Sunday, 27 April 2014

Lawns, Lemon Scent and Mistletoes


Mistletoe Bird

Mistletoe is an air-born parasitic plant that lives off the sap of their hosts, These plants thrive in almost every type of climate and soil in Australia, and are found everywhere Australia wide except Tasmania.
There’s a particular bird that loves the berries of Mistletoe plants, with a really obvious name.

Mistletoe bird
Listen to this with ecologist Sue Stevens
Do you know why mistletoes look like their host plants?
Some botanists think it's because of a hormone within the host that gets into the mistletoe and influences the way it grows.
Mistletoes may also mimic to hide from leaf-loving animals such as possums, 60% of whose diet consists of the leaves of plants.

Mistletoe babies
A good time to look out for the Mistletoe bird is when the berries are obvious on the Mistletoe.
Those living on the coast will see the Mistletoe flowering in spring and summer, but many mistletoes were at their peak of flowering in March, particularly in the drier inland areas.
These bizarre plants are easy to spot when in flower because of their bright antler-shaped orange or red blossoms that stand out against the dark foliage, advertising their nectar to birds.If you have any questions about the Mistletoe bird or even have a photo of one, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This week’s hero is-Oregano, Origanum vulgare or Origanum marjoram. for the botanists among you.

Not sure what herbs can be planted out in the autumn garden?
Then try chervil, chicory, coriander, fennel, garlic bulbs, lavender, marjoram, parsley, rocket, sage, sorrel, rosemary, thyme, winter tarragon and oregano.
This list includes, Tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, arid and cool temperate districts.

Origanum marjoram is the common oregano used for cooking.

Oregano amongst other herbs

Origanum vulgare is the wild oregano used for making oil.
Now that’s confusing…isn’t Marjoram a separate herb? Well, yes it is, but apparently has the same Botanical name.

Of course, Oregano was first used by the Greeks.

Legends or Myth?
Did you know that in Greek mythology the goddess Aphrodite invented the spice, giving it to man to make his life happier?

The word "oregano" is actually derived from the Greek phrase, "joy of the mountains".

The English had either ideas and found another  use for oregano- as an additive to snuff (which was generally a tobacco concoction taken through the nose).
Oregano was also used as a perfume in sachets around the 17th and 18th centuries.

Oregano is an aromatic herb that belongs to the mint or Lamiaceae family.
Oregano is native to Europe, the Mediterranean region and Central Asia and is basically a perennial herb, growing to around 20 to 45 cm (17") high depending on the variety.

Being a Mediterranean plant, grow Oregano in full sun and in well drained soil.

There are two main varieties.
"Greek Oregano" is the type normally associated with Oregano flavour.
"Common Oregano" or Marjoram has a less pungent, sweeter taste and is more commonly grown.
You can grow this plant from seed in spring, soft tip cuttings or buy as a seedling.
Best Climate
For those who have grown Oregano, you’ll find that it’s one tough plant.
It’ll take frost, rain, full sun, varying soils, walking on and will survive after massive aphid attack.
You can even build a no-dig garden in the middle of winter bung in a few punnets of Oregano and it will not only survive but grow well.
Sowing and Growing
Sow in garden, or start in seed trays although itt can be hard to germinate from seed which is very fine. That’s done in spring. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed.
Easily propagated from root division during Autumn.
Some varieties can only be grown from cuttings.
Oregano has grey green furry leaves making it a very drought tolerant plant.
This is because the furriness or hairs on the leaves traps the moisture that normally evaporates from the plant, creating some humidity around each leaf.
Obviously a dry adaptation from its original environment.

Have you ever found that some types of Oregano seem to self seed into cracks in the pavement, and stone walls, growing in garden steps between sleepers and never need to be watered?
If you’re planting this in a garden bed or herb garden, I suggest putting it into a large plastic pot with the bottom cut out.
Otherwise, you’ll find it has taken over the other herbs or flowers.
Having said that, Oregano is very easy to pull out.
The best way to look after your clump of Oregano is to cut the stems back to the ground  after it flowers, to encourage new growth.
As far as companion planting goes, anything that benefits from having a flea beetle deterrent, like all Hibiscus, plant Oregano next to it.

