Saturday, 17 August 2019

Seat Yourself Under A Tamarind or Rainforest Tree

There’s more than one tamarind that you can use in cooking in the spice it up segment with herb and spice expert, Ian Hemphill ; grow these earthy wonders in Vegetable Heroes. A keystone species that originates in the rainforests of the tropics in plant of the week and get your garden seating sorted in design elements.


Tamarindus indica: Tamarind
You've probably heard of tamarind, but can you describe what it is, exactly?
A bean... maybe? A spice... or something?
Spices and herbs aren’t always used in the way you would think.
For example, this next spice you soak then throw away the spice and use the water.
Sounds strange but what’s even more strange, is that even though it has a sour note, you can make lollies out of it.
Tamarind pod
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

The tamarind tree, Tamarindus indica is perhaps not for suburban backyards because of it’s massive height. 18 - 20 m.
Ian recalls driving through a part of India where the Tamarind trees lined the road for over 30km!
Tamarind pods look like pods from the Australian Black Bean tree. (Castanospermum australe.)
Inside the pods is a sticky mass of pulp with seeds and fibre.
Be careful though when purchasing Tamarind for use in cooking because there are 3 types.
  • Asian cooking: use tamarind paste which is flesh mixed with salt and water. DON'T USE for Indian cooking.
  • Indian cooking-use the dried out tamarind pulp, soak that in water and macerate. Drain off the acidulated water and use in your Indian dishes, but throw away the pulp.
  • You can also buy Tamarind concentrate which is the tamarind mixed with water, then boild down to a substance as thick as black molasses. Just use 1/2 teaspoon in your Indian dishes.
Fun Fact:Ever heard of chef Yotam Ottolenghi -- pretty much the "it" chef for all things vegetarian.
Ottolenghi uses tamarind paste in everything; it's one of his "secret" ingredients.

If that's not reason enough to get to know tamarind, we don't know what is.
Just get the dried pulp to use in cooking but be wary of using tamarind paste for Indian dishes.
If you have any questions for me or for Ian, email us at
Or you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW 1675


BOTANICAL NAME: Turnips or Brassica rapa
It’s funny that some vegetables have received a bad rap through no real reason other than not looking all that appealing.
One thinks of Turnips as some bland vegetable that’s used to flavour soups and stews.
But you wouldn’t eat it as a stand alone veggie or would you?
Swedes, Parsnips maybe, but not the regular or even mini turnip.
  • Did you know that the Romans used to throw turnips at unpopular people? Maybe that’s why turnips got such a bad reputation?
  • But back the UK in the early 1700’s a bloke called Charles Townsend made turnips popular in England. He did this by discovering that animals could be fed and fattened by eating turnips because they grew in cold and damp climates.That meant that farmers were able to keep their livestock instead of having to kill them all for winter because there was nothing to feed them on.
Why are Turnips Good to Grow Again?
You’ll be glad to know that the large woody turnips of old have mainly been replaced with smaller mainly white varieties that are delicious grated raw into a salad or as a side dish, leaving the swedes to take over in the stew department!
Turnips can be harvested when mature or when they’re still quite small, cooked or eaten raw and the young tops can be used like spring greens.
Not only that, they’re quick to mature and easy to grow.
What does the Turnip look like?
Just in case you’re mixing up turnips and Swedes and Parsnips, the turnip is round, sits in the ground with just the top exposed to the light as it grows, and is actually the swelling at the base of the stem of the plant.
Regular turnips
The Turnips that I’m going to talk about have mainly a white flesh and skin with a rosette of green feathery leaves that can also be eaten.
How do they grow?
Turnips can grow in full sun and partial shade, but like a well-drained soil.
Whatever you do when you plant turnips, don’t let them dry out.
When to plant your turnips?
Well I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mixed bag around Australia, so here goes.
From September until May in temperate districts and also cool temperate districts.
From August until May in sub-tropical areas.
For arid areas, you’ll have to wait until February then you have until August and Tropical areas, have even less of a chance, only between April and June.
Before you sow your turnip seeds, give the veggie bed some chook poo-about a handful per square metre.
Turnip seedling in my garden. photo M Cannon
Sow the turnip seeds no more than 6mm deep.
It’ll be a bit tricky to get the right distance apart so keep thinning them out until they’re about 15cm apart.
If you thin them before 8 weeks, both the root and leaves are good to eat at this stage.
The leafy tops of these early pickings are great in salads.
Even though you’re getting an early start on your turnips, if you have some unseasonal warm weather, look after them by not letting them dry out, otherwise they’ll be small and woody.
Mulching with sugar cane, pea straw or something like that will help with keeping the soil moist.
Turnips take about 2-3 months to grow, so add a handful of chicken manure every 4 weeks.
You can pull them out when they’re the size of a golf ball when they’re at their sweetest, or wait until they’re the size of a tennis ball.
There are quite a few new varieties out there so why not try
Turnip White Mini-Tender round white roots, stores well. Crisp, beautiful well shaped rounds, ideal for the turnip lover. Harvest in only 7 weeks.

