Thursday, 28 June 2012

In The Beginning, Kale, Striped Marsh Frogs and Moorish Gardens

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.
Wildlife in Focus:Striped Marsh Frog- Like most birds, frogs are a gardeners friend because the eat many of the problem garden pests like caterpillars and mosquito larvae. Frogs often forage around the decaying leaves of some plants looking for insect pests as well. Hear ecologist Sue Stevens talk about this frog.
If you go to you can a listing of all frog groups in Australia. This site also gives information on frog pond building and how to make a frog friendly garden.

Vegetable Heroes:Brassica Family and ancestor to many vegetables like Broccoli and Cabbage, Kale is good to eat too.
Kale can be planted in Arid areas from March until July, in temperate and sub-tropical climates from March until June, and unless you have a greenhouse or grow them in pots or a half wine barrel, Kale is grown from August until April in cool mountain districts , but apparently is winter hardy and it’s flavour is improved by frost.
How does that work? Well a frost or even several frosts, will help break down starches into sugars making the Kale a whole lot sweeter.
Kale is easy to grow and a fast grower as well taking only 7-9 weeks from seed sowing until harvesting.
Kale likes soil temperatures of between 8°C and 30°C., full sun and a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0
Slugs and snails for some reason don't like Kale, but your chooks will.
Sow Kale seeds direct into the garden or they don’t mind being transplanted so you can start them off in punnets if you like.
Sow the seeds about 1cm deep and 30cm or a ruler’s length apart. Three or four seeds can be planted together and thinned out at the two leaf stage.
Look after young plants by watering during dry patches and keep weed free. Firm the soil around the base of the stem every so often to prevent the larger varieties swaying in the breeze or you could stake them too.
During the winter months, apply liquid fertiliser from your worm farm or you can buy fish emulsion which is great too!
Remove yellowing leaves, "earth up" the stems and stake tall varieties if exposed (kale can handle exposed, slightly shady plots).
Try these sites for Kale seeds- -  or  and -
Santa Isabel Real Palace Garden, Seville Spain
Design Elements: We can have Federation, Bush garden or Cottage garden styles, but we’ve learnt that you can have different themes within these styles. This year, Garden Designer Lesley Simpson and I have trekked to Spain to see the world famous Moorish Alhambra in Granada and Santa Isabel de le Real Palace gardens in Seville. Let’s find out more.

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Santa Isabel Real Palace Garden, Seville Spain

Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain

Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain

Plant of the week: New Salvias for Australia.
Two new Salvias from PGA . 70CM X 1 M Spread.
Heatwave Glow is pale apricot coloured flowers tinged with salmon pink. And Heatwave Glare is pure white.
 If you’ve got a big empty spot in your garden that you want to fill quickly with plenty of colour, don’t go past Salvias. They also help attract nectar feeding birds into your garden.
  Salvias prefer to be in the ground except for the new varieties that have been bred a lot smaller. They’ll do well in a reasonable size pot. 
Larger Salvias can't be kept growing them in a small pot as they like a root run. "Any dry tolerant varieties need a root run, which is how they become drought tolerant," 
Salvias generally require a reasonable amount of sun the majority would want 2/3rds of the day in sun but there are some that take more shade. Whatever your climate, there’s a Salvia for you.
For supplies of the Salvia Heatwave series see:-Plant Growers Australia is a wholesale nursery that supplies plants to many retail nurseries in NSW, ACT, VIC, SA  mainly.Go to our web site  and click the where to buy tab this will so you your closest stockist. 

