Monday, 30 June 2014

Clever Ravens and Conifer Gardens

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
You mightn’t know this fact but Ravens are in fact native.

Ravens are all closely related and descended from one common ancestor.

When it comes to intelligence, these birds are as clever as chimpanzees and dolphins.

Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds.

In the wild, these birds have pushed rocks onto predataros to keep them from climbing to their nests, and played dead beside a carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.
If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another.
Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes..
Let’s find out more about these clever birds..

As Sue mentioned, Ravens recognise people carrying guns, they avoid traps, and they follow and harass large predators for food, or follow trappers and steal bait from traps.
The best fact of all is Ravens have learnt to turn road-killed cane toads over and eat them from the belly, thus avoiding the dorsal poison glands.
You might this hard to believe but did you know that in captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots.
They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls.They’re also as good a flyer as falcons and eagles.
Turns out that Ravens' family tree evolved in Australia.
They then radiated out into the rest of the world where they proceeded to become the world's most diverse and successful group of birds.
If you have any questions about Ravens or have a photo to send it, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Success with Raising Seeds and Seedlings

If you’ve grown plants from seed, you would know that’s it more rewarding in many ways than just buying seedlings from somewhere.
A main advantage of growing from seeds is that it’s cheaper than buying seedlings, and raising your own seed gives you more control over exactly how your seeds are raised, and how many you choose to grow at any one time.
Also there is a wider variety of heritage, non-hybrid varieties available by seed than as seedlings, meaning you can grow some unusual vegies that you simply won’t find in the shops.

Growing from seed isn’t always easy and I know many a gardener from my days at Yates, that failed to germinate a whole bunch of different seeds.

The answer to the seed raising question in a lot of cases was answered by saying that if seedlings get too wet or too dry, then they’re not going to germinate.

So, are there any sure fire techniques that could work for you for some of those tricky seeds?

Some gardeners and horticulturalists keep a record of everything they sow.
Whether you are producing a few plants for your home flower and vegetable gardens or working at a larger-scale nursery, developing a propagation journal is a good place to start if you’re having a hit and miss type of problem with your seeds.
Keep a record when seeds are sown, the germination date and success rate, and when seedlings are ready for transplanting each year.
At the end of the year, evaluate the timing of when you put the seeds in, noting what went right and what went wrong.
Next year your might then consider making adjustments so that you’re growing plants under optimum conditions.

Also keep track of where you bought the seeds, as their quality and reliability might vary.

Having said that, seed companies sell thousands of packets of each variety of seed and these have been batch tested for germination rates at above 85%.
It’s pretty unlikely that a batch of seeds is unreliable without implying that several thousand other seeds won’t germinate either.
The next thing is to store your seeds properly-not in a garden shed if it heats up during summer and is freezing cold in winter.
The cold won’t matter so much as the heat.

  • Seeds are a fragile commodity, and if not treated properly, their viability takes a dive.
  • Did you know that some seeds can survive for thousands of years under the proper conditions, while others will lose viability quickly, even when properly stored.  Parsnips is one that loses viability very quickly.
  • The best way to store your precious seeds is to keep seeds in a cool, dark location with low humidity, like a cool laundry that won’t fluctuate in temperate that much.
  • Some say put them in the fridge, but if you’re like me, you’d need a fridge just to keep the seeds in.
  • Store the seeds in a plastic container, and label the top with the expiry date of the seeds.
  • There is a test you can do for seed viability for many of your seed, although it’s not 100% bullet proof, and that is once you are ready to sow, you can soak them in water for a few hours.
  • The seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom, while the dead ones will float on the surface. This test generally works better for larger seeds as a general rule. It’s worth a try in any case.
  • When sowing seeds in punnets, especially if you’re re-using them, give them a good soak with a 10% solution containing  bleach so that any pathogens that might kill of the seeds is killed.
  • This’ll take about 15 minutes.
  • You’re better of sowing plants that resent root disturbance when transplanted into small, individual containers like cell packs or plug trays. Recycled plastic containers, like empty yogurt or margarine tubs, work well, too, as long as you've poked holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • It doesn’t matter what type of container you use as long as it’s clean and free of pathogens.
  • Another big factor in seeds not germinating is covering them with too much or too little seed raising mix.
  • If you’ve got an old kitchen sieve, use that to sprinkle the mix over the seeds after you’ve sown them into the punnets or vegetable garden.
  • Very fine seeds that need light to germinate should be barely covered if at all.

