Sunday, 24 November 2013

Looking for Birds in the Woods

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 Consultant Ecologist Kurtis Lindsay
Do you still have plenty of birds visiting your local area?
Have you ever wondered where have all the birds gone?
Woodlands and grassland covers about three-quarters of the Australian continent. No surprises then that these areas provide habitat for the majority of Australian land bird species.
These habitats, especially temperate and tropical woodlands and grasslands, also provide much of the country's agricultural land, which has greatly modified them.
Who wins out?
Listen to this!

From the Department of Environment ,, about one-third of the major woodland type, eucalypt woodlands, and 80 per cent of temperate woodlands have been cleared (McIntyre et al 2002, Lindenmayer et al 2005).
Much of the remainder is thinned, degraded and deteriorating, and often in poorer country—steep, rocky, wet or with less fertile soils.
Little grassland has been formally cleared, but ploughing, grazing, introduced pastures and weeds, changed burning regimes, and other disturbances have caused major, widespread change.
It’s been shown that revegetation of woodlands has reversed the trend.
 Now it’s up to the private landholders to take action.
Why not look up Australian wildlife conservancy to see what they do?
If you have any questions about woodland birds, why not drop us a line by sending in your question 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

BOTANICAL NAME: Smallanthus sonchifolius (syn Polymnia sonchifolia)
Yacon is sometimes called, Peruvian ground apple, strawberry jicama, Bolivian sunroot, groundpear, pear of the earth.

Yacon is the name this vegetable mostly goes by is in the Daisy or Asteraceae family.
Yacon is native to Colombia and Ecuador and is a hardy, attractive herbaceous perennial from which you get quite a few tubers.
The plant grows to 1.5 to 3 m tall with dark green celery-like leaves.
When it flowers, you’ll have male and female daisy-like yellow to orange flowers that are pollinated by insects.
Each plant forms a underground clump of 4 to 20 fleshy large tuberous roots.
The plant itself is extremely hardy tolerating hot summers, drought and poor soils.
Yacon tubers look a bit like sweet potatoes, but they have a much sweeter taste and crunchy flesh.
The tubers can be eaten raw as a refreshing treat on their own, finely sliced and mixed into salads, boiled or baked, fried as chips or prepared as a pickle.
They are sweet, juicy and almost calorie free.
The main stem can also be used like celery.
The tubers taste like a cross between apple and watermelon, but with more sweetness.
Generally it’s a bit tricky describing the taste of a new food, but everyone agrees on the crunchiness.
As a member of the sunflower family, yacon can grow to 2 metres in height with small, daisy-like yellow flowers.
If you can grow Jerusalem artichokes or Parsnips, you can grow Yacon.

Normally you plant the crowns into large pots and wait
for shoots to start growing from each small tuber.
Yacon can be planted all year round in frost-free areas as it is day-length neutral.
It appears to be drought tolerant compared to other vegetable crops and so far, pest-free.
For cold areas of Australia the rhizomes can be started in styrofoam boxes in a greenhouse or on a warm verandah, usually in spring,and planted out when frost is past.
Split the crowns into individual shoots with their tubers attached and plant into smaller pots.
Yacon plants are quite sensitive to temperature, so plant them out when you would tomatoes.
Yacon actually produces two types of underground tubers, reddish rhizomes directly at the base of the stem, which can be eaten when young but are mainly used for propagation and the larger brown tubers, which are mainly eaten.
Prepare the soil by loosening well with a fork and working in compost.
To plant, cover a large rhizome which has several sprouts, with soil to a depth of 3 cm.  Space them 0.5m apart.
Mulch well because yacon will grow up through the mulch, just like potatoes.
Because this plant creates dense shade when it grows you probably won’t have to do any weeding. Bonus!
Yacon grows fast even in poor soils but crops best in rich, friable, well-drained soil.
So when do you pick this strange vegetable?
The plant takes 6 - 7 months to reach maturity.
You know when it’s ready when the top growth withers and dies back.
This is when you dig up the tuber.
They resemble dahlia or sweet potato tubers, on average weigh about 300 g but can weigh up to 2 kg.
The tubers continue to sweeten as the plant dies back so the main harvest should only take place once all the top growth is dead, usually by May. Don't leave it too long though, especially in areas that have mild winters, as the plant will start to shoot again as the weather warms up and the days get longer.
When harvesting, separate the reddish rhizomes from the tubers and wash off any soil, taking care not to break the skin.
The reddish rhizomes are kept out of the sun and covered with slightly damp sand, sawdust or cocopeat to stop them drying out and put aside for replanting in a dark, dry place.
These offsets are then replanted for the next season.
The plant needs to be dug carefully to avoid damage to the crisp tubers. After separation from the central stem undamaged tubers can be stored in a cool, dark and dry place with good air circulation for some months.
Why the tubers keep sweetening during storage is because of starch conversion.
You can put them in the sun for a couple of weeks to speed up the sweetening process.
There’s plenty of eating tips, too many to mention, but I’ll post them on the website. For those without a computer, write in to me and I’ll send you a fact sheet.


