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Friday, 3 April 2020

3D African Daisies and Others

PLANT OF THE WEEK

African Daisy: Osteospermum sp

The daisy plant family (Asteraceae) is one of the biggest in the world.
In fact it includes 32,000 species and 1,900 genera and 13 sub-families.
The seeds of the osteospermums are quite hard. 
All are classified as sub-shrubs with green leaves and 90% of Osteospermums that you see for sale are from the same species.
Botanical Bite:
The daisy flower contains outer sterile ray florets (what look like petals) and the inner part of the daisy, or the 'eye' contains hundreds of tube like flowers and are referred to as disc florets.
Osteospermum sp.
We all know what daisy flowers look like, but what are modern day breeders doing with the colours and shapes?
Is the centre of Osteospermums always a blue eye?
So let’s find out .
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley, horticulturist and owner of the Green Gallery nursery.

  • What about those daisies that have no centre?
With the fully double flowers, the disc florets that contain the sexual organs, have been genetically replaced  with petals making the flower fully double. These varieties cannot close at night, unlike the singles. 
  • Most Osteospermum's have a blue 'eye.' Any other colour?
There are two cultivars that Jeremy grows with different coloured centres:
Voltage Yellow has a yellow centre.
Osteospermum 3
White Lightning, creamy white with a cream white centre.

The doubles cannot close at night because of the amount of petals in the centre.
There's a range called the 3D's which include yellows, reds, oranges and many shades of pink.
3D's have names like Violet  Berry, Banana Shake-usually with two tone colours.Jeremy mentioned that he used to grow 80 different colours of African daisies. Can you think of 80 different colours?
  • Jeremy'sTop Tip:
Osteo's love food, or fertiliser. The more food, the more flowers.
  • Can you think of 80 different colours?Nope? 
Well, Jeremy now only grows 30 different colours and I bet you would be hard pressed to think of more than 7.
  • Funnily enough the classic white petals with blue centres are still the best sellers.

Why Trees Fail and Celery

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Why Trees Fail/Fall?

When a large, mature falls in your garden, it can be very disheartening, especially if it’s a special or favourite tree.
Kurrajong tree photo Glenice Buck
You may be left wondering what happened to cause it to fail after 20 or 30 years.
Sometimes it’s obvious why a tree may fall in your garden, but what are the underlying factors?
I'm talking with Glenice Buck, consulting arborist and landscape designer.
www.glenicebuckdesigns.com.au
Let’s find out .

There are many reasons why trees fail or fall.
  • Trees need to be growing in well drained soil. 
  • If the soil holds onto too much moisture, this results in no oxygen in the soil, leading to tree roots rotting, making the tree unstable.
Trees will also fail or fall over in extreme weather events if they're susceptible.
Heavy rain inundation together with strong winds undermine the soil that the tree is growing in, particularly if the soil is shallow.
Glenice talks about the force of the wind, where the canopy of the tree acts like a lever, causing it to topple.
Sometimes the tree can be rescued by giving it a hard prune and winching it up, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
  • Trees not planted correctly is another factor.
  • The planting hole needs to be wide enough so there there is enough room for the roots to spread . The hole should have more of vase shape, and loosen the soil so there is no soil 'glazing.'
  • Don't plant the tree too low in the ground.
  • If the tree is planted into a tight narrow space, not giving it enough room for the roots to develop to support the canopy.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about why trees, fail, next week’s episode is about assessing trees for failure with Glenice.

If you have any questions of course, why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Celery or Apium graveolens
  • Fun Fact: Did you know that at first, it wasn’t meant for consumption, but instead, celery was used for medicinal purposes, as a flavouring herb, and sometimes fed to horses.
  • Celery or Apium graveolens is in the same family as carrots; Apiaceae