Vermicullite on seeds
  • In this case, I tend to light sprinkle some soaked vermiculite over the seeds, so they won’t dry out but are weighed down by the mix.
  • Each seed must make good contact with the soil and the best way to do this isn’t with your fingers-the seeds might stick to them, but with a small piece of wood, or the bottom of a glass jar.
  • Water in your seeds either from the bottom up, or with a spray bottle so the seeds aren’t dislodged.
  • Then cover your seeds with a plastic bag, a cut off plastic drink bottle, or in a mini greenhouse.
  • Don’t water again unless you that you need to rehydrate your seed container.
  • The best way to do this is, place the entire punnet, pot or whatever you’re using in a basin with about 5-7 cm of luke-warm water and allow the planting medium to wick moisture from the bottom.
  • If just the surface has dried, you can lift the plastic covering and spritz the surface with water from a spray bottle.
  • As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic covering..
  • Most seeds like temperatures of around 18 ° to 25°C to germinate.
  • If your put your seeds near a hot heater or use, a heating pad designed for germinating seeds, you’ll get a much fast germination rate in the cooler months.
  • In this case be sure to check for moisture often, since the seed containers may dry out more quickly.
  • Keep in mind that most seeds won’t germinate without sunlight.
  • Once the seeds have germinated they’ll grow best if they have at least 8 hours of sunlight each day.
  • Indoors, place seed trays in a sunny, north-facing window and give the tray or whatever a quarter turn each day to prevent the seedlings from overreaching toward the light and developing weak, elongated stems.
  • Once your seedlings have grown at least 4 leaves, they’ll need some nutrients fairly regularly to keep your seedlings growing strong.
  • When the embryo inside a seed is developing, it relies on food stored in the endosperm to fuel its growth. As the shoot emerges from the soil and the true leaves develop, the initial nutrients supplied by the endosperm will be depleted.
  • Most seed-starting mixes contain a small amount of nutrients to help the initial seedling growth and not burn the developing roots.
  • Once the true leaves emerge, it’s time to begin a half-strength liquid fertilizer regimen on a weekly basis and to get the most out of your seedlings, start using some kind of seaweed solution to get strong root growth.

Conifers in the landscape

with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Are you looking for something out of the ordinary to kickstart your garden?
Have all those gardening and lifestyle magazines left you a little bit bored with the same old same old?
Unique ideas are as rare as hen’s teeth but I think we've got some great ideas in part 2 of garden design with unusual themes-ground cover conifers.
Conifers are really tough and can take dry conditions – and there are some fantastic ground covers. Many of them spread to create carpet like covering over the soil which is an excellent weed suppressant.
For a large area or slope they are a very useful plant used en masse.
In a smaller garden situation, they perform well too and look best if used just like you would other ground covers, teamed with plants in a range of sizes and forms for a cohesive arrangement. Or use them as spillover over a retaining wall.
Let's hear all about part two and weeping and ground cover conifers....

One of the most spectacular of all feature plants, conifer or not, is the weeping Atlantic cedar Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’. It’s long cascading branches drip with blue-green leaves – it can be grafted onto a standard form and the branches look fantastic flowing over an arch.
Hope you’ve found a bit of inspiration to grow some conifers in your garden!


