Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hand Over Your Lupins

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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 Curator Rouse Hill Historic House, Scott Hill

Rouse Hill Historic Home photo Louise Brooks

There’s no doubt that England, and quite a few countries in the European Union have very old historic gardens compared to Australian historic gardens.

Even so, Australia does have some important gardens that are in need of restoration or reconstruction to bring them back to their original condition.

Gardens are part of our history and give us a window into the past, and once lost are impossible to replace.
People tend to think of heritage gardens as being old, but they can be anything from a couple of decades old to centuries old.
Heritage value also doesn't rely on the person that lived there.
Some styles have heritage values, such as "gardenesque" which was from the 1830's to the end of the 19th century. "Gardenesque" embodied a particular planting style and sought to bring out botanic values of plants.

Let’s find out more about why have historic gardens and the issued in looking after them.

Historic garden restoration and maintenance is an important issue worldwide.

Rouse Hill Historic House photo Louise Brooks
The restoration of heritage gardens whether they be community or private gardens, can be looked at as cultural or community assets.
Some need to be restored and all require maintenance in a sensitive way that reflects their historical significance.
Inside these historic gardens there can exist trees of a great age, old-fashioned plants, rare specimens, paths, edging and seating.
If you have any questions about historic gardens or have a photo of a historic garden you want to share, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lupinus albus
Lupins or Lupinus species.
Lupins belong in the pea or Fabaceae family.
This of course means that Lupins fix Nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere.
You’ve probably heard of Russell Lupins , that perennial flowering plant for gardens, coming in a variety of colours and leaf shapes.
These aren’t exactly the same.
Did you know, seed from some perennial flowering Lupins are edible and have been used as a crop feed as well as food for humans? 
Ever heard of Lupin beans eaten together with Portuguese beer.?
That sounds like an interesting possibility doesn’t it?
This may surprise you but Lupins as a food have been used for thousands of years.
Lupin dishes were popular during the Roman Empire.
But they seemed to eat just about everything didn’t they?

Lupinus albus
People from native tribes in South and Native America used to soak Lupin beans in salt water before eating them.
These are grown even today as a Soy substitute.
Lupin flowers
Lupin flowers come in a rainbow of colours but not all have edible seed pods. But before you go snacking on the seed pods of these flowers, be warned, unless you’ve bought edible Lupin seeds, the other varieties of Lupins are TOXIC.
THESE Lupins contain Lupin alkaloids which can cause Lupin poisoning.
DPI Victoria says there are 2 types of Lupin; the narrow leaf species (Lupinus angustifolius-blue flower) and the larger seeded and broader leaf Lupinus albus, with a white flower.
Lupinus albus is grown mostly for human consumption, while the higher protein narrow leaf lupin, Lupinus angustifolius, is better as stock feed.
Yellow Lupins are also a new crop in W.A.

The Andean Lupin L. mutabilis, the Mediterranean Lupinus albus (white lupin), Lupinus angustifolius (blue lupin) and Lupinus hirsutus are only edible after soaking the seeds for some days in salted water.

So this is one of those times you need to know those latin names, or at least know that there are edible lupins and the non-edible, mainly for show Russell lupins.
An important note: the edible lupins are called sweet lupins because they contain smaller amounts of toxic alkaloids than the bitter ornamental lupin varieties.

Apparently there are newly bred varieties of sweet lupins that are grown widely in Germany; they lack any bitter taste and don’t need soaking in salt solution.
The seeds are used for different foods from vegan sausages to lupin-tofu or lupin flour.
Lupins are currently under widespread cultivation in Australia, Europe, Russia, and the Americas as a green manure, livestock fodder and grazing plant, and high protein additive for animal and human foods.
Here in Australia is we don’t grow lupins to eat because 95% of Lupins grown here are grown for stock feed.
How and when  to sow your Lupins.
Sow Lupin seeds need to be sown 3-4 cm deep.
Sowing deeper than 5 cm can lead to very poor germination.
Lupins prefer moderate temperatures and rainfall, they don’t like frost because most of your flowers will drop if frost is severe enough or ongoing. They like moderate temperatures; too many days over 30o C will also see flowers drop.
The best time to sow your lupin seeds in temperate areas is autumn and spring, in subtropical areas April-June.
Lupins will also grow in a cool climate, for example if you live in southern Victoria, then February to March is the best time.
Lupins also grow in Mediterranean climates and grow in districts with average temperatures under 320C
The Lupin plant loves well-watered areas and soil with slight acidity.
The plant grows best coarse, well-drained soil preferably with a pH between 6 and 7.
Lupins can also grow in any area that has loose, light-coloured fertile soil.
It is best to water Lupins for 10-20 minutes every day.
Lupins also need direct sunlight daily for at least four hours.
Here’s a surprise, Lupin roots can grow down to 2.5 metres.
 You can buy Lupinus alba as a mail order seed and this is used for a green manure crop from the following supplier

