Thursday, 29 August 2013

Rooftop Gardens and Crazy Lettuce

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
Photo By Roger Smith

with ecologist Sue Stevens
According to National Geographic, the habits of migratory birds are something of a mystery Scientists think that the birds take their cues from the landscape from above of course. Perhaps with their fantastic eyesight, they can see waterholes appearing in the landscape that link up through river paths.
But one of the strangest things though is they tend to go back to exactly the same place, and exactly the same spot.
Let’s find out what the Straw Necked Ibis is all about…

Did you know that Straw-necked ibises can fly up to 20,000km. and may follow landscape cues back to their breeding grounds in wet years - these grounds remain in the same small area.
If you have seen some Straw Necked Ibis in your area, 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

Celtuce, Asparagus Lettuce or Celery Lettuce or Lactuca sativa var. asparagine or var anustana.
Are you a fan of lettuce or celery or do they go mouldy in the crisper before you use them?
All types of lettuce, helps you sleep at night if you include lettuce in your evening meal.
But we don’t feel like lettuce in the cooler months so what do we do then?
Lettuce soup is nice but not every night.

I’ve heard it called Asparagus lettuce, Celery lettuce and stem lettuce.
Sounds like people just can’t make up their minds what it actually tastes like.
Did you know that China produces about half of the world’s lettuce?
So it’s no surprise that Celtuce, or this mixed up vegetable cross originates in China.
Lettuce has been grown in China since about the 7th century, and that includes this strange lettuce mutant.
Did you also know that Chinese traditionally don’t use lettuce in salads but in stir fries.

What is Celtuce exactly?

When Celtuce is growing, it looks a bit like Cos lettuce, and it’s at this stage that your pick the leaves and eat them as you would lettuce.
The leaves of Celtuce are more coarse than most lettuce so steaming them or using them in stir-fries might be a good option.
The stem actually does look like a bit like a fat Asparagus stem.
In China, where it’s grown in commercial quantities, the fleshy stem is cut into sections and cooked by steaming or stewing.
Growing this vegetable would be very useful because you can use all parts of it, plus it’s easy to grow.
Lettuce can be planted all year round in most areas of Australia.
Sow the seeds of Celtuce, or Asparagus Lettuce in September through to December in temperate zones.

When to Sow:

For arid areas and sub-tropical districts, Celtuce can take more heat in hot summers than lettuce, and it doesn’t seem to mind wet weather either.
Having said that, in Arid districts, it might be a good idea to avoid the hottest months of the year, and in cool temperate areas, you might like to grow your lettuce in a greenhouse or undercover somewhere during winter.
Celtuce tolerates most soils, including clay soils.
Any gardening book (mostly written for the northern hemisphere) will tell you that full sun is essential.
Full sun is best ONLY when it isn't too hot. Once the temperatures go into the thirties, your lettuce will definitely appreciate some shade, especially afternoon shade!

How to Sow:

Sow the Celtuce seeds only half a cm deep, spreading the seed very thinly along a row and cover lightly with soil, or sprinkle it over a bed and rake it in.
For all you balcony gardeners, any largish pot will do for 3 or 4 lettuce seedlings.
Lettuce seed is very fine so you'll get a few clumps.
Thin them out, you know the drill.
If the weather is very hot and your soil sandy, you will need to water daily. Stick your finger in the soil if not sure.
By the way, lettuce seed doesn't germinate that well at soil temperatures over 250C. 
So if you are sowing it in a pot, keep the potting mix cool by putting it in light shade until the lettuce seed germinates.
Don't plant you celtuce or any lettuce in deep shade, like under a tree, or they’ll just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on them.
If you can't find a position that provides dappled shade in the afternoon, try interplanting between taller plants that won’t totally shade them like capsicums/peppers or eggplants, staked tomatoes.
Lettuces need good soil, that means light, free draining and rich in organic matter.  
You soil need to be able to hold lots of water, nitrogen and other nutrients.
Sandy soils need help from your compost bin or worm farm.
If you have clay soils, growing celtuce or lettuce shouldn't be a problem, as is growing them in pots.
All types of Lettuce have shallow roots, so they dries out easily.
You must keep up a steady supply of water because any set back will at best, make them tough and bitter, at worst it will cause them to bolt to seed straight away without making any leaves for you!
So make sure they never get stressed (e.g. by forgetting to water them).
Celtuce not being a hearting type of lettuce won’t go to seed in summer very quickly.
TIP:In the summer months, you can’t grow hearting lettuces, even Cos/Romaine types, as they're also very heat susceptible and won’t form a heart at all.
I have grown those types of lettuce and they were the first to bolt to seed at the first sign of hot weather
Celtuce takes about 3 months from seed to harvest, but you can pick the leaves much earlier.
When the stem of the celtuce gets to about 30cm tall and is about 3-4cm thick, that’s the time to cut it and use it as a sort of asparagus come celery alternative.
TIP: Unlike Asparagus, you need to peel the stem because the outer part which has the sap, is bitter to taste.
The soft, translucent green central core is the edible part.
You can eat this fresh, sliced or diced into a salad.
I've heard that the flavour is sort of like a cucumber, yet different.
Why it’s called Asparagus lettuce or celery lettuce has more to do with it’s appearance and not it’s taste.
So why is it good for us?
Asparagus Lettuce is very good for digestion.
All types of lettuce have good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre.
You won’t put on any weight eating Lettuce  because most varieties have over 90% water and are extremely low in calories.
Lettuce contain the sedative lactucarium (lactoo-caree um) which relaxes the nerves but not upsetting digestion.
By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.  
•Happy Asparagus Lettuce growing everyone!