If you’ve ever let your celery self seed you would’ve noticed that the leaves become a bit feather and the flowers look like those of carrots.
Flowers of Celery
History of Celery
Did you know that celery leaves and inflorescences or flowers were part of the garlands found in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun (died 1323 BC),?
Another interesting bit of trivia is the romans used celery seed in pills for relieving pain (as described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus) around 30 AD.
The Greeks believed celery to be a holy plant and so it's not surprising they wore necklaces of it at their version of Olympic Games.
For the ancients there was not much difference between celery and parsley. In fact the name for parsley actually means rock-celery.
  • Have you tried growing Celery and found it to be too much work?
Celery has had that reputation of being a difficult crop to grow, mainly because traditional varieties need a lot of work and attention - they have to be planted in deep trenches and require layers of soil added regularly to blanch the green stems. 
Otherwise the celery tastes too strong and bitter.
I know of one gardener who uses sheets of corrugated iron against his celery patch to blanch them.
Must love his celery!
  • Did you know there are, self-blanching varieties that don't need earthing up to produce tender white stems?
When to Grow
In sub-tropical districts you can plant them from April until November, Tropical districts only from March until July.
In temperate zones-August until December.
For Arid areas-May until August.
Finally cool temperate districts-I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until September, then you’ll have until the end of December
What Celery likes:
  • Celery prefers moisture, well-drained soil in a sunny spot. 
  • A short row can be squeezed into a garden, raised bed or you could even try dotting the odd plant into a border. If you have a tiny garden it's possible to grow celery in very deep, long tomato style pots.
Celery is a biennial plant (which means that they flower, fruit, then die in the second year) but are generally grown as an annual.
  • Celery prefers warm days and cool nights and grows best in a clay to sandy soil with plenty of moisture.
Soil preparation
Dig the soil (in the spring before planting), removing big stones, weeds and incorporating plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure.
A week or so before planting, rake a general purpose organic fertiliser (90g per square metre) into the surface layer of the bed.
How to sow seeds
Celery seedlings
  • If you have time, plants can be started off by sowing seeds. The seeds take 1-2 weeks to germinate.
  • Celery seed is tiny, so take a pinch and lightly sow across the surface of the soil. Watering from the top is likely to disturb the seed, so fill a bowl with water and put in the pot. It can be removed once the water has been drawn to the surface.
  • Finish by covering with a thin layer of vermiculite and putting in a heated propagator on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Water daily to ensure the compost doesn't dry out.
  • Take the seedlings out of the propagator when they've germinated. 
  • They're ready to be given pots of their own when the first proper leaves have formed.  That means at least 4 leaves.
  • Plants will be ready to go outside about five weeks later, when they're 8cm tall.

For perfect plants with lots of well-branched sticks, plant celery seedlings about 27cm  or a ruler width apart making sure that the crown of the plant is at ground level.
Plants will grow better if they're arranged in a grid pattern, rather than planted in long rows.
TIP: The secret to fresh crisp stalks is plenty of manure and water, don't let the soil dry out as it has shallow roots.
Keep celery well-watered and the area around them free from weeds.
Plants can be given a boost by feeding with a balanced liquid fertiliser about a month after planting.
Celery Leaves
Harvesting
Celery will be ready for picking in about 3 ½ to5 months, depending on the variety you grow.
When picking your celery just lift plants using a hand fork, taking care not to damage neighbouring plants.
  • One of the main advantages of growing your own is that you can individually pick the stems one by one rather than taking out the whole bunch.

TIP: For best flavour and longer storage, water celery plants the day before harvest.
Best Varieties
A variety called Celery Dorata D' Asti Apium graveolens var. Dulce is available from a one www.diggers.com.au and Stringless American that is normal to use unblanched.
I'll be getting my seeds from them rather than buying celery seedlings and having to try and blanch (unsuccessfully) then ending up with bitter tasting celery.
The Dorata  variety is easier to grow than other varieties, remaining crisp and juicy without the need for blanching. The lime-green stems can be snapped off from summer through to autumn and winter.
Although plants can be grown from seed sown in early spring, it's far easier to buy ready-grown seedlings, which can be planted out in August onwards, depending on what zone in Australia you live..
A third NSW seed company has Golden self Blanching variety, which by all accounts, tastes the best.
Why is it good for you?
On top of the above celery health benefits, celery is known to be a negative calories vegetable.
Which means that the body uses more energy to digest than absorb calories from it!
Add the fact that Celery's high water content and fibrous nature mean that it is great for those who like to snack without gaining weight
A medium stalk of celery contains around 10 calories, 2g of carbohydrates, 1g of protein, zero fats and cholesterol!
Celery leaves can also be eaten or used in soups or used to make celery
AND THAT WAS OUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Australia's Kauri Pine:Agathis robusta

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Kauri Pine: Agathis robusta-an Australian native