Lupinus alba adds nitrogen to your soil, and because of the long taproot, opens and aerates the soil
Another soil benefit is that Lupins accumulate phosphorus; and the flowers are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.

Why are Lupins good for you?
Lupin flour used in bread products and pasta, is high in protein and is highly

nutritious for human body.
This is one of the main health benefits of Lupins.
Lupin seed has a low GI and makes us feel fuller for longer.
Apparently Lupin enhanced bread is available in some health food stores, and is said to reduce your hunger.
Lupin oil is edible oil extracted from Lupin seeds.
Because lupin seeds have the full range of essential amino acids and unlike soy, can be grown in more temperate to cool climates, lupins are becoming increasingly recognized as a cash crop alternative to soy.
So at this stage you can either grow the Lupins as a green manure crop, or a flowering perennial.
The flowers are considered a must for the cottage garden, combining perfectly with poppies, catmint and roses.
As far as growing Lupins as an edible crop, only commercial quantities are available to the crop farmer. But you never know, there could be a breakthrough soon, and we might be making our own Lupin enhanced bread in the not too distant future.


with Christopher Owen, Landscape Designer
Rooftop gardens can work and are something you might want to think about if you only got a small amount of land on which to garden.
But what plants survive on a rooftop garden? What climate factors will impact most on those plants that you choose?

Let’s find out some more
PLAY: Rooftop Gardens_pt3_25th March_ 2015
You might not know that Switzerland has recently passed a bylaw which states that new buildings must be designed to relocate the green space covered by the building's footprint to their roofs - even existing buildings -including historical buildings - must now green 20% of their rooftops. This has created an increased demand for research and material/product design.Green roofs are a huge investment, especially financially. But research shows that the benefits outweigh the cost. Not only do green roofs help to combat the urban heat island effect, they’re energy-efficient and can be quite useful, particularly if they include vegetable gardens and fruit trees.


 with Jeremy Critchley owner
and Karen Smith editor of

Brachyscome multifida is plant of the week.

Brachyscome or cut-leafed daisy, is a perennial plant found in the grassy understories of woodlands and open forests. Naturally found in the temperate areas of southern Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Breeders are constantly finding new cultivars that suit that home garden better than the species variety found naturally.

If you heard the names Mauve delight, Radiant Magenta, Verassco Violet, and Jumbo Tricolour.
What could I be talking about other than a plant?
This time a native plant for our gardens but before you say, I’ve tried native plants and they just don’t work in my garden.
Yes, I’ve been there too, but with new varieties coming through all the time that have been bred specifically for home garden conditions, what’s the harm of trying those too?
Let’s find out about some more…..

Mauve Delight Brachyscome does take hard frosts and in fact if the plant shoots from underground, they seem to survive frosts, although the top part may get burnt off by the frost.
Its trailing habit makes it perfect for use in hanging baskets, containers or as a small area ground cover.

The Cut-Leafed Daisy grows best in a full sun position but can tolerate part shade and it grows on a range of soil types including heavy clays and light-sandy loams.

It doesn't need much extra watering, but in the drier months it would need a supplementary water.
The only problem Brachyscome get is if the leaves are consistently wet, powdery mildew can be a problem.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Home Cooking with Mustard and Chicory


Have you ever wondered how to make mustard from mustard seeds?

