Friday, 30 November 2012

Yellow Rumped Thornbills Go with Purple Carrots

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm in Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network
NEW: streaming live
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.
Garden Diary:Are you preparing your garden for warmer weather?
Because tropical gardens have featured in design elements over the last few weeks, now’s a timely reminder to fertilise heliconias, gingers, hibiscus, cordylines and other tropical foliage plants such as Dieffenbachia and Crotons.
Move sun sensitive potted plants into shaded areas before their leaves burn, and spray leaves with an anti-transpirant in the early morning.
If you are expecting a bit of a scorcher, I know some gardeners that throw an old sheet over plants that can’t be moved, because they scorch easily.
Hydrangeas are one of these.
If you haven’t planted out some flowers for the festive season, now’s the time to throw in the seeds of Balsam, Californian Poppy, Marigolds, Petunias, (except for sub-tropical and tropical areas). Sunflowers, Torenias and Zinnias.
On the vegetable front, you could be sowing all manner of carrots, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, marrow, melons, rhubarb crowns (except for the tropics), sweetcorn , sweet potato, (except for cool climate gardens), tomatoes and zucchini. That’s just to name a few.

Wildlife in Focus

with ecologist Sue Stevens.
Diminutive, active ,fast ,confident, these words are used to describe the Yellow Rumped Thornbill.
They eat mainly insects and spiders, and occasionally small seeds. Sometimes YellowRrumped Thornbills forage in trees and shrubs, but they are mainly considered to be terrestrial as long as there’s  some tree cover nearby, and they often hang around parties of other small birds when feeding.
Let’s find out more…

Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Although there is evidence for declining numbers in some major cities as a result of urban development, Yellow Rumped Thornbills have mostly adapted to suburban environments and may be common in parks and gardens.
Luckily for us, they have also adapted to agricultural lands, especially where there is remnant native vegetation.
Foxes and feral cats probably catch and eat them, dogs also attack them and poisoning from insecticide ingestion has been recorded in vegetable gardens.
If you suspect that your cat is catching native wildlife you can help by installing a cat run or enclosure.
Dogs should be kept on a lead when walking through nature reserve areas.
They’re also hit on the road fairly regularly. If you live in an urban area, consider using public transport or riding a bike when possible to reduce the chances of road kill.

If you have photo of  a Yellow Rumped Thornbill visiting your garden or nearby park, send  in ,a photo and I’ll put it up on Facebook because we’d love to hear from you. or write in to 2RRR po Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

Today it’s Carrots but not just any carrots, I’m going to talk about purple carrots.
The carrot you buy in the supermarket or veggie shop is botanically Daucus carota, subsp. sativus. Carrots can grow year round in subtropical and arid climates.
In Temperate zones, you have from September through to May, in Cool temperate districts, September through to February, and in the tropics you can really only grow carrots from April to June.
Carrots prefer full sun but can grow in partial shade.
They also prefer deep sandy soil with plenty of water.
If you have heavy clay loam, and want to grow carrots, you could grow them in a half wine barrel, or raised garden bed. Otherwise, they’ll be stunted and fairly small.
If you’ve grown carrots and they were stunted, grew two or three legs, and just didn’t look right, that’s because they ran into stones, sticks or freshly manured soil.
Another reason for misshapen carrots is if you’ve sown them first in punnets and then transplanted them.
Carrots hate being transplanted and won’t grow properly for you.
In a 4 bed rotation system carrots are grown with onions, garlic, parsnips, leeks and other root crops. So let’s go through the acronym-LRLC. Legumes, Root crops, Leafy and cucurbits and tomatoes.
Ideally you should grow Carrots where you’ve grown legumes-beans and peas before.
The simplest way to sow carrots is to mix a packet of   seed with once cup of  river sand, pouring the contents into seed drills or just broadcasting them.
Cover the seed with finely sieved compost. Not too thick or they won’t germinate.
The sand makes germination easier; but because sand drains so quickly you need to make sure the carrot seedlings don't dry out at this crucial stage.
Carrots have one of the longest germination times of all vegetables; often taking over 3 weeks, but hopefully for you it will only be 4-7 days.
You can help germination, by adding a packet of radishes.
Radishes will pop up in 4-5 days, and help break the surface crust of the soil. The radishes will be gone in a few weeks so no problems with overcrowding there.
Thin the carrot seedlings out when they're about 5cms (2 inches) tall, and have 4 little leaves.
Carrots need that space so they can grow the root without pushing onto other carrots, otherwise they will also be stunted.
If you’ve grown carrots before and found that the roots were cracked that’s a sign of overwatering.
Ease back on the watering this year.
Carrots usually need 4-5 months to grow to their full size.
Pick your carrots as you need them. Thinned out carrots are great baby carrots for stir-fry meals.
Seeds of purple carrots can be purchased online from these suppliers.  www.

