Saturday, 12 October 2019

Ground Cherries, Persian Roses, No More Lawns and Easy Gardening

Battery operated line trimmers
We’re talking the new wave of battery operated tools in part 2 of this segment in Tool Time growing an unusual berry in Vegetable Heroes, starting a new series on lawn alternatives in design elements, plus bloomin' Ranunculus flowers in Talking Flowers.


Battery Operated Garden Tools part 2
Last week, part 1 of the topic of battery operated garden tools was aired because there was so much to be said about them.
This week, it’s part 2 with a brief summary of what points that were touched on in part 1.
So, the new wave of garden tools are battery operated.
Let’s get into the topic
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

Batteries for garden tools can be purchased as 3, 4, 5, and 6 Amp Hours.
How long the battery lasts depends on which garden equipment you are using and how much load you will be putting on that particular piece of equipment.
It's advisable to buy two batteries at the initial purchase so that one can be charging while you are using the other.
Typically, recharging batteries takes between 30 - 45 minutes.
TIP: batteries aren't interchangeable between brands.
Battery operated lawnmowers don't leave a tread.
Make your brand selection based on the range of equipment that meets your needs.
Battery powered tools are easier to start, lighter, have no petrol smell, and best of all are much quieter and cheaper to run.
If you're wondering whether or not a battery operated lawnmower will cut through buffalo or kikuyu lawns. Tony says, no problem at all, and no tread marks on the lawn because the lawnmower is so much lighter.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Cape Gooseberry: Physalis peruviana syn. P. edulis  also sometimes called the ground cherry.
  • Cape goosebrerries can be grown in all parts of Australia, although they do best in temperate and subtropical areas, however, we can grow them elsewhere with a bit more care.
Did you know that Cape Gooseberries are thought to have originated in Peru and were one of the few fresh fruits of the early settlers in New South Wales?
So What Does It Look Like?
Cape gooseberry
  • The plant is a straggling bush up to one metre tall with yellow fruits inside a brown papery envelope.
  • It’s a short lived perennial  and can tolerate some frost so growing it further south shouldn’t be a problem.
  • In colder climates treat the cape gooseberry as an annual, much like you would tomatoes.
The cape gooseberry is related to tomatillo, and husk tomato, in fact, all in the genus Physalis.
TIP:Don’t confuse the Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana with an entirely different species referred to as Gooseberry bush. Ribes uva-ursi
The Gooseberry bush will produce very sweet, tart berries, but the cape gooseberry is quite different- and nice!
  • Cape Gooseberries taste like tiny cherry tomatoes .
    Cape gooseberries are surrounded by a husk

The best thing is that Cape Gooseberry is very easy to grow and as the fruit are popular with birds and plants can be easily spread around the garden.
The berry is the size of a cherry tomato,1-2 cm in size and is very aromatic and full of tiny seeds.
How you know that the berries are ripe is when they turn a golden orange and drop to the ground.
When to Sow
  • The time to sow Cape Gooseberry seed in every region except Tropical is now until December.
  • For Tropical zones, March through to August is the time to sow seeds.
  • If you sow the seeds in Spring and/or Summer you’ll get an Autumn harvest.
  • They’re not fussy about soil types and even do very well in poor soils and in pots.
  • The preference thous is for sandy to gravely loam.
  • They need lots of water throughout the growing year, except towards fruit-ripening time.
How to sow the seeds
Sow seed at the usual depth rule-3x the diameter of the seed.
Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 25°C
Space plants: 50 cm apart if you want to go into production otherwise just try one plant first because they do produce quite a few fruits.
Harvest in 3-4 months or 14-16 weeks.
To get the most fruit from your cape gooseberries, they need to be in a sunny place as long as there is no risk of frost.
  • Water them regularly and, when they grow flowers, feed them every two weeks with a tomato food.
  • Cape gooseberry plants get the same pests as what you’d get in your area from the common tomato. No surprises there.
  • So it would be a good idea to plant them amongst your flower border where they will grow quite happily and confuse the nasties at the same time.

How Do You Eat Cape Gooseberries.
Cape gooseberry once extracted from its husk, can be eaten raw tasting bit like ordinary tomatoes maybe a bit more zingy.

They can be added to salads, desserts and cooked dishes, they are delicious stewed with other fruit, especially apples.
They also go well in savoury dishes with meat or seafood,  as a flavouring, and in jams and jellies.
They can also be dried and eaten much like raisins or other small dried fruit.
Cape gooseberries contain large amounts of pectin, and are therefore suitable for jams and pies
Grab some cape gooseberry seeds from online seed suppliers, sprinkle a packet over your garden & go nuts!
The variety Golden Nugget grows to 1m
Why are cape gooseberries good for You?
Apart from their taste, Physalis is a good source of nutrients, minerals, vitamins.
Vitamins A, C & B, high in protein and rich in iron.
Put some berries in the bottom of a cup and mash them with a
wooden spoon.
Add some water into the cup. The mashed fruit should float, and the seeds will sink to the bottom.
Strain off the mash and water and dry out the seeds on clean tissue paper.
Sow the seeds thinly on the surface and cover them lightly with more compost.
Put the pot in a see-through plastic food bag/mini greenhouse and
tie the end up. This is to keep all the moisture in so the pips don’t
dry out.
 The seeds will germinate in a few days, so you will need to check them every day.
If the compost looks dry, give it a little water. When the seeds have
sprouted, remove the plastic bag and put the pot on a sunny
windowsill. Once the seedlings have four or five leaves, they will
need to be potted up in separate pots, using the same compost.
Repot your plants as they grow.


