Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bird Watching 101

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.
Have you wondered what is that bird, that you’ve just spotted in your garden or on your daily walk?
Birds are active, and energetic and you need practise to develop a quick eye that helps you with identification.
The obstacles are many—the light may be dim, you could have the sun in your eyes, or the bird may dive into a bush.
So to stand the best chance of landing a name for a bird, you'll want to know what to look for—what matters most and how to spend your precious viewing time.
But is that all there is to it?

Click here to
Listen to this episode
Identifying a bird can be quite difficult if not a bit of a challenge and now you have a bit more to go on.
Next time you spot an unknown bird, keep a close eye on it, because you’ll need to absorb some of its details like markings, what it sounded like, size and what it was feeding on, what shape was its bill, colour of its eyes.
If you have a camera handy or your mobile phone camera if it’s close, that’s good, otherwise jot down the details on a notepad.
Then consult your handy bird field guide of Australia.
If you have any questions about a bird you want identified, why not drop us a line. Or send in a photo to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll send you a copy of the Garden Guardians in return..

Vegetable Heroes:

Cinderella thought that the best way to travel to a ball was in one. They also make great scones or candle holders.
Pumpkins of course!
In some countries you can get a pumpkin variety called Rouge Vif d' Etampes". roughly translated "Red Life of the Times.
 As they grow and mature, these particular pumpkins become a very deep red.
Rumour has it that the illustrator for the Cinderella Fairytale used this variety of pumpkin for Cinderella's coach, so that today this pumpkin is better known as a "Cinderella".
The fact is that they look just like the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage.

Pumpkins (Cucurbita spp.)  (could be Cucurbita pepo, or C maxima and so on)are members of the Cucurbitaceae family along with zucchini, gourd, squash, melons and cucumber.
The name “pumpkin” originated from the Greek word, “pepon,” which means, “large melon
Technically a fruit, pumpkins have been in cultivation for more than 5,000 years.
Seems like Halloween is catching on around the world,  but it was the Irish that first carved turnips and swedes, lit them with embers and used them to ward off evil spirits.
Some say Americans chose Pumpkins because they were easier to carve!
  • Pumpkin is considered an annual, and comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns.
  •   Pumpkins are slightly different from other in the same family.
  • For instance, Pumpkins are normally hard-skinned, but squashes and zucchinis, have softer skin, but there are exceptions.
  • Honestly, for those of us who have a compost heap, one of the most often things to grow out of the heap other than tomatoes, is the pumpkin. Usually a Butternut or Queensland Blue.
  • Just as well that Pumpkins like compost heaps because the vines need fertile, compost-rich, well-drained soil in full sun, and are most easily grown as ground-cover plants.
  • There is a bush variety called Golden Nugget, that can be grown in a pot but all the rest grow way too big for pots.
  • Vines can be trained over frames provided they can support the weight of the heavy fruit.
  • Start early, with your pumpkin seed planting, because, before you know it, summer is here and you’ve run out of time to grow it to maturity.

When to Sow

  • In temperate zones, plant your pumpkin seeds from September until the end of December.
  • Arid zones have from September until February.
  • Sub-tropical regions have between August and February.
  • Cool temperate districts have between October and December.
  • Tropical areas you can grow them all year round.


There are as many different varieties of pumpkins as there are of tomatoes, except you can’t get the Cinderella pumpkin in Australia.
Golden Nugget is best for small gardens, for a medium sized pumpkin, try Hybrid Grey Crown or Queensland Blue.
Turk’s Turban is an exotic-looking pumpkin (although its flavour is a little dry).
You might prefer the stronger taste of Jarrahdale, from Western Australia.
For those who like something unusual, why not try Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia, with its thick knobbly grey-blue skin, and a rich deep yellow-orange inside.  This one takes 100 days to maturity but keeps well.
Pumpkin Galeux Deysines is another unusual pumpkin with whitish salmon-pink skin covered with peanut shell like warts. These warts are caused by the sugar in the skin as it ripens.
Don’t be put off by that, because the orange inside flesh, is sweet, and moist.
Available from

Pumpkin seed needs a soil temperature of 20˚C for germination.
You can either sow them individually in 10cm pots and plant them out when the pots are filled with roots.
Or, sow seed or plant seedlings into mounds of rich compost, with lots and lots of chook poo, made over loosened soil.
The seeds are large so sow them about 1 cm deep.
Plants take 70–120 days to mature. That’s 10 17 weeks or 2-4 months!
Looking After Your Pumpkins-
  • Pumpkins are shallow-rooted so they need regular watering in dry or windy weather.
  • It’s not good watering every other day in warm weather because your pumpkin will end up splitting.
  • Pinch out growing tips of those rambling stems to keep the plants in check, otherwise they may take over you whole backyard!