Blueberry Burst
 A new variety of Blueberry is Blueberry ‘Burst’ .
Blueberry burst is a naturally dwarfing evergreen blueberry that has fruit double the size of regular blueberries and gives you much more.
The best advantage of this cultivar is that it's a low chill variety with early flowering and fruit harvest.
Blueberry Burst
Fruiting starts in July in hot climates and August in cold climates, concluding within 3-4 months. Blueberry ‘Burst’ has been successfully trialled in both hot and cold environments throughout Australia.
Grab one or two, and if you don’t have room in the garden, they grow especially well in pots. Keep them in full sun and fertilise them with either Fruit and Citrus Food or Camellia and Azalea Food and you’ll be picking more blueberries than you can possibly eat.
Blueberry flowers
Blueberry Burst has been especially bred to grow in pots so you can grow it even if you don't own a garden. Like all fruiting plants it grows best in full sun. Choose a pot that holds at least two bags worth of premium potting mix. If the pot has a saucer your plant will grow even faster. Water it twice a week with a bucket of water.
Because this new Blueberry is cutting grown, it will produce fruit the first season. The plants are flowering now so you will be picking sweet tasting juicy fruit this August / September. There are no nasty chemicals required but you may need to protect it from the birds as the fruit turn purple.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb and Unusual Garden Themes

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

Keukenhoff Gardens-Netherlands

with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Are you looking for something different for your garden,

Keukenhoff Gardens, Netherlands
You’ve been looking through garden design books, or books about famous gardens from other places and just can’t seem to find something that’s a bit different but is doable in your own garden.
Some of the English, Italian or American gardens are on too much of a grand scale for you to get any real idea of how to incorporate it into your own garden.
So why not start you’re your own theme for the first of 5 weeks of ideas.
We start the series with a look at conifer gardens in part one.
Louise says

"Conifers can be a bit divisive amongst gardeners – many love them for their particular shapes and variety, but a lot of gardeners loathe them and just cant’ get that picture of a 70’s style garden out of their mind, a time when the yellow leafed ones were popular like the Swanes Golden Cypress (cupressus sempervirens). "

There are so many that you’re sure to find something that suits your garden, even if you might not want a whole area turned over to conifers. While they look great planted in groupings, you can use them effectively amongst shrub borders, as screening or as features.

Let’s find out what this is all about.

Conifers need not be dull and boring if you look for something a bit different to add to your own garden.
A patch of lawn surrounded by a flower border with a tree in the middle: Does this sound like your garden?
If so, jazz it up with some unusual garden ideas and there’ll be more keeping over the next four weeks.
some of the conifer varieties mentioned are
Blue Arrow
C. sempervirens 'Glauca'
Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’.

Cupressus sempervirens 'Glauca’

Japanese black pine (pinus thunbergii)

If you like the idea of conifers, but aren’t sure how it would work in your garden, choose one of the ones Louise mentioned either from this week or next week’s episode, and it it’s not available, don’t give up, either order it online, or from a mail order catalogue or from your garden centre.


Rhubarb  or botanically Rheum x hybridum.

Do you think of Rhubarb as a fruit?
You wouldn’t be the lone ranger on that one, because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple pie or strudel. 
But did you know that rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, which means it’s a member of the vegetable family?
If that’s a bit Confucius, in 1947, in the United States, a New York court decided since it was used as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
Of course 5,000 years ago Rhubarb was used for medicinal purposes when Chinese people used the dried roots as a laxative.
This is the Chinese variety of Rhubarb.
Different varieties of Rhubarb have different medicinal uses.
It wasn’t until the early 19th when Rhubarb became popular in food being used in desserts and wine.
Ever heard of Rhubarb mania? Yes there was a time before WWII when it was so popular that it was referred to rhubarb mania.

So what is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb-the vegetable used as a fruits, is an herbaceous perennial.
Herbaceous because it dies down in winter, perennial because it regrows  from year to year.
 Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem  part of the plant.
The leaves are sort of triangular shaped and crinkly with small greenish flowers.
What we all like to eat is the long, thick (and tasty) petioles or stalks.
How do you prefer to eat your Rhubarb?
In sauces or pies, you can actually eat the stems raw in a salad or stewed.
Perhaps Rhubarb and ginger muffins or for something savory, how about rhubarb with pork or chicken with baked rhubarb?
Rhubarb crowns can be bought and planted in September if you live in, sub -tropical areas,.
July to September-October if you’re in Temperate zones;
August to November in cool temperate districts and for once, arid zones have hit the jackpot and can plant Rhubarb from July right through to February. Can’t get much better than that.