Turnip ‘Snowball’ is a very popular first-class, globe variety with solid white flesh and a juicy, sweet, mild flavour. Snowball’s an heirloom turnip that was introduced before 1885.
Snowball is best harvested when no larger than a tennis ball and can also be enjoyed when much smaller. Snowball takes between 5-8 weeks to be ready.
Turnip 'Golden Globe'  Also known locally as 'Butter Turnips' locally. Were introduced before 1888, this a heritage turnip with a beautiful golden skin, amber yellow flesh and delicate flavour. Stores well.
Why are the good for you?
Turnip roots are high in dietary fibre, vitamin C and B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and copper.
The greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of calcium, iron, and riboflavin


Weeping Fig: Ficus benjamina.
Some plants are vital to many layers in tropical rainforests and some Old World trees(stranglers, such as the weeping fig (F. benjamina)), develop aerial roots from their branches and send them straight down through the air.

Let’s find out
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley

The actual definition of a keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions.
Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.
  • But back in suburbia, there’s not that much to worry about . except don’t plant that fig in your garden.
  • Because when the aerial root from the branches reach the ground, these roots grow into the soil, thicken, and become additional "trunks." 
    Weeping fig planted in the ground.
In this way stranglers grow outward to become large patches of fig forest that consist of a single plant with many interconnected trunks. In this way stranglers grow outward to become large patches of fig forest that consist of a single plant with many interconnected trunks.


Garden Seating Sorted
What’s the last word in garden seating for you?
Perhaps you can’t be bothered with garden benches, tables and chairs and an old milk crate or just perching on a step will do.

Or you’ve got the good ole’ cast iron table and 2 chair setting which is terribly cold on the bottom, not to mention hard.
Things have moved on considerably in the last thirty of forty years though.
Let’s find out what’s Peter’s last word in garden seating.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, principle of Paradisus Garden Design

Seating and lighting go together so rather than the awful floodlight stuck on the side of the garage, why not think about 12V lighting to compliment night time seating with your friends and family?

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Anemones, Spring Onions and Let's Go Garden Clubbing

Why join a garden club in the tool time segment? ; One of the easiest onions to grow in Vegetable Heroes. The final in the series, dig, it, plant it, grow it, in design elements;wind flowers for Spring in Talking Flowers


Plant Cuttings
Why Join A Garden Club?
Joining a garden club may sound a bit off topic for the tool time segment.
However, General Manager of cut above tools, Tony Mattson has given his fair share of gardening talks and has some insights to share about what the benefits are of joining.
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

Great reasons to join a garden club include
  • Share your gardening knowledge or gain knowledge from plant experts that may be in the club.
  • Pruning tips for your area.
  • Swap seedlings
  • Cutting table and plants for sale, usually for a few dollars each.
  • Homemade refreshments at the end of the night.
  • Excursions to gardens or gardening events such as Floriade or MIFGS (Melbourne Internation Flower Show.)
    Sei-Sei Tei Show Garden MIFGS
If you look up garden clubs of Australia website,
you will find your nearest garden club.
For example I looked up what garden club was near TANK fm in Kempsey. Turns out there’s a garden club very close, South West Rocks and District Garden Club Inc, that meets every 2nd Monday 10am.
Very few of the garden clubs have a website but there’s always a phone number, so go on, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, email us at
Or you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW


Spring Onions
Well Firstly are they Spring Onions or are they shallots?
Spring onions are Allium fistulosum. are really like thick chives.
  • Australians are often confused about what a shallot actually is, because we call them spring onions as well.
  • Elsewhere in the world the word ‘shallot’ is only used to describe a small bulb, growing much the same way as a garlic bulb, with mild, delicate flavour.
''True shallots (Allium cepa, aggregatum) are grown for their bulbs only. Unfortunately, spring onions are marketed as Shallots in NSW.
  • To onion lovers and growers here's where there’s a difference.
    Spring Onions in Australia
According to the Onions Australia official website, spring onions are Allium fistulosum and are 40 centimetres of green leaf and a slightly enlarged bulb. 
  • ''True shallots (Allium cepa, aggregatum) are grown for their bulbs only. 
  • Shallots marketed in NSW are similar to true spring onions and are harvested with about 40 centimetres of green leaves and a slightly enlarged bulb. 
    • They are marketed in bunches of about 20 plants with three bunches (per) kilogram. Shallots grown and marketed this way are also known as eschallots (Allium ascalonicum).'

  • So now we know that Spring or Green onions have long, - up to 40cms long, hollow green, delicate stalks and small, very slender, white bulbs.
  • The bulb of a spring/green onion is really only slightly defined.
  • Spring or Green onions come out of the ground early in their lives... in fact you can sow them from very early spring until at least the end of march.
  • Usually you can pick them about 7 weeks later.
What’s good about spring onions is that they’re mild tasting because they haven’t been in the ground long enough to gain much pungency.
Spring onions can be used sliced or chopped raw in green salads or creamy salads like potato salad, pasta salads, or on top baked.
  • Where do spring onions grow?
They’re a versatile plant with tube-like hollow leaves; that grows from cold regions right through to hot, tropical areas.
Spring onions prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil and are extremely hardy and pest resistant.
All onions need an open sunny site, fertile soil that is free draining.
Raised garden beds are the best if you have clay soil.
You can sow Spring Onions anytime really in Australia, because unlike other onions, day length doesn’t affect their growth.
Plus, spring onions aren’t affected by frost.

  • Raising them in seed punnets or tray seems to work best, then transplant them when they’re several cms high or as half as thick as a pencil.
  • It’s normal to sow the seeds of spring onions closely, and because these onion seeds are planted densely they bunch together so that the bulbs have little chance of fully maturing and rounding completely out
  • When planting into the garden, dig lots of compost through the topsoil first and then use a dibbler to make holes 10cm apart.
  • Place a seedling in each hole and gently push the soil around the rootball. Water the seedlings very lightly but if they fall over, don’t worry as they will soon stand back up.
  • Keep your onions weed free.
  • Water them when dry weather is expected, otherwise ease back a bit.
  • In about 2 months, your spring onions should be ready to eat.
When To Harvest?
You can tell they’re ready because the leaves are standing tall, green and succulent
If you want to harvest an entire bulb, use a fork to dig around the plant to keep from damaging it accidentally.
You can also just use scissors to cut the leaves and use them as a garnish in salads or casseroles for flavour.
Spring Onions belong to the class known as bunching onions and have a mild, sweet flavour; the green shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten.
Spring Onions must be harvested when the stalks are still green and you eat the whole plant, except the hairy roots
  • TIP:There is never any hint of a bulb in a Spring Onion so you can't leave the plants in the ground for the tops to dry off — they will, but you won't be able to save any bulbs.
  • If you forget to pick your spring onions, and they’ve started to flower. Let them keep flower and save the seeds.The flowers are attractive to bees and other useful insects.
  • The seeds can also be sprouted.
    Onion flowers are attractive to bees
You want to grow your own spring onions for freshness alone, because the ones you buy from the supermarket are only fresh for a handful of days.

  • For a dash of colour why not try Brilliant crimson spring onion red bulbs that are rich in antioxidants.
Ths one will grow into bulbs that can be used like shallots if left in the ground.
TIP:After you your spring onions from the ground, when preparing them in your kitchen, save the rooted bottoms and replant them.
Simply cut off the bottom inch (3 cm) of your green onions and plant them in damp soil, or keep them in a jar of water in a sunny spot.
You’ll a new lot of spring onions in a couple of weeks.
Why are the good for you?
Spring Onion is:
Low in Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Cholesterol
High in Dietary Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. Whew!
If you have never tried growing onions before, why not give them a go this year? 
They are a very versatile, easy to grow vegetable that can be grown from seed most of the year.
Happy Spring Onion growing everyone!


