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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Cabbages Cure Hangovers and What Makes an Australian Garden?




GARDEN HISTORY

The Australian Garden Idea

Australians love to travel, more so now than ever before.
Often in our travels we love to see other gardens, whether in passing or on purpose.
We might fall in love with a particular plant of group of plants or we might want to copy a particular style.
In the early days of Australia, a lot of gardens were influenced by gardens overseas, particularly England and Europe, but more recently the influence has shifted to Asian gardens like Bali or Polynesia.
Australian Garden entry Chelsea Flower
Show photo M Cannon
So then you have to ask the question, what makes an Australian garden?
Let’s find out.. I'm talking with Stuart Read, Landscape Historian and on the National Management Committee of the Australian Garden History Society.

Australia’s amount of sunlight, type of soil and drier climate has meant that we’ve had to adapt garden design so that it can survive.
Stuart says Australians want to produce the look, but what that is, we're not quite sure of.
Does a garden have to have Australian plants to be an Australian garden? Possibly.
Australian Garden entry Chelsea Flower
Show photo M Cannon
However many European plants blend in quite well, and these days, Plant Breeders in Europe are growing new or different forms of Australian plants and shipping them back to Australia.
Minimalism has been in vogue for the last twenty years in Australia, however, Stuart points out that it was actually started in the mid 17th Century by Georgian gardens.
Of course gardens in Tasmania and Victoria can emulate the English garden reasonably easily, to the envy of northern gardeners.

If you have any questions what makes an Australian garden or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 and I’ll send you a packet of seeds.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Cabbages and Mini Cabbages 
Brassica oleracea capitata
Cabbages are in the Brassica family along with Brussel sprouts. Caulis and Broccoli.

Did you know that the cabbage has been grown as a vegetable for more than 4,000 years?
Cabbage is native to the Mediterranean and when it was first grown, it looked more like a leafy kale and didn’t have much head at all..

Hangover Cure
The ancient Romans loved it, and used it for several purposes.
A clever roman named Cato (no not the Peter Sellers' man servant in the Pink Panther movies) , but the Roman Cato, said that eating cabbage soaked in vinegar hangover before going out for an evening of heavy drinking, prevented you from getting; but if you did get a hangover then the remedy was simply more cabbage.

It’s no surprise that the explorers of the 17th and 18th centuries carried cabbage in their ship's stores for their crews to eat, and the high Vitamin C content helped stave off the scurvy that was so common among sailors.

It was also useful for binding wounds to prevent gangrene and that was because of the sulphur content in the cabbage.

Why Cabbage ?

We’re talking about cabbage now because it grows well in cool climates, produces a large harvest, and stores well during winter.
But I don’t want to talk about any old cabbage, but mini cabbages.

What are dwarf of mini vegetables?

Did you know that the trend to grow dwarf or mini veggies started in the 1980’s?
You might think that mini veggies are just like the normal variety but you pick them earlier.
But no.
There are genuine dwarf varieties of a lot of vegetables.

Ever heard of Baby avocado, baby artichokes and even baby beets? There’s heaps more.
Today of course it’s the mini cabbage.


We’re growing this mini cabbage because it’s the fastest growing cabbage to eat and takes up much less room.

Did you know? That if Mini Cabbage is stored in ideal conditions (-1 to 2 °C with a humidity of 90–100 percent); Mini Cabbage will remain edible for up to Six months.

How to grow cabbage 
To sow cabbage, in temperate, sub-tropical and arid districts, March until June is the best time;

Temperate and sub tropical districts can have another go from August until November,

March until May is best then August in cool temperate areas.

Cabbages do best in a reasonably firm soil, so leave it for several months between digging and planting.

Why firm soil?
So they don’t fall over when they grow those heavy heads.

Like all brassica varieties dig in plenty of well- rotted manure or compost in the autumn - don't dig in the manure close to planting time.

So if you haven’t done it this autumn, don’t worry, throw on some general purpose garden fertiliser and leave for a week.
Pick a reasonably sunny spot for the site where you are growing cabbages.

TIP: If you can, use a site where peas and beans (Legumes) where grown the recently, and if you dug in manure or compost for them then no worries, don’t do anything else.

By the way, don't dig up those pea and bean roots as they contain lots of useful nitrogen that plants require.
You can either sow seed or put in some seedlings but either way, only put them 7.5cm  apart so they won’t grow thin and spindly.

Cabbage seed needs temperatures between 15-24 deg C to germinate, so now’s a good time.

Seeds take about 6 days to germinate and only 35 – 45 days or around 7 weeks before they’re ready for picking.

TIP: it can’t be said often enough but if you’re planting out seedlings you need to make sure that you firm the soil with your hands or trowel around the seedling because firm planting helps grow firm tight cabbage heads.

If you plant them now they’ll mature when it’s still cool and you’ll have the firmest best tasting cabbages.

Stagger the planting so you don’t have 12 mature cabbages at once.

When your first seedlings are about as tall as your hand, plant the next lot.

I’ve been told that transplanting cabbage seedlings helps them to grow strong roots , so if you are starting from seed, sow them in a punnet.

Pest Patrol

Now the next problem is pest patrol-possums, aphids and white cabbage butterfly.
Try some veggie netting-a very fine mesh that you can throw over your cabbages, or put cut off plastic drink bottles over the seedlings.
Another idea is to cut out white plastic butterflies from the bottoms of ice-cream containers.
hang those around your cabbage plants.
White cabbage butterflies are supposed to be territorial and hopefully will fly away thinking that you cabbage patch is already taken.

Ragged holes in cabbage leaves, means caterpillars
To treat those caterpillars, there’s the organic Dipel and another product that contains an organic ingredient Spinosad.  Yates Success. Also ecoNeem.
Both very safe.

