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.
For all the latest news - Follow Glenice on Facebook or Instagram
Facebook : www.facebook/glenicebuckdesigns
Instagram: Glenice_Buck_Designs
Or check out the website:
Or Subscribe to the monthly Garden Greetings Newsletter:


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.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Edging Around The Garden with Allspice and Potatoes and a Camellia Or Two

A spice that causes confusion in the Spice it Up segment; Something that grows in the dark in Vegetable Heroes the garden path is finished, now to edge it, in Design Elements; and what Camellias make a favourites’ list in Plant of the week.


Allspice: Pimento doica
Have you ever put the wrong ingredient into something you’ve cooked?

Perhaps it was just the wrong spice and the flavour wasn’t so good which left you wondering “what went wrong?”

Allspice can cause confusion, so let’s clear it up now.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from
 Now you know not to mix up Allspice with Mixed Spice or even pimento. Allspice is an individual spice whereas mixed spice is a combination of spices mainly for sweet dishes.
Pimento doica
  • The actual spice is a berry from the allspice tree.
  • Ian tried to grow it on the north coast of NSW but was unsuccessful. Winters were too cold.
  • You can try to grow it but I would recommend erecting a 3-sided shelter out of heavy-duty shade cloth, to surround the young tree.
Allspice has a fruity background note, but it has an aroma that is similar to Basil because both have the volatile oil eugenol present in them.
  • Basil is the tomato herb, and allspice is the tomato spice.
The leaf has an extract taken from it and used in an astringent called 'bay rum." It has nothing to do with the drink called rum, but is used after shaving in a barber shop.
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Potatoes or Solanum tuberosum
Did you know that potatoes were the first vegetable to be grown in space?
The potato is a member of the nightshade or Solanaceae family and its leaves are poisonous.
  • Here’s something to think about when storing your potatoes.
  • A potato left too long in the light will begin to turn green.
  • The green skin contains a substance called solanine which can cause the potato to taste bitter and green potatoes can upset the stomach, so don’t try them.

How to grow potatoes
Always grow potatoes from Certified Seed Potatoes from reputable suppliers.
Yes it is possible to simply buy some from a specialist green grocer and keep them for seed, or use leftover potato peelings.
  • What’s wrong with that?
  • You run the risk of introducing diseases such as Potato Virus Y, Potato Blight or Potato cyst Nematode.
  • If you use leftovers or buy from supermarkets or green grocers.
  • You might think it’s only a small risk, but once you get potato blight into your soil, it’s their forever. No chemical will shift it.

When to plant
Potatoes can be planted now all over Australia, in temperate and sub-tropical districts, August to October is the best time, in arid areas August until December is your best time,
In cool temperate zones, September through to January is your best time so cooler areas have a bit of extra time to order some of the more unusual varieties before they grow in the ground.
  • How about Cranberry Red?
    Purple Congo potato
  • Cranberry Red has red skin and red flesh, great in salads, for boiling and baking.  These stay red, even after cooking.
  • Potato Sapphire that has purple skin and purple flesh? Purple Sapphire I’m sure is sold also as Purple Congo, is perfect for mashing, boiling and roasting, and yes, it stays purple after cooking.
  • Royal Blue. Potato Royal Blue is oblong, with purple skin and dark yellow flesh.