Grow Your Plants part 2: series final
Last week it was when and how much to water your plants to keep them alive, and today it’s about plant health problems.
We start off with finding out why the plant isn’t thriving and in fact is dropping leaves.
Sound familiar?
Gardens like this one need care and maintenance.
Let’s find out what needs doing. I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs.

Not so much digging now, other than weeding but looking after your plant because, after all, it’s not plastic.
So why are the leaves dropping off?
  • Check your watering. You might think the water is getting through to the roots but is it really? Add wetting agent if you find the the soil is not being wetted sufficiently.
  • Nutrient deficiency-are the yellow leaves the new growth or the old growth?
    • new leaves yellowing signals possible iron deficiency. Correct with chelated iron.
    • Old leaves yellowing signals possible nitrogen deficiency. Correct with an all purpose liquid or soluble fertiliser.
    • Calcium deficiency results in distorted or irregularly shaped new leaves (top of plant). The leaf margins and tips become necrotic. Correct with an application of Dolomite.
  • Wind can cause physical damage, with leaves have brown/grey tips.
    Wind and sun scorch have similar symptoms.
Watering, fertilising and looking out for pest and disease issues are all part of gardening.
For all the latest news - Follow Glenice on Facebook or Instagram
Facebook : www.facebook/glenicebuckdesigns
Instagram: Glenice_Buck_Designs
Or check out my website:
Or Subscribe to my monthly Garden Greetings Newsletter:


Anemone coronaria: Wind Flower, Anemone.        
This flower is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and is native to the Mediterranean region.
  • The name Anemone comes from Greek and roughly means wind flower, which signifies that the wind that blows the petal open will also, eventually, blow the dead petals away.
  • Coronaria means used for garlands.
Tubers, corns or bulbs?
  • Bulbs have a tunic, corms have a basal plate, tubers have multiple growing points or eyes.
  • Anemone tubers are usually planted in early autumn, March until May.
  • Before planting, the tubers are recommended to be dipped in lukewarm water for 2-4 hours or overnight.
  • Planting Depth: Plant Anemones with the pointy end facing down at a depth of 3 to 5cm. Soak well each week until shoots appear.
 This windflower is an upright perennial that grows from rhizomatous tubers. 
Leaves are medium green, with basal leaves being biternate and involucral (a whorl or rosette of bracts surrounding an inflorescence (especially a capitulum) or at the base of an umbel..) Leaves are deeply divided.
Flowering time: late winter, spring.
I'm talking with floral therapist, Mercedes Sarmini.
Video recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR, 88.5fm Sydney.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Ashes, Kale and Growing Woolly Bushes

How to amend your soil or potting mix with something you burn in the Good Earth segment; Possibly a super food to grow in Vegetable Heroes. Continuing the series, dig, it, plant it, grow it, in design elements native shrub that’s silvery and tough in Plant of the Week


Woodash and Charcoal for the garden

Winter time is when woodfires are burning in homes for warmth in all but tropical areas around the country.
Or perhaps you’ve been barbecuing or smoking some produce for the dinner table, and have some woodash?

  • So what do you do with the leftover woodash and bits of charcoal?
  • Would you be thinking that the woodash and charcoal from the fire can or cannot be used in the garden?
  • Let’s find out .

It turns out the woodash and charcoal are great amendments for your soil in the garden.
Charcoal are the black bits left over when the fire has died down. Essentially, it's the wood that hasn't been fully combusted.
Woodash is alkaline, so it’s great for those plants, such as from the onion family but not for Azaleas, Camellias, Rhododendrons and other acid loving plants.
Charcoal, on the other hand, is great for increasing the water holding capacity of your soil, and potting mix, plus it’s a home for microbes and fungi.
  • You can put your crushed charcoal in the worm farm, but not too much, otherwise the worms will be dessicated. 
Margaret suggests making a liquid slurry of the woodash before adding only a small amount.

If you have any questions for me or for Margaret, email us at

Or you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW


Kale:Brassica oleracea variety acephala,
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 
  • 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.
    Curly Kale

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.
  • I’ve seen it used as a bedding plant.Yes you can eat those too!

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.
  • For the best tasting Kale though, you should aim to plant kale so that it matures and is ready to pick while the weather is still cold.
  • This means that in northern Australian locations, you could plant in early July whereas in southern regions, you could plant as late as September.
  • 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 7.0 and 7.5, so a sweet or alkaline soil.
If the soil is too acidic, add lime.
If the soil isn’t already rich, dig in compost or well-rotted manure.
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  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 from toppling over.
  • 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 they’re 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.
  • Kale is a cool weather crop and takes a full two months to reach harvest.

