Thursday, 24 October 2013

Heating Up The Garden Palette

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

If you heard this owl you might be forgiven for thinking that you were hearing a cuckoo. I heard it other night that was my first thought.
Reason prevailed because, Australia doesn’t have the bird that makes the real cuckoo sound other than from cuckoo clocks.
Anyway, listen to this

Did you know that this small, rather cute owl makes the call through closed beak which can carry for up to a kilometre away?
Books often refer to the sound as 'boo-book' or 'mo-poke', but don’t you think it sound  more like cuckoo or more pork?
If you have any questions about Boobook owls or other birds, why not drop us a line. Or send in a photo to or by post to 2RRR, PO Box 644, Gladesville, NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes:

Have you ever tried that dob of green paste that comes with Sushi and Sashimi?
Did you know that the green paste sold as Wasabi in the supermarket is actually horseradish that’s been dyed green.
Yes it’s still got that bite but’s it’s not Wasabi.
Wasabi is Wasabi japonica, and is a semi aquatic Brassica related to horse radish Armoracia rusticana.
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Wasabi grows wild in Japan.
In Japan, Wasabi evolved at the edges of mountain streams and has adapted to cope with low levels of light, low temperatures and high humidity.
Did you know that the Japanese consider wasabi a gourmet treat, and is used in everything from cheese and salad dressing to wine and even ice cream and toothpaste.
Wasabi is a herbaceous perennial plant with a thick knobbly rhizome only about 10-30cm long and about 2-5 cm thick.
The part you use is that thick rhizome that needs to be grated.
Wasabi’s bite is pretty powerful and you only need a ¼ of a teaspoon of the stuff to get steam coming out of your ears, water running out of your eyes, and the feeling that your nose is going to lift off into space.
Trying to buy the real thing is about as difficult as trying to buy hen’s teeth. Mainly because the real thing is frighteningly expensive and doesn’t keep for very long.
The ideal is to grow your own.
You can buy the rhizome to grow some of your own, from mail order catalogue or online.
Although Wasabi prefers a cool and shaded position, in moist soils, the variety Daruma will tolerate warmer conditions than most.
Daruma is supposed to have superior green colour, size and crisp taste, and produces a better quality stem (used extensively in salads) and generally has a more attractive appearance.
Daruma is only available from next year called Daruma, from Diggers, but they have one called Mazuma now.
This one grows to 40cm and needs to be grown in full shade.
Dig it up January to December.

Growing Wasabi

Traditionally, wasabi is best produced in clear, cool (120-150C) running water, with plenty of shade in the hot months. But who's got a stream running past their house?
Wasabi is best planted from Autumn through to early summer.
One family in Victoria are trialling growing it commercially with the hope that one day it’ll be available to buy as a plant in garden centres.
Their tip is to plant it in a cold damp area.
Think of a fernery in dense shade, 80% or more to protect from heat, then you’ve got the right growing conditions.
At my primary school (country South Australia) there was a fernery underneath a rainwater tank in the actual tank stand,-this was a small room, which was built out of limestone.

The shaded area should be well prepared with a large amount of organic matter.
Soil should be kept constantly moist.

  • If you’re lucky enough to receive a Wasabi plant in the mail, keep it in damp newspaper somewhere cool and shady until you’re ready to plant it into the garden.
  • In the garden, dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the roots, insert the plant with the roots gently spread out and with the base of the leaf stalks level with the soil surface.
  • Backfill with soil and gently press into place.
  • Water them in well.
  • Don’t fertilise until you see some growth.
  • You can grow it in a container or foam box and cover it with 75% shade-cloth if you don’t have a shady spot in the garden.
  • Remember to punch some holes in the foam box for drainage.
  • Your new Wasabi plant is unlikely to produce new growth for several weeks, due to the stress of transport.
  • If planted in summer or winter they may not produce new growth at all until the following autumn or spring.
  • If it does grow after a few weeks, to concentrate growth in the rhizome and plant itself, break off any suckers that form.
  • Growing it soil means that you must scrub it clean of any dirt before using it.
  • Soil’s not tasty, I keep saying.
  • According to this Victorian grower, there’s not much difference in taste to the water grown or soil grown Wasabi.
  • Also, Mature wasabi plants are about 36cm high and live for many years.
  • Generally, wasabi plants need about 18 months to 2 years before the rhizome matures to full size.
  • During this time, however, you can use the leaf and stem in salads and stir fries adding a delicious mild wasabi 'zing'
  • The leaves can be pickled in sake, brine or soy sauce and can even be powdered for use as wasabi flavouring.
  • When eaten raw, the wasabi rhizome is washed and trimmed of outer bumps and then grated.

Grating according to Japanese tradition, has to be just right.

