Saturday, 26 December 2015

Basil, Beans and Bridal Wreaths


Basil Ocimum basilicum

At one stage Greeks and Romans believed the most potent basil could only be grown if you sowed the seed while ranting and swearing. This custom is mirrored in the French language where semer le baslic (sowing basil) means to rant.
Well I hope you don’t have to swear and rant to get your Basil seeds to germinate, just have your pencils at the ready if you want to know how to grow, use and store Basil in the next segment.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

If you live in arid or sub-tropical regions you can sow Basil in late august in a mini greenhouse or indoors, but otherwise everywhere else, for everyone else, October, right through to January is the best time to sow Basil seeds. Best planted at soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C
For something different when not try sowing cinnamon Basil or Lemon Basil or even Holy Basil, that is the true sacred basil that is grown in houses, home gardens and near temples all over India.
To dry Basil the air needs to be as humid free as possible. If you're able to grow Basil in cooler weather:Spring or Autumn, you have a better change of drying your Basil without it going black first.
Another method is to layer the leaves in a jar filled with olive oil. The oil excludes air getting to the leaves and turning them black.

If you have any questions about growing Basil or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This week’s Vegetable Hero is the BEAN or Phaseolus vulgaris which is latin for the Common Bean.
Do you love your beans?
Did you know that beans have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years?
Beans have been eaten by people for so long that they have worked their way in to everyday expressions.
Have you said "He’s full of beans when you’re describing somebody with a lot of energy? "
Perhaps you wanted someone to "spill the beans" –tell you a secret or the truth?
Bean pods can be green, yellow, purple, or speckled with red; they can be flat, round and a yard long.
Beans are what’s called a legume in the Faboidea or the pea family.
Growing beans is pretty easy and I would say essential in a veggie garden because beans, as well as other legumes, have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.
Yep, that’s right, the roots make nitrogen out of the air and deposit it into the soil.
Lightning storms are even better for that reason because they convert nitrogen into ammonium ions.
Would you believe that beans are supposed to have been grown in ancient Peru from around 500 B.C?
French beans appeared about 8,000 years ago with its origin from Latin American, Mexico, Peru and Colombia.

Green beans

Bean varieties such as green beans, French bean and long bean have been planted for their fruits or pods for vegetables in many regions in the world since 6,000 years ago
Spanish explorers took the green bean back to Europe in the 16th century and introduced it there.
From there were spread to many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
Beans, either climbing or Dwarf Beans, are sometimes called Green beans are also called string beans and snap beans.

When to grow your beans
To grow beans you need up to four months of warm weather.
In subtropical climates beans can be grown almost all year.
For temperate and arid zones, mid-spring through to late summer are the best times to plant.
In colder districts, beans, don’t like the cold at all and they certainly don’t like frost. You have until the end of summer, certainly you wouldn’t be expecting any cold snaps now.
Tropical districts, once again, need to wait until the winter months to sow beans.
How to grow your beans
Beans are best planted at soil temperatures between 16°C and 30°C so planting them from now on is ideal. Beans are easy to grow, and each year I teach hundreds of schoolchildren to sow bean seeds.
Schoolkids just love to see those bean seeds grow so it’s a great way to get your kids or grankids started in the vegetable garden.
Sow your bean seeds about 2.5cm deep or depending on the size of the bean I guess.
Sow your beans, either climbing or dwarf beans either in rows or just scatter so the seed are 5-10cm apart (don't worry about the odd ones which are closer).
Cover with soil, potting mix, or compost and firm down with the back of a spade or rake.
Grown this way the beans will mostly shade out competing weeds and 'self-mulch'.
An important fact about growing beans is that they need well-drained soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and are sensitive to deficiencies or high levels of minerals in the soil-especially climbing beans.
So make sure you spread some chook poo or cow manure before sowing your bean seeds.
When growing green beans, keep the soil moist.
A good rule of thumb is to put a finger in the dirt and if the dirt is dry up to the first knuckle, then it needs about an inch of water.
Keep your beans watered and watch for vegetable bugs and green caterpillars
Pods won’t set at temperatures above 27 C.
Did you know that if you pick the beans as soon as they’re ready, you’ll get new flowers?
If you neglect your bean plants and let your beans get large and stringy, flowering will slow right down and you probably won’t get any more beans from your plants.
Tip: To have beans all summer long, plant more seed as soon as the previous planting starts to flower.

Beans do poorly in very wet or humid tropical climates because they get bacterial and fungal diseases.
Go easy on the fertiliser or you’ll get lots of leaves and no beans.
When picking your beans, pick times when your plants are dry.
Working with beans when the leaves are wet tends to spread any diseases.
When are beans ready pick I hear you ask?
Usually in about 10-12 weeks.
Pick them when they are about as thick as a pencil, smaller if you want a better, tender taste.


