Monday, 30 June 2014

Clever Ravens and Conifer Gardens

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
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
You mightn’t know this fact but Ravens are in fact native.

Ravens are all closely related and descended from one common ancestor.

When it comes to intelligence, these birds are as clever as chimpanzees and dolphins.

Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds.

In the wild, these birds have pushed rocks onto predataros to keep them from climbing to their nests, and played dead beside a carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.
If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another.
Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes..
Let’s find out more about these clever birds..

As Sue mentioned, Ravens recognise people carrying guns, they avoid traps, and they follow and harass large predators for food, or follow trappers and steal bait from traps.
The best fact of all is Ravens have learnt to turn road-killed cane toads over and eat them from the belly, thus avoiding the dorsal poison glands.
You might this hard to believe but did you know that in captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots.
They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls.They’re also as good a flyer as falcons and eagles.
Turns out that Ravens' family tree evolved in Australia.
They then radiated out into the rest of the world where they proceeded to become the world's most diverse and successful group of birds.
If you have any questions about Ravens or have a photo to send it, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Success with Raising Seeds and Seedlings

If you’ve grown plants from seed, you would know that’s it more rewarding in many ways than just buying seedlings from somewhere.
A main advantage of growing from seeds is that it’s cheaper than buying seedlings, and raising your own seed gives you more control over exactly how your seeds are raised, and how many you choose to grow at any one time.
Also there is a wider variety of heritage, non-hybrid varieties available by seed than as seedlings, meaning you can grow some unusual vegies that you simply won’t find in the shops.

Growing from seed isn’t always easy and I know many a gardener from my days at Yates, that failed to germinate a whole bunch of different seeds.

The answer to the seed raising question in a lot of cases was answered by saying that if seedlings get too wet or too dry, then they’re not going to germinate.

So, are there any sure fire techniques that could work for you for some of those tricky seeds?

Some gardeners and horticulturalists keep a record of everything they sow.
Whether you are producing a few plants for your home flower and vegetable gardens or working at a larger-scale nursery, developing a propagation journal is a good place to start if you’re having a hit and miss type of problem with your seeds.
Keep a record when seeds are sown, the germination date and success rate, and when seedlings are ready for transplanting each year.
At the end of the year, evaluate the timing of when you put the seeds in, noting what went right and what went wrong.
Next year your might then consider making adjustments so that you’re growing plants under optimum conditions.

Also keep track of where you bought the seeds, as their quality and reliability might vary.

Having said that, seed companies sell thousands of packets of each variety of seed and these have been batch tested for germination rates at above 85%.
It’s pretty unlikely that a batch of seeds is unreliable without implying that several thousand other seeds won’t germinate either.
The next thing is to store your seeds properly-not in a garden shed if it heats up during summer and is freezing cold in winter.
The cold won’t matter so much as the heat.

  • Seeds are a fragile commodity, and if not treated properly, their viability takes a dive.
  • Did you know that some seeds can survive for thousands of years under the proper conditions, while others will lose viability quickly, even when properly stored.  Parsnips is one that loses viability very quickly.
  • The best way to store your precious seeds is to keep seeds in a cool, dark location with low humidity, like a cool laundry that won’t fluctuate in temperate that much.
  • Some say put them in the fridge, but if you’re like me, you’d need a fridge just to keep the seeds in.
  • Store the seeds in a plastic container, and label the top with the expiry date of the seeds.
  • There is a test you can do for seed viability for many of your seed, although it’s not 100% bullet proof, and that is once you are ready to sow, you can soak them in water for a few hours.
  • The seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom, while the dead ones will float on the surface. This test generally works better for larger seeds as a general rule. It’s worth a try in any case.
  • When sowing seeds in punnets, especially if you’re re-using them, give them a good soak with a 10% solution containing  bleach so that any pathogens that might kill of the seeds is killed.
  • This’ll take about 15 minutes.
  • You’re better of sowing plants that resent root disturbance when transplanted into small, individual containers like cell packs or plug trays. Recycled plastic containers, like empty yogurt or margarine tubs, work well, too, as long as you've poked holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • It doesn’t matter what type of container you use as long as it’s clean and free of pathogens.
  • Another big factor in seeds not germinating is covering them with too much or too little seed raising mix.
  • If you’ve got an old kitchen sieve, use that to sprinkle the mix over the seeds after you’ve sown them into the punnets or vegetable garden.
  • Very fine seeds that need light to germinate should be barely covered if at all.

