Saturday, 22 July 2017

Plants Indoors, Spinach,Magnolias But Don't Feed Wildlife


New Series on Indoor Plants: Part 1 Introduction
Did you know that NASA has carried out a Clean air Study to figure out which plants help to clean the air in our homes and offices?
These plants are best at cl
eaning the air to eliminate toxins.
Toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.
I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

PLAY: Indoor plants intro_12th July 2017
Those chemicals that I mentioned are all common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted into the air in our homes by everyday items such as furniture, carpets and common household appliances as well as air fresheners, hair products and nail polish. Wow!
Indoor plants not only look attractive, brighten up gloomy areas and generally improve our moods, but they also have an added benefit of cleaning the air.
Are you looking for different plants to grow inside like cacti?
What conditions can they get by with?
Mini-cacti for indoor displays
Cacti need full sunlight so do consider where you put them if you want them to survive.
In fact, think about the light situation in your home before your buy any potted plants.
Remember you're adjusting the light level considerably the further the plant is from the window and by putting it on a plant stand.
Julia mentioned these plants that are "on trend" in magazines and other media.
Ficus lyrata-Fiddle Leaf Fig
Sanseveria "Moonshine"-Mother-in-laws Tongue.
Strelitzia nicholii-Bird of Paradise; this will grow very large so has a limited life inside the home.
Monsteria deliciosa-Swiss Cheese plant.
If you have any questions about indoor plants why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


English Spinach Spinacia oleracea

Spinach is also very sensitive to heat. Seeds will not germinate if temperatures are over 75° (24°C), and spinach bolts quickly once temperatures begin to climb in summer.
The best spinach to grow now is English Spinach not to be confused with Silverbeet or Chard.

Did you know that Spinach or Spinacia oleracea. Spinacia comes from the Latin word for spine and refers to the prickly seed coat.
The species name, oleracea, refers to a plant that 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.
Not that attractive or edible.
I had to pull them out, not a great experiment.
Where Did Spinach Come From?
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 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 grew silverbeet instead because it was 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

Spinach is a cool-season crop that can withstand a hard frost or two, but turns to green goo when exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for any length of time.
When growing spinach in cold weather, choose varieties like ‘Bloomsdale’ or ‘Regiment’.
Cool temperate zones, you can plant spinach from March until September.
spinach seedlings
In temperate zones you had from February until the end of June, and in sub-tropical zones, from April until the end of July.

In Arid zones choose the winter months also.
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.
Commercially Grown Spinach
In Australia, Spinach is grown commercially mostly in Tasmania and Victoria over the cooler months, as it’ll go to seed very quickly in hot summer weather.

The seeds will germinate in temperatures down to 7 degrees.
You can get good germination results if you use an unheated poly-tunnel or low level cloche, or a mini-greenhouse.
This is one crop that can withstand the very cold winter nights at sub-zero temperatures.
It seems that the little plants can be frosted and frozen overnight then thaw out and keep growing! Amazing.
Commercially grown spinach
Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
Plant your seedlings / seeds around 7cm apart in rows about 30 apart.
For once a vegetable that grows well in partial to full sun.
What Spinach likes
Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil and doesn’t like to be stressed by drying out or not having enough nutrients, even in the cold of winter.
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

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!

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.
Spinacia oleracea-Spinach
A problem you might get in the cooler weather is Down Mildew. Downy mildew (Blue mold). What is downy mildew- fungal disease, shows up as slightly yellow or chlorotic lesions of irregular shape on the top surface of the leaves and purplish sporulation on the underside. To prevent it, space plants for good air circulation and, when you water, wet the ground around the plants not the foliage itself

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).



Magnolia "Little Gem."
For those wanting the large flowers of the evergreen Bull Bay Magnolia but a much smaller plant, then don't go past this little gem, ahem, pun intended.
It has many of the attributes of its parent (magnolia bullbay) including large (20-30cm) white fragrant flowers, but it is a smaller, more compact plant growing 4 - 6 metres in height.
The flowering season is considered spring through to summer but will spot flower all year round in favourable, frost free climates.
Magnolia flowers have a lemony scent.
I'm talking with two young guys who have a love of gardening. Something seemingly rare these days when most gardeners are in the 50 + age range.
Introducing Hugh Mandelidis, an engineering student whose into gardening, and his friend Lewi Beere, presenter of Breaking Bands program on 2RRR.

Play: Interview
Available in Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland and Tasmania, but may be hard to find in other areas. Expect to pay from $25-$40 for plants in 200mm (8″) pots. 
Some listeners questions:
Q.My flowers are not opening and they are going brown, why, and how do I prevent this from happening again?
A.Often due to a lack of calcium which prevents uptake of potassium or simply a lack of potassium. Occasionally hot sun and frost can destroy flowers before they open.
Q.Do i need to add lime to my soil? or any other feed stuffs?
A.Lime tends to raise the ph of the soil which can damage the roots which prefer a slightly acidic soil. Soil that is free draining and rich in organics is usually all the little gem will need, barring any deficiencies or micro/macro nutrients. Slow release fertilisers tend to work better as foliage feeds have a low absorption rate through the leaves.
 Leaves burn in summer & go crisp. Not growing as expected


Why Not to Feed Wildlife.
It’s great to have all kinds of creatures visit your garden.
You put out those bIts of white bread for the maggies, or those seed bells for the cockatoos.
What’s wrong with that? Animals that expect to be fed by people can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry.

