Friday, 26 October 2012

Hedges, Kingfishers and Lots O Nuts

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Streaming live Wednesdays 5pm

The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.


Wildlife in Focus

Sacred Kingfisher with ecologist Sue Stevens.
Sacred Kingfisher  
The Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is without doubt the best looking of the Kingfishers because of that aquamarine plumage.
Sacred Kingfishers are found throughout most of Australia (except in the arid central deserts) and can be found in in forests, mangroves and in trees along river courses. Their nest is a burrow either into a sandy bank or termite mound.
They are, as all kingfishers a predatory bird, feeding usually on small reptiles and insects (grasshoppers, beetles) fish and crustaceans. Let’s find out more about them…?

Keep a lookout for the Sacred Kingfisher. They are a watchful birds,perched high up in trees rather than the usual.

Vegetable Heroes:

  • Perilla (Perilla frutescens)  also called Beefsteak plant, Chinese Basil and Purple Mint
  • Perilla belongs in the Mint or Lamiaceae family and originates in China and Central Asia.
  • If you saw the purple variety you might think that the leaves are a bit similar to Beefsteak plant or Iresine herbstii.
  • Perilla is a bushy plant growing 50cm to 1 m tall. Oval leaves about 15cm long that are aromatic when crushed. You might think that it was a combination of lemon and mint.
  • Perilla will grow from seed but needs cool conditions and light to germinate.
  • Before sowing, garden suppliers recommend that you place the perilla seeds into a bowl or glass that contains about 1 inch of water.
  • Soak the seeds overnight or for 12 hours.
  • Sprinkle the seed where it is to grow in autumn or in early  to late spring or early summer.
  • Because Perilla is a herb, you could grow this in a tub or pot if you live in colder districts.
  • For growing Perilla pick a sunny and well-drained spot with some afternoon shade if the summers are hot. Add plenty of organic material to the soil and keep it moist.
  • In temperate climates, the plant is self-sowing, but the seeds aren’t viable after long storage, and germination rates are low after a year.
  • However if you don’t want it to self-seed,  cut off the flower spikes as they appear.
  • This will also increase the life of the plant.
  • Two varieties I have found lonline from and look under Salad Greens or Asian greens.
  • Perilla Green  Leaves and flower stalks, leaves have a deep green colour and Perilla Red (Crispa) Leaves and flower stalks , with a deep red colour and pleasing aroma. Sow both of these in late spring.
  • Apparently Perilla plants are usually divided into 'red' or 'green' categories because they have somewhat different uses.  
  • In Japan, Perilla is often eat the fresh leaves with sashimi (sliced raw fish) or you can cut them into thin strips in salads, spaghetti, and meat and fish dishes. It is also used as a savoury herb in a variety of dishes, even as a pizza topping (initially it was used in place of basil)
  • I found this on a blog. Maki says she grew her Chinese variety from cuttings from ones bought at an Asian grocers. It was dead easy  according to Maki so I'm pretty sure yours are going to go OK too.
  • You may even be able to order in some Perilla herb from your garden centre, as they certainly sell small plants online.
  • A little hard to get I know, but sometimes, you can be lucky and you’ll be rewarded with this amazing plant.

Design Elements:Living Walls and Vertical Gardens.

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid.
  • Do you have a hedge in your garden? Is the right plant choice for the right situation? Hedges are so much more than growing alongside a fence. You can also have more than one row of hedges in your garden because they instantly add structure, or add bones to your garden layout.
  • The months leading up to and including spring, early summer, are an excellent time for planting hedges, but a note for cooler districts,-allow of course for the passing of frost danger. Apart from providing a visual barrier around a property; a dense hedge can muffle traffic noise from a busy street or act as wind break. A spiky hedge will deter unwanted guests and that pesky neighbourhood dog that likes to dig up people's yards.
  • Over the next two weeks, Design Elements will be talking about hedges, there was just so much to say. There’s so many things hedges can be, and next week, RWG continues the theme in part two of hedges in Design Elements.

