Friday, 1 November 2013

Fabulous Strawberries and Astron Gardening

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

Feature Interview:

with TV personality and author, Indira Naidoo

Are you reading this as a first time gardener?
Or are you a keen gardener?
Gardeners like to learn constantly because you can never have too much information.
What about those gardeners who’ve had to scale down from a large block to a small patio garden?

What do you do there?
Here’s some sage advice from a well known personality.

Do what Indira suggests, although I know she’s not the first.
Plan just ten minutes everyday in the garden and see what happens.
Like a lot of gardener, you’ll probably find that you can do at least half an hour and it’ll only seem like ten minutes.
If you have any questions about anything gardening, 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

Strawberries or Fragaria x ananasa.
Did you know that Fragaria means fragrance in Latin.
Strawberries aren’t actually berries because true berries have seeds inside them.
And as every schoolkid will tell you, strawberries have seeds on the outside, and usually about 200 of them.

So what are strawberries exactly?
Strawberries are sometimes called an accessory fruit or false fruit because of this .
Some or all of the fruit doesn’t grow in the ovary but on outside of the ovary.
That part of the flower’s called the receptacle because it holds the ovary.
You might find it hard to imagine, but each apparent "seed" (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. Strange isn’t it?

Fragaria vesca  or the Alpine strawberry is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Botanists think this was probably the ancestor of the garden strawberry of today.
There’s archaeological evidence suggesting that people ate strawberries as far back as during the Stone Age.
Interestingly, the first civilisation to grow them as a crop were the Persians in ancient Persia.
The Persian-called their strawberry plants - Toot Farangi.
By the 18th century Fragaria x ananassa had replaced the alpine strawberry because of the larger berry or fruit.
How about this?
In parts of Bavaria, some people still tie small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves each Spring.
The Bavarians believe that because the elves love strawberries so much, they will help to produce healthy calves and lots of milk in return.
When to Grow:
For all sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones you can plant strawberries now if you see them for sale, because you surely will, but you’ll get advice that May and June are the best planting times.
For these districts, plant every-bearing varieties now for a bumper Autumn crop.

For cool mountain districts, October and November are your best planting times
They’re frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants.

So what are the strawberry plants’ requirements?
The pattern for most strawberries is flowering in spring, set fruit in late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter.
At this time of year you will be able to get the ever bearing varieties which give you a second crop in autumn.

If you planted your strawberry plants, in last autumn and winter, they should’ve flowered already and you’ll be telling me that you’ve been enjoying strawberries with cream already.
But why not plant some more plants for Autumn strawberries?
What do Strawberry plants love?
Not sure what they like?
Well…Strawberries love at least 6 hours of sun a day and will grow in most soils but strawberries prefer a sandy loam that is deep and contains a lot of organic matter.
IMPORTANT: When planting a strawberry plant, make sure that about a third of the crown is above the soil. If you plant too deep or shallow the plant might die.
Strawberries have 70% of there roots located in the top 8cm of soil.
By mulching the soil, it helps to keep the roots from drying out and will prevent the plant from drowning in boggy soil.
This means that if growing your strawberries in the garden, you need to grow them on mounds to  improve drainage and you will also need to put down a thick layer of mulch such as hay, pea straw or sugar cane to prevent the berries from touching the soil and rotting.
Mulch as you should now, also prevents the soil from drying out too much.
Potting soils usually have the right mix if you’re planning on planting strawberries in a container.
In that case, add an extra inch or two of fresh compost either to the mix before filling the pot or to the surface of the potting mix.
I would also recommend adding some coco peat into the potting mix to increase water holding capacity.
The idea behind strawberry pots is good in principle but in practise I find it needs careful attention because the plants dry out too much.
And you know strawberry pots have several holes in them to cater for about5-6 plants.
TIP: Attaching your pots to a dripper system and putting a saucer under the strawberry pot will save your strawberry crop this year.
Also make sure you water the plants, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry spells.

Strawberries prefer a moist environment.
Avoiding overhead watering will reduce fungal disease; drip irrigation or a 'leaky pipe' is best.

They're technically a perennial so live for a few years producing fruit.
After 3-4 years (or even sooner) the plants usually become diseased and die.
And don't forget nurseries do sell certified virus-free stock, and that's the safest way to grow new strawberry plants.
To feed your strawberries, sprinkle a small handful of complete fertilizer (such as tomato food,  organic pellets, fish emulsion and any stuff which is high in potash) around each plant when it first comes into flower, and water well. Liquid seaweed fertilizer once a fortnight will not go astray either.
For Ever- bearing varieties, the autumn crop is the biggest and you can choose from Tempation which doesn't send out runners so it's great for hanging baskets and Sweetheart is very sweet to taste – an everlasting variety also have their fruit set in autumn.

