Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Currawong and the Silver Lady

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with ecologist Sue Stevens
Do you know the difference between a Magpie, Crow, Raven and Currawong?
Good or bad, this bird will probably visit your garden.

If you like the smaller birds in your garden, it may be timely for you to get to recognise the difference because one of them is considered a nest predator, and is partly responsible for the decline of smaller species in some areas where it lives.

Let’s find out more about this bird.

photo by Degilbo, flickr
Currawongs  now remain in cities all year round, mainly because there’s plenty of food around-cat food, dog food, bird feeders, you name it.
They’re a pretty smart bird so don’t let them train you into thinking that you need to feed them.
As Sue mentions quite regularly, what we feed birds is largely lacking in nutrients that they really need and in this case, the Currawong includes smaller birds in their diet.
Plus you don’t want a nest of Currawongs in your backyard, because during breeding season, pairs defend the nest-site and surrounding territory where they find food for their young.
But if you don’t have small birds in your garden you might just think the birds were great to have around as they eat carrion, rodents, and insects - keeping the local area clean and tidy.
If you have any questions about your Pied Currawongs or a photo, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Today’s vegetable or fruit hero is not really a fruit  and it's Strawberries or Fragaria x ananasa.
Did you know that Fragaria means fragrance in Latin?
Strawberries aren’t actually berries because true berries have seeds inside them.
And as every schoolkid will tell you, strawberries have seeds on the outside, and usually about 200 of them!
So what are strawberries exactly?
Did you know that Strawberries are sometimes called an accessory fruit or false fruit because of the seeds being on the outside?

Here’s a botanical bite.
Fruit usually grows from the ovary of the flower, but in the strawberries case, some or all of the fruit grows on outside of the ovary.
That part of the flower that holds the ovary is called the receptacle.
You might find it hard to imagine, but each little "seed" (achene) on the outside of the strawberry fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. Strange isn’t it?
Fragaria vesca  or the Alpine strawberry is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Botanists think this was probably the ancestor of the garden strawberry of today.
Would you believe that there’s archaeological evidence suggesting that people ate strawberries as far back as during the Stone Age?
The first people to grow strawberries as a crop were the Persians in ancient Persia.
The Persian-called their strawberry plants - Toot Farangi.
By the 18th century Fragaria x ananassa had replaced the alpine strawberry because of the larger berry or fruit.

When to grow?
It’s probably not the right time of year to grow plant out strawberries in many districts, but if you see them for sale as potted strawberries, because you surely will, you can plant them out in January.
For all sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones you can plant strawberries now, but you’ll get advice that May and June are the best planting times.
For cool mountain districts, October and November are your best planting times.
They’re frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants.

So what are the strawberry plants’ requirements?
Strawberries are short-lived herbaceous perennials, meaning plants can produce for 2-3 years. 
Did you know that commercially strawberries are grown for only one season and replanted each year to keep up the yield levels?
The pattern for most strawberries is flowering in spring, set fruit in late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter.
At this time of year you will be able to get the ever bearing varieties which give you a second crop in autumn.
If you planted your strawberry plants, in last autumn and winter, they should’ve flowered already and you’ll be telling me that you’ve been enjoying strawberries with cream already.
But why not plant some more plants for Autumn strawberries?
What do Strawberry plants really love?
Not sure what they like? Well…Strawberries love at least 6 hours of sun a day and will grow in most soils but strawberries prefer a sandy loam that is deep and contains a lot of organic matter.
Strawberries in planter pot. photo M Cannon

IMPORTANT: When planting a strawberry plant, make sure that about a third of the crown is above the soil. If you plant too deep or shallow the plant might die.
Strawberries have 70% of their roots located in the top 8cm of soil.
By mulching the soil, it helps to keep the roots from drying out and will prevent the plant from drowning in boggy soil.
This means that if growing your strawberries in the garden, you need to grow them on mounds to  improve drainage and you will also need to put down a thick layer of mulch such as hay, pea straw or sugar cane to prevent the berries from touching the soil and rotting.
Mulch as you should now, also prevents the soil from drying out too much.
The idea behind strawberry pots is good in principle but in practise I find it needs careful attention because the plants dry out too much.
Potting soils usually have the right mix if you’re planning on planting strawberries in a container.
but I would also recommend adding some coco peat into the potting mix to increase water holding capacity.
Idea for Strawberry planting at Venlo. photo M Cannon

And you know strawberry pots have several holes in them to cater for about5-6 plants.
TIP: Attaching your pots to a dripper system and putting a saucer under the strawberry pot will save your strawberry crop this year.
Also make sure you water the plants, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry spells.
Strawberries prefer a moist environment.
Avoiding overhead watering will reduce fungal disease; drip irrigation or a 'leaky pipe' is best.

