Saturday, 9 December 2017

Raingardens, Chives and Peonies to Delight You.

What’s On The Show Today?

Creating raingardens in Design Elements, a veggie that was once used to tell fortunes in Vegetable Heroes, finding out about Biodyanamics for the soil in Backyard Biodynamics segment, and which flower is an omen of good fortune in Talking Flowers?


Creating Rain Gardens
Getting a lot of rain lately or not?
Maybe you need a rain garden but it’s not what you think.
We’re not creating rain, but using the rain to help us grow plants without that bit of the garden turning into a quagmire or just being washed away.
So how do we do that?

Let’s find out how
I'm talking with Peter Nixon of Paradisus Design

So you know now that raingardens are designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns.
If you have a water pooling problem you have got to create a course for the water to go.
Of course you cannot divert the water onto neighbouring properties so the best solution is to create that rain garden.
When the garden fills up with water, gravity the pulls the water into a dispersion pit at the terminal end of the garden.
What you need to do, ( Peter explains in the podcast) but briefly, is to excavate a trench to 850cm - 1.2 metres at the low point.
The trench needs to have sloping sides.
Put in your slotted PVC ag pipe then cover with two layers of GEO fabric.
On top of that add riverstones.
What ever you do, DON'T cut the geo fabric.
You can plant up with plants that can cope with dryness and temporary inundation such as Eleiga, Restios, Alocasias and Dwarf Papyrus.
Did you know though that rain gardens are efficient in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff.?

If you have any questions about raingardens either for me or Peter, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Allium schoenoprasum-Chives
Chives are botanically Allium schoenoprasum in the Lilliaceae family, that includes, Garlic, Leeks and Shallots.
The Botanical name means rush leeks, and chives are sometimes called them, but I bet you’ve only heard them called chives.
Chinese are the first to have used chives from around 3000 years B.C.
Romanian Gypsies have used chives in fortune telling.
Folklore would have you believe that you should hang bunches of dried chives around your house to ward off disease and evil.
Also the Romans thought that chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat.
The Romans also wrongly believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and acted as a diuretic. Totally untrue.

The Chive plant is a hardy perennial. Chives have round, grass-like leaves with a hollow stem, and pretty mauve pompom flowers in summer and autumn.

The bulbs grow very close together in dense tufts or clusters, and are elongated looking, with white, rather firm sheaths.

There are two chive look-alikes that are also grown:

Garlic chives, sometimes known as Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum), and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). The leaves of both species are flat rather than tubular, but they’re grown in the same way as chives and can be substituted for them in any recipe that calls for chives.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) apart from having larger, flatter leaves have a milder garlic flavour. Garlic chive flowers are white but, look like common chives,

When to Sow
All chives can be grown from seeds just as easily and are great for growing in pots.

It's a good idea to remove the flowers before they go to seed because the leaves will have a better flavour if the flowers are picked before they’re fully developed. but and I’ll tell you about using the flowers a little later on,

In tropical areas sow chives between April and July, in temperate zones, you have September through to May, in arid zones, July through to March, cold districts have September through to April and sub-tropical areas win the jackpot by being able to grow Chives all year round.

In cold climates, chives will die right back in winter but, but because the plants are perennial they will live for a number of years.

New leaves will shoot up in spring.

Graham, cool climate gardener has written in to say that his chives are hardly affected by frost and after drying to straw in winter, come back fresh and green.

Germinating Chive seeds have been problematic to some, and when I worked at Yates, they weren’t on the most troublesome list.

But if you do have trouble germinating chive seeds, here's what you can do.

After you lightly sown the seeds onto a punnet, wrap the seedling punnet with a clear plastic bag, ( a recycled one would be good), blow it up like a balloon and tie off with a rubber band. That’s my cheap method of a mini-green house.

Usually works for most seeds that I’m having trouble with. Chive seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is in the low 20’s.