First remove the outer brown skin and inner white skin by peeling with a knife as the skin has a resinous taste.
Inside is amber coloured sweet crunchy flesh.
Like all tubers there are no seeds to remove, so it is quick and easy to prepare.
Chop the tuber into chunks and add it to green salads where they impart a great flavour and texture. I
When cut into long strips, they make an interesting addition to a plate of raw vegetable crudites for dipping into your favourite guacamole or cream cheese dip.
It can also be boiled, steamed or baked with other vegies. In cooking they stay sweet and slightly crisp.
If boiled 'in the jacket' the skin separates from the flesh and can be peeled off like a boiled egg.
Yacon can also be used in a dessert crumble or pie with apples, pears or choko.
In the Andes, they are grated and squeezed through a cloth to yield a sweet refreshing drink. The juice can also be boiled down to produce a syrup. In South America the juice is concentrated to form dark brown blocks of sugar called chancaca. The young stem can be used as a cooked vegetable.
Why is it good for you?
Nutritionally yacon is low in calories but it is said to be high in potassium.
 Yacon tubers store carbohydrate in the form of inulin, a type of fructose, which is a suitable food for type II diabetics.
Plants with the sugar inulin such as Jerusalem artichokes and yacon can be useful additions to diet of people with type II diabetes.

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

Last week, a new series was started on colour in garden design.
Colour theory and a range of different ways to use the colours were explained through using the colour wheel.

Main colour schemes used in gardens are complementary, split complementary, triadic/contrasting, harmonious and monochromatic.
But colour is a fickle thing, and many factors affect the appearance of the colour of your plants. Because this program goes Australia, you can imagine how the different light levels will affect colour in people’s gardens from Ballina in NSW to Kingston in South Australia.
Colour is affected by a number of factors such as (i) light-we need to consider the light levels in our gardens. (ii)distance-how far away is the garden from where you're looking at it?

For the best tips, listen to Louise explain how you can overcome the colour dilemma.

Let’s find out….

As Louise mentioned, there are some guidelines to using colour:
Receding colours – fade away or black out – cool colours such as blues, deep greens – they look further away – also grey, black (good for fences or other items you want to ‘disappear’ in the garden)
Luminous colours – appear closer – warm colours yellow, orange, red – they also lead the eye through a garden.
Colour changes should be graduated or sequenced to keep continuity.
Colour and textures are related – delicate pastel colours have a fine textural appearance,  while bright colours appear coarser.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week;

Aniseed Myrtle Aneothola anisata syn. Backhousia anisata
These days, many Australian native plants are quite rare in the wild. This one’s no exception. Although the good news is that it’s relatively easy to get one from native nurseries.
Its name comes from the strong aniseed scented and flavoured leaves. The leaves are often used for flavouring desserts, sweet sauces and preserves. It also is popular as a scented savoury sauce or marinade for meats and sets a deep fragrant flavour to salad dressings.
This bush food is native to southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, but will grow as far south as Melbourne, Victoria.

Aniseed Myrtle will tolerate light frosts.

You can use the young leaves chopped in salads and as a flavouring in sauces for fish dishes. An excellent companion for lemon myrtle.

Aniseed Myrtile is a medium-sized to large tree with somewhat soft and corky bark; young branchlets.

Leaves lanceolate to elliptic, 5–12.5 cm long,  the margins are wavy and because of numerous oil glands large, numerous, the leaves have a distinct aniseed smell when crushed;

This stunning rainforest tree is both highly ornamental and a very desirable for its bushfood characteristics.

The tree can reach up to 45m in a rainforest environment but in people's gardens in will only grow to about8-10 m. Aniseed Myrtle is really is regarded as a small to medium tree in and is usually harvested as a hedge to 2-3 m in bushfood plantations.

This tree has a dense cover of fine lush green foliage throughout the year with white scented flowers in the spring. Flowers are white and staminous. Much like other plants in the Myrtaceae family.

The tree prefers regular watering and fertiliser to looks its best as a foliage feature plant.

It also likes protection from wind, otherwise in both situations, the margins of the leaves dry out and turn brown, making it look untidy.

If you've got plenty of water to give it, then grow it in full sun otherwise choose a part shade positions.
For the first few years at least, Aniseed Myrtle makes an excellent pot specimen particularly when regularly pruned to encourage fresh tip growth.
Under garden conditions this makes for an interesting small tree growing to about 8 metres.
It responds well to pruning like many of its "lilly-pilly' cousins and has potential for use as a very aromatic hedge plant.
New growth is pale which stands out well against the darker stems.
Growth in the garden may be slow at first but given some fertilizer and mulch it becomes well established after a couple of years. 


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