Saturday, 7 May 2016

Eat Flowers and Broccoli Not Beetles


Green Leaf Beetle Paropsides calypso

One of the most planted hedges these days is the Lilly Pilly hedge.
So what happens when you have heaps of the same plants?
Green Leaf Beetle photo Martin Lagerway
Not surprisingly, pests that like that particular plant will also multiply without the help of any production nursery.
We’ve already seen an explosion in the pimple psyillid that causes those little bumps in the leaves of Lilly Pillies, but now, enter another destructor.
Let’s find out more about this pest of Lilly Pillies.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of eco organic garden.

The Green Leaf Beetle itself is 5mm long, bright green and shiny.
Not just a pest, but a native pest found originally in the north-east of New South Wales and that now has found an abundance of food in our gardens and has been known to defoliate a row of plants almost overnight.
Lilly Pilly Hedge

It firsts starts off as only the edges of the leaves being chewed out and in some cases progresses to the central mid-rib of the leaf.
Then when plants are inspected there’s no sign of what did the eating because the beetle has gone underground or perhaps even flown to another tasty Lilly Pilly hedge.
You can try inspecting your hedges for the juvenile or larvae of the Green Leaf Beetle that are pale green and glossy, 2 cm long and look similar to a stretched out curl grub.
overseas, Neem oil is registered for use on beetles, so from an organic perspective, this may prove worthwhile.
If you have any questions about the Green Leaf Beetle or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Broccoli, Brassica oleracea var Italica or botrytis cymosa?
The answer to the question which vegetable has more vitamin C than an orange? Broccoli of course.

Would you have guessed that Broccoli heads are actually groups of flower buds that are almost ready to flower?
Each group of buds is called a floret.
There’s some confusion as to where exactly name broccoli come

s from.
Some say it’s from the Latin word brachium, which means "arm" or "branch," other’s that it’s from the Italian word broccolo, which means "cabbage sprout."
Broccoli is of course in the Brassicaceae family of vegetables along with cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, turnips and many of the Asian greens.
Did you know that most members of the Brassica Family, are related to a wild cabbage grown centuries ago?
Apparently Romans grew and loved to eat Broccoli way back in 23 to 79 BCE.
During the 8th century BCE, the Etruscans migrated from what is now Turkey to Italy, settling in Tuscany of course, and bringing with them their Broccoli seeds.
Why should you grow Broccoli if it’s available all year round in your supermarket?
Firstly, supermarket Broccoli has probably been sprayed for all manner of pests whether or not the pests visited the Broccoli plant.
Secondly, supermarket Broccoli stems are pretty tough to eat, when they’re supposed to be tender.
Why, because that type of Broccoli transports better?
Homegrown Broccoli, especially the heirloom varieties, also re-shoot after your cut of the central Broccoli stem.
Plus, Broccoli is pretty easy to grow.
 Just keep an eye out for bugs during warmer months, but there’s plenty of organic ways of controlling them.
Finally, to taste great, broccoli has to be properly cared for and must also be picked at the right time.
If you just buy broccoli at the green grocer’s, the broccoli may look great but the taste may not be up to scratch.
How so? They may have been picked before becoming fully-mature.
Or they may have been picked at the right time but then stored too long
With home-grown broccoli, you can also be sure how it has been grown:
You know exactly where it has come from, what you used to grow and protect it, unlike those sold in supermarkets and even in farmer’s markets.
Broccoli can be sown now in all but the hottest and coldest of climates, but does need a cool winter to get to maturity.
Temperate and cool climates suit Broccoli best with a temperature range of 150C to 250C. 
The ideal time for cool temperate districts has just past, but maybe you can squeeze a few seedlings in a see how you go.
However  Autumn is ideal for arid, temperate and sub tropical districts
Let me know if you successfully grow Broccoli during the warmer months in those districts.
Broccoli types
Broccoli comes in many shapes and varieties but is grouped into five major strains: sprouting, broccolini, purple, Romanseco, and Chinese varieties.

De Cicco Broccoli

Today, I’m concentrating on the common or garden variety which is actually the sprouting variety.

Try these varieties
Di Cicco is a classic Italian style broccoli which is deep green in colour and has a sweet flavour that might help to get kids into eating it.
Green Sprouting is a Calabrese style broccoli with bluish green coloured heads and a deep earthy taste.
Waltham 29 is a great all-rounder plus there’s purple sprouting Broccoli, which is well, purple and sprouting- attractive and tasty.
All of these varieties will provide months of continual harvest and can even be considered as a perennial plant if you can manage to deal with the influx of cabbage moths that come around as the weather warms up.
How to grow Broccoli?
Broccoli is not too choosy about the site it grows in but prefers to be in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade with no problems.
Growing in too much shade will reduce the size of the Broccoli head.
The ideal soil is a reasonably heavy (not pure clay) which is rich in nutrients and has been well-dug.
Like all brassicas, Broccoli needs a minimum soil pH of 6; but really prefers a pH of 7.
Add lime if you need to raise the soil pH.
Broccoli is what’s called a heavy feeder, so do add plenty of blood and bone, and decomposed manures by the bucket load before you start.
Sow your Broccoli seed about 1 ½ cm deep, and space the seedlings about 40cm apart so they don’t crowd each other.
Once a fortnight feed your broccoli with a liquid fertilizer; seaweed, manure tea, nettle tea etc.
When your Broccoli is growing always make sure that the beds are free from competitive weeds by hand weeding regularly.
Don’t plant or sow Broccoli in your veggie bed if you’ve grown it before in the past 3 years.
You may get a disease called Club Root that causes you Broccoli plant to wilt regardless of how much water you give it.
Remember the acronym. LRLC-Legumes, root veg, leafy then Cucurbits, Brassicas.
Harvest broccoli heads when they have reached maximum size, are still compact, and before the buds loosen, open into flowers, or turn yellow. It will be about 70-100 days or 2 ½ -4 months, when your Broccoli will be ready if you plant it now.
When do you pick your Broccoli?