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

Did you know that people have cultivated roof gardens for centuries.As far back as 600BC, people living in Mesopotamia were growing trees and shrubs above ground. Ever heard of the famous hanging gardens of Babylon? Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers, certainly has!
You may not have a rooftop – but this is a very interesting garden and many of the elements can be incorporated into a ‘ground’ garden as well, like your backyard.
Listen to this…

Today’s inspirational garden also came from the RBS Rooftop garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show that I visited.
Roof gardens can combine all elements to support wildlife and biodiversity.
OK Australia’s climate can be a bit harsh in some areas for us to even consider having a rooftop garden on your shed or garage, or even your house.
But if you’ve got a balcony, you might try it there instead.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week:

Would you like some electric blue flowers that are easy to grow?
Easy to grow but hard to say.
The flowers of this plant can hang around for up to three months.

L. biloba.flowering now down the side of Henley Cottage.

England may have it’s blue poppies, Meconopsis, everywhere in gardens but we have Lechenaultia with the same bright blue flowers.

As usual, when the name was copied down it was incorrectly spelt, so the botanist attached to Baudin's expedition to Australia, Jean Baptiste Leschenault de la Tour. Spelt with an s, became without an s, and persists today.
As usual, the most exotic looking flowers seem to come originally from Western Australia.
The flowers, which grow to 1.5 cm long by 2-3 cm in diameter, have a tubular corolla, split on one side, and surrounded by five sepals.
The corolla has five lobes  and look similar to flowers of Scaevola.
Flowering time is from late winter through to summer.
The leaves are soft, blue-green in colour, very tiny at3-9 mm long to 2 mm across, crowded along the stems.
Lechanaultia grows naturally in gravelly and sandy soils of southern and central Western Australia. 
If you like this colour blue and want to grow this plant, you need to copy its original habitat and grow it in sandy, well-drained soil.
Plants in heavier sites will generally not last a season. The plant is not a long-lived one, three to four years being its most probable life span.
Without any tip pruning the shrub will become an open spreading plant to 50 cm high.  
Now here’s a great tip because there’s some of these plants growing outside the cottage at the radio station.
Lechanaultia is easily propagated by cuttings taken at any time of the year, but the best time is in late spring and summer.
A few weeks ago I took some cuttings and struck them in situ in a couple of places in the gardens.
seem to be surviving so far.
I used semi-hardwood cuttings about 6-10 cm long.
Spring is the best time, so if these don't survive, I'll try again later.
Lechanaultia is growing at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in built-up beds with added limestone chips; but I don't think you need to do that unless you have limestone chips lying around in your backyard or property.
The most important growing requirement is a perfectly drained situation, like in a rockery, built-up beds or pots.
L. biloba has been successfully cultivated in pots for many years in Europe.
Minimal watering is required and the roots will penetrate deeply in a free-draining soil.