I haven’t tried this one, so if anyone has found this successful, give me a call in the studio.

For best flavour –pick the leaves in the morning just after the dew has lifted.

TIP: When’s the best time to pick Oregano for drying?
When  the plant reaches the flowering stage –that’s between February and the end of April.
Varieties to try.
Why not try Origanum Kent Beauty-Origanum rotundifolium x scabrum
This hardy groundcover is smothered in delicate chartreuse coloured hop like bracts during late summer. These bracts overlap to form a beautiful cascading display on top of heart shaped pairs of blue-grey leaves on trailing stems.
Culinary hints - cooking and eating Oregano
It’s a well known fact that oregano is used a lot in Turkish, Italian, Greek, Spanish and Italian dishes..
Mostly it's the leaves which are used for cooking. Pizza is what most of us associate this herb with. Used to flavour tomato dishes, soups, sauces and Greek dishes like Moussaka and even a couple of pinches added to Greek salad is marvellous
HOT TIP: The dried leaves of oregano is much more aromatic and flavourful than fresh leaves. Now there’s a surprise.

Why Are They Good For You?
The two important compounds that are responsible for the many health benefits of oregano are carvacrol and thymol.
Studies have shown that both of these compounds can inhibit the growth of bacteria, virus and fungi which is the main causes of many illnesses..
Oregano is also high in iron, manganese, fibre and vitamin C



with landscape designer Louise McDaid
DRY GARDENS part 4-lawns for dry conditions.
There are those gardeners who like to see a green expanse of lawn, and there are others who see it as another possibility of planning and planting another area for garden beds.
Some of us think lawns are high maintenance-mowing, fertilizing, weeding watering, while others think it’s low maintenance.
There are a lot of reasons why you should still have a lawn.
It does cool an area, but don't expect it to be green all year round. It's seasonal like a lot of plants in your garden.
Don't waste time an energy trying to grow a lawn where it just won't grow-like under trees or heavy shade positions.
So what types of lawns do best in dry conditions?

Let’s find out what this is all about.

Warm season grass-Sapphire-is a soft leaf Buffalo.
Native grass alternatives that act like a real lawn.
Zoysia macrantha is sold as Nara turf-warm season grass.
Seed sown  native lawns might take a year or so to get established but are well worth the wait.
Nara Native Turf
Red Grass-is a warm tough season grass, withstands long drought periods. suits heavy clay.
Weeping grass "Griffin."-Microleana stipoides is a cool season grass. Green for most of the year but has summer dormancy.
Wallaby Grass-cool season with good drought tolerance.

TIPS for lawns in hot dry times.
Not watering too often, not watering long enough,  and scalping your lawns when mowing are all bad practices that make the job of keeping a lawn looking great all that much harder.
If you have any questions about the types of drought hardy lawns that Louise mentioned, why not write in and ask for a fact sheet?


Lemon Scented Myrtle Backhousia citriodora

There are some trees that have something about them that makes everyone who sees the flowers or smells the leaves (as in this case) for the first time, immediately want to grow it.
In gardens it’s important to provide not only nectar for birds but also habitat for insects and the birds which come to eat them.

The Lemon Scented Myrtle is a broad domed tree  a medium-sized shrub or tree, to 8 m tall with a low-branching habit.
Used as street trees under power lines eg, on Victoria Road Gladesville, and other locations also.

The leaves of Backhousia citriodora are a fresh green colour and strongly lemon-scented.
They are attractively veined and the young foliage is reddish and undersides of the leaves are often hairy.
The very attractive white flowers in long-stalked clusters, cover the tree almost as much as Melaleuca linarifolia or Snow in Summer .