In temperate and cool climates the above ground parts of the plant completely withers away during the colder months, so don’t be alarmed, your plant hasn’t died it’s just dormant.
That’s why, you can buy the dormant crowns now and plant them.
Rhubarb can be grown in pots as long as the pot is large enough, say 30 cm wide.
In fact there’s a variety called Ruby red Dwarf that’s perfect for potted gardening because it has short thick stems that are bright red.
IMPORTANT TIP: In case you think you can also eat the leaves-DON’T.
The leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic. There’s no safe method of using them in cooking at all.
A few vegetables have oxalic acid but in this case the concentrations of oxalic acid is way too high and it’s an organic poison and corrosive. Other toxins may also exist.
Rhubarb is usually propagated by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed from the previous season.
If you have a friend that grows rhubarb, ask them to make divisions by cutting down through the crown between the buds or 'eyes' leaving a piece of storage root material with each separate bud. 
This is a good way to share your plant with friends.

Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but here’s another tip- not before it’s at least five years old.

Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season.
Use large amounts of organic matter like cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.
Tip:Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant.
During the active growing season you will also need a side-dress of fertiliser using some sort of complete fertiliser at three-monthly intervals do this also after you picked off some Rhubarb stalks for dinner as well.  
You don’t have to dig up your rhubarb plant, as it’ll last for 10-15 years. So plant it in a place that’s permanent, otherwise choose the pot alternative.


The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet?
There’s good news and then there’s bad news.
The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red.
On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.
So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be green.
If you really want red stems,  either look out for a friend or neighbour with rhubarb that has red stems, and ask for a piece or order some red ones now or buy crowns that will have guaranteed red stems.

There isn’t much that goes wrong with Rhubarb …although some districts may get mites in the leaves or borers in the stem.
Unless you are growing plants in really heavy clay, you won’t get crown rot either.
Some varieties for you to try-and I’ll bet you can’t decide which one-I’m still thinking.
Rhubarb-Big Boy and Mount Tamborine-originally from Queensland and almost never seen in the supermarket-they reckon that the large stems are too big for the shelves.
Rhubarb Cherry Red and Winter Wonder-grown by market gardeners in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland. Sometimes seen at farmers markets.
These varieties are available from

Why is Rhubarb a vegetable Hero?
The good: news  rhubarb is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol.
It’s also a good source of Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K,


Eucalyptus Caesia
This week’s plant of the week has got be one of the standout plants for the colour of the leaves, bark and flowers.
This week, plant of the week is highly decorative and one of the most sought after gum trees for home gardens.
It’s a native tree, and is a brilliant ornamental tree growing to about 8 m before the foliage starts to weep.
The young branches are red and glossy with older growth being covered in a whitish bloom and the bark peels in curled strips. The flowers are stunning large showy pink to red with yellow at the tips of the stamens arriving in Spring .
Not only is the tree not too big, but Yes it’s a gum tree from the central Wheat belt region of Western Australia, where it is found on a small number of granite outcrops, but it’s too good not to have one in your own garden no matter how small.
I’ve seen it do well in pots for a great many years.

 Listen to the podcast with fellow horticulturalist Sabina

Eucalyptus caesia and E. caesia 'Silver Princess" are both small but spectacular feature trees in residential gardens and sometimes as a street tree.
Both eucalypts have dark brown bark which peels in curling strips to show a pale undersurface and has deep green leaves that looked like they’re coated with a whitish bloom.
The beautiful pinky-red flowers in winter and spring are big for a eucalypt.
Flowers are followed by large "gumnuts" about 3cm in diameter.
Eucalyptus caesia grows to about 6-9 m high.
Eucalyptus caesia 'Silver Princess"  grows to 5 metres in height.
Apart from the eye candy this tree has, it’s also very useful as a food source and nesting site for birds.
If you have any questions about growing Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess, why not write in to
Calcium, Potassium and Manganese.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Lemons, Oranges and Spangles


The onset of winter brings the star of the season, one of our winter migrants, the Spangled Drongo, into our neighbourhood.
Whilst most migrating birds have spent the summer in Australia avoiding the cold in the Northern Hemisphere, this bird has been to northern Australia and Papua New Guinea for breeding.
Going against the general flow of traffic it comes to spend the winter with us arriving in March-April and stays until September-October.
Let’s find out more...with ecologist Sue Stevens

