Sunday, 26 April 2015

Put a Sparkle in Your Garden


Sydney living museums curator Scott Hill
As part of our heritage, historic buildings and gardens offer us an insight into the styles and features of certain periods, reflecting the Australian architecture of the day.
The grounds of some old estates are important not just for their design value but they may also have surviving locally native species such as eucalyptus and turpentine trees.

Ancient Champion trees.

Many historic gardens feature mature trees planted as avenues, border plantings or specimens.
The character of the gardens may even be defined by such trees so it's important to keep them in good health. In heritage English gardens, old trees in excess of 300 years are called 'champion trees."
Historic houses and their gardens also have an aesthetic value and, can be a green oasis in a town or community, providing a space to relax, and hold events.
Let’s find out about one such historic house

Gardens and grounds may be important both in themselves and as settings for heritage buildings.
Because landscape elements alter with the seasons and with the passing years, historians need to allow time to properly assess these landscapes.

Vegetable gardens are also important elements in an historic garden photo M Cannon

This continual change also means that looking after such a garden must be done with caution.
Records of the house and garden are important references to help with this maintenance process..
The Historic Houses Association of Australia Inc. is a registered charity and volunteer organisation that promotes public interest in historic houses and properties. Members are able to visit historic houses and other places - both publicly and privately owned - to meet historians, heritage architects and private owners and to learn about the history of each property and its early occupants and collections.


Not something we’re going to eat but Green Manure Crops. Yum or not?
Do you want to improve your soil structure and at the same time add nitrogen to the soil?
If you do, consider a green manure crop especially in an overworked vegetable patch.
What are the benefits of green manure crops and why is it called green manure?
Green manure crops are called that because you’re not going to eat the crop or plants.
Instead, when they’re nearly mature, and before they set seed, the oats, or wheat or whatever are slashed and then turned into the soil. 
This adds nutrients to the soil especially if you use legume type crops.

As the slashed crops break down they increase organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms.
green manure crops increase the soil's available nitrogen and moisture retention as well.
They also stabilise the soil to prevent erosion, particularly handy if you have a sloping block.
Green manure crops also bring deep minerals to the surface and break up hard clods in the soil structure.
But that’s not all:-
These crops provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reduce populations of pests
Improve water, root and air penetration in the soil and smother weeds.
The crops used for green manure tend to be a combination of
Legumes – These add nitrogen (critical for food crops) to the soil, such as cow pea, mung bean, woolly pod vetch, lablab, broad bean, fenugreek and soybean;
Grains and grasses - These add organic substance to the soil, such as millet, buckwheat and oats.
At this time of year try faba bean, field pea, oats and wheat.
They’ll improve your soil incredibly, and for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort.
Suppliers include:
At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
What do you need to do or how do you do this I hear you ask?
Well here are the steps.
Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed.
Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop.
Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats.
Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies.
You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well.

Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square metre
Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them.
Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing.
Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop. 
Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because  the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process.
With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead o the one you want.
Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground. If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower. Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.
Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.
What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
I find this method easier then digging it in which is what gardeners used to do. That practise has been found to destroy soil structure too much and it’s a lot of hard work anyway. Save your back by doing it this way or you can use a digging fork to turn the plants and their roots completely into the soil.
Cover the newly dug bed with a blanket of organic mulch until planting time. Give the soil and its worms time to reap the benefits of green manure: nitrogen fertilizer and organic matter to nourish your soil.
Use green manure crops in every unplanted vegetable, herb and flower bed. Plant also in compacted areas - such as under trees - and newly graded lots. Allow little roots to break up the soil, which will aerate and renew its structure, before you plant a new lawn.

For a cheap alternative to buying the manure crops online, I’ve found this tip to be quite useful. This is the absolute simplest, cheapest and best thing is do. Just buy a bag of organic bird seed. Read the back of the packet and find one with the mix you want.
The last lot I planted contained millet, sorghum, wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn and sunflowers.
Bird seed will be chemical-free and fresh (since they don’t want to kill your pets!), and very cheap. It’s available at any supermarket.
 Go on, give it a try, the whole thing should only take up about 6-8 weeks and it’s the best way to improve your garden soil.


with Glenice Buck
The design process series with Glenice Buck, landscape designer, was thought of to lead you, the gardener through the steps that a professional landscape designer would take you.
We started off with how’s and whys of a landscape designer; explained the reasons for having a professional design: outlined the analysis and concept stage and now we’ve hit the final stage.
Established gardens also need a plant for the future
Let’s find out about the final stage of the design process.