Black and yellow mustard seeds
If not and you eat mustard, you might be surprised to learn that you can make your own whole grain mustard.
Not only is it easy and cheap, but you can play around with different flavours and make yourself a gourmet mustard.
Let’s start the lesson on making your own mustard. I'm talking with herb expert with Ian Hemphill from

There are three types of mustard seed-brown (Brassica juncea) , white (Brassica alba is actually yellow) and black-(Brassica nigra.)
Brown and yellow are normally used for culinary use.
The heat in mustard is released on activation of enzymes which create the myrosinase.
When you fry mustard seeds until they pop, the enzymes are killed off.
Useful for cooking without the heat of mustard but just the nutty flavour.

To make your own wholegrain mustard.
Step 1: Soak the mustard seeds (yellow or brown seeds) in cold water to activate the enzyme.
Step 2 : After 15-20 minutes add vinegar which will stop the enzyme reaction.
Mustard seed mixture and red wine vinegar about to be added

Step 3: Give this mixture a little bit of a grind with a mortar and pestle-just enough to crack the seeds so they take up the moisture.
Step 4.Add dried herbs, or chilli
Step 5: Let that set for a few weeks for the flavour to develop.
Step 2 alternative-white wine vinegar or verjuice are alternatives to  plain white vinegar.

You can buy "make your own mustard" mix from Herbies Spices in Rozelle.
This mix is what I used and contains brown and yellow mustard seedsm green peppercorns, allspice, tarragon, sugar, ajowan seeds and salt.
It's already been pre-cracked so the vinegar gets soaked up immediately.

Alternatively you grow Brassica juncea in your home garden. These are mustard greens and have plenty of heat in the leaf to give you quite a bit of punch on your ham sandwich.
A mustard stone mill is out of the reach of the domestic market so don't be disappointed if you like the smooth mustards, because you won’t be able to get it quite as smooth as the ones you can buy off the shelf.
It will still be pretty good because you made it yourself.
There’ll be a little graininess still left.
If you have any questions about cleaning your garden tools or a photo of some tools that you want help with, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Chicory! Cichorium intybus
Have you ever eaten chicory?
What do you do with it other than give it to your chooks-apparently the leaf chicory is very good for them?
Did you know that there’sactually two types of chicory, both of which I consider a vegetable.
There’s the leafy type and the one where the tap root is used more.
But let’s begin with some interesting facts.
Chicory comes from the daisy or Asteraceae family, and like dandelion, chicory has been grown since ancient times as a pot herb.
A pot herb is one you put in a pot along with your meats and vegetables and cook together for a while-usually a long while.
Chicory is most likely native to the Mediterranean region and it’s an interesting plant because it’s been used in coffee substitutes and additives where the roots were baked and ground.
You probably didn’t realise that Chicory used as a coffee substitute during the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II in Continental Europe.

Do you realise that if you’ve ever drunk a coffee substitute, like Caro, then you’ve drunk roasted chicory root?
Some beer brewers even use roasted chicory to add flavour to stouts.
Some other beer brewers have added it to strong blond Belgian-style ales, to add flavour to the hops, making a "witlofbier", from the Dutch name for the plant.

So how come chicory can be used as a coffee substitute?