If you’re after a wide range of Salvias, Sue Templeton is a grower that stocks al manner of Salvias from the rare to the unusual.
For a description on a wide range of salvias go to
That will take you to the Salvia study group of Victoria.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bower Birds and Oriental Garden Themes

 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
Wildlife in Focus:Some birds have such peculiar habits it makes them fascinating and the Bower Bird is not exception. John Dengate, TV personality and author of "Attracting Birds to Your Garden in Australia", knows all about Bower Birds, listen as he tells us about some of the marvelous insights into this bird.
Vegetable Heroes:       The snow pea is Pisum sativum var. saccharatum. or (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon) is a distinct botanical cultivar or subspecies of garden peas The pod is pretty much flat and is eaten before the string develops and the peas start to swell.
You plant Snow Peas from April until September in warm Temperate climates, April to July in sub-tropical areas, April to October in cool temperate districts and May to July in Arid zones.
Edible podded peas do best under cool, moist growing conditions. The crop is sensitive to heat, so winter time is the best for growing them
Snow peas like day temperatures from 15o to 18oC average.
The stems and foliage of Snow Peas mostly aren’t affected by frost, but will get some damage if a cold snap follows a period of warm weather, but flowers are made sterile by frost and so are the pods. Pinch off the flowers so new ones will grow.
Peas thrive on a wide range of soil types, as long as the soil is well drained with good depth.
Peas and other legumes (even wattles) have symbiotic bacteria in their roots called  rhizobia, that 'fix' nitrogen in the soil meaning that peas are capable of manufacturing their own nitrogen.
Peas then don’t need as much fertiliser as other vegies and are good to dig into the soil to concentrate available nitrogen for future crops.
I assume that they're still pretty hungry for other nutrients though - so a bit of fertiliser won't go astray.
In the colder months, my mantra is, liquid fertiliser works best, as granular fertilisers take months to break down in cold weather. Compost and worm tea are garden gold.

Design Elements: We can have Federation, Bush garden or Cottage garden styles, but Real World Gardener listeners heard last week that you can have different themes within these styles. Ever thought of oriental area in your style of garden? Listen here to garden designer Lesley Simpson and Marianne talk about this theme.

Plant of the Week: Banksia ericifolia subsp. Macrantha or Heath Banksia.
Are possums making a mess of your garden?  Maybe they’re eating your rose foliage or winter fruits like oranges. Let’s face it we live amongst the habitat of creatures like possums, and in winter time, food becomes scarce. Planting a few native bushes will go a long way to helping these critters out and give you peace of mind. 
 If you want to stop a possum from eating a certain plant in the garden, a good method is to block access to the plant for at least three weeks. That changes the pattern of behaviour for the animal and they seek food elsewhere. This may mean throwing something unslightly over the plant for that time, but it’s only for three weeks. Good luck.
Banksia ericifolia subsp Macrantha grows to 5 metres  and adapts well to most soils. The photo was taken on a windy coastline on the way to Maitland Bay, so you can see it tolerates a good deal of salt spray. Honeyeaters are attracted to this plant.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Earthworks and Fragrant Gardens

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.
The Good Earth: This month's permaculture segment with Tafe teacher Penny Pyett, delves into the doing stage of your permaculture garden or "Earthworks." You might include a swale as part of your earthworks to collect or redirect water in your garden so it waters your garden beds rather than running off. Listen here to find out more.
Vegetable Heroes:  Shallots are Allium var aggregatum or the Aggregatum group.
They used to be classified in the onion in the Alliaceae family but now it’s in the Amaryllidaceae or lilly family.
  Unlike onions or leeks, shallots are made up of cloves – similar to garlic. Cloves. 
True Shallots grow in small, tight clusters so that when you break one open there may be two or three bunched together at the root. They have a brown skin and remind me of a giant garlic clove in shape only.
  Unlike garlic and onions shallots don’t have that strong sulphuric aroma and irritating fumes. They’re easy to grow, mature faster and  require less space than onions and garlic.
In temperate and sub-tropical climates you can plant them almost all year from February to September. 
In cool temperate climates you have all year except for June and July, and also for arid climates you can only grow them between September and February. So wait until then, although I saw a post from Arthur the mad gardener who says he lives in an arid part of Australia and he planted his shallots in May. 
Shallots are normally grown from small starter shallots or sest (immature bulbs) that you can either buy from a catalogue, online or your local garden centre. Plant shallots sets about 2cm deep with the tips slightly protruding from the soil’s surface.
Once you get shallots growing in your garden, you have them forever by just saving out a small part of each year's crop as next year's starters.
Some tips for growing shallots –give them a good watering once you’ve planted them but ease off the watering as they mature, unless your district has been overly dry.
If you want well-defined cloves of shallot, feed plants often.
This is where worm or compost tea come to the fore., because in cooler weather, liquid fertilisers are the only ones that actually do any good for your plants.
Planting in winter means that they should be ready around spring time.
When the bulbs are about a 1cm around and the leaves are starting to yellow, that’s the time to lift your shallot bulbs.
Shake off any soil dry them out in a warm dry area for a week before storing them in a cool dry place.
Online suppliers:
Design Elements: We can have Federation, Bush garden or Cottage garden styles, but we learnt last week that you can have different themes within these styles. Ever thought of a fragrant area in your style of garden? Let’s find out how.