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer
Rainforests are found throughout the world, not only in tropical regions, but also in temperate regions like Tasmania and mountainous regions in Victoria and New South Wales.
Montane rainforests are like tropical gardens in cool temperate areas, so it’s not such a stretch to consider planting or designing with the tropical look.
Montane rainforests have quite a lot of year-round rainfall, are mostly above 1,000 metres and mostly have a canopy layer but don’t have the year-round warmth and sunlight associated with tropical rainforests
I always say that it’s important to remember that windbreaks and creating microclimates will help establish large leaved plants that might not thrive or do that well to start off with. But with a bit of planning, I’m sure you can get that tropical look for your mountain garden. Close planting is the key, and layering.
Let's find out more....

Plant of the Week

Callitris spp;

Callitris could be grown in preference to exotic conifers. They are faster growing and drought resistant. The leaves are more lacey looking that pine trees, but the overall effect is similar.

What do Callitris look like? Glaucous green foliage.  The leaves are scale-like, 2-6 mm long and 0.5 mm broad, arranged in decussate whorls of three on very slender shoots 0.7-1 mm diameter.
They're not true pines but they are conifers.
Some callitris forests survive, however, on annual rainfalls as low as 200 millimetres, including in a small area of desert in Western Australia. They occur on a wide range of soil types, but most commonly on nutrient-poor soils with sandy or loamy surface layers and a clay loam at depth.
Callitris has mycorrhiza – mutually beneficial associations between fungi and plant roots – that enhances the plant’s uptake of nutrients, especially phosphorus, from nutrient-poor soils and gives the fungi access to carbohydrates from the tree’s roots.
Examples of Callitris species you can grown in your garden:
Callitris oblonga is a tall shrub or small tree that will reach a height of five metres. The branches are dense and the foliage dark green. Female cones are clustered together, longer than broad and up to 24 millimetres in diameter.
Callitris oblonga is an attractive shrub that could be grown as a “stand alone” specimen or part of an informal hedge. The dense foliage provides safe nesting sites for small native birds. The species is classified as a rare plant. Coastal cypress pine forest (Callitris columellaris, also called white cypress pine grows to 20m) occurs in a fragmented distribution along the coast in northeastern New South Wales, where it has been proposed for endangered ecological community listing. 
Has been extensively used in building construction fencing telegraph poles. Complete resistance to termite attack and high resistance to fungal decay.
There are a lot of Australian native birds that don’t build nests. Instead they look for tree hollows which are in short supply. We can temporarily ease that shortage by building next boxes, but then we need tall trees to put them in. Why not plant this next tree, so that you’re future proofing the next generatins of cockatoos, kites and owls.

To find out about building different nest boxes, go to Birdlife Australia website at
Also don’t forget that you can still help the Powerful Owl Project.
Letting Birds in Backyards know  if you see or hear a Powerful Owl in your area. You can either fill in a survey at
 or email David Bain and Rod Kavanagh at
to report your sighting; you can send us photos or recordings of their calls if you are unsure.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Spice Up Your Life with Chilli

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.
Streamling live

In the Garden this week:

For those of you who are thinking of doing some planting this week, now’s a good time to be planting Zucchinis, tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, cucumbers beans and beetroot, and sweet corn for most of Australia.
Add a handful of dolomite per square metre where you’re going to plant tomatoes, capsicums and chillies.
This is also the time of year, if you haven’t already, check your irrigation system.
Over the years plants grow bigger and might block the path of one of your sprayers, or perhaps some of the drippers have become blocked. That happens all too often.