What about those strawberries that you can get from the supermarket?
 No matter how small, or distorted your home grown strawberries might be they won’t be like some store bought ones.
We’re talking about those really big, really hard, tasteless, even sour strawberries that you might’ve and definitely I had the misfortune to bite into this week. Urghhhh!
No amount of ice-cream made these strawberries taste better.
They would make a nice picture for a magazine but might as well be plastic.
By the way, I’ve been asked by a listener, about the glittery stuff on her strawberry plants in the morning.
That glittery stuff, is the dried snail trails which have a glistening effect when the mucous has completely dried.
Look under the leaves of your strawberries to find them hiding there.
Why are they good for you?
Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fibre, folic acid, and potassium
From only half a punnet of strawberries you'll get more than 100% of your daily needs of Vitamin C,  and  5.5g fibre in if you eat the whole punnet of strawberries that's about  20% of your daily fibre needs.
Did you know that eating strawberries, which are rich in nitrate, can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by 7%?
This prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.
Strawberries are also low in kilojoules, meaning you can eat 2 cups as one of your daily fruit serves!
Happy STRAWBERRY growing everyone!

Living Planet

with ecologist Sophie Golding
Do you think of your dog, cat or other pets as your best friend that should be allowed to go with you everywhere?
In some countries bringing your pet with you to enjoy a meal is de rigeur. What about National parks and reserves?

Think about this:
National parks and reserves are refuges for native animals.
Dog faeces carry diseases which can be harmful to wildlife and people, and also add nutrients to the soil, increasing the spread of weeds.
If dogs and other domestic pets  frighten native animals away from popular visitor areas, there will be no wildlife for other visitors to see.

Listen to these thoughts.

Dogs and other domestic pets (other than trained assistance animals such as guide dogs) must not be taken into national parks, state conservation areas, nature reserves, historic sites or Aboriginal areas, because:

Native animals see dogs as predators.
The lasting scent left by dogs can easily scare small animals and birds away from their homes, often causing them to leave their young unprotected.
However, you can walk your dog in some regional parks.
If you have any questions about pets in nature reserves and national parks, send them in to

 Plant of the Week

Callistephus chinensis – China Aster

Did you know that any scientific plant name ending with chinensis means the plant is native to or originally comes from China?
The same applies to japonica-yes, that means the plant originally came from Japan.
For a select few Australian plant names, we have australis, but not too many I don’t know why.

Who do you remember growing Asters?
Was it you father, grandfather or perhaps a neighbour, when you were growing up?

The name Aster comes from the Ancient Greek word astron, meaning "star",  referring to the shape of the flower head.
Did you know of all the plants from China in our gardens, like Magnolias, Camelias, roses peaches, plums and even camphor laurels, the first annual was the Aster?
As a member of Asteraceae (the daisy family) Callistephus is closely related to species such as Chrysanthemum, Calendula, Tagetes, and Dahlia.

An annual, that means it flowers, sets seed and dies in the same year in sun or partial shade.
Asters flower for months on end.

The centre is usually yellow. You may remember that the centre is made up of disc florets surrounded by ray florets which people think of as petals.
There are many different varieties that grow between 20 – 80 cm in height, with toothed leaves.
Asters flowers come in singles, double and anemone type flower heads in colours from white to reds and pastels.
When to plant: Spring through Autumn.
How to grow:
You usually get around 250 seeds in one packet.
Sow in trays or punnets, 6mm (quarter-inch) deep.
“Just cover” for me means I cover the seeds with a sprinkling vermiculite, then mist it to make the vermiculite moist.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into 7.5cm (3in) pots .
Handle the plants with care and avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible when transplanting to prevent wilting.
Keep the seedlings moist.
Transplant your seedlings into the flowering site in early Spring, preferably in October if you’ve got your act together.
Plant 25-45cm (18in) apart, waiting until frosts are over
Light spring frosts will not harm the plants.
You can sow the seeds direct in flowering position 
Sow thinly, 6mm (1/4in) deep in small clumps or shallow drills. Prefer light soils.
 In hot weather, spread a mulch of lawn clippings or compost over the soil surface to conserve moisture and keep roots cool.
Asters require plenty of water during their growing and flowering season, and especially during dry weather.
Fertilise twice during the growing months with a 3 month granular feed.
Varieties of Asters:
Aster Californian Giant is an 'old favourite' produces brilliantly coloured displays during Summer. An old variety, grown for cut flowers in Victorian times that are, once again becoming very fashionable. Aster Ostrich Plume orAster Seeds Ostrich Feather
Has large double blooms with long 'feathery'  re-curving, petals in pastel colours.
Reminds me of those ostrich feather boas on a stick.

The long lasting Aster flowers are on tall base-branching stems and make ideal cut flowers.

Aster Pot n Patio from
Dwarf early flowering plants which grow to around 15cm. Flowers 5 to 7 cm across in a range of blue, pink and scarlet shades. Superb in containers, alone or in mixed plantings.
TIP: Remove dead flowers to prolong blooming and provide support for the heavy flowerheads.
Cut flowers will last 8 to 10 days in water.
TIP: Cut when flowers are half-open; recut stems underwater.

China asters make great cut flowers but if you’re not changing the water in the vase everyday, here’s another tip.
Vases used for china Asterss should be thoroughly cleaned afterward because of the odour you get from China-aster stems kept for a long time in water.
Also, take off all leaves from the part of the stem that will stand under water.
But that’s good advice for any cut flower.


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