Thursday, 19 December 2013

Maidens and Turnips

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

Living Planet

Frogs are under threat throughout the world and loss of habitat is one of the factors contributing to their demise. A frog pond is easy to construct, adds interest to your home garden and will provide a haven for the frog species in your area. You don’t have to worry about buying any frogs, because they’ll come calling….Let’s find out more

A pond with flowering water plants can be a very attractive focal point in a garden. These plants never seem to have any problems don’t need much attention.
Observing the lifecycle of frogs throughout the seasons provides added interest to your gardening. Frogs also help to control insect pests.
Locate your pond in a part sunny, part shady, but not directly under trees. Some trees or shrubs have poisonous leaves (oleander, Bleeding Heart and pines for example).
If you place your pond so that it's visible from the house then you can enjoy the pond anytime of day or night.
Put the pond in the back garden, and a bit away from your own house and your neighbour's houses, if the croaking of frogs is too noisy for you.
A low garden lamp that is reflected in the water will not only add to your garden's appearance in the evenings but also attract insects for the frogs.
We’d love to see photos of any frogs or frog ponds that you have in your garden, just send it in to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll post a CD in return.
why not drop us a line by sending in your question to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,

Vegetable Heroes

BOTANICAL NAME: Turnips or Brassica rapa
I can’t believe that for all the years I’ve been broadcasting, that I’ve never mentioned turnips in this segment. Swedes, Parsnips, but not the regular or even mini turnip.
I can’t say exactly why because I’ve been enjoying eating mini turnips for the last few weeks.
Maybe it’s just like Kohlrabi, the name and sight of the actual thing isn’t that appealing until you actually taste it.

Then you’ll be thinking, why didn’t I try this before because it tastes so good?
Did you know that the Romans used to throw turnips at unpopular people?
Maybe that’s why turnips got such a bad reputation?

But back the UK in the early 1700”s a bloke called Charles Townsend made turnips popular in England.
When Townshend discovered that animals could be fed and fatten by eating this vegetable that grew in cold and damp climates farmers were able to keep their livestock instead of having to kill them all for winter because there was nothing to feed them on.
Large woody turnips of old have mainly been replaced with smaller mainly white varieties that are delicious grated raw into a salad or as a side dish, leaving the swedes to take over in the stew department!

Why Grow Turnips?

Turnips are a very versatile vegetable - they can be harvested when mature or young, cooked or eaten raw and the young tops can be used like spring greens.
They are quick to mature and easy to grow.
The turnip is round, sits in the ground with just the top exposed to the light as it grows, and is actually the swelling at the base of the stem of the plant.
The Turnips that I’m going to talk about have mainly a white flesh and skin with a rosette of green feathery leaves that can also be eaten.
Turnips can grow in full sun and partial shade, but like a well drained soil.
Whatever you do when you plant turnips, don’t let them dry out.
When to plant your turnips?
Well I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mixed bag around Australia, so here goes.
From September until May in temperate districts and also cool temperate districts.
From August until May in sub-tropical areas.
For arid areas, you’ll have to wait until February then you have til August and Tropical areas, have even less of a chance, only between April and June.
Before you sow your turnip seeds, give the veggie bed some chook poo-about a handful per square metre.
Sow the turnip seeds no more than 1 cm deep.
It’ll be a bit tricky to get the right distance apart so keep thinning them out until they’re about 15cm apart.
If you thin them before 8 weeks, both the root and leaves are good to eat at this stage.
The leafy tops of these early pickings are great in salads.
Because you’re growing turnips during the warmer months, look after them by not letting them dry out, otherwise they’ll be small and woody.
Mulching with sugar cane, pea straw or something like that will help with keeping the soil moist.
Turnips take about 2-3 months to grow, so add a handful of chicken manure every 4 weeks.
You can pull them out when they’re the size of a golf ball when they’re at their sweetest, or wait until they’re the size of a tennis ball.
There are quite a few new varieties out so why not try
Turnip White Mini-Tender round white roots, stores well. Crisp, beautiful well shaped rounds, ideal for the turnip lover. Harvest in only 7 weeks.
Turnip ‘Snowball’ is a very popular first-class, globe variety with solid white flesh and a juicy, sweet, mild flavour. Snowball’s an heirloom turnip that was introduced before 1885.
Snowball is best harvested when no larger than a tennis ball and can also be enjoyed when much smaller. Snowball takes between 5-8 weeks to be ready.
Turnip 'Golden Globe'  Also known locally as 'Butter Turnips' locally. Were introduced before 1888, this a heritage turnip with a beautiful golden skin, amber yellow flesh and delicate flavour. Stores well.
Why are the good for you?
Turnip roots are high in dietary fibre, vitamin C and B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and copper. The greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of calcium, iron, and riboflavin

 Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Christopher Owen
Last week I started a series on garden design using grasses with guest landscape designer Christopher Owen.
On that segment we talked about the difference between ornamental grasses and strappy leaved plants.
There are lots of reasons to use grasses, other than lawn grasses in your garden design.
Let’s find out what they are….

A start at least into what can be done using grasses and there’s so many to choose from-native and non-native.

Plant of the Week

Gingko biloba
Living fossils are those plants that have been around in the same form for millions of years.
Despite numerous ice ages, they survived in pockets of habitat like deep in valleys or plateaux.
In this case, living fossil lived pre-dinosaurs.

Ginkgos are the evolutionary link between Ferns and Conifers, being neither one of the other.
In fact they’re classified in their own family.
For this reason they’re regarded as a living fossil.
They’re so tough, that they can survive a nuclear explosion, as 6 have done in Japan.
For a highly ornamental tree, albeit without flowers, you can’t go past the leaf shape and autumn colour of a Ginkgo.

Gingkos are deciduous and originate in China.

There aren’t any known plants left in the wilds of China other than a small group thought to be planted out by Chinese monks 1,000 years ago.
The name Gingko is from ancient Chinese meaning silver fruit and biloba is latin for two lobed, meaning two lobed leaves.
Gingko trees from 10 – 40 metres and eventually grow into a conical dome once they pass 50 years.
The leaves are like a large leaved maiden hair fern, being fan shaped so no surprise that the common name is Maiden Hair Tree.
The leaf colour is a yellow green-very attractive against all the mid-greens that seem to be the main colour in most gardens.

Gingkos are dioecious, meaning there’s a male and female plant.

The male plant has cone like structures called pollen cones and the female tree has two ovules at the ends of stalks.

After fertilisation, the female plant grows a seed covered by a fleshy layer (sarcotesta) which is fruit like but isn’t actually a fruit.
For this reason, Gingkos are considered as being a Gymnosperm-in the same group as conifers and other non flowering plants.

Why you don’t want a female plant is because these fleshy seeds contain butyric acid that smells like rancid butter, and female trees have a heavy fruit load.
The only good point is the seed can be eaten if roasted.
They grow very slowly, so you might want to buy an advanced plant if you want a tree.

 Where Ginkgos Like to Grow

Gingkos like deep soil with a good water supply. Like gullies.
Gingkos don’t like much shade or strong winds.
Very cold hardy to -100 C.
Survive nuclear blasts-6 trees still growing in Hiroshima.
Gingkos do like cool elevated areas but will grow in all states of Australia.
Cultivars: Aurea is smaller that the species with yellow leaves throughout summer.
G. Fastigiata grows like Poplar trees in shape.
G. Luciniata has leaves that are deeply cut.
G. Macrophylla-exceptionally large fan shaped leaves
G. Pendula has a drooping habit with long pendulous branches.
What it Likes:
If you want to grow a living fossil, keep the tree to a single trunk by pruning off any competing leaders. Multi-trunked trees can split as the trees age.
Fertilise the tree in late winter until established.
Where it Grows:
In Victoria, Maidenhair Tree has been used extensively in park plantings, and also have been used occasionally as street trees in the City of Melbourne.
Where water is freely available the trees are better than dry sites for best growth.

Some trees in Melbourne show signs of drought-induced die-back, but unless conditions are very harsh, Maidenhair Tree will survive and look lush.

The autumn foliage colour, leaf form and interesting habit make Maidenhair Tree a valuable street tree. When young (possibly for 15+ years) these trees are very upright, and with pruning, they can be maintained in a columnar form.
Grafted male trees are ideal for the landscape, and many of these trees also will maintain a fastigiate form for 50+ years.
If you have any questions about the where to buy a Ginkgo tree, why not write in to

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