Friday, 4 December 2015

Raptors in The Sky and Trees in the Garden


Brown Goshawk
Today I’m introducing a new presenter for the Wildlife in Focus segment which has been in sort of a holiday while I was hunting around for someone to fill the role after ecologist sue Stevens wasn’t able to continue with the segment.
The bird that’s featured is a bird of prey and can easily be mistaken for a couple of other birds that look similar.

Let’s find out how to pick which raptor you might find in the sky. I'm talking with Manager of Birds in Backyards, Dr Holly Parsons.

The Brown Goshawk can look similar to a Powerful Owl, and the Collared Sparrowhawk. The Brown Goshawk has a similar face to the Powerful Owl but has a line or brow above the eye and a red-brown collar plus finely barred underparts. The collared Sparrowhawk has very similar colouring but doesn't have the harsh brow.
The major difference between the two raptors is that the Brown Goshawk has a rounded tail and the Collared Sparrowhawk has a squared cut off tail.

Powerful Owl Photo: Habitat Network
On the other hand the powerful owl is much bigger and has striped chevrons on the underparts.
Did you know that the Brown Goshawk is one of Australia's most persecuted raptors. That’s because some people call it a "chicken hawk," which it’s not.
What it really is a natural predator of birds, reptiles, frogs, large insects and mammals up to the size of rabbits.
Yes it’s true they sometimes hunt out your chickens, but that’s because it’s either a juvenile, or sometimes the adults, if they’re extremely hungry due to illness, injury, or extreme environmental conditions where’s there’s not much prey in the wild.
They hunt by stealth, relying on surprise to catch their prey.
The Brown Goshawk's preferred habitat is dry, open eucalypt forest and woodland.
If you have any questions about Brown Goshawks or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Strawberries or Fragaria x ananasa.Did you know that Fragaria means fragrance in Latin.

Strawberries aren’t actually berries because true berries have seeds inside them.
And as every schoolkid will tell you, strawberries have seeds on the outside, and usually about 200 of them!
So what are strawberries exactly?
Strawberries are sometimes called an accessory fruit or false fruit because of this .

Here’s a botanical bite:
The ovary contains ovules, which develop into seeds after fertilization.
This ovary will mature into a fruit, either dry and parchment like or fleshy, enclosing the seeds.
All flowers have an ovary where the seed grows.
Some or all of the fruit doesn’t grow in the ovary but on outside of the ovary.
That part of the flower’s called the receptacle because it holds the ovary.
You might find it hard to imagine, but each littLe "seed" (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. Strange isn’t it?
Fragaria vesca or the Alpine strawberry is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Botanists think this was probably the ancestor of the garden strawberry of today. t
 There’s archaeological evidence suggesting that people ate strawberries as far back as during the Stone Age.
Interestingly, the first civilisation to grow them as a crop were the Persians in ancient Persia.
The Persian-called their strawberry plants - Toot Farangi.
By the 18th century Fragaria x ananassa had replaced the alpine strawberry because of the larger berry or fruit.
Strawberries are an "Accessory" or "False Fruit."
For all sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones you can plant strawberries now if you see them for sale, because you surely will, but you’ll get advice that May and June are the best planting times.
For cool mountain districts, October and November are your best planting times.
They’re frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants.

So what are the strawberry plants’ requirements?
The pattern for most strawberries is flowering in spring, set fruit in late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter.
At this time of year you will be able to get the ever bearing varieties which give you a second crop in autumn.
If you planted your strawberry plants, in last autumn and winter, they should’ve flowered already and you’ll be telling me that you’ve been enjoying strawberries with cream already.
But why not plant some more plants for Autumn strawberries?
What do Strawberry plants love?
Not sure what they like? Well…Strawberries love at least 6 hours of sun a day and will grow in most soils but strawberries prefer a sandy loam that is deep and contains a lot of organic matter.
IMPORTANT: When planting a strawberry plant, make sure that about a third of the crown is above the soil. If you plant too deep or shallow the plant might die.
Strawberries have 70% of there roots located in the top 8cm of soil.
By mulching the soil, it helps to keep the roots from drying out and will prevent the plant from drowning in boggy soil.
This means that if growing your strawberries in the garden, you need to grow them on mounds to improve drainage and you will also need to put down a thick layer of mulch such as hay, pea straw or sugar cane to prevent the berries from touching the soil and rotting.
Mulch as you should now, also prevents the soil from drying out too much.
Potting soils usually have the right mix if you’re planning on planting strawberries in a container.
In that case, add an extra inch or two of fresh compost either to the mix before filling the pot or to the surface of the potting mix.
I would also recommend adding some coco peat into the potting mix to increase water holding capacity.
The idea behind strawberry pots is good in principle but in practise I find it needs careful attention because the plants dry out too much.
And you know strawberry pots have several holes in them to cater for about5-6 plants.
TIP: Attaching your pots to a dripper system and putting a saucer under the strawberry pot will save your strawberry crop this year.

