Sunday, 9 December 2012

Wildlife Tropical Gardens and Staghorn Ferns

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.
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 In Your Garden This Week:

Do you have Hydrangeas in your garden? They should be looking fabulous now. There are so many different varieties-Hydrangea “Ayesha” is actually an old favourite. It has curled petals that look like tiny little cups. Very unusual. Then there’s those Hydrangeas with tiny flowers in the centre surrounded by a ring of sterile florets. That’s the lacecap range, quite different to the mophead variety.
Mopheads are just great with their enormous sized flowers, and a few years ago, the “Endless Summer” range was re-released. Actually another old variety that has the bonus of flowering from Summer through to Autumn.
Most people think Hydrangeas need lots of watering. That’s true when they’re being established, but I’ve seen them in neglected gardens surviving on what natural rainfall there is.
Hydrangeas do best in temperate and cool temperate areas, but do actually grow as far north as Cairns.
It’s best to give Hydrangeas an south or east facing wall or fence to grow near, because westerly sun, or sun all day, will wreck the appearance of the flowers, and possibly burn the leaves.




Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
Wildlife and rainforests just going together like peas in a pod. Rainforests are essentially natures tropical garden and now only cover less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet rainforests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on Earth.
  Here’s some ideas that might get you interested in creating that tropical space in your garden. 

Rainforests have 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 known plant species. 
  You’ve probably heard of Madagascar, that  has around 500 species. 
And an area of rainforest the size of two football fields (one hectare) may have more than 400 species of trees. 
And why do tropical forests and gardens attract so many creatures?
  The canopy structure of the rainforest provides an lots of places for plants to grow and animals to live. 
The canopy gives sources of food, shelter, and hiding places, providing for interaction between different species. For example, bromeliads that store water in their leaves allow Frogs and other animals to use these pockets of water for hunting and laying their eggs.
So why not grow a tropical area in your garden to attract wildlife?

Vegetable Heroes:

Cucumbers. are botanically Cucumis sativus..
Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year. Cucumbers are one of the world’s favourite vegetables.
Sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring and early Summer for cool temperate districts, spring and summer for arid and temperate zones districts, mid winter to mid Autumn, for tropical and sub-tropical areas.
Tropical areas may be able to grow them all year round!
Choose a sunny, well-drained position.because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant that need full sun. Cucumbers also want a decent amount of growing space in your garden,. If you’re short on space, try growing them up vertically on a trellis or even some netting, perhaps a tomatoe trellis?. There are also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in containers. You’ll need to go to a seed mail order place for those.
Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally require temperatures between 15-33°C.
Cucumbers are happiest when the average temperatures are around 210C
The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils. As long as your soil is well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
Add in plenty of organic compost and fertiisers like chook poo or cow manure.
I’ve seen an idea where you make mini mounds, wet the soil first and then drop in 4 -5 seeds into the top of each mound.
Wet the mounds so they don’t dry out but not too much or you’’ll be wondering why nothing is germinating, that’s because the seed has rotted away.
When your seeds have germinated, pick out the strongest couple and throw away the other couple so you don’t get overcrowding.
Water regularly at the base of each plant – keeping leaves dry or you risk powdery mildew disease – and feed every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
Look for white to gray fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves may begin to drop off.
You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole mile to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.
There’s seems to be a few theories for bitterness in cucumbers.
There is a theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
 According to this theory it’s a genetic problem. Newer cucumber hybrids seem to have fewer problems with bitterness.
I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin, readily found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
High levels of cucurbitacins gives an extremely bitter tasting fruit-.
Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress..
The concentration of these Cucurbitacin varies in each cucumber and not everybody can taste the same level of bitterness from each cucumber.
Insects have also varying preferences for cucurbitacins- the compounds attract cucumber beetles but repel other insects, such as aphids and spider mites.
Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!

By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.
Just like zuchhinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after. Cucumbers should be ready at about 50-60 days and picking fruit often stimulates more to develop. Cucumber can be harvested quite small, which is often when they’re at their sweetest.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.
They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy.

Plant of the Week:

Staghorn Fern-Platycerium bifurcatum-P. superbum

They make a nice plant for your balcony, verandah or just somewhere perhaps on a tree in the garden and are very easy to care for.
They can be grown year-round outdoors in areas protected from frost and freezing. In their natural habitat they can be seen growing high up in the crowns of trees.
Staghorn ferns are native to tropical central Africa including Madagascar, southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and Australia. One species is native to the Andes mountains of Peru.
Native to Queensland and northern New South Wales these plants are epiphytes growing high in the rainforest canopy.
P. superbum is greyish green fronds that lay flat over the root system which is attached to a support.
They have two distinct leaf forms. Flattened sterile shield frond protect the anchoring root structure and take up water and nutrients. This ‘nest’ frond is designed to collect falling leaves and insects and funnels it to the feeding roots. That is how the staghorn is able to source nutrients needed to grow new fronds. 
It is from this frond that the fern attaches itself to the host tree.
Staghorn Fern In cold areas such as Melbourne,  keep the fern on the ‘dry side’ during winter, especially when young as they;re prone to rotting.
In its native habitat Stagferns are used  to a long dry season, with plenty of air circulation, moderate humidity, and sunlight.
Staghorns do well in tropical and subtropical regions but are quite hardy and tolerate the cold of Melbourne which is considered in the temperate zone.
The best position is in light shade with occasional patches of sunlight (not hot afternoon sun filtering through, in dry climates).
Although they'll cope with light frosts, these plants will need more protection in really cold areas.
Protect from wind.
 Water regularly throughout growing season behind the sterile fronds.. Perfect drainage is essential; plants do best mounted on plaques. Increase water as temperature rises.

If you manage to grow some young plants if you pot them into good quality potting mix in a shallow pot.
Mature plants should always be mounted on a board or onto a tree.
During the warmer months of the year - throw a few slow-release organic pellets some say even smelly old Dynamic Lifter 2x a year, behind the sterile fronds.
That old wives' tale of banana skins works for my Elkhorn fern.

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