The series on Living walls and vertical gardens, - great for small spaces, or even big spaces when we want to include an intimate or cosy part into our garden.
You can’t go wrong if you listen into Design Elements’ Living Walls and Vertical Garden Series.

Plant of the Week: Macadamia Nut Tree

Macadamia tetraphylla H2. Nuts only just beginning to form.
Macadamia integrifolia and M tetraphylla are two recognised cultivars of this nut tree in the Proteaceae family.
  • They will grow and fruit as far south as Melbourne, so are extremely hardy. Macadamias produces masses of nuts once they get going, and you’ll have kilos of nuts to eat, use in cakes and biscuits, and even stir fries. How about Basil pesto with Macadamia nuts instead of pine nuts? I use them in this recipe all the time, and health wise, they’re better for you.

  • Think of the creamy texture and delicious taste when you eat Macadamia nuts. You can have this all in your own backyard if you plant this new release, smaller version of the Macadamia treeThink about it, a Macadamia tree growing in your garden. Yes!
  • I have a mature Macadamia tree- Macadamia tetraphylla H2. It’s a grafted tree and about 15 years old.  Being grafted it will eventually get to 10 metres
  • My tree didn’t start fruiting until it reached 6 years of age. Seed grown Macadamias take even longer, so be prepared to wait for your nuts.
  • Boy o Boy, as my father used to say, does it fruit. I have kilos of the nuts every year. More on that later.
  • By the way, M tetraphylla cultivar grows best in southern parts of Australia, and M. integrifolia in the northern parts. If grown from seed, they will be a big tree, about 15 metres.
  • Macadamia trees have large glossy evergreen leaves, the margins or edges of which are wavy and spiny. Not unlike, but nowhere near as prickly as holly leaves.
  • M. tetraphylla has pink flowers and M integrifolia has cream flowers. New growth is pale green on M integrifolia and pink on M tetraphylla.
  • The flowers are very attracting, hanging down below the canopy in long narrow racemes, at least 15-20cm long.
  • Bees and especially native bees are the best pollinators of this tree.
  • After this, and it takes quite some time as you go further south of Brisbane, the nuts start to form, and should begin to drop around March.
  • If the tree experiences water stress, the nuts will drop earlier, and they’ll be too small for doing anything with really. This gets worse as temperatures rise above 300C.
  • Both types of Macadamias are pretty adaptable to most soils, and will tolerate part shade.
  • When you start of a young tree, keep it well water, as they get more water stressed than Avocados and Citrus.
  • As for the nuts, they have two shells, the outer green shell splits when ready to reveal the inner hard brown shell. You will need to buy a special device to crack them, or the trusty hammer on a rock with a hollow to rest the nut is OK too.

Macadamia Lots o Nuts-Macadamia integrifolia selection.
  •   A large dense shrub or small tree to 5 metres tall.
  • Suited to cool temperate to tropical climates, in well drained moist humus-rich clay or loamy soils, neutral to acid pH.
  • The breeders of this plant recommend that you feed with low phosphorus native fertilizer early spring or late summer.
  • Macadamia trees grow more nuts if you fertilise them regularly even in maturity.
  • However, I have always fed my tree with Citrus fertiliser with great results. In fact that is the recommendation in the Louis Glowinski book about growing fruit., called the Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Pepper and Spice and All Things Vertical

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.
Organic Rose spray for Black spot and powdery mildew at end of this blog.

Spice it Up

with Ian Hemphill from
Black pepper vine (Piper nigrum)
Would you be surprised to learn that black Pepper is one of the most used spices in the world and has been used in cooking for over 2000 years?
Pepper was mostly eaten by the wealthy in the past as it was so expensive and sought after.
Did you know that Pepper gets its kick from the compound peperine?
Pepper loses its flavour and aroma through evaporation so it’s best to keep it in an airtight container.
Consider using whole peppercorns and grinding just before use to maintain flavour or and add near the end of cooking.
You can of course grow some Australian pepper trees. They have the botanic name starting with Tasmannia. Don’t confuse this with the exotic large tree called the Peppercorn. That’s Schinus areira, and is a weed species in all states of Australia.
Let's hear more from Ian..

