Saturday, 25 February 2012

Fantails and Ezy Veggie Gardens

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 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.
RWG survey is below.
Wildlife in Focus: Which bird is Australia’s best known fantail?  What is a fantail anyway?
Why does Willie wag his tail, and what does he eat?  So many questions can be answered by listen to Kurtis Lindsay, ecologist, talk to host Marianne about the this bird.

Vegetable Heroes:this week-I’m growing Brassica rapa var. rapifera or Japanese Turnip, the Kobaku type.
 Flesh is crisp but softer than a regular turnip and not woody or tough; they’re excellent in soups, salads and Asian cooking and seem sweeter when cooked.
 Japanese turnips can be sown in: -      Late summer and early autumn are the best times for hot subtropical areas, mid-summer to mid autumn in temperate zones, and for cold districts like Canberra, sow in now, late summer or again in early Spring.
Red turnips cope well with cold climates are reasonably hardy putting up with a few degrees of frost and little fertilizer, and their roots and stems can all be eaten.
 Japanese turnips take only 3-4 weeks for small turnips –around 8-10 weeks for larger ones and late summer sowings, but take up to10-12 weeks if you sow them in late autumn.
You can start picking them when they’re about the size of a golf ball, but can be still eaten when they grow as big as a tennis ball. (5-15cm).
 Turnips are best grown in an open site on soil that was fertilised last season. This same rule applies to carrots, which I talked about last week.
Sow the seed in situ, about 1 cm deep, although you can sow them in seed trays no problem, because they don’t mind being transplanted.
 As Japanese Turnips are growing you need to keep up the supply of water and nutrients otherwise they turn out bitter and tougher than you expected. 
 If you have sandy or poor soils, or any soil that dries out quickly, either improve the soil with lots of compost, humus or try putting them in containers. If you’re stuck for what to grow them in try those polystyrene foam boxes you can get from your local fruit and veggie store.
 One good thing for gardeners with heavy or clayey type of soil, Japanese turnips don’t mind these soils at all.
Try these seed suppliers for varieties such as Purple Top white Globe, Golden Ball, Scarlet queen and Tokyo Cross.

Design Elements: If your soils is too hard to work, or you may have mobility issues, why not consider raising the height of your vegetable bed?  There are lots of advantages to this, and Lesley Simspon, garden designer and host Marianne discuss the ways you can achieve this.
Plant of the Week: Plumbago auriculata  just Plumbago for striking sky blue flowers, butterfly habitat and water-wise plants, this plant can’t be beaten. Not only that, it can take the heat of summer, and will flower in full sun and semi-shade.      Did you know that Plumbago was traditionally to treat warts, broken bones and wounds.  It was also taken as a snuff for headaches and as an emetic to dispel bad dreams.
The name auriculata means winged like leaflets or little ears that are present at each leaf base, clasping the stem.
Native to tropical Africa and grows in full sun to semi shade.
The large flowers are clusters of 5 petaled individual tubular or salverform flowers, overall about 10-15cm.
The flowers have sticky gland tipped hairs on their calyces, which will stick to your clothing when you brush past.
I used to have a hedge of this plant until a couple of years ago. Plumbago grows very fast, and needs pruning 3-4 times a year to keep it neat as a hedge. Then, doing that, you end up sacrificing the flowers which are the best part of this sprawling suckering shrub. I would get terrible hay-fever after pruning the plant because there must’ve been variety of dust mites living in the hedges. Then when my neighbour copied my idea, even though it was in the back and his was I then front, that was the final straw, out it came. I’ve put in slow growing English box it it’s place.
It’s easy to grow, comes in three colours, light blue, darker intense blue called Royal Cape and white. Or Alba. Large full phlox-like clusters of flowers are produced in abundance from late spring to autumn providing gardeners with that rare deep blue flower colour .
This bush tends to sucker, and I hardly every fed it with anything over at least 10 years. Extremely tough plant  that is also first line salt tolerant, frost hardy and copes well in shady and mildly saline soils, and will grown in all areas of Australia.
If you just have one plant for the flowers and butterflies, you’ll need to give it lots of room. One plant if left to its own devise will grow to about 3m x 3m with long arching canes making it appear vine like. The stems are generally woody and dark brown and the alternate leaves are yellowy-green about 5cm long.

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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Topiarus and Blue Coleus