Not only is the Spangled Drongo a bit of a comic, it’s also a great mimic of other bird calls as well.
Said to be the only one of it’s kind in Australia, although I’m sure you might think you saw a couple of these at your local watering hole.
If you have any questions about Spangled Drongo or have a photo to send it, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Well it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HEROES Cymbopogon citratus or Lemon Grass in Poaceae Family has a wonderful lemony scent and taste.
Lemongrass is used to add lemony flavour to soups, stews, curries and vegetable and rice dishes.
Lemongrass other uses to, apart from making it into tea.
The herb is also used in perfumery and to make various cosmetics, including soaps, lotions and creams.
Lemongrass is also blended with resins and other herbs for use as incense and is added to potpourri mixtures.
Due to the presence of certain volatile oils in the leaf, lemongrass is also used as a natural insect repellent.
Where does Lemongrass come from, well it’s a perennial grass native to India where they use the leaves in cooking.
In fact in in India, it’s mostly used as an antirheumatic, and antiseptic, drinking it-lemongrass tea of course.
What Does It Look Like?
Lemon grass has slender stalks about a 30cm long that feel slightly rough to the touch.
Lemon grass grows in a bushy clump and has long narrow pale green leaves.
In fact it grows in grass-like clumps to 1 m tall.
Cut back the old leaves in early Spring to strengthen the bush as well as tidy it up.
Companion Planting,.
You can’t go past growing a clump of Lemon Grass in the vegetable garden, because it’s got a good influence on all the plants around it and the vegetables will be much more flavoursome.

Where to grow it?
Lemongrass is adapted to hot wet summers and dry warm winters, is drought tolerant and will grow on a wide range of soils but prefers rich, moist loams.
It dislikes wet feet but it does like regular watering in summer.
If it’s at all damaged by frost in cooler areas, the tops shouldn’t be cut until all danger of frost has passed.
This helps to protect the centre of the plant from further cold damage.
An idea if you’re in cool temperate zones its to grow it in pots that can be moved under cover for winter.
Propagating Lemongrass
Lemongrass can be easily propagated by division and when you pick the Lemon Grass to use in cooking or teas, cut off the bottom part leaving just the roots - put this piece into a glass of water and it will shoot very quickly. You can then replant it and this will ensure that you always have Lemon Grass in your garden.
Lemon Grass tea in summer is extremely refreshing.
Problems answered.
Help! My lemongrass is taking over my vegetable garden.
Dig it out and start again but this time put it a bottomless pot.
Why is it good for you?
Lemon Grass can be drunk as a tea as it has a tonic effect on the kidneys.
Lemongrass is a mild sedative.  Try it for your insomnia, or when you are under stress, or even if you need help to calm a nervous or upset stomach or to relieve headaches.

It is good for the skin as the oil contains Vitamin A.
If you’re into aromatherapy, add a few drops of Lemon Grass oil to your bathwater.
For those with skin problems drinking the tea regularly will help and it will also give your eyes a bright clear look as well.


The leaves can be picked at any time of the year and the stems can be used fresh or dried..
For cooking use the stalks only and pick the thick, light green ones that feel firm and aren’t dried out and wilted.
Cut off the woody root tip of each stalk until the purplish-tinted rings begin to show and remove the loose, dry outer layer(s). Also, if the top of the stalk is dry and fibrous cut this off too. When using it in cooked dishes, bang it with a cleaver to bruise the membranes and release more flavour.
Put a handful of the leaves into the saucepan when steaming or simmering chicken or fish to give a delicate but delicious taste of lemon. It can be used in many dishes as a substitute for lemon.
To store fresh lemon grass, wrap well in clingfilm and refrigerate, it will keep for up to three weeks.
Certainly an easy plant to grow in your garden and lots of benefits as well.


with landscape designer Louise McDaid

No dig gardening you might’ve even heard of and wondered what it was all about.
The fact is the idea has been around for almost 80 years!
No dig gardening is exactly that - gardening without digging the soil – perfect for when you have rocky soil, or soil with too many rocks to remove, or if you have an area that’s just rock with no soil at all – the idea is you create your own soil, mostly used for veggie growing

Instead of buying in truckloads of soil to plant in, you can create your own with a mix of different materials that will compost – start by collecting things like leaves, grass clippings, scraps from the kitchen like vegies and fruit, weeds, prunings that have been chopped up and even shredded paper – most of these are free things you can gather or get from around the neighbourhood – you can also use your own compost that you’ve made
Let’s find out more of what this is all about.