The Ibis at the local Botanic gardens, are an example often seen circling around visitors and inspecting their bags for food.Whatever your thoughts, Listen to this….
The NSW department of Environment and Heritage suggests that when you feed native animals you're giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food.
See More About Not Feeding WildlifeA
When you feed native animals you're giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food. Instead of eating a wide range of natural foods, they depend on processed seeds, bread and other foods that are not part of their natural diet. This can make them very sick.
Animals that expect to be fed by people can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry.
Finches feeding
Once the animals you're feeding know that you are a reliable source of food, they may converge on your home or campsite, potentially disrupting their migratory patterns and displacing other species. If wildlife flock to be near you, their newfound population density may encourage the spread of communicable diseases between them.
They may also lose their ability to forage for natural foods.
Think twice before you feed wild animals - a moment's pleasure for you may lead to the animal you feed becoming addicted to junk food.When kangaroos and wallabies become used to being hand-fed, they sometimes attack people in their quest for food.
Remember, they have sharp claws and a strong kick.
Another example is in Flinders Chase on Kangaroo Island where they’ve had to put up cages around the eating tables in the national park, so people can eat in peace.
If you have any questions about this Feeding Wildlife, send it our email address

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Make Your Own Gin, Eat Peas and Grow a Silver Lining


Juniper Berries.

You probably missed it but 14th June was World Gin Day.
Why I mention this is because Australia is producing some of the best gin in the world.
You heard right, there’s a micro distillery industry that’s sprung up in Australia for making boutique gin.

But here’s the thing, it’s been said before on this show, you can make your own gin.
So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with  Ian Hemphill Owner of and author of The Herb and Spice bible.

Why everybody is falling in love with juniper today is because it's a thing to make your own gin.
Relatively a cinch but you need a good recipe.
You'll find one on Ian's site, just search for GINSPIRATION.
Australia's leading gin distilleries combine spices such as a cardamom, cinnamon and star anise with Australian oranges, Tasmanian Pepperberry leaf and lemon myrtle, a native Australian plant.
The juniper is still there but it is layered with a blend of modern Australian flavours, Southern European citrus and South East Asian spice, all of which makes it an entirely too drinkable gin.
Cooking with Juniper
Juniper berries go great in slow cooked casseroles and stews.
Juniper berries are also tasty when cooked with Salmon. Just place a few berries in with other herbs such as garlic, dill and add some lemon slices when baking or roasting whole salmon.
Juniper berries
If you have any questions about making your own gin, check out “ginspiration” or Ian’s webpage, or email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Pisum sativum

"I eats my peas with honey, I’ve done so all me life, it makes my peas taste funny, but it keeps them on me knife. "
Ever heard that one? 
Yes, my father used to say that everytime we harvested peas from our garden.
Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower.

But as always, cooks don’t stick to Science and peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking.

Peas or Pisum sativum, belong to the Fabaceae family, which means they fix Nitrogen from the air into their roots.

And you thought you knew everything there was to know about peas?

We all know what Peas look like- but did you know that Peas have been found in ancient ruins dated at 8000 years old in the Middle East and in Turkey?

And, the oldest pea fossils were found in the “Spirit cave on the border of Thailand and Burma dated 9750 years old.

Peas were common throughout ancient Europe as far back as the Neolithic Period and are as old and important as wheat and barley.

In these ancient times dried peas were an essential part of the diet because they could be stored for long periods and provided protein during the famine months of winter. No fridges then, remember!

The Greeks and Romans loved them and many varieties were traded in the Trojan Market in ancient Rome.

Did you know that both dwarf and field peas were part of the cargo of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and, on arrival at Sydney Cove, each convict and marine was given a weekly ration of three pints of ‘pease’.

By 1802 Peas were growing in Port Jackson and in Paramatta gardens.

When to Sow
The best time to sow Peas, if you are living on the East Coast is from April until September;

In arid climates from April until August.
In sub-tropical districts, from April and until July and for cool zones, late winter until October. On the Tablelands they should be sown after the last frosts.
Peas are best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 24°C.

Sow the seeds directly into the soil 15mm to 20mm deep (knuckle deep) and 75mm to 100mm apart . Water in well and don't let them dry out.

I like to soak my Pea seeds overnight.
This helps achieve a better strike
Some gardeners prefer to sow their seeds into tubs/punnets so they can keep a closer eye on them especially if there is a possibility of a frost.
Once they have their second crop of leaves and no more frost, they can be transplanted out in the garden.

Pea don’t seem to grow well near Onions, Chives, Garlic.

Peas don’t like a lot of mulch or manure especially up against the stalk/stem, or being over-watered as they tend to rot off at the base of the stem.
Don’t over-feed young plants or they’ll grow lanky and you won’t get too many pea pods.
Wait until they’ve started flowering and then give them a good feed of liquid fertilizer at least once a fortnight.