Lechenaultia biloba can be allowed to straggle over rocks, or a more compact shape may be obtained by a light pruning after flowering. No pests or diseases have been observed and this plant is frost tolerant.
This is a perfect plant if you’re looking for the colour blue to add to your garden.
Lechanaultia would suit the front of the border, and especially rockeries and even hanging baskets.
Team it up with Yellow Buttons ( Chrysocephalum apiculatum), Paper Daisies, Rhodanthe anthemoides, and even Brachyscome, or Scaevola or fan flower.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Having a Swale of a Time in the Garden

The Good Earth

with permaculture experts, Lucinda Coates and Margaret Mossakowska

Photo by M. Mossakowska

Do you have a boggy patch in the garden?
What about watering you garden without turning on the hose?
Sounds impossible, but there are ways you can save water from disappearing down the stormwater drain but altering the landscape of your garden.
And no, it doesn’t have to look ugly at all.

Listen to this
Know you know that a swale is a slight depression that runs along the contour of the land.  It can be deep or shallow, or even hidden (a ditch filled with mulch, pebbles or any other material,  )The dirt from digging the swale is usually used to make a raised mound on the downhill side. You can make them any size you want.

Note: a swale is not a drain but stores water in the soil. By stopping the run-off, it prevents soil erosion as well.    How it works is this: Rain falls on your property, and instead of running straight down the slope, it runs to the swale and gathers. There it soaks in slowly, forming a lens of water underneath the swale. This provides a area of shallow sub-surface water downslope from it for an amazingly long time, so your grass will stay greener, and you won't need to water very often.

If you have a question about any building swales or anything about permaculture that hasn’t been covered in the show so far, why not drop us a line. to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page, we’d love to hear from you.

Vegetable Heroes:


What are microgreens?
Microgreens are very young edible greens from vegetables, herbs or other plants.
It has to be said, growing microgreens is the speediest way to growing leafy greens.

You’ll be cutting them in 1-2 weeks.
Plus, they add packets of flavour to salads of larger leaves and the best part, it couldn’t be any easier.

You can grow them indoors all year round, you don’t even need a sunny windowsill.

Micro greens grow to about two and a half to four cm long, including the stem and leaves.

A microgreen has a single central stem which has been cut just above the soil line during harvesting.

The first leaves that come out from any plant are called cotyledon leaves and usually one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves.

So, leaf and stem are never bigger than 4cm in height and 2 1/2cm across.

  • Microgreens even though they’re really small have intense flavours  but not as strong it would’ve been if the plant was left to grow to full size.
  • Usually I start talking about the history of the vegetable or fruit at this point.
  • There’s not much history at all about micro greens.
  • Maybe they started off as a fad in the 1990’s who knows?
  • They seem to be catching on more and more, because you can get seeds marketed as micro greens from major chain stores that have a gardening section.

How about greens, like all types of lettuce, Basil, Beets, Coriander and Kale that are harvested with scissors when they’re really, really, small?

Not at all like sprouts, but grown in a similar way and  picked or more correctly, cut at a later stage of growth.