Chicory contains two polysaccharide, inulin and fructose.
When these are roasted, inulin is converted to something called oxymethylfurfurol, and this gives off that coffee-like aroma.
Did you know that the first person to grow and process chicory in Australasia was Edwin William Trent (1839 - 1883)?
Eddy or Edwin, operated a steam coffee mill in Nelson in New Zealand, and later moved to Christchurch where he established the first steam coffee mill in Australasia in1863.
How it worked was by coke fired furnaces in kilns producing hot drying air.
This hot air passed up through the chicory roots which had been cut into small cubes and laid on floors of perforated tiles.
The steaming chicory had to be turned every two hours and five tons of green root were needed to produce one ton of kiln-dried root.
After the drying process was over, the chicory was taken to where the roasting and grinding was done and the chicory blended with expensive coffee imported from the West Indies, South America and Africa to make the coffee and chicory essence.
Did you also know that Chicory, or Cichorium intybus, was grown as a crop on Phillip Island for nearly 100 years from the 1870s?If you’ve visited Philip Island you’ll see some unusual small brick towers dotted about the island.
These are chicory kilns, once used in drying chicory dock.Are you thinking, I’m not going to bother drying and roasting the chicory root, what on earth do I need to grow this ahem, vegetable?
Chicory is actually a nutritious food.
The leaves of the chicory plant can be eaten in salads to add flavour and crunch. It can also be lightly roasted in olive oil.
You can buy seeds of Chicory “Red Dandelion: this plant has red stems with deeply cut frilly deep green leaves.
As a microgreen or ‘baby leaf’ this variety adds great flavour to salads and it’s a colourful addition to any mesclun mix.
If you get the red variety,  it’s one of the few red leafy vegetables that keeps the crimson colour when cooked.
Chicory ‘Red Palla Rossa’ is a small heading chicory, 8 - 10 cm across .The bright red, very tight heads have prominent white midribs. It has a slightly bitter, tart taste.
As a ‘baby leaf’ they add great flavour to salads.
There’s also the coffee chicory plant or Chicory Coffee 'Magdeburg' which also has the same botanical name of Cichorium intybus.
This chicory is also a frost hardy plant but with a long taproot topped by a  whorl of oblong, broadly toothed, milky-sapped leaves.
The flowers are on top of 1 ½ metre tall,  zig-zagging flowering stems with a few sparsely placed leaves and lots of sky-blue to purple flowers.
Flowering is mostly in summer and the 50 cent-sized flowers open at the beginning of the day but close as the heat becomes intense.
Chicory plants flower for several months and the flower looks quite a lot like a purply-blue dandelion flower.
Like dandelion, the seeds are spread by wind. Also, like dandelion, the leaves are concentrated in a whorl, just above the soil surface.
If you really wanted to you could dry and roast the roots then grind them for a coffee substitute.
The leaves and young roots can also be cooked as vegetables.
The roots can grow up to 30 cm long and weigh as much as 1 kg.
The one I have in my garden has been there for over a year so I’m guessing that it’s going to have a heavy large underground root.
Chicory is a hardy vegetable and frost tolerant but does wilt a bit on hot days.
It’s a useful cool season crop to add interest to winter salads.
To grow the leafy Chicory, for sub-tropical areas, April to June is the time to sow,  in Temperate areas March until May, for Arid areas June to August, and Cool temperate districts, sow late summer to mid-autumn.
In all cases sow the seeds directly where they are to grow.
So to grow Chicory you need a well drained, deep soil.
Chicory will also grow on heavier soils as long as they’re not likely to get waterlogged for extended periods.
If you’re wondering where to buy the seeds of coffee chicory, there are some stores that sell them if they carry an Italian seed line otherwise online seed suppliers do so as well.

If you’re growing the coffee chicory, the fleshy taproot of the first year’s growth is dug up in winter, dried, ground and roasted.
(Roast the roots on low heat (around 250 C) until crisp, then grind with a little roasted barley (around 400F or so) for a wholesome coffee substitute.
It contains no caffeine and just adds bulk to coffee, although its bitter flavour can give bland coffee a bit more "bite".)
Here’s an interesting fact: Coffee is readily available now in all types of strengths but until the 1960s, before instant coffee was invented, coffee and chicory essence was a popular alternative to using roasted coffee beans.
Do you remember that thick black liquid with a very distinctive attractive aroma and sold in squarish bottles with a blue label?
It was often drunk with sweetened condensed milk

Why is Chicory, or Cichoricum intybus good for you?
One of the major functions of chicory is to increase the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
The leafy greens of chicory are a good source of calcium and vitamin K;
They also contain folate and like other green vegetables chicory contains good
amounts of potassium.
Chicory is also good for the digestion.


Rooftop gardens in Granada, Spain. photo M Cannon
with landscape designer Christopher Owen
Rooftop Gardens-pt2

So you want a rooftop garden maybe on your garage or on your house even, because it’s got a flat roof.
What practical considerations are involved?
What materials will be right for up there for your plants to grow in?
What plants won’t work up there?
Let’s find out some more….

There are all sorts of products like drainage cell instead that you can use instead of the heavier aggregate that you would normally use in a raised garden bed.

Irrigation and taking the water off the roof when there’s too much is of utmost importance.


with Karen Smith from and Jeremy Critchley, owner of

Do you like Petunias but they grow too lanky for you and you keep forgetting to pinch of the dead flowers so new flowers can grow?
This plant of the week is like a petunia on steroid
Calibrachoa Aloha Sweet Cherry, photo Jeremy Critchley
s but with smaller flowers that are self-cleaning.