Plant of the Week:Tristaniopsis laurina "Luscious." -    tolerates a wide range of soils and climate conditions except for very dry climates. Grows to 7-8 metres tall and about 4 metres wide with superb large green leaves and fragrant yellow flowers in Summer. new growth that starts out a distinctive copper colour. Over time branches develop a deep purple colour bark that peels back to reveal a cream smooth trunk. If you’re in the market for a new tree, don’t go past this one.
 Water Gums (common name) sound too big for most gardens, but not this new release that has it all. Unlike the traditional water gum, the Luscious Water Gum has a  dense form making an attractive hedge or screen. A great summer shade tree or feature tree.
For more information see

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

The theme is garlic and worm farming

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.
Compost Capers with Cameron Little: You’ve got a compost bin so why do I need a worm farm as well I hear you ask? The compost bin actually doesn’t turn your scraps into fertilizer, it becomes compost which has very little nutrients for growing plants. Yes, lots of humus that enriches your soil’s structure, but worms add another component.
Vegetable Heroes:Garlic-Allium sativum comes from the Onion family. Alliaceae.
Sow direct in garden where they are to grow.
Garlic grows best on fertile, well-drained, loamy soils. Any soil suitable for onions is good enough for Garlic. Given a warm sunny position garlic is easy to grow.  Soil pH should be in the range 5.5 to 7.0.
Garlic grows best when the temperature is between 13º to 24ºC. That’s why Garlic is traditionally planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest"). You can plant Garlic blubs now in all districts of Australia, including cool temperate. For cool districts, you’re right on the edge of when you can plant, so don’t delay, plant today.
Plant the cloves after separating them from the bulb, point upwards, deep enough to just cover with soil.
When you plant the cloves, don't plant too deeply otherwise they will rot off.
Plant them so the tops of the bulbs are just below the surface. Plant them about 8 cm apart with the point end facing up.
Garlic usually takes about 17-25 weeks. 4-6 months to mature. You can tell because the leaves or stalks have flopped over and turned brown.
Give them plenty of water, (especially in spring).
Also fertilise them, 2 or 3 times throughout the growing season. Some young shoots can be cut off for a garnish. Some people even harvest young garlic and eat the 'green' garlic leaves and all.
Reduce water at end of Spring (4 weeks prior to harvesting).
When they are ready to be dug up, ease bulbs out with a fork, careful not to damage bulbs. As these won't store well. May go a bit mouldy.. If good weather. let them dry in the sun for a few days.

Monaro purple, and Rocambole- are Hardnecks variety and these do have flowerheads like onions, and usually bigger cloves. They don’t have as good a shelf life as the softnecks and prefer cooler winters. Rocamboles are renowned for their excellent flavour, glamorous red-purple skins and easily peeled, single circle of 6-12 plump cloves.
Design Elements: What’s in a style when it comes to gardening? We can have Federation or Cottage garden styles, but is it the same as a theme? Can you have both? Let’s find out.

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Plant of the Week:     Lenten Roses or Hellebores have a role in many types of gardens and are often relegated to the shadier areas of our gardens. But they actually tolerate a lot more sun than we give them credit for. Hellebore “Ivory Prince”Height: 30cm  Spread: 60cm  Growing Conditions:
Full Sun/Part ShadeFull ShadeDry. Frost Hardy (Below 1c) 
Common Name: Hellebore, Winter Rose, Lenten Rose -A vigorous grower with tidy plant habit. A heavy flowering variety with around six spikes carrying up to twelve flowers each is not uncommon. The ivory-white flowers fade to musky pink and then finally aging with an overlay of chartreuse green. Easy to grow with minimal maintenance and frost hardy below 1ºc it can also withstand low water conditions making it ideal for planting under trees where few other plants can compete. Although a great shade solution - hellebores can also tolerate a good deal of sunlight also and so do not need to be restricted to shade gardens alone.