All of the Backhousia species, which are found only in Australia, have individual aromatic scented leaves.
The lemon scented myrtle is very popular with the insects, its creamy-white flowers attracting a wide range of beetles, bees and other insects.

Backhousia citriodora has great potential for use in our gardens for its aesthetic value and fragrance.
Easily maintained and can be used as a hedging or screening plant.
Many people walking past don't realise that there's bush tucker to be had in the leaves.
Fresh leaves make a soothing tea, or used as a lemon grass alternative in Asian cuisine.
On the other hand, the dried leaves can be used to flavour cakes, biscuits and other foods.

For those living in frost prone areas, protect young trees from frost, because they can only tolerate light frost.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Gardens Too Hot To Trot

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 Ian Hemphill
Ever heard of native pepper? Maybe you’ve already used it in your cooking?
If you haven’t, you’re in for a surprise, not only can you grow your own native pepper almost anywhere, there’s also a surprising amount of recipes that you can use it in.
But be warned, information on the internet isn’t always right so you need to pay close attention to this…
Listen to this….

Native pepper-berry can be ground in a normal peppermill, but use it sparingly.
Native pepper is five times hotter than standard black peppercorns!
The strong flavour of native peppers goes will with lamb, game and any slow cooked dishes.
Pepper leaf has the same flavour as native pepper, but has the same strength as standard ground black pepper.
Use it in ground form and take in the smell of the Australian native bush. A wonderful aroma!

If you only want to grow the one native pepper tree, , check that it’s  Tasmannia lanceolata, the native pepperberry.
For those wanting the fruit, you need two trees to get the berries, but one tree will supply you with plenty of leaf that can be dried and ground to give you the same flavour as the berry itself. 

Who isn’t tempted by the native seasoning of pepperberries, bush tomatoes wattle seed, ground coriander seed, sweet paprika and lemon myrtle. Yum!
If you have any questions about the Native Pepperberry why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Curry Leaf Tree or Bergera koenigii used to be sold as Murraya koenigii,  and for the most part, because people are more familiar with that botanical name, the nursery industry is sticking to it and so shall I.
Murraya Koenigii grows very well in Australia.

The species name commemorates the botanist Johann Gerhard König.
Means king in German language.
Essentially just an aromatic Murraya species in the family:Rutaceae.
Common name: Curry leaf tree.
The leaves of this tree have a strong curry aroma, but they take on a whole different flavour in cooking. Mmmm!

But there are other shrubs called curry plant, so be careful, because the others aren’t the edible or cooking with variety.
Native to India and Sri Lanka, the curry leaf tree grows into a large shrub to small tree growing 4-6 m tall.

The leaves are similar in a smaller way to Murraya or Orange Jessamine being in the same genus.

Why wouldn’t you grow this bush with the highly aromatic leaves, and heads of flowers that are white, and fragrant appearing in Spring and Summer?

One thing to remember though is that after flowering, the plant produces small black, shiny berries that are edible, but their seeds are poisonous.

Where it likes to grow
Full sun or light shade is the ideal spot and all you need to do is fertilize with palm or citrus fertilizer to get plenty of leaves.
Curry leaf plants can be grown in large pots and also on the ground.
The type of soil doesn’t matter either.

I have one plant in large pot and it’s only about 1 metre in height.
I’ve got to say that it’s pretty slow growing so don’t worry too much about re-potting it.
They have a tendency to sucker when in the ground, so keeping it a pot if you’re worried about this is probably a good idea.

Full grown plants on the ground can survive frosty conditions, plus the curry leaf tree is hardy and drought tolerant once established.

Murraya koenigii or curry leaf tree grows anywhere from tropical areas to cool temperate districts.
A listener, Lesley, has written in to say that she has have several plants in the ground in Melbourne which are now nearly 2 ½ to 3 metres, and thriving.
She doesn’t even cover them during winter period!

