Monday, 24 February 2014

Chooks and the Tree of Life

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


with permaculture north members Margaret Mossakowska and Lucinda Coates.
Keeping chickens of any size in the backyard has lots of benefits and done properly will reward you and your garden in many ways for years to come.
Firstly they’ll reduce kitchen and food waste.
Fertilise your garden with composted chook poo, give you plenty of really
fresh eggs, and they make great household pets,
Listen to these tips…..
PLAY: Chooks_19th February_2014

  • Check with your local council for regulations and requirements for keeping domestic chickens (often referred to as 'poultry keeping on a small scale').
  • Follow your local council's poultry keeping guidelines for information specific to your area on raising, housing and feeding chickens at home. Look for factsheets on your council's website.
  • Find out which predators are common in your area (for example, foxes, feral cats, domestic dogs or snakes) and take this into consideration when designing and building your chook run.
  • Don't assume that urban or city areas are safe from foxes. If the risk is too great, having backyard chickens may not be a viable option.
If you have any questions about keeping chooks, why not drop us a line to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Florence Fennel Foeniculum vulgare dulce and var. azoricum
Florence Fennel?
Some might think that I’m promoting the roadside weed that is found all over Australia.
No, I’m talking about the culinary fennel.
That wild fennel was probably the Fennel  mentioned in the seed  inventory list brought out to Australia by the First Fleet in 1788.
Ancient Greeks believed that Fennel improved eyesight.

Fennel juice was used as an effective cure for defective vision, night blindness and cataract.
In medieval Europe, fennel and St John's wort were used together to ward off evil.

The Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group;) is a cultivar group with a swollen leaf base that looks like a large bulb growing on top of the soil.

Fennel is a member of the Apiaceae family which  parsley, caraway, dill, cumin and anise.
Florence Fennel has a much milder aniseedy-like flavour, than wild Fennel and is more aromatic and sweeter.
Florence fennel plants are smaller than the wild type.
Have you seen these Fennel bulbs in the greengrocer and wonder how to use them?
Did you know that the swollen bulbs are eaten as a vegetable, both raw and cooked?
There are several cultivars of Florence fennel, and it's also known as several the Italian name finocchio
This plant is best in hot, dry climates but will grow in practically all climates of Australia.
Knowing when to sow the seeds is the key, although changing seasons seems like you can grow them at other times as well.


Timing is crucial: if sown too early, cold can cause bolting; if sown too late, plants won't fatten up before the winter
Now is ideal, when the temperature is stable, day length is consistent and there's at least 16 weeks for bulbs to develop.
In sub-tropical areas, you can plant or sow seeds from March until May, in temperate zones, from February until May, in cool temperate zones, you have from February until about mid- March, and for cold or mountain districts, it was February then not again until November/December unless you’ve had a warm autumn or you have a greenhouse or mini-greenhouse even.
Fennel seed is best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 25°C.  and as a general rule of thumb, soil temperatures are around a few degrees cooler than the current air temperature.

  • Florence Fennel is a perennial which can grow quite tall-to about 1 ½ metres-about 5 feet, so at the back of your garden bed so it doesn’t shade out the other veggies.
  • Because it grows so tall, the feathery leaves may need some support, particularly if you have windy days in your area.
  • The bulb grows only partially below ground, and mostly above ground so it suits those districts with heavy soils.
  • Otherwise, you can grow it in a pot-by itself.
  • Florence Fennel isn’t too fussy with soils as long as the veggie bed, or garden bed is well drained as has compost or decayed animal manure dug in.
  •  In cool temperate districts cut back the plant to about 10cm above the ground as winter draws nearer.
  • Fennel likes a well-drained soil, fertile from having been manured the previous year.
  • Florence Fennel seeds need to be planted 5cm deep, and unless you’ve got a lot of space, you don’t need more than 2 or 3 because they need spacing of about 50cm.
Never let soil dry out.
Fennel also hates being disturbed, so that if you weed to close you might send it into  shock, causing it to bolt to seed- feathery fronds and flowers, but no swollen stems.
Keep up the water during growth too to get a nice healthy swollen stem.
If roots become visible or plants seem unsteady, earth them up to stabilise them. This will help make bulbs white and tender and, later, exclude frost.
After about 6 weeks you can hill out the soil around the emerging bulb so that, like Celery, the base stays white and is more tender than if you allow the sunlight to turn it green.
Hilling up is just mound soil or mulch around the base of the plant. You can make sleeves out of newspapers or use bottomless milk cartons to keep the hilled soil from getting into the leaves of the Fennel plant but I think that’s a bit of overkill.
Your fennel will be ready in about 3-4 months after sowing.
If you only use a garden fork to loosen the roots and cut the bulb off about 2.5cm above the ground, you’ll get more feathery shoots growing up.
These shoots are celery/dill-flavoured that can be used as seasoning in the kitchen.
The bulb is best fresh (try it raw in salads) but it will also keep for several weeks in a cool, dry place.
You can get root cuttings from plants that have been lifted during spring, so any if you attend a garden club, ask if any members have this plant.
There are plenty of seed suppliers in Australia that have Florence Fennel Seeds.
Why is it good for you?
The fennel bulb is also an excellent source of Vitamin C, folate (Vitamin B), fibre and potassium. One cup of fennel provides 10.8 per cent of the daily fibre intake, 5.9 per cent of the daily folate and 10.3 per cent of the daily potassium.
 An advantage of growing Florence fennel are that it attracts parasitic wasps and very small Praying Mantises. It’s free of pests and looks great and the Fennel bulb is delicious baked, too. It's very commonly used in Mediterranean dishes. Definitely worth a try.


