Thursday, 13 June 2013

Honeycombs and Banksias

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

  • Ever thought of keeping a beehive?
  • Maybe some listeners do just that.
  • Did you know that commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) are not native to Australia. They were introduced from Europe in about 1822.
  • I bet you didn’t know that Australia has over 1,500 species of “true Blue” Aussie native bees, some of which don’t sting.
Let’s find out if keeping native bees is for you….

You can buy a box of native stingless bees to put into your backyard. Native bees are great for gardeners or nature lovers. They’ll help pollinate your plants-well of course but best of all they’re stingless.Stingless bees are only for the warmer parts of Australia that includes all across the top end and down to the coastal areas of NSW around Bega.If you’re in other states listening to this you’ll have to give your stingless hive artificial support in the form of heat.Find out more at
If you keep bees, any bees, not just native bees, drop us a line, 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 or some seeds, in return.

Vegetable Heroes

MUSTARD Greens or Mustard Lettuce
  • The mustard plant comes from the Brassica family and is called Brassica juncea. They’re in the same family as those Mustard plants that are grown mainly for their seeds to be used in the condiment Mustard.
  • Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan region of India and have been grown and eaten for more than 5,000 years.
  • Mustard greens feature in many different cuisines, ranging from Chinese to Southern American.
  • In Russia this is the main variety grown for production of mustard oil, which after refining is considered one of the best vegetable oils around and is widely used in canning, baking and margarine production; and the majority of table mustard there is also made from this species of mustard plant.
  • They’re not called Mustard greens for nothing, because you can use them in place of that Mustard out of a jar because they have that peppery, and zesty flavour that’s really like the real deal mustard.
  • All members of the Brassica juncea species have colourful large leaves that vary in colour from red through to lime green.
  • Did you know that Mustard greens are called Sarson ka saag in Hindi. They’re also called Indian mustard, Chinese mustard or just leaf Mustard.
  • One of the mustard plant facts is that it loves cold.
  • I have some popping up around my garden at the moment, not too many to make them a nuisance but enough for me to not have to save the seeds.
  • They grow to about 50 – 70 cm high, around knee height and don’t really mind what soil they grow in.
  • I think the variety I have is Red Giant. Red Giant has deep purplish-red, large, Savoy leaves with white mid-ribs. The thick leaves have a spicy, pungent flavour and are excellent for adding to sandwiches with ham or other meats.
  • Mustard plants are easy, fast growing cool weather crop with leaves that are great raw, in sandwiches,  in salads, or as a cooked greens.
When to Sow
  • In tropical and sub-tropical, temperate and cool temperate areas you can grow them all year round, perhaps not in full sun in the hotter areas. In arid areas you can grow them between April and August.
  • Mustard greens are grown like lettuce. It’s more heat tolerant than lettuce, but long hot summer days will force the plant to bolt (go to seed).
  • Mine self sow and start coming up at the end of April.
  • You can also grow them as a green manure crop. Just dig them in when they get quite big but before they flower.
  • If grown as a green manure, the mustard plants are cut down at the base when big enough, and left on the surface, acting as a mulch until you want to plant something else. That’s when you dig in the leaves.
  • Mustard green provide a lot of green matter that improves soil texture and soil water retention, or as scientists call it, water holding capacity.
  • Where to get the seed? If you’re wonder where to get the seed varieties like Red Giant, or Ruby Streak and Golden streaks that have finely serrated leaves, you can easily get them from online suppliers, www.,au
  • Another way is to buy seedlings. I bought my seedlings a couple of years ago from a market stall at an organic market in the inner west.
  • Sow mustard seeds 5-10mm deep, and 25cm apart. They prefer full sun. and cool weather, so leave the middle of the summer for the heat loving vegetables.
  • Mustard plants grow well in most good garden soils.
  • If you plant some seeds a week apart, you’ll get Mustard greens all winter.
  • Like all greens, Mustard plants should be grown quickly.
  • Use plenty of water, and lots of fertilizer so they’ll grow fast to give you tender, green leaves.
  • For winter crops soluble fertilisers are the way to go because organic ferts won’t break down much in cold weather
  • In some districts, winter can be a dry affair, so don’t forget to water your greens.
  • Mustard greens are eaten raw, or cooked.
  • Picking the leaves when they’re still quite small is the tastiest way to enjoy your Mustard greens. Leaves get tough and have a strong flavour as they get bigger, especially during hot, dry weather.
  • You can pick off one or two leaves at a time, or the entire plant.
  • Leaf mustards add zest to a salad mix;
  • If you actually want the seeds themselves, Mustard seeds should be picked when the plants begin to yellow. You want to leave them on the plants as long as possible, but before the pods burst open and spill their seeds. That’s why I’ve got hundreds of the little seedlings all over my veggie bed.
  • Keep the plants well weeded, so weeds do not compete for water and nutrients. It makes picking the leaves easier, too.
  • The leaves should be ready by 6-7 weeks
    • By the way, beneficial insects like lacewings and Predatory wasp,  like the flowers of mustard plants.
  • Mildews can affect the plant especially when they get older.
  • Keep your plants growing fast and healthy plants, so they’ll be less susceptible to disease.
  • Allow proper spacing to increase air circulation. Avoid watering towards evening.
  • Why Are They Good For You?
  • Mustard leaves are good for your health because they have a great ability to lower cholesterol. Even better than collard greens and kale.
  • They’re low in calories and carbs, yet high in vitamins.
  • At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups

Design Elements

Reviewing Perennials
Do you know the difference between an annual and a perennial plant?
Annuals grow, flower and set seed in less than a year.
Perennials, are those plants that are way smaller than most shrubs, but they flower and set seed over a number of years.
Let’s find out about some of these now?


Perennials add that extra layer to your garden without which, just having trees and shrubs would be just two dimensional.
They come in so many colours, shapes and sizes, you’re really spoilt for choice. Your nursery in your local area will have the ones the grow best in your area, and probably can get in ones that you’re really after. I don’t mean those large conglomerate chains that all sell the same thing either.
You can perennial plants through mail order catalogs, and online as well as from your local nursery.

Plant of the Week:

Banksia ericifolia subspecies Macrantha;Family: Proteaceae
  • Do the two Banksias, Heath Banksia or Banskia ericifolia and Banksia spinulosa (pictured below)always have you beat?
  • For whatever reason do you get the leaf shapes mixed up between the two so when it comes to identifying them when out on a bushwalk, you’re talking a guess?
  • Compare the two photos. The one with golden coloured flowers is Banksia spinulosa or Hairpin Banksia. The leaves are wider and have turned under margins.
  • Banksia ericiolia or Heath Banksia, has needle like leaves, pictured with the reddish brown flowers with the red pollen presenters.


Banksia ericifolia subspecies Macrantha, is a compact shrub up to 5 m high, but the leaves are more crowded, the individual flowers are larger and the flower colour is often darker.
Banksia ericifolia
This subspecies of the Heath Banksia occurs in coastal heaths of the north and mid-north coast of New South Wales where the water table is seasonally high.
Heath Bankisas make a good windbreak or screen plant and can withstand a considerable amount of salt spray. The dense foliage and nectar-rich flowers make it an excellent choice for attracting both insectivorous and honey-eating birds. It prefers well-drained soil and would make a useful and decorative addition to a large garden.

Both varieties of Banksia ericifolia are medium to large shrubs with narrow , linear leaves to about 15 mm long. The flower spikes are 80 - 110 mm wide, up to 500 - 600 mm long and usually orange in colour, although there is a form with maroon flowers in cultivation and another with whitish flowers with red styles. B.ericifolia is one of a group of banksias with "hooked" styles projecting from the axis of the flower spike. The flowers occur in autumn and winter and are followed by woody seed-bearing cones.
B.ericifolia is fire-sensitive in that it does not have a lignotuber for vegetative regeneration after bushfires. The species relies on seed for regeneration - seeds are retained in the cones for many years and are released by the heat of a fire.
Banksias prefer acid soils, that aren't too heavy and are well drained. They will grow in full sun or semi shade and are one of the best plants for attracting honey-eating birds.
Fertilisers with a phosphorus component of more than 1,2 from the NPK ratio, should be avoided.

Propagation from seed or cuttings is relatively easy.
TIP:Remember Heath Banksia has needle like leaves that remind me of the herb Rosemary in a way, and Banksia spinulosa or Hairpin Banksia has slight wider leaves that are rolled under on the margins. You’ll have to take a closer look but you don’t need a hand lens.
Let me know how you go with identifying the two plants. If you need any help, send in a photo and I’ll identify it for you.

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