Thursday, 3 January 2013

Flowers or No Flowers, the Big Question

Wildlife in Focus:

Apostle Bird

a team effort ...
This bird is also known as the Grey Jumper, is a quick-moving, and is a native to Australia where it roams woodlands, eating insects and seeds at, or near, ground level. It was first described by ornithologist John Gould in 1837, Let’s find out more about this bird…with ecologist Sue Stevens.

As Sue mentioned, the Apostlebird was named after the twelve apostles.
In fact, Apostle birds travel in family groups of between 6 and 20, even joining other family groups creating large feeding flocks of over 40.
It also seems that they have plenty of nicknames not all of which are complimentary.
Sometimes called Lousy Jacks (due to heavy louse infestations), Happy Jacks, Happy Families and CWA Birds. CWA birds is a bit of a dig of a Country Women's Association meeting by comparing it to the Apostle bird's constant chatter.
You may just well come across it in your travels, is so, we would love to see your photo of this bird. Send it in to or post to 2RRR po Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

  • The answer to the question about helping you sleep better is Lettuce and I’ll tell you why a little later on.
  • LETTUCE or Lactuca sativa, The Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae.
  • You might think it too boring to be a hero, but the earliest mention of lettuce in history is a carving on an Egyptian temple.
  • Lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in Egypt.
  • But the Greeks used lettuce as a medicinal plant to induce sleep.
  • Lactuca sativa or lettuce is just everywhere and thought to have started of  in the wild as a prickly lettuce, found as a weed in the Mediterranean.
  • Nothing beats the freshness of home grown lettuce though.
  • Just pick some leaves fresh when you need them. The flavour is lost in as little as 24 hours, and there’s no way supermarket lettuce is only 24 hours old.
  •  Lettuce can be planted all year round in all areas of Australia.
  • Having said that, in Arid districts, it might be a good idea to avoid the hottest months of the year, and in cool temperate districts, you might light to grow your lettuce in a greenhouse or undercover somewhere during winter.
  • Not all kinds of lettuce are created alike!
  • For all areas, planting or sowing in the summer months, should only be the loose leaf types of lettuce.
  • Sorry, Iceberg is out, as is the other hearting lettuce varieties, like Butterhead .
  • These hearting varieties are OK in the coolest months. (The upper temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 28°C)
  • Summer is just too warm for the hearting types.
  • Lettuces taste best when they are grown as fast as possible and for that they need water and food.
  • I had visitors recently who noticed that my seedlings had doubled in size in 3 days! That’s good going.
  • Any gardening book (all written for cooler climates) will tell you that full sun is essential.
  • Full sun is best ONLY when it isn't too hot. Once the temperatures go into the thirties, your lettuce will definitely appreciate some shade, especially afternoon shade!
  • Don't plant them in deep shade, like under a tree. They will just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on them.
  • If you can’t find a position that provides dappled shade in the afternoon, try interplanting between taller plants that will not totally shade them like capsicums/peppers or eggplants, staked tomatoes.
  • Commercial growers recommend using 50% white shade cloth for growing lettuce and other summer vegetables.
  • White shade cloth let’s in the UV rays needed for growth.
  •  After that, Lettuces need good soil.
  • It should be light, free draining and rich in organic matter.
  • It needs to hold lots of water and lots of nitrogen and other nutrients.
  • Sandy soils need help from your compost bin or worm farm.
  • If you have clay soils, growing lettuce shouldn’t be a problem, as is growing them in pots.
  •  Lettuce has shallow roots, so it dries out easily.
  • You must keep up a steady supply of water because any set back will at least, make them tough and bitter, at worst it will cause them to bolt to seed straight away without making any leaves for you!
  • So make sure they never get stressed (e.g. by forgetting to water them).
  • To sow lettuce seed, either spread the seed very thinly along a row and cover lightly with soil, or sprinkle it over a bed and rake it in.
  • For all you balcony gardeners, any largish pot will do for 3 or 4 lettuce seedlings.
  • Lettuce seed is very fine so you’ll get a few clumps.
  • Thin them out, you know the drill.
  • If the weather is very hot and your soil sandy, you will need to water daily. Stick your finger in the soil if not sure.
  • By the way, lettuce seed doesn’t germinate that well at soil temperatures over 250C.  So if you are sowing it in a pot, keep the potting mix cool by putting it in light shade until the lettuce seed germinates.
  • I mentioned before that hearting types of lettuce will go to seed in summer very quickly and not form a heart at all.
  • The same goes for Cos/Romaine types as they’re also very heat susceptible. I do grow those but they are the first to bolt to seed at the first sign of hot weather
  • The most heat tolerant kinds of lettuce are the open leafed varieties (Looseleaf). All the pretty fancy lettuces you see in the shops, the frilly and curly varieties, they are your lettuce varieties you need to grow.
  • Darker lettuce absorbs more sunlight than lighter colours, so they’ll wilt sooner (but they are prettier). Choose light green over dark red.
  • The most heat resistant kinds of lettuce I’ve found to be are the oakleaf kind.
  • Is your lettuce grows slowly even though you’re giving them plenty of water, then they need more food.
  • Did you add organic compost, manures or worm castings to the veggie bed before you sowed the seed?
  • If you didn’t, then you need to supply extra nutrients, especially nitrogen. Some of the liquid fertilisers will do right now.
  • So why is it good for us?
  • Lettuce is very good for digestion and promotes good liver function. It can reduce the risk of heart attacks and is good for healthy eyesight. It has good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre. You won’t put on any weight eating Lettuce  because mostvarieties have over 90% water and are extremely low in calories.
  • Lettuce contain the sedative lactucarium (lactoo-caree um) which relaxes the nerves but not upsetting digestion.
  • As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green.
  • By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.  
  • For some unusual seeds try these online suppliers.
Happy Lettuce growing everyone!