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.
  • Vates Blue Kale
  • Tip: If you have chooks they prefer kale leaves to anything else!

Try these varieties-
Lacinato an Heirloom dating back prior to 1800 in Italy. 
Also known as 'Black Cabbage', 'Tuscany' or 'Cavalero de Nero'., this old, rustic Italian variety is ready in 55 days( around 8 weeks)
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.
Red Russian 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.
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.
But you don’t have to munch on the plant to gain benefit from it:


Grow It part 1
A new series called ‘dig, plant, grow’ & today and it’s all about grow it pt. 1.
The biggest issue for new gardeners, is “how much, and how often do I water?”
Almost like asking how long is a piece of string?
This and other vexing questions are answered.
Let’s find out what needs doing. 
I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs.
PLAY:Grow It Part 1_24th July 2019

Not so much digging now, other than weeding but looking after your plant because, after all, it’s not plastic.
photo Glenice Buck
Watering, fertilising and looking out for pest and disease issues are all part of gardening.
For all the latest news - Follow Glenice on Facebook or Instagram
Facebook : www.facebook/glenicebuckdesigns
Instagram: Glenice_Buck_Designs
Or Subscribe to my monthly Garden Greetings Newsletter:


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, particularly if they’re grey and fluffy and have been used mostly as a Christmas tree? 

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
Let’s find out …

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.
  • If you want to grow this well, choose a rocky sandy spot in your garden because that’s the kind of environment it comes from.
  • Otherwise grow it in a pot 

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Sweet Violets. Thyme and Food of Kings

How thyme is used as a naturopathic herb in Plant of the Week. Get those asparagus crowns in in Vegetable Heroes. Part 2 of a A new series in design elements, dig plant and grow for all types of gardeners. Plus, the talking flowers segment goes violets.


Thyme: Thymus vulgaris
Thyme is a herb with a multitude of uses and not just for cooking.
Thyme uses are also as an anti-microbial and is good in a tea for sore throats, and sore stomach problems.
Thymus vulgaris
Thyme is a part of bouquet garni, but you can use thyme on its own in cooking. Thyme is surprisingly, it’s good with chocolate, and try cinnamon and thyme is part of crumb on chicken!
Let’s find out how more.
I'm talking with Simone Jeffries, naturopath and herbalist.

The first thing to consider when growing thyme is that it's a mediterranean herb, so likes the same conditions here. Dry, hot summers and cool winters.
If you don't have a similar growing environment you can of course, grow it in a pot.
To get the most out of your thyme plant, give it a good haircut in autumn.
Lift and divide the plant so that you'll always have plenty of thyme in the garden.
The best culinary thyme is common thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
Creeping thyme or woolly thyme is not recommened other than as a rockery plant, lawn edges or lawn alternatives.
If you have any questions either for me or for Simone, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Asparagus or Asparagus officinalis 
Asparagus is from the Liliaceae or lily family and is a perennial plant that is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas.
 “Asparagus” comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot.
  • Did you know that Asparagus has been around for at least 2,000 years?

Fast forward to the 16th Century, where asparagus was eaten a lot in France and England. 
During that time Asparagus was known as the “Food of Kings” because King Louis XIV of France loved to eat them.
In Fact King Louis loved them so much that he ordered special greenhouses built so he could enjoy asparagus all year-round?

  • Asparagus was so highly regarded in England that the thought of setting up a colony in Australia without asparagus was unthinkable, so seed was included in the list of vegetables carried by Sirius, one of the ships of the First Fleet.If you look in old seed catalogues that date back as far as the 19th century you’ll find that Asparagus was popular with Australians even back then.
What is Asparagus exactly?
The plant has a crown that is actually an underground stem from which asparagus spears shoots
The roots are called rhizomes (pronounced rye-zomes).
On top of these rhizomes grow spears, which are tender and succulent to eat, are slightly glossy, about 18-25cm long and 1.5-2cm wide, with many small, bumpy, triangular scales (called bracts) concentrated in the top quarter of the stem.
Some gardener might be thinking where can I buy Asparagus to grow?