Vegetable Heroes:

  • Globe artichoke, Cynara ascolymus.
  • The globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) belongs to the thistle family. It is also known as the French artichoke and the crown artichoke, but is not related to the Jerusalem artichoke, which is actually a tuber.
  • The artichoke ‘vegetable’ is actually the flower head which is picked and eaten before it flowers. Only the heart and the fleshy base of the leaves is edible. The floral parts in the centre and base of the flower (the choke) must be removed before eating.
  • When to grow you Globe artichoke -August until November for sub-tropical and temperate areas.
  • September through November in cool temperate areas and for Arid areas, June through to December. The only district that misses out, are the Tropical areas that can only grow Globe Artichokes from April to July.
  • Artichokes need a bit of space to grow - a mature plant will end up about 1.5m high and across.
  • Because the plants are perennial and will stay in the same place in the garden for a number of years, pick a spot you don’t mind them being for a few years. They look pretty good amongst your flowerbed.
  • For cold districts, Globe Artichokes won’t put up with the really cold winters. For these gardeners, choose a cold hardy variety from your local garden centre and grow it as an annual.
  • They prefer an open, sunny spot in the garden, with well-drained soil, and of course add some compost and decomposed manure or fertiliser.
  • Artichokes can be planted from seed in now, but it’s far easier to plant suckers.
  • A mature plant usually has a main stem and a number of lateral suckers. Carefully separate the sucker using a spade, trim back any woody leaves or roots and plant in a suitable place in mid-late winter.
  • Water plants well until they are established and protect them from water and heat stress when young. Once mature, they are fairly resilient.
  • Build up mulch in autumn, and cut stems back once the leaves go yellow. Mature plants will appreciate a boost of fertiliser and mulch each spring.
  • In the first year take off any flower heads so that the young plants have a chance to grow and produce leaves.
  • From the second year on, pick the artichokes (generally 10-12 heads) once they are swollen, but before the scales have started to open and turn brown on the tips.
  • When picking your artichoke, leave a few centimetres of stem.
  • Small buds can be picked early in the season and eaten whole.
  • Globe artichokes will get crown rot if the drainage isn’t any good, and give them a good rinse to get rid of any earwigs and other insects.

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer
Spring and summer are good times to walk around your neighbourhood looking at flowers on climbing plants, but also you need to look at where and how the plant’s growing.
If your garden is shady, don’t pick climbing plants that need full sun, and the reverse is also true.
The series on Living walls and vertical gardens, - great for small spaces, or even big spaces when we want to include an intimate or cosy part into our garden.
You can’t go wrong if you listen into Design Elements’ Living Walls and Vertical Garden Series.
Listen to this week's episode.

Plant of the Week

Grevilleas might attract birds to your garden, but if they’re the hybrid, large flowering showy types, you might get some birds that you don’t really want at the expense of smaller native birds.

Here’s some tips for you to get in those small birds to your garden.
Firstly, small birds need dense shrubbery to provide protective cover. Grevilleas with small flowers and prickly dense foliage attract small birds.
 Gardens must also have a wide range of vegetation to provide varied habitats e.g. mulch, grasses, rocks, trees and shrubs of different heights and density.
Thirdly, provide a bird bath that’s not too deep, and has an escape route to a nearby bush or tree in case of predators.
That’s a great start to creating a bird friendly garden, maybe in a corner or two.
If you have an questions about birdscaping, please email the RWG team
 RWG has two new release Grevilleas, where the flowers aren’t too small to be missed, but not too big to get the bossy birds.
Genus species-Grevillea rosmarinifolia selected form.  Cultivar Name-Rosy Posy™
Habit-Small compact shrub-1.2m H x 1.2m W
Genus species-Grevillea lavandulacea x G. alpine-Cultivar Name:Jelly Baby
Habit-Low mounding groundcover-40cm H x 80cm-1m W
Both of these Grevilleas will grown in full sun or part shade.
Tolerate medium frost and  will grow in moist well drained clay loam or sandy soils
Fertiliser-Low P required at around 1.6%
Climate-Cool temperate to subtropical and semi arid; 2nd line coastal
Flowers Winter through to early Summer.

