Saturday, 30 April 2016

Berry Good Gardening


Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Is in the Poaceae family (grasses,) and was not only used  by the ancient Greeks and Romans but crops up in so many cuisines throughout the world.
Lemongrass has also been used in folk medicine and in Asian cooking.
Lemongrass is a herb, or grass really,that  has more attributes as an all round herb than you might’ve thought of.
In this segment, you’ll learn about not only the best ways to use it in the kitchen but some great tips and looking after it in the garden.
Let’s find out more about this herb. I'm talking with Ian Hemphill, from

Lemongrass flavour is fairly gentle so you can’t go wrong in how much you use.

Use only the bottom 15-20 cm and give it a bump with the back of a knife to easily peel off the outer layer.

Cut it very finely or either shave it finely or grate your lemongrass so you don’t get those hairs or fibres from the leaves so much when you’re eating the dish.

BIG TIP: Don't throw away the green leafy tops but tie them into knots to break up the citral structure and throw this bunch into cooking to infuse with a real lemony flavour.
Think of it as a substitute for lemon zest if you like for use in cooking.

When growing your own lemongrass, it's best if divided every few years because the centre of the clump doesn't seem to get enough water and nutrients and dies off.

If you have any questions about lemongrass or any other herb or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


LEEKS Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum
There’s nothing like a good long history that some vegetables seem to have and the Leek is no exception.
Thought to be native to Central Asia, leeks have been cultivated there and in Europe for thousands of years.
Did you know that Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans because of their supposed beneficial effect upon the throat.
The Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.
Another interesting fact that you might not know is that the leek became a Welsh emblem in 1536, and is still the national emblem of Wales.
Daffodil is the National flower.
Have you ever wonder why Welsh are such great singers?
Perhaps because they eat a lot of leeks, think Tom Jones.
Leeks, known scientifically as Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions.
Onions, celery, and carrots are very good companion plants for the leek.
Leeks, are a cool season crop and best of all they’re easy to grow.
You can grow leeks in hot summers, but you won’t get the same quality result as you will in a cool summer environment.
Leeks are usually grown from seed and are generally started off in punnets first then transplanted.
When to Sow
Sow the seeds of Leeks from Spring until the end of Autumn in cool temperate climates, and late summer and autumn in warm and tropical zones,  and in arid districts, seeds must be sown in February/early March and then you can transplant them in April and May.
I sowed some seed a several weeks ago and have already transplanted them into the veggie bed because they were a couple of inches-about 10cm high and were the thickness of a pencil.
TIP: By the way, the seeds germinated fine from an out of date packet.
Leeks will overwinter in cool temperate areas of Australia if properly mulched, but will generally not survive periods of extreme cold.
In case you don’t know what a leek is.
Leeks look like large fat spring onions, but have a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of layers  of white then green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves.
It goes without saying that good soil is the key to growing leeks.