Don’t forget to feed your Cabbages with liquid fertiliser when they’re small

Pick your cabbages when they’re still firm and they’ll stay that way for months in cool weather.

Why are they good for you?


Why grow them? Cabbages contain 90% water and are really low in kilojoules.

Also high in vitamin C, you need only eat 100g to get your daily requirement.
They also have dietary fibre, folate, potassium and help balance fluids when you’ve eaten too much sodium-salty foods.

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Pool Fence Aesethics

It may seem odd to talk about pools right now as we head into winter, but it’s probably a good time to think about the aesthetics of the pool.
If you don’t have a pool you may be wondering what this is all about?



Surely the pool is just that, a pool that sticks out like a sore thumb in the garden.
If that’s the case though, then you’re missing something, and there are ways to make the backyard pool look aesthetically pleasing.
How do you achieve this?

Let’s find out? i'm talking with Matt Leacy Principal Director from Landart Landscapes.

Making the pool fence disappear seems to be the thing to do so that you focus more on the garden and the pool.

Rather than a piecemeal approach, consider hiring a designer to make your pool look like part of the landscape.
If you have any questions about pool aesthetics, contact Matt or email us here at realworldgardener@gmail.com

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Lewisia "Elise"

Did you know that the plants we call succulents include sempervivums, sedums, aloes, kalanchoes, echeverias and other fleshy-leaved species?
You mightn’t know what all these genera look like, but generally, you would thing that succulents are those plants with thick, juicy leaves, like Aloe Vera, or Hen and Chicken plant or maybe even Donkeys Tails and Jellybeans.
Jeremy holding a Lewisia "Elise"
This next succulent though you may not have heard of.
Not only is it tough but it has lots of pretty flowers.
I'm talking with the plant panel : Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. www.thegreengallery.com.au

Succulents are plants that have evolved in some of the toughest growing conditions on earth, and a lot are actually at their best when grown in hot sun and poor soil. 

Lewsia is a succulent plant that is low growing with cupped leaves.
The pretty starry flowers occur on multi-branched stems and are about the size of a 10 cent piece (Australian). The flower colours are various shades of oranges, yellows and pink and some with a striped effect.
Lewsia resents too much water, and watering from overhead will lead to fungal rots and eventual death.
Watering from the bottom, if plants are in pots is the best method for this succulent and possibly a lot of other succulents.
The original Lewisa species required some cold weather before flowering, but this variety is bred to flower in warmer conditions.
TIP:
Succulents are plants that have evolved in some of the toughest growing conditions on earth, and a lot are actually at their best when grown in hot sun and poor soil.Not all though, so don’t be fooled into thinking that they need to grow in desert like conditions.
They’re not cacti so don’t walk away and never water them.
If you have any questions about the Lewisia Elise, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Everything Your Winter Garden Needs, from Kohlrabi, Outdoor Rooms, and Hibiscus Tradewinds

THE GOOD EARTH

Preparing for Winter Vegetables

Growing winter vegetables is different from the warmer months of the year because you have different amounts of sunlight, cold winds, and in some districts, frost to contend with.
Then there's controlling plant diseases in your veggie patch?
How well do you know your plant families?
Did you know that you shouldn’t plant veggies from the same plant family in the same spot year after year?
That’s all part of crop rotation which means of course you need to know your plant families.
There’s good reasons for practising crop rotation, but what if you only have enough room for a couple of veggie garden beds, what does a gardener do?
Let’s find out..

That was Margaret Mossakowska, director of www.mosshouse.com.au and Permaculture North Course coordinator.
Soon you’ll be saying things like Brassicas, Solanacea, and Fabaceae with ease and know what veggies belong to these families.
Brassicas are all the cabbages, broccoli, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts and cauliflowers.
Solonaceae are the tomates, capsicums, peppers, chillies and potatoes.
Alliums, the garlic, leeks and onions,
Fabaceae or legumes, peas,and  beans,

Created by Margaret Mossakowska

Margaret’s tip to fertilise your garden is to use your homemade compost or if you don't have any than add fertilisers like pelletised chicken manure or chook poo. This is important for members of the Brassica family because the grow a lot of greenery.
Margaret's garden
I’ll be posting an image of the crop rotation diagram that Margaret mentioned at the beginning of the segment on my website blog post page.

If you have any questions about winter veggie gardening or have some information to share, drop us .

VEGETABLE HEROES

Kohlrabi
Brassica oleracea gongyloides

Although kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea gongyloides or B. Oleraceae variety caulo-rapa) and brussels sprouts (B. oleracea variety gemmiferalook like they belong in two different families, they are in the Brassicacea family, along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower .

Would you believe that all these vegetables came from a common parent, "wild cabbage"?

You don’t see a lot of Kohlrabi today but it’s been around awhile was known to the Roman Empire.
Did you know that by the year 800 A.D., the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne ordered that kohlrabi be grown in his Imperial gardens.

More than 1 colour-green kohlrabi
Although Charlemagne is thought to be French, he was actually from western Germany.
"Kohlrabi" is a German word where Kohl means cabbage and Rabi means turnip. "Kohlrabi" Means "Cabbage Turnip"
By the end of the 16th century it was known in Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Tripoli, and the eastern Mediterranean.

Kohlrabi is another one of those vegetables that has the person at the supermarket checkout stumped, you’ll be asked what it is.
If you get a mental blank at that point, be prepared for a flurry of activity as someone else is called to the checkout to inspect what you’ve got and identify it. 

Kohlrabi for sure has fallen off the flavour of the month vegetable chart. In fact, you probably won’t be able to find the seeds at a lot of garden centres.

