Friday, 6 March 2015

A Cut Above Roses and Carnations

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 general manager Cut Above Tools-Tony Mattson

My bypass secateurs photo M Cannon
How many times have you left your secateurs somewhere in the garden and have forgotten where you put them?
Forgetting that you left your garden tools outside is a pretty common problem amongst gardeners, because us gardens can be pretty busy multi-tasking between pruning, weeding and planting.
But if you look after your tools properly they’ll last a lot longer and work better.
Let’s kick of this series with a quick look at looking after your secateurs.

Anvil secateurs
When you buy new garden tools, you’ll probably have to decide whether you’re going to get low price/low quality or high price/high quality tools.
But no matter which one you get, they’ll last a bit longer if you look after them by at least wiping them down at the end of the day with the methylated spirits or bleach solution.
We can’t do much about where you left them last except maybe to say, put them down in the same place each time where you’ll notice them.
If you have any questions about cleaning your garden tools or a photo of some tools that you want help with, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Ever heard of the ugly duckling of the vegetable world?
I could think of several but Celeriac or Apium graveolens var rapaceum has been described as the ugly duckling of vegetables, or just plain ugly.
But if you don’t think of vegetables as pretty or ugly, don’t be put off by all that talk because it’s pretty useful to have in your garden.
Celeriac is closely related to celery even though it looks nothing like it.
The early Greeks called celeriac, selinon and it’s mentioned in Homer's Odyssey in 800 B.C.,
That means, Celeriac has been grown as an edible plant for thousands of years.
But it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that celeriac became an important vegetable .
From that time on, it spread from the Mediterranean, finding its way into Northern European cuisine.
Celeriac looks like it might be the root of something, but it actually is the swollen stem.
The usual size you see in the supermarket is roughly 10cm, a very pale brown, rough, almost acne’ed looking ball with lime green tops.
The green tops look a bit like celery, and the smell is similar but a bit stronger.
The thick, rough brownish skin covers a creamy white, crisp inside that’s slightly hotter tasting than celery.
Celeriac also grows more easily and keeps longer than celery, making it an excellent winter vegetable.
You also don’t have to do any of that blanching the stems as they’re growing like you do with celery.

When to grow it?
In sub-tropical areas you can sow the seed in March, April and August.
In arid areas, you’ll have to wait until next Spring and in most other regions of Australia, you can sow the seed in Spring, Summer and Autumn, except for the tropics. It’s not really suited to that region.
But should you be listening somewhere in tropical Qld, and have grown Celeriac, please drop us a line about your success.
Celeriac is best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 21°C.
Hot summers won’t suit this plant. Wait until this hot weather takes a break or  start the seeds off in punnets.
Tip:Celeriac seeds are a bit hard to germinate, but if you soak the seeds in a saucer of water with a splash of seaweed solution, this will help the germination rate.
Like a lot of members of the Celery family, Celeriac likes soil that has plenty of organic compost and manures, otherwise, it’ll bolt to seed.
If you start your Celeriac seed in punnets, you can control the moisture content of the mix more easily rather than in the garden bed.
Transplant when there’s at least 4 leaves.
Celeriac loves wet soil. You can’t water it too much, and a thick layer of mulch will help in keeping the soil moist.
If you don’t water it enough you might get hollow roots or the plant will bolt to seed.
Keep the weeds down as well because celeriac doesn’t compete well with weeds,  but don’t disturb its shallow roots.
As the root develops, snip off side roots and hill the soil over the developing root.
Side dressing periodically during the growing season with an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen, like chook poo, is also helpful, but don't overdo it, otherwise you’ll get lots of leaf, rather than root, growth.
Celeriac, like many "roots", is a long-season, cool-weather crop;
slow-growing, taking around seven months from seed to  maturity (that is, about four months from transplanting), although the root is edible at any earlier stage.
As a rule, the longer you leave celeriac in the garden, the larger the root gets; some say they don’t really get woody when large, while others say dig them up when they’re small (10cm diameter) –
And again, some say celeriac is frost-tender, while others say a few light frosts won't bother it.
I’ve heard that "celeriac increases in flavour after the first frost.
You can leave them in the ground over-winter, harvesting as you need them..
One other thing, some recommend drawing soil up around the stems in early autumn, to blanch them; but that’s entirely up to you and I tend not to bother.
When it grows, the swollen Celeriac stem tends to push itself out of the soil, sitting just a few centimetres of soil level.
If it doesn’t do that for you, you might have to give it a helping hand, and scrape away some of the soil towards the end of the growing season.
Apart from the long growing season, pests don’t seem to like Celeriac, so a bonus. No spraying needed.
Celeriac mash
What do you do with this vegetable?
Whatever you do with potato you can do with celeriac.
You can also eat it raw. –can grate it or cut it into thin strips or cubes, and to serve it as a salad seasoned with a dressing.
Celeriac can also be cooked, either on its own or together with other vegetables.
It makes a good puree mixed with potatoes, but best of all, it makes a non-starch substitute for potatoes.
Why is it good for you?
Raw celeriac is an excellent source of potassium and a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron.
Cooked celeriac is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Celeriac is said to be diuretic, demineralising, and a tonic, and stimulates the appetite and cleanses the system


with Louise McDaid landscape designer.
So you’ve decided to go ahead with the vertical garden anyway. We’ve mentioned the pitfalls over the last two weeks and today, we’re giving a more positive outlook because we’re assuming you, the gardener still wants the ambiance and presence of a vertical garden.

Vertical Garden photo M Cannon
Let’s find out some more

Vertical gardens can be custom built to suit any area.
You can buy a simple bracket system that supports individual pots. Each panel houses five click-in pots, and can be hung vertically or horizontally.
There are even vertical garden modules you can buy that are made out of bamboo and self- watering. These systems are small enough to fit on any balcony.
Vertical gardens add a natural beauty to any room, courtyard or building and also reduce the urban heat island effect.
Plus plants create a sense of well being so it can’t hurt to squeeze in some more.


with owner The Green Gallery Nursery Jeremy Critchley
and Karen Smith from

Tuberous Begonia-rose formation. photo Jeremy Critchley-The Green Gallery Nursery
You probably like rose and camellia flowers, but what about a plant which has flowers that look like both of these plants?
Rose form or camellia flowered begonia.
The large double flowers have rounded petals and a rosebud- like centre giving them a more formal look.
These plants can also have ruffled flowers tuberous that have serrated, scalloped or heavily-waved petals.
Some of these look like large carnations and some also have a rosebud centre.
Let’s find out about this plant.

Tuberous Begonias are a cool climate plant, not sub-tropical.
 People grow them well in Sydney, Perth and south of these areas.

Most begonias prefer warm, moist conditions. The ideal temperature range is 150 to 260 Celsius though most will tolerate range is 150 to 26 0C and some will tolerate temperatures as high as 400C and as low as 50C - some even lower.
All begonias prefer well drained soil rich in compost or organic matter and some like some degree of shade

Tuberous Begonias-carnation formation.  photo J Critchley The Green Gallery Nursery
 If you’re unsure, it is best to try cheaper bedding begonias first, then progress to more showy large flowered plants.
Choose a place where plants like ferns, fuchsias, hostas or cymbidiums grow.
 Give them good light, but not direct sun (shade cloth ideal).
 Not too much wind.
 Not indoors – Tuberous Begonias need cool nights.
Their active growth stage is between October and May.
When the Begonia is dormant in winter, it’s best to lay the pot on its side to keep the pot dry.

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