Start off leeks in a punnet.
Leeks need nutrient rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. They’ll do well in almost any garden soil as long as it is well aerated and deep, about a spade’s depth is good.
Using some kind of dibble tool or the end of a rake handle to make a hole that's just deep enough to leave only the top inch of the seedling exposed.
Set the leek seedling into the hole and fill it loosely with soil.
 Space the leeks 10cm or a large hand span" apart, in rows at least 25cm  or from your wrist to your elbow apart.
Find something practical like that to do you estimates.
Some people think that when growing Leeks the aim is to blanch the stems while the plants are maturing.
To save your back if you want to blanch the stems, rather than digging a trench, just use mulch.
When they’re 4 weeks old in the veggie bed, use a thick mulch of sugar cane or something like that.
In another 4 weeks or when they reach about 24cm, do the same again, or you can use shredded newspaper.
The leeks will still grow as well if you don’t do any of this.
Some gardeners cut off the top portion of the leaves, about halfway up the plant, as the leeks are maturing.
This is supposed to bring on stalk growth, giving you a larger leek for the dinner table.
To be honest you can do all this, but if you don’t the leeks are just as tasty.
Make sure the plants get at least a couple of cm’s of water a week; otherwise the stems will be tough to eat.
Mulch to conserve moisture, and side-dress with manure tea once a month.
Begin harvesting leeks as soon as they're big enough to use.
Young, tender ones are good raw; once they reach the width of a paper roll, they're better cooked.
They usually take 16-18 weeks--4 ½ months. Quite a long time so explains why they are so expensive at the greengrocer, market or wherever you buy them.
At markets they’re usually $2 each.
To prepare Leeks cut them very thinly and sautee’ just as you would other members of the onion family.
 Like their allium cousins, onions and garlic, let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
Why are they good for you?
Tasty Leeks
 Leeks are a good source of dietary fibre also a top source of vitamin C
Leeks have a high concentration of the B vitamin folate
Leeks give you small amounts of other minerals and vitamins.
The green tops have some beta carotene which your body can make into vitamin A.
Like onions, they also have some sulphur compounds that scientists believe reduce your risk of some health problems.
Leeks are believed to be good for the throat.
Leeks are low in calories and fat-free. 100g of leek has just 125kJ.


In a lot of places in Australia, the days have begun to be cool down, so thinking of tropical plants for an area in the garden suddenly has become quite appealing.
Even if you live in an arid zone or cool temperate area, you can still achieve that tropical look with plants that grow well in your local district.
Paradisus Gardens photo Peter Nixon

Knowing how to arrange them is the key to achieving that tropical look, and around the entertainment area, it might be de rigour.
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with  Louise McDaid, Garden Designer.

Choose a dining setting that suits your lifestyle; perhaps a daybed? For the tropical look think of Wicker, Bamboo or Teak furniture fits into the Tropical theme.
The whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical.
You can use bold leaves and different types of foliage colour in any climate.
Create some shade with tall palms, such as Gold Cane or Lipstick Palm. For taller palms, try Bangalow or Kentia Palms.
Paradisus Gardens photo Peter Nixon

For the mid level think of Gingers, Cordylines, Canna lilies, Hibiscus and Birds of Paradise are some of the types of plants that you can choose from.
For the lowest level, pick from Bromeliads, ferns, and Calathea.
If you live in a cooler  or arid area, you might have a tropical theme within your garden style.
Somewhere in your garden where you like to sit and read or think, you can add a tropical touch here and there, with plants that are suited to the climate you live in.
There is a microclimate that suits those plants that were mentioned. You get the idea.


Berrries: loganberry;Raspberry;Blackberry; Youngberry
Did you ever go out to collect wild blackberries when you were quite young and come home with scratches all over your arms and legs?
Youngberries photo M Cannon
Perhaps you were a bit more clever and carried a sheet of iron or a plank of wood that you plopped down into the middle of the patch to get the berries.
Nowadays you wouldn’t dream of doing that because blackberries out in the bush or nature reserve have probably been sprayed with weed spray.
So, what about growing your own?
Let’s find out which ones are so good.….I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

The Berry Patch in a Pot™ Range features four great varieties of fruit that can be grown in any garden!
This includes Blackberries, Loganberries, Youngberries and Raspberries.
Berry flowers. photo M Cannon
Youngberry is a complex hybrid between three different species from the genus Rubus, the raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries of the rose family. The berries of the plant are eaten fresh or used to make juice, jam, etc.
Loganberries:Rubus x loganobaccus Loganberry.
The Loganberry is a modern variety of fruit that was developed from an accidental cross between a raspberry and a blackberry.
Loganberries have look a bit like blackberries, but are more red in colour.
The vines or canes of the Loganberry  don't grow like either the blackberry or raspberry.
They trail or grow upon the ground.

The best part is that these plants are ideal for pots and containers as well as for growing in the garden.

