digging in some compost or cow manure. Zucchinis are light feeders so won’t need much more than an occasional feed with some liquid fish fertiliser.
  • Sow your zucchini seed where you want them to grow. Mound up the soil  about 30cm long by about  and then make a indent up to your first knuckle, or even 7 cm deep, and drop in 3 seeds. When they shoot up pick the strongest one and discard the others. It will get too crowed otherwise.
  • TIP:Planting your seeds deeply will make your plant more drought tolerant.
  • Now they take up a lot of space so maybe try growing them vertically. That way there’s also improved air circulation so the fungal problems are a lot less.
  • You could grow them in pot that way. The pot would have to be about 30cm diameter.
  • The important thing with growing them vertically is to have lots of soft ties, like old panty hose or old T shirt cut into strips, so you can tie up the stems as they grow.
  • That way they won’t flop all over the place and probably break their stems.
  • If you don't get many bees or pollinating insects around your way you might need to pollinate the zucchini flowers yourself.
  • Get a cotton wool bud and take some pollen from the male flower.
  • Male flowers tend to be on the end of a long narrow stalk.
  • Female flowers are a lot closer to the main stem and have a swelling behind the petals. Just like female flowers on pumpkins. Look inside the female flower. There should be a golden formation. Dab the male pollen all over this female part. Hopefully in a few weeks that swelling behind the female flower will grow into a zucchini.
  • Fully grown zucchini leaves tend to look a motley silvery grey colour which looks like the fungal problem powdery mildew. Unless you’re watering the leaves this shouldn’t happen.
  • Powdery mildew grows on wet zucchini leaves or on any veggie leaves that are wet.
  • Remember to water where it’s needed most, the roots, not the leaves. In summer you'll need to keep your zucchini's water levels high.
  • They dehydrate very quickly on hot days so mulch them heavily (but remember to keep the mulch away from the main stem).
  • There are two main problems that gardeners have when growing zucchinis.
  • When the fruits are 5cm long, they rot and drop off. This is a pollination problem. You might have to pollinate them yourself. Next year grow a whole lot of flowers nearby like Borage, nasturtiums or marigolds.
  • The second problem sounds like blossom end rot where fruit almost ready to harvest starts rotting from the top.
  • If this happens you need to add lime to the soil at the time of planting. Too late this season. Otherwise it can be caused by irregular watering, that means, too much drying out in between waterings.
  • If your plants have many days of no water and then a glut of it, blossom end rot can develop, ruining the fruit.
  • Ian asks, why does my pumpkin vine have only male flowers?
  • Almost all pumpkins and squashes have all male flowers flowering first, followed by females, but only once the plant is large enough to sustain a fruit.
  • It's perfectly normal for the males to arrive first in big numbers. A week or so goes by without any female flowers showing up, and you’re beginning to think there's a problem.
  • The female flowers usually arrive 10-14 days after you spot the first male. (Sometimes it takes a little longer than this). Once the female flowers appear, there will only be a few at a time.
  • Male flowers greatly out-number the female flowers.
  • That means Ian, you might get female flowers in a week or two.
  • Zucchinis need to be regularly harvested, usually when they’re about 20cm long. Picking them help the plant to keep on cropping. If you let Zucchinis grow too big-like a metre long, they’re not much good as a vegetable to eat because they become too tough and contain mostly seeds.
  • The flowers are also edible - they can be used in salads, as garnish, and even fried.
  • If you want some unusual varieties, go online to buy the seeds on Goldfinger Hybrid, (16cm) Costata Romanesco-speckled with light coloured ribbing.
Plant of the Week

Photo supplied by Mansfields Propagation Nusery
with Sabina Fielding-Smith
Some of us forget about perennial plants for our garden, but they’re the ones the make up the backbone of the garden to which we can add bulbs or even short fleeting flowering annuals.
How about a mounding drought tolerant perennial plant with heaps of white flowers to set off you garden”
What is Iberis? Many listeners mightn’t know this plant so we had better describe what it is and where it fits into the garden.Perhaps cottage gardeners would know the name evergreen or perennial Candytuft,?
Iberis is so named because many members of the genus come from the Iberian Peninsula. 'sempervirens' means "always green", referring to the evergreen foliage. Iberian Peninsula is the peninsula in southwestern Europe, occupied by Spain and Portugal. Its name derives from its ancient inhabitants whom the Greeks called Iberians.
Iberis is in the Brassicaceae family-you would now Broccoli, Cabbage Cauliflowers.
You could also buy the seeds from Yates at one point. Unfortunately they’ve discontinued that line.
Evergreen Candytuft is a spring  white flowering favourite in Europe at least.
Where it gets used in gardens  cascading over rocks and walls, or used as a groundcover.
The glossy, deep green narrow leaves make a sort of  billowing mound, with loads of good-sized white flowers for several weeks.  Usually flowering from spring to early summer.
Growth is small to 25cm high and 90 cm wide.
This variety of Iberis you prune lightly right after flowering, but otherwise leave plants alone in autumn and early spring.
Iberis sempervirens grows in full sun or part shade.
It takes sandy, loam or clay soils. Prefers a well-drained site, so avoid heavy clay soils that stay wet in winter. Drought tolerant, once established. Not easily divided.
This variety is great for rockeries, borders, containers, edging,  ground covers.
We should mention the other parent cross, Iberis gibraltarica (Gibraltar candytuft) is a flowering plant of the genus Iberis and the family Brassicaceae.
Iberis is a funny name to try and remember, but I’m sure you’re going to remember Turbo, so ask for it by name at your garden centre.

Powerful Owl Project

Powerful Owl
RWG spoke with ecologist Dr David Bain regarding the Powerful Owl  Project.
Birdlife Australia is running the project and want to locate all the breeding pairs of Powerful Owls in the greater Sydney region, from Newcastle in the north to Kiama in the south and west to the Blue Mountains.
Birdlife Australia will be identifying where their nest locations are and recording the outcome of each nesting attempt at the end of the breeding season. 
However theyare keen for ALL sightings of Powerful Owls throughout their distribution - so in Queensland and Victoria as well.

You can help us learn more about the Powerful Owls by:
Letting Birdlife Australia know if you see or hear  a Powerful Owl in your area.
 or email David Bain and Rod Kavanagh at   report your sighting; you can send in photos or recordings of their calls if you are unsure.
Tell Birdlife Australia where (address or GPS location) and when you saw or heard the bird and anything interesting you noticed about where it was or what it was doing.
2. If you are in Sydney – volunteer to be an Owl Observer. Birdlife Australia will be looking for volunteers in 2012, 2013, who are willing to keep an eye on a breeding pair near them and submit a simple weekly report to us to let us know what is happening at their nest site.
You do not need to monitor at night (although some dusk visits may be required) and teams of Owl Observers will be set up for each nest to share the work.
All Owl Observers will attend a short training workshop before monitoring their birds. If you would like to register as an Owl Observer please email David at
OWLING IN THE SYDNEY BASIN-what’s in the nest?
BirdLife Australia and Birds in Backyards have now completed their
2012 Powerful Owl survey project survey in the broader Sydney area. The project aimed to look at the distribution of Powerful Owls,their breeding success, site fidelity and ability to cope with
disturbance of the urban based population of the species. This information will ultimately inform conservation measures for this threatened species.
David Bain, the BirdLife Australia Project Officer has kindly offered to present some of the results of this project and provide an update on what has been learnt about the behavior and threats to Powerful
Owls in the broader Sydney area.
 For further information and registration please contact Cathy on
9817 4935 or email the Society on 


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