Advantage of having a Landscape plan –
You will save time, money and wastage in the future.  A landscape Plan is an investment into the future of your outdoor space.

The designer will look at a landscape plan as being a master plan for your garden.
Develop in Stages - It means that the garden can develop in stages especially if your budget is limited. It gives you a connection between all spaces, the areas will still flow and not be disjointed as you have a total plan for the entire site.  It will be your guide as you rejuvenate, replant and restore the garden. 
Beautiful gardens are planned

Save Time and Cost- By having this document you will also eliminate wasting time in areas which won’t be needed until a later stage in the garden’s development.  For example you may pull up paving in one area but you eventually may like those pavers laid in another area.  Re using and recycling of as many materials and plants onsite as possible will reduce the overall cost to you. 
NO backtracking -  This plan should reduce the amount of back tracking you do in creating the garden and reduce the amount of waste you have to remove. 
THINKs about Future - A master plan will also consider how you want the garden to look in the years to come.  The use of the garden over time will change especially if you have children.  Gardens can always be modified accordingly.
By having a plan of your garden your garden will develop to a plan far into the future rather than being planted out haphazardly.

As Glenice mentioned in the early part of the series, you don’t have to do it all at once, but it can be a plan that you work through gradually.


with Jeremy Critchley
and Karen Smith
Some of you may know Euphorbias in the perennial border.
Did you know that the variation within this genus is amazing, some people might even say awesome?
From low-growing garden weeds called petty spurge to giant, cactus-like succulents.
Segue to an annual called Gypsophila or baby’s breath. What do they have in common with several newish cultivars of Euphorbia for your garden
Euphorbia Diamond Frost
Let’s find out …
The petals are actually small and dainty like baby’s breath, but there are so many of them that the leaves are scarcely visible.
These new delicate looking but tough, high impact Euphorbia plants flower every day of the year in warmer climates.
Pink sparkle
Star Dust White Sparkle’ and Stardust ‘Pink Sparkle are more compact than Diamond Frost and are ideal for patio pots and garden borders in full sun positions.
They grow to a maximum of 60cm x 60cm and can be pruned back quite hard should they get leggy.
Heat and drought tolerant, a truly low maintenance plant.
Note:Euphorbias all produce a mostly white latex which they oozes out of the stems when cut, and this sap is often toxic.
CULTIVATION TIPS-Euphorbias are easy plants to grow.
Most are summer growers and require a little watering and feeding during the warmer months.
Euphorbia Diamond Frost and the other new cultivars are not frost hardy, unless kept under cover in the colder months.
All of these Euphorbias are extremely tolerant of hot dry weather and perform in hot sun all day.
Keep them almost completely dry in winter.
To maintain their characteristics shapes they need sun or partial sun. Well drained soil and good ventilation are important.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Great Garden Caper


with Ian Hemphill from
Most spices and herbs come from the leaves or bark of a plant, but what about the flower?

Capers-Caparis spinosa photo M Cannon
Yes we can put Nasturtium and borage flowers in our salads but these only impart a small amount of flavour compared to this next spice.

Well capers that you might buy in the supermarket look like little green soft fruits that sometimes come in a brine and sometimes are packed in pure salt in jars.

Capers or Caparis spinosa, is actually a bush which is called caper bush.
Caper bush plants are readily available and grow as a hardy shrub originating in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Northern Africa.

If your district you can grow olives, grapes, almonds, and pistachios, then you can also grow capers.
Have you ever eaten Spaghetti alla Puttanesca,- that’s chockers with capers, what about Penne with anchovies, capers and toasty crumbs?
Ever heard of caper butter on crusty bread with vegetables and meats, or used in stuffing for fish?
Let’s find out about growing this Mediterranean plant

Did you know that there are about 20 native caper species in Australia, some of which are trees?
However, the traditional caper comes from the Mediterranean region, and parts of the Middle East.
Caper bush photo M Cannon
Think hot and dry and arid for the natural conditions that this plant grows in if you’re thinking of growing a caper bush yourself.

The bush itself only grows to a metre, and it’s a pretty tough plant needing no extra water after it’s established.
Capers are as dry tolerant as Eucalypts and Wattle trees because like gum trees and wattles, capers have a deep tap root that can search for water as well as a surface root system that picks up the morning dew.
Well drained soil is the best kind for this bush and adding good compost and lime to the soil will also help the caper bush along.
Although capers love hot temperatures, frost is no problem.