Over the last few weeks in this segment, we’ve been talking about big, big trees, and today’s offering is no exception. 
Kauri pine, like it's name states, is a conifer in the Araucariaceae family.
Also considered a dinosaur tree because it evolved millions of years ago when Australia was largely subtropical all over and not just in Queensland.
Kauri pine: Agathis robusta

So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Big trees in pots: 
  • The Kauri pine is quite happy in pots if you have limited space.
  • Just need to be root pruned every couple of years, but no more than 10% all round.
Being an ancient conifer it comes from an era when the world was much wetter and rainforest covered all of Australia.
The tree has  big wide, leathery leaves with parallel veins. Leaves are in opposite pairs and 5-12cm long. The bark is smoothish, grey or a sort of grey brown.
Leaves of kauri pine, no mid-rib.
The lower part of the trunk is free of branches, having dropped off as it grows.
The pine cones come in to shapes. Male cones are long and narrow, but female cones are rounded, 8-13cm in diameter.
Agathis robuasta female cones

  • The Queensland Kauri is a little known but magnificent specimen, that dates back to the mid-Jurassic period.
Agathis or Qld Kauri can live for centuries, but did you know that they were logged for their straight timber too much so by 1922, the Forestry Branch reported: ‘Of kauri pine the southern resource is utterly gone.’ 
The wood was used to cabinetry, floorboards, kitchen sinks, and boat building during the 1920's and 30's.
  • Geelong Botanic Gardens have an avenue of Kauri pine trees planted around the 1860's.
  • Sydney Botanic gardens have one large specimen not far from the kiosk and close to the giant Dragon's Blood tree.
If you want to hug these large mature trees, you'll find that the girth is massive and it's more likely that 4-5 people with arms outstretched might make it being 150cm or so in circumference.

If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com

Prepare for Spring Bulb Planting and Sow Cauliflower Seeds

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Spring Bulb Preparation: No Time Like Now
Have you ordered your spring bulbs yet?
Spring might seem far away, but for the prepared gardener there’s planning and preparation to be done right now.
Especially if you like spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, freesias and many more.
photo M Cannon
Some of the planning involves looking at bulb catalogues, either ones you received in the post or online.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Landscape Designer,  Glenice Buck, consulting arborist and landscape designer www.glenicebuckdesigns.com.au


Fun decisions need to be made as to which bulbs to buy and plant.
Spring bulbs include,tulips (cooler climates) snowflakes, jonquils, daffodils, freesias, spring stars, alliums (cooler climates), anemones, ranunculus, sparaxis,
  • Glenice mentioned. Allium giganteum, the giant alliums, and Allium atropurpureum from Southern Europe that carry golf ball sized heads of dark, almost black, maroon-purple flowers from late October well into November. 
  • If you want to grow these in temperate climates you need to place a 2 litre bucket of ice-cubes on where the bulbs are planted every morning.
TIP:Remember, bulbs are a living thing, and need to be planted out mostly in Autumn. If you wait too long, they will dry out and be totally worthless.
Photo M Cannon
  • Soil preparation: The big tip from Glenice, is dig in plenty of organic matter into the soil before adding your bulbs. Before planting, cultivate the soil and ensure that it is well drained  with plenty of compost and decomposed manures. 
TIP: When sowing ranunculus, soak in a weak solution of seaweed liquid for 1 hour before planting, claws pointing downward.
  • Bulbs in pots: don't place a saucer under the pot so that when it rains, the pot is sitting water.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about spring bulbs, why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

VEGETABLE HEROES


Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea, Botrytis group)
 Cauliflower is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East region, but did you know that it’s been grown as a crop from at least 600 BC?
 Cauliflower is related to broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, rutabagas, and Brussels sprouts.

Why is Cauliflower called a cruciferous vegetable?Because the flowers have four petals and look like a Greek cross.
  • Did you know that Cauliflower leaves are edible, but have a stronger taste than the florets?