Like the hedging variety of Murraya, pruning your curry leaf tree every year will make it more bushy so you’ll get more of those fragrant curry leaves.
Picking of the leaves for cooking is also a way of getting bushy growth.
If you want to propagate this plant, when you see the berries at the very tips of the branches turning black, is the time to propagate from seed.
By the way, in some sub-tropical districts this tree has spread into bushland because of birds eating the berries.
If you live in that district, prune off the berries before the birds get them.
They can be propagated from root suckers but the new plant will sucker even more if you do it this way.
TIP: The fruits are best picked when they are half ripe or when fully ripe ie, quite black.
The fruits should also never be allowed to dry, because the curry plant seeds in them lose their viability when they shrivel or dry up.
Peel the seed out of half ripe or fully ripe fruits by squeezing out the flesh before planting. The fruit around the seed may slow down germination.
Seeds are best planted quite shallowly in seed raising mix and germinate in about 10 days -they germinate best with warm soil 210 to 270 C

Use young leaves and crushed seeds in curries, soup stocks and sauces.
Spicy but not hot they can flavour vinegars and salad oils.
Used a lot in South Indian kitchens, curry leaves are generally sautéed in oil with mustard seeds and added to dhal, fresh coconut chutney or vegetable dishes.
Strip the leaves from their stalk before frying, and tearing and crushing them between  fingers releases more of their essential oils.

UNUSUAL TIP: do you worry about bad breath? You probably haven’t heard of this type of breath freshener before.
Did you know that the people of India grow the curry leaf tree, Murraya koenigii, not only to flavour traditional dishes but also known for treating bad breath.
What you do is put a few of the fresh leaves in the mouth and hold them there for several minutes and voila’-fresh breath.
I can’t say I’ve tried it though.
Why Are They Good For You?
Apparently scientists are studying the extract of the leaves as a natural medicine against high cholesterol and high blood sugar.
Curry leaves are also known to be good for your hair, for keeping it healthy and long.
You can buy the plant from the herb section of your local nursery or garden centre, some Asian supermarkets, the Botanic Gardens nursery and online from diggers.
But be careful that you’re not getting the curry leaf bush-Helichrysum italicum. This has a grey feathery leaf and can’t be used in cooking at all, even though it smells of curry when you brush past it.
Think of the king when buying your Curry tree plant-Murraya Koenigii!


with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer

There are times of the year when it’s better for planting out new trees, shrubs and perennials.
Sometimes though, we just have to have something what we see in a nursery,garden centre, plant collector's fair or a friend gives us a plant or two.
So how does this plant cope?
Should you plant it out in the garden when it’s really hot?
Or should we wait and hope it survives in its pot until cooler weather?
Let’s find out what this is all about.
PLAY: Dry_Gardens_part3_16th April_2014
It’s a personal choice as to which plants get watered and which you hope will survive the hot dry conditions that some of us have experienced.
Established trees that are quite large might be alright but younger smaller trees and shrubs definitely will need a bit of assistance.
If you’ve got that specail plant still in a pot, now’s the time to put it into the garden because Autumn is the best time to plant out, and to move plants in the garden.

Australian Native Eucalypts

If you have any questions about this week’s any trees on your property, send it our email address, or just post it.


PLANT OF THE WEEK Pimenta dioica-Allspice Tree

What would you call a blend of cloves, juniper, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg?
Would you believe this blend can grow as berries on a tree with clusters of white flowers  that open at the end of October.

Allspice, Jamaican Pepper, a small tree in the Myrtle family.  Red berries used in cooking. Need a male and female tree, otherwise grow it for the leaves only.

The cluster of flowers attract lots of bees and other insects and although each individual flower is very small and insignificant they have a very strong, perfume that fills that air.

There are both male and female allspice trees. The so-called male trees rarely bear fruit. There is no way to tell which is which before the time of fruiting.
Even buying two mightn’t get you both trees so three is recommended.
But if you have a chance to buy one, buy it, they smell incredibly good - the leaves that is!