The flowers are white with long purple stamens and usually only lasts for one day.
But if you want to use them in cooking, capers need to be picked when the bud is still tight.
You’ll get buds every couple of weeks during the warmest months.
If you have any questions about growing or buying caper bush plants, write in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


There’s nothing like a good long history that some vegetables seem to have and the Leek is no exception.
Thought to be native to Central Asia, they have been cultivated there and in Europe for thousands of years.
Did you know that Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans because of their supposed beneficial effect upon the throat.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle thought that the clear voice of the partridge was due to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.
Another interesting fact that you might not know is that the leek became a Welsh emblem in 1536, and is still the national emblem of Wales.
Daffodil is the National flower.
Have you ever wonder why Welsh are such great singers?
Perhaps because they eat a lot of leeks, think Tom Jones.
Leeks, known scientifically as Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions.
Onions, celery, and carrots are very good companion plants for the leek.
Leeks, are a cool season crop and best of all they’re easy to grow.
You can grow leeks in hot summers, but you won’t get the same quality result as you will in a cool summer environment.
Leeks are usually grown from seed and are generally started off in punnets first then transplanted.

When to Sow

Sow the seeds of Leeks from Spring until the end of Autumn in cool temperate climates, and late summer and autumn in warm and tropical zones,  and in arid districts, seeds must be sown in February/early March and then you can transplant them in April and May.
I sowed some seed a several weeks ago and have already transplanted them into the veggie bed because they were a couple of inches-about 10cm high and were the thickness of a pencil.
TIP: By the way, the seeds germinated fine from an out of date packet.
Leeks will overwinter in cool temperate  areas of Australia if properly mulched, but will generally not survive periods of extreme cold.
In case you don’t know what a leek is.
Leeks look like large fat spring onions, but have a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of layers  of white then green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves.
It goes without saying that good soil is the key to growing leeks.
Leeks need nutrient rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. They’ll do well in almost any garden soil as long as it is well aerated and deep, about a spade’s depth is good.
Using some kind of dibble tool or the end of a rake handle to make a hole that's just deep enough to leave only the top inch of the seedling exposed. Set the leek seedling into the hole and fill it loosely with soil.
Space the leeks 10cm or a large hand span" apart, in rows at least 25cm  or from your wrist to your elbow apart.
Find something practical like that to do you estimates.
Some people think that when  growing Leeks the aim is to blanch the stems while the plants are maturing.
To save your back if you want to blanch the stems, rather than digging a trench, just use mulch.
When they’re 4 weeks old in the veggie bed, use a thick mulch of sugar cane or something like that.
In another 4 weeks or when they reach about 24cm, do the same again, or you can use shredded newspaper.
The leeks will still grow as well if you don’t do any of this.
Some gardeners cut off the top portion of the leaves, about halfway up the plant, as the leeks are maturing.
This is supposed to bring on stalk growth, giving you a larger leek for the dinner table.
To be honest you can do all this, but if you don’t the leeks are just as tasty.
Make sure the plants get at least a couple of cm’s of water a week; otherwise the stems will toughen.
Mulch to conserve moisture, and side-dress with manure tea once a month.
Begin harvesting leeks as soon as they're big enough to use.
Young, tender ones are good raw; once they reach the width of a paper roll, they're better cooked.
They usually take 16-18 weeks--4 ½ months. Quite a long time so explains why they are so expensive at the greengrocer, market or wherever you buy them.
At markets they’re usually $2 each.
To prepare Leeks cut them very thinly and sautee’ just as you would other members of the onion family. Like their allium cousins, onions and garlic, let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
Why are they good for you?
 They are a good source of dietary fibre also a top source of vitamin C
Leeks have a high concentration of the B vitamin folate
Leeks give you small amounts of other minerals and vitamins.
The green tops have some beta carotene which your body can make into vitamin A.

Leeks contain important amounts of the flavonoid kaempferol, which has been shown to help protect our blood vessel linings from damage.
Leeks are believed to be good for the throat.
Leeks are low in calories and fat-free. 100g of leek has just 125kJ.


with Glenice Buck from
Whether it’s a new garden or existing one, great gardens start with great design.
Having a professional garden design ensures continuity and cohesiveness throughout a property.
Home owners who want to redesign their gardens, can save both time and money by calling in a garden designer, who will plan the space according to your requirements and the limitations of the site.
Aspects such as climate, maintenance requirements, and full-growth sizing are all things that experienced landscaping designers take into consideration.
Without asking anymore questions
Let’s find out about the design concept of the design process.