TIP:Make sure your berries are fully red before picking them because they don't get any riper off the vine.
Cut the stem above the berry with scissors.
Over summer, strawberry plants send out runners. These modified shoots can be used to propagate new plants but if you don't need new plants, cut these runners off.
After fruiting has finished, tidy up the bushes by giving them a hard prune down to 10cm.
Stick 'em in the fridge soon after  picking the strawberries and don't wash the strawberries until just before you want to eat them.
Strawberries don't last, and the extra water on them causes their cells to break down more quickly.
TIP: Wash the berries and pat them dry before removing the stems. That way you avoid excess water entering the berries from the stem end.
Use the berries within three or four days.
To really feed a family you need about 20-30 plants to provide plenty of fruit, but even a couple of plants can be fun to grow.

Which Strawberries to plant now?
For Ever- bearing varieties, the autumn crop is the biggest and you can choose from Tempation which doesn't send out runners so it's great for hanging baskets and Sweetheart is very sweet to taste – an everlasting variety also have their fruit set in autumn  .
Why are they good for you?
Growing your own strawberries is much healthier because strawberries are ranked third out of 50 popular fruits and vegetables that retain pesticide residues.
Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fibre, folic acid, and potassium
From only half a punnet of strawberries you'll get more than 100% of your daily needs of Vitamin C,  and  5.5g fibre in if you eat the whole punnet of strawberries that's about  20% of your daily fibre needs.
Did you know that eating strawberries, which are rich in nitrate, can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by 7%?
This prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.
Strawberries are also low in kilojoules, meaning you can eat 2 cups as one of your daily fruit serves!


with landscape designer Christopher Owen
Ever wondered what a concept garden is?
What it isn’t, is a garden theme or style because they’re clearly defined.

Chinese Garden-pavilion, lake and willow, Sydney. photo Louise Brooks
A garden theme is best explained by using examples like, a blue and white garden, a conifer garden fern, or Chinese garden.
Garden style is formal, informal, contemporary, modernist, gardenesque and so on.
Let’s find out about concept gardens.

Next time to see garden makeovers or show gardens you’ll know not to copy them judiciously because it does involve a bit of smoke and mirrors to make it look spectacular.

Chelsea Flower Show display garden 2013, photo M Cannon
The number one aspect is that plants are planted closely to make them look lush, but don’t do that in your garden, because they’ll crowd each other out and the whole design will start looking a mess.


with Karen Smith hort journal editor 
After mosses and algae, the first land plants on earth were ferns.

Did you know that fern fossils of a group of now extinct ferns called Glossopteris can be found in various parts of Australia still today and these will be in the order of 200 million years old.

What’s that got to do with plant of the week?

Nothing really other than it’s a fern and the foliage looks like a cross between a tree fern and a cycad.

Let’s find out about this plant.

Blechnum ferns grow in conditions that if you already grow ferns you would go ah yes- humid, cool but not cold, and filtered light as you would find under evergreen trees.

Given the right conditions indoors or out, blechnum ferns can be lovely ferns that will round out your fern collection.

Blechnum ferns...”Silver lady”
Blechnum Silver Lady, photo M Cannon

Silver Lady is a form of Blechnum gibbum, and is a dwarf tree fern. Silver Lady’s is a fast grower and great for those shady parts of the garden.

Silver Lady has a spread of around a metre, you need a size of pot diameter of around 40cm, planting up from a 15cm-20cm pot size. 

Silver Lady looks good when multi-planted for that tropical feel to the garden.

In general, Blechnum ferns do best in moist, free-draining, compost-enriched and slightly acidic soil in a shady location.

Blechnums will grow in a wide range of climates from temperate to sub-tropical locations however Silver Lady needs reasonable ventilation and won’t tolerate frost. Mulching is recommended.

Keep the soil moist throughout the year. In winter, this may mean a weekly watering; in the warmer months, increase the frequency.