Why are they good for you?
Green Beans are a good source of vitamin C and also contain calcium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin A. But, the most important nutritional fact for beans is that they provide a major source of soluble fibre, which, when passing through the digestive tract grabs and traps bile that contains cholesterol, removing it from the body before it's absorbed.
Also is a source of folate .
Some varieties of the dwarf beans are
Brown Beauty-flat pods Dwarf Snake Beans-ready in 11 weeks.
Windsor Delight has long pods of about 15cm.
Blue Lake Climbing, long pods again but they’re round this time.
That was your vegetable hero segment for today.


Colour schemes for gardeners.

Bodnant Garden. photo M. Cannon
Introducing a new series on Colour schemes in the garden over the next 4 weeks.
Colour is pretty much the most prominent factor in a garden design and often the first one considered.
Colour is what most gardeners are drawn to and for a lot of gardeners, the have distinct preferences for a certain colour.
Using Colour in the garden and making it look good desn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be easy or work the first time for you.
Good garden design involves knowing how to combine colours so that the final product will be one we like.
Let’s kick of the series, I'm talking with garden designer Lesley Simpson.
We know what we like when we see it.
Only practice and experimentation will develop your eye for colour and allow you to see the differences between colours.
 I hope the next four weeks of my Design Elements will help you with the colour palette in your garden.


Stephanotis floribunda, Bridal Wreath.

Stephanotis floribunda
Do you like fragrance in the garden?
 Have you a lot of plants with fragrance?
Along with fragrance in the garden, but for many years, the flowers have been used in bridal bouquets because they’re so lovely. Even though it prefers warmer climates gardeners in Europe love it so much that it’s sold as an indoor pot plant, even though it prefers to climb.
In fact it’s available there from florists climbing attractively over small frames in pots.
Also known as the Hawaiian Wedding Plant, this plant’s a must for the fragrant garden.
Let’s find out more about this plant.

Stephanotis looks lovely all year round and flowers more than once.
Did you know that the genus name-Stephanotis comes from the Greek words stephanos (crown) and otos (ear), supposedly because the flower tube looks like an ear canal surrounded by a crown of five ear-like lobes.
Stephanotis is in the dogbane and milkweed family whereas true jasmine (Jasminium officinale) is in the olive family.

If you have any questions about growing Stephanotis, or have some information to share why not write in to 

Friday, 18 December 2015

Lanterns Light Up the Garden


Scale of Citrus

Female scales don't need to mate to lay eggs, but they die straight after laying those eggs and crawlers that hatch can remain under the body for a few days.
White Wax Scale. Photo Courtesy Eco organic garden.
These pests are very tiny when they hatch, around 1mm in size, so undetectable to the naked eye.
As they get older they build a protecting coating where they are pretty much untouchable by anything that you want to throw at it.
Once crawlers have found a place that suits them as a feeding site, the insert their piercing mouthparts into the plant and begin to produce a waxy coating.
So the best time to treat your plants for scale is now when they’re unprotected.
Let’s find out about what the different scales look like and how to treat them.
I'm speaking with Steve Falcioni from

Citrus Louse Scale
Did you know that there’s a ladybug that disguises itself as pest, almost looking like cottony cushion scale or mealybug but the difference between it and the pest that it resembles and eats, is that it’s relatively fast moving?
In fact this ladybug climbs up and down the twigs and branchlets looking for the mealybug dinner.
Mealybugs on the other hand, tend to hide in cracks and crevices of your plant and don’t really move much at all.
If you have any questions about scale pests or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Cucumbers or Cucumis sativus..

Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year.
Cucumbers are a member of the gourd or cucurbita family and have been grown for 4000 years!
Did you know that Cucumbers were widely eaten throughout Asia and Europe by the 6th and 7th centuries A.D?
Did cucumber start off in India? No-one’s really sure.
Some pretty famous people have been known to be fans of cucumbers, even cucumber pickles.
Take, Julius Ceasar, he ate them everyday, Cleopatra, thought cucumber pickles help her skin complexion, and other pickle lovers included George Washington and Queen Elizabeth 1.
Would you have thought that Cucumbers are one of the world’s favourite vegetables?
When is the best time to grow some cucumbers?
Cucumber plants do best in all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally need temperatures between 15-33°C.
Cucumbers are happiest when the average temperatures are around 210C
Sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring and early Summer for cool temperate districts, spring and summer for arid and temperate zones districts, from August until March in sub-tropical areas.
Only the cooler months for tropical areas-so April until August unless you’re inland.

