Sunday, 16 March 2014

Bringing Butterflies to Your Garden

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 ecologist Sue Stevens.

Butterfly Gardening part 2

Did you know that butterflies are and indicator of the environment’s health?
How’s this for an interesting fact about butterflies?
Monarch butterflies are known for their long migration. Every year monarch butterflies will travel a great distance (sometimes over 4000 km), females will lay eggs and a new generation of monarchs will travel back, completing the cycle. And Butterflies attach their eggs to leaves with a special glue.
Not bad ?
Listen to this…..
Websites for looking up butterflies are the Museums of Australia, Queensland and Victoria. These sites are  great for finding out specific food plants of butterflies.The books were Australian butterflies in Colour by Charles McCubbin, “Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden” by Densey Clyne, also the Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia by Michael F Braby.


Want to know what will help your sleep better?
The answer is is Lettuce and I’ll tell you why a little later on.
What to the words Tango, Red Leprechaun, Tennis Ball and Freckles have in common? They’re all lettuce varieties that you can buy.
LETTUCE or Lactuca sativa,  is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae.. great in salads, tacos, hamburgers!
You might think it too boring to be a hero, but the earliest mention of lettuce in history is a carving on an Egyptian temple.
Did you know that Lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in Egypt?
And that the Greeks used lettuce as a medicinal plant to induce sleep?
Lactuca sativa or lettuce is just everywhere and thought to have started in the wild as a prickly lettuce, found as a weed in the Mediterranean.

Why is fresh best?

Nothing beats the freshness of home grown lettuce though.
 Just pick some leaves fresh when you need them.
What you mightn’t realise is that the flavour is lost in as little as 24 hours, and there’s no way supermarket lettuce is only 24 hours old.

When to Plant

 Lettuce can be planted all year round in all areas of Australia.
Having said that, in Arid districts, it might be a good idea to avoid the hottest months of the year, and in cool temperate districts, you might light to grow your lettuce in a greenhouse or undercover somewhere during winter.
Not all kinds of lettuce are created alike!
For all areas, planting or sowing in the summer months, should only be the loose leaf types of lettuce.
Now’s the time to be plantingIceberg and the other hearting lettuce varieties, like Butterhead and Cos Romaine because they prefer being grown in the cooler months of Autumn, and in some districts during winter.
These hearting varieties are OK in the coolest months. (The upper temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 28°C)
Summer was just too warm for the hearting types.
How to Grow

Lettuces taste best when they are grown as fast as possible and for that they need water and food.
During the cooler months, you need to sow your lettuce in full sun.
Don't plant them in deep shade, like under a tree. They will just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on them.
After that, Lettuces need good soil that’s  light, free draining and rich in organic matter.
Ideally your soil should hold lots of water and lots of nitrogen and other nutrients.
Sandy soils need help from your compost bin or worm farm.
If you have clay soils, growing lettuce shouldn’t be a problem, as is growing them in pots.
 Lettuce has shallow roots, so it dries out easily.
You must keep up a steady supply of water because any set back will at least, 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).
To sow lettuce seed, either spread 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 warms up in your district 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.
I mentioned before that hearting types of lettuce will go to seed in summer very quickly and not form a heart at all.
For tropical and sub-tropical districts, the most heat tolerant kinds of lettuce are the open leafed varieties (Looseleaf).
All the pretty fancy lettuces you see in the shops, the frilly and curly varieties, they are your lettuce varieties you need to grow.

Is your lettuce grows slowly even though you’re giving them plenty of water, then they need more food.
 Did you add organic compost, manures or worm castings to the veggie bed before you sowed the seed?
If you didn’t, then you need to supply extra nutrients, especially nitrogen. Some of the liquid fertilisers will do right now.

Some lettuce varieties for you to try are, Lettuce Freckles-yep it’s freckly and it’s a butter lettuce as is Lettuce Tennis Ball.

