Saturday, 9 July 2016

Red Whiskers on Birds, Matching Leaves on Plants


Red Whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)

Not all birds featured in this segment are native, so it’s good to know which ones aren’t.

Red Whiskered Bulbul

We all know the Noisy Miner bird is a native and the introduced Indian Mynah is not, because they’re so aggressive.

What about a little bird, that’s not that aggressive, doesn’t move to far from its territory and doesn’t make a squawking or screeching sound when it sings?

It has bright red patches at the side of its face, almost like a small dot.

They eat fleshy fruits which is their main food with occasional insects as well.

So let’s not linger any longer and find out all about it.

I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, manager of Birds in Backyards

Now you know that the Red Whiskered Bulbul is an introduced species.
These birds were deliberately introduced into NSW in the 1880's and later introduced to Coffs Harbour in NSW in 1918.
Then there was yet another release around Melbourne.
They have been known to occasionally pop up around cities like Perth and Canberra also and are probably cage bird escapes.
The Red-whiskered Bulbuls are non-migratory bulbuls found in tropical Asia - from Pakistan and India through to southeastern Asia and China. They typically roost in loose groups.
In parts of India, these birds were popular cage birds, because of their trusting nature so that they were easily captured.

If you have any questions about red whiskered bulbuls or have some information or a photo  to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Peas are of course Pisum sativum scientifically speaking.
You might think that growing sprouts or shoots which have be re—branded as Microgreens is a relatively modern invention.
If you did, then you’d be wrong because medicinally and nutritionally, sprouts have a long history.
Did you know that Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago?
In the 1700's, sailors were riddled by scurvy which is of course caused by a lack of Vitamin C.
Because of scurvy sailors suffered heavy casualties during their two to three year voyages.
Pea sprouts contain heaps of Vitamin C
From 1772-1775, Captain James Cook had his sailors eat limes, lemons and varieties of sprouts; which has heaps of Vitamin C.
These plus other fresh fruits and vegetables and a continuous program of growing and eating sprouts were credited with the breakthrough, thus solving the mariners' greatest casualty problem.
We obviously don’t have problems with scurvy now so why should we grow Pea Sprouts or Pea shoots as some people call them?
Pea sprouts/shoots are great for small spaces – they grow fast, taste delicious and are rich in Vitamin C, A and protein.
They’re easy to grow, they’re also perfect to try if you’re starting out.
Seeing (and eating!) the fruits of your labour in just in two or three weeks is rewarding and motivating.
Plus, pea shoots are a good choice for a shady spaces or to grow inside over winter  – just sow a stray or two and keep near a bright window.
So How Do You grow pea sprouts?
Firstly, soak the peas in water for 24 hours (dried peas sold for cooking will normally grow fine and are much cheaper than buying seed packets).
Soaking the peas in water for 24 hours isn’t essential – but it helps to speed up the process of germination and they should double in size.
Soak the dried peas first.
Secondly, Select a container 6-9 cm deep.
An old tray or Styrofoam box from a market stall will do fine – just make sure it has holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out.
The trays sold in gardening stores for seed growing are about the right size, too.
Next Fill your container with compost or potting mix, about1 cm deep  to 1 ½ cm below the top.
It’s always a good idea to use the best quality potting mix you can find – but having said that, pea shoots are pretty unfussy – and almost any mix seems to be OK.
After that, water the mix then sow the seeds on top of it.
If you want to use worm castings, never put more than 20% or 1/5 casting with the mix because you don’t want to burn your new shoots.
You can sow them very closer together – I try to leave a gap the size of a pea between each seed.
If you wanted to grow full sized pea plants, you’d sow the seeds further apart.
But as we’re only growing shoots, we can get away with close spacing
Cover with seed raising mix or potting mix– about the thickness of a pea.
Then finally water the surface lightly again.
TIP: if you’re using cheap potting mix, add some vermiculite to increase the water holding capacity and water your sprouts with a seaweed solution every time you water.
That’s it! All you need to do now is keep soil is moist – check it everyday for the next 7 – 10 days using the thumb test.
Use your thumb to press against the top of the soil.
If your thumb comes off clean and dry, water the peas.
If your thumb comes off even slightly moist or with a little soil, you’re good until tomorrow.
Another test is to lift the tray.
As you gain experience with growing sprouts and shoots in the container, you’ll get to know how heavy or light the tray is.
Light trays means it probably needs water.
If you are growing on a windowsill, or where there you have light coming in from just one side, you will want to rotate the trays so that the shoots will get sunlight more evenly.
In two to three weeks (a bit longer in cold weather) your crop will have grown 7 – 10 cm tall.