Containerised plants should generally be watered more frequently than in-ground plants. Water when the top layer of potting mix appears dry.

Try not to over-water Silver Lady as this may cause root rot.

It’s also best to use drippers, rather than overhead watering, so the foliage avoids staying wet for long periods.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Herbs by the Sea with Nigella

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with Ian Hemphill from

Have you ever grown a blue flowering annual called Love in the Mist?
In fact this cottage garden plant (Nigella damascenea flowers in blue pink or white.

It’s very pretty and makes just as pretty seed heads after the flowers finish. It’s one of these plants that you don’t have to keep cutting of the flowers because it looks great through all stages of growth.

But there's something else,   a very closely related cousin, has seeds that you can use in cooking.
So can you use the seeds of the cottage garden plant in your cooking as well?
Let’s find out more about this spice.  

Sometimes also called Devil in the bush and Black cumin, the last name  we now know, is completely incorrect.
If you bit into Nigella seed you'll find it's extremely hard with a metallic taste and a back note of mint.
Ian says seed spices have an affiliation with carbohydrates.
They can be used in a wide range of dishes, and are most popular in Indian cuisine.
Nigella seeds are dry roasted in India and used on flatbreads like naan and are particularly good with potatoes and root vegetables.
why not try a light sprinkling of Nigella seeds over steamed rice for an instant flavour enhancer.

They are also one of the five spices that make up panch pora, a spice mixture from Bengal.
Some people use oil from nigella seeds as an antioxidant and for upset stomach.
If you’re wanting to use the seeds from the annual Nigella for cooking, the seeds can be harvested by placing the pods in a paper bag; allow them to dry out completely, then rub the paper bag in your hands to release the black Nigella seeds.
Next cut the corner of the bag and retrieve the seeds with use of a sieve. Make sure that the black nigella seeds are completely dry then store in an airtight container.


This weeks Vegetable Hero is Sea Fennel or CRITHMUM maritimum.
Did you know that this sea fennel is in the same family as carrots?  Apiaceae-that is.
It’s called sea fennel because it can grow in saline soil.
It was Shakespeare, in the Tragedy of King Lear. London. (Act IV, scene VI,) who referred to the collecting of this herb “Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" Meaning that people often lost their lives trying to collect Rock Samphire halfway down cliff faces.
Being a rare herb I was originally not going to mention this however, of late, Australian native herbs are making a resurgence in various retail outlets, from seed, to dried herbs and pickles.
In fact an Australia seed does sell seeds of Sea Fennel, although they call it Rock Samphire in their catalogue.
The word Crithmum: comes from the Greek krithe: barley, because the fruit looks a bit like barleycorn.
Of course maritimum means of the sea.
This plant also goes by the name of SAMPHIRE or Rock Samphire : a corruption of French St. Pieere, (St.Peter) the patron   saint of fishermen, also known as the rock.
Sea Fennel is still common round the coasts of Southern Europe and South and South-West England, Wales and Southern Ireland, but less common in the North and rare in Scotland.
In Australia it is very rare to find Rock Samphire in a (Herb) nursery until recently.

How to Grow Sea Fennel
Sea Fennel or Rock Samphire has been used in different ways for centuries, from the time of Greeks and Romans, as a food - raw, steamed, boiled or pickled, but it was also used as an medicament due to it's therapeutics and aromatic contents. Even today it is widely used in modern cosmetics perfumery and medicine.
Sea Fennel, or Rock Samphire is a perennial, frost hardy and easy to grow.
It grows in its native environment from rocks and shingle and on cliffs to rocky shores, and is the last dry-land plant exposed to strong wind, salt, sea waves, drying sun... it survives extreme weather conditions.

From where it originates you can assume that it likes to grow on sea cliffs, rocks, or sandy well drained soil.
Grow it in full sun in a warm sheltered position.

If you also thought that it likes sandy gritty soil that’s always moist,  you’d be right.

Sea Fennel grows to anywhere between 15 and 45cm in the home garden, depending on local conditions.
Being a halophyte, it can withstand very dry conditions as well, so there’s no reason why it can’t grow anywhere in Australia.
However, Rock Samphire can tolerate being always moist as well as drying out between waterings, but not for long.
It can even tolerate frost.

