Monday, 8 July 2013

Microbats and Natural Gardens

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 Katie Oxenham

They’re probably hibernating right now, and they’re definitely nothing to be scared of.
There’s too many myths and legends about bats of all kinds and mostly untrue and unkind.
The greatest harm to bats is not knowing  anything about them , and this creates fears and hatred towards them.
Some say, even possible extinction because they’re now regarded as a vulnerable species.
My brother in law has a sheep farm in South Australia and also has been planting plenty of trees on his property.
One day, he was leaning back on his kitchen chair having a morning cuppa when it seemed to squeak unnaturally. He leant forward and tried again, sqea- a- a k?
He turned around to find a microbat was hanging of the chair and he was nearly squashing it.
Being a friendly sort of fella, he put little batkins outside.
Let’s find out a bit more about these little creatures.

It’s not too early to be thinking of what you’re going to net your fruit trees with this spring and summer. If you can put your finger through any of the holes, then that net is dangerous to wildlife, not just bats of any size.
Birds and mammals can get hopelessly entangled in those larger holed nets and cause life threatening damage to their limbs, and wings.
Choose a fine mesh instead and makes sure the net is tied off at the bottom of the tree so they can’t get in from underneath.
Remember without bats that pollinate Australian trees, we’d have no trees and no Koalas.
If you do come across a distressed animal, contact your local wildlife service right away, and don’t try to handle the bird or animal.
For more information about Microbats see:
If you’ve got any questions tree netting, drop us a line. to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page, we’d love to hear from you.

Vegetable Heroes:

 Berries, in particular Youngberries just for something different.
Did you know that there are about twenty four varieties of blackberry around and youngberry is just one of those.
Yes, Youngberries are hybrid blackberries and were bred in Louisiana in America.
Youngberries are a complex hybrid between three different plants that belong in the Rosaceae or rose family.
This family not only has roses but  raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries and heaps more other berries.
Plants from the Rose family tend to have woody stems with thorns or prickles.
Berries belong within that rose family in the Rubus genus, because unlike the rose, which produce rose-hips, berries have a cluster or aggregate of drupelets. Rubus species or hybrids such as boysenberries and loganberries are also called "cane-fruit" because they’re generally grown with some sort of support such as wires or a trellis.
Raspberries aren’t in this group because of the way the fruit separates from the plug that attaches the fruit to the cane.
In Raspberries, the plug comes away, but in all others, the plug comes with the fruit when you pick it.
No surprise that it was a Mr. Byrnes M Young, who was a businessman by profession, but liked the plant sciences and dabbling with crossing plants, who actually produced the first Youngberry in 1905.
Young crossed an existing hybrid between a blackberry and a raspberry, to further cross it with a Dewberry. Voila! Youngberries!
I don’t suppose he named it after himself but he might’ve.

So what is a youngberry exactly?

Rubus ursinus hybrid is the scientific name.

Youngberry canes grow to 1 ½ metres and flower anytime between December and March.
According to Louise Glowinski in has book on fruit growing, Youngberries are a vigorous trailing cane that has excellent, sweet juicy fruit that turn black-purple when they’re ripe.
Great to use in jams or eat fresh.  How often do you see Youngberries at the supermarket?
Did you know that berries are sold as bare rootstock at this time of year?
That means you can buy all sorts of berries through mail order catalogs and online because with soil, they’re really light to transport to your door.
To grow any berries you must prepare the soil first by loosening it up and adding lots of compost. Either from your own compost heap or bought it,
The soil must be well drained, so for clay soils, build up a mound to plant your canes into.
All Blackberry hybrids, of which Youngberries is one like a slightly acidic soil of around pH 6-6.5.
If your soil is neutral pH add some spent or used coffee ground to the back fill which you can get for free from your local café if you ask.
Otherwise use Sulphur.
Youngberries grow in full sun or part shade.
Cane fruits suit most climates from cool temperate to sub-tropical.
Most other blackberry hybrids need a winter chilling before flowering will start, but Youngberries are more adaptable to warmer climates provided the winter months are cool.
They’re not too fussy except for hot dry winds which will damage any type of berry fruit. Grow a wind break if your area is prone to high winds.
All types of berries are gross feeders so they do need a lot of feeding in late Spring. Your choice, just lots of it.
If you’re in a sub-tropical climate, use heavy mulch with large stones so the roots experience cooler conditions.
Frosts are usually not a problem.
Pruning is important:
Pruning berries is important otherwise you might prune out those bits where you’re supposed to get fruit.
Young plants tend to produce a lot of canes which need thinning out. But as they mature, remove the last year's stems that fruited but keep the young canes. New canes that grew last year will frui this season for you.
 Tie these canes against some sort of trellis and cut off excess Any growth that’s a bit too long for your situation in the garden.
If you're not growing the berries on a trellis, simply tie them in bunches of about 8 (select the thickest canes) and chop them off at about 170-80 cm so they're not too unmanageable
Actually pruning off the ends of each runner will make the vine grow laterals .Flowers and fruit come on the laterals.
This tip I gleaned from the Department of Ag in Victoria and it’s about the oldest method of trellising the more flexible varieties, like Youngberries, using the rope method.
To do this you have to grab all new canes as a bundle and wind them around a single wire about 1.or 1 1/4 m above the ground level.
The bundle is then wound in one direction only until it just passes the point where the next plant begins.
The remaining cane is pruned off, and the next bundle of canes is wound over the last to prevent unwinding.
If you have only one plant you might just have to tie it off with some twine so it doesn’t unravel.
The only downside is you’ll get slightly reduced fruiting because some buds that are inside the bundle won’t flower.
Nifty idea!
TIP: It takes about three years for the plant to mature, so don’t worry  about if your fruit supply isn’t that great at first. Certainly, don’t prune it in the first year.
Where do you get it?
Why is it good for you?
Youngberries are rich in vitamin C, A, E and dietary fibre. They also contain calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Pectin in the fruit helps lower LDL cholesterol

Design Elements

Louise Mc Daid
What is a natural garden?
It's not about letting the weeds take over! In England, a lot of gardens that I visited had a natural element to them where plants where combined in an informal way to create natural meadow borders
There, the idea is becoming increasingly popular. It means using plants that attract wildlife, combined with not using pesticides.
The result is a supposed to mean a natural balance and the well tended estate gardens that I saw it worked very well.
It also means it can go pear shaped if you’re not too careful and haven’t planted things that work well together.
Let’s look at what can go wrong and how to fix it in part one of a natural garden….Let’s find out about some of these now?

Lots of small steps can take us a long way towards helping garden wildlife.
Things like make a log shelter for our reptiles, building a pond to attract frogs, create a compost or start a worm far.
All these things , as well as plants, belong in a natural garden, although not as features.
In England, Scientists are investigating how native and non-native plants affect garden biodiversity in a three-year study project called Plants for Bugs.
Will a project like that start in Australia too?
My guess, is that a lot of creatures have adapted in some small way to the exotic plants we have in our garden too.

Plant of the Week:

Macadamia Lots o Nuts-Macadamia integrifolia selection

Nuts are good for our health, lower cholesterol and are low in carbs.
Think of the creamy texture and delicious taste when you eat Macadamia nuts. You can have this all in your own backyard if you plant this new release, smaller version of the Macadamia tree.
Think about it, a Macadamia tree growing in your garden. 


Macadamia integrifolia and M tetraphylla are two recognised cultivars of this nut tree in the Proteaceae family.

They will grow and fruit as far south as Melbourne, so are extremely hardy.
I have a mature Macadamia tree- Macadamia tetraphylla H2. It’s a grafted tree and about 15 years old.  Being grafted it will eventually get to 10 metres
My tree didn’t start fruiting until it reached 6 years of age. Seed grown Macadamias take even longer, so be prepared to wait for your nuts.
Boy o Boy, as my father used to say, does it fruit. I have kilos of the nuts every year. More on that later.
By the way, M tetraphylla cultivar grows best in southern parts of Australia, and M. integrifolia in the northern parts. If grown from seed, they will be a big tree, about 15 metres.
Macadamia trees have large glossy evergreen leaves, the margins or edges of which are wavy and spiny. Not unlike, but nowhere near as prickly as holly leaves.
M. tetraphylla has pink flowers and M integrifolia has cream flowers. New growth is pale green on M integrifolia and pink on M tetraphylla.

The flowers are very attracting, hanging down below the canopy in long narrow racemes, at least 15-20cm long.
Bees and especially native bees are the best pollinators of this tree.

After this, and it takes quite some time as you go further south of Brisbane, the nuts start to form, and should begin to drop around March.
If the tree experiences water stress, the nuts will drop earlier, and they’ll be too small for doing anything with really. This gets worse as temperatures rise above 300C.
Both types of Macadamias are pretty adaptable to most soils, and will tolerate part shade.

When you start of a young tree, keep it well water, as they get more water stressed than Avocados and Citrus.

As for the nuts, they have two shells, the outer green shell splits when ready to reveal the inner hard brown shell. You will need to buy a special device to crack them, or the trusty hammer on a rock with a hollow to rest the nut is OK too.

Macadamia Lots o Nuts-Macadamia integrifolia selection-but let’s talk about this new variety.

 A large dense shrub or small tree, with attractive foliage, and pendulous perfumed cream flowers in spring, followed by delicious edible nuts.

Suited to cool temperate to tropical climates, in well drained moist humus-rich clay or loamy soils, neutral to acid pH. A multi-purpose plant for screening or hedging. Prune to shape as required, and feed with low phosphorus native fertilizer early spring or late summer.

The breeders of this plant recommend that you feed with low phosphorus native fertilizer early spring or late summer.
However, I have always fed my tree with Citrus fertiliser with great results. In fact that is the recommendation in the Louis Glowinski book about growing fruit., called the Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia.

Why are Macadamias good for you?

If you want to lower your cholesterol, eating 6 – 10 Macadamias a day may lower your cholesterol by 5% in a few weeks.

Macadamia nuts like all non-animal foods contain no cholesterol. But they are remarkable in the fact that their fat contains over 86% monounsaturated fatty acids. The average macadamia nut will also add about 18 calories to your diet, so don’t overdo the nuts.

If you have any questions about growing Macadamias, write in and ask.

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