I prefer to feed my plants with liquid fertilisers in winter because in the cold weather, plants can use liquid fertilisers, easier and faster than the granular type.

TIP: Water your Peas in the mornings to avoid mildew.
Don’t overhead water late in the afternoon.
If you do have mildew, try spraying with a MILK spray mixed with a couple of drops of detergent.
With dwarf Peas you will have one main crop, with a second lighter crop and some pickings in between for the pot.
Peas freeze well and, providing they are processed immediately after picking, lose no more of their nutritional value than in just cooking them.

Chewing pests
If you’re bothered with snails and slugs, a good idea is to place a bottomless container around the young seedlings to stop the pests, or in my case the dragon lizard, from cutting/biting the tops off the new shoots; this will also give the new plants some protection from the wind.

How big do they grow?
Dwarf Peas only grow about 300mm to 600mm high but they will require some support.
You can use pretty much anything from wire/mesh, string and bamboo.

Climbing Peas grow to about 2m and crop for quite a long time.
If you pick them regularly, your pea plants will grow like mad and you’ll get a bigger crop.

They will need a good heavy-trellis or stakes. The position of the trellis should be facing towards the midday sun, (towards the North).

After the Peas have stopped producing the trellis can also be used for growing cucumbers, pumpkins or tomatoes.

Before you start ripping the pea vines off the trellis cut the stems off at ground level; leave the roots in the ground as pea roots produce nitrogen nodules.

These roots will break down and give your next seedlings a good kick start.

Why are they good for you?

Being low in calories, green peas are good for those who are trying to lose weight.
Green peas are rich in dietary fibre, may potentially lower cholesterol.

Peas have a high amount of iron and vitamin C to help strengthen the immune system.
The lutein present in green peas helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Green peas slow down the appearance of glucose in the blood and thus, help keep the energy levels steady.
Green peas have been found to aid energy production, nerve function and carbohydrate metabolism.
Green peas provide the body with those nutrients that are important for maintaining bone health.
The folic acid and vitamin B6 in green peas are good for promoting the


Albany Woolly Bush
Adenanthos sericeus
Are you a fan of Western Australian plants?
They grow so many wildflowers, banksias, and Eucalypts with huge inflorescences or inflo’s as those in the now like to call them.
But how do they do in other parts of Australia, particular if they’re grey and fluffy and have been used mostly as a Christmas tree?
Albany woolly bush flowers

Let’s find out …I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal a

 The greyness and upright growth of the Albany woolly bush makes it look sort of snow covered making it the perfect choice if you want a real Australian Christmas tree.


Adenanthos Silver lining (40 cm x 1.5 m) is a very attractive native ground cover with fine, silvery grey foliage that is both soft in appearance and to touch,
'Silver Lining' is a low water user, thriving in dry conditions.
Adenanthos Silver Lining image supplied by Plants Management Australia
All Adenanthos are particularly well suited to coastal zones as long as you proived them with well drained or sandy soils.
Susceptible to borers and dieback (Phytophthora)
Woolly bush is best suited to dry summers rather than humid climates.
Some growers suggest that plants need rocks for anchorage in windy sites.
Fertilise with low P 1.6%


Plant Blindness with Liza Harvey
click on the link to listen to the segment

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Forget Brown Rot and Plant Swedes and NEW Sacred Bamboo


 Brown Rot of Stone Fruit
This fungal disease can appear on a lot of plants including veggies and a lot of fruits, but today Plant Doctor is concentrating on stone fruit.
Before you tune out, you might discover that some fruit that you purchase might have this problem.
This segment explains why that piece of fruit that’s sitting innocently in your fruit bowl can suddenly go off.
So let’s find out more about this problem and what to do about it. 

That was Steve Falcioni, General Manager of
The first signs can be the blossoms of your peach or nectarine trees turning brown and falling off prematurely.
You may not notice this happening in the first season, but if your trees have been infected. you will notice brown patches on your fruit that eventually cause the whole fruit to rot.
 You may not have any blossoms on your stone fruit trees, but there are still things that you can be doing as preventative measures for Brown Rot.
If this has happened then next season what you need to do is then to observe your blossoms when they appear to see if they’re dying prematurely.
Of course if you’ve had this problem before you need to spray as a precaution. Sprays with copper or sulphur in them work well as do eco Fungicide that contains potassium bi-carbonate.
Brown rot of stone fruit can leave mummified fruit stuck to the branches.
These are all barrier sprays and need to followed up regularly through the growing season.
If you have any questions about Brown rot of stone fruit, or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Swedes are from Sweden

Why is it that when you go to the vegie section in supermarkets where I live anyway, there are only a handful of limp Parsnips and soft swedes? Does that mean people don’t use these vegetables anymore?
Aren’t the putting them in the roasting pan or using them to flavour soups?
Swedes are vegetables
All that aside, did you know that a Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin in 1620, found this vegetable growing wild in Swedes?
So yes, Swedes do come from Sweden, Swede the vegetable that is.
Another interesting fact about this vegetable is it doesn’t seem to have a long history, well unless you consider dating back to the1600’s not long, which it isn’t compared to some vegetables.
It may be a surprise to you that it’s been recorded as growing in Royal Garden not much later after it was discovered, in 1669.
Brassica napus variety (var.) napobrassica, sometimes referred to as Rutabaga, but never referred to as turnip.
Rutabaga is a corruption of the Scottish for red bag.
There’s another surprise. 
If any listeners know why the Scots called it a red bag, let me know.
Turnips and swedes are both members of the cabbage family and are closely related to each other - so close that it’s not surprising that their names are often confused. 
Turnip is not a Swede

For instance, swedes are sometimes called Swedish turnips or swede-turnips.