What it Looks Like?
Rock Samphire is a muted blue or pale aqua- green edible plant which also grows on tidal marshes.
Don’t confuse this plant with Sea Asparagus  or Marsh samphire, also known as glasswort (Salicornia europaea), that grows in coastal areas of Australia during the summer months.

Plants of Rock Samphire, will last you for many years in a pot or in the ground.
For those listeners with clayey soils, I would recommend growing them in pots at first, but seeing as they also grow in marsh land, you may be lucky if you tried it directly in the ground.
Rock Samphire or Sea Fennel is a succulent, smooth or glabrous, multi-branched herb, and woody at the base, naturally growing on rocks on the sea-shore and wettened by the salt spray.
You could say that stems of Sea Fennel are long, fleshy, -green, shining leaflets (being a succulent they’re full of aromatic juice) and lots of clusters or umbles of tiny, yellowish-green flowers, although the flowers aren’t a real feature.
The whole plant is aromatic and has a powerful scent.
Some say it has a strong smell of furniture polish, but I think that’s a bit harsh and think it’s more like aniseed.

When you buy the seeds of Rock Samphire and grow it, you can divide in up into more plants next spring or save the seed and grow more plants that way, to share amongst your friends or gardening group.

When to Sow

Sow seeds in autumn or spring, lightly cover the seed, grow on in pots and plant out in the summer.
Prefers a dry well drained soil in full sun sheltered from cold winds, benefits from a salty soil.
Being a succulent, if you have success with growing Aloe vera, than good, Rock Samphire likes the same growing conditions.
In the 19th century, samphire was being shipped in casks of seawater from the Isle of Wight to market in London at the end of May each year.

Where do you get it? Should you ever be in Sydney, you can buy the plant at the Botanic Gardens nursery, where it’s been available for a couple of years. they're open Mon-Fri 11am to 5pm.

You can also buy it online and I’ll put on link to that nursery on my website.
By the way, you can also buy it on that auction site ebay in Australia and they promise to express ship the plant to you.
Why is it good for you?
Crithmum maritimum  or Rock Samphire, is a strongly aromatic, salty herb; it contains a volatile oil, pectin, is rich in vitamin C and minerals, has diuretic effects, cleanses toxins and improves digestion, and helps weight loss-possibly because of the diuretic part.
It has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cooking with Sea Fennel or Rock Samphire.

The easiest way to use Samphire, is to steam the stems, minus the leaves, and dress with lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil. Use it as a side vegetable. It’s saltiness goes well with seafood and eggs.
Pickled Sea Fennel
Pick the young and green rock samphire beginning of March (in Australia) before it flowers. Break into 2 in. lengths, lay on a dish and sprinkle with dry salt. Leave for 24 hours. Drain, then cook gently until tender in enough vinegar to just cover it, but don't allow it to get soft. :
Plain vinegar is best for this as the samphire has its own spicy flavour. Seal down securely in hot jars
Hand pick sea Fennel before it flowers. Pick of the small leaves and use them in a salad.
Wash the stems.
Cook it in mixture of water and vinegar (70:30) for 15 min until tender.
Leave it to cool and store it in jars filled with diluted vinegar (half water, half vinegar).
You can use it for seasoning salads, or as a cold relish to round meat or fish dish!



with landscape designer Christopher Owen

Show gardens look perfect in every way, but do they last the test of time?
This includes those garden makeovers that you might see on TV.
What are the tricks that garden designers use to make that show garden more immediate?
Can a show garden be directly transposed to your garden or does it need expert advise from the designer.
Let’s find out.


with Hort Journal Magazine editor Karen Smith
Sometimes there’s a species or group of plants that have something going for them all year round.
Not necessarily the same plant, but if you pick the right ones from this group, you’ll have something in flower in every season.
The cultivars have names like Black Knight and Purple Majesty, ripe Raspberry and Mulberry Jam, and even Romantic Rose
Is your mouth watering?
Let’s find out about these plant.
PLAY:Salvias_17th December_ 2014

A mix of salvias, roses, and perennials in the cottage garden of Coriole. photo M Cannon

There’s books written about them, societies, clubs and study groups dedicated to Salvias.

They come in a variety of colours and are generally pretty hardy to all climates around Australia.
Salvias are a large group of garden plants that includes annuals, biennials, perennials, and shrubs.
The perennial salvias brighten up a midsummer garden border. Another common name is sage.