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


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Gardening with Shear Frost Diamonds


Do you use a whipper snipper for just about every edging job in your garden?
Hedge Shears
Are you happy with the results?
Whipper snippers aren’t so good for areas where you’ve got lots of low growing plants that have crept over your lawn.
If these plants get whippered-snippered back, not only does it look ugly, but sometimes these plants do recover that well.
The same with electric trimmers. They tend to tear.
So what’s the alternative?
Hedge shears, Grass shears, Topiary shears.
Straight blades or wavy blades.
Which is best to use for you?
Let’s find out hedge and grass shears. I'm talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of Cut Above Tools.

Edging Shears

Grass Shears
There's no difference in weight between straight and wavy blades.
However, if you try and cut branches that are too big or hard for the shears, then you risk bending the blades or putting them out of alignment.

Try and work out what your purpose is and what you're trying to cut. You might need those long handled loppers for the tougher parts of the job.

Blades' length vary from 20 - 25 cm (8 - 10 inches,) any longer than that is not efficient.
By investing in quality tools, you’re likely to have less fatigue, fewer breakdowns and longer tool life.

When choosing the type of hedge shears you want, think about how much you'll use them, where you'll use them, who will be using them, and, of course, how much you can spend on them.
There’s no need to use your hedge shears to cut your lawn edges; for that your need grass shears or edging shears because these are perfect for lawn edges.

If you have any questions about hedge or grass shears, or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Do you like to try to grow new plants you’ve never heard of before in your garden?
Well here’s one for you, Cardamom (Elletaria Cardamomum) is a member of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family.
Cardamom has been long used for medicinal purposes and even today Cardamom is the world’s third most-valuable spice by weight (after saffron and vanilla).
Did you know that Cleopatra is said to have found the scent so enticing that she had the palace scented with cardamom smoke when Marc Anthony came to visit?
Ancient Greeks and Romans used cardamom in foods as well as for Medicines and perfumes.
In the New Testament which was largely written in Greek "amooman" appears in reference to the aromatic plant cardamom.
The word means blameless without reproach.
Around 200 years ago, most of the world's supply was sourced from wild plants found in rainforests of the Western Ghats in Southern India.
These wild plants covered the whole region  which was named the Cardamom Hills, a name that remains to this day.
Cardamom seed is a staple seasoning in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, in which it is used to flavour meat, vegetables, baked goods, coffee and other Cardamom is a perennial (means it won’t grow a trunk or turn into a tree) with tall simple canes or stems that grow out of rhizomes.
It’s native to the shady forests of India, Ceylon and Malaysia.
Today it is grown mainly on plantations in Guatemala and India
The tall plants, grown on these plantations in flower for eight or nine months of the year.
Each pod, or capsule, ripens slowly, but must be picked when it is three-quarters ripe.
After harvest, the pods are washed and dried and the colour of the pod depends on how it’d dried.
White pods have been dried for many days in the sun leaving them bleached.
Green pods have been dried for one day and night in a heated room.
The flower spikes produce white or pale green flowers that produce green pod capsules that contain 10 to 20 seeds.
These seeds are small black and sticky.
The best quality cardamom seeds are ripe, hard and dark brown in colour.
 The seeds have to be hand picked which is why it’s one of the most expensive spices.
The pod itself is not the spice but the three seeds inside each pod, that are considered the spice.
If you go online to look how to grow Cardamom, you’ll find information that tells you that it’s difficult to grow.
I dare say this information is written by people in the America or England.
I beg to differ, it’s easy to grow in especially in temperate climates, although I haven’t seen any seed pods on mine or on the plant in the Sydney Botanic gardens. Maybe they’re both too young because it takes 4 years for plants growing in plantations to produces flowers and pods.
What does it look like?