The funny thing about Kohlrabi is that even though it looks like a root vegetable, it actually isn’t.
The bit that you eat grows above ground. So far I’ve only seen the purple variety in shops, and when I used to work for a large well known seed company, the seeds were available but have since been taken off due to lack of interest.

How to grow Kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi is a good choice for beginner gardeners because it’s fast and easy to grow of all the Brassicaceae family.
Your kids will love kohlrabi because of it’s funny appearance.
Sort of like little aliens from other space-a little round body with little "legs" coming out of the ground.
If you’re into companion planting, Kohlrabi grows well with Beetroot because they have the same water requirements.
You can also fit Kohlrabi in between lettuce, onion and radicchio, because it sits above the ground and doesn’t take up as much room as cabbages .
You can direct seed Kohlrabi or start them in punnets or seed trays because they don’t mind being transplanted.

When to Sow:


In temperate districts deep January to May and again from August until December so almost all year.
January to March cool temperate districts and again from August until December
For arid zones, February to June is the best time.
March to August for sub-tropical and April to August for tropical zones.

Sow the seeds about 1 cm deep in rows 30 cm apart and thin them out to 15 cm or a couple of hand-widths apart.
Or like me, just put them wherever you’ve got space in your veggie bed.

Kohlrabi can be rather closely spaced (or interplanted) and is out of the garden in 60 days (2 ½ months)or so, leaving time to plant something else.

As with all vegetables a standard application of an organic fertilizer, mixed into the soil according to label rates prior to planting, is all you need to do.

So when do you pick your Kohlrabi?
If you want small kohlrabi, pick them when they’re about 6cm in diameter, with the leafy greens still attached.
The greens should be deep green all over with no yellowing.
Although kohlrabi stores well, up to one month refrigerated, yellow leaves means that the vegetable is not fresh. 

Homegrown Kohrabi
How to Eat Kohlrabi?
Now you may be wondering how to eat Kohlrabi, and it wouldn’t be fair if RWG didn’t pass on that information.

Eat them RAW
Kolhrabi sort of tastes like the stem of Broccoli or heart of a cabbage but sweeter.
Remove the stems by pulling or cutting them off the kohlrabi globe.
If the kohlrabi is small, there is no need to peel it, but you might want to cut off the tough base end.

If you've bought large kohlrabi, peel it and slice off the tough woody base before slicing or dicing.

Slice or cut into julienne and include it on a relish tray with dips.

Coarsely grate kohlrabi into a tossed salad. Because it is mild, succulent and porous, it absorbs the flavour of a mild or pungent salad dressing quite well.
Dice kohlrabi and combine with your favourite vegetables and dressing for a chopped salad with delightful crispness.
Slice kohlrabi, put it in a container, and pack in your bag for lunch for a crunchy snack.
Chop and include as one of the ingredients in a raw soup.

STEAMED
Slice kohlrabi or cut into bite-sized pieces and put into a saucepan with 1cm of water. Add a dash of salt, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to low and steam for 5 to 7 minutes. Leaves can be steamed lightly just as you would do spinach.

STIR FRIED Dice or chop into bite-size pieces and stir fry 5 to 7 minutes in a little extra virgin olive oil with a clove or two of minced garlic and a dash of salt.

Why Is It Good for You?

Kohlrabi is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
It’s rich in thiamine, folate, magnesium and phosphorus and is packed with dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, copper and manganese.
The only bad thing about kohlrabi is that a large portion of the calories in this food come from sugars.

AND THAT WAS OUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY!

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Outdoor Rooms-Including the Kitchen Sink

Whatever you think an outdoor room is, it’s probably not going to have all the bells and whistles of the kitchen you have in your house.
But, say your outdoor eating space is best at the back of the yard or down a flight of stairs, what do you do then?



Australia is too sunny to always be eating indoors so you might think about doing a bit more than the good ole’ BBQ.
Let’s find out?

That was Matt Leacy Principal Landscape Designer and Director of Landart Landscapes.

You may not want to go the whole hogg of fridge, dishwasher and fancy BBQ in your outdoor room, but I think the Pizza oven sounds like a great idea. 

Soon you’ll be making your own pizza dough, and buying a pizza peel, that’s one of those wooden or metal spatula type implements that puts your pizza into the pizza oven.
Whatever you do in your outdoor room, don’t forget the garden.

An outdoor room without a garden is just to droll to contemplate.
If you have any questions about outdoor rooms write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Hibiscus Trade Winds
The flower on this week’s plant of the week is often associated with Hawaii and other tropical places but did you know that it originates in China?
We tend not to think of China as being a tropical place but I would imagine, some districts would have a tropical feel to them, perhaps up north near the coast.
And not all tropical plants are frost tender, so.
Hibiscus Tradewinds-Jeremy holding the flower.
 Let’s find out about this plant.

The plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. www.thegreengallery.com.au

Consider the Hibiscus Tradewinds if you want large decorative flowers and a tropical feel to your garden even if you live in a frosty climate.

As Jeremy said, they Tradewinds can be grown in a pot so you can move it under cover when winter or frosty weather arrives.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

What Fertiliser is That, Making Compost Tea and Growing a Stinky Flower

PLANT DOCTOR

Fertilisers explained-granular or liquid, seaweed or organic, which is it to be?
How well do you know your fertilisers
?
There are two basic groups of fertilisers, solids or granular which are generally more slow acting, and liquids which are fast acting.
Whether you add organic matter or fertiliser to your soil, you provide your plants with three basic building blocks.
Controlled release fertiliser and Blood 'n Bone 

These are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, often referred to by their chemical symbols of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus) and K (potassium or potash).
Packaged fertilisers list the amounts of NPK each product contains, often showing it in a ratio format, called the NPK ratio.
But which ones should you use?

