Thursday, 6 June 2013

Greys and Reds 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

Wildlife in Focus

with ecologist Sue Stevens

Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) A habitat is where a bird or animal lives. They make nests and get comfy in their homes.
This cutest of little birds makes a nest in trees or shrubs. The nest is made out of Fibres, Moss, Bark and Hair. You will normally find their nests in native trees. Let’s find out what this cute little bird is all about….

The fantail eats a strict diet of…….. Insects, only the finest! Of Course! Spiders, only the juiciest! Why not?
A fantail catches its food by hawking like a hawk.
Let me know if you’ve seen a grey fantail and where. Perhaps send 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.

Vegetable Heroes

Garlic-Allium sativum comes from the Onion family. Alliaceae
Legends convinced people that there were certain things over which vampires had no power, and garlic was one of them. This was the case only in European and American folklore.
Did you know that eating garlic helps keeps mosquitos away.
There’s even a fact sheet from the DPI about growing garlic There’s also a website of the devoted entirely to garlic growing in Australia.
Garlic is thought not to have evolved in the wild but from cultivated Allium longicupis or Wild Garlic, which grows naturally in central Asia.

It was thought that hanging garlic bulbs on doors would check the spread of diseases such as smallpox. I think this was mistaken for what the London College of Physicians recommended garlic during the great plague in 1665.
In 1858, Louis Pasteur, showed that garlic could kill infectious germs. Garlic was used during World War I to treat battle wounds and to cure dysentery. During World War II, garlic was known as "Russian penicillin" because it was so effective in treating wound infections when there weren’t enough antibiotics to go around.
Sow direct in garden where they are to grow.
Garlic grows best on fertile, well-drained, loamy soils, but any soil suitable for onions is good enough for Garlic.
Find a warm sunny position is all you need to get garlic to grow.
 If you want to, you can check your soil pH –anywhere in the range 5.5 to 7.0.
Garlic grows best when the temperature is between 13º to 24ºC, that’s why Garlic is best planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest").
When to Plant:
You can plant Garlic blubs now in all districts of Australia, including cool temperate. For temperate districts, April to June, Arid areas, you’ve got from April to July, and tropical and sub-tropical zones, from May until July.
For cool districts, you’re right on the edge of when you can plant, so don’t delay, plant today.
Plant the cloves after separating them from the bulb, point upwards, deep enough to just cover with soil.
How to Plant:
When you plant the cloves, don't plant too deeply otherwise they will rot off.
Plant them so the tops of the bulbs are just below the surface. and about 8 cm apart with the point end facing up.
Garlic usually takes about 17-25 weeks. 4-6 months to mature.
How do you can tell when it’s time to dig up the garlic bulbs?
You’ll see the leaves or stalks would’ve flopped over and turned brown.
Give them plenty of water, (especially in spring).
Also fertilise them, 2 or 3 times throughout the growing season.
Some young shoots can be cut off for a garnish. Some people even harvest young garlic and eat the 'green' garlic leaves and all.
Reduce water at end of Spring (4 weeks prior to harvesting). (Well, we're a bit late, so it might be end of December for us.)
When they are ready to be dug up, ease bulbs out with a fork, careful not to damage bulbs because these won't store well. May go a bit mouldy.
 If the weather’s sunny, let them dry in the sun for a few days.
Hang to dry for 4 weeks in a warm place with good ventilation. Store in a cool airy place. This will prevent the bulbs from rotting.
Garlic is a fairly tough and easy-growing plant.
On better soil with regular watering you’ll get a better crop.
On poorer soil, and forgetting to water them, you will still get some garlic, only not quite so much.
Leave a garlic to go to seed, and you will probably get plenty of self-sown plants the following year. I’ve done that mainly because I forgot where I planted them in the garden.
Cloves that haven’t been treated can be saved and planted in the garden.
Remember most garlic in supermarkets comes from China and has been sprayed with Methyl Bromide in quarantine.
You can buy Garlic from online suppliers or from organic suppliers. Remember that garlic plants will grow to be 2/3m and more tall.