Lettuce Amish Deer Tongue- Amazing two-in-one lettuce that can be cooked like spinach or used like lettuce, so you have a hot or cold vegetable to suit the season. Repeat harvest makes it a highly productive choice for space saving gardens.

Lettuce Crispmint is an outstanding variety with excellent flavour and crisp, minty green leaves. Seed Savers in the US have over 200 varieties of lettuce and rate this as one of their best.
And for a great winter lettuce why not try Lettuce

Rouge d’Hiver or 'Red of Winter' due to the elegant deep brown-red leaves that fade to green near the heart.
So why is it good for us?
Lettuce is very good for digestion and promotes good liver function. It can reduce the risk of heart attacks and is good for healthy eyesight. It has good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre.
You won’t put on any weight eating Lettuce  because mostvarieties 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.
As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green. For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce. By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.  
Happy Lettuce growing everyone!


with Jason Cornish, landscape designer.
Plants are a living thing, and as much as we like to think of never having to sweep up leaves, prune, hedge, clip would be great.
Let’s be real, unless you want plastic plants, there’s always going to be some sort of maintenance in your garden.
So why do some garden designs not live up to expectations?

Let’s find out what this is all about.

So it seems that formal gardens, whether traditional or contemporary, or those gardens which are quite structured are the ones the need the most upkeep.

That means trimming, pruning, hedging, mowing, fertilising, raking leaves.
In fact, all gardens need some sort of maintenance even if you've only got a square of lawn and a pot plant.

You have to mow that lawn, water and fertilise it. Same goes for that pot plants.

No sorry, a square of astro turf does not classify as having a garden.

The next problem is trying to squeeze too many plants into the available space.
Problems arise from plants crowding each other out, then having to be removed.


Leucophyta brownii or Cushion Bush
Do you wonder where to put those plants you’ve bought that the leaf shape, leaf colour and size just don’t seem to fit anywhere.
At first glance, this week’s plant of the week might just have this problem.
But if you must have this plant you can use it as a highlight in your garden.
Cushion bush is a bushy coastal shrub across Australia, growing on rocky cliffs and sand dunes.
Cushion bush grows up to 75cm high and 90cm across.
Native to Western Australia, with round yellow to white flowers, Dec or Jan to Feb.
In it’s native habitat it grows on white or grey-white sand over limestone, brown sand or brown sandy clay over granite.
This plant is suitable for extreme coastal locations.
This bush is a must for areas with low water usage because it’s extremely drought tolerant, low maintenance, grows in any type of soil, yes sandy soils and clay soils.
But there’s more, it is salt, wind and frost tolerant.

How come all these tolerances?

Cushion bush has tiny hairs growing all over its leaves, giving the plant a silver appearance. The Trichomes (small hairs) on the leaves absorb atmospheric water; also reduce the rate of transpiration and shade the tissues below from intense light.

Cushion bush likes winter rains and dry or arid summers but copes with moist temperate and warm summers.

The only places cushion bush doesn’t like is the hot humid tropical and sub-tropical north of Australia.

Design element:

The silver foliage reflects light at night so when there’s moonlight, you could see it in your garden, perhaps along a path.

Like lavender, silver or grey foliage plants create a contrast to other plants in your garden.

Team it with low mounding grasses or groundcovers like Goodenia, or Hardenbergia.

Team it with other drought tolerant shrubs for a waterwise garden:

Some suggestions-Artemisia, Bergenia, Correa alba, Correa reflexa, Dodonea or purple leaved hop bush, Helichrysum petiolare or Licorice plant, lavender, Limonium or Statice, Myrtus communis and Plumbago. Various salvias like Salvia leucantha or Mexican sage, Santolina, Rosemary and Ruta graveolens.

For a dry garden, or Mediterranean garden, leucophyta is certainly a novelty looking plant that does better when plant in groups of three or five.
Available for the Royal Botanic Gardens nursery and Australian Garden at Mt Annan. for opening times

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