Thursday, 16 May 2013

Crocodile Rocky in the Garden

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by CBF, Community Broadcasting Foundation.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.
The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website

Living Planet

with Manager Urban Ecology, Katie Oxenham
Blue Tongue Lizard
Did you know that the study of reptiles and frogs is called Herpetology?
And did you also know that there are no Australian lizards with a dangerous or venomous bite?
You might have wondered whether or not the little skinks in your garden do anything useful?
Let’s find out more about these reptiles….

Are we becoming to soft as a nation, scared of creatures in our backyard?
Do you know of someone that shrieks at the site of spiders and lizards?
Can you believe that calls received by snake catchers/wildlife around Australia in summer are because people mistake Blue Tongue Lizards for snakes or even baby crocodiles?
I think most gardeners know what a Blue Tongue lizard looks like.
Remember not to use snail pellets if you see these reptiles in your garden. They'll do the snail catching for you.
Anyway,  you can check what reptiles you have in your area.
 A few useful links to the sites that were mentioned in that segment. ; is a database of reptiles.

.Let me know what reptiles visit your garden,
or send in a photo to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  
or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page.



Vegetable Heroes

Winter Lettuce or Lactuca sativa

  • 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.
  • The Greeks used lettuce as a medicinal plant to induce sleep. Who is right-see the answer below?
  • Lactuca sativa or lettuce is just everywhere and thought to have originated from the wild or prickly lettuce, found as a weed in the Mediterranean.
  • Nothing beats the freshness of home grown lettuce. Just pick some leaves fresh when you need them.
  • The flavour of lettuce is lost in as little as 24 hours, and there's no way supermarket lettuce is only 24 hours old.
  • The Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae.. great in salads, tacos, hamburgers!
  • But here’s the thing not all kinds of lettuce are created alike!
  • Hurrah, this is the time to be plant all those hearting lettuce like, Iceberg, and Butterhead, Cos or Romaine.
  • These varieties do best in the coolest months because the upper temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 28°C so they’re not going to bolt to seed now.
  • Did you know that there are four main types of lettuce grown commercially in Australia and these are three of them?
  • In northern Victoria the main growing season for these types is May until October.
  • The optimal growing temperatures are 25°C during day and 8°C during night.
  • Lettuces taste best when they are grown as fast as possible and for that they need water and food.
  • Lettuces can be grown in light sandy soil to heavy clay types, as long as the soil is well drained.
  • 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).
  • Any gardening book (all written for cooler climates) will tell you that full sun is essential.
  • Don't plant them in deep shade, like under a tree.
  • They will just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on 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 just water or 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 dry and your soil sandy, you will need to water  every couple of days.
  • Stick your finger in the soil if not sure. Lettuces have a very shallow root system.
  • By the way, lettuce seed doesn't germinate that well at soil temperatures over 250C. 
  • There should be no problems at this time of year.
  • Time to Plant:
  • In cool districts, you’ve got until end of May, then again in September until the following May.
  • In arid areas you have from March until October,  in sub- tropical and temperate areas, we’ve hit the jackpot because we can grow lettuce al year round.
  • Funnily enough, my self-sowing lettuce like Freckles and Mustard lettuce start appearing around the veggie bed around mid-April onwards.
  • Once your lettuce seedlings start appearing start giving them side dressings of compost, worm tea and so on.
  • Lettuce that seems to be growing slowly, or are starting to show signs of going to seed even though you’ve watered them, is a sure sign that they’ve run out of food.
  • Did you prepare your veggie bed with enough compost?
  • If not there are plenty of organic type liquid fertilisers that you can add to your watering can and use on your leafy vegetables.
  • So why is it good for us?
  • Lettuce is very good for digestion and promotes good liver function. 
  •  It has good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre.
  • Lettuce obviously won't lead to weight gain as many varieties have over 90% water and are extremely low in calories.
  • Lettuce contain the sedative lactucarium which relaxes the nerves without impairing digestion.
  • As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green.
  • For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce.
  • By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.  
  • Happy Lettuce growing everyone!

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer, Louise McDaid
Rocky gardens can be good if you’ve got places to use that rock to build dry stone walls, but for some gardeners, the rocks aren’t much good.
I know of one gardener who ended up using an old bed spring to sift the rocks out his garden. That’s determined.Let’s find out how to garden in a rocky garden?

You can put your rocks to advantage by using them creatively in the garden, with dry stone walls, gabions-we know now they’re wire baskets filled with rock, or just a simple rock garden.
Of course we can build a reptile friendly area with rocks for those cold blooded creatures to bask on!
It may take a bit of time and effort to do that. In the meantime grow your plants in pots, troughs, in fact any old thing. When an area is ready for planting you’ve got yourself an instant garden when you plant out your potted plants.

Plant of the Week:

Sometimes called Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, these plants grow best in shade but that doesn’t mean you have to grow them in the deepest darkest part of your garden, because they have beautiful flowers that start from the winter until early spring.

NEW VARIETIES For the collector or Hellebore officionado, some are bred in England from Hellebore expert Robin white of Blackthorn Nursery. Robin raised this beautiful new variety from a batch of H. x ericsmithii, resulting from a cross between a standard H. niger as a seed parent and pollinated by H. x sternii Blackthorn group.
All of these Hellebores grow in full sun, full shade and part shade, flower colours vary, but all have deep green leaves, some are serrated.
Hellebores are compact growing to 50cm x 60cm, needing only a moderate amount of water once established.
During heatwaves or extended days of heat give them an occasional deep soak.
If growing in pots don’t let them dry out completely.
If you do find your Hellebore keeled over if you’ve come home after a long hot day, give the pot a deep soaking in a bucket and it will revive.
Not fussy about soil type and flower better if you fertilizer in late autumn and spring.

Helleborus. Angel Glow 50cm x 60cm-masses of pink flower that fade to off-white
Hellebore Angel’s Red has flowers of deep magenta.
Very vigorous with a tidy habit. A must have for the Burgundy lover, would team brilliantly with the new Magnolia Genie or Magnolia Felix.
H. Pennys Pink-full sun/part shade/full shade. Mid-pink flowers from winter to spring. Flowers have a dome shape some of which face upwards.

Hellebore Ruby’s Glow  UK bred, ruby pink flowers.

HelleboreWinter Sunshine-varies from Ivory to pink within the flowers
People love Hellebores in fact there’s societies dedicated to them.
I think they’re one of those collectible plants because they don’t take up much room, are pretty easy to grow once you’ve worked out the right conditions that they like, and they’re dry tolerant. 
 What’s your favourite Hellebore flower?
Write in and let us know. We’d love to see a photo.

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