Yep, when the flowers finish they fall off themselves.
With trade names like Superbells, million bells, cherry chimes – this plant sounds like it’s something you need to have at least one of in your garden.
Let’s find out about some more…..

Calibrachoa is a genus of plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
They are evergreen short-lived perennials and subshrubs with a sprawling habit, with small petunia-type flowers.
In fact they’re closely related to Petunias.
These flowers are native to South America as are petunias; mainly from southern Brazil across to Peru and Chile, growing in scrub and open grassland.
While Calibrachoa ‘million bells’ ‘cherry bells’ and so on, might be a fairly new species, this dazzling little plant is a must-have in the garden.
Its name comes from the fact that it has hundreds of small, bell-like flowers which look like miniature petunias.
Its trailing habit makes it perfect for use in hanging baskets, containers or as a small area ground cover.Flowering -Early spring to late autumn in warmer climates.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Archangels on the Rooftop Gardening

 REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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, GM of
Probably one of the first pests that you’ll learn to identify is aphids.

aphids come in yellow, green, black and brown
Just by looking at how many there are, you’ll be left in no doubt that aphids are pests and not beneficial or good bugs.

In the warmer months they seem to get around in their hundreds and at this time of year, the good bugs will need a helping hand.

But not with something that will harm them.
Let’s find out how to control these pests.

Surprisingly, aphids can travel in on the wind.

Just in case you weren’t sure what an aphid looks like, Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long slender mouthparts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other softer plant parts to suck out fluids.

They have soft pear-shaped bodies with long legs and antennae and may be green, yellow, brown, red, or black depending on the species and the plants they feed on.

A few types of aphids have a waxy or woolly appearance because of a waxy white or grey secretion over their body surface.
Did you know that almost every plant has one or more types of aphid that occasionally feed on it?

lacewing larvae
ladybird larvae

Spend a bit of time getting to know the good bugs in your garden. Turn over leaves to check for ladybird and lacewing larvae.
Seems like Neem oil and botanical oils are the safest bet to use in your garden because it does the least harm to beneficial insects.
If you have any questions about aphids or a photo of a sick plant that you want diagnosed, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


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.
You might’ve heard cauliflower being called a cruciferous vegetable.
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?
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.

Flower or Vegetable?
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.
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.
Because 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.
Cauliflower seedlings
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.
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 fast growth.  
Go easy on the liquid food otherwise no heads will form.

If plenty of organic fertilisers have already been dug in, there is no need for additional fertilizers, before planting out winter cauliflowers.

Tips for Growing
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. 
Tie the leaves to prevent the cauliflower from yellowing.
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.
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 topday.


with Chris Owen, Landscape Designer.
Rooftop Gardens part1.
Modern building disguised at Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain. photo M Cannon

You might find this hard to believe but in ancient Mesopotamia (4th millennium BC–600 BC) the citizens had plantings of trees and shrubs on aboveground terraces.
Also during Roman times - the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, had an elevated terrace where plants were grown.
What’s more, a roof garden has also been discovered around an audience hall in Roman-Byzantine Caesarea.
So, for something completely different I’m starting a series on rooftop gardens
Let’s find out about them

Rooftop gardens_Alhambra Palace, Granada photo M Cannon

A roof garden is a garden on the roof of a building.
Besides the decorative benefit, roof plantings can give you food, temperature control, look great, provide habitats or corridors for wildlife, and in large scale it may even have ecological benefits.
Did you know that the practice of cultivating food on the rooftop of buildings is sometimes referred to as rooftop farming? Rooftop farming is usually done using green roof, hydroponics, aeroponics or air-dynaponics systems or container gardens.


with Jeremy Critchley from and Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal magazine.
Ever heard of summer snapdragons?
If you haven’t you’ll be surprised to know that there is such a plant that has flowers that look like small snapdragons. Not only that, they appear on a small bushy plant all summer long and into autumn, plus they’re scented.
Let’s find out about this plant.
PLAY: PLAY:Angelonia_11th March_2015
Did you know that Angelonias weren’t well known in the gardening scene until the late 1990s?
Luckily, breeders and plant development companies saw that they had great potential and started producing Angelonias that were shorter and heavy-flowering.
Angelonias are easy to grow and can stand hot days and humidity which normal snapdragons can’t.
Flowering: Summer, Late Summer.  