And where can you grow these delicious cucumbers?
You need to pick a sunny, well-drained spot, because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant, that needs full sun.
Cucumbers also want a decent amount of growing space in your garden. If you’re short on space, try growing them up vertically on a trellis or even on some netting, perhaps a tomato trellis?
growing cucumbers commercially
In fact, growing up a trellis would be a great way to avoid all the mildews and moulds that cucumbers are prone to in still humid weather.
There’s also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in pots.
Try Mini White- one of the most popular.
The 10cm long fruit and is best picked when young.
Gives you lots of fruit per plant and it’s burpless
Or you could try Cucumber Mini Muncher as well.
Available from
The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils.

However, do you find your Cucumber seeds sometimes don’t germinate?
They’re big seeds but if you’re raising them in punnets and the seed raising mix dries out, then the seed most like has dried up as well;and if you keep it too wet, then the seed rots.
If this keeps happening, try using another type of seed raising mix, or even some good quality potting mix and try again.
What cucumbers like is soil that’s well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
Add in plenty of organic compost and fertilisers like chook poo or cow manure.

When your cucumber has gotten going, water it regularly at the base of the plant, that way the leaves stay dry and you lessen the chances of the leaves getting the white powdery stuff growing on them, powdery mildew disease.
Flowers of Cucumbers
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
Look for white to grey fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves become brittle then start to die off.
There are some types of cucumbers that resist this disease for a time anyway.
You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole milk to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.
Don’t forget to feed your cucumber plants every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.
There’s so many now on the market, and some come with seaweed added into them as well.

Who out there hasn’t tried a cucumber that’s tasted bitter?
I’m sure some time in your life, that’s happened hasn’t it?
There’s seems to be a few theories for bitterness in cucumbers
One theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
Usually the bitterness accumulates at the stem and below the surface of the skin of the cucumber.
According to this theory it’s a genetic problem.
Newer cucumber hybrids seem to have fewer problems with bitterness.
I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin.
Found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress, and can make the fruit taste really bitter.
The concentration of these compounds varies from plant to plant, fruit to fruit, and even within the individual fruit itself.
Did you know that the ability to taste detect bitterness or cucurbitacins also varies from person to person.
Even insects have varying preferences for cucurbitacins- the compounds attract cucumber beetles but repel other insects, such as aphids and spider mites.
Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!
By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.
Just like zucchinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after. Cucumbers should be ready at about 50-60 days and picking fruit often stimulates more to start growing.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.

They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy.
Why are they good for you?
Cucumbers have lots of Vitamins C but why you should eat them is because the silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, you know, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
Cucumbers have some dietary fibre and Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin.
So eat them quick in sandwiches, salads or juice them for healthy glowing skin!


Do you wear garden gloves when you’re doing jobs in the garden?
Garden gloves come in all shapes, colours, materials.
Some last really well, others don’t and you probably won’t buy them again.
Garden glove selection; leather gauntlets are good for rose pruning.
But why wear garden gloves?
Let’s find out if wearing gardening gloves is really that important. I'm talking the Tony Mattson, General Manager of
  From spider bites, to ingrained dirt, gardening gloves protect your hands but not all gloves will work for all the situations in your garden.
That means you might have to have several different types on hand in the gardening cupboard, or under the sink in the laundry.
Leather gloves for rose pruning or pruning prickly plants, waterproof gloves when digging around in wet soil or potting mix, and all round gloves for general jobs.

Rubber gloves are good for wet work and thermal gloves are great for cold days.

If even you’re just picking up leaves, gardening gloves protect from unexpected nasties lurking amongst them.

Important: Try the gloves before you buy them.
They need to fit like a ahem, glove. That means there is no space at the top of your fingers and no gap in between the fingers of the gloves.
All gloves are made to a price point. You can buy them for as little as $5 or as much as $50 dollars


Abutilon x hybrida Bella, Chinese Lantern
The common name for this plant reflects what the flower does.Hanging down like a lantern but until now, the bush grew quite big, around 2 - 4 metres tall and almost as wide.
In comes these relatively new introductions that are really dwarf plants, but with the same size flowers so they can be squeezed in anywhere. Who can resist?
Let’s find out about them. I'm talking with Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

PLAY: Chinese Lantern_16th December 2015
The really dwarf varieties of Chinese Lanterns are the Abutilon Bella series.

Bella Pink

Bella series lanterns grow to 30cm tall and slightly wider.

They really can be squeezed into any spot in the garden if you have a semi-shaded spot or because they only grow small, potted Chinese Lanterns would be great as well.

Chinese Lanterns grow well in most parts of Australia, except for the very cold mountain zones.

In inland areas be sure to water well and keep protected with mulch.

In hot inland climates Abutilons appreciate some light shade.

Chinese lanterns flower for such a long time, from Spring right through to Autumn so if you do have room for some more plants, even a small bit or room, I recommend growing several.
Pruning is not required.

If you have any questions about growing Chinese Lanterns or have some information you’d like to share why not write in to