Sprouts are only the germinated seed, root stem and underdeveloped leaves.
Microgreens are the mini-versions of the much larger green vegetable.
Sprouts are also grown entirely in water and not actually planted.
Microgreens are mostly planted in soil or a soil alternative like sphagnum moss, or coco peat.
Plus you grow microgreens in light conditions with plenty of air circulation and not in a jar.
You might be wondering why you’d want that?
What’s wrong with growing salad vegetables in the garden?
This might be more for the busy gardener who’s run out of space or time available to grow a full garden of vegetables.
So how do you grow Micro greens?
There are a couple of ways to grow Microgreens.
The first method is to grow your greens in soil like organic, potting mix, cocopeat, vermiculite, sieved compost or worm castings.
Use seedling trays or boxes and fill the tray with your selected soil mix 2 - 3 cm deep and moisten the mix.
Soak the seed overnight then sprinkle the seeds evenly on top of the mix and gently pat them down; then cover with 0.5 cm of mix.
Cover the tray with a lid or another inverted tray to help keep the seeds moist until they sprout.
Then water often using a sprayer.
Adding diluted organic nutrients e.g. kelp or compost tea to the sprayer will improve the nutrient levels in the microgreens.
Microgreens are usually harvested when there are four or more leaves. Cut the shoots just above ground level with scissors.
Many types of vegetable seeds as micro greens and will regrow and can be cut several times.
Afterwards the tray contents can be added to the compost heap.
The second way of growing your microgreens has come out this year, and it’s using something called a Growing Tray.
This tray holds a reservoir of water and has holes in it so the plants can grow their roots down into the water.
Growing your microgreens this way makes it superbly easy for all home chefs and gardeners to have a steady supply at their fingertips.
You don’t even need soil, just a spray bottle of water and the seeds.
But you do need to remember to spray the seed, 2-3 times a day until the roots develop, then keep water reservoir topped up with fresh water until harvest a couple weeks later!
You can buy them in stores or via mail order and online.
Microgreens seed packet range includes 5 mixed packets, each containing 3 varieties typical to a regional cuisine:
Flavours of the Mediterranean - Basil Italian Mix, Rocket and Sunflower
Flavours of France - Sorrel, Chervil and Sunflower
Flavours of Western Europe - Cress, Amaranth Red Garnet and Pea Morgan
Favours of Eastern Europe - Kale Pink, Cabbage Red and Pea Morgan
Flavours of the Orient - Mustard Ruby Streaks, Garland Chrysanthemum and Coriander
One thing to keep in mind, the seeds used to grow microgreens are the same seeds that are used for full sized herbs, vegetables and greens.
So, If you want to use up that packet of Cabbage, Celery, Chard, Chervil, Coriander, Cress, Fennel, Kale, Mustard, Parsley, Radish and Sorrel, rather than throwing it out. Grow the seeds as microgreens.
Never use parsnips for micro greens as seedlings they’re apparently poisonous!
Coriander seed takes longer to germinate than other micro greens – up to three weeks.
Partly due to the tough outer coating of the seeds, preventing water from penetrating.
You need to break the seed coat to give it a hurry up by crush the seeds lightly then soak overnight to speed up germination and improve success.
Why are they good for You?
Just because they’re mini greens doesn’t mean they have a high concentration of nutrients or even a miracle food. No such luck.
So they have proportionally smaller amounts of the same nutrients that the full sized vegetable that they would’ve been has.
They are eaten as thin, delicate plants - as miniature variations on salad greens and herbs. They provide texture and colour when used as garnish, or exciting flavours when used as part of salad mixes
If you have any questions about growing microgreens or where to buy the seeds for sowing, just drop us a line to
Or by post 2RRR, PO box 644 Gladesville NSW, 1675

Design Elements

with landscape designer Louise McDaid

Inspiration Series

Inspiration from the Pine Cottage garden at this year's Chelsea Flower Show

Do you know someone who thinks a cottage garden is a row of Agapanthus, lawn and maybe a fountain?
Yes, I know someone who thinks just that.
What is a cottage garden then?
It started in England in the 1870’s and is an informal design but lots of plants.

Even mixing ornamental or decorative plants with edible plants, and a rose covered gateway.This year at Chelsea, there was a modern twist to the cottage garden.
Listen to this…

The earliest cottage gardens were more practical, you could even say, took a leaf out of modern day permaculture.
These gardens had  an emphasis on vegetables and herbs, along with some fruit trees, perhaps a beehive, and even livestock!

If you have a cottage garden, send in a photo, and I’ll send you a copy of Jane Davenport’s the Garden Guardian.
Send it to our email address, or just post it.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Lemon, Lime 'n' Nutmeg

 Spice it Up

Photo by Louise Brooks

Did you know that Nutmeg is not one spice but two?
The Nutmeg tree’s pretty nice too, but you can only grow this one in the tropics.
Even if you can work out a microclimate for your Nutmeg tree, it takes up to nine years before you get any fruit, plus you need a male and a female tree.
What’s even more tricky, the grower wouldn’t be able to tell you what type of tree it was until it was at least six years old.
Just sit back and enjoy the fascinating tale about Nutmeg and leave the growing to the experts. Listen to this with Ian Hemphill from

Ian says add a tough of grated nutmeg to a creamy pasta sauce for that added touch of inspiration.
You can grow the Australian version of the Nutmeg tree, but the fruits only faintly smell of Nutmeg.
However, it’s OK in dry conditions and might be a nice addition to the native garden.If you have a question about any spices, or want to know about  a spice or herb that’s hasn’t been covered in the show so far, why not drop us a line. to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page, we’d love to hear from you.

Vegetable Heroes

  This weeks Lima Beans or Phaseolus lunatus
 The answer to the question, do Lima Beans come from Lima, or Leema? Yes they do?
 Why you ask? Because that’s where those Spaniards first found them in Peru, in the city of Lima.         

Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus var. macrocarpa syn. Phaseolus limensis), are also called Madagascar beans. Lunatus refers to the crescent shape of the bean pod.
Lima beans are grown for their seeds which are used semi-mature (green limas) or dry (dry limas).        

Lima beans are one of the oldest beans to come out of the Americas, with remains dating from 6000 to 5000 B.C. 
Plants grow wild in the Amazon basin region of Brazil and seeds have been found in prehistoric mummy pits in Peru.

