Saturday, 23 April 2016

Create an Oasis in Your Garden with Autumn Flowers


Did you know that Australia provides habitat for millions of migratory birds each year?
Some of these birds fly amazing distances when they migrate.
Grey Plover photo
Today’s bird in Wildlife in focus is the Grey Plover which is a special and unusual migratory shorebird that we know very little about.
It’s the largest plover we have in Australia of its type and we know that they migrate an amazing  12,000km to breed in northern Siberia and Alaska during the northern summer and return to spend our summer in Australia.
Let’s find out more about this bird. I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of Birds in Backyards.

So the grey Plover can be described as having a strongly barred tail.
We can see them all around the coastline of Australia at inlets, estuaries lagoons, and tidal salt marshes.
Oddly enough, the majority of Grey Plovers that migrate to Australia are female. No-one knows why.
Grey Plover, photo Birds in Backyards
They spend their summer here and from March to April, head north, stopping to re-fuel in Korea, and China's Yellow Sea.
Grey Plovers mostly eat crustaceans, polychete works and other invertebrates.
Because shore birds like the Grey Plover are along the coastline if you notice that there’s a flock of shore birds, not just you’re common seagull, but birds like the grey plover, then you can help by not disturbing them and keeping your dog on a lead.
Threats to migratory birds have grown with habitat destruction especially of stopover and wintering sites, as well as structures such as power lines and wind farms.
The conservation of important sites both within Australia and along their migration routes is really important to their survival.
If you have any questions about Grey Plovers or any birds or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


 Spinach  or Spinacia oleracea.
Spinacia comes from the Latin word for spine and refers to the prickly seed coat.
  The species name, oleracea, simply means that the plant is edible.
Did you try growing Spinach in Summer?
It was alright for a while then when the humidity got turned up the stalks went a funny grey colour, then the leaves turned a sort of greeny-brown.
English Spinach
Not that attractive or edible.
I had to pull them out, not a great experiment.
Spinach originates from the Middle East, most likely Persia or modern-day Iran.
It was brought to Spain via the Moors somewhere between 800 AD and 1200 AD.
Did you also know that Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint?
Spinach seed was sent out from England in 1787 with the First Fleet but in the new colony they found it difficult to grow.
They found growing silverbeet much easier, which is why Silverbeet is sometimes called spinach in Australia, but true spinach has smaller leaves and a much sweeter, milder flavour.
When to Sow
In Cool temperate zones, you can plant spinach from April until September.
In temperate zones you have from February until the end of May, and in sub-tropical zones, from April until the end of July.
In Arid zones, you’ve hit the jackpot because you can plant Spinach all year round.
Spinach seeds have a prickly seed coat
These times are only a guide, and personally, I plant some vegetables and see how they go even though it might be a month or two out of their supposed best planting time. So, I have some Spinach seedlings coming up in my garden right now, even though I’m in a temperate district.

Growing from seed is the cheapest way of growing any vegetable and even herb in your garden.
Saved seed is even better but if it’s not that easy to remember where you last put the seeds or if you’re not that good at recording how old the seed is, there’s plenty of packet seeds around in market stalls as well as supermarkets.
Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
Plant your seedlings / seeds around 7cm apart in rows about 30 cm apart.
For once a vegetable that grows well in partial to full sun.
Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil.
Using a mulch of straw or grass clippings can help to keep moisture and warmth in the soil.
Plenty of compost and the usual organic matter to so that your spinach will grow well.
Having a worm farm or compost bin really does help your veggie bed no end!
Spinach doesn't like acidic soils, a good PH is around 6.3 -6.8.
Add lime to the soil if you need to a few weeks before you put the seeds in.
Spinach like all leafy vegetables is what’s called a heavy feeder –ie, needs lots of Nitrogen to grow well.
If you haven’t already applied Blood and Bone or cow manures to the soil a month or two ago, your soil will run out of nutrients.
During the cooler months of winter, organic matter doesn’t break down that much and to get the needed Nitrogen, applying liquid fertilisers such as compost tea or fish emulsion often will be the best way to go
Another thing to remember is that Spinach grows on shallow roots, so don't dig vigorously around it.
If you get weeds because you didn’t mulch, carefully hand remove them.
Water frequently to keep up with the fast growth of the plants.
In about 6-7 weeks, your Spinach plant has put on enough big leaves so you can pick them one by one like you might lettuce.
The leaves will keep regrowing for quite a while.
Otherwise pick the whole plant for Spinach pie etc.
Make sure you wash spinach leaves well - soil is not tasty!
Big Tip: When you want to store Spinach in the fridge a tip to remember is that
Spinach is highly ethylene sensitive.
To stop leaf yellowing don’t refrigerate with apples, or tomatoes.
Why should you grow your own Spinach?
 Because Spinach is best eaten fresh and because it loses nutritional properties every day.
Putting it in the fridge slows the deterioration, but half of the major nutrients are lost by the eighth day after harvest.
Why is Spinach good for you.?
The amount of iron in spinach comes way down the list after vitamins A and C, thiamin, potassium and folic acid (one of the B complex vitamins).
Dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach, contain carotenoids. Studies show carotenoids help your eyes stay healthy as you age by preventing macular degeneration and the formation of cataracts.
Also good for the immune system
 If you have any questions about growing spinach or any other vegetable write in or email me.
Plant lots and pick them young:


Tropical gardens for everyone series part 1
What do you think of when the word Tropical garden is said?
Swaying palms, coloured cocktail drinks with umbrellas in them, lying in a hammock swaying gently in the breeze? Dipping you toes into a pool?
Perhaps you did all these things on your last holiday to a tropical isle, but wait, you can have it at home as well.
But aren’t tropical gardens definitely for the tropics right? Wrong.
Maybe not all of it, but at least some of the features.
Over the next five weeks, Design Elements will be talking about Tropical Gardens to suit any climate in Australia. Today, you’re going tropical around the pool in part 1 of this series.
I'm talking with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

The whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical.
If you live in a cooler or arid area, you might have a tropical theme within your garden style. Somewhere there is a microclimate that suits those plants that were mentioned. You get the idea.


What’s your Autumn garden looking like right now?

Are there plenty of flowers, perhaps roses, are there autumn colours of trees that are starting to lose their leaves.
Heuceheras photo M Cannon
If there’s a few spots that you can add a little something, autumn is the best time to plant, so the plant panel got our heads together and picked out 3 plants that are true winners.
Let’s find out which ones are so good. I'm talking with Karen Smith and Jeremy Critchley, plant nursery owner,

I'm talking with the plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
One of the stars of the Autumn garden is definitely the Japanese windflower, and they’re so easy to grow and fit well planted amongst Camellias.


Heucheras on the other hand have many different types of leaf colour making a bold statement in any garden, even in vertical gardens.

Primulas (Primula obconica) fit well into any garden and if you look for the "Libra" range of Primul,s these are NEW and have been bred without PRIMIN.

Japanese wind flowers


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