Spice it Up

with Ian Hemphill
Chilli is a health food.If you’ve ever avoided chillies because you think they’re too hot, you’ve been missing out on some of the health benefits. Not only that, there are some pretty mild chillies around that you could use instead. A green chili pod has as much Vitamin C as 6 oranges.
Let’s go to the herb expert for some more stuff on chillies….

There are some other facts and maybe’s about Chillies.
Chilli peppers are good sources of Iron, Potassium and Dietary Fibre. Aids in many skin conditions including psoriasis, itching and bruising. Some cultures put chilli powder in their shoes to keep their feet warm.
If you have a great chilli recipe, send it in, because we’d love to hear from you. or write in to 2RRR po Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes:

    ...yes today it's actually a fruit.
    They grown in clusters and range in size from that of a pea to a small marble. Well, the second most popular berry after Strawberries are Blueberries. Blueberries are the fruit of a shrub that belongs to the heath family includes cranberries, azaleas and rhododendrons. They are sort of a bluey purple colour have a waxy ‘bloom’ that covers the surface serving as a protective coat.
  • Blueberries like a sunny position but will also get by in some shade (but not too much, otherwise flowering might be effected.
  • The best time for planting is between late autumn and spring, when plants are sold bare-rooted and are less likely to suffer from transplant shock than at other times of the year.
  • You can buy containerised blueberry plants all year-round.
  • Phil has written in about his tips on growing Blueberries.
  • Phil spoke to a blueberry grower last year and was told to let the shrub establish first.
  • That means, you must pluck off the flowers in spring so it doesn't set fruit, but the 3rd year you can let it flower.
  • If you let them establish for the first two years apparently the plants will last a lifetime!
  • Now for the tricky part. After hearing the next bit you’ll probably understand why they are so expensive. Apart from the fact that berries have to be picked one by one and not in bunches.
  • Blueberries need moist soil, good drainage and lots of organic material. Blueberries are acid loving plants that do best in soils with a pH between 4.5 to 5.5
  • If you don’t have that ph you will have to add either elemental sulphur (where the pH is too alkaline) or lime / dolomite (where the pH is too acid). If the soil pH is higher the plants may show signs of iron deficiency.
  •  If that sounds too hard, grow you blueberry plant in a pot.

Add caption
  • Tip:Very important when growing blueberries. they have a very fine fibrousy root system, just like Azaleas,  and this root system needs a porous medium in which to grow, a bit like coarse sand from where they came from.
  • If you have poor drainage, then grow them in a raised bed or at the very least, on a mound of soil and use lots of mulch.
  • Or again, like me, grow them in a pot, but grow a couple to increase pollination.
  • So, fussy, fussy, fussy.
  • For temperate areas which don’t get too cold in winter, we need to grow a variety which is low chill. Gardeners in the know about chill factor will now know, that means a certain amount of hours below 7 C.
  • Gardeners in cool temperate areas can grow the low bush variety As the name suggests, the low bush variety- a dwarf shrub that only grows to height of between 30-60 cm. The lowbush produces lots of small and flavoursomeberries. They love colder climates and need very low temperatures for the fertilised flowers to “set” and form berries. For this reason, they are not suitable for Australia’s milder climate and are not grown in commercial quantities.
  • The highbush variety, grows to 1.5–3 metres, has many different cultivars that are well suited to the Australian climate.
  •  In Victoria, Tasmania and Southern New South Wales, you are more likely to find the Northern Highbush, high chill variety. This cultivar has a higher requirement for winter chilling (over 1000 hours below 2°C) but they are still able to tolerate high summer temperatures. The fruit of the Northern Highbush is harvested later in the season, from December to April.
  • Rabbiteye is a low chill, late season variety.
  • The rabbiteye is best at coping with warm and humid summers and tolerates dry conditions, making it right at home in Northern NSW and Queensland. And where does the name come from? During the ripening stage when the blueberry is pink, if you look closely you will notice the calyx appears to be little rabbit eyes looking right back at you.
  • Once your Blueberry shrub is established new stems will come up and fruit for up to four years initially from the tip to down the whole branch.
  • From the third winter onwards, cut back old, dry stems every winter.
  • Cut them back either down to ground level or to a vigorous new shoot near the ground.
  • Blueberries fruit on the tips of the previous season’s growth. They first produce sideshoots from the base of the plant soon after flowering in spring. Then in early to midsummer, vigorous growths push up from the base of the bush.
  • Hard pruning in winter will encourage this renewed growth and result in larger, earlier fruit. Blueberries are pest free apart from caterpillars and birds, and if you prune the shrub so its open in the middle it reduces fungal disease.