How to Plant

Why are we growing Lima beans, aren’t there plenty of other bean varieties?
Lima beans have a few special qualities-they’re tasty when they’re fresh, and they have health benefits that are the highest for any bean.
Have you ever seen fresh Lima beans being sold anywhere? Probably not, but I’m sure you’ve seen the speckled white and maroon dried seeds.
So it’s a good idea to grow some of your own.
Lima bean pods are a little different looking than most climbing beans.
The pod of the lima bean is flat, oblong and slightly curved, averaging about 71/2cm in length.
Inside that largish pod are the two or four flat kidney-shaped seeds that we call lima beans.
The seeds come in various colours, but the ones available in Australia are usually the cream and maroon flecked versions.
Most beans are grown during the warmer months from spring through to early autumn. Broad beans are the only beans that are grown from autumn through to spring.
To germinate properly, lima beans need warmer soil than snap beans.
They also need higher temperatures and a longer growing season for a good crop.
Lima bean seeds require soil temperatures of at least 180 Celsius for a minimum of five days to germinate.
They should be planted two weeks after the average date of the last frost.
In temperate and arid areas, sow beans from September until January, In warmer areas-sub-tropical and tropical, sow these beans from August until April, and for cool temperate districts, you have September until the end of December
  Lima beans are usually grown as fast growing annuals and should be direct sown or planted out after all the chance of the last frost has passed.

Lima beans are also better at coping with wet, humid conditions than other bean varieties.
Lima beans needs a sturdy trellis because of the way it grows-rather sprawly and vigorous.
Lima beans, like a lot of vegetables like to grow in full sun, in a well drained soil that is pH neutral to alkaline. That’s of course ideal.
These beans tolerate a wide range of soil types too but drainage is essential otherwise they’ll get root rot.
If your soil is boggy, grow them in a mound or raised bed.
A good idea is to add Potash and blood and bone.
The bean seeds are quite large so don’t sow them too close to the surface, or the seeds will dry out.
Sow them at least 2-4 cm deep.
Mulch around your beans thoroughly because beans are shallow rooted and are easily damaged if you’re weeding around them.
Lima bean seeds grow best when you water them deeply after sowing and wait until the first set of true leaves appear before you water again.
Once they’ve grown a bit, if it doesn’t rain, they need about 1cm of water per week before flowering and about double that or 2cm of water every week from flowering through to harvest.
If you don’t five them enough water during this flower period and during pod set, you’ll end up with less beans because the plant will drop the flowers or pods.
The growing period for these beans is 16 weeks, so a little bit longer than other beans
The beans (not the pods) can be eaten fresh, while still white before any colour shows.
They also dry well on the vine to a beautiful speckled red and white bean that can be stored for winter soups and casseroles.
Lima beans also freeze well or can be left on the plant to grow into large, dried seeds which can be used in soups and stews.

If you’re having trouble sourcing the seeds of Lima beans, why not buy a packet of dried beans from the supermarket?
These dry lima beans, will need to be soaked in some water for 3 or 4 hours. No more than a day. After you plant the bean, the bean will open up by itself. Very lightly firm down the soil mixture around each bean. Make sure you keep the beans in as much sun as possible.

Why are they good for You?

Did you know that all beans are an excellent source of dietary fibre?
The health benefits of Limas beans outperforms other beans with much higher levels of folate and magnesium.
Lima beans also provide your body with vitamin B6, niacin, they’re a good source of protein- including amino acid and lysine, fibres, iron, and potassium.
Also, lima beans have very little fat.
If you have any questions about growing Lima beans or where to buy the seeds for sowing, just drop us a line

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid Landscape Designer
People like to visit gardens to overseas because without looking down our noses at Australian gardens, some of these gardens are really really big, and really really old.
The size of gardens in England for example that I saw this year, was mind boggling, even awesome. But what can visitors get out of these gardens, because they seem to be just too big, with too much to take in.
Well, you can take inspiration from these gardens if you just select one part of them.
This month, Louise and I are undertaking a trip to a few a these gardens for inspiration.
Listen to this…

The red border at Hidcote was one fairly small part of the overall garden.
But it was a section that could easily be re-created in any garden, even a native garden.