How do you tell the difference between Turnips and Swedes?

For one, turnips are usually smaller than Swedes-about the size of a golf ball, with creamy white, smooth skin.
Some turnips have a smooth, silky skin that’s coloured white, with a purple or reddish top.
The flesh is white and has a peppery taste

Swedes showing leaf scars

Swedes are a lot bigger, - roughly the size of a shoe.
Its rough skin is creamy white and partly purple, with a distinctive 'collar'-that shows the multiple leaf scars.
The Swede also has a hint of yellow-orange inside the actual vegetable.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you from a very recent article in the English
The Most Dangerous Vegetables
Telegraph reporting on a poll on home accidents in the kitchen.
A survey found two-thirds of injuries in the kitchen come from preparing fresh vegetables like squash and turnip that are too difficult to cut.
Almost a quarter said pumpkins were the toughest vegetable to skin and chop while a fifth said swedes were the most dangerous.
Two in five participants said they had injured themselves trying to imitate TV chefs when slicing vegetables, the research found.
So it came as no surprise that root foods had topped a poll of the most dangerous vegetables. Don’t let that deter you!
Another surprise is that Swede vegetable is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. So how it came to be growing in the wild in Sweden is anybody's guess.
If you were a lover if Haggis you might already know that the Scottish call it "neeps" and serve it with haggis.
Swede us a full flavoured veggie with a savoury aftertaste.
Under-rated as a vegetable, its smooth and creamy texture is a welcome surprise in your cooking.
How and when to grow Swedes.
You might’ve guessed that the Swede is a winter vegetable.
You can sow Swedes from February until November it temperate and cool districts.
In arid zones, you have April until August, and in sub-tropical and tropical areas, only May to July
You might find some garden books suggesting not to sow Swedes at these times, but those books are probably written for northern hemisphere gardens.
Seed suppliers also recommend the dates I’ve given.
How to Grow Swedes
Turnips are easy to grow but swedes are easier.
Sow the seeds of Swedes into any prepared soil, they’ll even grow in heavy soil as long as the water drains away fairly quickly.
As with carrots, don’t put in fresh compost or manures when you sow Swede seeds, or you’ll get the usual forking or hairy swedes!
Swedes need good levels of trace elements, add a dusting of these either from a packet, or as a seaweed spray if your soil is poor or sandy.
Without enough trace elements, your Swedes might be tasteless, bitter and brown inside.
TIP: Swedes resent transplanting, just like carrots, parsnips and turnips.
Sow the seeds directly into the veggie bed.
Your Swedes will be ready in three to four months after planting.
But you can pick them at whatever size you like, small is good, as is larger. Doesn’t matter.
In cold areas, Swedes are best left in the ground and pulled out as you need them.
Otherwise, pick them and store them as you would potatoes.
Where do you get it?
Cooking with Swedes
If you’re buying swedes from the fruit and veg grocer or supermarket, pick the smaller ones if you want the sweeter taste.
Cut them into chunks and steam them, but don’t overcook them because they tend to disintegrate.
How about making swede chips, why not?
Steam them and mash them or cut them into tiny pieces and put them in Cornish pasties.
Roast swedes are pretty tasty too.

Add caption

Why is it good for you?
1/2 cup cooked swede is a serve, and is a good source of vitamin C and fibre, folate and potassium. 
Swedes are quite filling but are low in kilojoules, with only 85kJ per 100g (2/3 cup).


Sacred Bamboo
Nandina domestica varieties, not for plant snobs.
Nandina Lemlim image supplied by Plants Management Australia
Are you a plant snob or know someone who is a plant snob?
By that I mean refuses to plant anything that’s commonly sold.
Someone who can’t imagine planting out star jasmine or murraya because it’s “oh so yesterday” and why would you want that rather than some rare species of plant that no-one else has.
The trouble is it’s the way those common plants are used that turn us off rather than
Let’s find out more…I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal 

Nandina Blush image supplied

The varieties we mentioned were Nandina were Obsession with new red growth, Nandina Blush staying red in Autumn and Winter.
In the winter months, Blush™ Nandina turns vivid red all over. It is 20% smaller than Nandina domestica ‘Nana’, Size: 60-70cm high x 60-70cm wide, a perfect height for fences, borders or hedging.

Image suppled Plants Management Australia
Nandina Lemon Lime a new evergreen,  with no red at all and looking more like a low bush bamboo plant. So compact that you never need to trim it.

If you have any questions about the new varieties of nandina, why not write in to If you have any questions about the new varieties of nandina, why not write in to If you have any questions about the new varieties of nandina, why not write in to If you have any questions about the new varieties of nandina, why not write in to

Feature interview with Liza Harvey.