Let’s find out.. I'm talking with Steve Falcioni General Manager from www.ecoorganicgarden.com.au


What to Watch Out For?
For gardeners in cooler climates, the winter period will see plant growth and microbial activity in the soil slow down.
What are the implications?
Nutrient uptake by plants is minimal if you're still using granular or solid type of fertilisers at this time.
The reason?
Bulky fertilisers need to be converted into a useable form before plant roots can take them up. So, if microbial activity, which does this conversion has slowed down to a crawl, so will this conversion and that leads to slow nutrient uptake.
Rock dust is the slowest of all to break down taking up to 6 months or more, depending on when you apply it.
The way plants use nutrients is quite complex and varies from plant to plant. 
Some need lots of one nutrient but little of another, while others need a balanced amount of each. Understanding which nutrient does what gives you a rough guide to selecting the right fertiliser for your plants and garden.
That's why some fertilisers are labeled Citrus and Fruit, or Flower and Fruit, or Azaleas and Camellias. They are specific to those plants.
Seaweed extracts don't have enough nutrients in them to be classed as fertilisers, but they are plant tonics because they increase root growth and stimulate plant cell walls to strengthen.
If you have any questions about fertilisers or have some information to share, drop us a line to realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 and I’ll send you a packet of seeds.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Have you ever heard of Compost tea and wondered, “ can I make this myself?”
We all know that compost is great for the garden for all sorts of things.
Adding compost helps with the microbial activity in your soil, it retains moisture on warm days and keeps the soil warmer, on cold days.

But is there something even better than plain old compost, and could it be compost tea.?
When I first though of the idea of talking about compost tea, I didn’t realise that there’s a whole lot of information out there, both for and against, the benefits of compost tea.
Some say, it’s doesn’t really do all that much while others says it has plenty of benefits.
The best idea then is to present the fores and the againsts and let you make up your own mind.
You don’t even have to do that.

Instead, brew up your own compost tea, with a recipe that’s provided at the end, and decide for yourself whether or not it was worth all the trouble.
How to Make Compost Tea?
So are you now wondering that you just put a handful of compost in a bucket and add water?
Or do you need to have that worm farm and put the worm castings in the bucket and add water?

Well you can do both.
You can then use it as a foliar spray or as a soil drench.
So why go to the extra trouble of brewing, straining, and spraying a tea rather than just working compost into the soil?
There are several supposed reasons of why it’s good for your garden.
First, compost tea makes the benefits of compost go farther.
What's more, when sprayed on the leaves, compost tea helps suppress foliar diseases, increases the amount of nutrients available to the plant, and speeds the breakdown of toxins.
Using compost tea has even been shown to increase the nutritional quality and improve the flavour of vegetables.
If you've been applying compost to your soil only in the traditional way, you're missing out on a whole host of benefits.

Still not convinced?

Well there is debate believe it or not about the benefits of compost tea.

What we know so far is that compost tea is water in which compost has been steeped. 
Leached into that liquid are some of the compost’s nutrients, microorganisms, and a compounds called humates.
Humates help plants take up more easily the nutrients already in the soil and offer a host of other benefits.

Compost tea has long been used as a weak fertilizer, but the focus is all about the microorganisms it contains.
I would have to agree there, because the amount of nutrients would be quite small.

Microorganisms are needed for soils to be healthy plus composts provide protection against diseases, especially root diseases.
Composts as we know by now, improve soil structure and assist with soil aeration, water retention; and improve nutrient uptake.

The claim for compost tea is that the microorganism provides the same benefits.
Those microorganisms sprayed on leaves, are supposed to fight off garden diseases.
Apparently in the United States, there are kits that you can buy that will aerate that liquid will it’s steeping plus they recommend that you add molasses.
Molasses boosts bacteria—something that benefits grasses in particular.

Meanwhile adding protein feeds like fish emulsion or liquid seaweed boost fungal activity, which is of more benefit to larger shrubs and trees.

If you want to make your own compost tea, here’s the simple recipe.

Easy Peasy Compost Tea Recipe:


You Will Need:
A bucket, a stir stick and water, plus a shovel full of compost
Next:
Start by filling a clean bucket 1/3 full of compost
Fill the bucket with water, leaving only an centimetre or two from the top.
Stir the compost a few times for the next 5 to 7 days.
Let the mixture steep for 5 to 7 days, stirring a few times each day.
After 5 or 7 days, strain the mixture and store in an airtight container.
Compost tea is steeping compost in water for several days.
Strain and you are ready to use! 
Tip: to save straining you can place the compost in a fine mesh bag and hang it in a bucket of water.
Note: Use this mixture immediately on your garden, because the benefits reduce with standing.

So for the gardeners who are against the benefits of compost tea.
Lee Reich, writing over at FineGardening.com warns that the jury is still out on compost tea.
Reich claims that evidence of benefits is so far largely anecdotal.

Similarly, Linda Chalker-Scott, an extension horticulturalist and associate professor at Washington State University, has undertaken an extensive review of the scientific literature on compost tea—and turned up very little that proves the benefits of aerated compost teas. (Interestingly, non-aerated teas seemed to fair a little better.)

I would love to hear about listeners' own experiences, tips, recipes, experiments or concerns.
I know there are plenty of fellow compost geeks out there, so please feel free to share what you know

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Pool Trends

From pools that seem to abound around urban gardens, they all look pretty much the same.
These days, people are going for the glass fencing, concrete surround and blue tiles for the pool floor.

Black tiles in KifsgateGarden, England photo M Cannon
So what else can pool lovers do?

