Thursday, 9 May 2013

Naturally Planting Your 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

The Good Earth

with Permaculture Sydney Institute Director, Penny Pyett
We’ve seen gardening programs on TV telling us to plant out our nature strips with fruits and vegetables, or at least with bush tucker plants that might attract wildlife.
I’ve asked my local council what their policies were on people planting out nature strips. One simple answer, ask first. I think that’s a good idea before you start digging up yours and finding a nasty letter in your letter box asking you to remove the planting.
Let’s find out more about this phenomenon….

I’ve seen a couple of gardeners taking over their nature strip in my area. Do you have any in yours’ Let me know what they’re growing, 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, and I’ll post a CD in return.


Carrots or  Daucus carota var. sativus were one of the first vegetables grown by man and are related to parsley. Think about it? Carrot tops look similar to Parsley don’t they.
Daucus is Latin for parsnip or carrot and carota is Greek for carrot.
Sativus simply means cultivated, so altogether we have the cultivated carrot!
Carrots were thought to have originated in present day Afghanistan about 5000 years ago.
The first carrots were mainly purple, with some white or black - not orange. In early times, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots and ancient Greek physicians gave carrot juice as a stomach tonic.
Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for these, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.
In the 1500s, some farmers in the northern Dutch town of Hoorn seemed to have preferred orange carrots.
These farmers selectively bred the orange carrots which ended up dominating the carrot market.
The story goes that the breeders may have started with orange carrots as a secret way of showing support for William of Orange-who became the Royal family of the Netherlands." This has never been proven so it’s probably just a story.
More likely it was an accident of breeding and people just preferred the taste of the sweeter carrot
Carrots are cheap and easy to grow carrot and were a staple food  during Victorian times especially between the two World Wars when other food sources became scarce.
There is a lot more detail of the history of the carrot, but let’s press on with how to grow them.
When to sow Carrots:
  • Carrots are cold tolerant but can grow in all but the hottest climates.
  • They grow year round in subtropical climates, sow them spring and summer in temperate zones and mid-Spring to the end of Summer in cold districts.
  • They prefer full sun but can grow in partial shade.
  • Avoid adding fertilisers and manures to the soil just before sowing, or you’ll get carrots that will fork and become hairy.
  • They like beds manured in the previous season.
  • Make sure the soil has been worked over with no stones or sticks otherwise the carrots will grow into funny shapes or be stunted.
  • In a 4 bed rotation system carrots are grown with onions, garlic, parsnips, leeks and other root crops.
  • Carrots must be directly sown into your garden beds. You shouldn't try growing them from seedlings. This is because they resent being transplanted and won’t grow properly for you. Probably get stunted and funny shapes too.
  • The easiest way to sow carrots is to mix a packet of  seed with one cup of  river sand, pouring the contents into seed drills or just broadcasting them in 10 cm wide row.
  • Cover the seed with finely sieved compost or a drizzle of sugar cane mulch. 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; taking over 3 weeks.
  • Another tip:, add a packet of radishes. These germinate 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, when they have 4 little leaves.
  • Carrots need about 5cm between plants so they can grow the root without pushing onto other carrots, otherwise you will get stunted growth.
  • Watering is fairly particular for carrots.
  • Too much water and the roots might crack so only give carrots small amounts in the first eight weeks of growth.
  • If the soil dries out near harvest time ,you can water more heavily then.
  • How do you know when they’re ready?
  • In & Around the Garden in Late July
  • The good thing about carrots is that you can pick them at whatever size you want them and they’ll still taste good.
  • Carrots usually need 4-5 months to grow to their full size, so if you’ve forgotten how long they’ve been there, scratch away the soil surface to see how wide the carrots have grown.
  • When they’re ready to pick, use a garden fork to lift them gently out of the ground so the roots don’t snap.
  • Here are some varieties to get you interested;
  • All Seasons mainly for Queensland and NSW,  and
  • Royal Chantenay suits heavy soils, both need 10-11 weeks.
  • Carrots Little Fingers-are sweet baby carrots about 10cm long-8weeks.
  • New Kuroda is heat tolerant and grows to 18cm long and another one for pots Chantenay Red-Cored with the shortest root, orange-red colour through-out, sweet and tender. Suited to heavy soils. 7-10 weeks.
  • Round and short varieties can be grown in planters or pots,  but the long types need about 20cm of soil depth in the open garden.
Why Carrots Are Good To Eat
Carrots are the reason why the whole family of brightly coloured compounds in foods are called carotenoids – they’re such a rich source, especially of beta carotene.
Our bodies can convert beta carotene to vitamin A.
With many vegetables cooking destroys some of their vitamins, but you can absorb more beta carotene from cooked carrots than from raw ones. If you prefer to eat carrots raw, that’s fine because even one carrot has two day’s supply of beta carotene.
Baby carrots have even higher levels.
 Carrots are sweet because they have some natural sugars, but younger carrots have more folate, one of the B vitamins
Carrots are also good source of dietary fibre
100g carrots has 130 kJ

If you have any questions about growing carrots just email

Design Elements:

with landscape Designer Louise McDaid
pH is a soil indicator and mostly we don’t need to worry about it until the leaves of the plants don’t look like they’re supposed to, that is all green.
But instead, they start having darker veins, while the rest of the leaf can turn almost white.

