Friday, 31 January 2014

Going Down to the Woods Today

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
Have you ever wondered what the process is when a developer comes along to build their mega shopping centre, or some-one wants to start up a mine somewhere?
What happens to all the birds and animals, shrubs and trees?
Believe it or not, there are people hired who get up to all sorts of methods to account for wildlife that might be on a threatened patch.
Let’s find out what exactly

Both the Conservation Act and The Threatened Species Act are used by ecologists when assessing land that might be developed to find targeted species.
Consulting ecologists may mark out a 50 x 50 metre plot and map every bit of vegetation and fauna in that area. They also set up night time cameras, Song-meters and Ana Bat to pick up micro-bats, songbirds, frogs and other animals.

Plenty of details from Kurtis as usual in that segment about his actual job. Kurtis is based in Mudgee, and as I mentioned, used to do the wildlife in focus segment as he’s an expert ornithologist as well.
Glad to see that Kurtis is taking care of some of our living things out their in the bush.

Vegetable Heroes

 BEETROOT is Beta vulgaris

Did you know that the soup that the Russians cooked for the Americans in the soyuz19 in 1975....was borscht, or beetroot soup? Of course!
Beta vulgaris or Beetroot, started life growing as wild seabeet, along coastlines from India to Britain and is the ancestor of all cultivated forms of beet. At first, only the leaves were eaten.
Did you also know that Beetroot was offered to Apollo in his temple at Delphi, where it was reckoned to be worth its own weight in silver?
Beetroot is in the top 10 most popular vegetables for growing in our gardens.
Who would’ve thought?
Beta vulgaris, commonly known as beet or beetroot, is a flowering plant species in the family Chenopodiaceae.
Growing Beetroot is fairly easy and Beetroot can be eaten fresh, stored and pickled so that can be enjoyed all year round.
When to Plant:
In cool temperate zones you can plant beets from September through to the end of April, in Arid areas, from February until December, or possibly the end of January and why not?
In temperate districts plant your seeds from July until April.
Tropical areas have to wait until March then you’ve got until June, and sub-tropical areas win the jackpot because they can sow beets all year round!
The seeds of beetroot are best planted at soil temperatures between 7°C and 25°C.
Did you know that that lumpy thing you get in your seed packet is not just one seed?
Beetroot  seeds are always made up of a seedball of several seeds.
For the best germination rate, soak that cluster of seeds, in water in a shallow saucer for around 24 hours before planting..
When the seedlings come up, if you don't thin them, you will get a number of rather pathetic little plants which don't grow to an edible size.
So how much space then?
If you can put a tennis ball between plants, then you’re set.
Don’t worry if your veggie garden is a bit shade because this is one of those veggies that isn’t too fussy about sun or shade.
 Beetroots can cope with anything from full sun to part shade and even do fairly well in dappled light under a deep rooted tree.
Don’t over manure or fertilise your soil, because too much nitrogen enhances leaf growth and not root growth – and whaddya want?
You want  root growth.
Another thing, beets don’t care much for thick/clay like soil. And don’t expect much if you just plonk them in any old soil that’s not seen fertiliser for a number of years.
Add lots of liquid fertilisers such as Fish emulsion but remember Seaweed stuff is not a fertiliser.
Grow them in an raised bed, tub, ezi-planter or yes you can grow beetroot in pots, but they need to be BIG pots, like at least 30cm diameter or those poly styrene jobbies from the green grocer.
Keep your beets well-watered because if they dry out, they’ll become woody and inedible inside.

Q. Karen writes in “Why are my beetroots splitting?”

ANSWER: Karen, you're letting your beetroot get too thirsty watering twice a day will help also don’t use too much fertilizer, forcing them to grow is not a good idea.
For  really tasty and tender beetroot, start pulling them out at golfball-size. That’s when they are around 3cm in diameter.
It makes sense to pick or dig up every alternate beet so that more space is left between the ones that are left in the ground. This will help them grow.
If you’ve tried growing beetroot and not had success - I think it could be too much nitrogen and not enough potassium. Try fertilizing with a fruit/flower type fertilizer or Potash, to get more potassium. Or maybe more patience - my beetroot take a long time for the root to grow.
When the size of beet reaches about 7.5 cm in diameter they should be definitely dug up after that they won’t be great to eat. Gently dig under the root with a trowel and lift the bulb out of the soil taking care not to damage the outer skin. The less the bulb is damaged the longer the beetroot can be stored for.

Why not try Burpees Golden-it’s supposed to be really sweet and doesn’t bleed like the red types because it’s gold
How about Beetroot Cylindra –not round but long, great for pickling because you can squish more into a jar, and hey, you can plant them closer together because they expand downwards and not outwards.
Finally, when you pick them, twist off the leaves.
Did you know that the leaves of Beetroots are edible? Steam them like spinach, or you could throw into compost.
Don’t leave the leaves on when storing.
Store them in the fridge or on a cool, dark shelf. They’ll normally keep for a few weeks when  young and fresh.
What’s good about Beetroot?
A cup of beetroot has about 31 calories; 8.5g of carbohydrate, 1.5g of dietary fibre.
Cooked beetroot is a great source of folate that can protect you against high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Why are they putting folate in bread? Eat a proper diet I say.
Are you looking for a hangover cure?
Beta cyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its colour, is an antioxidant and could key to beating your hangover!
How so?  Beta cyanin speeds up detoxification in your liver, so your body can  turn the alcohol into a less harmful substance that your body can get rid of faster.