Cardamom plant
A low-growing, leafy tropical plant to about 2 metres, which grows on the jungle floor in the wild: Cardamoms have smooth dark green sword shaped leaves on long stalks, which are spicily scented when bruised.
Growing Cardamom-
Cardamom is a tough plant and drought tolerant as well if you grow
it in the right spot.
So-get a rhizome because the cardamom you buy from the spice section of your supermarket has been dried, and won’t ever germinate.
True to its original habitat, cardamom prefers humous rich  soil, filtered light and room to grow.  
You can grow it in a pot if you really  must, but over summer it will get pot-bound, and refuse to flower, so you must keep dividing the plant and passing it out to friends (a great gift, by the way).
Even if your plant doesn’t flower you will have a huge supply of fragrant leaves, which is just as good to have as the spice.
From winter to middle of summer feed your plant with fish emulsion.
Cardamom doesn’t like chilly weather, so move your plant indoors in Autumn as soon as the temperature drops below 5 0 C.
It grows into quite a big plant so too big for a sunny windowsill, but a sunny spot indoors or on the verandah in cooler climates will work especially if you mist it
periodically, or shower it in the bathtub from time to time.
In the wild, cardamom gets a lot of rain;  so a potted cardamom also needs plenty of moisture, but it won’t tolerate poor drainage, which can cause the rhizomes to rot.
Usually trouble free but if plants are too cold their leaves turn brown.
In that case move it to a warmer place, then cut off the brown leaves cut because they often regrow although this can take a long time.
Keep the plant fairly dry while it’s recovering.
If the leaves develop brown tips at any time (even if the plant is kept warm) it is a sign of overwatering.
By the way, Cardamom makes quite a dense clump, a bit like Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise plants.
You might find if it gets quite big, that  it’s quite difficult to dig out if you no longer what the plant in that situation.
What do you do with it?
Cardmomo pods-green.
The leaves don't smell the same as the seeds, but can be used to wrap around fish, rice or vegetables to add flavour during cooking.
The long stalks are useful to tie the leaves together to make a neat parcel of food. The cardamom pods sold for cooking are picked when unripe so the seeds will not grow if you try to sow them
Cardamom seeds lose their flavor quickly when ground so buy them whole whenever possible.
Green pods are superior to white pods for flavour.
Green cardamom has a subtle to sweet fragrance.
Why is it good for you?
Cardamom helps digestion and helps if you’ve got stomach cramps.
It’s a good stimulant and beneficial for those suffering from flatulence and gas.
Cardamom also helps in cleansing the body as it has detoxifying properties.
It improves blood circulation , enhances appetite and provides relief from acidity in the stomach. It’s used in the cure of halitosis or bad breath.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a cardomom plant, the leaves also have a cinnamon fragrance and are ideal for wrapping small parcels of meat and rice for steaming.
These are best wrapped and steamed the day before you want to use them, then  stored in the refrigerator over night and re-warmed up in a steamer just prior to serving. The mild cinnamon-pine flavour will permeate the contents adding a subtle aroma - perfect for coconut rice.


Hard Surfaces for Outdoor Dining
Formal outdoor settings photo M Cannon

This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
Today’s garden challenge is for those areas in your garden where you want to put outdoor dining table and chairs.
For your dining setting you'll probably have chairs and a table, but you don't want them to sink into the soil.
If you don't want formality because it will be at odds with your planting, then you need to consider the alternatives that will be outlined in the podcast.
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer

Peter suggested using salt textured concrete that’s really just concrete that’s finished with a different finish and doesn’t appear as a hard surface.
Informal setting for outdoor dining. photo M Cannon
While the concrete surface is not set, you can also use coloured oxides and then either some pebbles, or press any large leaf onto the concrete as a stencil.
Push the pebbles into the hard surface with a rubber mallet so they don’t become a trip hazard.
Then use edging material to create a channel around the edges and into that plant mini mondo grass.
If you have any questions about what hard surface to have in your garden, or have some information to share, write in