No-dig gardening is a method used by some organic gardeners.
Nobody is really sure where the idea first started –possibly in when a Mr Masanobu Fukuoka started working on this idea in 1938, and began publishing it in the 1970s calling it "Do Nothing Farming."
Two pioneers of the method in the twentieth century included F. C. King, Head Gardener at Levens Hall, South Westmorland, in the Lake District of England, who wrote the book "Is Digging Necessary?" in 1946 and a gardener from Middlecliffe in the UK, A. Guest, who in 1948 published the book "Gardening Without Digging".

No-dig gardening was also promoted by Australian Esther Deans in the 1970s, and American gardener Ruth Stout advocated a "permanent" garden mulching technique in Gardening Without Work and no-dig methods in the 1950s and 1960s.



Persimmons are in fact a functional fruit with many edible uses.
They’re orange and can be put into your kid’s lunchbox unpeeled, and can be eaten sliced or whole like a pear.
You can dice and freeze them, adding them to a smoothie as a thickener.

They can also be dried, changing them from a crisp consistency to a soft, date-like, chewy texture. Eaten this way, they are deliciously sweet and taste more like candy than dried fruit.
Persimmons can be grown all over Australia and are in fact commercially grown in southern Qld, northern NSW, coffs Harbour, northern Victoria, north-eastern South Australia and south-western Australia.

Persimmon flower

There are two types of persimmon grown in Australia - astringent and sweet (non-astringent) persimmon. The commercial industry is focused almost entirely on the sweet (non-astringent) types, whereas it is very common for astringent persimmon to be grown in backyards.

Some non-astringent varieties are Fuyu, Jiro, Izu and Suruga.
Newer varieties have glowing orange-red sweet fruit which can be eaten in a hard mature condition.
Persimmons are a deciduous  small tree with great autumn colour. They need only a low chilling requirement for even bud break.
Persimmons bud up in September and flower in October so may for the most part avoid late spring frosts causing damage to flowers and fruit.

The best time to plant Persimmons is during the cooler months, which will give them as much time as possible to get established before next summer’s heat. The branches are brittle and break easily – especially when weighed down by the fruit – so choose an open, sunny spot that’s sheltered from strong winds.

Persimmon trees are grown from grafted nursery stock where the cultivar is grafted onto a selected rootstock.
Over-tree netting is important in protecting fruit from bird and fruit bat damage.
Soil-Persimmons can be successfully grown on a wide range of soils from light sandy loams to heavy alluvial clays. Preferred soils are light, well-drained sandy loams or loams.

Need protection from wind and late spring frosts because both can blemish fruits.

No real pests because the fruit ripen too late for fruit fly attack, but do still pick up fallen fruit just in case.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Hornbeams, and Desert Raisins

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 Herbies Spices

Bush tomato-photo Ian Hemphill

Have you ever heard of a bush tomato?
If you haven’t, you wouldn’t be considered silly if you thought it was a version of those tomatoes that seem to spring up in your compost heap or throughout the garden wherever you deposited your compost.
But in fact, you couldn’t be further from the truth..well almost, because the bush tomato is still in the Solanaceae family like the regular tomato.

So what’s so different about it?

Let’s find out…..

