Monday, 14 April 2014

Bursting with Plant 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 Steve Falcioni, of eco Organic Garden,

This new segment-Plant Doctor, looks at different pests and diseases that can occur in your garden.
Do you find that no matter how carefully you look after your garden, there are plants that seem to get everything wrong with them?
Then you’re left wondering, is it me? Is it the wrong climate? Should I spray with something? Should I forget about this plant?
Well today’s look at what can go wrong is about a fungal problem that seems to hang around during the warmer months.
Listen to this…..
Fungal diseases are caused by microscopic spores that float through the air landing on just about everything in your garden.
As soon as the spores find the right environment, the fungus starts to grow.

Doing nothing only increases the problem and eventually reduces the life of the plant. But there are environmentally friendly or organic ways to treat problems.

One of the best ways to treat powdery mildew is to use Potassium bicarbonate, available as eco Fungicide and eco Carb for roses. This is best applied with a sticker of horticultural oil, so that it stays on the plant after rain. The potassium bicarbonate works so well, that it bursts the fungal cells, 5 minutes after application.


 Jerusalem Artichokes. Helianthus tuberosus.
Jerusalem artichoke in Australia and, sunchoke, girasole in Italy or Canadian potato as it’s known overseas.

From the scientific name, I know immediately that the sunflower Helianthus annuus is in the same family.
In fact, the large attraction of this vegetable is the sunflowers it produces.
Another surprise is Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America.
They grew wild along the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Nova Scotia.
There is a theory that when Jerusalem artichokes arrived in Italy sometime before 1633, the Italian word for sunflower, "girasole" which means "turning to the sun," was somehow later corrupted into the word "Jerusalem."
The artichoke part may be because they taste similar to the globe artichoke, which can’t be bad.

What do J artichokes look like?
The leaves have a rough texture and the plant looks like a shrub.

When to plant?
Jerusalam artichokes like to be planted when the soil temperature is between 8°C and 15°C,
In all areas of Australia, the best times are Autumn, Winter and Spring.
You can plant them in tropical climates but they’re likely to rot off during the wet season.
J. Artichokes grow more quickly than the Chinese, unrelated artichokes taking 15-20 weeks to be ready. That’s around 4-5 months.
J artichokes are usually grown from tubers rather than seed.
The tubers are gnarly and uneven, vaguely resembling ginger root, with a crisp texture when raw.
Tubers, or chunks of tubers can be planted in a row or higgledy piggledy.

Tubers of J artichokes have eyes, just like normal potatoes, and the best ones to plant are the large round ones, not the small knobbly ones.
Being a member of the daisy flower family, those plants that you grow in the shade will have flowers that are a lot shorter than the ones in the sun, but they’ll be still be taller than you and you’ll probably have to stand on tiptoe to reach the flowers in the part sun plants.

Staking the plants is a good idea or maybe attaching them to a trellis.
They can also be grown in pots for courtyard and balcony gardeners.

The sunflowers will make their first appearance in late spring or early summer and look like little baby sunflowers.
Cut them off if you want larger tubers, but if you like the look of the sunflowers and don’t mind smaller tubers, leave them on.
TIP: Unless you want bland tasting artichokes you need to add some organic fertiliser.
On the plus side, the plants aren’t picky and will grow in just about any soil.
Another TIP: If you are going to grow J. Artichokes or sunchokes, make sure to harvest them every year to prevent them from going taking over the garden. Otherwise confine  them somehow with a border stop.
Unlike most tubers, but in common with other members of the Daisy or Asteraceae (including the artichoke), the tubers store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch.

Warning: Some people have no problem digesting them but they are a minority. Over 50 percent of their carbohydrate is in forms we don’t have enzymes to break down

It’s been said that wind will be with you as long as you eat J artichokes.. If you have a family they may threaten to leave home if you ever eat them again.