What did you think of the plant choices? Are you inspired to plant out a few more red plants-red leaved plants that is in your garden. Not bright red, but the deep reds of maples and some of the strappy leaved plants.
If you do, write in and let us know what you planted or send in a photo



Plant of the Week:


NEW RELEASE -dwarf selection of Lemon Scented Tea Tree Lemon, Lime and Bitters.

Lemon, Lime and Bitters  is a mixed drink made with lemonade, lime juice or cordial, and bitters.
When you first look at this new tea tree, you probably won’t be able to say that the drink has anything to do with this plant, but who knows, the secret may yet need to be revealed.

Tea trees are in the Myrtaceae family along with Eucalypts, Corymbias and Melaleucas.
The parent plant of Lemon Lime and Bitters is Leptospermum petersonii or Lemon Scented Tea Tree.
L. petersonii is a rounded shrub to 4 m high by 3 m across. Leaves are narrow-lanceolate, to 4 cm, and strongly lemon-scented.
It’s an upright tree with weeping outer branches.
White flowers, 1.5 cm in diameter, occur in spring and early summer.
Will grow in full sun or partial shade, even for half the day.

Tea trees are generally hardy and will grow in any soil, even soils that are inundated for a while.
You could even say that will withstand neglect for some time and will grow in clay soils that have moderate drainage.

Lemon Lime N Bitters or Ell Ell ‘n Bee leaves are full of citronella oil and it’s covered with white teatree flowers in spring, which the butterflies love.

Moist clay loam or sandy soils in cool temperate to sub tropical climates will suit just fine, and you decide its shape by how little or how much you prune it.
This dwarf selection grows 50cm high and wide.
Sounds a great alternative to low box hedging and quite a bit more colourful too.

I’ve been given a sample and the leaves are nowhere near that bright green of Buxus.
More colourful –a sort of greeny-red.

Problems with Tea Trees Solved.
Frost tender when young so cover with fleece or protect with a screen when they're young.
It’s said they have a problem with webbing caterpillars.
I have this problem in my Melaleuca “Claret Tops.” Webbing caterpillars feed on the foliage of most of the small-leaf species, matting the leaves together with webbing and filling it with their droppings.
What can then happen is all the leaves can drop off, ie defoliation in small plants and may even cause death.
The easiest and safest means of control, if the problem is found early enough, is to remove the mass of grubs, webbing and frass with the fingers and squash it.
Hard pruning the affected area has been my solution.

Pruning of tea trees isn’t necessary, but it can be hard pruned into hedging if you wanted.

After all that, Lemon Lime n Bitters isn’t such a bad name for this colourful shrub. Firstly it has a lemon scented leaf and secondly, the leaves come in three colours foliage, yellow, green and reddish.
Use this mounding plant in rockeries, mass plantings; hedging and low borders. Team it up with Grevillea oxyantha, or any other small leaved grevillea, like G. speciosa, or Firesprite, and enjoy the result.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Perma Gardening Good for the Earth

The Good Earth

Are you an accidental organic gardener? Turns out that you don’t have to be full on into permaculture to actually be following their ideas.
Did you know that permaculture is ‘eco-friendly’, organic, healthy and low maintenance?
I'm talking with Lucinda Coates and Margaret Mossakowska from Permaculture North.

Plus, if you just want to find more ways to be organic, just go along to some permaculture workshops.
To find out about a local permaculture group near you, go to and look up Our Social Network tab on the website.
There’s a permaculture association in just about every state.
For example in South Australia’s it’s for all across Victoria, and for 2UUU listeners there’s a permaculture shoalhaven network
For local listeners, go to
If you have a question about organic gardening or want to know where to find organic gardening workshops in your area, why not drop us a line. to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page, we’d love to hear from you.

Vegetable Heroes:


The answer to the question, what was grown in the Paris Catacombs before the Paris Metro was of course the Mushroom.
Not strictly a vegetable or a fruit, and not even a plant, but a fungi.
They also seem to have very different botanical or scinetific names.
Button mushrooms are Agaricus bisporus, various oyster mushrooms belong to the genus Pleurotus and shiitake mushrooms are Lentinula edodes.
Did you know that the body of the mushroom is mycelium which is microscopic, lives underground, in wood or another food source.
It’s when this mycelium has stored enough nutrients to give fruits, that we get those mushrooms that we see and we like to eat.
4,600 years ago, Egyptians believed that eating mushrooms gave you immortality so commoners weren’t allowed to eat mushrooms, only royalty. How thing’s have changed?