 A relative of the familiar kitchen sage, flowering salvias produce spikes of small, densely packed flowers on sometimes but not always aromatic foliage.
These plants are drought and heat tolerant that can flower from early to late summer in shades of blue, violet, red, pink, salmon and white. The colour variations are endless-the only colour you can't get is yellow.
Plants grow from 30cm to 2 metres tall, depending on the variety.
Use care when choosing salvias, because not all plants are hardy in all regions.
Why not pick a season when you’re garden’s looking a bit bare of colour and pick out from these plants, the colour that you want.

There’s even Salvias that will grow in pots like the orange flowered salvia that Karen mentioned but couldn’t remember. The name is Heatwave Glow, a compact small shrub.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Saving Your Fruit

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


Tomatoes photo M Cannon
with Margaret Mossakowska from  Vivid Edible Gardens
How does your garden cope over summer? What about you the gardener?
Are you too exhausted to go out there and tend to those veggies and flowering plants?
Every now and then, I ask someone like Margaret from a permaculture background to give us gardeners a different slant on what we should be doing.
Let’s find out more about summer gardening

As you finish picking vegetables planted in late winter and early spring, you'll be thinking about what to plant for summer.
Fruit Fly Pheremone lure and spray photo M Cannon
This is the time for unusual heat lovers like okra, rosella ( if your climate allows), snake beans and eggplant or the regular well known sweetcorn, capsicums, chillies, pumpkins and melons. Be sure to select heat-tolerant varieties of other vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes if you decide to keep growing.
You might want to put up some shade cloth to protect more sensitive veggies in the sunniest parts of the day or maybe an umbrella or two.
Exclusion netting of Nectarine photo M Cannon

Another idea is to plant up large pots or tubs in a part shade position to keep some salad ingredients going over the summer.
Margaret also mentioned protecting your fruit from fruit fly with exclusion bags, exclusion netting and pheromone traps. The pheromone traps only target the pest and not the good bugs like lacewings and ladybirds.
If you have any questions about your veggie garden or a photo, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Believe it or not, I’ve never devoted this segment to growing melons so I’m going to correct that.

Did you know that the first melons were only the size of an orange, way back in 2400 BC in Egypt?

Melons originated in the wild in southern Asia and Africa.

But it wasn’t until the 16th and 17th century that the rest of the world got to eat melons all thanks to the sailors on exploratory voyages.
In Australia there are three main types  of melons being Rockmelon,( Cucumis melo) Watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris) and Honeydew Melon(Cucumis melo –and in the last few years there’s been yellow watermelons available.
Melons are related to pumpkins, squashes and gourds.
Watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melon grow on trailing vines on the ground in much the same way as pumpkins and gourds do.
Just like pumpkins, melon vines have separate male and female flowers that are pollinated by honey bees.
Did you know that the watermelon is 92% water?
You might know of something called lycopene which tomatoes are supposed to have a lot of.
Lycopene is an antioxidant compound that gives tomatoes and certain other fruits and vegetables their colour.
But, did you know that Watermelons have now been declared the fruit or veg with the highest amount of lycopene?
Just 1 ½ cups of ripe, red watermelon contains 9 to 13 milligrams of lycopene, which is approx 40 percent more than raw tomatoes.
Lycopene has been linked to reduced risk of heart attack and certain cancers.

Have you ever wonder how seedless watermelons are grown?
Seedless watermelons were developed over 50 years ago, and they have few or no seeds. 
It’s all in the chromosomes and in commercial nurseries they cross particular plants to get a fruit without seeds.
Technically they cross a diploid plant (one with two sets of chromosomes) with a tetraploid plant (having four sets of chromosomes) giving a fruit that produces a triploid seed (with three sets of chromosomes). This triploid seed  produces seedless watermelons.
Pretty involved isn’t it but it’s crossing plants and not genetic modification, and can occur in nature.
The male flower on the seedless watermelons are sterile, so pollinator plants (ie watermelons plants that will grow seeds) are interspersed with the crop so it’ll get pollinated and set fruit.
In a field growing seedless melons roughly 25% of the plants are seeded varieties and 75% are seedless varieties (grown from triploid seeds). 
Hives of bees are brought into the fields to cross-pollinate.  Without this cross-pollination, the seedless watermelon plants would not produce fruit.
When to grow
In sub-tropical climates from August to January, in temperate climates from September until December, in cool temperate zones from October until early January, and in arid zones, from September through to March.
And as seems to be the usual over the last few weeks, tropical climates must plant melons in the dry season-that is over winter.
Growing melons
Melon vines need a fair bit of space with each one covering an area that is about 1m x 1m.
This could even be in the back corner of the garden, providing there is direct sunlight.
If space is an issue, a trellis or frame can be built which the vine will climb.
When planting out your seeds, do the same as you did for squash by using the mound method to deposit several seeds.