If you’re buying through mail order or online, you have until the end of August to buy them. After that, they’re not available.
How To Grow Your Potatoes?
  • To grow your Potatoes-put seedling potatoes into a trench in as deep and rich a soil as you can get.
  • Plenty of compost and manures please.
  • And as they grow pile the earth up around them.
  • You will need to hill the rows or potato container several times until the potatoes have flowered.
  • You need to do this to stop the greening of tubers and also protect them from potato moth.
  • Also, hilling up the soil and mulch will give you more potatoes as they tend to form on roots near the surface.
Hilling potatoes
  • That means, as you pile up the soil, you get new roots, and more potatoes....Chicken manure or blood and bone should be dug through the bed as potatoes need a lot of phosphorus but not too much nitrogen.  Too much nitrogen will mean lots of leaves rather than potatoes.
  • Keep the water up and but only water moderately as potatoes will rot in soil that is too wet.
  • They can also get a fungus growing inside them if the soil’s too wet. When you cut them open, they’ll have grey patches inside which actually do taste mouldy. Euwwww!
  • You can add fish emulsion and seaweed extract when you’re watering too.
  • Potatoes can also be grown in your black compost bin if you’re not using it for compost.
  • Plant the seed potatoes at the bottom, let them grow to about 50cm,( so with your ruler that’s  almost 2 x ruler heights) then, over the top and add 8cm of soil, let them grow a little more, add some more soil, and so on, in the end a stack of potatoes.
  • Pick your potatoes when the vine has died down to the ground, that’s if you want the most potatoes, but they can be harvested from when the first baby potatoes are formed. 

The lower leaves should be turning yellow – this happens about 3 to 4 weeks after flowering.
If you plan to store your potatoes, cut off the foliage and let the potatoes rest in the ground for 3-4 weeks to allow the skin to 'set', they keep longer this way. Store in a dark, cool, well ventilated spot.

Roasting Potatoes include: Arran, Royal Blue, Cara, Celine, Desiree, Maxine, Picasso, Ruby Lou, Romano, King Edward, Kondor, Maris Piper, Stemster and Valor.
For Chip Potatoes try: Nadine, Kestrel, King Edward, Desiree, Kennebec.
For Boiling Potatoes try: Nadine, Dutch Cream Kestrel, Desiree, King Edward.
For Mashing Potatoes try: Kestrel, Nadine, King Edward, Tasmanian Pinkeye.
For Salad Potatoes try: Nicola, Tasmanian Pinkeye, Ponfine.
Why are potatoes good for you? 😀
The potato is densely packed with nutrients. The Irish couldn’t be wrong could they?
A medium potato provides vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.
Potatoes are known as the foods people crave when they are stressed. 
Why? because the carbs in potatoes (about 26%) help make space for tryptophan with a smooth passage into the brain.
This, in turn, boosts the serotonin level in the brain.
High serotonin levels help boost your mood and help you feel calm.
To preserve these nutrients it is important to peel the potato just prior to cooking and not leave


Create a Garden Edge:
How do you create a garden edge for your lovely path that you created to keep those plants from growing into it?
There’s a few different ways it seems and some more labour intensive than others.
Let’s find out..
I'm talking with Landscape Designer, and, Director of Urban Meadows Jason Cornish.

Steel edges look great and are relatively easy to install. Some even interlock and have spikes that anchor them into the ground.
The cheap way is to use those second hand bricks left and dig a trench and put them straight in.
  • Of course there’s always a better way of doing that same job and that’s to lay down sand and mortar so that the bricks won’t move if your lawnmower knocks them.
Brick edging can look amateur if not done correctly.
If you have any questions for me or for Jason, write in to


Choosing Camellias
Are you a fan of camellias?
Perhaps you’ve never thought of growing them?
You may be surprised to learn that they are a plant that can put up with a lot of neglect and still manage to flower magnificently during winter.
Let’s find out what are some favourites.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith editor of

Camellia 'Lovelight'
Camellias mentioned:
Camellia japonica Lovelight: pure white with boss of yellow stamens.
Camellia japonica WH Davies Descanso: pale pink, anemonoflora type
Camellia Betty Cuthbert: Pink double
Camellia japonica Dona de Freitas de Magales-pale purple
 If you’re wanting to add to camellias in your garden, now’s the time to look around for ones you really like.
Don’t just settle for what’s in one nursery. Go online to see what else can be gotten for that extra special camellia.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Walking the Path With Winter Roses and Healthy Root Crops

We’re going up the garden path in a new series in Design Elements; and today its segmented stone paths. Something milder than garlic in Vegetable Heroes plus what root crops give a bumper harvest in the Good Earth Segment and a winter Rose in Talking Flowers.