Click on the link to hear Plant music

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Delicious Plums, Crispy Lettuce and Rarest of Peppers


Selim Pepper,  Xylopica ethiopica

Are you a bit of a kitchen whizz with a kitchen garden full of exotic herbs?
Or do you just rely on the same old staples of spices like, rosemary, oregano, parsley, sage, maybe some chilli pepper or paprika occasionally.
To be confident about using other spices you need to know a bit about them and sometimes, a bit of advice on how to use an unusual spice will give you the kick a long that you need to try something in that casserole or stew that you always make.
So let’s find out more about one such spice. 
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill, spice guru and owner of who has also written the Herb and Spice bible.

Selim pepper is also known as African pepper, Ethiopian pepper, Grains of Selim, Uda Pods, Guinea pepper, kimba pepper and Senegal pepper.

Not only is this spice hand picked but it’s possibly one of the rarest spices that Ian’s company has sourced for some time, so that in itself is something to want to try at least.
To use this spice crush the pods in a mortar and pestle then separate the fibrous bits out and use the remaining powder.
Xylopica ethiopica
You can just throw in the whole pods then remove them when cooking has finished.
Ian says the flavour won't be as strong if you do that.
Selim pepper is not as hot as Grains of Paradise and is good in long slow cooking as with the African Buka stew made with beef.
The plant is not grow in Australia and it's unlikely that your supermarket will have the spice, so you’ll have to order it online from Herbies Spices
If you have any questions about Selim Pepper, or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


WINTER LETTUCE or Lactuca sativa 

You might think it too boring to be a hero, but did you know that the earliest mention of lettuce in history is a carving on an Egyptian temple? Lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in Egypt.

On the other hand the Greeks used lettuce as a medicinal plant to induce sleep.

Lactuca sativa or lettuce is just everywhere and thought to have originated from the wild or prickly lettuce, found as a weed in the Mediterranean.

Did You Know?
The flavour of lettuce is lost in as little as 24 hours, and there's no way supermarket lettuce is only 24 hours old.

The Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae.. great in salads, tacos, hamburgers!

But here’s the thing not all kinds of lettuce are created alike!

Iceberg, Cos, and Butterhead are Winter Lettuce
This is the time to be plant all those hearting lettuce like, Iceberg, and Butterhead, Cos or Romaine.
Iceberg lettuce

These varieties do best in the coolest months because the upper temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 25°C so they’re not going to bolt to seed now.

Did you know that there are four main types of lettuce grown commercially in Australia and these are three of them?
In northern Victoria the main growing season for these types is May until October.
Butterhead lettuce
When to Grow Lettuce
A lot of people think lettuce is a summer crop but the best growing temperatures are a maximum of 25°C during day and 8°C during the night.
In cool districts, you’ve got until end of May, then again in September until the following May.
In arid areas you have from March until October, in sub- tropical and temperate areas, we’ve hit the jackpot because we can grow lettuce all year round.
Lettuces taste best when they are grown as fast as possible and for that they need water and food.
Lettuce has shallow roots, so it dries out easily. You must keep up a steady supply of water because any set back will at least, make them tough and bitter, at worst it will cause them to bolt to seed straight away without making any leaves for you!
But at the cooler times of year, it’s not so much an issue.
Iceberg lettuce seedlings
Where to Plant
Don't plant them in deep shade, like under a tree. They will just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on them.
Sowing Lettuce
To sow lettuce seed, either spread the seed very thinly along a row and cover lightly with soil, or sprinkle it over a bed and just water or rake it in. For all you balcony gardeners, any largish pot will do for 3 or 4 lettuce seedlings.
Cos lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seed is very fine so you'll get a few clumps. Thin them out, you know the drill.
If the weather is very dry and your soil sandy, you will need to water every couple of days.
Stick your finger in the soil if not sure. Lettuces have a very shallow root system.
By the way, lettuce seed doesn't germinate that well at soil temperatures over 250C. There should be no problems at this time of year.

Once your lettuce seedlings start appearing start giving them side dressings of compost, worm tea and so on.
Lettuce that seems to be growing slowly, or are starting to show signs of going to seed even though you’ve watered them, is a sure sign that they’ve run out of food.
Did you prepare your veggie bed with enough compost? Of not there are plenty of organic type liquid fertilisers that you can add to your watering can and use on your leafy vegetables.

So why is it good for you?

Lettuce is very good for digestion and promotes good liver function.
Lettuce has good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre.
Lettuce obviously won't lead to weight gain as many varieties have over 90% water and are extremely low in calories.
Lettuce contains the sedative LAC-TOO-CAREY-UM (lactucarium) which relaxes the nerves without affecting digestion.
So I’m going with the Greeks on this one-remember they used lettuce as a sedative, probably eating it with their evening meal.
As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green. For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce. By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.


Greengage Plums

Today’s plant of the week is in the productive side of gardening.