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.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Sweetness of Autumn


Whether or not you’re into permaculture, there’s plenty of things to be done in the autumn garden. Working conditions aren’t quite as unpleasant, plus all the seed and bulb catalogues fill out post boxes or inboxes if we’re getting them via email.

Who can resist all the new varieties of seeds and bulbs but what must we do first?
Various online websites, garden magazines and gardening books, tell us when to plant this or that.
The reality is, those timeframes are very generalised and it's knowing your seasons and responding to the climate in your district, which indicates when it's the time to plant certain crops.
Of course, if you're a beginner gardener, there are some basic rules that you need to know.

Listen to this….. with Margaret Mossakowska from Permaculture North


Of all the least attractive or glamorous tasks in the garden, working the soil is one of them.
You can make the task easier by planting green manure crops as Margaret suggested.
Green manure crops make the task of digging and fertilising a whole lot easier, because you let the green manure crop do the work for you.

You don't have to dig them in, just lay them on top of the soil and let the worms do the work for you.
You also can just rake them into the top 10 cm of soil if you prefer.
If you have any questions about the Autumn garden why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll post a CD in return.


Stevia  (Stevia rebaudiana)

Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that stay sweet, even after the leaves have been dried.
Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.

So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.
Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.
So what does Stevia plant look like?

Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like.

Where Will It Grow?
Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn.
Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C.
Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant.
Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy.
Adding a layer of compost or your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.
Stevia plants also hate being water-logged and don't overwater it.
HOT TIP:Stevia can grow in a pot.
By the way, I’ve grow my stevia plant in a pot for several years now without any problems and it’s survived several bouts of dry hot summers and lack of watering during spells with a house sitter.
But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.
During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant.
 Which Fertiliser?
Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content.
Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.

HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter.
Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.
If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.

How do you store Stevia leaves?

If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secauteurs before stripping the leaves.
TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevia goodness and sweetness as do the leaves.
 If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning).
These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates.
In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop.
Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey.
Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option.

I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.
So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a  warm day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand,  in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.

Why are they good for you?

 Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.

Some suppliers for you to source your Stevia. and


with landscape designer Louise McDaid

photo: Real World Gardener


Today starts a new series on dry gardening around Australia.
We’re not talking cactus and succulents specifically or gardening with only hardy native plants.
The idea behind this series is that summers are getting warmer so we need to look at how we garden, and what we can do to preserve our precious plants.
Let’s find out what this is all about.

It's important to know what type of soil you have.

Once you work that out, you can set about improving it (if it needs it) which will save you years of headache in the years to come.
Poor sandy soils and waterlogged heavy clay soils are just two that need to be improved.

If you ignore this step, your plants will refuse to grow well, and you may end up spending too much money on fertilisers and pest control products to overcome soil deficiencies.

Plants that grow in the wrong conditions, tend to be stressed and easily succumb to pest and disease.

If you’re looking at a large garden and thinking, how am I going to achieve that better soil profile?
Don’t think of doing the whole garden at once. Start working on a small corner by giving it the right amount of mulch and compost.
Then gradually work your way around the garden over several months. Look it may even take a couple of years, but at least you’ve started.

If you have any questions about this week’s any trees on your property, send it our email address, or  you can write in for a fact sheet.



Many sedums are grown as garden plants around, because they have interesting and attractive appearance and can be quite hardy.

The various species differ in their requirements; some are cold-hardy but do not tolerate heat, some require heat but do not tolerate cold.

It's no surprise that Sedums are considered to be a stand-by perennial.

In Autumn, upright stalks carry flowerheads of pink red, yellow or ochre, the colour deepening through as the flowers age. A bee and butterfly favourite.

For the most part, absolutely trouble-free - aphids may be a problem if it is grown in shadier conditions.
In winter some varieties down right down and the life cycle starts again when tiny little foliage "cabbages" appear by late winter or early spring, and develop into a tidy low mound by summer.