I’ve been told by some gardening radio presenters that testing soil pH is only for the really expert gardener.
Everyone else would find it all too hard.
But I think it’s a load of old cobblers because if can teach year 9 students how to do it in a lesson at the Botanic gardens, so can anybody.
So there’s no excuse in finding out what pH your soil really has.Let’s find out how to garden with this SOIL profile in garden?

The pH scale is logarithmic. What that means is if you go from pH 6 to pH 7, you changed the soil acidity by 10 times the amount!
If you go from ph 5 to pH 7 you changed it by 100 times and if you go from pH 4 to pH 7 it’s a 1000 times difference. That’s a lot of difference.
If you’re having trouble with growing plants, leaves don’t look the right colour, or the plant’s not growing, chances are your soil’s pH is not right.

Plant of the Week:

I been to English gardens where the Rhododendrons were as big as really big fig trees and hundreds of years old. They still were flowering with huge flowers all over the plant.Of course England has just the right climate for those types of Rhododendrons, but we’ve got a couple of our own as well to suit our soil and climate.
Dendron of course is ancient Greek for tree, and  Rhodo is ancient greek for rose.It’s no surprise that gardeners love Rhododendrons because they give structure , height and provide a mass of flowers.
(I’m including a native one R. Viriosum-rare but obtainable from the Royal Botani Gardens, Sydney Growing Friends Plant nursery)
Before gardeners in warm areas go, I can’t grow Rhododendrons, I’m here to tell you that there are tropical Rhododendrons.
 The vireya rhododendrons originate in cooler mountain forests, from southeast Asia to New Guinea, with two native to northeast Queensland.
These high-altitude plants are becoming popular as new hybrids have greatly improved their habit and floral abundance.
Even though they come from the tropics vireyas can be grown as far south as Tasmania, as long as they can be protected from frost - plant them under evergreen trees or under the eaves of a building.

Many vireya species are tree-dwelling epiphytes, which make them ideal for growing in hanging baskets.
Did you know the first rhododendron society was established in Victoria in 1960
This society has their own garden at Ferny Creek on Mount Dandenong east of Melbourne). Today there are Australia Rhododendron Society has Branches also in South Australia, New South Wales, Southern Tasmania and North West Tasmania (the Emu Valley Rhododendron Society Inc).
I’ve been to the one in S.A. in the Mt Lofty Ranges.
Rhododendrons is a large genus of more than 1,000 species and Australia has 2 of them.
The Australian Rhododendrons come for northern Qld, R. viriosum the more common of the two that I’ll mention here.
R.viriosum is a small shrub which, in nature clings to cliffs by sending roots down into crevices in the rocks. The species has also been described as growing as an epiphyte (ie. on trees).
The species has glossy, oval-shaped leaves about 75mm long. This plant has deep red, bell shaped flowers during spring and summer. The flowers are about 50mm long by 30mm across and occur in terminal clusters of up to six tubular flowers.

R.viriosum grows best in a moist, shaded, well drained position in temperate climates but can be difficult to maintain in tropical areas at low altitudes. It is damaged by frost.
The species also makes an excellent plant for growing in a container.
As it's not especially fast growing, it does not require annual re-potting.

 Propagation is relatively easy from cuttings.
Like all members of the Ericaceae, R.viriosum forms very fine roots which can be easily damaged on repotting.
Striking cuttings in individual small tubes is recommended. Sometimes plants in cultivation will set seed in small pods. The species can be propagated from seed using conventional seed raising methods.
Here is a massive tribe that also includes evergreen and deciduous azaleas and mountain-tropical vireya varieties.
November is also the best time of the year to carry out a whole range of maintenance jobs with rhododendrons.

Rhododendrons can be propagated by cuttings of new seasons growth (i.e. the growth that comes on after flowering) taken between Australia Day and Anzac Day. I guess with climate change this can be extended a few weeks right until the end of May.

Rhododendrons that come from Northern Europe don’t need much fertilising. This is one of the reasons they grow best in acid sandy soils enriched with organic matter - or well-drained loams.
Rhododendrons and azaleas detest clay, poor drainage, high-nitrogen fertilisers and alkaline soils.
That means  no lime, avoid artificial fertilisers and even go easy on the chook manure.
They need one good application of bulky animal manure every year, such as sheep or cow manures. These are high in organic matter and low in nutrients, but amazingly successful soil conditioners. Keep the stuff well clear of stems; otherwise it will rot the lower bark. Cover with a layer of peastraw or even pine-bark chips. If necessary water deeply.
The time to spread it around the plants is right is in mid-Spring
 Believe it or not, spring is also an ideal time of the year to transplant rhododendrons and azaleas, even while in flower.
 All have tight, compact root-balls which allow even large, old specimens to be safely lifted and moved to another site with minimum transplant shock.
If you’ve had a downpour of rain a few days before, then rush out and transplant them if that’s what you want.
The rain would keep the soil close to the rootball and protects the roots when you move the plant.
Most rhododendrons prefer a position where they receive plenty of morning sunlight and afternoon shade, or the dappled light beneath deciduous trees.
If in too much shade they won't flower.
 I’ve seen them clipped to shape, hedged and topiared. How do you grow your Rhododendrons? What’s your favourite Rhododendron flower?
Write in and let us know. We’d love to see a photo.

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