If you like making preservers, jams and jellies, you might want to grow this heritage tree, whose fruit is unavailable in supermarkets or greengrocers.
Don’t know why, because it just has the most superior taste of all fruits of the same kind.
Let’s find out more…I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal

Greengage plums-small and delicious.
Did you know that the first true greengage was bred in Moissac, France, from a green-fruited wild plum originally found in Asia Minor; that original greengage cultivar is known as the cultivar 'Reine Claude Verte'
Yalca fruit company write in their website that
“The Green Gage plum is an amazing eating experience – sweet and very richly flavoured but balanced with perfect amount of acidity.
Singled out by the author of the Australian Fruit Tree book, Louis Glowinski, as his favourite fruit overall (a big rave, given his book covers a fairly significant proportion of the fruit kingdom) but this is a great plum.”
Sounds delicious.
Anyone fancy an almond and greengage plum crumble?


Continuing the series on "plant blindness' by Liza Harvey.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Fabo Beeswax Lunch Wraps to Make, and Desert Roses to Grow

Make Your Own Beeswax Wraps

Plastic is back in the media as being bad for the environment, so much so, that some countries have banned the use of plastic bags.
Why? Because it never breaks down, instead it turns into smaller and smaller particles which our wildlife consume. 

Some sea creatures mistake soft plastic bags floating in the ocean for jelly fish with dire consequences.
Soft plastics such as what you use for wrapping your sandwiches are just as much of a problem as the bags because, it doesn’t break down ever.
So what else can you wrap your sandwiches in other than putting it in a plastic container?

So let’s find out.I talk with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of and course coordinator for Permaculture North in Sydney.
You can spend the dollars and buy the ready-made beeswax wraps, or you can do it yourself quite cheaply.
Margaret's tip for lunchwraps.
You can buy beeswax from markets and bee-keepers associations.
What you'll need:
Densely woven cotton cloth-about the thickness of a man's business shirt or cotton bedsheet.
Cut them into squares 40cm x 40 cm.
Place the cotton squares between several lavers of greaseproof paper and sprinkle grated beeswax over the cloth.
Spray a couple of times with Jojoba oil for ease of spreading.
Place some butchers paper over the greaseproof paper and iron to heat up the wax so it's absorbed into the cloth.  Then it's ready to use, just mould it into shape for wrapping sandwiches or other food except meat and cheese.

So go on, kick the plastic habit and make some beeswax wraps yourself If you have any questions about beeswax wraps, or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 


Rheum x hybridum

Rhubarb or botanically Rheum x hybridum.
The word rhubarb originates from Latin.
Do you think of Rhubarb as a fruit?

You wouldn’t be the lone ranger on that one, because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple pie or strudel.

But did you know that rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, which means it’s a member of the vegetable family.

Different varieties of Rhubarb have different medicinal uses.

It wasn’t until the early 19th when Rhubarb became popular in food being used in desserts and wine.

Ever heard of Rhubarb mania? Yes there was a time before WWII when it was so popular that it was referred to rhubarb mania.

So what is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb-the vegetable used as a fruits, is an herbaceous perennial.

Herbaceous because it dies down in winter, perennial because it regrows from year to year.

Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem part of the plant.

The leaves are sort of triangular shaped and crinkly with small greenish flowers.

What we all like to eat is the long, thick (and tasty) petioles or stalks.

How do you prefer to eat your Rhubarb?

In sauces or pies, you can actually eat the stems raw in a salad or stewed.

Perhaps Rhubarb and ginger muffins or for something savory, how about rhubarb with pork or chicken with baked rhubarb?


Rhubarb crowns can be bought and planted in September if you live in, sub Tropical areas,

July to September-October if you’re in Temperate zones;
Young Rhubarb

August to November in cool temperate districts and for once, arid zones have hit the jackpot and can plant Rhubarb from July right through to February. Can’t get much better than that.

In temperate and cool climates the above ground parts of the plant completely withers away during the colder months, so don’t be alarmed, your plant hasn’t died it’s just dormant.

That’s why, you can buy the dormant crowns now and plant them.

Rhubarb can be grown in pots as long as the pot is large enough, say 30 cm wide.

In fact there’s a variety called Ruby Red Dwarf that’s perfect for potted gardening because it has short thick stems that are bright red.

IMPORTANT TIP: In case you think you can also eat the leaves-DON’T.
The leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic.
There’s no safe method of using them in cooking at all.
A few vegetables have oxalic acid but in this case the concentrations of oxalic acid is way too high and it’s an organic poison and corrosive.
Other toxins may also exist.
Rhubarb is usually propagated by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed from the previous season.

Dividing Rhubarb for re-Planting

If you have a friend that grows rhubarb, ask them to make divisions by cutting down through the crown between the buds or 'eyes' leaving a piece of storage root material with each separate bud.

This is a good way to share your plant with friends.

Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but here’s another tip- not before it’s at least five years old.

Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season.

Use large amounts of organic matter like cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.

Tip:Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant.

During the active growing season you will also need a side-dress of fertiliser using some sort of complete fertiliser at three-monthly intervals do this also after you picked off some Rhubarb stalks for dinner as well.

You don’t have to dig up your rhubarb plant, as it’ll last for 10-15 years. So plant it in a place that’s permanent, otherwise choose the pot alternative.