How about buying some and trying them out before you commit to a lifetime of long solitary walks in the countryside after meals?
Roots can be dug after the plant dies back or 5-6 months after planting.
If your tubers start appearing above the soil, hill them up with more soil or mulch to stop them going poisonous and green.
STORING Jerusalem Arthichokes
Store them in a cool place that isn't too dry. Wrapped in plastic in the fridge will do nicely.
They will get bitter if kept too long in storage. It‘s best to leave them in the ground and dig them up as you need them. You can continue digging them right into early spring.
BTW. inulin can’t be broken down by the human digestive system.
Here are some steps that are supposed to alleviate the problem.
Put the tubers in the fridge for a month, then slice and boil in lots of water for 15 minutes, adding one tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 litre after 10 minutes, or right at the start if you want crisp tubers. Drain, slip off peel, and pat dry. Then use them as you would in recipes with pumpkins.

Why Are They Good For You?

Did you know that nutritionally, the J artichokes or sunchoke's have very high potassium- six times the potassium of a banana?
There is 327 mg. of potassium for a half-cup serving.
That same half-cup serving has 57 calories, 1.5. gr. protein, 1.2 gr. fibre, 10.5 mg. calcium, 10 mcg. folacin along with smaller amounts of niacin and thiamine.
So if you like sunflowers, why not have an edible crop as well? Like all Helianthus flowers, this makes suitable offerings for Helios, the Roman Apollo, Ra and other sun Gods.


with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Continuing on the series in drought proofing your garden, you’ll find out why some plants are more hardy than others.
It’s not so much which plant breeder did or didn’t do, but more about particular plant adaptations that make some plants better at coping with lack of water than others.
Let’s find out what this is all about.
PLAY: Dry_Gardens_part2_9th April_2014
Needle like leaves, grey leaves, leaves with hairs on them and hard leaves are all adaptations to dry conditions.
In fact, Australian plants have the most obvious adaptations to dry conditions.
Sclerophyll means hard leaf, and the Sclerophyll forests of Australia are plants that have adapted to the harsher conditions of the last few thousand years. 

Grey leaves reflecting the sun's rays, and leaves that hang down with their edge to the sun, as in Eucalypts, are a prime example.

The needle like leaves of many Banksias are exposing a  reduced surface area to the sun. Also the reduced leaf has few stomata, meaning fewer avenues for water to escape in transpiration.
You don’t have to just plant cactus and succulents. There are many natives and non native plants that fit this description.
Now you have the tools to look at plants in the nursery and decide yourself if they’ll grow in dry conditions.


BLUE QUANDONG Eleaocarpus grandis
Some plants you just can’t have in your garden because they’re just too big.
Doesn’t mean you can’t know about them or appreciate them if you see them in a park, large property, reserve or botanic garden.
Here’s one such plant..

Blue quandongs are a stately, very straight trunked tree which develops a buttressed trunk from an early age.
They’re quick growing but grow very tall.
Fast growing large tree to 35m with buttressed trunk.
Buttresses starts to show on even young trees and the branches layered with a sparse crown

 Blue Quandong grows naturallin in sub-tropical rainforest and along moist, scrubby watercourses. An endemic Australian species, occurring along the east coast from Nambucca R. NSW to Cooktown, N Qld, and also NT. Rainforest, deep alluvial soils. well-drained volcanics.

Like all Elaeocarpus the flowers reminds some of lilly of the valley or a bunch of snowdrops but hanging down.

Flowers greenish/white/cream, bell-shaped, with five  distinctly fringed petals; that are carried in numerous racemes along branches, from leaf scars.

Rain permitting, the flowering time is between March to June.
Fruit a bright blue, ovoid drupe that’s a favourite of figbirds, spectacled flying foxes and cassowaries.

But it’s not just a mid blue, it’s an iridescent blue. The iridescence is unusual in fruits but seen quite a lot in nature.
Botanist David Lee uncovered the source of the blue colour — it is not a pigment, as is the case with many other fruit, but this effect is caused by a series of very thin even microscopic layers within the skin of the quandong.

These multi-layers create a type of interference with the light rays, as you might see from a bird with  iridescent blue feathers, some insects, and in butterfly wings
The colours seem to change depending on what angle you’re looking form.
Not quite so dramatic on the quandong fruit, but still iridescent.


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