A bit of history
Some of the first crop plantings in Australia way back in 1788 were cauliflowers on Norfolk Island.
How we know this is because a letter exists from Governor Arthur Phillip the (first governor appointed by the British,) to Sir Joseph Banks, telling him that ‘colly flowers’ had been growing at Sydney Cove for weeks.
They were also recorded as growing in a garden at The Rocks, Sydney, in 1803 with some being as large as 4.5 - 5.5kg.
They obviously liked their cauliflower in the early life of the colony.
  • Botanical Bite

An interesting fact about Cauliflower is that it’s actually a flower that hasn’t fully developed yet.
Yes that’s right -  Cauliflower, is actually a flower growing from a plant.
In its early stages, it looks a bit like broccoli, its closest relative.
Cauliflower amongst broccoli
  • The difference is that broccoli opens outward to sprout bunches of green florets, but cauliflower forms a compact head of undeveloped white flower buds.
  • The cauliflower head itself is a sterile flowering structure whose buds are kept white by green leaves that cover the head, protecting the flower buds from the sunlight.

If the leaves are covering the floral head and so keeping the sun out, the cauli stays white because the green or chlorophyll in the plant, doesn’t get a chance to develop.
When to Sow.
In Arid zones, plant direct into the garden from April until June, in cool temperate and temperate zones, February was the recommended time to sow seeds but you can sow seedlings until the end of May.
If your district is sub-tropical, you might be able to squeeze in seed sowing if you do it straight after the show, otherwise, transplant seedlings until the end of June also.
Caulflower seedlings
There is one exception, a variety called Caulifower All Year Round-Hybrid.
This robust variety is available from your local nursery and is ready for harvest very early at 15 weeks.
It grows quite big with a tight curd, and tastes great.
Soil and Site for Cauliflower
All cauliflowers need a neutral or slightly alkaline soil to do well.
  • If the soil is too acidic, the plants won’t be able to access the trace elements they need, and may develop whiptail.
  •  On the other hand, soils which are too limey or chalky can lead to stunted and discoloured cauliflower. If you’re at all unsure, whip out that pH test kit and give it a workout. If you need to add lime to the soil because it’s too acidic, leave at least four weeks between liming and manuring. 
  • As with all brassicas, avoid using a plot on which a brassica crop was grown within the past two years. Cauliflowers will definitely suffer if they are grown on the same plot for two or more years in a row. Winter cauliflowers are much more tolerant of soil conditions, and will grow on most types of soil, as long as there is no water-logging. 

  • Because they grow slowly over a longer period of time, and have to face winter conditions, the one thing you want to avoid is lush, rapid and therefore vulnerable growth.  No heads will form so go easy on the liquid food.

If plenty of organic ferts have been dug in, there is no need for additional fertilizers, before planting out winter cauliflowers.
  • Some tips are (i)they need a sheltered site, with some protection from winds. (ii)They do better in sun rather than in the shade.

So when do you pick your cauliflower?
A cauliflower is ready for cutting when the upper surface of the curd is fully exposed and the inner leaves no longer cover it. 
As usual in your veggie garden, cauliflowers are ready at the same time. 
If the weather is warm and you leave the cauliflowers in the ground once they have matured, the heads expand and start to yellow looking not that great.
Cauliflower
Here’s a tip to not have to eat cauliflower everyday for a month, gather up the leaves and tie them together over the curd so that they cover it, using garden twine, an elastic band or raffia. 
It will also protect the winter ones from the frost.
Why is it good for you?
Cauliflower contains a high amount of vitamin C, and complex carbohydrates.
They’re a great source of dietary fibre and  a good provider of folate (one of the B vitamins)
Like cabbages cauliflowers contain substances called indoles which are responsible for the sulphur smell that can be released if they’re overcooked.
Today, thick cauliflower soups are popular in France and Eastern Europe. Sardinian cooks combine garlic, olive oil and capers with it to make zesty salads and hot dishes. In India, it's cooked with potato and onion to make a rich vegetable curry. Go on , plant some cauliflowers today.
AND THAT WAS OUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY!

Friday, 27 March 2020

Silky Oak: Nectar for the Gods

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Silky Oak: Grevillea robusta

Here’s a semi-deciduous grevillea, that can grow into a big tree. Flowering at the same time as Jacarandas and just as spectacular.
When you see one, you don't think the Silky Oak as being a large tree. But here it is.
A bit messy, semi-deciduous, losing a lot of leaves from time to time.
Grevilleas like this one are nectar rich, loved by the lorikeets.