Concept plans include overall plans of the garden, images of key design elements and notes on plants and materials. It provides clients with a visual image of the new garden.

This plan demonstrates the layout of the garden in broader brushstrokes.
It shows the general layout of the hard landscaping and the garden beds and explores opportunities for resolving the design. 
The concept plan also offers additional notes and images to help you, the gardener or client to visualise the garden design concept.


with Jeremy Critchley and Karen Smith

From tiny pompoms to huge balls in shades of bronze, purple, orange, red and yellow, the ubiquitous chrysanthemum is an autumn garden's saving grace.

A member of the Asteraceae family, the chrysanthemum is native to China and was introduced to Europe in 1688.

Are you buying the right ‘mums’ for your garden?

Let’s find out some more

Chrysanthemums are photoperiodic, meaning they naturally flower in response to short days and long nights—in other words, in the Autumn, they start to flower five to seven weeks after short days begin.
Belgian mums produce so many flower buds that if you tried to count them on these plants, you most likely would need a calculator.

Many have upwards of 600 buds ready to open.
Plus an exceptional feature of the Belgian mum is its durability.
Chrysanthemums come in thousands of colours, flower shapes and sizes, not just pink.
If you want to have the really large flowers you need to disbud them.
Put simply, that means at the bud stage, remove all but one bud that are growing in a cluster. This is similar to disbudding in camellia flowers.
That way, all the energy of the plant is put into those single buds giving you a large bloom.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Analyse These Sunny Flowers

 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, general manager of
Lawn Armyworm
Blenheim Palace, England photo M Cannon
Did you know that the word for a patch of grass or managed grass space was called "lawn", from only about the 16th century, but not before?
Do you love your lawn but something seems to always attack it?
Sometimes it’s those pesky hard to get rid of weeds, like onion weed, creeping oxalis and nutgrass.
Or sometimes it’s strange round spots that are either yellow, or white or just brown bare patches that seem to appear overnight.
These bare patches are the first thing you'll notice with this particular lawn problem.
Let’s find out about looking after your lawn..

These caterpillars or lawn armyworm is different from fungal diseases of leaves because  bare one leaves bare patches and the latter leaves brown patches.
The lawn armyworm eats blades of grass right down to the roots and doesn't prefer any particular type of grass.
If you have these caterpillars they are a dull grey-green often with black markings on the sides of their bodies and about 4 1/2 cm long.
Looking out for the moth laying eggs seems to be out of the question unless you’re a night owl.

But there’s a pretty easy organic solution to control lawn armyworm as long as you act as soon as you soon your lawn dying back.
To test you lawn for lawn armyworm, throw on a bucket of soapy water at the places where the bare patches meet the still living grass.
If they're there, the armyworm will come up for air.
You can rake them up  but you may miss the new hatchlings. Alternatively, use the one treatment with Neem Oil.

Organic solutions are quick, easy and effective so there’s no need to reach for anything for anything more toxic.
If you have any questions about lawn armyworm or a photo of a lawn problem in your garden you want to share, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Radicchio or Cichorium intybus

A little while ago I talked about growing chicory for either the edible root, or leaf.
Today, a plant with the same botanical name but looks more like red cabbage than it does the green leafed chicory plant.