Beetroot is has a very low Glycemic Index which means it’s converted into sugars very slowly which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Culinary hints - cooking and eating Beetroot
Apart from boiling whole for salads, beetroot roast well, cut in wedges.
They also make a tasty salad grated raw with carrot and a little fresh orange juice.
If you have any questions about growing beets or beetroot or any other vegetable, JUST EMAIL ME


Design Elements

with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Part 4 cool garden design-a woodland garden.
What do you picture when you think of a woodland garden?
Do you think of an English woodland with bluebells, English oaks, maples and other northern hemisphere trees? Or do you think of Australian woodland with Eucalypts, grass trees, or casuarinas, underplanted with hardenbergias and boronias and all manner of ferns like birds nest ferns?
Let’s find out what makes a cooling woodland garden in the last of the series on creating cool gardens….

Not only trees, shrubs and low ground covers, but seats ponds and even outdoor dining tables can be placed in your  very own woodland garden.
Even create a teddy bear’s picnic or fairy garden at the bottom for any littlies that might visit your garden. It’ s only limited by your imagination.

 Plant of the Week

Did you realise that ferns belong to a group of plants called featherplants or pteridophytes, along with club mosses and horsetails.
Featherplants are among the world’s most ancient plants, found as fossils in rocks 400 million years old.
Would you believe that there are now 10,000 species of fern living in damp, shady places around the world.
Ranging from tiny ferns with mossy leaves just 1 cm long to rare tropical tree ferns growing up to 25m tall.

Here’s a bit of trivia, Coal is made largely of fossilized featherplants of the Carboniferous Period 360 – 286 million years ago.
Coal is made from dead plants such as ferns. Over 200 million years ago, the ferns would have become buried underground and very gradually turned to cool under the immense pressure of the Earth.
Ferns produce an underground rhizome that produces fern fronds.
Fern leaves are called fronds. When new they are curled up like a shepherd’s crook, but they gradually uncurl over time.
Some ferns are edible.
Ferns look fragile but are tougher than you think.
For a low maintenance garden, choose ferns because all you have to do is cut off any dead fronds.
There’s many fern types for every climate in Australia.
Ferns are an ancient type of plant that evolved long before conifers and flowering plants. They even reproduce by means of spore rather than seed.
Their underground parts are rhizomes not roots and they have fronds not leaves.
Australia has 400 of the possible 10,000 fern species available worldwide.
In some areas, local ferns will colonise a part of your garden.
Bracken Fern and Maiden Hair fern (yes that’s a native) easily colonise a lot of gardens on the east coast of Australia.
If you live in a cool climate, there are a number of Australian native fern species which are relatively easy to grow outdoors in cool climate areas.


Ferns require good drainage and some form of protection, such as overhanging trees, shrubs, a garden wall, the wall of a house or shade cloth, is provided.
Where there are extremes of dry heat and cold, you need to create a shelter like a shade house that keeps the humidity that ferns need.
For those people living in Arid areas, also build a shade house for your ferns, where you can go into and relax away from the heat of the day.
When planning the site for a fern garden, easterly and southerly aspects are preferable. The majority of ferns grow best in filtered sunlight and although some will tolerate direct sunlight, they should not be subjected to it for long periods.
 Frost damage may occur to fronds, but it will not be as severe if regular watering is kept up throughout winter. Damage to foliage may also occur during long periods of dry heat and wind. Damaged fronds will not recover and should be removed.

Growing ferns indoors

They mainly need sufficient light, moisture and humidity.
Don’t grow in direct sunlight, very close to windows where they can be burnt or can dry out rapidly.
On the other hand, pale and spindly growth will result if there is not enough light.
A good quality potting mix should be used; one that will drain adequately but still retain sufficient moisture for the plants’ needs.
Lack of humidity caused by heaters drying the air in the house can be a problem to ferns.
Humidity may be increased by spraying the fronds daily with water or placing the pots on a tray of pebbles with water in the tray.
As the water evaporates it creates humidity around the plants.
Rough Maidenhair fern Adiantum hispidulum 
Recognizable by their fine black stems and frilly fan-shaped leaflets which are really small rhombicpinnules.
The Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum hispidulum) is very common in the Wet Tropics.
Found growing in moist open sites along river and track banks.
Maidenhair Fern is very popular for gardeners and is an ideal house plant.
The new fronds are a delicate pink colour.
Adiantum aethiopicum (common maidenhair) A dainty-looking fern which grows vigorously with a suckering habit. It quickly outgrows pots and is best planted in the ground in a moist, protected area. It tolerates full sun as long as it has plenty of water.
Asplenium bulbiferum (hen and chicken fern) These ferns usually produce an abundance of plantlets on the pinnae (leaflets). The plantlets grow slowly, and when large enough can be removed and allowed to root into a moist potting mix.

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