  • In fact, do I buy seed, or tubers or what? I’m here to tell you all that.
Planting asparagus crowns
You can in fact buy Asparagus seed, including Purple Asparagus seed from online companies such as Green Harvest or diggers.
But now’s the time to buy something called Asparagus Crowns, and you can buy these from just about anywhere even some supermarkets.
I saw some this week in a supermarket, they were the Mary Washington variety.
You can buy the Crowns online or from mail order catalogues as well
In sub-tropical districts, plant Asparagus crowns from May until July.
In temperate, arid and cool temperate zones, you have June and July to plant Asparagus crowns.
  • So what do you do with Asparagus really?
Asparagus is a perennial so if you haven’t a perennial veggie patch find somewhere else in the garden, maybe near those rhubarb crowns, because the crowns last for many years, and need to be left in the one spot.
Normally, your veggie patch gets a makeover every 6 months or so, -not that good for the crowns of these plants.
  • So find a sunny spot in the garden where you don’t mind some veggies growing there year after year.Preferably with soil that’s been given some Dolomite and heaps and heaps of compost and complete plant food.
  • To plant, dig out a shallow trench 30cm wide and 20cm deep. Incorporate well-rotted manure to the base of the trench and cover the base with a 5cm layer of excavated soil.
  • Be sure to buy fresh crowns, as they often dry out while on display.
  • Place the crowns onto a small mound in the centre of the furrow, so that the roots point down at about 45°, spread the roots out carefully. Backfill with compost to a depth of 7.5 cm.
  • Space the plants 45cm apart, with 1.2 m between rows.
  • Fill in the trench gradually as growth progresses.  Doesn’t sound too hard does it?
In spring Asparagus will grow long and slender with soft fernlike foliage.  
Don’t cut any spears in the first Spring, because this is when the crowns are developing.
Ferny foliage of spring growth of asparagus

Spring is also the time you need to add 100g per sq m of fertiliser like fish meal or blood and bone.
Then top with a thick hay mulch.
Asparagus produces both male and female plants.
Modern cultivars are all male, as male plants produce more and better spears. If you have any Female plants, which have berries, pull these out   because the red berries are poisonous and don’t produce as many edible spears.
During Autumn and Winter the tops will go yellow and brown off, cut off the old tops about 7.5 cm from the soil surface.
Frost damage causes distorted or dead spears, often some time afterwards if the tips are just below soil level.
Shadecloth covers or fleece can hold off light frosts.

Don’t cut any spears for the first two years after planting. In the third year, gather spears for the first month of the growing season, but in following years, if the plants are strong, cut for eight weeks.
Slice off spears with a sharp knife just below the soil before they get more than 18cm tall.
In warm weather, this may mean cutting every few days.
Don’t cut any more after late December so that plants have enough time to build up their growth reserves for winter. 
Asparagus bud

In the following years, mulch the beds thickly with compost and manure in late winter. 
Remember patience in the early stages will help to get a life span of 15 years or even longer for your asparagus.
  • Spears are harvested in two ways which gives them a different colour.
  • White asparagus is grown below the ground and not exposed to light.
  • When harvested it’s cut below the surface before being lifted out of the soil.
  • If spears are allowed grow in sunlight they turn a green colour. 
  • For green, only hill about 10cm (4”) and allow the spear to grow 15cm (6”) above the soil, making sure to cut the spear just below ground level. Asparagus is most delicious when the time between cutting and serving is kept to a minimum.
  • When you’re cutting the spears, do it carefully to avoid injuring the crown. 
Farmers harvest by a rule-of-thumb, if the spears are thicker than a pencil cut them before the spears branch, usually at approx. 20 cm high, if they are skinnier, leave them to develop and feed the crown.
Why Is It Good For You?
Asparagus has a great flavour and is very affordable.
Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, while providing fibre. That makes it a must for any diet, including a weight loss diet.
Asparagus contains B group vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and biotin-is a great source of folate, with a serve giving us over 20% of our daily needs.