So what’s the difference between red cabbage and radicchio?
Firstly ra-DEEK –e  oo is spelt ra-DITCH ee-oo and is sometimes known as Italian chicory.
Red cabbage is more like green cabbage in flavour and is quite firm, but radicchio is more like a lettuce and is quite soft.
Red cabbage is purple when it’s raw and only turns red when you cook it.
Radicchio has a slightly bitter and spicy taste and is more a salad vegetable, although you can use it grilled and as a pizza topping.
The flavour mellows when it’s grilled by the way.
Even the radicchio has been around for a while it didn’t take off until the fifteenth century, in the Veneto and Trentino regions of Italy.
Did you know that the deep-red radicchio of today was engineered in 1860 by the Belgian agronomist Francesco Van den Borre?
He used a whitening technique which involved preforcing, or blanching to create the dark red, white-veined leaves: radicchio plants were taken from the ground and placed in water in darkened sheds, where lack of light and caused the plants to lose their green pigmentation.
Growing Radicchio
Radicchio is easy to grow and can be sown all year round, but it does best in spring and Autumn just about everywhere in gardens.
Radicchio likes frequent but not deep watering, the amount of water depends on your soil type.
If you’re a bit haphazard with your watering, you’ll get a more bitter tasting leaf.
By planting radicchio in Autumn, the flavour is changed quite a bit by the onset of cold weather, because the colder weather, the mellower the flavour. Cold weather also starts the heading and reddening process in traditional varieties of radicchio.
When is it ready?
While some gardeners start the seeds indoors for later transplanting, most simply sow the seeds directly into the garden bed.
Popular varieties include Red Surprise and Verona Red. Radicchio matures in approximately three months.
Radicchio likes fertile, well-drained soil in a mostly sunny location.
With a garden fork, work some compost or soil conditioner into the top 20cm of soil.
Sprinkle the seeds in rows or just scatter them and cover lightly with some more soil.
The radicchio seeds should germinate in about a week.
When the seedlings are 3cm tall, thin them so that the plants are spaced 10 – 15cm apart.
You can do this by just cutting or snipping the plants at the soil level with a pair of scissors.
Radicchio matures in about 80 to 90 days or 2 ½ to 3 months.
As soon as the heads are compact and firm -about the size of a baseball, just cut the plant off at the soil level with a sharp knife.
It's best to eat radicchio soon after harvesting it, but it’ll keep for as long as a week in the refrigerator.
For those living in cool temperate districts, raddichio can be made to stand through a very cold winter, and the head will regenerate if cut off carefully above ground level, so long as the plant is protected against severe frost.
TIP: If you put a light-excluding cover, for example, an inverted pot, during the last phase of growth, then you’ll get leaves with a more pronounced colour contrast, and at the same time you’ll be protecting against frost and cold winds.
If the head is cut off completely just above the root, a small, new head will grow, especially if some frost protection is given.
You can do this a number of times.
Why is it good for you?
Radicchio is a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
The bitterness in the radicchio is something called lactucopicrin –LAC-TOO-SIP-RIN (intybin),
Lactucopicrin is a good anti-malarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic (painkiller) effect.
Something to have with your evening meal to help you sleep.
Fresh radicchio leaves are also one of the best sources of vitamin K and they have moderate amounts of essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin (B5, B6)- thiamin (vitamin B1),and  niacin (B3).


with landscape designer Glenice Buck
If you were asked to analyse the site of your garden where would you start?
Would you simply make a list of all the greenery, or would you include the rocks, paths, and any ponds or ornaments?
Analysing your site photo M Cannon
 What about a site survey indicating the lay of the land, actual size of your block? Would you include that?
Without asking anymore questions
Let’s find out about the analysis of the design process.

An inventory and analysis of your yard is important for making design decisions and developing the best design for you.

photo M Cannon
The difference between an inventory and an analysis, is that the inventory is simply a list of all existing conditions, like plants, paths, ornaments etc, and the analysis is a judgment about the condition plus what you would like to achieve in your desired design.
In an analysis, natural features of the site are recorded such as soil type, sun exposure, climate, wind conditions, existing plants, slope, and elevation or grade changes.



WITH Jeremy Critchley owner and Karen Smith editor
A friend of mine was keen on planting New Guinea impatiens –the dark leaved ones with one flowers every year.
But over the last few years he found that the ones he bought, turned to mush because of a prevalent fungal disease that these plants became prone to.

The disease was downy mildew and for a few years, nurseries stopped stocking these plants because the disease had become such a problem.
It just wasn’t worth their while trying to grow plants that would always develop the disease.
Now there’s an alternative variety that looks the same, flowers much better and doesn’t have disease problems.
Let’s find out some more

As Karen mentioned, the old fashioned impatiens were Impatiens wallerana, but these sun hardy impatiens are Impatiens hawkeri- so a different species, but still impatiens.
SunPatiens provide three times as much coverage and colour as standard bedding plants in the same space, so you save money.
SunPatiens thrive in full sun and shade, so you don’t have to worry where to plant them.
A single planting provides three seasons of colour with NO maintenance besides regular watering.
SunPatiens are unaffected by Downy Mildew so are a natural choice for colour in shady areas
Strong roots develop fast so plants are quick to grow and fill in.
Strong, weather-tolerant plants hold up to wind and rain.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Cutting and Designing Great Gardens



Do you know what type of secateurs you have?
What about the blades? What are they made of?
Bypass secateurs and snips
If you’re hands get tired easily when you use your secatuers, maybe they’re not right for you and you need to change either the size or type.
Let’s find out some more. I'm talking with general manager, Tony Mattson from

Choosing different handles for perfect grip
Just to remind you bypass secateurs have two blades and work like a pair of scissors with the blades passing each other to make the cut.
They are suitable for cutting delicate stems as the action is less likely to cause bruising to the stem.
Anvil secateurs have one blade which closes on to a flat surface. They are better for cutting hard woody stems as the blade is less likely to stick to the stem as it cuts.
Choosing the right blade.
Blades aren't made from 100% stainless steel for general gardening use.
Some nurseries to have all steel blades if they're being used to cut acidic plants like eggplants.
These quality blades need to be sharpened more regularly.