Let’s find out? I'm talking wiht Matt Leacy Principal Director and Landscape Designer from Landart Landscapes.


Pool tiling trends really go from one extreme to the other – either dark, close to black tiles or completely white.
“With a complete white tiled pool you get a really natural water colour,” Matt Leacy says.
“A black pool will give you a certain amount of elegance and can sort of act as a reflector.
If you want a point of difference to your pool that’s a great option.” 
Not enough space for a pool this big?
Patterned tiles running along the water’s edge have also seen a resurgence.
And if you don’t have a big backyard, don’t be like some urban households with small backyards who still put in large pools instead of opting for a small plunge pool or custom made spa.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Starfish Plant
Orbea variegata 

Are you a plant collector of something?
Perhaps you collect Bromeliads, Frangipanis, or maybe succulents?
Not all succulents are garden friendly and this one today, you need to be wary of for more than one reason.

But first, let’s find out about this plant.
I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. www.thegreengallery.com.au


Originally from South Africa this succulent is often collected by enthusiasts,
Orbeas are leafless, succulent perennials that form compact clumps. 
They branch from the base and grow out from rhizomatous rootstocks. 
The four-angled stems are usually sharp-toothed, with a soft tip. 
If you're growing this plant in a pot, place it in a sandy well drained mix.  
Plants can survive long periods without water, but water them before they shrink too much and will not be able to recover. 
The flower of Starfish plant, really does look like a starfish, but it’s also called giant toad plants’, ‘carrion plants’, ‘carrion flowers’, ‘giant zulus, and ‘starfish cacti’. 
THEY DO STINK A BIT!
NOTE:
From SA’s Biosecurity website, the following information about this plant.
The outer sheath of the fruit peels back to expose a mass of seeds, each with a tuft of hair that will be dispersed by the wind.
Carrion flower can also spread vegetatively via stem fragments moved by people,
machinery, animals or water.

So there it’s a threat to arid landscape in South Australia.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Stunning Coastal Pincushion Bush and Which Mushrooms to Pick

THE GOOD EARTH

Mushroom picking sounds like a great idea, but around the world, people die from eating poisonous ones.
Not only do you need to know where to go but also how to tell which are poisonous and which are not.
Authorities recommend to only forage in the supermarket aisles or buy a mushroom kit and grow your own!
Saffron Milk Cup Mushroom
However, if you go out with a knowledgeable guide, you may be able to enjoy this pleasant past time without fear of keeling over.

Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of Moss House and Living Skills Coordinator of Permaculture North.

In Australia, cool climate pine forests are the best places.
State owned forests have public access and picnic tables for you to enjoy your mushrooms after picking them.
Forests need to be 10 - 20 years old so that the fungal networks have had time to re-establish after the intensive agriculture that's involved in starting forest plantations.
Slippery Jack Mushroom undersides.

Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms (pictured above) exude an orangey white sap when cut.
This sap oxygenates to a green colour, so it's not mouldy.
These are the easiest to identify. 

Slippery Jack Mushrooms (pictured here) don't have gills on the underside but more of a foam structure.
You can also find mushrooms where horses and cows are pastured. these are mostly button mushrooms and harder to identify.

TIP: Cut the mushrooms instead of pulling our digging them out. By doing this you're letting spores for future generations of mushrooms remain in the environment where they grow best.

WARNING: Only ever go collecting mushrooms with an experienced guide.
Do not rely on guide books for collecting mushrooms.
They’re very easy to misidentify.


Margaret says that when she takes people out foraging for mushrooms, that she asks them to tip out their collected mushrooms onto a blanket.
By doing this, Margaret can check each and everyone one of them to make sure that they’re not the poisonous ones.
If you have any questions about mushroom picking or have some advice or photos to share, why not drop us a line to realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Growing Unusual Vegetables

Are you tired of growing the perfectly ordinary?
Perhaps you’re not tasting that much difference between home grown and shop bought?
Of course, your will be organically grown though.
On the other hand, you might have easy access to local fruit and veg markets, whether organic or not, that can grow the staples like potatoes, onions and carrots much cheaper.

So instead of growing those, you could try going for Jerusalem Artichokes, Mizuna, Giant Red Mustard, Choy Sum, and Japanese Chrysanthemum for starters.

You don’t even have to be a computer nerd because seed companies are quite happy to send you their seed catalogues.
Pick something out from the descriptions in the catalogues that you haven’t tried before.

Here’s a few details about some of the unusual ones that I have mentioned in previous vegetable hero segments.

Japanese chrysanthemums are sometimes called chop suey greens.
You can use the leaves and flowers of this vegetable.
So this is a warm season crop, but never mind, put it on your to do list for next Spring.
Pick the leaves 6 – 8 weeks for your salads and throw the flowers in as well.

Chicory is one I’ve mentioned as a vegetable hero, but it is rather unusual/
This one gets sown in Summer and you can use the outer leaves for a few weeks before you let the heart develop over winter.

Jerusalem artichokes are rather a large plant that you can even grow in a large pot. 

You eat the tubers in winter but plant them in Spring.
 Easy to re-grow from fragments or just re-plant a couple after you dig them up.
Flowers are nice and tall, and look like small sunflowers.

Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi is another one I’ve mentioned as a veggie hero but a lot of gardeners just don’t grow it.
You know you can eat kohrabi raw. It’s crunch and sweet but not too sweet.

What are Kohrabi?

These are round, white, green or purple “roots”, which are actually the swollen stem bases of a short, squat brassica plant with blue-green leaves.
Sow the seeds in Spring and pick them what they’re at tennis-ball size in summer to grate raw in salads or home-made coleslaw, or slice very thinly as raw veg “crisps”.