New Euphorbias:Euphorbia Diamond Frost
Euphorbia Stardust Pink Glitter and Euphorbia Stardust White Sparkle.
Some of you may know Euphorbias in the perennial border.
Did you know that the variation within this genus is amazing, some people might even say awesome.
From low-growing garden weeds called petty spurge to giant, cactus-like succulents.
Euphorbia Diamond Frost
Segue to an annual called Gypsophila or baby’s breath. What do they have in common with several newish cultivars of Euphorbia for your garden
Let’s find out …I'm talking with the Plant Panel; Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal magazine, and Jeremy Critchley wholesale nursery owner

The petals are actually small and dainty like baby’s breath, but there are so many of them that the leaves are scarcely visible.
These new delicate looking but tough, high impact Euphorbia plants flower every day of the year in warmer climates.
Euphorbia Diamond Frost
Stardust is more compact than Diamond Frost and is ideal for patio pots and garden borders in full sun positions.

Heat and drought tolerant, a truly low maintenance plant.

Euphorbias all produce a mostly white latex which they oozes out of the stems when cut, and this sap is often toxic.

If you have any questions about growing Euphorbia white Stardust or Pink Stardust why not write in to



Saturday, 9 April 2016

Owls that Bark and Flowers that Torch


Barking Owl. Ninox connivens
In Australia you can basically break down our owl species into two groups.
Barking Owl
The "seeing owls" Ninox genus, and the "hearing owls" Tyto genus. This means that the hearing owls tend to hunt under the cover of darkness later in the night and use their sensitive hearing to locate their prey, and the seeing owls hunt during the dawn and dusk periods relying more so on their excellent vision.
Today we examine one of them that has a most unusual call.
Let’s find out about this very interesting bird. I'm talking with Manager of Birds in Backyards, Dr Holly Parsons.
PLAY: Barking Owl_30th_March 2016
This "seeing owl" group is the one in which the barking owl belongs.
The Barking Owl is a medium-sized hawk-owl.
Hawk-owls don't have that heart-shaped face of the tyto-owls such as you would see in a Barn Owl, Tyto alba.
Barking Owls are found throughout Australia, except for the arid central areas
Barking Owls like savannah woodland, although they also inhabit well-forested hills and riverine woodlands. You're more like to hear rather than see a Barking Owls.
The sad thing is that in Victoria they’re endangered and in NSW they’re listed as vulnerable because of the lack of hollows in trees especially in bushland.


Fungal Problems in the Veggie Patch
So, you’re looking at your spinach and you see holes in the leaves, but they’re all uniform and perfectly formed, right?
  What insect does that?
Or, are the stems or your Silverbeet have an ugly blackish brown stain down the middle of them?
Perhaps the leaves have got that rusty look, and definitely look some-one had a go with a blow torch?
Wait, have your cucumber leaves gone all white and crispy, then start turning brown and collapse in a heap in the veggie bed?
You probably have read or heard the advice that the most important things you can do to prevent fungal problems is to avoid overwatering, overhead watering and excessive fertilizing and keep your garden free of debris.
O.K. what about some of us that had all that rain?
Powdery Mildew starts off small. photo M Cannon
 Or you might’ve heard that you need to mulch well and avoid watering the leaves or splashing soil borne particles on the leaves.
One things for sure, you can water or fertilise away the problem.
 Firstly what is this fungus thing anyway?  Fungus are structures which produce spores. Diseasecausing fungi penetrate the plant for food during their growth stage, then produce spores which can, in turn, produce new fungus.
 The fungus feeds of your plants because not containing chlorophyll, it can’t make it’s own food.
Powdery mildew with fungus eating ladybeetles. photo M Cannon
 There are two main types of spores
Short-lived spores which quickly produce new fungus to grow and spread through plants while there is plenty of food. These spores allow a fungal disease to spread rapidly during the growing season.
Then there’s the  Long-lived spores which are very hardy and allow a disease to carry over during periods of stress, for example when there is no food.
So what does fungus love?
Which fungus shall I start with. How about powdery mildew?
A fungal disease around a lot in spring and autumn when days are warm and nights are cool.
 Powdery mildew is a white or grayish powdery/mouldy growth that you see on the leaves and new shoots. The leaves look deformed, and will always start to collapse, particularly on the cucurbit family, live Pumpkin, and cucumbers.
The leaves are never going to return to a normal appearance, so getting rid of them will help to stop the spreading of fungal spores.
Yes, that includes the ones that have fallen into a crumbled mess in the veggie bed.
The next fungal problem I’m going to mention appeared on my spinach this year. That is Fungal leaf spot. Having said that, I’ve had several good months of harvesting spinach and silverbeet, so I can’t complain.
Leaf spot on beans. photo M Cannon
There are many types of leaf spot diseases that can affect beetroot, broad beans, carrots celery, peas, potatoes (early blight) silverbeet and tomatoes (targetspot).
Sometimes the leaf spots cause only slight damage, but other times they practically destroy the leaves of the plant in question.