The wasabi cells need to be torn apart to set off a chemical reaction, which after a few moments rest, develops its wow flavour.
You need just that right type of very fine grater.
You can’t use a nutmeg grater because it’s too coarse and slices instead of grinding.
Plus, you have to hold the rhizome at 450 and use a circular motion with your Wasabi on their special grater.
The grater’s have a name-oroshigane. These Oroshigane graters have fine teeth on one side for Wasabi, and coarse on the other for ginger and daikon.
You can also buy much cheaper plastic versions of this grater.

TIP: Watch out for slugs and snails.
Only from and

Why is it good for you?
Well apart from clearing out your sinuses, wasabi has a few health benefits too!
High in vitamin C, dietary fibre and potassium, with some Calcium and protein.
Wasabi kills food borne bacteria and reduces blood pressure.
Plus there are reports of it’s anti-cancer properties, but not medically tested.

Design Elements

with Christopher Owen landscape designer.

The inaugural Australian Garden show, showcased quite a few less garden designers than you would’ve seen at Chelsea.
As I mentioned last week, compared to garden shows in the UK, the Australian garden show has plenty of room to grow.

But, there were some very different designs that were none traditional and more inventive than those that I saw at Chelsea this year.
I spoke to some of the garden designers to see what inspired their designs.

Here’s a landscape designer from Sydney.
Christopher has used some clever design techniques such as with the charred wall.
Shou-sugi-ban is a Japanese style burnt wood.
Traditionally, cedar was burnt in Japan to increase the wood's resistance to insects and fire, but also adds to the woods longevity and appearance.

Apologies for the wind noise because the interview was done at the actual location.
Listen to these inspiring thoughts

Grasses can be a wonderful addition to your garden if you plant a clump of them. The grasses not only add colour but texture and sound.

Tall grasses in a large grouping can be a perfect solution for screening an unpleasant view and they soften hardscaping like around a pool.

Plus the sound of rustling grass can be therapeutic or calming,
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week

Fruit and nut trees have a place in the ornamental garden because they don’t take up much room, plus they fit the spot if you don’t want shade in winter.
Did you know that Astronauts took pecans to the moon in two Apollo missions?

Pecan is a type of hickory, and, the wood from the tree is used in agricultural implements, baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring(in the US) religious carvings and firewood.

Not that you’re going to chop down your tree to make anything. Instead, make some pecan pie with all those pecan nuts that you’re dreaming of.

Pecan tree is Caryaa Illinoinensis, and is native to southern USA.

Carya is Greek for walnut.

Did you know that Pecanes is an American Indian word for all nuts with a hard shell?
Who would've thought that the Pecan is the official state tree of Texas?

In America Pecans grow from the hot arid areas of Texas and Arizona to Illinois which is well into the colder areas of the mid-west.

Where to Grow Pecans in Australia,

In the warmer arid climates, the pecan needs access to a water table.
Alice Springs this one's for you!
Pecan trees have a deep tap root.
In the early stages of growth the Pecan doesn’t have much top growth as it’s establishing its root system.
After that it shoots away.

Trees that grow from seed take 8 – 15 years to fruit, much like Macadamia trees.

Best to get a grafted tree that will fruit in 3 years and not grow to 45 metres!

There’s a pecan variety for most parts of Australia.

One thing to note, I have a colleague who loves growing fruit and nut trees near Vineyard on the outskirts of Sydney.
But in his heavy clay soil, he can only grow Pecans.

Western varieties prefer a dry climate, eastern varieties tolerate humidity and northern varieties are more cold tolerant and have a shorter growing season according to Louis Glowinski in his excellent text “The complete book of fruit growing in Australia.

The seed grown pecan tree grows to 30 – 45 metres, and if you know what walnut leaves look like, these are the same. Leaves are thin long and spear shaped.

Leaves turn gold in Autumn.

Each tree has male and female flowers. The male flowers are the long catkins, and the female flowers are tiny clusters on the tips of new spring growth.

Once pollinated the nut will take 3 months before it’s ready.

Pecans like a chilling of 700 hours under 70C. If you can grow peaches or apples, then you can grow Pecans.
The hotter the better for pecans. Pecans will tolerate temperatures of 380 and above.
You will need to water if your summer is dry otherwise you’ll end up with smal shrivelled nuts.
Pecans need deep water retentive soils and will cope with temporary inundation.

Fertilising Your Pecan Tree

Because the tree is a heavy cropper, it needs heavy feeding.1/2 kg of complete organic fertiliser in the first year, then increase that amount by 1 kg each year until the tree starts to bear fruit or nuts!

 These two varieties are available by mail order from from Daleys Fruit Nursery
36 Daley's Lane,Geneva via Kyogle NSW 2474 or visit the website

 Pecan - Pawnee (A) SP Shoshonii (B) SP



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