Design Elements

Redefine the concept of no flower garden?…Perhaps you have a friend like I do, that actually doesn't like the look of flowers in the garden.
Or do you think flowers are over-rated in gardens?  Perhaps even you think, the flowers are so fleeting that they’re not worth the trouble?
You probably spend all heaps of time preparing those flower beds and then, the wind or rain, spoil it all, does that happen to you?
Maybe you can find some tips in the no flower garden…

I hope that’s given you some idea if you’re tired of your flower display being spoiled by inclement weather and want a change that still adds colour interest to your garden.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t add some flowers later.

Plant of the Week:

Gloxinia Full Bloom - 2005
Now for the complete opposite of the no-flower garden.Gloxinias: Syningia speciosa
Do you like flowers, lots of flowers, indoors and out? Are you often buying bunches of flowers from the florist, supermarket or produce markets?
How about buying a spectacular flowering plant, that keeps on giving each year, that you can grow indoors.

The name Gloxinia was given in honour of Benjamin Peter Gloxin, a French botanical writer working at the end of the eighteenth century.
The modern hybrids have deep coloured trumpet-shaped flowers and very beautiful, large, flat, velvety mid-green leaves. 
The flowers vary in colour from rich crimson, deep red, violet and white to various combinations of such colours.
Some forms, called the tigrina gloxinias, have flowers heavily spotted or delicately veined in these colours on a white background, and others have frilled edges, touched with white.
I used to treat myself to a red velvet flowering gloxinia when I finished my horticulture exams.
They would last a couple of years, then it was time for a new one.
The tubers will survive from year to year but they should not be kept longer than 2 or 3 years as old plants tend to lose their vigour.
Yes, I spent quite a few years studying.
As a rule of thumb, if you can successfully grow African violets, you can probably grow gloxinias.
Having said that, Gloxinia prefer higher humidity than African violets or Streptocarpus, and many serious growers find that they must supplement the humidity in their grow rooms with pebble trays or a humidifier in order to grow Gloxinia successfully year-round.
If you’re ever fortunate enough to be able to attend an African Violet show, then you’ll find that Gloxinias, along with Streptocarpus are also exhibited and for sale.
The biggest difference between growing Gloxinia and growing African violets or Streptocarpus is that Gloxinia require a period of dormancy or “winter rest” in order to flower again.
Your plant will start to wind down, usually around April or May with flowers fading more quickly and fewer or no new buds being formed.
When that happens, your plant is telling you it’s time to rest.
Reduce watering to about half the usual amount and remove dead flower stems.
After three or four weeks at reduced watering gently dig up the tuber, remove any remaining leaves, trim away any dead or rotted roots, and rinse well under tepid water.
Place the tuber in a small plastic container or Ziplock bag with about a cup of moistened perlite or vermiculite and store in a cool, dark place.
The ideal rest temperature would be around 10 - 120 degrees C – the refrigerator is much too cold! Try a protected area like the garage. 
Put a "note to self"Check your tuber for new growth every month or so.
When new sprouts appear (usually 3 months  it’s time to repot the tuber in fresh medium and enjoy the flowering cycle again.
Most likely, listeners to this program will be growing their gloxinias indoors unless you’re living in a sub-tropical or tropical climate.Indoors, gloxinias rarely develop diseases, but do get the occasional fungal problem such as gray mold and crown rot if the leaves are splashed frequently with water.
Avoid watering from overhead, and don’t use cold water, which can cause leaf problems, as with African Violets.
Tepid water is the go.
Mites and thrips are common house plant pests that can also attack gloxinias and African violets causing the leaves to either curl under or have a bumpy appearance.
You can try and control the pests with soapy water, or with insecticidal soap spray.
Don’t forget to pick off heavily damaged leaves.


1 comment:

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