Apart from that drawback, the leaves are attractive with the added bonus is that the flowers are attractive to birds that come from all around the district to have a feast on the nectar of the flowers.
So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

The silky oak flowers at the same time as Brachychiton querquifolia and Jacaranda mimosifolia, and there are some large gardens that have those big three. Very impressive to look at. 
  • Brachychiton has the striking red flowers, contrasting with the purple of the Jacaranda and the golden yellow of the silky oak. 
So much nectar that on hot days, the nectar ferments, so the birds become intoxicated when sipping on the nectar, and become quite territorial.
When growing in pots, they take on the classical conifer type shape.
Remember Adrian's maxim, "spend a penny on the pot and a pound on the soil."
The timber has a marbling dotty effect and is quite rot resistant should you come across this scarce resource.
The timber used to be used for frames around windows.
If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com

Rain Gardens and Growing Celeriac

THE GOOD EARTH

Rain Gardens or Flood Mitigation.

Rain isn’t always reliable so rather than letting it flow into the stormwater especially when there’s a deluge, there are ways to let slow the water. 

Of course there’s rainwater tanks, but you may need more than what they can hold.
You need to change your thinking and work out a way to keep water in your garden longer.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Celeriac Margaret Mossakowska, director of www.mosshouse.com.au


Slowing the rush of water when there’s a deluge, will prevent your drains from backing up and possibly flooding your house.
  • You can create rain gardens, wetlands or bog gardens.
If you have a spot in your garden where water likes to gather after rain, that's a good spot to create a bog garden.  It doesn't have to be any deeper than 10cm.
There are many Australian natives that would suit to grow in a bog garden.
Plants that suit for this situation are 
Marsh Flower (Villarsia exaltata), 
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), 
Tassel Sedge (Carex fascicularis), 
Jointed Twig-rush (Baumea articulata) and Water Ribbons (Triglochin procerum).

Rain gardens are a filtering garden and aim to slow water from leaving your property.
Think of all that water gushing out of your downpipe going to the storm water, when instead, it could be passing through a rain garden.
Choose any container, such as half a rainwater tank, or any sort of large plastic container.
Have an overlow at least half way up rather than letting the soil at the top float away.
Put in lots of sand at the bottom with soil/compost on top. The rain should just percolate through this soil rather than rushing down the drain.
Reed and native grasses suit to be planted in this type of garden.
There’s a choice of rain gardens or bog gardens, it’s up to you.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about reed beds, rain gardens or flood gardens, why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

VEGETABLE HEROES

Celeriac
  • Ever heard of the ugly duckling of the vegetable world?

I could think of several but Celeriac or Apium graveolens var rapaceum has been described as the ugly duckling of vegetables, or just plain ugly.
But if you don’t think of vegetables as pretty or ugly, don’t be put off by all that talk because it’s pretty useful to have in your garden.
  • Celeriac is closely related to celery even though it looks nothing like it.
  • The early Greeks called celeriac, selinon and it’s mentioned in Homer's Odyssey in 800 B.C., That means, Celeriac has been grown as an edible plant for thousands of years.

Celeriac looks like it might be the root of something, but it actually is the swollen stem.
The usual size you see in the supermarket is roughly 10cm, a very pale brown, rough, almost acne’ed looking ball with lime green tops.
  • Celeriac, like many "roots", is a long-season, cool-weather crop;


The green tops look a bit like celery, and the smell is similar but a bit stronger.
The thick, rough brownish skin covers a creamy white, crisp inside that’s slightly hotter tasting than celery.
Celeriac also grows more easily and keeps longer than celery, making it an excellent winter vegetable.
You also don’t have to do any of that blanching the stems as they’re growing like you do with celery.
  • When to grow it?

In sub-tropical areas you can sow the seed in March, April and August.
In arid areas, you’ll have to wait until next Spring and in most other regions of Australia, you can sow the seed in Spring, Summer and Autumn, except for the tropics. It’s not really suited to that region.
But should you be listening somewhere in tropical Qld, and have grown Celeriac, please drop us a line about your success.
  • Celeriac is best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 21°C. Hot summers won’t suit this plant. Wait until this hot weather takes a break or  start the seeds off in punnets.
  • Tip:Celeriac seeds are a bit hard to germinate, but if you soak the seeds in a saucer of water with a splash of seaweed solution, this will help the germination rate.

Like a lot of members of the Celery family, Celeriac likes soil that has plenty of organic compost and manures, otherwise, it’ll bolt to seed.
If you start your Celeriac seed in punnets, you can control the moisture content of the mix more easily rather than in the garden bed. Transplant when there’s at least 4 leaves.
Celeriac loves wet soil. You can’t water it too much, and a thick layer of mulch will help in keeping the soil moist and keeping out the weeds, unlike in this picture.