Melon Vines photo M Cannon

. The mounds by the way are about 1m wide and 20cm high.
Melons have a poor germination rate so this is good insurance.
Melons generally are less tolerant of acidic soils than other vegetables and the pH should be 6 or higher.
Melons need high levels of nutrient in the soil – composted manure or complete organic fertiliser, and good air circulation.
Chook poo is the best for melons and should be mixed through the soil before planting.
All melons have reputedly poor fruit set so you need to have them in an area where there are lots of bees (for pollination), and full sun.
It’s important to get your melon plants growing as much as possible in the early stages, and then to keep them growing when the plants begin to flower.
Your regime should be regular watering and weekly liquid feeding at this time –by follow up feeding with liquid fish emulsion or seaweed products you give those plants a kick along.
Honey Dew Melons photo M Cannon
Once the plant is producing both male and female flowers and beginning to set fruit, pinch out the ends of the long running shoots.
Here’s a tip from a commercial grower-thin the fruits to a maximum of four fruits per plant when fruits are about 2.5cm in diameter.
Keep your melons shaded-watermelons especially are prone to sun scald.
When is your melon ready to pick?
Do you tap  on the melon to see if it’s got a hollow sound, sniff the end or what?
In fact Rockmelons should be quite fragrant when ripe.
With both Rockmelons and Watermelons the blossom end of the melon (the opposite end to where the stem attaches to the plant) will become soft.
Keep an eye out for the stem which attaches the melon to the plant –this will dry out when the melon is ready.
Watermelons also have a whitish green patch on the fruit where it is in contact with the ground, when this patch turns pale yellow, the fruit should be ready
Melons take about three months to be ready.
Why are they good for you?
Watermelons have no fat or cholesterol and are an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C and contain fibre and potassium
Because of the high water content of watermelons they’re a great diuretic-that means they  stimulate kidney  into action to start the process of eliminating toxins.
They are low in fibre with a virtually non  existent fat content. Watermelons also contain the carotenoids lutein and lycopene. Lycopene, the responsible pigment for the red colour in certain fruits, has de-oxidizing properties that help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
As for rockmelons, just one (100g) serve of rockmelon contains a day’s allowance of Vitamin C, and they are a good source of beta carotene.
Honeydew melons are also high in Vitamin C, B6 an folate as well as having some potassium.
All melons don’t  ripen after harvest, so they should be ripe when you pick them or when you buy them.



with landscape designer Christopher Owen
Series on Show Gardens-part 1
What’s the purpose of show gardens?
You might think they’re designed to impress but not that practical, but are they?
In this series on show gardens, I talk to Chris Owen who won silver in the Australian Garden Show this year.

Chris Owen silver winning Design at Australian Garden Show 2014

Let’s kick of the series on show gardens.

If you’ve never been to the Chelsea Flower show that’s held in London in May, you might be wondering what show gardens actually are.
Firstly, the Chelsea flower show is the bees knees of show gardens because, everything is perfect.
Everything that can be in flower, is in flower, not a leaf is out of place and designers come from all over the world to display their show garden.
Australia won gold at last year’s Chelsea flower show.
Show gardens at Chelsea are meant to inspire and show what can be done, often with new release plants.
But if you can’t go, you can get a DVD and have a look to see what the fuss is about.
We’ve just heard about one show garden, and over the next couple of weeks, Chris will describe the pitfalls and the benefits to you of visiting show gardens.


with Karen Smith Hort Journal magazine editor
The NSW Christmas bush is popular with florists at this time of year because of the bright bracts that cover the bush-just right for this time of the year.
 -let’s find out about this plant.