What Chives Need to Grow.
  • Chives will grow in any well drained ordinary garden soil or in a pot filled with a good quality premium potting mix. 
  • The plants need at least half a day's sun light. Feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser, every couple of weeks to keep them growing strongly. 
  • Once or twice a year spread some slow release or organic fertiliser around the base of the plants. 
  • You might think that Chives, are drought tolerant and are have a bit hardy in the garden but that’s not the case. 
  • Water your chives regularly because they have a shallow root system and some generous mulching won’t go astray either. 
  • The recent hot spell in my district saw the chives I had growing in full sun getting somewhat brown and crispy. 
  • Make sure you protect the young leaves from snails and slugs and watch. for pests such as aphids. 
  • Although I’ve never known my chives plants to be bothered by anything at all. 
  • Keep in mind, never spray your edible herbs with chemicals. 
  • If you do get aphid attack or something similar just wipe the leaves with soapy water. 
How Best to Harvest Your Chives.

The best and really only way to pick chives is to just cut leaves from outside of the clump with a pair of sharp scissors.

Like most plants the flavour of chives will always taste better if they are picked just before you are going to use them.
Snip the leaves into smaller sections then sprinkle onto soups, eggdishes or salads.
Even though you can easily grow chives from seed, they’re usually propagated by dividing the clumps in spring or autumn for most districts.

In places like Adelaide for example, you can divide the clumps in late winter.

In all areas, replant them straight away into the garden or pots.
When you divide the clumps, leave about six little bulbs together in a tiny clump, which will spread to a fine clump by the end of the year.
Set the clumps about 20 – 30 cm apart..

Dividing your chives this way is the best option for a quick return.

The unopened flower buds of both types of chives can be used in stir fries, or break up the flower heads and use them in salads or as a garnish for potato, pasta or rice salad.

The Chive contains a pungent volatile oil, rich in sulphur, which is in all of the Onion tribe giving them that distinctive smell and taste.

Why is it good for you?
Chives are an excellent salt substitute and a perfect aid for those on a low fat, salt restricted diet. Chives contains vitamins A, B6, C and K. Several minerals are also found including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Chives are also a good source of folic acid and dietary fibre.

Backyard Biodyanamics

Biodynamic Composting
Have you ever asked the question, “why don’t my plants grow?” or why is my neighbour/friend/relative’s garden so much more healthy than mine?
Usually the answer lies in the health of the soil.
How do we know if soil is healthy?

It’s back to that question of why won’t my plants grow.
Healthy soil will have healthy growing plants and we need compost to make healthy soil.
Most gardeners will either have a compost heap or at least know the basics of making a compost heap.
Building a compost heap the Biodynamic way is something else.

Let’s find out how it's different to making regular compost.
PLAY: Biodynamic Composting 29th November 2017

I'm talking with  Dianne Watkin, Principal of Biodynamics Sydney and an avid gardener.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about Biodynamic preparations either for me or Dianne, why not write in to


There are a couple of types of Peony.

There are many species and cultivated varieties of peonies but they are broadly divided into two groups in the garden:
  • tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa Hybrids), which are shrubby plants not trees that do not die down below ground in winter
  • herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), smaller growing plants that do die down to below ground in winter and reshoot in spring.
Mercedes is talking about the herbaceous peonies in this segment.
All peonies need cool climates and are best grown only in the colder parts of Australia including mountain districts, parts of Victoria and Tasmania.

  • Peony roses are strong growing perennials that flower late spring to early summer. They make beautiful cut flowers and last well in a vase. Prefers a well drained position in full sunlight. Plants will die down over Winter and re-grow each year forming a leafy clump. Spread lime towards the end of flowering to improve root development and improve flowers for the following year.

The best time to buy Peonies is when they're supplied as bare rooted plants.
Meaning of Peony.
One legend has it that the peony is named after Paeon, a physician to the gods, who received the flower on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. And another tells the story of that same physician who was "saved" from the fate of dying as other mortals by being turned into the flower we know today as the peony.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recording live during Real World Gardener radio broadcast. (recording not complete.)

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