Basically, if you’ve already got it, you can’t because as I mentioned, the leaves won’t return to normal, but you can stop the spread to other new leaves and other plants in the garden.
All of these above symptoms signal fungal problems in the garden, a lot of which can be fixed with physical things like improving air circulation around the plants.
You can also dig the problem leaves into the soil since sexual spores of the fungus won’t develop on buried leaves.
In all cases, fungal problems can be treated organically
Spray with a good compost tea
Or secondly, try spraying with bi-carbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) because it will also kill powdery mildew.
Facebook-To make mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil with 4 litres of water.
TIP: The sodium in the baking soda will combine with chlorine in your water supply to form table salt (sodium chloride). A better choice is potassium bicarbonate where the potassium becomes a plant nutrient.
This product is available from your garden centre or nursery. I’ll put a link to the name on my website and facebook page.


This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
Pebble paths. photo M Cannon
Today’s garden challenge is for those gardeners that don’t want hard surface garden paths.
Concrete, brick or other types of paving for paths can be a bit harsh in areas where the garden is quite natural.
In this segment, garden designer Peter Nixon explores some softer alternatives.
Let’s find out…
PLAY:  Garden Challenges_Sour sub-soil 5 Peter Nixon_9th  March 2016
Peter is not a fan of pebbles on paths.
Garden paths photo M Cannon
Instead why not try a combo of bark chips and shell grit, or decomposed granite, perhaps lillydale topping and bark or woody mulch.
You would need to run the plate compactor over these surfaces to compact the path.


Kniphophia species

Perennial gardens are a must because they supply flowers that attract bees and butterflies to your garden a lot more than your hedging plants and maybe even your trees.
This perennial is native to Africa where it grows in the high country covering with a blanket of flowers and withstanding hot summers and cold winters.
Sounds like a flower you have to have in your garden.
Kniphophia Echo Rojo

Today, we’re looking at bare rooted Kniphophias or Red Hot Pokers.
Also called, torch lily, knofflers or poker plant, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae, which is the same family as Australia’s native grass trees.

Let’s find out more. 
I'm talking with the Plant Panel -Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal,  and Jeremy Critchley, the owner of the Green Gallery Nursery , which is a wholesale nursery by the way.
PLAY: Kniphophia Limelight_30th_March_20166

Kniphophia Echo Mango
Did you know that the genus Kniphofia is named after the 16th century German professor, J.H.Kniphof?
These Kniphofias are native to Africa. and Jeremy saw fields of them when he lived in Lesotho in Africa.
The new variety of Red Hot Poker is the echo series which has three cultivars: ‘Echo Mango’ with ripe mango-coloured flowers, ‘Echo Rojo’ with deep-orange to red flowers, and ‘Echo Duo’ with two-toned orange and fading-to-white colored inflorescences.
Each of the Echo cultivars are supposed to have good disease resistance, produce vivid-colored flowers at the top of strong stems and are strong rebloomers.
The series name Echo refers to the repeat flowering nature of these plants.