H. Ivory Prince comes to us from the renowned UK breeder David Tristram. Selected not only for the copious flower stems produced but also flowers face forward unlike most varieties where they hang making it difficult to see their full beauty. The foliage is also handsome in a complementary blue-green colour.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Strawberries and Little Wattle Birds

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.
Wildlife in Focus: The Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera) is one of four wattlebird species, all of which are endemic to Australia. The others are the red, yellow and western wattlebirds. The Little Wattlebird is also known as the brush wattlebird. Listen here to ecologist Sue Stevens talk about this bird.
Vegetable Heroes: Last week I talked about a vegetable that’s really a fruit and this week, well it’s not even a fruit  so what is it? Strawberries or Fragaria x ananassa.Strawberries are actually not berries or fruit at all, but enlarged ends of the plant's stamen. Sometimes called an accessory fruit or false fruit because some or all of the fruit doesn’t grow in the ovary but outside where the ovary is. In the Strawberries case it’s the stamen or the pollen producing male part of the flower that is usually yellow or orange, and reasonably fragile, like the insides of Daylillies, or if you know the of  the flowers of Eucalypts, they're made up of lots of stamens but no petals.       Strawberries love at least 6 hours of sun a day and will grow in most soils but strawberries prefer a sandy loam that is deep and contains very high amounts of organic matter.
Water well, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry spells. Strawberries prefer a moist environment. Avoiding overhead watering will reduce fungal disease; drip irrigation or a 'leaky pipe' is best.
I did see a different way of growing strawberries at the Floriade (in Venlo, Netherlands,) which might suit listeners. The above ground planters were made with weld mesh into a circle of diameter about 1 ½  to 2 metres, then lined with coconut fibre. You could use other materials to line them.    
Into this the soil was added then the strawberry plants. Mulched with straw of course. Not only did it look good but provides perfect drainage for the plants, and no bending down for the gardener.  
 For all sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones you can plant strawberries now, and for cool mountain districts, unless you have a greenhouse, you’ll have to wait until October. Arid and sub-tropical regions have the added bonus that you can sow strawberry seeds at this time of year as well. They are frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants.
Nearly 3/4 of the strawberries roots are in the top 8cm of soil, so to prevent them drying out, mulch well with straw, hay, even your black plastic.
 To feed your strawberries, sprinkle a small handful of complete fertilizer (such as tomato food,  organic pellets, fish emulsion and any stuff which is high in potash) around each plant as it comes into first flower, and water well. Liquid seaweed fertilizer once a fortnight will not go astray either.
Strawberry plants, from autumn and winter plantings, should begin to flower in September, and the first crop of fruit should arrive a month later.
Design Elements:-       This series is all about Garden Design Problems. If you have any email or write in to 2RRR, PO Box 644, Gladesville 1675        Today the problems “My garden slopes very steeply? So pencils at the ready....!
Plant of the Week:New Release Roses
New release roses for 2012-Floribunda Rose 'THANK YOU ROSE'  and Rosa  Eyes for You .Hulthemia persica (syn Rosa persica)
This magnificent new floribunda has been named for Transplant Australia as a symbol of thanks and gratitude. It has a mauve colour with a delicate fragrance. The growth habit is similar to  'Iceberg'. Approx 1.2m tall. Decorated with awards at the 2011 National Trial Garden Awards including Silver Medal and Best Floribunda rose of the 2011 trials.Available from
Treloar Roses will donate $1.00 from the sale of each rose to Transplant Australia. For more information go to or phone             1800 827 757     
Second New Release rose mention on the program is 'Eyes For You' is from Brindabella Gardens. Roses do not often have 'eyes' but this one is a Hulthemia persica (syn Rosa persica)  Large pink flowers, deep rosey eyes, black-spot resistant and perfumed. The flower looks a little like a cross between an oriental poppy and peony, but much easier to grow than other of them.
Available from