  • If you don’t water it enough you might get hollow roots or the plant will bolt to seed.
  • Keep the weeds down as well because celeriac doesn’t compete well with weeds,  but don’t disturb its shallow roots.
  • As the root develops, snip off side roots and hill the soil over the developing root.
  • Side dressing periodically during the growing season with an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen, like chook poo, is also helpful, but don't overdo it, otherwise you’ll get lots of leaf, rather than root, growth.

Easy Does It: Take It Slow
Celeriac is slow-growing, taking around seven months from seed to  maturity (that is, about four months from transplanting), although the root is edible at any earlier stage.
  • The longer you leave celeriac in the garden, the larger the root gets; some say they don’t really get woody when large, while others say dig them up when they’re small (10cm diameter).
  • And again, some say celeriac is frost-tender, while others say a few light frosts won't bother it. I’ve heard that "celeriac increases in flavour after the first frost.

You can leave them in the ground over-winter, harvesting as you need them..
  • One other thing, some recommend drawing soil up around the stems in early autumn, to blanch them; but that’s entirely up to you and I tend not to bother.
  • When it grows, the swollen Celeriac stem tends to push itself out of the soil, sitting just a few centimetres of soil level.

If it doesn’t do that for you, you might have to give it a helping hand, and scrape away some of the soil towards the end of the growing season.
  • Apart from the long growing season, pests don’t seem to like Celeriac, so a bonus. No spraying needed.

What do you do with this vegetable?
Whatever you do with potato you can do with celeriac.
You can also eat it raw. –can grate it or cut it into thin strips or cubes, and to serve it as a salad seasoned with a dressing.
Celeriac can also be cooked, either on its own or together with other vegetables.
It makes a good puree mixed with potatoes, but best of all, it makes a non-starch substitute for potatoes.
Why is it good for you?
Raw celeriac is an excellent source of potassium and a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron.
Cooked celeriac is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Celeriac is said to be diuretic, demineralising, and a tonic, and stimulates the appetite and cleanses the system
AND THAT WAS OUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY!

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Plum pines and Brussel Sprouts

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Podocarpus elatus: Plum Pine

Are you of the opinion that all pine trees have pine cones and needle like leaves?
Most gardeners associate pine trees with Christmas because after all, that’s a conifer. Right?
Wrong?
Podocarpus elatus:plum pine
Before the continents separated, there was a lot of rainforest over the earth and there was no need for trees or any plants to adapt to dry periods.
Needle like leaves are for conserving moisture after all.
So what did conifers look like millions of years ago?
So let’s find out.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.


The plum pine has been around for 250 million years back when the world was a big rainforest with plenty of rainfall.
No need for needle leaves to conserve water back then, but instead large leaves, and they do not have cones like the other conifers but instead have a single seed attached by a fleshy stem to the branch.
The purple fruit have a sort of plum like flavour and can be used for making sauces, jams and relishes.
  • Botanical Bite: Trees are dioecious, (different house), meaning the male and female flowers parts are on separate trees.
You would need to consider planting two or three of these trees together to ensure you get any fruit at all.
  • Be aware, when the pines do bear fruit, birds and flying foxes will come a calling and spit out the pips, leaving a purple stain on your nice paving. Best to not grow it near your driveway or paving.
Adrian had a plant in a pot, which does quite well with root pruning every few years. In the ground the tree will grow to 12 metres in its natural habitat, but a lot less in your backyard garden.

If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com

VEGETABLE HEROES

Brussel Sprouts
Brussel Sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family which also includes, cabbage, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi.
  • Is there one veggie that you have trouble growing?
  • For some reason, that veggie doesn’t work out to how it looks on the seed packet.
  • Maybe it’s your environment, think weather or your soil or your regime of fertilising.
  • It could also be that whenever you try to grow this veggie, hordes of pests descend onto your veggie plot and turn those plants into a horrible version of what they should be?
  • That’s my lot with Brussel sprouts.

Before we go any further, you may not be surprised to know that Brussel sprouts are one of the most hated veggies in the UK and US.
So why call a veggie Brussel sprouts?
Maybe because it was sold in Brussels' markets in the 1200's, or, maybe Brussels sprouts were named after the capital of Belgium where some say that’s where they were first grown.
Brussel sprouts are also one of the few vegetables to have started off in the northern Europe.
You probably know what a Brussels sprouts looks like - miniature heads of cabbage-about 2.5 to 4 cm. to be precise.