The dwarf species of Christmas bush was discovered some forty years ago growing on a bluff along the NSW coastline.
Apparently the story goes, this stand of Christmas bush looked like they had been there since before European settlement.
Luckily the chance discovery by a horticulturalist meant that several cuttings were collected.
Fast forward many years to a Central Coast nursery where they were being sold or just grown for the owner's pleasure-I'm not sure which.
However, a member of the Australian Plant Society chanced on these plants when the nursery was closing down and got those specimens.
Still more years passed before the idea of propagating and selling them came to fruition.
As it happens Ramm Botanicals now propagate Johannas Christmas which is sold to retail nurseries throughout Australia.
The species NSW Christmas bush can grow quite big and isn’t everyone’s favourite plant when it’s not showing the red bracts.
Having a small compact version  like Ceratopetalum gummiferum Johannas Christmas, is ideal and more versatile in many gardens than the bigger parent plant.
From the Ramm Botanicals website:

Johannas Christmas only grows to a metre and likes most soil types but prefers free draining soil.
If planting in a tub,most general purpose potting mixes will suit.

Feed with a controlled-release fertiliser in early spring and perhaps supplement with a liquid feed after flowering.
Johanna’s Christmas likes a full sun position and is not a particularly thirsty plant. In fact, avoid water-logging as the plant can be susceptible to root rot.
If you want to shape the plant, prune in autumn before flower initiation.
 Keep plants mulched and protect from heavy frost and harsh afternoon sun






Monday, 8 December 2014

Seaweed for Plants for a Day

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with Steve Falcioni from

Have you ever collected seaweed from the beach and placed it around your garden plants?
Did you wonder about washing of the salt first or put it straight on?
The benefits of seaweed on plants are plenty but seaweed is not regarded as a fertiliser because it has so little in the way of the big three nutrients-Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.

You may even have heard seaweed extract being called a tonic for plants but what does that actually mean?
Let’s find out more about this potentially beneficial ingredient….

Collecting seaweed from the beach is not so easy these days because there's not much of it around anymore on some beaches.
So the best way to get seaweed on your garden is to buy seaweed extract.

Seaweed extract comes in either liquid or powder forms.Either way, using seaweed on a regular basis should be a routine in your garden maintenance program over summer.
If you plants have the odd yellowing leaf, seaweed solution will most likely help them.
Seaweed extract

  • stimulates strong healthy plant growth
  • encourages root development and minimises transplant shock
  • enhances plants ability to cope with various stresses including drought, salty soils and the cold
  Did you know that a lack of micronutrients in the soil rarely causes a deficiency in plants. Instead it’s because the soil is poorly drained, or the soil is cold, or has a pH that is too high or too low. In any case, the tonic of a seaweed spray can help the most.
TIP: If your using a hose on, hosing the leaves has little benefit-use a pressurised sprayer for this.
If you have any questions about seaweed solution or have some tips about using seaweed on your garden, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This week’s Vegetable Hero is the mint-but not just any mint, it’s Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata.
Odorata simply means fragrant.
Summer is a great time to be growing mints of all kinds, but this one is particularly good.
And…..Vietnamese mint isn’t actually a mint, nor is it in the mint family-Lamiaceae but in a family called Polygonaceae-the same for buckwheat and rhubarb.
In botany, mint is the common name for any of the various herbaceous plants that have a botanical name starting with Mentha, in the mint family Lamiaceae.
These mints have wide-spreading, underground rhizomes; erect, square, branched stems; and pairs of oppositely arranged leaves; and small, tubular flowers arranged in clusters.
Only the members of Mentha are known as the "true mints."

In comes some other plants with fragrant leaves that also have the common name of mint.
Vietnamese mint is one of these. Not a true mint and again, not even in the mint family.

