Monday, 2 December 2013

Black Feathers and Painted Ladies

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

Did you know that some birds with black feathers were considered unlucky?
Some say that their call would be perfect to use as a sound effect for computer-generated Pterodactyls in a dinosaur movie.
If you hear one of their calls and look around you will often see a pair, or perhaps a small group of the birds flying past in their graceful slow-flapping way.
What is this bird? Listen to this!

If you have black cockatoos in your area and want to build some timber nest-boxes, they’ll need to have a climbing structure attached inside the box below the entrance hole.
Both logs and nests need an entrance hole/opening about 100 - 150mm (about 4 -6 inches) from the top. Many species of parrots like the entrance hole to be just big enough to squeeze through. Some parrot breeders do not place a "top" or lid on the larger nest log or box and allow the birds to enter the nest via the top opening. Information on these nest-boxes is at

If you have any questions about yellow tailed black cockatoos or building nest boxes, 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: Beans or Phaseolus vulgaris.
 Their family is Faboidea or the pea family.
It's been said that the Egyptians had temples dedicated to beans, worshipping them as a symbol of life.
They must be good .
Why am I talking about another easy to grow vegetable? I’ll tell you in just a moment.
Beans are probably native to ancient Peru cultivated 500 B.C. From there, it's thought they were introduced throughout the world by soldiers who carried them as a staple of their diet as they fought ancient wars.
Beans have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years. In fact, the Bible makes reference to eating beans, and beans have even been found in pre-Columbian tombs and the Egyptian pyramids.
Beans, either climbing or Dwarf Beans, are sometimes called French beans.
Why am I talking about beans, because I’ve talked about them before.
For a start, you need to grow some beans, any beans in your veggie garden because beans, as well as other legumes, have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.
Yep, that's right, the roots make nitrogen out of the air and deposit it into the soil.
Lightning storms are even better for that reason, but you can't easily predict those.
Another reason I keep talking about beans in the warmer months is to let you know about some of the more unusual varieties like Haricot Bean or Painted Lady Beans.
Let’s start with checking when to grow your beans.
How to Grow:
To grow beans you need up to four months of warm weather.
In subtropical climates beans can be grown almost all year. For temperate and arid zones, mid-spring through to late summer are the best times to plant.
In colder districts, beans, don't like the cold at all and they certainly don't like frost.
You have until the end of summer, certainly you wouldn't be expecting any cold snaps now.
Tropical districts, once again, need to wait until the winter months to sow beans.
The first unusual bean you mightn’t have thought of growing is the Haricot bean.
Just like Champagne, this gourmet bean was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) so we can't call it by its original name, Haricot Tarbais, unless it’s grown in a specified region of France.
It's plump, creamy white beans are a key ingredient for the classic cassoulet and have won multiple awards.
Young beans can be eaten fresh and green but also leave plenty on the vine for pciking, shelling and drying.
These older beans need to be soaked for 6-8 hours before cooking.
Haricot beans take 9 weeks to grow from seed to harvest.
Bean there done that?
What about the Painted Lady Bean?
Especially good for cooler districts the Painted Lady Bean or Phaseolus coccineus is a good one.
Instead of just plain white flowers, this bean has heaps of lovely white and salmon flowers, followed by long succulent beans.
Ever heard of runner beans, or seven year beans?
There beans are perennial meaning they grow and produce beans throughout summer and autumn then go dormant or die back in winter before re-shooting again the following spring.
These Painted lady beans are just those type of beans and they prefer cool climates, especially since they won’t set pods when temperatures get over 30 degrees.
If you’re in a warmer district, you can plant these beans in a shady part of the garden.
TIP: These beans need cross pollination, so plant them with bee attracting plants such as lavender, borage and thyme. They crop heavily in late summer and autumn. All runner beans are climbers, so they will need some for of support.
General Growing Information on most beans.
Beans are best planted at soil temperatures between 16°C and 30°C. so planting them from now on is good..
Beans are easy to grow, and each year I teach hundreds of schoolchildren to sow bean seeds.
Schoolkids just love to see those bean seeds grow so it's a great way to get your kids or grankids started in the vegetable garden. Also, it's a good choice for beginner gardeners of any age.
Sow seed about 2.5cm or  1-inch or depending on the size of the bean I guess.
Sow your beans, either climbing or dwarf beans either in rows or just scatter so the seed are 5-10cm apart (don't worry about the odd ones which are closer).
Cover with soil, potting mix, or compost and firm down with the back of a spade or rake. Grown this way the beans will mostly shade out competing weeds and 'self-mulch'.
Keep watered and watch for vegetable bugs and green caterpillars
Pick the beans regularly to encourage new flowers.
TIP:Flowering will slow right down if you let the beans get too large (hard and stringy) on the plants.
Tip: To have beans all summer long, plant more seed as soon as the previous planting starts to flower.
Protect against snails and slugs by laying down straw or sugar cane mulch and sprinkling coffee grounds around the edge of the veggie bed.
Slugs and snails will completely destroy newly sprouted beans.
Beans do poorly in very wet or humid tropical climates because they get bacterial and fungal diseases.
Pods won't set at temperatures above 270 C.
They need well-drained soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and are sensitive to deficiencies or high levels of minerals in the soil.
Especially climbing beans, so make sure you spread some chook poo or cow manure before sowing seeds.
When growing green beans, keep the soil moist.
A good rule of thumb is to put a finger in the dirt and if the dirt is dry up to the first knuckle, then it needs about an inch of water.
Go easy on the fertiliser or you'll get lots of leaves and no beans.
When picking your beans, pick times when your plants are dry.
Working with beans when the leaves are wet tends to spread any diseases.
When are beans ready pick I hear you ask?
Usually in about 10-12 weeks.
Pick them when they are about as thick as a pencil, smaller if you want a better, tender taste.
Why are they good for you?
Green Beans are a good source of vitamin C and also contain calcium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin A.
Beans are a major source of soluble fibre, and they also have some folate .
Some varieties of the dwarf  beans are
Brown Beauty-flat pods
Dwarf Snake Beans-ready in 11 weeks.
Windsor Delight has long pods of about 15cm.
Blue Lake Climbing, long pods again but they're round this time.
You can get Haricot Beans and Painted Lady Beans from and also from
So happy bean growing gardeners!