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer.
Tropical gardens seem to fit, hand in glove in coastal areas, because when we think of beach, we might like to imagine that we’re in an exotic location with the lushness of a tropical oasis.
It’s important to remember that windbreaks and creating microclimates will help establish large leaved plants that might not thrive or do that well to start off with. But with a bit of planning, I’m sure you can get that tropical look for your coastal garden. Close planting is the key, and layering.
Let’s find out how to create this near the coast…

Plant of the Week:

Correa "Canberra Bells" New release for 2013!
I’ve known it to be called Native fuchsia, probably because of the flowers looking much like the real Fuchsia plants. Correas are mainly prostrate to small or medium shrubs, growing to a height of plus or minus approximately 2 metres as a general guide with a similar spread.
Because the leave shape, and colour varies so much between species as well as hybrids, you would be best advised to go to your garden centre, or look up gardening books and websites if you’re fussy about whether the leaves are shiny, or matt, smooth or hairy, white or rust coloured underneath.
The leaves are opposite with oil dots being visible on the leaves. Yes, they’re aromatic when crushed.
Flowers are tubular/funnel form then splitting into 4 petals.
Species plants tend to sprawl and have twiggy growth, but light pruning will give them a more compact shape. There’s Correa ‘alba’,  Correa calycina, Correa glabra,C. reflexa’.
Correas can be hard pruning but prefer a little and often. This promotes and stimulates new growth and of course flowers.
Plants grow really well drained loam with an acid pH of 5.6. Good drainage is the key so that raised beds are suggested for heavy soil conditions.
The application of gypsum to the soil aids texture and promotes drainage. Root rot may occur in constantly wet situations.
So many hybrids and cultivars., C. Ice Maiden’, C. Dusky Bells,C.white Tips,  Pink Lips, Pink Panther, Pink Pixie, Lemon Twist, Ivory Bells, Sky Belles, Katie Bells and now Canberra Bells.
These are mainly hybrid forms that have been crossed with species plants.
Hybrid Correas have a tendency to be more compact and heavy flowering than the wild species, which makes them a desirable gardening plant.
EG, Correa ‘Dusky Bells’ is drought and frost tolerant. It is great for a shaded environment. It prefers  shady situations rather than full sun. It also attracts birds to the gardens.  Flowers from March until September.
Many of the Correa species are pollinated by birds such as honey eaters as it normally has a lot of nectar.
Many of the Correas flower over the winter months and their flowers can provide an important source of nectar to birds at this time.
Canberra Bells Parentage: one of its parent plants is appropriately called Federation Belle, while the other is Correa Mannii.
NEW:Correa ‘Canberra Bells” grows 1m x 1m.  Two-tone red and cream bell-like flowers.
Canberra Bells is the official plant commemorating the Centenary of Canberra and now, this hardy but attractive native shrub is available for purchase.
Tolerates part shade but grows in full sun.Correa 'Canberra Bells' has very low water requirements.
 It will tolerate periods of dryness, however occasional deep watering is recommended through extended periods of drought.
Prune lightly after flowering and keep soil moist during flowering for maximum displays.
Hardy - dry and frost tolerant and is an Australian native.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hedging with Rosemary and Entertaining Tropically