The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet?

There’s good news and then there’s bad news.
The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red. 

If you have bought a crown that claimed it would be red-stemmed and you’rs isn’t, there is a simple answer.
The soil is too acidic so add lime.
One of the main reasons for acidic soil around the rhubarb is when the leaves dye down and are left to decompose on the soil, they acidify it.

On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.

So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be green.
If you really want red stems, and I don’t advocate adding red food colouring to the cooking, either look out for a friend or neighbour with rhubarb that has red stems, and ask for a piece or order some red ones now.
You don’t have to be online, there’s nothing wrong with the post and all companies will be happy to post a catalogue to you free of charge.

There isn’t much that goes wrong with Rhubarb …although some districts may get mites in the leaves or borers in the stem.

Unless you are growing plants in really heavy clay, you won’t get crown rot either.

Some varieties for you to try-and I’ll bet you can’t decide which one-I’m still thinking.

Rhubarb-Big Boy and Mount Tamborine-originally from Queensland and almost never seen in the supermarket-they reckon that the large stems are too big for the shelves.

Rhubarb Cherry Red and Winter Wonder-grown by market gardeners in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland. Sometimes seen at farmers markets.

Why is Rhubarb a vegetable Hero?

The good news is that rhubarb is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol.
It’s also a good source of Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese.
So Apple and Rhubarb Crumble for you then?


Desert Rose
Adenium obesum

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been featuring old fashioned shrubs that have outstanding features, namely the flowers and the fragrance.
Today’s feature plant is no less outstanding, and is in fact desired by collector’s worldwide because of its unique characteristics.
A rose is a rose, except if it's a desert rose.
That doesn’t even include the flower, which is pretty special too.
Let’s find out more.
I talk with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

PLAY: Adenium obesum_14th June_2017

 The NT (Darwin) News blog writes“Keen gardeners who are serious about Adeniums have impressive collections of different colours, leaf form and variegation, and search online for the more rare and unusual types.
Most people find them a fascinating plant, mainly for their unusual shape, bulbous caudex (fat base) and stunning flowers.
Similar to frangipanis, they are a succulent that is drought tolerant and can survive long periods without water.”
Too much water will cause them to rot, as it would for any succulent, and growing them in well-drained soil is essential.”
If you have any questions about the Desert Rose, why not write in to

Root of the Problem with Liza Harvey part 2 Plants and Tattoos.

Find the podcast here.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Easily Identify Egrets, Harvest Kale and Inhale Sweet Luculia


Little Egret

Egretta garzetta
Australia has plenty of water birds but do you think of our waterbirds as hanging around the seashore?
That’s probably true of a lot of water birds but others prefer inland areas where there’s plenty of water as in creeks, rivers and lakes.

Egretta garzetta
In fact some water birds like open areas with shallow fresh water while others go for coastal swamps, shallow seasonal meadows and marshes, stony rise lowlands and large saline lakes.
There's more than one Egret that lives in Australia, so how to tell which it is that you're looking at.
they look similar so it is quite confusing.
Which one is white with black legs?

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

All Egrets tend to be white with long legs and a long beak.
The distinguishing features is that the Little Egret has a black bill with dark grey-black legs.
Both the Cattle Egret and the Little Egret get flumes on the back of their head when they're breeding.
The colour of the Cattle Egret's plumes are orangey-yellow, but the Little Egret's plumes are white.
Breeding plume of Little Egret
It's so important to retain Australia's wetlands.
Wetlands support a rich diversity of plants and animals including a large number of waterbirds that depend on them for food, shelter and breeding.
The Little Egret hunts for fish and other small water creatures in shallow water and may be found in the company of other wading birds, but rarely with others of its own species.
If you have any questions about the little egret, or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675



Did you know that Kale is the ancestor to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and mustard and yes in the Brassica family?

This attractive edible originated in Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean region, where it’s been cultivated for over 4,000 years.

They are in effect, primitive cabbages that have been kept through thousands of years.
The Latin name Brassica oleracea variety acephala, the last term meaning "without a head.

Another interesting fact is that in nineteenth century Scotland kail was used as a generic term for 'dinner' and all kitchens featured a kail-pot for cooking.

I’ve seen this veggie grown in gardens in the cooler months but are people actually eating it?
Some gardeners would say that it’s mainly used for show in the garden, displacing other green decorations, thanks to the plant’s wilt resistance.

There are two types of Kale that you can grow in the garden.
Flowering kale, is closely related plant, but smaller in size with tight rosettes on the ground rather than upright, leafy growth.
Ornamental Kale
I’ve seen it used as a bedding plant.
Yes you can eat those too!

Second Type of Kale
The second type of Kale and the one I’m concentrating on today is a green leafy plant that is great added to or substituted for cabbage.

By the way, Kale doesn’t form a central head but rather grows upwards like a palm tree.

Leaves are narrow, crinkled, dark green, highly nutritious & will continue to grow even when covered with snow.