HOT TIP: Pollination and Fertilisation of Pumpkin flowers.
    When I worked at Yates, getting those pumpkins to fertilise was the bane of quite a number of people’s veggie growing.
  • The complaint was lots of leaves and few flowers or that the embryo fruits and flowers fall off.
  • Pumpkins produce short-lived male and female flowers that can close by mid-morning. Female flowers open above the swollen, distinctive embryo fruit and male flowers produce pollen.
  • If the embryo fruit falls off, that usually means it didn’t get pollinated.
  • Native and honey bees are normally able to complete pollination, but sometimes ants harvest pollen before this occurs.
  • High temperatures can affect fruit formation over 30˚C, and here you may need to try hand pollination to improve fruit set.
  • To hand pollinate, pick male flowers, remove the petals then dab pollen on the stigma of female flowers.
  • Squeezing female flowers aids pollination in wet weather.
  • Remember,, sometimes female flowers take two weeks or longer before they start appearing.
  • This is because the pumpkin vine has to grow to a decent size where it can support fruit, before the female flowers appear.

Harvesting and storing

Your pumpkin is ready to pick when it’s finished swelling which is when the vine is dying off,  and they sound hollow when you tap on the shell.
This is when you remove them with as much of the stalk as possible. Ripe pumpkins with unbroken skin store very well if kept in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space.
For the seed savers out there, seed can be saved one month after harvesting them.
Scoop seed from the flesh, wash, dry and store in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight.
To ensure seed-grown progeny comes true, save seed from one variety grown in isolation.

Why are they good for you?

The bright orange colour of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant, beta-carotene.
They’re also a good source of vitamin C, with Queensland Blue coming top of the pumpkin class for this vitamin.
Pumpkins are a source of dietary fibre and supply (especially Golden nugget and Butternut) a good source of potassium.
One cup of cooked pumpkin has 2 g of protein, 3 g of dietary fibre.
Pumpkins are 90% water and a great for those watching their waist-line
Why not make mashed pumpkin instead of mashed potato because Pumpkins don’t have a lot of carbs- just 12 g from 1 cup, but some of it is present as natural sugars, which is why they  taste sweet.
Like Zucchini flowers, pumpkin flowers are also edible.
Try some  seeds from these guys as well.
Happy Pumpkin growing everyone!

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer, Louise McDaid
Have you ever travelled a long way to see some great gardens?
Just by chance have you stumbled on one of the world’s best for that particular style?
Seeing lots of gardens up close and personal is something we gardeners like to do and should do.
Plus you learn so much about planting styles that you can reflect on and adapt to your own garden.
Here is one such inspirational garden, the Japanese Garden within Tatton Park in Cheshire, England.

CLICK HERE TO Listen to this episode
This Japanese inspirational garden doesn’t sound too hard to emulate does it?
Some rocks, some maples of different colours and leaf shapes, a tea house, and a bit of clipped Buxus or Azaleas, and hey presto, transformation!
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week:

 When I worked for Yates, I was often asked why Gerbera seed was so expensive, or Rudbeckia seed?
The reason was that some seed has to be hand collected and hand packed because it’s too large and irregular for seed packing machines.
Another reason is that seed is hard to come by of a particular species, or perhaps that year, it was contaminated by weevils, or the seed grower’s crop experienced fungal problems and failed.
Whatever the reason, the plant that’s featured today isn’t sold by seed anyway, because it’s a new release and a fantastic variety of Gerbera.
Florist Holland, a Gerbera breeding company started the breeding program over ten years ago.
How to grow Garvinea
Garvineas are Gerberas but smaller and branch more on the one plant.
They cope with light frosts, grow in full sun and part shade positions.
One plant grows 30 – 40 cm high but spreads out to 40 or 50 cm.
That’s something your other Gerberas never did!
These Garvinea Gerberas flower all the way through Spring, until next Autumn.
And if you’re wondering will they grow in my district, how about this?
Plants will thrive in temperatures from -5º to +35ºC
Garvinea prefer good drainage but can grow in most soils except permanently boggy. Before planting make sure you have added some good quality compost which will help retain moisture during dry periods.  A surface mulch will also help to conserve moisture. If the leaves have drooped at the end of a dry day give them some water and they quickly stand up.
Regular applications of fertiliser during their growing period will promote strong healthy plants.
To encourage flowering regularly deadhead the flowers by breaking them off at the base.  The blooms can also be brought inside and put in your favourite vase for some home grown colour and they are very long lasting.
Garvineas make beautiful cut flowers. Only don't cut the flowers off, give them a gentle twist and fold so that the stem breaks off right down at the growing point at the base of the plant. Pick the flowers often it encourages fresh growth and prevents the spent flowers getting tatty.
Colours-G. Sylvan, white, yellow centre, G Fleurie, crimson, with crimson red centre, G. Lisa, Deep pink or cerise pink with golden centre, G Cindy-bright red, with yellow centre, G, orangina is orange, G. Sunny is yellow, G. Pam is light pink. And G. Nikki is palest pink.
It’s always fun to try something new and buy a plant that you don’t know much about.
Can’t wait to get my hands on some Garvinea Gerberas as I’m sure some of you are too.
If you have any questions about Garvina, drop us a line.

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