Minor Birds and Shady Gardens

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.
This episode aired in Sydney 16th May 2012, and across Australia on 26th May 2012
Wildlife in Focus:Mynah and Minor birds, friend or foe? These days we're paying the penalty, with the Indian Mynahs displacing native species and attempts to control their numbers largely unsuccessful. They're considered by many to be the scourge of our backyards and parklands. Indian Mynah birds were introduced to Australia to control insects but have become an invasive pest themselves. Listen here to Guest presenter author, and TV personality, John Dengate talk about these birds.
Vegetable Heroes: Green Manure Crops. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Fix all your soil problems by growing a green manure crop. No hard work involved, just benefits for your soil.
At this time of year try faba bean, field pea, oats and wheat. This will improve your soil incredibly, and, for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort. At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
How do you  do this? I hear you ask, well here are the steps.
Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed.
Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop. Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats. 
Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies. You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well. Legumes like beans and peas are especially good, since they’ll fix nitrogen in the soil, but anything else you have will help. Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square meter. Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them.
Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing.
Let the green manure crop grow 7-10 cm tall. Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop.  
Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because  the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process. 
With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead of the one you want.
Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground. If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower. Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.            Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.
What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
Design Elements: This series of Design Elements. All about Garden Design Problems. If you have any email or write in to 2RRR, PO Box 644, Gladesville 1675        Today the problems are dealing with different types of shade in your garden, and can you have too much sun? so pencils at the ready....!

Plant of the Week:       What do the names Dianthus 'Sugar Plum' Dianthus 'Candy Floss' Dianthus 'Passion' Dianthus 'Slap n Tickle' Dianthus 'Cherry Sundae'Dianthus 'Rosebud' suggest?
Some people know them as cottage pinks, More commonly known as 'garden pinks' these dainty dianthus are- compact evergreen, dry tolerant and easy to grow, long flowering - and best of all, fragrant perfume! There’s a Dianthus for everyone’s taste in any climate. ideally suited to small spaces, containers, edging as well as general garden use.
a)   Dianthus plants are sun lovers and prefer average, well-drained soil. They appreciate a bit of humus in the top soil layer, but they will not survive long in a damp, highly fertile muck. Do not use mulch around pinks because their crowns tend to rot beneath it.
b)   Whetman Pinks have been the main grower and distributor of scented Pinks in the UK since 1936. And now they’re being propagated in Australia from UK stock plants, so virus free. 
c)   Two types that I know of from that range are Candy Floss:
d)  Sugar pink and beautifully perfumed.  Approx flowering height 28cm . A great variety for patio planters where you can enjoy the perfume on warm summer evenings.
e)   Coconut Sundae:  Coconut Sundae is a beautiful white sport of Raspberry Sundae and produces a mass of perfumed flowers with a maroon eye.  It is really eye-catching.   Flowering height approx 20cm . 
f)    There may be others yet to be released in Australia so stay tuned for titles like sugar Plum, Tickled Pink and Romance!
g)   The problem with the some older varieties of Dianthus or Pinks is that they have an inherent virus in their leaves. I used to wonder why they would all die on me after a few years, but it wasn’t because I had a brown thumb. I discovered this fact from a plant breeder, so that’s why it’s great to learn that there is virus free stock coming into Australia. Sad news for some, NOT ALL of the old varieties, but these new ones have great scent as well.
The virus actually means the decline of the plants,ie, slowly starts to fade away.

h)   They are very drought hardy growing in very free draining soil. Also very easy to propagate from soft tip cuttings any time of the year. A bonus if you do actually have a yen for growing your own plants.
i)     Generally summer flowering but spot flower from time to time. Plant some now for next summer colour.
j)     There’s a nursery near Bowen Mountain in Sydney which specializes in the old varieties with names like Napolean  III, Olde Enlish Mauve, Paisley, Strawberry Fields, Tudor Tart and Tuscan Lace.  The last being a typical 19th century form and very fragrant.