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.
STREAMING LIVE ON 2rrr at Wed. 5pm

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
In a lot of places in Australia, the days have begun to be quite warm, so thinking of tropical plants for an area in the garden suddenly has become quite appealing. Even if you live in an arid zone or cool temperate area, you can still achieve that tropical look with plants that grow well in your local district. Knowing how to arrange them is the key to achieving that tropical look, and around the entertainment area, it might be de rigour. Listen here to find out....

The whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical. If you live in a cooler  or arid area, you might have a tropical theme within your garden style. Somewhere in your garden where you like to sit and read or think, you can add a tropical touch here and there, with plants that are suited to the climate you live in. There is a microclimate that suits those plants that were mentioned. You get the idea.

Vegetable Heroes:    

  •      Pumpkins !. After Ian complained last week that his pumpkin vine only had male flowers, I decided to do a whole segment about growing them.
  •   Pumpkins (Cucubita spp.)  (could be Cucurbita pepo, or C maxima and son on)are members of the Cucurbitaceae family along with zucchini, gourd, squash, melons and cucumber.
  • Honestly., for those of us who have a compost heap, one of the most often things to grow out of the heap is the pumpkin. Usually a Butternut or Queensland Blue.
  • Just as well that Pumpkins like compost heaps because the vines need fertile, compost-rich, well-drained soil in full sun and are most easily grown as ground-cover plants. There is a bush variety called Golden Nugget, that can be grown in a pot but all the rest grow way too big for pots.
  • Vines can be trained over frames provided they can support the weight of the heavy fruit.
  • In temperate zones, plant your pumpkin seeds from September until the end of December.
  • Arid zones have from September until February, sub-tropical regions have between August and February, Cool temperate districts have between October and December, and once again, like Zucchinis, Tropical areas have to wait until it cools down, so between April and July is the time for you to plant your pumpkin seeds.
  • There are as many different varieties of pumpkins as there are of tomatoes, almost.
  • Golden Nugget is best for small gardens, for a medium sized pumpkin, try Hybrid Grey Crown or Queensland Blue.
  • Turk’s Turban is an exotic-looking pumpkin (although its flavour is a little dry).
  • You might prefer the stronger taste of Jarrahdale, from Western Australia.
  • Pumpkin seed needs a soil temperature of 20˚C for germination. You can either sow them individually in 10cm pots and plant them out when the pots are filled with roots.
  • Or, sow seed or plant seedlings into mounds of rich compost, with lots and lots of chook poo, made over loosened soil.
  • Plants take 70–120 days to mature. That’s 10 17 weeks!
  • Pumpkins are shallow-rooted they need regular watering in dry or windy weather. Even moisture helps prevent fruit splitting.
  • Pinch out growing tips, otherwise they may take over you whole backyard!
  • When I worked at Yates, getting those pumpkins to fertilise was the bane of quite a number of people’s veggie growing.
  • The complaint was lots of leaves and few flowers or that the embryo fruits and flowers fall off.
  • Pumpkins produce short-lived male and female flowers that can close by mid-morning.
  • Female flowers open above the swollen, distinctive embryo fruit and male flowers produce pollen. If the embryo fruit falls off, that usually means it didn’t get pollinated.
  • Native and honey bees are normally able to complete pollination, but sometimes ants harvest pollen before this occurs.
  • High temperatures can affect fruit formation – over 30˚C, hand pollination is useful for improving fruit set.
  • To hand pollinate, pick male flowers, remove petals then dab pollen on the stigma of female flowers. Squeezing female flowers aids pollination in wet weather.
  • If you remember, last week I advised Ian that sometimes female flowers take two weeks or longer before they start appearing.
  • This is because the pumpkin vine has to grow to a decent size-one where it can support fruit, before the female flowers appear.
For some online shopping -
If you don’t have a computer or like shopping on line there’s also a free call number. 1800 887 73