Celeriac
Another favourite of this segment is the ugly looking Celeriac.
You can sow this one in summer and Autumn in most places in Australia except for the tropics.
It’s not suitable to grow there.

These plants produce large spherical “roots” that grow half above ground at the base of their stems.
The usual size you see in the supermarket is roughly 10cm, a very pale brown, rough, almost acne’ed looking ball with lime green tops.
The green tops look a bit like celery, and the smell is similar but a bit stronger.
The thick, rough brownish skin covers a creamy white, crisp inside that’s slightly hotter tasting than celery.
Celeriac also grows more easily and keeps longer than celery, making it an excellent winter vegetable.

New Zealand Spinach
New Zealand spinach is a low, floppy, ground-covering plant with thick, fleshy leaves, this tastes just like conventional spinach when cooked.
It’s a frost-tender ground cover type of plant that can grow in extremely dry conditions once established.
For something really out of the ordinary, not a vegetable but a fruit and it’s white instead of the tradional red.

White Strawberries
White strawberries, also called Pineberries, are available to buy from some nurseries as plants but not seeds.
They’re not genetically engineered but rather an old variety – I bet you didn’t know that all strawberries in South America used to be white! 

Purple Podded Peas
If you like to grow peas, then why not try Purple Podded Peas

Inside these purple pods the peas are as green as any other but their attractive Aubergine colour looks beautiful on the vine.
The colour is practical as well because the pods are easier to see.

Oca New Zealand Yam
Finally there’s Oca ‘New Zealand Yam’
Considered a ‘Lost Crop of the Incas’, this is another new variety for me and I’ve yet to taste them cooked.
Raw, they’re like a mild crunchy radish but it’s said that when this South American root vegetable is boiled or roasted that the flavour and texture is like a lemony potato. 

The tops of this plant look very similar to Sorrel, a wild plant with a lemony tang flavour that can be used in salads and soups.
The tubers only start growing in size after the very first frost so you need to leave them in the ground for some weeks after that happens.
If you dig them up earlier, you’ll only get a few tubers.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Coastal Silver Edged Pincushion -Leucospermum patersonii

Have you ever been stunned by the flowers of a plant that you felt the need to buy one immediately?
Sure you have, it’s one of those things that gardeners get and it’s so very hard to resist.
This next plant falls into that category and I hope you’ll be inspired to rush out and purchase one.
But first, let’s find out about this plant.
I'm talking with the plant panel : Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. www.thegreengallery.com.au
PLAY: Leucospermum Patersonii_26th April 2017
Coastal Pincushion bush photo M Cannon
The silver edged pincushion plant is such an appropriate name for this beauty.
The leaves are a feature with their silvery edges but the flowers, are more so coming in clusters of three.
The added benefit of the closely clasping leaves is that the bush is densely covered.
Leucospermum patersonii photo M Cannon
The flowers are bright orange to crimson and very showy and appear on the bush in groups of three.
Flowering is from July to December.
the coastal Pincushion bush does well in limestone derived soils, therefore alkaline.
However it should do well in most well drained soils around Australia.

What to watch for:
Root rot or phytophthera can cause sudden death for plants in the Proteaceae family.
This can happen after long spells of dry weather followed by a period of heavy rain.
As a preventative measure drench or spray with Phosacid sometimes marketed as Anti-Rot.

If you have any questions about the Silver Edged Pincushion Plant, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Vertical Gardens, Dragon Fruit, and an Australian Songbird.




WILDLIFE IN FOCUS

Olive Backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus

What would you pick for the top songbird in Australia or perhaps just in your district?
Perhaps the Magpie, or Butcher bird, or for those who are a bit more savvy with bird identification and bird calls, would you pick the Figbird? Australia does make the top 40 songbirds in the world, but would you have picked this next one?
Olive Backed Oriole (Oriolus saggitatus) Picture of the Olive-backed Oriole has been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution.

Did you know that not only does the Oriole like to live in woodlands and rainforests, but leafy urban areas that plenty of trees.
You may have heard the call and not realised what bird it the call belonged to.

Let’s find out.  I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of Birds in Backyards.

As Holly mention, the Oriole is found along coastal and near inland strips in northern and eastern Australia from Broome WA, to the south-east of South Australia; plus around Adelaide.

These birds are really good at hiding themselves especially the fact that they can throw their calls and mimic other birds such as magpies.


All in all, making it a challenge to find them, but surprisingly they can be found in urban areas that are leafy and green.

Listen out for the "orry-orry-oriole" call, which is their genuine call.

If you have any questions about the Olive Backed Oriole or have some photos to share, why not drop us a line to realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Growing A Vertical Vegetable
Do you live in the city?
Are you confined to an apartment dwelling with little space for gardening?
Do you want to grow a vegetable garden, but feel you don’t have the room?
If so, then I have news for you!
While limited spaces of a city life can be frustrating for the urban gardener, growing a vegetable garden is anything but impossible.

In fact, with a little planning and imagination, vegetable gardens can be grown anywhere, regardless of space.

Have you ever considered growing a vertical vegetable garden?

You can easily produce the same amount of fresh vegetables without taking up excess space.

A vertical vegetable garden is easy to create.

You can create one using shelves, hanging baskets, or trellises.

The first step is to determine what the conditions are like in the area you wish to place the vegetable garden, such as on the balcony.

The amount of sunlight will be the greatest factor in determining which plants will thrive in your urban environment.

Shady Areas
For instance, if you live in an area surrounded by other buildings, balcony or patio may be shaded most of the time; therefore, you should choose your plants accordingly. 
Leafy vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, and greens do well with limited sunlight, making good choices for shady areas. 
As do sorrel, lemon balm and mints.