with landscape designer Louise McDaid

The design series ‘green gardens started a couple of weeks ago, and green as in the colour, and not any other meaning.
All the non-living things in your garden include not just rocks, but structures like pergolas, fences, gates, arbours, ponds, pots and so on.
Sure, you think it's easy, but how do you team these things with your garden well?
With a bit of advice and planning you can make your garden look great.
Today, landscape designer Louise, looks at man-made structures and how they fit into this green theme.

Part of your garden will probably have an outdoor area for playing, eating, sitting etc - either lawn of some description, deck or a paved area.
Lawn and a green garden can create a VERY green scene – try to use greens different to the lawn colour for plants that are beside it, otherwise it becomes a huge green mass – I like the texture of a strappy leaf plant next to a lawn rather than a small leaf plant used for little hedges – it’s a more interesting contrast.

Part of your garden will probably have an outdoor area for playing, eating, sitting etc - either lawn of some description, deck or a paved area.
Lawn and a green garden can create a VERY green scene – try to use greens different to the lawn colour for plants that are beside it, otherwise it becomes a huge green mass – I like the texture of a strappy leaf plant next to a lawn rather than a small leaf plant used for little hedges – it’s a more interesting contrast.
Other ground surface treatments such as gravel, permeable paving, pebbles, decomposed granite work really well with green schemes – think Mediterranean style gardens with gravel and brick and mostly green plants – it’s subtle, and breaks up the green attractively
Let’s find out what this is all about.


Green pots might sound too much, but if you make them glazed, the shininess adds an extra element to your garden.
Perhaps use a mulch of green glass for a really modern look, or artwork inspired by the colour green or with a green theme.
Artwork in the garden, of course, something to think about.
It’ s only limited by your imagination.



Boab tree-Adonsonia gregorii
Plant of the week this week has a few other names like
Tree of Life, Monkey bread tree, bottle tree and upside down tree.
Some of you might have been to visit or seen pictures of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.
I reckon, those man made tall tree like structures look exactly like the Boab tree when it’s not in leaf.
What does it look like?
Small to large tree; trunk usually very broad, often grotesque; branches small, light; leaves compound; flowers large, showy; fruits rounded or sausage-like
Coming from Darwin/Katherine you will see the first trees as you approach the Victoria River and Gregory National Park.

Across the Kimberley, through Kununurra and all the way to Broome boabs are a common sight.

The Boab grows very slowly taking centuries to reach maturity.
At this time, it may be almost as wide as it is tall with a truly impressive girth of 20 metres and average height of 15 metres.

Some individual boab trees have been carbon dated to be 1500 years old, which makes them the oldest living beings in Australia, and puts them amongst the oldest in the world.

 Aboriginals used the giants as shelter, food and medicine. For the white settlers they served as easily recognisable land marks and meeting points, and not to forget as impromptu prison cells.

The huge trunk filled with soft fibrous wood enables the tree to store water in dry times and is a definite plus for life in tropical Australia.

The boab was appreciated by the Aborigines who blended the sap with water to make a tasty drink and who ate the seeds and the pithy material surrounding them.

How did boabs come to be in Australia?

Possibly when Australia was still linked to Africa and the other countries when it was part of Gondwana, 65 mya but unlikely to have survived 10,00 years of ice age.

Or a likely scenario is the seed drifted in the sea and landed on shore. Or was brought here by another civilisation.

Boab trees are deciduous, they drop all their leaves during the dry season. Since the dry season is the main tourist season most travellers only get to see the grey brown skeletons.
Where it grows:

As far as I know  Boab’s are very frost tender and really need a very warm growing season.

I have never seen one in NSW, but suspect that there could be a few grown successfully in the far north-eastern corner, along with many other tropical trees.
There are Boabs growing in Kings Park in Perth which is the same latitude as Sydney.

The Queensland bottle tree, however, can be grown in most parts of NSW and tolerates quite cold winters. There are some big old specimens in the Sydney Botanic Gardens, though that site is frost free.

As young trees, Boabs  are very sensitive to frost damage.
However, after reaching a height of 2m+, the trees suffer little to no frost damage (although their dormant season is much longer in colder areas).

The key to growing any species of boab is very-well-drained soil.
So why is it called tree of life?
Mature trees are often hollow. A perfect cosy space for anyone-person or animal, to live!
The bark and stem are used for making clothes. The leaves and vitamin-C rich fruits are eaten. Clefts of the large branches are used to store rainwater for people to use later.
Did you know in the Disney movie “”Lion King”, Rafiki and Simba often hung around the tree of life?

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