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , click on 2RRR

Help Real World Gardener be the best by answering-survey at bottom of page.
Design elements:The Latin word for an ornamental landscape gardener is topiarus from which the word topiary comes from. Topiary dates back to Roman times, and always makes an elegant statement in any garden. Listen to Lesley Simspon, garden designer and Marianne (host) give advice on how to start you own topiary.
Vegetable Heroes:Chinese greens or    Brassica rapa Chinensis group. Chinensis simply means originating from China.Today I’m referring to two non-heading types of Chinese cabbage, that don’t look like cabbages at all, and are sold under the name of pak choy and a Chinese flat cabbage which might be sold as choy sum or tatsoi.
 Pak choy is the chinese greens most commonly sold in supermarkets and has thick white leaf stalks and wide dark green leaves that are loosely arranged. You can eat every part of this type of cabbage and it’s quite crisp and tender.
Chinese flat cabbage or Tatsoi, has shiny, thick deep green spoon-shaped leaves, that when growing hug the ground. This type of cabbage can cope with frost and snow and is easier to grow that Pak choy because it doesn’t bolt to seed so easily in warm weather.
In tropical climates, both of these are a winter crop, but in temperate and cooler climates sow the seed directly anytime between spring and autumn. Oriental vegetables can provide you with crops of green vegetables all through the winter months.  
Seed depth depends on what type but between 6mm and 1 cm. Cover the seed with finely sieved compost.
If you have heavy or sandy soil they won’t work for you unless you dig in plenty of compost of some kind. 
They’ll either bolt to seed in sandy soil or just not grow in clay soil. If that’s all too hard, these non-heading cabbages are shallow rooted so can even be grown in planters.
Do use liquid compost teas or worm tea to fertilise, otherwise the cabbages can be weedy if underfed.   when ready to pick, because Pak Choy grows so close to the ground, was them carefully when picking, as you all know, soil isn’t that tasty.
You can pick individual leaves or the whole plant when it’s ready.  Use scissors to cut the leaves and the plant will re-shoot from the stem nodes.
Seeds available online from:-

Plant of the Week: Dogbane, or Blue Coleus. Plectranthus neochilus:Family: Lamiaceae
Plant this hardy perennial in a dry spot where nothing else will grow, but being such a toughie, it will survive down to -20C. It can survive in very dry soils so it’s ideal for an arid garden where it can cling to rocks and grow in sand.
Here in Australia it’s classed as a sub-shrub growing to about 30-60cm high and spreading to about 2metres, which it has down in the front of my garden. I would class is as a perennial succulent herb that lavender-blue flowers appear from September through to April.
It’s flowering now and passers by to my garden often comment that the flowers look similar to lavender flowers and make an impressive display. But I regularly cut the plant back quite hard.
The flowers from this plant are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and they are pollinated by flies and other insects.
A very ornamental plant but  some books describe this plant is invasive. The succulent stems are so easy to pull out and keep under control, I would scarcely call it invasive.
Extremely drought tolerant because of the fleshy succulent leaves.
Tip prune regularly to keep it looking bushy otherwise you’ll get a straggly plant.
Ideal Planting Locations-Spreading Dogbane can grow in full, semi shaded areas and areas with no shade.
Suit cottage and Mediterranean styles of gardens. Grows within a woodland garden or on a sunny edge, but also works within dappled shade- and is even suited to a deeply shaded location.
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Friday, 10 February 2012

Talking Brush Turkeys and Waterlillies

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on  select 2RRR to access the feed.
Th help Real World Gardener be the best, please fill in the survey at the end of this blog.
Wildlife in Focus:The Brush Turkey is making a comeback in leafy suburban gardens. Some people haven’t seen them, and some have only seen their handiwork. Rumours abound about how to get rid of them from your garden. Are they really that bad? Listen toecologist,  Kurtis Lindsay talk about this Gondwanan bird.

Vegetable Heroes:Carrots or  Daucus carota var. sativus were one of the first vegetables grown by man and are related to parsley.
Carrots are cold tolerant but can grow in all but the hottest climates. They grow year round in subtropical climates, sow them spring and summer in temperate zones and mid-Spring to the end of Summer in cold districts.
They prefer full sun but can grow in partial shade.
Avoid adding fertilisers and manures to the soil just before sowing, or you’ll get carrots that will fork and become hairy. They like beds manured in the previous season.
Make sure the soil has been worked over with no stones or sticks otherwise the carrots will grow into funny shapes or be stunted.
The easiest way to sow carrots is to mix a packet of  seed with one cup of  river sand, pouring the contents into seed drills .
Cover the seed with finely sieved compost or a drizzle of sugar cane mulch. Not too thick or they won’t germinate.
Too much water and the roots might crack so only give carrots small amounts in the first eight weeks of growth. Here are some varieties to get you interested;
All Seasons mainly for Queensland and NSW,  and Royal Chantenay suits heavy soils, both need 10-11 weeks.
C Little Fingers-sweet baby carrots about 10cm long-8weeks.
New Kuroda is heat tolerant and grows to 18cm long and another one for pots Chantenay Red-Cored with the shortest root, orange-red colour through-out, sweet and tender. Suited to heavy soils. 7-10 weeks.
Round and short varieties can be grown in planters or pots,  but the long types need about 20cm of soil depth in the open garden.
Design Elements: -      Planter or container gardening can be many people in different situations: 
whether you have mobility issues, problem soil, not enough space or just a plain plant addict, planter gardening ticks all the boxes. Listen here to garden designer Lesley Simpson and Marianne discuss this topic.

