Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mostly Purple in the 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 (CBF).
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 from

Deficiencies in plants are hard to diagnose especially if it’s in the leaf.
Sometimes though they stick out like a sore thumb, particularly on some veggies like tomatoes.Other times with other vegetables, it’s a bit confusing because it could fungal, or you didn’t fertilise or water enough.
The problem will show up when the fruit is about half-size or half ripe with zucchinis.

With tomatoes, they'll still be green when you start to see the blackness on the bottom end of the tomato.
Let’s find out how to treat this next problem in the veggie bed

Too much or too little water can mean the plant can't take up calcium, even more so if you've used artificial fertilisers.
The artificial fertilisers include those powders that you mix with water. These sodium and nitrate ions which mean the plant prioritises take up other nutrients at the expense of calcium.
Lack of calcium is most likely the cause if the problem shows up when the fruit is bigger-almost half ripened.
Calcium deficiency is treatable but it won’t reverse the problem you’re seeing on your vegetables right now.
So those veggies that have got it now-you’re stuck with.
I have read about crushing egg shells and mixing them into the soil to correct calcium deficiency, but that takes months and months before the calcium is available to the plants. Just not worth it.
If you apply gypsum in a liquid form, it gets absorbed quicker and may just fix the problem on your zucchinis on tomatoes in as little as a couple of weeks.
Gypsum is calcium plus sulphur, which doesn't change soil pH.
Otherwise, applying the powder form of gypsum takes at least a season to work it’ way into the soil.
If you have any questions about blossom end rot or a photo of a sad veggie you want diagnosed, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea gongyloides or B. Oleraceae variety caulo-rapa)
Although kohlrabi and brussels sprouts (B. oleracea variety gemmifera) look like they belong in two different families, they are in the Brassicacea family, along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower .
It’s a useful veggie to grow because you can use the bulb and the leaves-so nothing is wasted.
Would you believe that all these vegetables came from a common parent, "the wild cabbage"?
You don’t see a lot of Kohlrabi today but it’s been around awhile.
A bit of history.

By the year 800 A.D., the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne ordered that kohlrabi be grown in his Imperial gardens.
King Charlemagne although thought to be French, was actually from western Germany.
No surprise then that "Kohlrabi" is a German word where Kohl means cabbage and Rabi means turnip. "Kohlrabi" Means "Cabbage Turnip"
By the end of the 16th century it was known in Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Tripoli, and the eastern Mediterranean.

Kohlrabi is another one of those vegetables that has the person at the supermarket checkout stumped.
You’ll be asked what’s that?.
If you get a mental blank at that point, be prepared for a flurry of activity as someone else is called to the checkout to inspect what you’ve got and identify it.

Where to get the seeds?
Kohlrabi for sure has fallen off the flavour of the month vegetable chart.
In fact, you probably won’t be able to find the seeds at a lot of garden centres.

The funny thing about Kohlrabi is that even though it looks like a root vegetable, it actually isn’t.
The bit that you eat grows above ground and not below the ground like carrots and turnips.
The bulb sits on top of the soil, and the way the leaves branch out makes the whole vegetable look like a sputnik.
So far I’ve only seen the purple variety in shops, and when I used to work for a large well known seed company, the seeds were available but have since been taken off due to lack of interest.
The seeds are easy enough to buy online and I’ll post the links on my blogs spot.
Another company sells two varieties, Early Vienna White and Purple Globe.,

How and when to grow Kohlrabi.
Brassica oleracea gongylodes).
Kohlrabi is a good choice for beginner gardeners because it’s fastest and easiest to grow of all the Brassicaceae family.
Your kids will love kohlrabi because of it’s funny appearance.

In temperate districts sow the seeds in January to March and the same for cool temperate districts.
For arid zones, February to June is the best time.
March to August for sub-tropical and April to August for tropical zones.

Kohlrabi-photo M Cannon
Sort of like little aliens from other space-a little round body with little "legs" coming out of the ground.
You could plant your Kohlrabi with Beetroot because they have need  the same amount of water.
You can also fit Kohlrabi in between lettuce, onion and radicchio, because it sits above the ground and doesn’t take up as much room as cabbages.

Sowing the Seeds.
You can either put Kohlrabi seeds direct into the ground or start them in punnets or seed trays because they don’t mind being transplanted.

Sow the seeds about 1 cm deep in rows 30 cm apart and thin them out to 15 cm or a couple of hand-widths apart.
Or like me, just put them wherever you’ve got space in your veggie bed.
Kohlrabi can be rather closely spaced (or interplanted) and is out of the garden in 60 days (2 ½ months) or so, leaving time to plant something else. As with all vegetables a standard application of an organic fertilizer, mixed into the soil according to label rates prior to planting, is all you need to do.
So when do you pick your Kohlrabi?
If you want small kohlrabi pick them when they’re about 3-5cm in diameter, with the leafy greens still attached.
The greens should be deep green all over with no yellowing.
Although kohlrabi stores well, up to one month refrigerated, yellow leaves means that the vegetable is not fresh.
Now you may be wondering how to eat Kohlrabi, and it wouldn’t be fair if RWG didn’t pass on that information.You’ll be surprised at how good it tastes and wonder why you haven’t bothered to try some before.
  • Eat them RAW
  • Kolhrabi sort of tastes like a mildly sweet, crunchy pear crossed with a cucumber, but not as hard as an unripe pear.
  • To prepare your Kohlrabi, remove the stems by pulling or cutting them off the kohlrabi globe.
  • If the kohlrabi is small, there is no need to peel it, but you might want to cut off the tough base end.
  • If you've bought large kohlrabi, peel it and slice off the tough woody base before slicing or dicing.
  • Slice or cut into julienne and include it on a relish tray with dips.
  • Coarsely grate kohlrabi into a tossed salad. 
  • Slice kohlrabi, put it in a container, and pack in your bag for lunch for a crunchy snack.
  • Why not try kohlrabi pancakes  — what vegetable doesn't taste good mixed with a little flour and eggs and fried up in olive oil and butter?
  • What about  kohlrabi slaw, roasted kohlrabi and even raw, thinly shaved kohlrabi or steamed or stir fried Kohlrabi?