Should you consider growing your own bush tomato, Solanum centrale is the botanical cultivar of the only type of bush tomato that you should use-the others are toxic.
The bush tomato looks like a very small slightly stunted grey-green chilli plant with a purple flower, very much like the flower of an eggplant.
photo Ian Hemphill
Bush tomatoes grow to about 30cm high and fruit for 4-5 years.
The tomatoes dry in the bush in their natural environment but I'm not sure that could be said of those plants grown in other areas.
Bush raisin, Akudjera, all those different names, and from the sounds of it, it’s a very versatile addition to sweet and savoury dishes-anzac biscuits, chicken dishes, and risottos to name just a few.
Like all Australian spices, the flavours are strong and should only be used in small amounts.

Akudura risotto-recipe curtesy Herbies Spices

2 tbsp. ground bush tomato

1tbsp boil water
1tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp wattleseed
1tbsp olive oil
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 3/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine (dry)
5-6 cups vegetable stock
2-4 tbsp. cream
salt n pepper to taste,
shredded basil leaves, grated parmesan cheese


Soak akudjera in boiling water for 10-15 mins.
Drain, combine with wattle seed and tomato paste. Set aside.
Fry-onions until soft, add garlic for a further 2 mins.
Add rice - stir to coat grains.
Add wine, stir until evaporated.
Reduce heat and start adding stock 1 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed.
When ½ stock has been added added Akudjura mix.
Continue adding stock until rice is cooked.
Add cream and remove from heat.
Garnish with Basil and Parmesan. Serves 4



Today’s vegetable hero is in the family of veggies that is technically classed a fruit that is the Pea family.
Snow peas are of course in the pea or Fabaceae family.
Although traces of primitive pea varieties dating back to 5000BC have been found, the snow pea is a relatively new, and because they’re used a lot in Chinese cooking, we’ve assumed that they were developed in China.
Did you know that in fact, snow peas originated in the Mediterranean, and were grown widely in England and Europe in the nineteenth century?

So why are they called snow peas?
At first they were called English sugar peas or mange tout in France. (which means eat all) 
But sometime later they began being called Snow peas-no-one really knows why except that they’re picked in late winter, sometimes before last frost, and are in fact very resistant to frost, snow, and cold weather.
The Chinese adopted these peas into their own cuisine from the English, and they have been known as Chinese snow peas ever since. 
Their Mandarin name is ‘he lan do' or Holland pea.

Using Snow Peas in your cooking
Fresh snow peas may be eaten raw as a snack or used as a salad ingredient. They also lend themselves nicely to quick blanching, so that they stay crisp and green.

There’s nothing worse than soggy snow peas.
Snow peas may be added to Asian stir-fry dishes, soups, and pasta.
Because they need very little cooking time, add them towards the end of cooking so they remain crunchy and crisp.  
Apart from Garden Peas which are Pisum Sativum , there are two other strains of peas - the snow pea and the sugar snap pea.
These are known as edible podded peas because they don’t have the same cross fibre in the wall of the pod as the common garden pea and can be eaten whole.
The snow pea is Pisum sativum var. saccharatum. or (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon) is a distinct botanical cultivar or subspecies of garden peas.

The pod is pretty much flat and is eaten before the string develops and the peas start to swell.
There are dwarf and vine varieties of Snow peas.

Snow peas grow on leafy vines that produce tendrils, so they are especially well-adapted for climbing wires or trellises.
Snow peas have light green pods that follow purple or white, sweetly scented flowers.

When to Plant?

You plant Snow Peas from April until September in warm Temperate climates,.
April to July in sub-tropical areas,
April to October in cool temperate districts
May to July in Arid zones

Edible podded peas do best under cool, moist growing conditions.
The crop is sensitive to heat, and temperatures above 30oC will cause them to grow poorly.
Snow peas like day temperatures from 15o to 18oC average, with a maximum of 24oC and a minimum of 7oC, are ideal.

 But do you have trouble growing peas?

I know gardeners that do, they only seem to get one or two pods and the plant grows very weakly.
Try these hints:
Before sowing your seed, it is best to incorporate into the soil garden lime/dolomite to sweeten the soil and potash to encourage flowering.
 Did you know that Peas and other legumes (even wattles) have symbiotic bacteria in their roots called  rhizobia, that 'fix' nitrogen in the soil meaning that peas are capable of manufacturing their own nitrogen..
Peas then don’t need as much fertiliser as other vegies and are good to dig into the soil to concentrate available nitrogen for future crops.
Avoid applying a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen as this will encourage leafy growth at the expense of the flowers and subsequent fruit.