Organic control of Blackspot and Powdery Mildew on Roses.

Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda, 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or white oil or even horticultural oil with 4 litres of water. Shake this up very thoroughly. To this mix add 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and spray. Be sure to agitate your sprayer while you work to keep the ingredients from separating. Cover upper and lower leaf surfaces and spray some on the soil.
Repeat every 5-7 days as needed.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Go Vertical Gardening with Tomatillos

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.

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

Today’s Design Elements is the second in the series of vertical gardens and living walls.
If you’re creative or a bit handy, I’m sure you can come up with lots of different ways to make a vertical garden with pots or hanging baskets.
Perhaps convert a crate, turn it on its side and fill in the spaces with compost and plants.
There are also modular units you can buy like in this photo to the right.

Let's find out more

Vegetable Heroes: In our Victory Garden: tomatillos

Last week it was tomatoes but this week something you may not heard of – Tomatillos or Physalis ixocarpa. Tomatillo means little tomato in Spanish.
They have lance shaped deeply veined leaves, yellow flowers and are also known as: Husk Tomato,  and Mexican Green Tomato.
Tomatillos have a two-celled rounded berry enclosed in the thin husk of it’s extended calyx.
Tomatillos are related to Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana. Be careful about the species part of the Botanical name when ordering your Tomatillo plant or seeds.
Tomatillo is a perennial, often grown as an annual, is usually sprawling and in need of support. It can reach up to 1 metre or more tall and the same across.
The green, yellow-green or purple fruit completely fill the lantern looking husk. The fruit which grows 3-4 cm in diameter is smooth and sticky under its’ husk.
Raw tomatillos have a zesty tart flavour that develops into a herbal lemon taste when cooked. 
The flesh is solid and seedy.
Tomatillos are easy to grow and will suit gardeners will any ability of any age.
They grow in similar way to tomatoes but are hardier and less prone to diseases such as fusarium or verticillium wilt. They will tolerate partial shade.
Sow tomatillo seeds directly in the ground once all danger of frost is past and the soil is warm, at least 27°C.
 If you live in a cooler area, start seeds in trays in a warm spot and transplant at the same time as you would tomato seedlings.
The plants set flowers earlier than tomatoes, and the fruits can be harvested sooner, making them a good choice for areas with a short growing season.
Space the plants 1m apart and provide support with a stake or a cage. Harvest when the fruit fills the husk but is still firm. 
Don't remove the husks until you're ready to use the fruits. 
Tomatilloes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month and freeze well.
Varieties of Tomatillo include:'Toma Verde' is a heavy fruiting tomatillo with fruit the size of a small tomato.
Tomatillo 'Purple' An heirloom variety that is very productive. Fruits are 3-4 cm across with a dark purple skin. Both of these will be ready to pick in 10 - 11 weeks.
To eat Tomatillos, remove the cellulose husks and wash the tomatillos thoroughly. You'll notice they have a slightly sticky surface. This is normal.
Tomatillos can be chopped and added to any salads.
Tomatillos make an excellent addition to a raw soup when you want that tangy, lemony touch. They can be added to stir fries and used in all manner of salsa’s and other Mexican dishes.