Some say that Louis XIV of France was the first mushroom grower in Europe but it’s more likely that it was a French botanist named Merchant, who in 1678 showed to the Academie des Sciences how mushrooms could be grown in a controlled way by transplanting their mycelia. (filaments which spread through the soil underneath them like fine roots)."
Speaking of tunnels, the first mushrooms grown commercially in Australia were grown in disused railway tunnels in Sydney in the 1930’s.
Later the mushrooms were grown in fields only covered with straw and hessian bags.
Listeners might remember buying mushrooms in cans because you couldn’t always get them fresh all year round like you can now.
Remember those cans of Champignons?
Today, Australians eat mostly fresh mushrooms because they’re available all year.
You can grow quite a lot more varieties at home, than just the plain white mushrooms.

Varieties You Can Grow:

There’s White Button, Chestnut button, Swiss Brown, Pearl Oyster, Pink Oyster. Golden Oyster, and Shitake to name a few.
I have grown white button Mushrooms in the past, and having seen different varieties being grown in Europe so I thought I’d explore some other varieties that can also be grown at home.
You may already know that the standard white button kit comes in a cardboard box with compost and casing material that you have to wet and put on top of the compost in the box.
The same goes for Chestnut button mushrooms.
Then there’s grow bags available from some garden centres and large retail outlets that sell Mushroom grow bags.
Mr Fothergills is releasing a new way of growing the other types of mushrooms in kit form this Spring.
Growing Mushrooms (Agaricus species) is easy if you stick to a few basic guidelines.

So how do you grow mushrooms from a kit?

Find somewhere indoors where there’s no wind or direct sunlight, better still if it’s a bit humid like your laundry.
Some people may have a big enough bathroom to put the kit in there!
A good idea is to keep your mushroom kit off the ground and out of the way of the family pet.
It’s not a good idea to grow deep your mushrooms deep inside a cupboard or pantry because the air is pretty dry, plus if you can’t see them, you might forget about them.
The standard kits contain a casing with mushroom spores that you spread over your mushroom compost. For this you need a spray bottle of water to keep the kit moist.
Now there’s a kit you can buy where the spores come in packets.
Some part of each mature mushroom produces microscopic spores that are similar to pollen or seeds.
You can either buy the mushroom boards that need to be soaked first in water, or you can spread the spores on your own board.
Another way is to use logs from almost any hardwood tree as long as it’s not a pine tree.
Two 15 x 40 cm logs are all you need.
What you need to do next is spread the spores over the wetted surface of one log, then place another log on top and tie them together to make a sort of mushroom spore sandwich.
Next, put the logs into a loosely tied plastic bag-so there’s some air circulation, and put this in a warm place.
Somewhere where the temperature doesn’t get below 160 C and above 250 C. In the house sounds best.
Leave this to incubate for 6-8 weeks.
According to Mr Fothergills instructions, the white mushroom mycelium should spread through the wood.

What does it look like?
Have you ever had a loaf of bread get the white woolly flour like mould grow on it before it turns green?
A bit like that, but woolly flour like mould should appear all over the logs or boards. Shitake mushrooms mould looks more of a reddish brown colour.
That actually makes sense, because if you’ve ever had a dead tree in your garden, have you ever noticed the fungus that grows out from the dead trunk as the wood decomposes?
The next step is take the logs out of the plastic bags and bury  three-quarters of the boards vertically, in the garden where it’s cold and damp.
The logs or boards aren’t that big so don’t worry, you don’t have to dig that big a hole.
That will kickstart the process of mushroom growing.
TIP:Water the logs regularly or else the mycelium will dry out.
Don’t panic if you haven’t got a spot in the garden, you can actually keep the boards in the bag but cut some holes in the bag and spray a couple of times a day.
Also keep a little bit of water in the bottom of the bag.
One more thing, to kickstart mushroom production, put the bag in the fridge for two days.

Why are they good for You?

Even though they’re in the vegetable aisle in the supermarket, mushrooms could be in with meat, beans or grains.
That’s because mushrooms contain 3.3g of protein for every 100g of mushrooms. About three button or one flat mushroom.
Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium.
One serve of mushrooms has 20% of your RDI of some of the important B group vitamins, as well as selenium, nearly as much potassium as in a banana, and vitamin D.
Yes you heard right, they’re the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources.
Mushrooms are also valuable source of dietary fibre: a 100g serving of mushrooms contains more dietary fibre (2.5g) than 100g of celery (1.8g) or a slice of wholemeal bread (2.0g