Types of Garlic
Like onions, there are early, mid season and late varieties available.
There are softneck and hardneck varieties. Softnecks are the most common garlics grown, and are the ones found in supermarkets. Softneck garlick usually doesn’t have a flowerhead and have a longer shelf life (up to 9 months).There’s one called “Italian White” that’s available online.
Monaro purple, and Rocambole- are Hardnecks variety and these do have flowerheads like onions, and usually bigger cloves. They don’t have as good a shelf life as the softnecks and prefer cooler winters.
Rocamboles have great flavour, glamorous red-purple skins and are easily peeled, single circle of 6-12 plump cloves.
An artichoke type has cloves that overlap each other like an artichoke. There can be 3 or 4 layers. Buy this one from a Victorian company in
There is also the extra large garlic called Elephant or Giant Russian garlic and has a milder flavour but is great for roasting. This is actually a type of leek that you can get these from some markets that are around or from an online bulb
Why is it good for you?
If you eat only small amounts of garlic – like 1-2 cloves in the family dinner, you won’t get that many nutrients, but if you eat lots of garlic, like they do in Italy, Korea and China, where a garlic-rich diet seems to be protective against disease, people there eat as much as eight to 12 cloves per day; then you’ll get  lots of dietary fibre, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamin C.
While that sounds like a lot of garlic, increasing the amount  you eat to five or more cloves a day isn’t hard if you use it every time you cook.  Include garlic in soups, casseroles, even mashed potatoes.
You could also make a habit of snacking on garlicky dishes like hummus with vegetables.
TIP:Many home chefs mistakenly cook garlic immediately after crushing or chopping it, but to maximize the health benefits, you should crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. That triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic.
 If you have any questions about growing garlic or any other vegetable,

Design Elements:

with Garden Designer Lesley Simpson

Older federation gardens knew their shrubs. You might know of a garden with some large shrubs, probably a bit unkempt now, that you’ve wondered about?Some of them have gone out of favour for no other reason other than fashion or fads. Yes, it happens a lot in garden design. We seem to be asking for new releases every year. It doesn’t hurt to look backwards sometimes to examine old favourites.Let’s find out about some of these now?

Of all the old fashioned shrubs, Chinese Fringe Flower, with it’s dark purple leaves, and Rondeletia, with the large pink waxy cluster of perfumed flowers are my favourites. You can still buy them, but may need a bit of searching or asking around. Maybe even mail order.

Plant of the Week

Last week, we featured winter flowering Grevilleas, today, still on natives.
Tried and true might be a good idea for some gardens and gardeners, and yes, those plants have  their place.
Then comes along a new release that makes one of the tried, but not necessarily hardy plants need to be referred to the back bench.

Callistemon viminalis Red Alert™ is a compact Callistemon with vivid red foliage for 2 months in autumn and 2 months in spring, and lighter new growth foliage in other months.
Red Alert™ will grow2-2.4m high x 1.5-2m wide unpruned and 50cm-2m high x 40cm-1.5m wide when pruned.

Perfect as a hedge or specimen shrub.

Like all Callistemons or Bottlebrushes, plant them in full sun to part shade.
Callistemons can cope with pretty much most soil types.
they're tough and drought tolerant.
Certainly more drought tough and frost tolerant compared to exotic Photinia.
As with all newly planted shrubs or trees or anything really-water well until established and prune after red new growth in autumn and spring.
what's good about this new bottlebrush?
Callistemon "Red Alert" is a compact Callistemon with beautiful red new growth; low maintenance and an alternative to exotic Photinia
Needs less pruning to establish a hedge .
Red Alert is a unique Australian Bottle Brush with vivid red new foliage growth.
There are other varieties that have new red toned foliage growth like Callistemon "Great Balls of Fire," but not quite as red. I would say Great Balls of Fire's new growth is more of a dark pink or Salmon Pink.

It is more drought tough, very frost tolerant, and has longer periods of red new growth compared to Photinia.
Expect it to have a maximum height of 2-2.4 metres after 6 to 8 years, which is significantly
Callistemons are generally less prone to drought stress, particularly when first
planted. An alternative suggestion for a windbreak or for windy situations .
Not all formal gardens have to be exotics. Need a new hedge? Plant this one-Callistemon viminalis Red Alert is compact with deep red leaves., not only is it native, stays red longer, but needs less pruning to turn it into a hedge.

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