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
  • Today we’re focusing on an Australian garden that’s a fantastic example of the use of colour. According to the blurb on the website for this garden, strolling through these huge formal gardens is a lovely experience at any time of year. You can follow several walking paths, and meander through twenty garden compartments.
  • For the best tips, listen to Louise take us through this garden.
Let’s find out….
PLAY: Colour Innovations_Cloudhill_27th November 2013
Should you want to visit this amazing garden called Cloudhill in the Dandenongs, it has masses of bulbs in Spring, dazzling colour in the Summer flower borders, magnificent beech and maple trees in Autumn and acres of colourful rhododendrons in Winter.

Cloudehill warm harmonious scheme – herbaceous border
Red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow
Creates a mood – energetic, exciting, alert, happy
Cloudehill cool harmonious scheme – herbaceous border
Violet, blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green
Creates a mood - Calming, serene, gentle

Cloudehill triadic - 3 colours equally spaced on the colour wheel – could be primary colours red/blue/yellow as in the picture – mix of flowers and foliage, doesn’t matter – the colours still count

Plant of the Week

Australia Finger Limes. Citrus australisica.
Did you know that early European settlers didn’t realise the value of this native fruit and because of land clearing for farming, much of this rare fruit was destroyed?

Just by chance though, isolated pockets of sub-tropical rainforest on private land and National Parks remained, with some of these (Finger Lime) trees surviving.

The Finger Lime is native to Australia and has been used as a food source for many thousands of generations by the Australian Aboriginal people.

The pulp of the fruit has separate juice vesicles that look quite a lot like caviar.

These juice vesicles (sometimes called crystals) are compressed inside the fruit and burst out when the fruit is opened.

Finger limes are hardy plants that grow naturally in heavy shade in areas of high rainfall and at the forest edges where there is more sunlight.
This allows it to thrive in full sun or shade, and they can tolerate light frosts. They grow well in pots or as impenetrable hedge due to their thorny nature.

Trees can tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions including light frosts, but ideally sites should be frost free and trees protected from hot or cold winds.

Growing Finger Limes"
Grows best in fertile, well-composted soil. Fertilise lightly in spring with compost.
Fruit will be best if the shrub is given watering when the weather is warm, and kept on the dry side when it's cold.
Pruning isn't necessary, though some of the lower branches may need to be removed to prevent fruit making contact with the ground.

Masterchef Tips:
For some masterchef tips try adding finger lime pulp to your favourite salad dressing for an extra surprise. How about adding finger lime pulp to various soups, or apparently the  pulp is fantastic in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks...Beers! Gin and Tonics! Great in Champagne!!

 Australian Native Citrus trees if grown from seed, are not always true to type, are slower growing and can take many years to bear fruit.
Native citrus grow quite slowly so a good idea to buy grafted plants.
Grafted finger lime trees begin fruiting in year three but larger quantities of fruit are not normally obtained until year six.

Finger Lime - Sunshine Yellow (Grafted)Planted:Sun/Shade: Full Sun
Water Given in: Spring-Pollination: Self Pollination. S

low growing
Citrus australasica var. sanguinea ‘Rainforest Pearl’ – a small open upright tree producing green fruit tinged with crimson with a pink flesh.
• Citrus australasica ‘Durhams Emerald’ – a medium open shrub producing black fruit with an emerald green pulp.
Citrus australasica ‘Judy’s Everbearing’ – a tall shrub producing green-brown to maroon fruit with a green to dark pink flesh
Citrus australasica ‘Pink Ice’ – a medium growing shrub producing reddish maroon fruit with a clear to pink flesh.

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