They taste a bit like cabbage, but slightly milder in flavour and denser in texture.
  • If you’ve ever grown Brussel sprouts, you’ll know that the sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of around 60 to 120 cm tall.
  • They all don’t mature at once but take several weeks, starting from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.

If you want to grow them well, there’s a few tips that you need to know about.

  • Firstly, when learning how to grow brussel sprouts they need a firm, fertile soil because the main cause of failure (blown buttons) is the opposite, that is, loose, infertile soil.Those gardeners with a fairly heavy soil have an advantage over those of us with loose sandy soil.
  • If your soil is loose, then your sprouts will be tasteless, loose and open, and only you’re to blame and not the seed company.
  • That old saying “feed the soil not the plant” applies especially to Brussel Sprouts.
  • Tamp the soil down with the back of your garden rake to make it firm when the soil is dry.

When to Sow;
For temperate districts, February until May, for arid areas until the end of June, for cool temperate zones, until the end of April and for sub-tropical areas, April seems to the month for you.
To grow sprouts, sow the seeds into seed trays or direct into the garden, or you can buy seedlings from a garden centre, organic markets and so on.
It’s cheaper of course to start from seedlings


The seedlings are ready to transplant when they’re 10cm high.
Did you know that you can get early and late cropping varieties?
TIP: Sow early varieties outdoors in early March, transplanting in early May.
This will give a crop of brussels sprouts during September or October.
If you sow late varieties outdoors in April and transplant in June, you’ll have
brussels sprouts between December and March.
You can plant out your brussels sprouts either in full sun or partial shade, in fact  partial shade is a bit better in warmer districts.
Water plants the day before you aim to transplant them into that well-firmed bed that you prepared.


After you have transplanted your seedlings, firm the soil around each plant with your hands or the dibber.
  • Remember - firm planting helps to grow firm, tight brussels sprouts.

Tip#3: a better reason to start your seeds off in punnets is that when you transplant your seedlings from pots or seed beds, this encourages a stronger root system to be established in their permanent bed.
Spacing is important-make it about 45 cm. Quite a distance but you can fill it with lettuce, endive and other quick growing crops.
Water the young plants in dry weather but unless you have a prolonged dry spell the mature plants shouldn’t need watering.
  • As the plants get taller make sure you support them so that the strong winds in winter don`t blow them over - tie them to stakes.
  • Mulch around the base of the plants with well rotted compost to feed the plants and conserve moisture.

Should hordes of pests come a calling, you name it,  Mealybugs, aphids, caterpillars and other grubs, use Derris Dust or a liquid concentrate containing Spinosad or Neem oil.
When to harvest
When the brussels start looking like they’re ready you don’t have to pick them all at once because, the plant holds the mature buttons for many weeks without opening.
To eat Brussel Sprouts, you don`t want those ` sprouts that have had all their colour and crispness boiled out of them.
Try dicing or grating your brussel sprouts raw and serve them up in a salad - go on, be brave!
Most importantly: Don’t overcook your Brussel sprouts; Overcooking Brussels sprouts produces a sulphur-like smell, which is usually what turns people off
Why are they good for you?
Brussels sprouts pack in 4 grams of protein per cup which is high for a veggie,
That same cup will give you 4 grams of fibre  but only 56 calories— “
Brussels sprouts can also provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you use a steaming method when cooking them.
Brussels are also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium .
One 80-gram serving of these healthy veggies delivers four times more vitamin C than an orange.
And finally, Brussel Sprouts should be kept cool at all times and eaten before the leaves discolour or they develop a strong smell.
One last anecdote:
If you ever ate Brussels sprouts at home, there's a good chance you cut little crosses cut into the bottom of each one.
Most people assume it is done to speed up cooking, but they would be wrong. The real reason we cut crosses into our sprouts is because of a medieval superstition.
It was once believed that leafy vegetables such as sprouts and cabbages were the hiding places of tiny demons, and eating them would expose you to their evil influence unless you exorcised them with the sign of the cross before cooking—and that's actually not a surprising conclusion if you consider the evil odours Brussels sprouts sometimes inspire. From www.grunge.com