Thursday, 13 December 2012

Free Range Worm Farms and Christmas Trees

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.
Steaming live on the net at

The Good Earth

with Penny Pyett, Director of sydney Institute of Permaculture.
Do you have a worm farm? If so, does it work well for you, giving you liquid referred to by gardeners as black gold, or do you have trouble with your worm farm and are at the point of giving up.
Here’s a marvellous if not fantastic way of having worm farms all over your garden at very little cost.
Let’s find out how…
 If your worm farm smells, then it’s probably too wet or you put in too much kitchen scraps. Worms can only eat so much.
If ants and cockroaches are making a nuisance of themselves in your wormfarm, you can fix this, but they actually won’t harm your worms. Keep a lid on your worm farm or underfelt cover over the food scraps. If you worm farm sits on legs, place each leg in a bowl of water so the uninvited visitors are kept out.
Remember, at all times keep your worm farm out of direct sunlight, covered and well drained, otherwise you will either cook your worms or drown them.
Finally, add a dash of ash, dolomite or lime every few weeks to stop the worm farm from becoming too acidic.
If you have problems with your worm farm, write it or email because we would love to help. or write in to 2RRR po Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

BEANS..or Phaseolus vulgaris latin for Common Bean. Their family is Faboidea or the pea family.
Growing bean crops is essential in a veggie garden because beans, as well as other legumes, have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.
Yep, that’s right, the roots make nitrogen out of the air and deposit it into the soil. Lightning storms are even better for that reason.
Beans, either climbing or Dwarf Beans, are sometimes called French beans.
To grow beans you  need up to four months of warm weather.
In subtropical climates beans can be grown almost all year. For temperate and arid zones, mid-spring through to late summer are the best times to plant.
In colder districts, beans, don’t like the cold at all and they certainly don’t like frost. You have until the end of summer, certainly you wouldn’t be expecting any cold snaps now.
Tropical districts, once again, need to wait until the winter months to sow beans.
Beans are best planted at soil temperatures between 16°C and 30°C. so planting them from now on is good..
Beans are easy to grow, and each year I teach hundreds of schoolchildren to sow bean seeds. Schoolkids just love to see those bean seeds grow  so it’s a great way to get your kids or grankids started in the vegetable garden.
 Sow seed about 2.5cm or  1-inch or depending on the size of the bean I guess.
Sow your beans, either climbing or  dwarf beans either in rows or just scatter so the seed are 5-10cm apart (don't worry about the odd ones which are closer).
Cover with soil, potting mix, or compost and firm down with the back of a spade or rake. Grown this way the beans will mostly shade out competing weeds and 'self-mulch'.
Keep watered and watch for vegetable bugs and green caterpillars
Pick the beans regularly to encourage new flowers.
Flowering will slow right down if you let the beans get too large (hard and stringy) on the plants.
Tip: To have beans all summer long, plant more seed as soon as the previous planting starts to flower.
Protect against snails and slugs by laying down straw or sugar cane mulch and sprinkling coffee grounds around the edge of the veggie bed.
Slugs and snails will completely destroy newly sprouted beans.
Beans do poorly in very wet or humid tropical climates because they get bacterial and fungal diseases.
Pods won’t set at temperatures above 270 C.
They need well-drained soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and are sensitive to deficiencies or high levels of minerals in the soil.
Especially climbing beans, so make sure you spread some chook poo or cow manure before sowing seeds.
When growing green beans, keep the soil moist.
A good rule of thumb is to put a finger in the dirt and if the dirt is dry up to the first knuckle, then it needs about an inch of water.
Go easy on the fertiliser or you’ll get lots of leaves and no beans.
When picking your beans, pick times when your plants are dry.
Working with beans when the leaves are wet tends to spread any diseases.
When are beans ready pick I hear you ask?
Usually in about 10-12 weeks.
Pick them when they are about as thick as a pencil, smaller if you want a better, tender taste.