The stems and foliage of Snow Peas mostly aren’t affected by frost, but will get some damage if a cold snap follows a period of warm weather.
Having said that, flowers are made sterile by frost and so are the pods -affected pods have a white, mottled skin.
Snow Peas thrive on a wide range of soil types, as long as the soil is well drained with good depth.
Because peas' feeder roots run shallow, mulch is essential to keep the soil around the roots moist and cool.
When the seedlings are 5cm tall, apply a mulch of clean straw, chopped leaves, or compost.
As the pea plants mature, you can add more mulch to keep them happy
The ideal pH range is 5.8 to 6.8 (in water).
The main cultivars that you see in the supermarket or fruit and veggie shop will be Pisum satvium Oregan Giant” and “Oregan Sugar Pod.”
These have strong powdery mildew resistance and give lots of pod setting.

Why are peas of any kind good for you?
1 cup or 10 raw snow peas is a serve, and is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of niacin (B3), folate (another of the B vitamins) and beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A).
The lutein present in green peas helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Did you know that all peas with or without our pods, are among the best vegetable sources of dietary fibre.
For all you vegetarians out there, you probably know that most vegetables are quite low in protein, but peas have good supplies.
Green peas also provide zinc and all peas are a good source of potassium, especially edible-podded types.

with landscape designer Louise McDaid

Raised Garden Beds-part 3 in Garden with Shallow and Rocky Soil series.

In this episode of design elements it really doesn’t matter if you don’t have shallow or rocky soils, because raised garden beds can apply to those gardens with other problem conditions.
Not all raised garden beds are alike and Louise has some great ideas.

Let’s find out what this is all about.

using soil that’s more ideally suited to the plants you really love.
And since you the gardener doesn’t walk on the raised beds, the soil doesn’t get  compacted and the roots have an easier time growing.
Plus one more advantage of raised beds is that close plant spacing and the use of compost can result in higher yields with raised beds in comparison to conventional row gardening.
The best thing about raised beds is being able to grow vegetables without having to bend over to tend.


Hornbeams Carpinus betulus

Would you believe that there’s a company in England that sells hedges on stilts? Yes there is and Instahedge they call themselves.
This is what they say “We have a range of Pleached Hornbeam, Beech, Lime and London Plane, to name but a few. These are beautiful trees that are trained on a tiered frame, with different girth sizes to give you young trees which are all ready to grow on the new frame or ones that are already full, the choice is your.” Sounds good doesn’t it, except they don’t ship to Australia of course.
So if you want a Hornbeam tree to start your own instahedge, what should you first know before you buy?

Hornbeam Hedge at Hidcote, England
Pleaching is a method of training trees to produce a narrow screen or hedge by tying in and interlacing flexible young shoots along a supporting framework. Use this technique to make walks, arbours, tunnels and arches. You train the whippy branches in summer and prune them in winter.
Difficult? Yes you better believe it.

Framework needed for pleaching

Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'

Other varieties-Pendula-weeping branches.

Purpurea-New growth reddish green, becoming green. Introduced before 1873


An excellent landscape tree, Carpinus betulus fastigiata - Upright Hornbeam Tree European Hornbeam is suitable for screening, hedging, pleaching due to its excellent response to pruning. For this reason, the  Carpinus betulus fastigiata - Upright Hornbeam Tree is perfect for hedging, with its narrow shape and stunning yellow autumn foliage.

 Height: 8 metres Width: 6 metres

 Growth rate: Slow to moderate.

Form: Pyramidal when young, gradually forming a rounded crown at maturity.

 Foliage: Carpinus betulus - Hornbeam Tree European Hornbeam has mid-green leaves.

 Flower:  Light yellow orange, long, thick feathery flowers

 Tolerances:  Carpinus betulus fastigiata - Upright Hornbeam Tree has a wide range of tolerances, including alkaline and acidic soils. Does best in well drained soils in full sun or part shade. Generally free of pest and disease problems. Grows in full sun to part shade