Thursday, 5 September 2013

Sunny Days, Sparkling and Tomatoes

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

Compost Capers

Why are so many school children squeamish when it comes to worms?
Are you squeamish when it comes to worms-compost worms, earth worms, any worms?
It must start somewhere but there’s no reason to have this unnatural fear of something so small and harmless.
Did you know that worms have five hearts, and munch through their weight in decaying matter like your food scraps every day?
That’s right, you need a lot of worms in your worm farm.
Let’s find out how to start a worm farm and how to look after it…

What I do is chop up fruit and veggie scraps quite small-yes it takes a bit of time but it’s worth it in the long run.
Secondly, I usually only add one 2 litre ice-cream container’s worth of scraps at any one time.
If you make more than this every day, then you need more than one worm farm or compost bin or some other type of composting device.
If you have any questions about worm farms, 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:

Growing Tomatoes with  Managing Director at Mr Fothergills, Aaron Whitehouse.

There’s books written about them, they are prone to all sorts of pests and diseases, but every year, we plant them hoping for that ultimate crop.
What are they ? They’re tomatoes, or Lycopersicon esculentum.
Being in the Solanaceae family, they’re related to eggplants,capsicums, chillies and potatoes.

Tomatoes are botanically a fruit, or to be even more accurate a berry, because they are pulpy and have edible seeds.
Other botanical fruits classified as vegetables include squash, cucumbers, green beans, corn kernels, eggplants, and peppers.

It took the American courts to rule that the tomato be classified as a vegetable in 1893 since it was used as a vegetable. Apparently importing fruit to America at that time didn’t attract import tariffs. Strange but true.
In Australia, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables, with potatoes being no.1

Why? Because we just lover our summer tomatoes that taste better than the store bought ones, and once you get the conditions right, they’re relatively easy to grow.

As late as the 18th century, physicians thought tomatoes caused appendicitis, and stomach cancer from tomato skins sticking to the lining of your stomach.
Europeans then refused to eat tomatoes because they were thought to be poisonous, and no-one was volunteering to be the first.
Why do a lot of store bought tomatoes have little taste?
The answer is because it’s a result of breeding tomatoes which ripen uniformly red. This change occurred after discovery of a variety in the mid 20th century which ripened evenly, so was  then cross-bred  with just about every tomato variety, to produce attractive red fruit without the typical green ring surrounding the stem on uncross-bred varieties.

There’s a tomato for every type of climatic condition and generally they’re a warm season fruit even though we call them vegetables.

When to Plant:

In temperate climates you can plant them until December, hopefully some of you started them in early September to get the jump on fruit flies.
In sub-tropical and tropical areas, this week it’s your turn to win, and yes, you can plant tomatoes all year round.
In cool temperate districts you have from October until December, and in Arid areas from August until March, so nearly all year.

How to Grow

Tomatoes prefer full sun but if you live in very hot climates, you’ll get sun scald on your tomatoes, so afternoon shade of some sort is essential.
Growing tomatoes has to be in full sun at least 6 hours.
Tomato seeds can be planted into the ground as soon as the soil temperature reaches 200C.
For cool districts I recommend that you start your tomatoes off in punnets of some kind and place this in a plastic bag or mini-greenhouse.
Before your transplant your seedlings from the seed tray, and this applies to all seedlings, you need to harden them off.
That means taking them out of a protected environment and putting them into 50% shade for a few days.
When you plant your seedling, this is about the only plant I know that you pile the soil higher than it was in the pot-that way, it grows extra roots to support the plant.
At the same time, put in a tomato stake of some kind and sprinkle some Dolomite around the plant.
Problem Solver
  • They actually need lots of water to prevent a problem called “blossom end” rot, when they get a black bottom. Which also means a lack of Calcium. But you put on the Dolomite didn’t you?.
  • Don’t crowd your tomato plants because they need good air circulation around them so that fungal diseases don’t take hold.
  • When your tomato plant has four trusses (or branches of flowers) nip out top of the plant. By this stage you should have plenty of fruits forming that need to grow and ripen.
  • You need to do this mainly because you want the plant to put all its energy into these potentially succulent fruits. And…you don’t want it growing taller than you tomato stake and flopping all over the place.
  • Keep the soil moist by regular watering and using a mulch of some kind.
  • Once the flowers have formed, you need to feed weekly with tomato fertiliser or a general fertiliser but add a side dressing of sulphate of potash.
  • Irregular watering or drying out of the soil or compost in very hot weather can result in the fruits splitting. The inside grows faster than the skin, splits and unless eaten quickly, disease very quickly enters the damaged area and the tomato disposed of.
  • Tomato feed is very high in potash. Be careful not to overfeed as this can lock up other elements in the soil / compost that the plants require.
  • HINT: tomato plants will only set fruit if the temperatures don’t drop below 210C.
  • Did you know that a tomato picked at first sign of colour and ripened at room temperature will be just as tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine?
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Prune off the lower leaves to allow more light, improve air-circulation and prevent the build-up of diseases.
  • For some listeners, fruit fly will be a problem. There are lures and preventative organic sprays that contain Spinosad.
  •  I intend to trail fruit fly exclusion bags. As soon as the fruits appear, on they go.