Recipe- Kohlrabi Pancakes Makes 4 big pancakes.
4 small purple or green kohlrabi, peeled and trimmed of woody bits
1 small onion, very finely chopped or grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄4 cup (or more) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Grate the peeled and trimmed kohlrabi on the large holes of a box grater. Wrap the grated kohlrabi in a clean dishtowel and squeeze until most of the excess moisture has been removed.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the shredded kohlrabi, chopped or grated onion, optional chilies or chili flakes, beaten egg, flour, coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined. Add additional flour by the teaspoon if batter seems too wet (mixture should be somewhat firm).
3. In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat until the butter stops foaming. Add ladlefuls of the pancake batter (about 1⁄3 of a cup at a time) to the pan, gently pressing down on the cakes with the back of a spatula. Cook kohlrabi pancakes until crispy and golden brown on each side
4. Drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt or applesauce.
Note: The original recipe includes 1⁄2 teaspoon of ground ginger, which you might like to try in place of the coriander. Chopped cilantro or parsley would also be a nice addition.

Why Is It Good for You?
Kohlrabi is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
It’s rich in thiamine, folate, magnesium and phosphorus and is packed with dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, copper and manganese.
The only bad thing about kohlrabi is that a large portion of the calories in this food come from sugars.


with garden designer Lesley Simpson
An oriental garden can be many things-Japanese, Chinese, or Zen.

When you think of oriental gardens, do you think of a quiet peaceful place where you can sit and meditate?
Seems to be a key ingredient-quiet contemplation.
If you want on oriental theme then your garden, whether it’s Chinese or Japanese needs to reflect nature.
So how do you achieve that in a garden?
Let’s find out how to create an oriental garden….

You can create your oriental garden on a small scale; rocks represent mountains or islands, sand or gravel can represent water, and paths represent your journey through life. Symbolism in the garden is an important part of design."
Also the water feature is very prominent but it doesn’t have to be a waterfall as much as we would like one, it’s probably beyond most of our means.
Perhaps a small bowl that has a little bubbler in it will do the trick?
What do you think?


with Karen Smith editor Hort Journal magazine.

Echinacea purpurea has been in cultivation a long time but, over the past 10 years, a whole range of new varieties has appeared, with breeders here, in Holland and in the United States churning out new variants as fast as they can.

Echinaceas are perennials, but not all perennials last forever. You’re doing well if you can get your Cone flowers to last 5 years, but often it’s a bit less.
If you want to add height to your garden border but also want cut flowers and flowers that attract bees and butterflies, you can’t go past this next perennial.
What’s more it’s pretty easy to grow from seed and the flowers last for about a month in your garden bed. So there’s plenty of cost savings to be had.
Let’s find out about this plant.


Did you know that in America before white settlers, Echinacea root was used as a remedy for snake bite, the Cheyenne tribe chewed the root to quench thirst, and another tribe washed their hands in a decoction of echinacea to increase their tolerance of heat.
European settlers learned of the North American herb's many uses, and soon lots of  echinacea-based remedies were commercially available from pharmaceutical companies in the United States.

New colours and hybrids are because of crossing E. purpurea with other echinacea species. For those for whom the simple pink daisy of E. purpurea, with its slightly reflexed petals, does not offer enough excitement, there are lots of other colours: white, salmon-apricot shades, yellows, greens (yes, really); and different shapes: doubles, reflexed petals, petals with frills, fluffy central cones.

Like all daisies, echinaceas are composite flowers – that chunky central cone (which gives rise to the name “coneflower”) is actually a mass of tiny fertile flowers(technically-disc florets), which bees and butterflies home in on to collect nectar.

Those big showy “petals” are actually sterile flowers (technically “ray florets”) that advertise the flower to passing pollinators. Once fertilised, these outer florets fall off and the cone turns into a seedhead.
Echinaceas are extremely frost hardy so it’s not the  cold that knocks them off, but “they appear to be competition-intolerant; they grow well on their own, but suffer if other plants crowd them.”
So says one expert, another says might be winter damp… a plant which habitually goes into a deep-freeze winter just goes dormant… warm and moist conditions encourage pathogens, so echinaceas might rot easily in our mild, wet winters.”
What’s good about the plant-you can grow them easily from seed, not the hybrids of course, but the straight species. The seed doesn’t even have to be fresh.
I’ve sown an out of date packet 2009, and they all came up.
At around (80-100cm) in height, echinaceas are quite big plants.
If you’re prepared to pay for perennials that are potted up, there are dwarf varieties such as ‘Kim’s Knee High’ but because it’s smaller it has lots of smaller flowers on 60cm-high plant; ‘Kim’s Mop Head’ is similar in size, with white flowers
How to grow _Echinaceas need full sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
Avoid damp spots and heavy mulching over crowns in winter.
Deadhead to encourage flowering into the autumn after the main August-September season.

Once planted, they are best left alone — they do not transplant well.

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