This so called mint is a herb that’s used a lot in Asian cuisine, and funnily enough, it grows easily, much like other mints.
The leaves are used fresh in salads, soups and stews.
In Singapore, the shredded leaf is an essential ingredient in laksa, a spicy soup.
Vietnamese Mint photo M Cannon
Here’s a funny fact-did you know that some Buddhist monks grow Vietnamese mint in their private gardens and eat it often as a helpful step in their celibate life.
Vietnamese mint has an essential oil called kesom oil.
This oil is used a lot in the processed food industry where it’s used in the form of a natural food essence.
The cosmetic industry also uses kesom oil.
So what does it look like?
It is a creeping herbaceous perennial that grows up to 30cm with a flavour that is a mix of pepper, mint and lemon.
The leaves are very narrow and angular looking and the stems are jointed much like wandering Jew which is now called Tradescantia.
The old genus name Poly­gonum (English: knot­weed) pointed to way the stem looked, - many joints linked together by slightly bent “knots” or “knees”
The top of the leaf is dark green, with chestnut-coloured dark rounded markings right across the leaf, and the underside is burgundy red.
When it flowers is has flat spikes of light lavender coloured flowers
In originates in Vietnam where it’s found in the wild in wet and boggy places.
Where it Grows
It can grow very well outside in summer in non-tropical parts of Australia.
Vietnamese mint prefers part-sun and well-drained soil.
For those areas with cool to cold winter, bring your Vietnamese mint indoors or under shelter as you would an indoor plant.
It grows very well in pots but is frost tender.
Tip: If you’re growing them in pots, once Vietnamese gets pot bound, it’ll stop producing leaves giving you a big hint to repot and divide it up.
Vietnamese mint rarely flowers outside the tropics, but it’s the leaves you want to use and not the flowers.
Vietnamese mint is normally fairly low maintenance and is easy to grow, as long as you give it a basic level of basic care.
All you need to do is keep it well watered and cut back to the ground when
leaves become tough to produce more fresh young leaves.
Vietnamese mint is a perennial plant that grows best in tropical and subtropical zones in warm and damp conditions.
In good conditions, it can grow up to 15 to 30 cm.
In winter or when the temperature is too high, it does wilt.
If you know someone with this plant ask for some cuttings from a mature clump.
These mints are so hardy! They will tolerate any soil conditions and even people stomping on them (by accident of course).
They don't need constant fertilising or watering but do like shading from the hottest part of the day.
Try planting Vietnamese mint if you'd like to attract butterflies and bees to your garden.
Cooking with Vietnamese Mint.
The fresh leaf is used typically in Vietnamese cooking and can be used in
place of Coriander in all Asian cooking, soups, salads and fish. It can also be dried.
Why are they good for you?
Vietnamese mint contains high levels of Beta-carotene and vitamin E:
Also has high levels of folic acid, iron and calcium.
Mint leaves also have useful healing properties.
Mints can freshen breath, soothe the stomach and reduce inflammation. Mint leaves are not as potent as concentrated mint oil, but they still have many of the same health benefits.


with Landscape Designer-ADRIAN SWAIN Refugium Adrian describes his show garden for this years Australian Garden Show as a low maintenance, living refuge which accommodates entertaining, relaxation and reflection. Large concrete slabs punctuated by recycled timbers and a recycled brick feature wall.Materials are complimented by interesting foliage types and a colour range of silver, purple and deep green. Mature trees anchor the plantscape and provide form and scale.Listen to Adrian describe his design ethic as well as the plant listing
Refugium photo M Cannon


Hemerocallis hybrids.

 with Karen Smith from
Would you like a perennial plant that’s easy care, and flowers all summer, year after year?
Not only that, its hardy, drought resistant, frost resistant, easy care, and low maintenance?
Sounds too good to be true, but with a few general tips on keeping it looking good, these plants can fill the lower parts of your borders or fill out those sunny spots that look bare.
With names like Adorable Perfection, Bali Watercolour, Boogie Woogie Blues and Dream Lover, what could I be talking about but daylilies?

Let’s find out about this plant.

Did you know a daylily is not a bulb?
It is a hardy perennial that can flower for 4 - 6 months.
Day lilies can be planted all year round and Daylilies are long flowering , even though each flower only lasts a day.
They can be planted all year round either in the ground or in pots.
Flowering commences October in the subtropics & mid to late November in VIC, NSW, TAS, SA & some areas of WA.  In many areas a re-bloom occurs in autumn.

All daylilies need is 5 to 7 hours of sun every day, lots of organic matter in the soil, a little water once a week, & a thick mulch of straw or hay. You can grow them in your perennial border, in pots on your patio, around the edges of ponds, on steep banks & even on the roadsides.

The new hybrids means the plant flowers for up to 6 months.
They can have tiny blooms, double blooms, huge single blooms, & fragrant blooms - and with good growing conditions, they can be pest & disease free. They are truly a wonderful perennial & are fast becoming one of the world’s most popular sun-loving flowering plants.