Strawberries with dripper system

Also make sure you water the plants, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry spells.
Strawberries prefer a moist environment.
Avoiding overhead watering will reduce fungal disease; drip irrigation or a 'leaky pipe' is best.
I did see a different way of growing strawberries at the Floriade in the Netherlands last year, which might suit listeners.
The above ground planters were made with weld mesh into a circle of diameter about 1 ½ to 2 metres, then lined with coconut fibre.
You could use other materials to line them.
Into this the soil was added then the strawberry plants. Mulched with straw of course.
Not only did it look good but provides perfect drainage for the plants, and no bending down for the gardener.
They're technically a perennial so live for a few years producing fruit.
After 3-4 years (or even sooner) the plants usually become diseased and die.
And don't forget nurseries do sell certified virus-free stock, and that's the safest way to grow new strawberry plants.
To feed your strawberries, sprinkle a small handful of complete fertilizer (such as tomato food, organic pellets, fish emulsion and any stuff which is high in potash) around each plant when it first comes into flower, and water well. Liquid seaweed fertilizer once a fortnight will not go astray either.
Keep a close eye on the plants as flowering begins as the birds, including your chickens if they free range, and possums are just as keen on strawberries as we are. You may need to net the strawberry bed.
tip:Make sure your berries are fully red before picking them because they don't get any riper off the vine.
Cut the stem above the berry with scissors.
Over summer, strawberry plants send out runners.
Strawberries need to be picked when ripe.
These modified shoots can be used to propagate new plants but if you don't need new plants, cut these runners off.
After fruiting has finished, tidy up the bushes by giving them a hard prune down to 10cm.
Stick 'em in the fridge soon after picking the strawberries and don't wash the strawberries until just before you want to eat them.
Strawberries don't last, and the extra water on them causes their cells to break down more quickly.
TIP:Wash the berries and pat them dry before removing the stems. That way you avoid excess water entering the berries from the stem end.
Use the berries within three or four days.
To really feed a family you need about 20-30 plants to provide plenty of fruit, but even a couple of plants can be fun to grow.
Varieties include Redlands Crimson was developed in south east Queensland so it does very well in subtropical climates sending runners everywhere.
Tioga's - is better suited to a cooler climates.
Summer strawberry varieties include Cambridge Riva for the intense flavour, Chandler has huge berries and grows in all climates, Hokowase are wedge shaped and very sweet.
Torrey has medium sized sweet fruit and is best suited to warm climates
Available from
For Ever- bearing varieties, the autumn crop is the biggest and you can choose from Tempation which doesn't send out runners so it's great for hanging baskets and Sweetheart is very sweet to taste – an everlasting variety also have their fruit set in autumn .
Why are they good for you?
Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fibre, folic acid, and potassium
From only half a punnet of strawberries you'll get more than 100% of your daily needs of Vitamin C, and 5.5g fibre in if you eat the whole punnet of strawberries that's about 20% of your daily fibre needs.
Did you know that eating strawberries, which are rich in nitrate, can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by 7%?
This prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.
Strawberries are also low in kilojoules, meaning you can eat 2 cups as one of your daily fruit serves!


 This series is about arboriculture and managing trees.
Did you know that there was an Institute of Australian Consulting Arborists?

Trees are a living structure
So what is a consulting arborist and can they cut down your trees if you want them too?
Listen to the podcast. I'm talking with Consulting Arborist Glenice Buck
Consulting arborists do a wide range of things including assessing and writing reports on trees, but they do not do pruning or cutting down of trees.
This means they'll always give an unbiased opinion on the health and condition of a tree and its retention value.
Trees are a valuable addition to any landscape
If you’ve been asked for an Arborist Report, a Tree Report or an Arboricultural Impact Assessment then a consulting arborist is the best person to call because they often prepare these reports for clients with respect to trees for a range of reasons.
And where do you find these consulting arborists?
Look no further than the Accredited Members of the Institute of Australian Consulting Arboriculturists (IACA) ( ) provide written reports for their clients in the public and private sectors.
IACA members do not undertake tree pruning or removal work.
The other organization is Arboriculture Australia which also lists consulting arborists.
If you have any questions about what arborists do, consulting or otherwise or have a suggestion why not write in or email me


Philodendron Xanadu and Philodendron Gold Bullion
Philodendron belong to the Araceae family of plants and some of them become enormous and climb to great heights.
Many of these plants are grown as ornamental and indoor plants.
If you work in a big office and have indoor plants, chances are you’ve got one of these and never notices.
You’d be surprised to learn though, that indoors is not all they’re cut out for.
Listen to the podcast. I'm talking with Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchery owner of
Philodendron Xanadu  belongs to a genus of plants that can’t really support themselves, so they have roots to do that for them.
Philodendron Xanadu is more like  a shrub with a soft trunk that sends off long distance aerial roots to maintain that support.
Philodendron Xanadu
You might be surprised to learn that Philodendron Xanadu was originally reported to be a selected chance seedling discover in 1983 in a Western Australian nursery. 
It was renamed 'Xanadu' by House Plants of Australia and released as their plant of the year in 1988
It was thought to be a sport or hybrid of Philodendron bipinnatifidum and named Philodendron 'Winterbourn' and protected under Plant Breeder Rights in Australia.

Philodendron Xanadu has very attractive lobed leaves that are richly green and lush.
It grows to around 75 cm in height and eventually makes a 1m-wide clump.
This plant is very tough and needs no attention once established, apart from occasional watering and some fertiliser once a year.
Put Philodendrons into a shady position amongst other tropical-looking plants suits it best –
Grow them amongst bromeliads, Alocasia, bird's nest ferns, giant Liriope, cane Begonia and Abutilon.
Philodendron Gold Bullion
It is well suited to life outdoors in Sydney; but in colder regions, it can be grown as a patio plant, or even indoors, as long as there is sufficient light.
Apparently, it will also grow well in a sunny position. It can be propagated by division.
The name Philodendron derives from the Greek words philo or "friend" and dendron or "tree".


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