Sunday, 11 August 2013

Perma Gardening Good for the Earth

The Good Earth

Are you an accidental organic gardener? Turns out that you don’t have to be full on into permaculture to actually be following their ideas.
Did you know that permaculture is ‘eco-friendly’, organic, healthy and low maintenance?
I'm talking with Lucinda Coates and Margaret Mossakowska from Permaculture North.

Plus, if you just want to find more ways to be organic, just go along to some permaculture workshops.
To find out about a local permaculture group near you, go to and look up Our Social Network tab on the website.
There’s a permaculture association in just about every state.
For example in South Australia’s it’s for all across Victoria, and for 2UUU listeners there’s a permaculture shoalhaven network
For local listeners, go to
If you have a question about organic gardening or want to know where to find organic gardening workshops in your area, why not 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:


The answer to the question, what was grown in the Paris Catacombs before the Paris Metro was of course the Mushroom.
Not strictly a vegetable or a fruit, and not even a plant, but a fungi.
They also seem to have very different botanical or scinetific names.
Button mushrooms are Agaricus bisporus, various oyster mushrooms belong to the genus Pleurotus and shiitake mushrooms are Lentinula edodes.
Did you know that the body of the mushroom is mycelium which is microscopic, lives underground, in wood or another food source.
It’s when this mycelium has stored enough nutrients to give fruits, that we get those mushrooms that we see and we like to eat.
4,600 years ago, Egyptians believed that eating mushrooms gave you immortality so commoners weren’t allowed to eat mushrooms, only royalty. How thing’s have changed?

Some say that Louis XIV of France was the first mushroom grower in Europe but it’s more likely that it was a French botanist named Merchant, who in 1678 showed to the Academie des Sciences how mushrooms could be grown in a controlled way by transplanting their mycelia. (filaments which spread through the soil underneath them like fine roots)."
Speaking of tunnels, the first mushrooms grown commercially in Australia were grown in disused railway tunnels in Sydney in the 1930’s.
Later the mushrooms were grown in fields only covered with straw and hessian bags.
Listeners might remember buying mushrooms in cans because you couldn’t always get them fresh all year round like you can now.
Remember those cans of Champignons?
Today, Australians eat mostly fresh mushrooms because they’re available all year.
You can grow quite a lot more varieties at home, than just the plain white mushrooms.

Varieties You Can Grow:

There’s White Button, Chestnut button, Swiss Brown, Pearl Oyster, Pink Oyster. Golden Oyster, and Shitake to name a few.
I have grown white button Mushrooms in the past, and having seen different varieties being grown in Europe so I thought I’d explore some other varieties that can also be grown at home.
You may already know that the standard white button kit comes in a cardboard box with compost and casing material that you have to wet and put on top of the compost in the box.
The same goes for Chestnut button mushrooms.
Then there’s grow bags available from some garden centres and large retail outlets that sell Mushroom grow bags.
Mr Fothergills is releasing a new way of growing the other types of mushrooms in kit form this Spring.
Growing Mushrooms (Agaricus species) is easy if you stick to a few basic guidelines.

So how do you grow mushrooms from a kit?

Find somewhere indoors where there’s no wind or direct sunlight, better still if it’s a bit humid like your laundry.
Some people may have a big enough bathroom to put the kit in there!
A good idea is to keep your mushroom kit off the ground and out of the way of the family pet.
It’s not a good idea to grow deep your mushrooms deep inside a cupboard or pantry because the air is pretty dry, plus if you can’t see them, you might forget about them.
The standard kits contain a casing with mushroom spores that you spread over your mushroom compost. For this you need a spray bottle of water to keep the kit moist.
Now there’s a kit you can buy where the spores come in packets.
Some part of each mature mushroom produces microscopic spores that are similar to pollen or seeds.
You can either buy the mushroom boards that need to be soaked first in water, or you can spread the spores on your own board.
Another way is to use logs from almost any hardwood tree as long as it’s not a pine tree.
Two 15 x 40 cm logs are all you need.
What you need to do next is spread the spores over the wetted surface of one log, then place another log on top and tie them together to make a sort of mushroom spore sandwich.
Next, put the logs into a loosely tied plastic bag-so there’s some air circulation, and put this in a warm place.
Somewhere where the temperature doesn’t get below 160 C and above 250 C. In the house sounds best.
Leave this to incubate for 6-8 weeks.
According to Mr Fothergills instructions, the white mushroom mycelium should spread through the wood.

What does it look like?
Have you ever had a loaf of bread get the white woolly flour like mould grow on it before it turns green?
A bit like that, but woolly flour like mould should appear all over the logs or boards. Shitake mushrooms mould looks more of a reddish brown colour.
That actually makes sense, because if you’ve ever had a dead tree in your garden, have you ever noticed the fungus that grows out from the dead trunk as the wood decomposes?
The next step is take the logs out of the plastic bags and bury  three-quarters of the boards vertically, in the garden where it’s cold and damp.
The logs or boards aren’t that big so don’t worry, you don’t have to dig that big a hole.
That will kickstart the process of mushroom growing.
TIP:Water the logs regularly or else the mycelium will dry out.
Don’t panic if you haven’t got a spot in the garden, you can actually keep the boards in the bag but cut some holes in the bag and spray a couple of times a day.
Also keep a little bit of water in the bottom of the bag.
One more thing, to kickstart mushroom production, put the bag in the fridge for two days.

Why are they good for You?

Even though they’re in the vegetable aisle in the supermarket, mushrooms could be in with meat, beans or grains.
That’s because mushrooms contain 3.3g of protein for every 100g of mushrooms. About three button or one flat mushroom.
Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium.
One serve of mushrooms has 20% of your RDI of some of the important B group vitamins, as well as selenium, nearly as much potassium as in a banana, and vitamin D.
Yes you heard right, they’re the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources.
Mushrooms are also valuable source of dietary fibre: a 100g serving of mushrooms contains more dietary fibre (2.5g) than 100g of celery (1.8g) or a slice of wholemeal bread (2.0g

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
So you’ve cut out spraying with chemicals, you’re growing bird friendly plants, but what else can you do to make sure your garden is a haven for all sorts of wildlife? Let’s find out…

The key points were to seek out local plants and incorporate them into your garden somewhere.
Louise also mentioned that sometimes the local plants don’t always have great flowers, but you put them in with other natives or even exotics and build up a plant base that encourages biodiversity.
That way, you’re attracting good bugs, birds and reptiles into your garden that do some of the hard work in the garden for you.
Can’t have enough of those good bugs I say.
There’s a new product out, by the way, that’s not only a horticultural oil, but contains a good bug attractant which the company calls HIPPO.
Look out for it next time you go shopping if you have a pest outbreak.
It’s good because it’s organic.

Plant of the Week:

Anigozanthos flavidus: Kangaroo paws.

  These plants fit right into native gardens, but too often they get this black stuff on their leaves that just looks awful.
If you like Kangaroo Paws, you’ll want to hear all about how you control ink disease and the best way to look after them.

Kangaroo paws “Ruby Slippers,” sounds pretty nice, and if you like Anigozanthos or paws, go out and treat yourself to several of these plants.

I’ve erred on the side of “leave it til later for Kangaroo paws. Mainly because I don’t really like them.
I’ve tried to like the flowers, but something about Kangaroo paws just doesn’t say flowers to me.
I don’t understand the motivation behind wanting Kangaroo paws. But there you go.

To be fair, I’m going to talk about Kangaroo paws, or Anigozanthos, because I know there’s plenty of people out there that actually like them. Angus Stewart for one.
I know how to grow them and what to do about the dreaded ink disease.
I also know that the landscaping, larger cultivars do better in most people’s gardens.
Let’s get this over with shall we?

Trivia:Anigozanthos is Greek meaning uneven  flower, because the petals are arranged unevenly.
Anigozanthus or kangaroo paws are a rhizomatous evergreen perennial
Paws grow as a grassy like clump with strappy leaves with the flowers well above the foliage.
The flowers are tubular with the corolla and calyx fused. These are held up on tall woolly branched spikes.

To look after your Kangaroo Paws-just give them an open situation.
They’re fairly hardy but for disease resistance grow it in full sun and western sun.

Paws prefer well drained moist soils but tolerate sandy or clay soils, and even temporary inundation-ie long periods of rain, as long as it drains away over a few days.

Take off the flowers that have finished  as well as the leaves to minimise the spread of the dreaded ink disease. More on that later.


Divide your Kangaroo paws now-ie winter. Ablsolutely the best time to do this and do it every 3-4 years so they don’t get overcrowded. Good way to prevent disease taking hold.
Fertilise with ½ strength native fertiliser in Spring.


Anigozanthos rufus selection Cultivar Name Ruby Slippers
This cultivar is small, only growing to about 50 x 50 cm.
Grow it in pots where you can see it more often. Put it into a full sun or part shade position, but protect from frosts.
Massed rich red flowers clustered on red stems in late winter-spring with contrasting grey-green strappy leaves.
Climate Suited to cool temperate to arid climates
All Kangaroo paws are  fairly drought tolerant.


About that dreaded ink disease- is a fungus, and appears as large black blotches on the leaves. Plants growing in cool moist climates are more susceptible. Also plants growing in warm humid climates are susceptible.

If you’re growing some and don’t have the disease, please let us know, and the climate that your live in, plus the cultivar. Do everyone a favour.

 Ink disease is difficult to treat. Vigorously growing plants are more resistant and dividing clumps after several years helps to make more strong growth.
Slash the plant to rhizome level annually if you like, when they show signs of ink disease-ie blackening of the leaves.
In most cases get rid of the clumps of declining plants and plant new ones.
Happens more with the hybrid species.
Some disease resistant cultivars are also now available.

Larger cultivars can be cut back to the ground and the affected leaves put in the rubbish and not in the compost to prevent the spread of fungal spores.
You can also try spray with the fungicide, copper oxychloride, to stop the spread of the disease.

If you have this problem and you love Kangaroo paws, think of your paws as short-lived plants.
Kangaroo paws generally only last for 3 to 5 years.

Some types, for example, Anigozanthos manglesii, are best considered annuals.

TIP:Most species are dormant over winter (some die back completely) and it is important not to over-water at this time.
Attract honey eating birds-great for a native garden. Where in the winning garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show.
Just follow our tips on how to look after them, or write in or email us a question and we’ll help you with any problems you have with Kangaroo Paws.

1 comment:

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