Plant of the Week:

Some gardeners often forget that Australia is a country with wide and varied climates.
Australian Native Flora has adapted to these areas and much of this flora can be grown in your very own garden. So it doesn’t matter where around Australiayou live, there is a range of very distince and diverse Australian Native Plants that are especially suited to your climate and garden conditions.
For native plant lovers, you would know that Alyogyne is in fact a great flowering shrub that you can have lots of in your garden .
Better still, this native with the unfortunate name would suit any other type of garden because it fits in so well with non-native plants as well.
These types of plants are great for any garden because they have lilac or pale lilac large hibiscus like flowers starting in late spring and continuing through summer that are attractive to various insects including butterflies. So why not plant three or more?
Information from the grower:
The two new selected varieties are just that-chance seedlings that showed promise and now have been propagated from a main parent plant with the desired colouring in the flower.
Though they are similar in size (1-1.5 m tall and wide), their flowers are different in hue. Karana has deep mauve, open trumpets while the flowers of Misty are pale soft mauve; both bloom from spring to autumn. The choice for you is simply colour preference (or maybe choose both?) as they both grow as dense hedges for screening or could even be espaliered. They’ll thrive in well drained soils, in cool temperate to sub tropical regions, including coastal areas. They’ll quickly re-shape after having their feathers ruffled with a cutting back, once flowering is over.
Genus species-Alyogyne huegelii selection.Cultivar Name-Karana
Habit-Graceful medium shrub--1.5m H x 1-1.5m W
Flower Information-Masses of deep blue-mauve open trumpet flowers.
Genus species-Alyogyne huegelii selection-Cultivar Name-Misty
Habit-Graceful medium shrub-1-1.5m H x 1-1.5m W
Frost Tolerance-Medium

Native Hibiscus, Alyogyne huegelii
Alyogyne huegelli, original form

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Fairy Martins Like Living Walls

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

with ecologist Sue Stevens
Fairy Martin
  • Swallows and Martins in the Hirundinadae family, build mud nests close to overhead shelter in locations that are protected from both the weather and predators.. Mud nesting species aren’t seen that much in areas of high humidity, which causes the mud nests to crumble.
  • Many cave, bank and cliff dwelling species of swallow nest in large colonies. Building mud nests is family affair with the male and female sharing the tunnel the excavation as well.
  • Fairy Martins are shier than other types of swallows and will not nest close to humans.
  • You might be lucky, like Sue, and see a Fairy Martin nest attached op the underside of bridges, other manmade objects such as pipes, buildings, the and in culvert, so keep a lookout.
  • The Fairy Martin, sometimes known as the bottle swallow, is hard to spot because it flies around so fast catching insects. Even the call can be easily confused with other small birds. So what does it get up to? Let’s find out…

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Vegetable Heroes

Tomatoes or Lycospericon esculentum. Being in the Solanaceae family, they’re related to eggplants,capsicums, chillies and potatoes. Tomatoes are botanically a fruit, or to be even more accurate a berry, because they are pulpy and have edible seeds.
Other botanical fruits classified as vegetables include squash, cucumbers, green beans, corn kernels, eggplants, and peppers.
There’s a tomato for every type of climatic condition and generally they’re a warm season fruit even though we call them vegetables.
In temperate climates you can plant them until December, hopefully some of you started them in early September to get the jump on fruit flies.
 In sub-tropical and tropical areas, this week it’s your turn to win, and yes, you can plant tomatoes all year round.
In cool temperate districts you have from October until December, and in Arid areas from August until March, so nearly all year.
Tomatoes prefer full sun but if you live in very hot climates, you’ll get sun scald on your tomatoes, so afternoon shade of some sort is essential.
Growing tomatoes has to be in full sun at least 6 hours.