Good enough to eat, Pea Sprouts
All you need to do now is  pinch off each shoot just above the bottom leaves. Some of the pea shoots will regrow again giving you a second harvest.
You don’t have to eat them all at once but instead store harvested pea shoots or sprouts in resealable bags in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
TIP: don’t wash the pea shoots until ready to cook with them.
The extra water from washing will deteriorate the pea shoots faster.
Keep the shoots dry and the pea shoots should stay fresh for over 2 weeks!
If you find that there is moisture in the bag, take a single paper towel, and place it in the bag.
What next?
When the crop has finished, put the roots in your worm farm or compost heap if you have one. Worms seem to like them very much!
Why are they good for You?
Packed with vitamins A, C and folic acid, Pea Shoots are a delicious, nutritious modern slant on the classic garden pea.
Pea Shoots are a nutritious leaf with high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A.
But wait there’s more, they also contain amino acids and they’re quick to prepare providing a tasty and convenient way to help people achieve their ‘5 serves of veg a day’ – especially as they are ideal partners for other vegetables whether served hot or as part of a mixed salad.


Evergreen or Deciduous Climbers?
Last week it was all about how plants climb, whether it’s from grasping a support with thin shoots that curl around like in Passionfruit plants, or with hooks as in Bouganvilleas and roses.

Wisteria is a deciduous climber

But now you need to decide if you want a deciduous climber or an evergreen climber.
Which works best for you?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer

Stephanotis floribunda is an evergreen climber
Climbers and scramblers are superb additions to the garden.

Yes you need to think about do you need leaf coverage throughout the whole year?

Evergreen climbers will give you year round shade coverage if you were to grow them over a pergola. 
This is ideal for a north facing location where you need shade all year. 
Evergreen climbers growing along a fence or on a wire across a window will act as an attractive privacy screen. 
Deciduous climbers grown over a pergola or awning will allow you to have summer shade and winter sun. 
When the sun is shining they will create a microclimate in your garden to retreat to but when the days are cooler and the sun is lower in the sky the deciduous climber will allow the area to take full advantage of the sun that is available at that time of year.


Coleus species: Solenostemon scutellarioides
These plants (Coleus species) have a huge variation in the leaf patterns that you can buy.

New Coleus varieties
Once thought of as old fashioned plants along with the Aspidistra and your grandmother’s doillies, they seem to be coming back into vogue with newer colour variations that range from lime green to bright red.
What could this plant be? Let’s find out. I'm talking with the plant panel : Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Coleus have square stems with saw-toothed, scalloped or ruffled leaf edges.
Coleus species are frost tender and need winter protection outside the subtropics.
In cool temperate climates grow these plants in the conservatory, as house plants, or outdoors as annual bedding plants.

Solonostemon scutellariodes: Coleus plants photo M Cannon
Easily grown from cuttings, which can be taken at any time of the year, but best in late summer for winter indoor growth, and late winter/early spring from indoor plants for outdoor summer growth. Use young, non-woody stem cuttings, which can be rooted either in potting mix or in water.
Leaf patterns are so bizarre they may have inspired Paisley prints on fabrics.
But you may just want to brighten that dull corner of your garden and this is the plant to do it with.

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