Plant of the Week:

  • Have you been avoiding growing hedges because it’ll mean that you have to prune it? Maybe you’d prefer a less formal look? If so, these new plants will help create either of these looks with a lot less effort. A plant that’s self shaping is always useful in any garden because it looks after itself.
  • Have you ever wanted a drought tolerant hedge of a native plant that looks like those evergreen hedges that you’ve seen in your travels to England, or Europe?
  • Not that Buxus species aren’t drought tolerant because they are, but what about native species, that might also be more likely to attract small native birds, lizards and other beneficials to your garden.
  • Westringia species   The Native Rosemary or Coastal Rosemary as it is also known is an extremely hardy plant that will tolerate almost any situation.
  • It has beautiful small white flowers to lavender flowers for most of the year and grows to around 2 metres high and wide. It’s salt tolerant, frost resistant down to about -7oC and is often mass planted and used very effectively as a clipped hedge. It also makes a great small screening plant that will accept full sun or part shade and can be pruned to shape.
  • The flowers are tubular or funnel form with orange landing spots for native bees. In fact native bees are the main pollinators because they are able to do what’s called buzz pollination.
  • In Westringias, the pollen is firmly attached to the anther, so the bees, grab the anthers with their hind legs and give it a shake. They can do this because they can vibrate their thorax. Something that European bees can’t do and apart from that, European bees being too large to fit into these tubular flowers.
  • In a lot of cases European bees bit the bottom of the flower to get at the nectar, destroying the reproductive parts of the flower in the process.
  • Ozbreed Aussie Box® It is much more drought tolerant than exotic box plants, but it will need slightly more pruning to keep in a box shape. Aussie Box grows to approximately 60cm x 60cm unpruned.
  • Position-Ozbreed Aussie Box® requires full sun to light shade. It is suited to most soil types.
  • Grey Box™ is the perfect grey colour contrast for Ozbreed Aussie Box®. It is an even more compact form than Aussie Box, growing 30-40cm high and wide unpruned. It can be pruned down to 20-30cm.
  • This tough drought and frost tolerant Westringia looks great when pruned to shape or left in its natural ball shape.
  • Position-Grey Box™ requires full sun to light shade. It is suited to most soil types and has been found to work well in sandy and heavy clay soils.
  • Grey Box is similar to the new Aussie Box, but with great grey foliage colour contrast and white flowers instead of mauve. It is a much more compact form than Aussie Box and grows to 30-40cm high and wide unpruned.
  • It can be kept pruned down to 20-30cm in size.
  • Propagation:soft tip cuttings in spring and semi-hardwood cuttings in autumn.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tropical Gardening Starts Here!

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.
STREAMING LIVE ON 2rrr at Wed 5pm

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid, landscape designer.
What do you think of when the word Tropical garden is said? Saying palms, coloured cocktail drinks with umbrellas in them, lying in a hammock swaying gently in the breeze. Dipping you toes into a pool.
Perhaps you did all these things on your last holiday to a tropical isle, but wait, you can have it at home as well. Maybe not all of it, but at least some of the features.
Over the next five weeks, Design Elements will be talking about Tropical Gardens to suit any climate in Australia. Today, you’re going tropical around the pool.

The whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical. If you live in a cooler  or arid area, you might have a tropical theme within your garden style. Somewhere there is a microclimate that suits those plants that were mentioned. You get the idea.