Tomatoes for Everyone
  • For cool districts I recommend that you start your tomatoes off in punnets of some kind and place this in a plastic bag or mini-greenhouse.
  • Before your transplant your seedlings from the seed tray, and this applies to all seedlings, you need to harden them off.
  • That means taking them out of a protected environment and putting them into 50% shade for a few days.
  • TIP:When you plant your seedling, this is about the only plant I know that you pile the soil higher than it was in the pot-that way, it grows extra roots to support the plant.
  • At the same time, put in a tomato stake of some kind and sprinkle some Dolomite around the plant.
  • ANOTHER  good tip is to put some hydrated or fluffed up water crystals in the bottom of the planting hole, especially if in your district it’s very hot during the day, that it’s sometimes hard to keep the water up to them.
  • They actually need lots of water to prevent a problem called “blossom end” rot, when they get a black bottom. Which also means a lack of Calcium. But you put on the Dolomite didn’t you?
  • Don’t crowd your tomato plants because they need good air circulation around them so that fungal diseases don’t take hold.
  • When your tomato plant has four trusses (or branches of flowers) nip out top of the plant. By this stage you should have plenty of fruits forming that need to grow and ripen.
  • You need to do this mainly because you want the plant to put all its energy into these potentially succulent fruits. And…you don’t want it growing taller than you tomato stake and flopping all over the place.
  • Keep the soil moist by regular watering and using a mulch of some kind.
  • Once the flowers have formed, you need to feed weekly with tomato fertiliser or a general fertiliser but add a side dressing of sulphate of potash.
  • Irregular watering or drying out of the soil or compost in very hot weather can result in the fruits splitting. The inside grows faster than the skin, splits and unless eaten quickly, disease very quickly enters the damaged area and the tomato disposed of.
  • Tomato feed is very high in potash. Be careful not to overfeed as this can lock up other elements in the soil / compost that the plants require.
  • HINT: tomato plants will only set fruit if the temperatures don’t drop below 210C.
  • Did you know that a tomato picked at first sign of colour and ripened at room temperature will be just as tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine?
Pleaching Ulmus at Floriade, Netherlands 2012
Reference:Tomatoes for Everyone by Allen Gilbert

Design Elements:

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
Have you ever thought of having a vertical garden? It’s one way to grow more plants that’s for sure.
Which one is right for you? Over the next 5 weeks, Design Elements will be covering Five different Living Walls and Vertical gardens.
If you’ve never thought of this concept, then you’re in for a surprise. Let’s begin the series.

Did you know that Vertical gardens on an external wall of your home, acts as an excellent natural insulator, making the temperature inside several degrees lower. In fact, a room with a vertical garden can be 7 to 10 degrees cooler than a room without one!
You can’t go wrong if you listen into Design Elements’ Living Walls and Vertical Garden Series.

Plant of the Week

with horticulturalist Sabina Fielding-Smith
Wattles are part of Australia’s bushland and gardens, and along with Gum trees, bottlebrushes and grevilleas, form part of our landscape.
Here’s a couple of unusual wattles that might peak your interest into adding them to your collection of plants.
Acacia leprosa "Scarlet Blaze"
Red Wattle has turned out to be quite drought tolerant, requiring only occasional deep watering once established. It is relatively easy to grow as long as it doesn't get overwatered, which we have a tendency to do with rare plants.
The Red Wattle also prefers a well-drained, moist soil in full sun to dappled shade. From personal experience, the ones planted in full sun grew faster and flowering was delightfully abundant.
Did you know that Acacia Scarlet Blaze was selected as Victoria’s Centenary of Federation floral emblem?
However, Plant Management Australia, who have the rights to propagate Acacia Scarlet Blaze, say on their website that “Although currently commercially available to home gardeners, the degree of difficulty in propagation has kept numbers limited with availability set to increase for future years.”
red wattle

Acacia cognata UY2“Mop Top.” Called River Wattle
Grows 90cm x 150cm. Great as a feature plant in pots and rockeries.
A low mounding dense shrub with aromatic foliage,
This wattle has plum-coloured new growth, and bright yellow perfumed flowers in spring,
Grows in cool temperate to sub-tropical climates. Drought tolerant once established.
Fertilise with a low phosphorus fertiliser, ie, <3% P
Grows in full sun to part shade and is fast growing like a lot of Acacias.
No need to prune-self-shaping.
Sydney Wildflower Nursery (NSW)Website: