Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Bird with One Note Visits 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 the 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
If I said to you there is a group of birds that belong to Megaphidae, would you think that meant that had something big about them? Mega after sounds big.
In fact, this rather imposing name simply means that this group of birds belongs to honeyeaters.
One of the smallest of these honey-eaters sings with one note when it’s perched, and only twitters when it’s flying.
Let’s find out a bit more about the bird with one note.

Louise who lives in the lower Blue Mountains, wrote in to say that this bird with one note, visits Louise’s garden quite regularly, around 8am in the morning and again in the afternoon around 3pm.
But, being a small bird, she hasn’t been able to spot it.
Did you know that many honeyeaters have is a distinctive brush-tipped tongue, which varies by species in length and is specially adapted to soak up liquids.
These birds lap nectar from flowers much as cats lap milk from a dish, although the birds' lapping movements are much faster.
When the liquid-moistened brush is pulled back into the bird's mouth, the brush is squeezed against the upper mandible to push all fluid out so the bird can swallow it.
If you’ve seen this bird, taken a photo, or want to know more about it, 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

This weeks Vegetable Hero is the Capsicum or botanically-Caspicum annuum or Bell Pepper if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere. And Pimento if you’re from Spain.
Capsicums are from the Solanaceae family, with tomatoes and eggplants.
The name probably was derived from the Greek word kapto,  which means to "to bite" or "to swallow."
Just like the tomato, capsicums are botanically fruits, but are generally considered in cooking and eating to be vegetables.
Did you know that fossilized grains of Capsicums were found on grinding stones and cooking pots used in the Americas some 4000 years ago? (that’s Mexico, Central America and northern South America,) Christopher Columbus of course was mostly responsible for exporting capsicums, along with potatoes to the rest of the world in the 1400’s.
There are 30 species of capsicum in the world, but only five of these have been domesticated.
All of these wild capsicums still grow in the wild mainly in South America, such as in Brazil.
Just recently two new capsicum species were discovered in Bolivia so discovering diversity is an on-going task.
Why are we talking about capsicums in the middle of winter?
  • Capsicums take ages to grow so we need to give a good head-start.
  • If you live in temperate zones around Australia, zones you have from August  until the end of December to sow the seeds of capsicums because of the long lead up time before the capsicum is ready to eat.
  • If you live in cool temperate districts, September until November, are the times you start you capsicums from seed, preferably undercover somewhere.In arid areas, September is a good time to sow the seeds under cover, but from then on you can plant them directly into the ground right until next April.
  • In warmer sub-tropical and tropical areas, you can sow Capsicums almost all year, from June until next March.
  • Did you know that commercial growers can either buy in seedlings or sow seed. Container-grown seedlings from commercial nurseries cost about $90 per thousand plus the cost of the seed, especially for new hybrid varieties may be up to $9000 per kilogram.
  • All capsicum seeds need higher temperatures than tomatoes to germinate-in the 230C to 280C range.
  • Capsicum seeds can be a difficult seed germinate, and seedlings grow slowly. The other drawback is that it takes 70-90 days or 2 1/2 to 3 months for your capsicum to mature, depending on the variety you’re growing.

The colour can be green, red, yellow, orange and more rarely, white and purple or chocolate brown, depending on when they are harvested and the specific cultivar. Green capsicums are less sweet and slightly more bitter than red, yellow or orange ones.
The sweetest capsicums are those that have been allowed to ripen fully on the plant in full sunshine, while those that are picked when green and ripened in storage are less sweet.
After you get your seedlings going, pick a spot in the got that is the hottest-with the longest hours of sunshine.
Do the usual by, adding plenty of compost, manure, and a general fertilizer.

When to Plant:

  • In cooler districts, transplant young seedlings outdoors after the last chance of frost.
  • If the weather is still cool, delay transplanting a few days, and keep them in a cold-frame, indoors or next to the house.
  • Capsicums don’t like to dry out and actually prefer moist but not wet soil. It might not seem important now, but months down the track, water regularly as the weather warms up..
  • When your capsicum plants start to get bigger and small flowers appear, switch over to a fertilizer higher in Phosphorous and Potassium.
  • Something like tomato feed should do the trick.
  • You don’t want just all bush and no plants do you?
 Tip:Capsicums are self pollinators.
Occasionally, they will cross pollinate from pollen carried by bees or other insects.
If you don’t want hot capsicums, don't plant hot chillies too close.
Don't worry though, as it will not affect the fruit of this year's crop.
The cross will show up in the genetics of the seeds, if you save them. Capsicums and chilli peppers are almost identical except for the level of Capsaicin which gives chillies and some peppers that “hot”sensation.
Why are they good for you?
Red capsicums have very high levels of vitamin C - 1 capsicum has enough vitamin C to meet the daily needs of 10 people and yellow and green capsicums have nearly as much.
Did you know that compared to green peppers, red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. 
Red capsicums are also rich in beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A, vitamin E and a good source of folate (one of the B vitamins).
One red capsicum contains almost the equivalent of almost 2 teaspoons of natural sugar, which is why it tastes so sweet and delicious.
Yellow capsicums are sweet with natural sugars too, but green capsicums have much less sugar, so they’re a little more bitter.
But wait-What’s eating your plants?
Several insects enjoy your capsicums plants. Spider mites and aphids are the most common. You’ll know when these have been around because the leaves of the capsicum will become deformed. Generally that’s too late to spray with anything.
You can spray early on with an organic oil spray or one that contains potassium soap.
If you get holes in the leaves, it may be small snails, or even loopers.
Snails don’t like copper sprays, but only spray if you have an infestation, otherwise just pick off the snails.
For loopers,-that’s the young of a brown night time moth, use a product that contains Neem oil.
It’s safe, it’s organic and it’s made in Australia. Eco Organic Garden Neem Oil.
You can also use products that contain Spinosad, and potassium soap against these loopers.
Yates Success contains spinosad, 
Yates Natrasoap is good for chewing insects too.

Design Elements

with landscape Designer Louise McDaid
When you look at your garden, can you see the wood for the trees?
Have the trees and shrubs taken over?
This problem seem to sneak up on us, and before we know it, there’s too much shade, and you’ve lost a lot niceness about your garden that you started with.
But before you get out those loppers yourself, take a step back and listen to this.
Before you go out into the garden, remember lopping big branches is really a job for the experts.
The branch is always heavier than you thought it was, and has a habit of falling in a different direction to what you had planned.
Not to mention that getting up ladders with loppers and side cutters is quite dangerous.

Plant of the Week:

Pieris japonica -this plant might also be known as Lilly of the Valley shrub, but I personally haven’t heard it called that, but it does have Lilly of the Valley type of flowers.
From the Ericaceae family, together with Azaleas and Rhododendrons, but the flowers are very different.
Pieris are compact evergreen shrubs with leathery, dark green leaves, often brightly coloured when young, and small white urn-shaped flowers in panicles in spring.

If you hanker after lilly of the valley type of flowers but can’t grow the Lilly of the valley bulb, then this shrub fits the bill.
But there’s a surprise in store when it comes to colour.
Not just those lovely creamy waxy flowers, there’s a new colour out to fit other colour schemes.
Plant a Pieris or Lilly of the Valley shrub along with Hostas, epimediums and ferns as partners, oh and of course, Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Camellias.
Pieris Japonica “Flamingo”
Pieris japonica Flamingo is a superb neat and compact evergreen shrub that is covered in dark pink bell shaped flowers, that fade with age, from late winter through to early spring. 
New growth comes out bronze and turns dark green.
Growing Conditions for all Pieris cultivars.
Grow these plants in -Cool, Temperate, Arid, Semi-arid, Mild Tropical, Tropical Climate
Pieris like a full sun to part shade position in cool temperate districts.
A full sun position will yield more flowers but that’s only for cool temperate districts.

Choose a shady location in temperate to tropical areas, because the leaves burn easily in temperatures over 300 degrees C.
These plants grow well in acidic, moderately fertile, humus-rich soil but may need some protection in winter when young.
All Pieris are frost hardy when established.
 Pieris are low maintenance, and relatively pest free.
They can get white wax scale on their limbs.
Just rub these pests off with your fingers. 
Grows 1.8-2m high x 1m wide

Pruning Pieris is almost never needed.
Once established, most evergreen shrubs are fairly low maintenance and need little or no regular pruning.
Pruning, when you need to take out some foliage to shape it to your liking,  is generally carried out in mid to late spring.
Avoid hot locations as the leaves will burn at temperatures above 300 C

If you’ve got a Pieris in your garden and it’s not flowering for you, a common problem is too much shade, planted too deeply (believe it or not, this happens a bit too often), or allowed to dry out too much in late summer/early autumn when the buds set.

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