Vegetable Heroes:

  • ZUCCHINI or Cucurbita pepo.
  • Zucchini can be dark or light green, and generally have a similar shape to a ridged cucumber. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini is a deep yellow or orange colour. They are usually long, sort of cigar like, dark green, grey-green and even yellow.
  • Where to start. In temperate areas, plant out zucchinis from Septemebr through to January, in Cool temperate areas, you have been October and January, in arid areas, yes that’s you in Alice Springs and Broken Hill, you have a bigger winder, September through to March, sub-tropical, August to February, but for tropical areas, now’s too hot. Your Zucchini planting time is April to August. Very different from the rest of Australia!
  • .Having said all that Zucchinis are great for the beginner gardener because they are quick and easy to grow.
  • Prepare your soil with the usual digging in some compost or cow manure. Zucchinis are light feeders so won’t need much more than an occasional feed with some liquid fish fertiliser.
  • Sow your zucchini seed where you want them to grow. Mound up the soil  about 30cm long by about  and then make a indent up to your first knuckle, or even 7 cm deep, and drop in 3 seeds. When they shoot up pick the strongest one and discard the others. It will get too crowed otherwise.
  • TIP:Planting your seeds deeply will make your plant more drought tolerant.
  • Now they take up a lot of space so maybe try growing them vertically. That way there’s also improved air circulation so the fungal problems are a lot less.
  • You could grow them in pot that way. The pot would have to be about 30cm diameter.
  • The important thing with growing them vertically is to have lots of soft ties, like old panty hose or old T shirt cut into strips, so you can tie up the stems as they grow.
  • That way they won’t flop all over the place and probably break their stems.
  • If you don't get many bees or pollinating insects around your way you might need to pollinate the zucchini flowers yourself.
  • Get a cotton wool bud and take some pollen from the male flower.
  • Male flowers tend to be on the end of a long narrow stalk.
  • Female flowers are a lot closer to the main stem and have a swelling behind the petals. Just like female flowers on pumpkins. Look inside the female flower. There should be a golden formation. Dab the male pollen all over this female part. Hopefully in a few weeks that swelling behind the female flower will grow into a zucchini.
  • Fully grown zucchini leaves tend to look a motley silvery grey colour which looks like the fungal problem powdery mildew. Unless you’re watering the leaves this shouldn’t happen.
  • Powdery mildew grows on wet zucchini leaves or on any veggie leaves that are wet.
  • Remember to water where it’s needed most, the roots, not the leaves. In summer you'll need to keep your zucchini's water levels high.
  • They dehydrate very quickly on hot days so mulch them heavily (but remember to keep the mulch away from the main stem).
  • There are two main problems that gardeners have when growing zucchinis.
  • When the fruits are 5cm long, they rot and drop off. This is a pollination problem. You might have to pollinate them yourself. Next year grow a whole lot of flowers nearby like Borage, nasturtiums or marigolds.
  • The second problem sounds like blossom end rot where fruit almost ready to harvest starts rotting from the top.
  • If this happens you need to add lime to the soil at the time of planting. Too late this season. Otherwise it can be caused by irregular watering, that means, too much drying out in between waterings.
  • If your plants have many days of no water and then a glut of it, blossom end rot can develop, ruining the fruit.
  • Ian asks, why does my pumpkin vine have only male flowers?
  • Almost all pumpkins and squashes have all male flowers flowering first, followed by females, but only once the plant is large enough to sustain a fruit.
  • It's perfectly normal for the males to arrive first in big numbers. A week or so goes by without any female flowers showing up, and you’re beginning to think there's a problem.
  • The female flowers usually arrive 10-14 days after you spot the first male. (Sometimes it takes a little longer than this). Once the female flowers appear, there will only be a few at a time.
  • Male flowers greatly out-number the female flowers.
  • That means Ian, you might get female flowers in a week or two.
  • Zucchinis need to be regularly harvested, usually when they’re about 20cm long. Picking them help the plant to keep on cropping. If you let Zucchinis grow too big-like a metre long, they’re not much good as a vegetable to eat because they become too tough and contain mostly seeds.
  • The flowers are also edible - they can be used in salads, as garnish, and even fried.
  • If you want some unusual varieties, go online to buy the seeds on Goldfinger Hybrid, (16cm) Costata Romanesco-speckled with light coloured ribbing.
Plant of the Week