Plant It
The series called ‘dig, plant, grow’ continues and it’s all about what you need to do to the soil before planting anything.
Of course you assessed the soil you have in the garden after listening to last week’s segment didn’t you?
So what next, are you happy to choose just plants that you love or do you need to be a bit more discerning?
Let’s find out ? I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs.
PLAY:Plant It_17th July 2019
Digging some more in the garden is also involved when it comes to planting, but don’t just plonk the plant into a hole you’ve dug, fill it, and water in, then hope for the best.
Preparation is the key to success.
Preparation before planting
It may take a bit longer but you’ll have years of rewarded effort you did on the day.
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Sweet Violet: Viola odorata and Viola banksia (syn Viola hederacea)
Family: Violaceae
Also known as wood violet sweet violet, English violet, common violet, florist's violet, or garden violet.
Leaves are edible, good for salads.
  • ·         In temperate climates, sweet violets (Viola odorata, ht 8cm) begin flowering in winter and continue into early spring.
  • ·         They are rhizomatous perennials which originated in Western and Southern Europe. 
They spread  via seed and runners to form a green groundcover of heart-shaped leaves, often coming up in unexpected places in the garden. 
Violets flower best in part-sun, but will grow in full sun or full shade and prefer moist soil.

Bunches of violets great winter posies.
Cut them in the morning or evening; dipping the bunch of flowers head down into a large bowl of water to soak for a while will extend their vase life, as will spraying a fine mist of water over the flowers when they are in their vase.
  • Sugared Violets
·         The flowers can also be turned into sugared violets for cake decorations, by painting the petals with egg white and dipping them into caster sugar!

Native violets, Viola banksia, have no scent, but flower in a similar fashion.
Flowers are edible.
Grows and spreads by rhizomes. Full sun or part shade.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini, floral therapist

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Gardens to Grow and to Visit

A new series in design elements, dig plant and grow for all types of gardeners; Something that grows in the dark in Vegetable Heroes what’s a national historical garden society conference all about, and native winter flowers in Plant of the Week


Dig, Plant, Grow
A lot of people from all ages, would like to start gardening but don't know where to begin
This new series called ‘dig, plant, grow’ is all about starting a garden either from scratch or perhaps you’ve inherited a garden and want to know what to do.
In either case you’ll be doing some digging.
My own garden in the rain: photo M Cannon
Let’s find out how to start.
I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs
  • Glenice suggests digging a BIG hole!
  • Yep, 50cm deep if you can go that far without hitting bedrock. Not  for the faint hearted. 
    • this gives you an idea of what soil layers and textures you have.
  • Add a bucket of water to the hole to see how fast it drains away. This is testing the drainage of your soil.
  • You can't change climate, aspect, soil texture and drainage of your soil, but it pays to know what you're dealing with.
Glenice runs her workshops in Young, however there are similar workshops in all capitals and regional centres. Check out your local newspaper for more information.
For example, Sydney Community College runs a workshop which covers those topics called Small Space Gardening, which I run. It’s on a Monday evening.
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Or check out the website:
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What are microgreens?
Microgreens are very young edible greens from vegetables, herbs or other plants.
It has to be said, growing microgreens is the speediest way to growing leafy greens because you’ll be cutting them in 1-2 weeks.
Plus, they add packets of flavour to salads of larger leaves and the best part, it couldn’t be any easier.
You can grow them indoors all year round, you don’t even need a sunny windowsill.
Micro greens grow to about 2 ½  to 4 cm long, including the stem and leaves.
  • So what is a  microgreen?
It’s a plant that has a single central stem which has been cut just above the soil line during harvesting.
The first leaves that come out from any plant are called cotyledon leaves and usually one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves.

So, leaf and stem are never bigger than 4cm in height and 2 ½ cm across.
  • Microgreens even though they’re really small have intense flavours but not as strong it would’ve been if the plant was left to grow to full size.
Usually I start talking about the history of the vegetable or fruit at this point.
There’s not much history at all about micro greens.
Maybe they started off as a fad in the 1990’s who knows?
They seem to be catching on more and more, because you can get seeds marketed as micro greens from major chain stores that have a gardening section.
How about greens, like all types of lettuce, Basil, Beets, Coriander and Kale that are harvested with scissors when they’re really, really, small?
  • So what’s the difference between microgreens and sprouts?