When To Plant Kale

Kale can be planted all year round in most districts but some people prefer to avoid the cabbage white butterfly and plant it in Autumn.
The best times for planting in Arid areas are from March until July, in temperate and sub-tropical climates have to the end of June.
Kale is grown from February to March in cool districts; also it’s apparently winter hardy and its flavour is improved by frost.
How does that work? Well a frost or even several frosts, will help break down starches into sugars making the Kale a whole lot sweeter.
The leaves take on a strong flavour if stored longer than two weeks in the fridge, so picking the leaves only as you need them.
By stripping the lower leaves from the base of the plant you will encourage new growth and get a much longer harvest.
Kale is easy to grow and a fast grower as well taking only 7-9 weeks from seed sowing until harvesting.

Kale likes soil temperatures of between 8°C and 30°C., full sun and a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0
How To Grow It

Sow Kale seeds direct into the garden or they don’t mind being transplanted so you can start them off in punnets if you like.

Sow the seeds about 1cm deep and 30cm or a ruler’s length apart.
Three or four seeds can be planted together and thinned out at the two leaf stage.
Look after young plants by watering during dry patches and keep weeded.

TIP: Tread around the base of the stem every so often to prevent the larger varieties swaying in the breeze.

During the winter months, apply liquid fertiliser from your worm farm or you can buy fish emulsion which is great too!
Remove yellowing leaves, "earth up" the stems and stake tall varieties if exposed Did you know that kale can handle exposed, slightly shady plots.

Kale – Is rarely bothered by the dreaded banes of the brassica family like snails and slugs so that’s a plus.

You can get any of the seed varieties from any garden shops.
When growing Kale use lots of compost and water regularly.
Kale is a cool weather crop and takes a full two months to reach harvest.

Important Note: If you’re growing the curly Kale you need to cut the first set of leaves .

That’s because Kale is a perennial crop and for it to grow new and bigger leaves when it reaches maturity, you need to harvest the leaves from the bottom.
If you pick the leaves this way, it will continue to grow bigger and curlier leaves.
If you pick from the top, the Kale will be stunted.
The second set of leaves will come out curly as in the packet.

So What Do You Do With Kale?
Eat the young leaves chopped in salads, grind the old leaves for juice or feed to chooks.
Tip: If you have chooks they prefer kale leaves to anything else!
Try these varieties-
Cook as you would cook cabbage - stewed, boiled, braised, blanched -but remember that kale takes a little longer to soften.

Hint:Tuscan kale is traditionally used in minestrone. 

Lacinato an Heirloom dating back prior to 1800 in Italy.
Also known as 'Black Cabbage', 'Tuscany' or 'Cavolo de Nero'., this old, rustic Italian variety is ready in 55 days( around 8 weeks)
Cavolo Nero
Red Russian, is another heirloom originating from Siberia.
This has red frilly, oak-shaped, bitter-free leaves with purple veins.
Another hardy variety and when you cook it the leaves deepen to dark green

There’s also Vates Blue Curled; this is a vigorous plant to 40cm high with heavily curled, blue-green leaves.
This one withstands really cold weather and the leaves won’t yellow from frost or heat.

You can also get traditional purple leafed curly kale.
This one works well in a container, as well as in the border.

Purple leafed kales like ‘Redbor’ or ‘Red Russian’ look great in flower beds as do green-leafed forms.

Why is it good for you?
Kale is actually near the top of the list in terms of nutritional value, Kale has heaps of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, large amounts of vitamins A, C and E, and heavy doses of calcium, potassium and Kale is particularly rich in iron.



Luculia gratissima
Without realizing, the shrubs featured this week and last week are old fashioned shrubs but with outstanding features. 
Luculia gratissima
And just like undersized potatoes or oversized apples, they who make decision in the big stores that sell plants, have decided that they won’t be available to the home gardener.
So if you’re looking for a winter flower shrub or small tree with masses of pink fragrant flowers, this one’s for you?
Let’s find out more… I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

If you get a whiff of gardenias one morning in late autumn, it probably means that someone nearby is growing Luculia (Luculia spp.). 
Although Luculia and gardenia are in the same family of plants and share the same delicate fragrance, the timing of their magnificent scented flowers is different.
Luculia is evergreen and grows to around 3 metres eventually.
While the flowers make an impressive display, the leaves not so much.
The foliage shall we say get’s a little untidy, but gardeners grow it for the flowers not the leaves. Pruning: Luculia flowers on new wood, so pruning is best done after flowering. 
You can prune mature Luculias quite hard to tidy them up, should you be lucky enough to have one growing in your garden.


Plant Blindness
Today I start a new segment presented and produced by someone new to Real World Gardener.
Liza completed this series as part of a project for the Community Radio Network, and as it was all about plants, the episodes were a perfect fit for this program.
So what is plant blindness? Is it a disease, a disorder or something else completely different?
You can hear the series here

Over the coming weeks, Liza will be presenting segments about different aspects of plants.
By the way, botanist-educators James Wandersee of Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, and Elizabeth Schussler of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center, in Aiken, South Carolina introduced the term ‘plant blidness’ in 1998.
Roughly translating their definition reads like this,
“the inability to see or notice the plants in one's own environment, leading to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs.”
So ‘plant blindness’ is really a thing as most people don’t pay attention to plants.

If you have any questions about plant blindness, have some information to share, write in