You’ve got to time it just right, and that’s when the cluster of tight buds in the central head is well formed and before the individual flowers start to open.
Make a sloping cut (this allows water to run off), leaving a stem that's about 10 cm long.
That way you’ve left a reasonable amount of the plant intact to produce smaller sideshoots or "florets," which you can pick as well.
Great for stir fries.
At this stage, don’t stop feeding and watering the remaining broccoli stem otherwise your plants will go to seed and you won’t get any side shoots.
Why is Broccoli good for you?
Broccoli contains twice the vitamin C of an orange.
Did you know that just 100g of Broccoli has two day’s supply of vitamin C (don’t overcook  or you’ll lose some).
Broccoli also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and beta carotene
100g broccoli has 120kJ.
Broccoli also contains magnesium and as much calcium as whole milk.
Great for preventing colds. Don’t underestimate the power of broccoli!


Tropical Coastal Gardens
Coastal Garden photo Peter Nixon

Tropical gardens seem to fit, hand in glove in coastal areas, because when we think of the beach, we might like to imagine that we’re in an exotic location with the lushness of a tropical oasis.
Think big leaves, colourful foliage and lots of flowers.
Let’s find out how to create this near the coast…I'm talking with Louise McDaid, Garden Designer.

Paradisus photo Peter Nixon

Coastal gardens are affected by salt laden winds and sandy, nutrient poor soils so it's not necessarily easy to get them to work. Salt laden winds cause leaf burn on plants.
So, it’s important to remember that windbreaks, either planted or built form, and creating microclimates will help establish large leaved plants that might not thrive or do that well to start off with, but with a bit of planning.
Windbreak plants suggestions: Acacia, Lagunaria patersonii or Norfolk Island Hibiscus, Sheoaks or Casuarinas, Callistemons or bottlebrush,Vitex and Metrosideros or NZ Christmas bush.
 I’m sure you can get that tropical look for your coastal garden.
Close planting is the key, and layering with different plants at different levels or plants of different heights.
If you have any questions about creating tropical gardens drop us a line to


Have you wondered about a sure fire way to add a touch of elegance, colour and flavour to your recipes, perhaps to impress your friends when they come over for dinner?
Perhaps you want just a fun way  to add a bit of whimsy to get little ones to eat their food?

Edible flowers photo M Cannon

Flowers belong to plants that have fruits and those that have vegetables. So can be classed as both, also because you can eat some flowers of both.
Edible flowers sounds like it could be good but is it?
Why would you eat flowers anyway and what flowers can you eat?
Let’s find out which ones are so good.…
I'm talking with the plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Why are some of Australia’s top restaurants, demanding flowers of violas, fennel, coriander, peas, rocket and Borage?
Edible flowers have been in diets for thousands of years.
Did you know that Romans used edible flowers such as mallows, roses and violets in a lot of their dishes?
You’ve probably heard of and even eaten capers, but did you know capers (Capparis spinosa) are the flower buds of an Mediterranean evergreen shrub and have been used to flavour foods and sauces for over 2,000 years?

Don’t eat flowers from non-organic sources such as florists, supermarkets, nurseries, gardens, or roadsides as they may contain pesticide residue.
 Another tip is to add flowers gradually to your diet.
Edible flowers:
Some of the flowers we mentioned are calendula, roses and sunflowers ( for their petals) , violas, pansies, marigold, nasturtium, dianthus, freesia, stocks and cornflowers, daylilies, and chrysanthemums.
Most of the herb flowers are edible and may have the taste of the herb itself – chives, garlic, leeks , basil, rocket, borage, chervil, coriander, fennel, ginger, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
there are many more that haven't been mentioned.


  1. Hello, I've just listened to your interview with Steve Falcioni about the Paropsides calypso beetle. Unfortunately I have this pest on my lilly pillies at home and I'm trying to get rid of them. Do you have any information on their lifecycle, such us how long they live in the pupae and beetle stages, and the times of year they're more likely to be active?

  2. Hello Derek,
    the beetles should start to become active now.
    Although it's not registered for use to control Paropsides calypso beetle, some listeners to my show have had success with using Neem Oil products.

    1. Hi Marianne, thanks for your comment. The trees have been doing well and had some certainty new growth during autumn. I haven't seen any beetles yet but have noticed some bite marks so I'll have to keep a close eye on them.