The biggest flowers for big visual impact, even from a distance!

Angelonia Archangel has the most generous blooms, vibrant colors, glossy dark green foliage with a robust, well-branched habit, delivering big Summer impact.

 Angelonia Archangel is not your average Angelonia, it has flowers that are three times larger than other varieties and thrives in extreme heat, humidity and drought.

An excellent container or bedding plant and creates a striking display for landscapes.
Worth a try.

Friday, 6 March 2015

A Cut Above Roses and Carnations

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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 general manager Cut Above Tools-Tony Mattson

My bypass secateurs photo M Cannon
How many times have you left your secateurs somewhere in the garden and have forgotten where you put them?
Forgetting that you left your garden tools outside is a pretty common problem amongst gardeners, because us gardens can be pretty busy multi-tasking between pruning, weeding and planting.
But if you look after your tools properly they’ll last a lot longer and work better.
Let’s kick of this series with a quick look at looking after your secateurs.

Anvil secateurs
When you buy new garden tools, you’ll probably have to decide whether you’re going to get low price/low quality or high price/high quality tools.
But no matter which one you get, they’ll last a bit longer if you look after them by at least wiping them down at the end of the day with the methylated spirits or bleach solution.
We can’t do much about where you left them last except maybe to say, put them down in the same place each time where you’ll notice them.
If you have any questions about cleaning your garden tools or a photo of some tools that you want help with, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


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.
But it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that celeriac became an important vegetable .
From that time on, it spread from the Mediterranean, finding its way into Northern European cuisine.
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.
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.
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.
Celeriac, like many "roots", is a long-season, cool-weather crop;
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.
As a rule, 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.
Celeriac mash
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


with Louise McDaid landscape designer.
So you’ve decided to go ahead with the vertical garden anyway. We’ve mentioned the pitfalls over the last two weeks and today, we’re giving a more positive outlook because we’re assuming you, the gardener still wants the ambiance and presence of a vertical garden.

Vertical Garden photo M Cannon
Let’s find out some more

Vertical gardens can be custom built to suit any area.
You can buy a simple bracket system that supports individual pots. Each panel houses five click-in pots, and can be hung vertically or horizontally.
There are even vertical garden modules you can buy that are made out of bamboo and self- watering. These systems are small enough to fit on any balcony.
Vertical gardens add a natural beauty to any room, courtyard or building and also reduce the urban heat island effect.
Plus plants create a sense of well being so it can’t hurt to squeeze in some more.


with owner The Green Gallery Nursery Jeremy Critchley
and Karen Smith from

Tuberous Begonia-rose formation. photo Jeremy Critchley-The Green Gallery Nursery
You probably like rose and camellia flowers, but what about a plant which has flowers that look like both of these plants?
Rose form or camellia flowered begonia.
The large double flowers have rounded petals and a rosebud- like centre giving them a more formal look.
These plants can also have ruffled flowers tuberous that have serrated, scalloped or heavily-waved petals.
Some of these look like large carnations and some also have a rosebud centre.
Let’s find out about this plant.

Tuberous Begonias are a cool climate plant, not sub-tropical.
 People grow them well in Sydney, Perth and south of these areas.

Most begonias prefer warm, moist conditions. The ideal temperature range is 150 to 260 Celsius though most will tolerate range is 150 to 26 0C and some will tolerate temperatures as high as 400C and as low as 50C - some even lower.
All begonias prefer well drained soil rich in compost or organic matter and some like some degree of shade

Tuberous Begonias-carnation formation.  photo J Critchley The Green Gallery Nursery
 If you’re unsure, it is best to try cheaper bedding begonias first, then progress to more showy large flowered plants.
Choose a place where plants like ferns, fuchsias, hostas or cymbidiums grow.
 Give them good light, but not direct sun (shade cloth ideal).
 Not too much wind.
 Not indoors – Tuberous Begonias need cool nights.
Their active growth stage is between October and May.
When the Begonia is dormant in winter, it’s best to lay the pot on its side to keep the pot dry.