First the good news, there have been studies done which show that eating tomatoes lowers the risk of some cancers. Possibly because of the chemical lycopene that is found in tomatoes and makes them red.
Cooked tomatoes are even better because the cell walls get broken down releasing something called carotinoids.
Eating tomatoes with a small amount of fat, like some olive oil in a salad, allows the lycopene part to absorb better.
Tomatoes are highly nutritious and sweet  because of natural sugars – sucrose and fructose.
If you ate only one tomato a day, you would get 40% of you daily requirements of Vitamin C and 20% of Vitamin A.

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
Is your garden a romantic style of garden or is it a bit of a mix.
Do you know what style it actually is?
Perhaps you’d like a style of some sort, perhaps a mix of French and English, and are just waiting for some inspiration?
This garden was also featured at this year’s Chelsea Flower show, but we can pick out some details for your to use in your own garden.
 Listen to this…

So many of the gardens that I saw at Chelsea this year had made a big effort to modernise the styles to fit in with today’s gardener.
They seemed to use perennial planting more creatively, and with more structure,  rather than just lumping them together, which often makes the garden look untidy at certain times in the season.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it to our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week: Lavenders

A large quantity of books have been written about Lavender, using Lavender, cooking with Lavender.
Each year, there’s seem to be a glut of new lavender hybrids from which you must choose just the right one.
What can a mere gardener do without sitting down to read the extensive information there is about every type of lavender on the planet.

Lavenders don’t always last that long in everybody’s garden because they don’t like humidity or wet feet.
So if yours has given up the ghost, why not invest in a couple of new ones?

There’s so many Lavenders out now that you can have one in every different size.

From the really big Allardi Lavenders that grow to over a metre tall and wide, to smaller-growing ones like this next one that’s come out.
Most of the varieties sold in nurseries now are hybrids of L. Stoechas.

Lavandula stoechas from the Stoechades Islands (now called Iles de Hyeres
Examples are L. ‘Avonview, L. ‘Bee Series.’
Great as ornamental plants in the garden, but not for cooking, or dried flowers because of the high camphor content of the flowers.
You can easily tell this group because they have the large petal like bracts, or rabbit ears at the top of the flower spike.

NEW RELEASE-Lavandula x hybrid - 'Little Posie Mauve'
Little Posie Purple is a lovely new Lavender which has masses of stunning dark purple flowers topped with pale mauve ribbon like flags.
Long lasting display in autumn, winter and spring.
Compact shrub which grows 50cm high x 40cm wide
All Lavenders need a full sun position.
Lavenders-A note about cultivation
Lavenders originate from the Mediterranean region.  adapted to fairly harsh and dry conditions. 
Lavenders are drought-tolerant, and grow well in temperate zones  for a while anyway, but have a few essential requirements.
If you want your lavenders to last follow these tips:
  • Excellent drainage as lavender hates having wet feet, if you grow your lavender in pots the saucer should be gotten rid of, and the pot raised a little off the ground to allow better drainage. 
  • Lavenders like alkaline soil so apply a handful of  lime or dolomite around each plant in Autumn to maintain the ph of the soil.
  • Have adapted to dry soils high in Magnesium and calcium.
  • Fertilise in Spring.
  • Grow in full sun for the best results, part shade is only just OK.
  • Give them a trim. Clip plants by one third once they are past their first year.
  • DON'T USE manure fertilisers, DO USE compost spread around the area to help the natural maintenance of the soil. 
  • Weeds should be removed as lavender doesn't like competition and don’t like their surface roots disturbed either.
  • IMPORTANT: Pruning a lavender bush  into the hard wood will most likely kill it
Lavenders will grow well for you if you follow those few tips
Also get in the habit of taking off a few tip cuttings, without flowers, and sticking them into a shady spot in the garden. You’ll be surprised when they strike for you, because they surely will.
If you have any questions about Lavender, drop us a line.

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