Photo supplied by Mansfields Propagation Nusery
with Sabina Fielding-Smith
Some of us forget about perennial plants for our garden, but they’re the ones the make up the backbone of the garden to which we can add bulbs or even short fleeting flowering annuals.
How about a mounding drought tolerant perennial plant with heaps of white flowers to set off you garden”
What is Iberis? Many listeners mightn’t know this plant so we had better describe what it is and where it fits into the garden.Perhaps cottage gardeners would know the name evergreen or perennial Candytuft,?
Iberis is so named because many members of the genus come from the Iberian Peninsula. 'sempervirens' means "always green", referring to the evergreen foliage. Iberian Peninsula is the peninsula in southwestern Europe, occupied by Spain and Portugal. Its name derives from its ancient inhabitants whom the Greeks called Iberians.
Iberis is in the Brassicaceae family-you would now Broccoli, Cabbage Cauliflowers.
You could also buy the seeds from Yates at one point. Unfortunately they’ve discontinued that line.
Evergreen Candytuft is a spring  white flowering favourite in Europe at least.
Where it gets used in gardens  cascading over rocks and walls, or used as a groundcover.
The glossy, deep green narrow leaves make a sort of  billowing mound, with loads of good-sized white flowers for several weeks.  Usually flowering from spring to early summer.
Growth is small to 25cm high and 90 cm wide.
This variety of Iberis you prune lightly right after flowering, but otherwise leave plants alone in autumn and early spring.
Iberis sempervirens grows in full sun or part shade.
It takes sandy, loam or clay soils. Prefers a well-drained site, so avoid heavy clay soils that stay wet in winter. Drought tolerant, once established. Not easily divided.
This variety is great for rockeries, borders, containers, edging,  ground covers.
We should mention the other parent cross, Iberis gibraltarica (Gibraltar candytuft) is a flowering plant of the genus Iberis and the family Brassicaceae.
Iberis is a funny name to try and remember, but I’m sure you’re going to remember Turbo, so ask for it by name at your garden centre.

Powerful Owl Project

Powerful Owl
RWG spoke with ecologist Dr David Bain regarding the Powerful Owl  Project.
Birdlife Australia is running the project and want to locate all the breeding pairs of Powerful Owls in the greater Sydney region, from Newcastle in the north to Kiama in the south and west to the Blue Mountains.
Birdlife Australia will be identifying where their nest locations are and recording the outcome of each nesting attempt at the end of the breeding season. 
However theyare keen for ALL sightings of Powerful Owls throughout their distribution - so in Queensland and Victoria as well.

You can help us learn more about the Powerful Owls by:
Letting Birdlife Australia know if you see or hear  a Powerful Owl in your area.
 or email David Bain and Rod Kavanagh at   report your sighting; you can send in photos or recordings of their calls if you are unsure.
Tell Birdlife Australia where (address or GPS location) and when you saw or heard the bird and anything interesting you noticed about where it was or what it was doing.
2. If you are in Sydney – volunteer to be an Owl Observer. Birdlife Australia will be looking for volunteers in 2012, 2013, who are willing to keep an eye on a breeding pair near them and submit a simple weekly report to us to let us know what is happening at their nest site.
You do not need to monitor at night (although some dusk visits may be required) and teams of Owl Observers will be set up for each nest to share the work.
All Owl Observers will attend a short training workshop before monitoring their birds. If you would like to register as an Owl Observer please email David at
OWLING IN THE SYDNEY BASIN-what’s in the nest?
BirdLife Australia and Birds in Backyards have now completed their
2012 Powerful Owl survey project survey in the broader Sydney area. The project aimed to look at the distribution of Powerful Owls,their breeding success, site fidelity and ability to cope with
disturbance of the urban based population of the species. This information will ultimately inform conservation measures for this threatened species.
David Bain, the BirdLife Australia Project Officer has kindly offered to present some of the results of this project and provide an update on what has been learnt about the behavior and threats to Powerful
Owls in the broader Sydney area.
 For further information and registration please contact Cathy on
9817 4935 or email the Society on