Part Sun, Part Shade
If you have half sun, half shade, then perhaps go for Lettuces, rocket, silverbeet, radishes, dwarf cabbages, chives, Basil and Parsley.

Full Sun

If you’ve got lots of sunshine, your selection of plants will be greater, as vegetables grow best in full sun.
Choices here can include: tomatoes peppers, rocket, sage,silverbeet, Malabar Spinach, potatoes, bens, carrots and radishes.

Even vine crops, such as squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers can be grown as long as the container is deep enough to accommodate them and proper staking is available.

How to grow them
Fill containers with coir peat and a suitable potting mix and possibly add some compost or pelletised manure.
Vertical Gardens from pallettes

Almost any vegetable that can be grown in a garden will also work well as a container-grown plant.

Nearly any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants.

You can use just about any type of container to grow your veggies as long as they have drainage holes.

Since most vegetables can be easily grown in containers, shelves offer the benefit of growing numerous types of vegetables on each shelf as high up as you can reach or as space allows.

You can position the vertical vegetable garden so that all of the plants receive adequate amounts of sunlight at the same time.

Although any type of shelving may be used, the best type is the kind with slats.

This will allow better air circulation and during watering intervals, the excess water on the top shelves will trickle down to the bottom ones.

If shelves are not for you, containers can also be situated on tiers, forming a vertical appearance as well.

Alternatively, vegetables can also be grown in hanging baskets or along trellises. Hanging baskets can be placed on the balcony or on suitable hangers.
Vertical Gardens can be made from anything.
Numerous types of vegetables can be grown in hanging baskets, especially those with trailing characteristics.

Peppers and cherry tomatoes not only look good in hanging baskets, so do trailing plants, such as the sweet potato vine, but they also thrive nicely in them.

Keep them watered daily, however, since hanging baskets are more prone to drying out, especially during hot spells.

Trellises can be used for the support of trailing or vine crops.

A fence can also serve as a trellis for beans, peas, tomatoes and vine crops like squash and cucumbers.
Milk crates and plastic bottles for "el cheapo" vertical gardens.
Use a stepladder as a makeshift trellis to support vine-growing plants like pumpkins. The rungs of the ladder can be used to train the vines while placing the vegetables on its steps for further support – this also works well with tomato plants.

Be creative and find something that works for you and your unique situation.


Growing a vertical vegetable garden is the perfect way for urban gardeners and others to still enjoy a bountiful harvest of freshly grown vegetables without taking up their already limited space.


One last thing, you can build your own DIY indoor garden.

It’s called the Grow Room and was developed by 2 Danish architects.
The grow room is a free standing indoor garden.
It’s quite big because you can sit inside the structure.
The design is open source so you can download the plans for free and follow the 17 steps to build your own grow room.
All you need is plywood, some nails and a local wood cutter to bring this urban farm to life.
The link on my website.
http://www.iflscience.com/technology/ikea-creates-free-diy-sustainable-indoor-garden-for-urban-living/

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Plectranthus ecklonii
Plants for Colour in Autumn in All Climate Zones Around Australia.

Are you thinking about annuals when it comes to choosing colour for Autumn?
Perhaps you have a tree with spectacular Autumn colour?
Camellia "Star Above Star"
Lavatera maritima
Whatever you decide, there’s always one more thing that you can add to bring in extra zing to your garden.

Let’s find out what’s the best colour for Autumn in your district.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Don’t just think of showy flowers like annuals, but perennials whether sub-shrubs, small trees.
Don’t you just want to rush out and get Camellia Start Above Star which is not the normal variety of Camellia?
Peter of course mentioned quite a few choices for various climates around Australia.

  • Warm coastal zones-Plectranthus ecklonii, a sub-shrub.
  • Cooler Gardens-Camellia vernalis "Star Above Star.
  • Tropical gardens-Syzygium wilsonii, the Powder Puff Lilly Pilly.
  • Mediterranean climates-Lavatera maritima.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Dragon Fruit 
Hylocereus undadatus

Not every plant that gets featured in this segment is your typical perennial, whether it’s a shrub, bush or ground-cover.

From time to time, we like to delve into the unusual but ornamental and sometimes just downright functional and even edible.

Some fruits come from trees, think peaches, apples pears: 

Some from climbers, -passionfruit, raspberries, 

A a few others grow on cacti.

You might think of a prickly pear for cactus fruit, but today’s plant fits into the last category. 

Highly ornamental, edible, yet growing on a cactus.
Let’s find out about this plant.

I'm talking with he plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. www.thegreengallery.com.au

Dragon fruit are considered super fruit, and their flowers are spectacular,so that’s reason enough to get planting one.
Sometimes the flower of this cactus if referred to as "Queen of the Night."
Dragon fruit flower
This title makes it seems that you have to out there with a torch to observe the brilliance and inhale the perfume. 
But as Karen points out, the flower often last well into daylight hours, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Certainly it last long enough for moths or bats to come by and pollinate it so every gardener can enjoy the unusual fruit.




How to Grow a Plant to Make Lemon Tea Plus a Pecan Tree and All You Need to Grow Green Manure.

SPICE IT UP

Lemon Verbena Alloysia citriodora (syn. Lippia citriodora)

This is a herb with a multitude of uses;
Lemon Verbena photo M Cannon

There are a few plants whose leaves are great in cooking, making herbal teas and when the leaves are dried, they’re good for a number of things including pot pourri.
So many uses for just one plant, let's find out more?
Let’s find out.