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
So you’ve cut out spraying with chemicals, you’re growing bird friendly plants, but what else can you do to make sure your garden is a haven for all sorts of wildlife? Let’s find out…

The key points were to seek out local plants and incorporate them into your garden somewhere.
Louise also mentioned that sometimes the local plants don’t always have great flowers, but you put them in with other natives or even exotics and build up a plant base that encourages biodiversity.
That way, you’re attracting good bugs, birds and reptiles into your garden that do some of the hard work in the garden for you.
Can’t have enough of those good bugs I say.
There’s a new product out, by the way, that’s not only a horticultural oil, but contains a good bug attractant which the company calls HIPPO.
Look out for it next time you go shopping if you have a pest outbreak.
It’s good because it’s organic.

Plant of the Week:

Anigozanthos flavidus: Kangaroo paws.

  These plants fit right into native gardens, but too often they get this black stuff on their leaves that just looks awful.
If you like Kangaroo Paws, you’ll want to hear all about how you control ink disease and the best way to look after them.

Kangaroo paws “Ruby Slippers,” sounds pretty nice, and if you like Anigozanthos or paws, go out and treat yourself to several of these plants.

I’ve erred on the side of “leave it til later for Kangaroo paws. Mainly because I don’t really like them.
I’ve tried to like the flowers, but something about Kangaroo paws just doesn’t say flowers to me.
I don’t understand the motivation behind wanting Kangaroo paws. But there you go.

To be fair, I’m going to talk about Kangaroo paws, or Anigozanthos, because I know there’s plenty of people out there that actually like them. Angus Stewart for one.
I know how to grow them and what to do about the dreaded ink disease.
I also know that the landscaping, larger cultivars do better in most people’s gardens.
Let’s get this over with shall we?

Trivia:Anigozanthos is Greek meaning uneven  flower, because the petals are arranged unevenly.
Anigozanthus or kangaroo paws are a rhizomatous evergreen perennial
Paws grow as a grassy like clump with strappy leaves with the flowers well above the foliage.
The flowers are tubular with the corolla and calyx fused. These are held up on tall woolly branched spikes.

To look after your Kangaroo Paws-just give them an open situation.
They’re fairly hardy but for disease resistance grow it in full sun and western sun.

Paws prefer well drained moist soils but tolerate sandy or clay soils, and even temporary inundation-ie long periods of rain, as long as it drains away over a few days.

Take off the flowers that have finished  as well as the leaves to minimise the spread of the dreaded ink disease. More on that later.


Divide your Kangaroo paws now-ie winter. Ablsolutely the best time to do this and do it every 3-4 years so they don’t get overcrowded. Good way to prevent disease taking hold.
Fertilise with ½ strength native fertiliser in Spring.


Anigozanthos rufus selection Cultivar Name Ruby Slippers
This cultivar is small, only growing to about 50 x 50 cm.
Grow it in pots where you can see it more often. Put it into a full sun or part shade position, but protect from frosts.
Massed rich red flowers clustered on red stems in late winter-spring with contrasting grey-green strappy leaves.
Climate Suited to cool temperate to arid climates
All Kangaroo paws are  fairly drought tolerant.


About that dreaded ink disease- is a fungus, and appears as large black blotches on the leaves. Plants growing in cool moist climates are more susceptible. Also plants growing in warm humid climates are susceptible.

If you’re growing some and don’t have the disease, please let us know, and the climate that your live in, plus the cultivar. Do everyone a favour.

 Ink disease is difficult to treat. Vigorously growing plants are more resistant and dividing clumps after several years helps to make more strong growth.
Slash the plant to rhizome level annually if you like, when they show signs of ink disease-ie blackening of the leaves.
In most cases get rid of the clumps of declining plants and plant new ones.
Happens more with the hybrid species.
Some disease resistant cultivars are also now available.

Larger cultivars can be cut back to the ground and the affected leaves put in the rubbish and not in the compost to prevent the spread of fungal spores.
You can also try spray with the fungicide, copper oxychloride, to stop the spread of the disease.

If you have this problem and you love Kangaroo paws, think of your paws as short-lived plants.
Kangaroo paws generally only last for 3 to 5 years.

Some types, for example, Anigozanthos manglesii, are best considered annuals.

TIP:Most species are dormant over winter (some die back completely) and it is important not to over-water at this time.
Attract honey eating birds-great for a native garden. Where in the winning garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show.
Just follow our tips on how to look after them, or write in or email us a question and we’ll help you with any problems you have with Kangaroo Paws.