Segmented Stone Paths: Garden Paths part 3
It would seem that our garden path is taking forever to finish, or maybe that it’s just so long we’re still walking on it.
So far, this series has covered gravel and paths made out of local stone, but this week it’s just a bit different.

What is segmented stone? Is that paving? 
I'm talking with Landscape Designer, and, Director of Urban Meadows Jason Cornish.
Let’s find out..

Segmented paving is pavers laid in a pattern. Councils use them in footpaths because if they need digging up to get to various services, they're easier to dig up than concrete footpaths.
If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, Jason’s tip is keeping the pavers level is the way to get a professional finish. 
Plus, it’s reasonably hard to do all the work yourself, the excavation, laying the sand bed, compacting the sand, then connecting all the pavers. 
For do it yourselfers:
  • First you need to excavate to the depth of the paver, plus sand and road base, say 100-120mm.
  • Second, use a compactor on the sand to level it off and make it a hard base.
  • For the cheats way of no cutting, choose pavers that fit the width of the path exactly. Otherwise you'll need to cut the pavers.
  • Fill in the joints with either sand or sand and mortar together.
  • The latter stops the weeds making for a happy gardener.
If you have any questions either for me or for Jason, drop us a line to or write in 


Allium var aggregatum: Shallots
Are you a fan of Garlic or is it a bit strong for your palette?
Not too fussed on garlic breath either?
 That’s why today, I’m talking about the true shallot, some say eschallot, but what are they really?
  • Shallots are Allium var aggregatum or the Aggregatum group.
They used to be classified in the onion in the Alliaceae family but now it’s in the Amaryllidaceae or lily family.
Shallots are for those of you that don’t like the taste of onions or garlic, if that’s the case, this could be the vegetable for you.
  • There seems to be confusion as to what a shallot really looks like?
What we Australians have traditionally called a shallot is in reality a scallion or spring onion.
"Shallot" is a corruption of the French "echalote" which is a small gourmet onion with papery skin which grows in garlic-like clusters and has a flavour combining garlic and onion.
So that means we treat scallions and spring onions here as "shallots".
  • How do they look different from spring onions or leeks.
Unlike onions or leeks, shallots are made up of cloves – similar to garlic cloves.
  • So why grow them?
First of all, growing shallots in your garden is very easy and Shallots may be harvested green for use in salads, or dried for use as a flavouring.
You can even use them as a green vegetable, by pulling the stems when they’re about 6 mm in diameter.
The outer skin is peeled off and the roots trimmed before washing to use in the kitchen.
When shallots are being grown for the mature bunches of cloves, which have a more delicate flavour than onions, they are left until their tops dry off.
The bunches of mature cloves should be pulled before the tops become  too dry and papery.
True Shallots grow in small, tight clusters so that when you break one open there may be two or three bunched together at the root. They have a brown skin and remind me of a giant garlic clove in shape only.
Shallots won't make you cry.
  • Unlike garlic and onions, shallots don’t have that strong sulphuric aroma and irritating fumes.
They’re easy to grow, mature faster and  require less space than onions and garlic.
To get the most from these tasty plants in the garden, it may help to practice some important tips for growing shallots.
The best way how to grow shallots is in loose, well-drained soil you’ve where you’ve added organic matter.
They also prefer those parts of your garden that receive full sun.
When to Plant?
Shallot seedlings
In temperate and sub-tropical climates you can plant them almost all year from February to September.
In cool temperate climates you have all year except for June and July, and also for arid climates you can only grow them between September and February.
So wait until then, although I saw a post from Arthur the mad gardener who says he lives in an arid part of Australia and he planted his shallots in May.
Shallots are normally grown from small starter shallots or sets (immature bulbs) that you can either buy from a catalogue, online or your local garden centre right now in fact.
Plant shallots sets about 2cm deep with the tips slightly protruding from the soil’s surface. Space shallots about 20cm or eight inches apart to prevent overcrowding.
  • If you do use starter bulbs think carefully about when you intend to plant them.
  • Seed shallots are living things, not dried seeds in a packet, and need to be bought just before planting time.
If you have trouble buying shallots or don’t have access to the internet, most supermarkets have shallots but they’ve have been sprayed with a chemical to stop them sprouting.
However, I’ve read about this trick that might start you off.
  • Buy a shallot from the supermarket, place it in a small container, then put in 5mm of water with a little liquid fertiliser or seaweed extract.
  • Leave for three or four days but check the base for signs of roots.
  • If all goes well separate and plant.

