Saturday, 8 December 2018

Ice Plant, Beans, Aggies and Parlour Palms

What’s on the show today?

Fixing bean problems in Plant Doctor, Growing something unusual and salty in Vegetable Heroes;  grow this palm instead of the weedy Cocos palm in Plant of the Week and all about Agapanthus in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.?


Problems with Beans
Beans are such an easy crop to grow, but if you live in a district where the weather plays havoc with your veggie garden, you could be in for a bit of trouble with your beans.
Perhaps it’s not just disease but a horde of insects have descended.
Powdery mildew on beans

Let’s find out what you can do about this.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from OCP’s

Whitefly, thrips and aphids control with eco oil or soap based spray to.

Possibly bean fly damage on leaf
Beanfly, is much harder to control, is cultural. If you don't pick off affected leaves, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will tunnel into the stems of the bean plants.
You may as well pull them out at this stage as there is no control.

Caterpillars can be picked off or use Dipel.
Powdery mildew can be controlled with potassium bicarbonate spray such as eco Carb.
Other diseases, such as rusts and leaf spots is better prevented with cultural methods because chemical control is difficult and mostly ineffective.
Good sunlight is best for beans so not near overhanging trees.
No pods but plenty of flowers?
The main reason for no pod set is very hot weather.
Steve says, just be patient and wait for the weather to cool.
Of course, encourage pollinators into your garden with plenty of flowers near your veggie bed.
If you have any questions, either for me or for Steve, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


A succulent in vegetable heroes?
Yes it’s true.
Salty Ice Plant or Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Native to Europe and Africa but has naturalised in the Southern parts of Australia, extending as far north as Exmouth on the Western Australian coast.
According to CSIRO  Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is found on wide range of soil types, from well-drained sandy soils (including sand dunes), to loams and clays.
Salty Ice Plant  isn’t fussed about soil pH and can even tolerate nutritionally poor or saline soils.
“In the natural state,  Salty Ice plant or M. crystallinum appears to be tied to climatic factors, and is most common in years of relatively high winter-spring rainfall.
Why should you grow this Salty Ice Plant?
  • As far as the home gardener goes this plant is rare and exclusive.
  • But there’s more.
  • It’s highly ornamental, has a creeping or prostrate growth habit  and is great in a pot.
  • It’s very attractive and can withstand environmentally tough conditions, plus the glistening succulent leaves look like they are covered in frozen icy bumps.

M. crystallinum flowers from spring to early summer 

Flowers open in the morning and close at night, and are insect pollinated.
The Ice Plant has a tendency to go a pinkish or rosy-red colour in hot dry conditions and this, in itself, makes it an attractive plant.
The fresh sap of the Ice Plant was found to be a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams.
It’s not just another succulent that’s growing in your garden but you can use it in cooking.
It’s a fact:Salty Ice Plant is the ultimate salty garnish chefs use for fish dishes and to balance sweet flavours.
It’s A Very Different Plant
  • Botanically speaking it’s also quite novel because it seems to be able to switch between two modes of growing.
  • I need to mention here that your normal every day tree shrub or groundcover is what’s termed a C3 plant.
  • That means it needs sunlight to carry out photosynthesis which it converts to sugars, taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen.
  • Salty Ice plant grows like this when conditions are good meaning there’s plenty of rainfall.
  • Another method that plants can grow by is called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM for short.
  • CAM plants shut their breathing pores or stomata during the day but open them at night to take in CO2 which is stored.
  • This CO2 is released inside the plant during the day and even though the breath pores are closed, it can carry out photosynthesis.
  • Also, as the breathing pores are closed, that means that water loss is minimal during the heat of the day.
  • How clever is that?

Plants that can do this are very drought tolerant and plants that can switch from one mode of photosynthesis to another are pretty exceptional.
For Salty Ice plant, it switches to CAM metabolism when it experiences salinity and drought.
So how come it’s called salty ice plant?

What makes it glisten in the sun?
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum accumulates salt throughout its life, in a gradient from the roots to the shoots, with the highest concentration stored in epidermal bladder cells.
Epidermal cells are just below the leaf’s surface and it’s these bladder cells with the stored salt that give the leaves that glistening ice crystals look.
Bladder cells glisten in the sun on salty ice plant.
There’s a few uses for salty ice plant.
Firstly the leaves of M. crystallinum are edible and the seeds can also be eaten.
Secondly, and perhaps more unusual, the crushed leaves can be used as a soap substitute and has some medicinal uses (Plants For A Future - Species Database, 1997-2003).
Not surprisingly, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is also used as a model in plant physiologic research (Bohnert and Cushman, 2000),
When to sow:
In all districts the best time to sow the seeds is in Spring.
Sow the seeds in punnets first only just covering the seed and put them in a plastic container, or in a mini-greenhouse.
When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts.
Seedlings are prone to damp off so should not be over watered and should be kept in a very sunny well-ventilated position
You can easily grow Salty Ice plant in any ordinary well-drained garden soil. Salty Ice plant won’t grow in shade can grows in soils that aren’t that fertile such as sandy soils.
It’s not very hardy in cool temperate climates and will be killed even by a light frost.
Plants have few problems with pests or diseases though as I mentioned the young plants are prone to root rot and damping off unless given plenty of ventilation and dry growing conditions.
TIP: Leaves and stems - raw or cooked. They can be used as a spinach substitute. The leaves have an acid flavour, they are thick and very succulent with a slightly salty tang. They can also be pickled like cucumbers or used as a garnish.

Common ice-plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is a significant environmental weed in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and an environmental weed in Tasmania and New South Wales.
So if you intend to grow it in your vegie or herb garden, make sure it doesn’t set seeds.
Why are they good for you?
The fresh sap of the Ice Plant is apparently a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams.
Juice extracted from the leaves are astringent and mildly antiseptic.
You can mix the juice with water and use it as a gargle to relieve laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections.


Parlour Palm: Chamaedorea elegans
Do you love or hate palm trees?
The gardening community is divided into two groups, those that love the palm trees and those that hate them.
Probably because people persist in growing the environment weed, the cocos palm, which although grows really fast, is particularly ugly.
I'm talking with the plant panel:Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of
Let’s find out.

You can keep the parlour palm indoors for many years, but planted out in the garden under other leafy palms or larger leaved shrubs, it grows as a bushy alternative to the single trunks of most other palms.
If it gets too tall for the room, give it a trim because being multi-branching, there's no risk of killing of the leader.
Plus, you don’t have dropping palm fronds like you do with cocos palms and a few others.

If you have any questions about parlour palms, why not write in to


Agapanthus spp:
Agapanthus praecox
You can see straightaway why Agapanthus has the nickname ‘flower of love’.
The Greek word ‘agape’ means love, and ‘anthos’ means flower.

How to pick your Agapanthus flowers for the vase.
 Agapanthus flowers are normally picked when the bud bract has fallen off and no more than three florets are open.
Stalks are cut near their base with a sharp knife.
Remember what Mercedes says: If it's from a bulb, rhizome or cor, then it's Mr Agapanthus.
Mr Agapanthus wears sneakers, so we cut the stems straight across the bottom of the stalk.
If you don't want the pollen to drop onto your tablecloth, cut off the stames before they "fluff."
If you're buying Mr Agapanthus, make sure that flowers are of proper maturity. 
If the neck of flowers is bent upward, they have been transported at warm temperatures and have responded to gravity.

In the Garden:How to care for aggies
Cut off the old flower spikes after the flowers fade and before they begin to dry and set seeds. Snip through the stem with shears near its base, where it emerges from the plant.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2RRR 88.5fm, Sydney.

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