Microgreens are not at all like sprouts, but grown in a similar way and picked or more correctly, cut at a later stage of growth.
Sprouts are only the germinated seed, root stem and underdeveloped leaves.
Microgreens are the mini-versions of the much larger green vegetable.
Sprouts are also grown entirely in water and not actually planted.
Microgreens are mostly planted in soil or a soil alternative like sphagnum moss, or coco peat.
Although you can grow your microgreens on a special tray with water underneath.
Plus you grow microgreens in light conditions with plenty of air circulation and not in a jar.
You might be wondering why you’d want that?
What’s wrong with growing salad vegetables in the garden?
This might be more for the busy gardener who’s run out of space or time available to grow a full garden of vegetables.
So how do you grow Micro greens?
There are a couple of ways to grow Microgreens.
The first method is to grow your greens in soil like organic, potting mix, cocopeat, vermiculite, sieved compost or worm castings.
Use seedling trays or boxes and fill the tray with your selected soil mix 2 - 3 cm deep and moisten the mix.
Soak the seed overnight then sprinkle the seeds evenly on top of the mix and gently pat them down; then cover with 0.5 cm of mix.
Cover the tray with a lid or another inverted tray to help keep the seeds moist until they sprout.
Then water often using a sprayer.
Adding diluted organic nutrients e.g. kelp or compost tea to the sprayer will improve the nutrient levels in the microgreens.
Microgreens are usually harvested when there are four or more leaves. Cut the shoots just above ground level with scissors.
TIP:Many types of vegetable seeds as micro greens and will regrow and can be cut several times.
Afterwards the tray contents can be added to the compost heap.
  • The second way of growing your microgreens is using something called a Growing Tray
  • This tray holds a reservoir of water and has holes in it so the plants can grow their roots down into the water.

Microgreens growing in a tray: photo M Cannon
You don’t even need soil, just a spray bottle of water and the seeds.
  • But you do need to remember to spray the seed, 2-3 times a day until the roots develop, then keep water reservoir topped up with fresh water until harvest a couple weeks later!
You can buy them in stores or via mail order and online.
Microgreens seed packet range includes 5 mixed packets, each containing 3 varieties typical to a regional cuisine:
Flavours of the Mediterranean - Basil Italian Mix, Rocket and Sunflower
Flavours of France - Sorrel, Chervil and Sunflower
Flavours of Western Europe - Cress, Amaranth Red Garnet and Pea Morgan
Favours of Eastern Europe - Kale Pink, Cabbage Red and Pea Morgan
Flavours of the Orient - Mustard Ruby Streaks, Garland Chrysanthemum and Coriander
TIP: One thing to keep in mind, the seeds used to grow microgreens are the same seeds that are used for full sized herbs, vegetables and greens.
So, If you want to use up that packet of Cabbage, Celery, Chard, Chervil, Coriander, Cress, Fennel, Kale, Mustard, Parsley, Radish and Sorrel, rather than throwing it out. Grow the seeds as microgreens.
TIP:Never use parsnips for micro greens as seedlings they’re apparently poisonous!
Coriander seed takes longer to germinate than other micro greens – up to three weeks.
Coriander takes longer because partly due to the tough outer coating of the seeds, preventing water from penetrating.
You need to break the seed coat to give it a hurry up by crush the seeds lightly then soak overnight to speed up germination and improve success.
Why are they good for You?
Just because they’re mini greens doesn’t mean they have a high concentration of nutrients or even a miracle food. No such luck.
So they have proportionally smaller amounts of the same nutrients that the full sized vegetable that they would’ve been has.
They are eaten as thin, delicate plants - as miniature variations on salad greens and herbs. They provide texture and colour when used as garnish, or exciting flavours when used as part of salad mixes
If you have any questions about growing microgreens or where to buy the seeds for sowing, just drop us a line to, parsley, tarragon and winter savoury.


National Conference
If you’ve never been to NZ, then perhaps you could tag along to the Australia Garden History Society’s 40th National Conference which is being held in Wellington.
But what happens at a National Conference and why should you go?
I'm talking with Stuart Read, committee member of the Australian Garden History Society.
Let’s find out..

Going to the conference?
Greenhaugh Garden New Zealand
Register at to book for the conference.
There’s also a post conference tour alternative of the South Island.
The tour begins in Christchurch and ends in Queenstown.
If you have any questions for me or for Stuart write in to


Banksia spinulosa
This next plant is a native but is often overlooked because people go for the more colourful and show Grevilleas.
They may come in limited colourways, but their flowers are much more substantial and spectacular, particular if you have several cultivars planted or grouped together.
Plus they provide nectar for wildlife during the colder months of the year.
Let’s find out about them
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of

Banksia spinulosa
As cut flowers, Banksias can last for months.