Vermicullite on seeds
  • In this case, I tend to light sprinkle some soaked vermiculite over the seeds, so they won’t dry out but are weighed down by the mix.
  • Each seed must make good contact with the soil and the best way to do this isn’t with your fingers-the seeds might stick to them, but with a small piece of wood, or the bottom of a glass jar.
  • Water in your seeds either from the bottom up, or with a spray bottle so the seeds aren’t dislodged.
  • Then cover your seeds with a plastic bag, a cut off plastic drink bottle, or in a mini greenhouse.
  • Don’t water again unless you that you need to rehydrate your seed container.
  • The best way to do this is, place the entire punnet, pot or whatever you’re using in a basin with about 5-7 cm of luke-warm water and allow the planting medium to wick moisture from the bottom.
  • If just the surface has dried, you can lift the plastic covering and spritz the surface with water from a spray bottle.
  • As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic covering..
  • Most seeds like temperatures of around 18 ° to 25°C to germinate.
  • If your put your seeds near a hot heater or use, a heating pad designed for germinating seeds, you’ll get a much fast germination rate in the cooler months.
  • In this case be sure to check for moisture often, since the seed containers may dry out more quickly.
  • Keep in mind that most seeds won’t germinate without sunlight.
  • Once the seeds have germinated they’ll grow best if they have at least 8 hours of sunlight each day.
  • Indoors, place seed trays in a sunny, north-facing window and give the tray or whatever a quarter turn each day to prevent the seedlings from overreaching toward the light and developing weak, elongated stems.
  • Once your seedlings have grown at least 4 leaves, they’ll need some nutrients fairly regularly to keep your seedlings growing strong.
  • When the embryo inside a seed is developing, it relies on food stored in the endosperm to fuel its growth. As the shoot emerges from the soil and the true leaves develop, the initial nutrients supplied by the endosperm will be depleted.
  • Most seed-starting mixes contain a small amount of nutrients to help the initial seedling growth and not burn the developing roots.
  • Once the true leaves emerge, it’s time to begin a half-strength liquid fertilizer regimen on a weekly basis and to get the most out of your seedlings, start using some kind of seaweed solution to get strong root growth.

Conifers in the landscape

with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Are you looking for something out of the ordinary to kickstart your garden?
Have all those gardening and lifestyle magazines left you a little bit bored with the same old same old?
Unique ideas are as rare as hen’s teeth but I think we've got some great ideas in part 2 of garden design with unusual themes-ground cover conifers.
Conifers are really tough and can take dry conditions – and there are some fantastic ground covers. Many of them spread to create carpet like covering over the soil which is an excellent weed suppressant.
For a large area or slope they are a very useful plant used en masse.
In a smaller garden situation, they perform well too and look best if used just like you would other ground covers, teamed with plants in a range of sizes and forms for a cohesive arrangement. Or use them as spillover over a retaining wall.
Let's hear all about part two and weeping and ground cover conifers....

One of the most spectacular of all feature plants, conifer or not, is the weeping Atlantic cedar Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’. It’s long cascading branches drip with blue-green leaves – it can be grafted onto a standard form and the branches look fantastic flowing over an arch.
Hope you’ve found a bit of inspiration to grow some conifers in your garden!


Blueberry Burst
 A new variety of Blueberry is Blueberry ‘Burst’ .
Blueberry burst is a naturally dwarfing evergreen blueberry that has fruit double the size of regular blueberries and gives you much more.
The best advantage of this cultivar is that it's a low chill variety with early flowering and fruit harvest.
Blueberry Burst
Fruiting starts in July in hot climates and August in cold climates, concluding within 3-4 months. Blueberry ‘Burst’ has been successfully trialled in both hot and cold environments throughout Australia.
Grab one or two, and if you don’t have room in the garden, they grow especially well in pots. Keep them in full sun and fertilise them with either Fruit and Citrus Food or Camellia and Azalea Food and you’ll be picking more blueberries than you can possibly eat.
Blueberry flowers
Blueberry Burst has been especially bred to grow in pots so you can grow it even if you don't own a garden. Like all fruiting plants it grows best in full sun. Choose a pot that holds at least two bags worth of premium potting mix. If the pot has a saucer your plant will grow even faster. Water it twice a week with a bucket of water.
Because this new Blueberry is cutting grown, it will produce fruit the first season. The plants are flowering now so you will be picking sweet tasting juicy fruit this August / September. There are no nasty chemicals required but you may need to protect it from the birds as the fruit turn purple.

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