TIP: Once you get shallots growing in your garden, you have them forever by just saving out a small part of each year's crop as next year's starters.
  1. Some tips for growing shallots –give them a good watering once you’ve planted them but ease off the watering as they mature, unless your district has been overly dry.
  2. In the middle of Spring, you can if you want to, remove some soil around your shallots to expose the bulbs –that speeds up ripening because they develop better on top of the ground.
  3. Having said that, add a light layer of mulch to retain moisture while keeping weeds to a minimum.
  4. If you want well-defined cloves of shallot, feed plants often.This is where worm or compost tea come to the fore, because in cooler weather, liquid fertilisers are the only ones that actually do any good for your plants.

Planting in winter means that they should be ready around springtime
  • When the bulbs are about a 1cm around and the leaves are starting to yellow, that’s the time to lift your shallot bulbs.
  • Shake off any soil dry them out in a warm dry area for a week before storing them in a cool dry place.
Why are the good for you?
Shallots can be easily digested and contain 6 times more phenolics than the lowest-ranked onion, the Vidalia. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fibre and folic acid and also contain calcium, iron and protein in large quantities.

Shallots contain anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties. Apart from all that, their mild flavour makes them a must in the best of kitchens. Happy shallot growing everyone.
With their mild onion and garlic flavour, shallots are considered an essential ingredient for flavouring nearly any dish.
That was your vegetable hero segment for today


Harvesting Root Crops
There are plenty of shall we say, perennial root crops that go dormant in winter in temperate and cool climates, but need to be in a spot where they remain for several years.
These plants are economical to grow because they’re pretty easy and give you a bumper crop from just one plant.
Turmeric plant photo Margaret Mossakowska
 Although these vegetables hail from tropical countries, because they die down in winter, you can grow them anywhere.
Pictured is an easy to grow tumeric plant, tumeric tubers and the cut tubers before drying
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska of

Turmeric tubers photo Margaret Mossakowska
Margaret suggested, turmeric, ginger, yacon, sweet potato, horseradish and comfrey as some of her best root crops.
These can be grown in the coolest parts of Australia because they become dormant during the winter months.
The general rule of thumb is to harvest them when the leaves turn yellow.
If you have any questions for Margaret or for me, you know what to do.


Winter Roses: Helleborus orientalis, Helleborus niger, Helleborus x hybridus
Family: Ranunculaceae along with buttercups and ranunculus.
The common name is winter rose or Lenten rose because if flowers in winter. Looks rose-like don't you think?
Floral meaning: Floral Meaning: said to provide protection and a vase of hellebore, brought into 
a room will drive away an unpleasant atmosphere and replace it with tranquility.
  • ·         Hellebores grow best in part shade, with moist but well-drained soils. They will, however, tolerate most soils as long as not waterlogged.
  • ·         Slow to get established, and can be left alone for years.
  • ·         Don’t like being disturbed as this sets them back.
  • ·         If you do want to divide, or need to transplant, autumn is best. 
  • ·         Dig the whole plant, wash off soil, then divide with a sharp knife between growth buds.  Leave at least 3 buds on each division.  
  • Mercedes' Tip: · Make excellent cut flowers, that last up to 5 days. To extend their shelf life, plunging the stems, up to their necks in boiling water, before placing them in a vase.
I'm speaking with Mercedes Sarmini, floral therapist of
Video was recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio program on 2rrr 88.5 fm