Ian's mum and dad had a grove of 12 Lemon Verbena trees that grew to 2 metres in height.
The leaves were harvested to make sleep pillows and pot pourri.
Lemon verbena pillows sound devine.
They ‘re made of dried leaves of Lavender (Lavandula vera is the best) to help you sleep, Rose petals for sweet dreams and Lemon Verbena, to help you wake refreshed.
Chopped finely, it makes a neat substitute for lemon zest.
Lemon Verbena Tea photo M Cannon
Try Lemon Verbena tea; it's very refreshing or make Panna Cotta infused with Lemon Verbena.
To prune your Lemon Verbena tree, just take of the top one-third of the tree.
When it re-shoots in Spring tip prune the branches regularly to keep it bushy.
If you have any questions about growing or using Lemon Verbena, drop us a line to realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Growing Green Manure Crops
If you want to improve your soil structure and at the same time add nitrogen to the soil, consider a green manure crop in an overworked vegetable patch.

What are the benefits of green manure crops and why is it called green manure?

Green manure crops are called that because the crop or plants are not for eating but when they are nearly mature, and before they set seed, the oats, or wheat or whatever are slashed and then turned into the soil. This adds nutrients to the soil especially if you use legume type crops.

Why?

  1. They increase organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms 
  2. Green manure crops increase the soil's available nitrogen and increase moisture retention 
  3. They stabilise the soil to prevent erosion 
  4. Green manure crops also bring deep minerals to the surface and break up hard clods in the soil structure. 
  5. The provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reduce populations of pests 
  6. Improve water, root and air penetration in the soil 
  7. Smother weeds. 

The crops used for green manure tend to be a combination of:

•Legumes – These add nitrogen (critical for food crops) to the soil, such as cow pea, mung bean, woolly pod vetch, lablab, broad bean, fenugreek and soybean;

Grains and grasses - These add organic substance to the soil, such as millet, buckwheat and oats.
At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
Try faba or broad bean, field pea, oats and wheat.
This will improve your soil incredibly, and, for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort.

How do you do this? I hear you ask, well here are the steps.

Rye 
  1. Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed. 
  2. Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop. Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats. 
  3. Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies. You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well. Legumes like beans and peas are especially good, since they’ll fix nitrogen in the soil, but anything else you have will help. 
  4. Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square meter. Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them. 
  5. Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing. 
  6. Let the green manure crop grow 7-10 cm tall. Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop. 
Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process.
With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead o the one you want. 


What Next?Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground.
If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower.
Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.
Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. 
It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.
What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
I find this method easier then digging it in which is what gardeners used to do.
That practise has been found to destroy soil structure too much and it’s a lot of hard work anyway.
Save your back by doing it this way.
Sweet Potato as Green Manure. photo M Cannon
Benefits of Green Manure Crops
  • Give the soil and its worms time to reap the benefits of green manure: nitrogen fertilizer and organic matter to nourish your soil. 
  • Use green manure crops in every unplanted vegetable, herb and flower bed. 
  • Plant also in compacted areas - such as under trees - and newly graded lots. Allow little roots to break up the soil, which will aerate and renew its structure, before you plant a new lawn. 
  • Take advantage of the natural power of peas and beans to take nitrogen from the air and hold it in their leaves. Turn vines and leaves under, after picking the vegetables, for another green manure crop. 
  • For a cheap alternative to buying the manure crops online, I’ve found this tip to be quite useful. 
  • This is the absolute simplest, cheapest and best thing is do. 
  • Just buy a bag of organic bird seed. Read the back of the packet and find one with the mix you want. 
  • The last lot I planted contained millet, sorghum, wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn and sunflowers. 
  • Bird seed will be chemical-free and fresh (since they don’t want to kill your pets!), and very cheap. It’s available at any supermarket. 
  • Go on, give it a try, the whole thing should only take up about 6-8 weeks and it’s the best way to improve your garden soil. 

AND THAT WAS OUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY!

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Fashion Colour Trends for Your Garden!
But did you know that there is a colour trend for plants as well.
Green of course is part of that colour trend, but if you’re yet to pick a colour scheme, or don’t have one, or just want to change from year to year, you may well just want to follow the fashion trend in your garden.

Let’s find out this years trends.
I'm talking with Matt Leacey, Landscape Designer and Principal Director of Landscapes Landart.



Matt has an established career in the landscape design industry, and is the current President of the LNA Master Landscapers Association.

He also co-hosted Nine’s Garden Gurus and three seasons of Domestic Blitz.
Matt likes dark deep colours for outdoor structures, like walls, fencing, the house.
For plants he likes a lot of lush green foliage punctuated with silver foliage.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Pecan Tree Carya illinoinensis

Ever thought of having a productive tree in your garden besides that lemon tree that a lot of people seem to have?

You can have nice shade trees that also provide you with some food, whether it’s a cherry tree, peach or apple tree.
But do people ever think of planting this next tree?

Let’s find out about this plant.

I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, owner of the Green Gallery wholesale nursery www.thegreengallery.com.au

The pecan tree is a deciduous tree of the Hickory genus  and at full maturity, it will grow to around 30 metres with a spread of 12 m.
The gray trunk is shallowly furrowed and flat-ridged with upward branches forming an irregular, rounded crown. 
The tree has a narrow silhouette.
Pecan  varieties available are -Shoshonii, Desirable;Kiowa, Mohawk,Cape Fear, Pawnee.
Be warned: Pecans start fruiting after about 8 years so be prepared to wait although Pecans can live for up to 300 years.
On the plus side, unlike other nut varieties, Pecans only require 200 hours of chilling, that means hours less than 7 °C
Pecan tree with nuts photo M Cannon
Pecan trees can be purchased as bare rooted plants, that means plants without any soil, during the winter months when the tree is without leaf.

Possibly your local nursery may have one or you can mail order them from quite a few places on the internet.