Lawn alternatives: considerations
Do you have places in the garden where your lawn just will not grow?
Perhaps it's in a shady part where moss seems to appear in winter instead of green lawn.
Or is it under or near trees where the tree root competition is too much and the lawn is patchy?
Then again, you may be just tired of the constant mowing during the warmer months of the year and want to swap mowing for low maintenance lawn alternatives.
So what are the considerations?
Let's find out.I'm talking with Glenice Buck, landscaper and consulting arborist with 

Lush lawns need lots of maintenance such as watering, fertilising and mowing.
If you live in a region that experiences periods of intense heat and drought, this type of lawn may not be possible to maintain. 
Add caption
Looking at brown lawn is not that much fun so exploring other options that need less frequent irrigation is a good alternative.
Unless you make the right lawn alternative choice, you may be swapping the mowing for the weeding.
Over the coming weeks, Glenice will talk about what lawn alternatives suit high foot traffic and low foot traffic areas.


Family:Ranunculaceae also includes anemones, clematis, delphiniums, nigella and hellebores.
Grow from claw-like tuber or corms but now referred to as thickened rhizomes.
Growing tips:
These plants are very hardy and will grow in a wide range of conditions.
If you missed planting them out in autumn for a spring show, treat yourself with a bunch of ranunculus from your favourite florist.
Mercedes Tips:
  • Cut the stems straight across before placing them in a vase.
  • Place them in water that has been filtered or standing for 4 hours so that all the chlorine has evaporated off.
  • Throw in a few ice cubes to perk up your ranunculus flowers
  • Flowers have a vase life of 8 - 10 days.

As they prefer to have their roots kept cool and moist, plant Ranunculus species in a sunny or partly shaded position with moist well-drained soil.
Don’t like clay soils.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini florist, and floral therapist.
This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show in Sydney.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Sweeteners, Silver Princesses and Battery Garden Tools

We’re talking the new wave of battery operated tools in part 1 of this segment in Tool Time growing a natural sweetener in Vegetable Heroes, a native tree with many things to love in Plant of the Week plus bloomin' Tiger Lily flowers in Talking Flowers.


Battery Operated Tools part 1

Have you ever cut through the electric cord of your electric hedge trimmer?
I know I have. Thank goodness for the safety cut off.
They may be light than petrol powered hedge trimmers, but apart from the risk of cutting through the cord, there’s the meters and metres of cord that you may have to run.
Especially if you have a long back yard and need to get to a hedge.
So what’s the alternative?
Battery powered edger
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

Lithium ion batteries for battery operated garden tools now have now no memory so they don’t have to be fully discharged before charging again. The power tools themselves are so much lighter.
The big tip is how much gardening do you need to do with the tools?
Base it on amp hours.
4 amp hours will go for 25% longer than 3 amp hours and 5 amp hours will go 50% longer than e amp hours.
Battery lawnmower
But the cost increases on the batteries also.
Important Tip: The batteries are not interchangeable between brands, so make your selection based on the range of tools that you need for your garden. If the brand you like doesn't have everything you need, as well as spare parts, choose another, but reputable brand.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Stevia: Stevia rebaudiana
There’s a few plants whose leaves are quite sweet and have been used to produce sugar alternatives without the calories.
Stevia is one such plant.
Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.
Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.
So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.
Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.
So what does Stevia plant look like?
Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like.
stevia plant
  • Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn.
  • Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C.Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant.

Stevia plants also hate being water logged.
By the way, I’ve grow my stevia plant in a pot for several years now without any problems and it’s survived several bouts of dry hot summers and lack of watering during spells with a house sitter.
But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.
  • During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant. But don’t plant your Stevia in waterlogged soil and don’t overwater it.
  • Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy and a layer of your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.
  •  Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content. Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.
HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter. Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.
If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.

How do you store Stevia leaves?
If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secateurs before stripping the leaves.
TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevio-side as do the leaves.
 If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning).
These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates.
In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop.
Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey.
Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option.
I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.

So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a moderately warm day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. (Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of the final product.)
If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand,  in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Stevia flowers

Why are they good for you?
 Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.


Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess
This week we have a native plant that is a medium sized tree with outstanding features.
Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess or gungurru has interesting bark, leaves and flowers.)
It’s in the Myrtacaea family and it is a gum tree.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.

I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.
PLAY: Eucalyptus Silver Princess_25th September 2019

Silver Princess trunk and fruits are covered in the grey to whitish bloom, except for the leaves and flowers themselves.
If you rub the bark you’ll see the mahogany colour under that bloom.
Silver Princess grows to about 8m in height, but as Adrian says, it's a leaner.
That means unless you are keeping on eye on it as it grows, the tree will develop a 45 degree lean.
Formative pruning helps, but for some reason it aspires to lean.
Adrian will almost coppice his leaning Silver Princess in the hope that it will resprout from it's ligno tuber as it does in the wild.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of this tree, please write in to