Plant of the Week:Waterlillies or Nymphaea spp.
There are two main types of water lillies:
Small growing tropical, day flowering waterlilies:
These waterlilies are suitable for small tubs in balcony/rooftop gardens, small ponds/water features and any shallower water areas. They are smaller in leaf spread, hence, coverage is less when compared with a standard size waterlily. Growth tip of the plant could be submerged between 15cms to 30cms below the water surface.
Hardy waterlilies come in small and miniature. Miniature water lilies tend to grow slower than their bigger brothers, no need to divide - repot as often, typically every 2-3 years may be enough for the smallest types.
These waterlilies are suitable for small tubs in balcony/rooftop gardens, small ponds/water features and any shallower water areas. They are smaller in leaf spread, hence, coverage is less when compared with a standard size water lily. Smaller miniature water lilies need only 5-10cm of water over the crown (the growing tip that produces the leaves), making them ideal for planting in bowls and smaller water features.
Getting waterlilies to flowers is one of the most asked questions by home gardeners.
The main reasons are;
Not enough day length. Full sun means full sun, and not dappled anything or even part sun.     Temperature is the second factor-hardy waterlilies start to flower at temps over 16-18C0.       Hardy waterlilies need room to grow, so pot them up into a bigger pot size if you’ve met the other criteria and feed them with a controlled release fertiliser tablets.
Water. Well it may seem simple, but they do not need a lot of work. As with any plant, some maintenance is required to get the best results. Miniature water lilies need about 10cm of water above the crown, whereas most other water lilies prefer 30-60cm.

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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Windowboxes and Vintage Red Eucalypts

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on

 To help RWG be the best, answer a few survey questions at the end of this blog.

Design Elements: Ever admired the windboxes in England and Europe? Picture the classic eye-catcher: a narrow box painted perfectly to match the house trim, spilling ivy geraniums, pansies, and petunias. Well today’s design elements discuss four different styles of windowboxes with Marianne (host) and  Lesley Simpson garden designer..listen here.
Vegetable Heroes:   Cauliflowers or brassica oleracea var. botrytus botrytus)
In tropical districts you’re going to have to wait until it cools down, so no planting until April, for sub-tropical areas, March is when you can start, however Temperate, and inland, some people call grassland, and also cold districts, February is the only time to sow seeds so get cracking otherwise you will have to buy seedlings from March onwards.
Caulis tolerate frost, but prefer a sunny site and a neutral soil. If you'r soil's acidic, and lime and wait around 6 weeks before sowing Cauliflowers.
 If plenty of manure has been dug in, there is no need for additional fertilizers, prior to planting out cauliflowers. Avoid using a plot on which a brassica crop was grown within the past two years.
Grow Cauliflowers in fulls sun and in a sheltered spot.
Here’s a tip to not have to eat cauliflower everyday for a month, gather up the leaves and tie them together over the curd so that they cover it, using garden twine, an elastic band or raffia.  It will also protect the winter ones from the frost.
Purple Sicily: Large purple heads, cooks to green, easier to grow than white cauliflowers. (around 4 months)
Snowball  has tight solid heads, well suited to warmer regions. 70-90 days. Very quick 10 weeks!
C.Paleface: Large firm white head, in most places can be planted throughout the year, suited to cooler climates. 155 days.
For those with little gardens how about C Mini White May be sown direct where plants are to mature and thinned out to between 15-30 cm apart or raised in a seedbed. The closer the plants the smaller the head. Heads ideal for one meal. Sow November to February suit cold and temperate zones.
Seeds available from - and
Plant of the Week:A few weeks ago, Lesley, RWG’s, garden designer came on the show and talked about designing your garden with the colour plum. We mentioned that E. Vintage red, a new grafted eucalypt would satisfy native gardens of any size. Of course you don’t want a whole lot of dark plum foliage because it will look like a black hole in your garden, just a few highlights here and there.
E. Vintage Red is a type of sugar Gum with leaves varying from dark red through to dark purple and grey. If you don't prune this tree at all it will grow a single trunk to between 10-20 metres.
Pruning will keep it to a smaller size and form a quite attractive dense habit.
E. Vintage Red has been grafted onto another Eucalypt variety. It's extremely drought tolerant once established -ie, After planting, water once weekly through its first Summer. Once the cooler weather comes, it will survive on natural rainfall.
Sugar Gums are found around Melbourne so this tree will also tolerate frost. Suits a Mediterranean and native bush garden.
Prefers full sun for the best leaf colour.
The trunk is black when yound and will gradually peel away as it matures to show a grey bark underneath.
To keep it to smaller size, you can "coppice" it. (cutting it back by about one third each year, once it's 3-4m tall). This was also something you could do with another Eucalypt E. caesia, Silver Princess.
This will result in masses of fresh new growth; a smaller, denser tree; and lots of foliage for the vase! ** As Vintage Red is a grafted tree, - make sure the graft union (a knobby bit low down on the stem where the plants were joined) is kept well above soil level, and keep any mulch away from the stem.
If any foliage starts to sprout from below the graft area, pull it off straight away. These shoots are from the rootstock (the original plant underneath) not only will it take away energy from the scion (the top part) but it will look quite different with green leaves.

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