Design Elements:

Garden Gurus tell us that the new trend in garden design is the outdoor room. Usually that means not only plants but everything else including the kitchen sink.  You may not want to have an outdoor kitchen that ultra modern designers insist we should have, so let’s look at alternatives…
I hope that’s given you some idea as an alternative to an outside kitchen.

Plant of the Week:

Choosing the right christmas tree can be tricky?

You’re looking at what’s on offer in your garden centre-Christmas trees in little red pots.
Should you pick the Norfok Island Pine, Wollemi Pine, Black Spurgeon Pine, or perhaps something completely different. It's so easy to be fooled into thinking that what you choose won’t grow big, after all, it's in that tiny pot.
Research shows, that a lot of people buying plants don’t actually read the labels of plants, so here’s some advice to help you choose without reading any labels!

 Trees to avoid if you have a small garden, courtyard or balcony garden.
Leighton's Green Cypress, Norfolk Island Pine.Norfolk Island Pine is a native and is fine for big gardens or properties.
Trees to choose instead:
  • X Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Gold Nugget'  -Grows slowly to 3 m. Somewhat open growing with beautiful fans of golden foliage and a strongly pyramidal habit, its colour is a bit brighter than some of the other golden forms.
  • Juniperus virginiana 'Spartan' –Spartan juniper. Grows to 4 metres x 1 metre wide. Fast growing, fastigiate conifer, later broadening into a slender cone. Dark green foliage. Excellent screening, tub or topiary specimen. Great tub specimen for limited spaces. Hang tinsel around the tree.
  • Native alternatives that make good Christmas trees:
  • Lillypillies (Syzygium paniculata.)These are Australian rainforest plants with dainty dark green leaves. There are a number of dwarf varieties that can be clipped into pyramid shapes or cone shapes. They prefer a mild climate. Eg.Acmena 'Forest Flame' grows to 2m
  • Black Spurgeon Pine, Prummnopitys ladei, from Qld. Likes warmer districts.
  • Box hedge trimmed as a cone or pyramid. Slow growing to 2 metres and very drought tolerant. Keep it tidy with some shears a few times a year.
  • The Wollemi Pine makes the perfect Christmas tree. It has a natural conical shape and very flexible leaves that can support Christmas decorations. A large 1.5 to 2 metre Wollemi Pine can also be kept in a pot if it remains in partial shade. It can be used year after year as the family's Christmas Tree and for the rest of the year it makes a fantastic patio and indoor plant.
  •  In the wild, the Wollemi Pine grows to a height of 40 metres but in the home garden, expect it to grow to about 15-20 metres. 
  • So unless you keep it in a pot, you will need a large garden.
  • The Pines have grown in temperatures from -5 to 45°C are fast growing; up to half a metre in height a year.
    The Wollemi Pine can be heavily pruned i.e. up to two thirds of the plant size removed . Heavy pruning is best done in. Apply controlled release fertiliser after pruning.
    Care of your living Christmas tree:
  • It’s a good idea to choose slow growing types so they won’t outgrow their pots every few months.
  • The Cypress family are slow growing in general, particularly if potted up.
  •  Keep your potted tree outside until its time to decorate it a few days before.
  • Your potted tree won’t like being indoors for more than a week.
  • Don’t overdo the decorations-heavy weights can permanently damage the branches and might spoil the look of the tree.
  •  Place the potted tree inside with a deep saucer and water regularly.
  • The deep saucer will protect your floor surface and keep the tree moist.
  • After Christmas take your tree outside but don’t put it in full sun. 
  •  Choose a semi shaded spot because it takes a few weeks for the tree to adjust to outdoor conditions.
  • The tree can stay in the pot for a couple of years, then it’s time to move it to the next size pot.




1 comment:

  1. Do worms really hate cold weather? My worms disappeared earlier this year - around April. Coincidentally it was two weeks after I put some Max's Cat Litter in the compost with cat wee on it, as some investigation on the net said Max's was quite compostible. I'm not sure whether the cat pee killed off the worms or the change to cooler weather. Thankfully they're back now but I'm not putting Max's in there again. I thought I'd lost my whole compost bin.