Good blades have 10% carbon in them so that they're not overly brittle but still hard and can be sharpened regularly.
Some blades are made from recycled metal.
Always ask what the blades are made of but cost is reflected in the quality of the blades and in fact the whole secateurs.
One other thing; don’t try to cut stems that are thicker than your thumb, that’s what loppers are for.
If you try and cut stems that are too thick you’ll damage the blade and your secateurs won’t last as long as they should.
If you have any questions about secateurs or any other 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.


Brussel Sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family which also includes, cabbage, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi.
So why call a veggie Brussel sprouts?
Maybe because it was sold in Brussels' markets in the 1200's, or, maybe Brussels sprouts were named after the capital of Belgium where some say they were first cultivated.
Brussel sprouts are also one of the few vegetables to have started off in the northern Europe.
They were then introduced into France and England in the nineteenth century where they continue to be a popular food.
You probably know what a Brussels sprouts looks like - miniature heads of cabbage-about 2.5 to 4 cm. in diameter.
They taste a bit like cabbage, but slightly milder in flavour and denser in texture.
If you’ve ever grown Brussel sprouts, you’ll know that the sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of around 60 to 120 cm tall. They all don’t mature at once but take several weeks, starting from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.
Brussel Sprouts-will they propel you along? Well let’s see
Early stages of growth-Brussel sprouts

If you want to grow them well, there’s a few tips that you need to know about.
Firstly, when learning how to grow brussel sprouts they need a firm, fertile soil because the main cause of failure (blown buttons) is loose, infertile soil.
Those gardeners with a fairly heavy soil have an advantage over those of us with loose sandy soil.
If your soil is loose, then your sprouts will be tasteless, loose and open, and only you’re to blame and not the seed company.If you’ve got the room to follow crop rotation,  then you’ll be planting them where you last planted peas and beans.
If not, dig in a whole lot of compost and cow manure and leave it for a couple of weeks to mature.
AND, because compost, especially home- made compost can be on the acidic side, add some lime to your soil while you’re in the veggie bed.
That old saying “feed the soil not the plant”applies especially to Brussel Sprouts.
Tamp the soil down with the back of your garden rake to make it firm when the soil is dry.
When to Sow;
For temperate districts, February until May, for arid areas until the end of June, for cool temperate zones, until the end of April and for sub-tropical areas, April seems to the month for you.
Brussel sprout seedling
To grow sprouts, sow the seeds into seed trays or direct into the garden, or you can buy seedlings from a garden centre, organic markets and so on.
It’s cheaper of course to start from seed.
The seedlings are ready to transplant when they’re 10cm high.
You can get early and late cropping varieties.

TIP:Remember - firm planting helps to grow firm, tight brussels sprouts.
A better reason to start your seeds off in punnets is that when you transplant your seedlings from pots or seed beds, this encourages a stronger root system to be established in their permanent bed.Spacing is important-make it about 45 cm.
 Quite a distance but you can fill it with lettuce, endive and other quick growing crops.
Water the young plants in dry weather but unless you have a prolonged dry spell the mature plants shouldn’t need watering.
As the plants get taller make sure you support them so that the strong winds in winter don`t blow them over - tie them to stakes.
Mulch around the base of the plants with well rotted compost to feed the plants and conserve moisture.
If you do get Mealybugs, aphids, caterpillars and other grubs, use Derris Dust or a liquid concentrate ecoNeem.
When the brussels start looking like they’re ready you don’t have to pick them all at once becaus, the plant holds the mature buttons for many weeks without opening.
To eat Brussel Sprouts, you don`t want those ` sprouts that have had all their colour and crispness boiled out of them. Try dicing or grating your brussel sprouts raw and serve them up in a salad - go on, be brave!

Why are they good for you?
Brussels sprouts can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you use a steaming method when cooking them. Brussels are also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and fibre.And finally, Brussel Sprouts should be kept cool at all times and eaten before the leaves discolour or they develop a strong smell.


with Glenice Buck landscape designer


Whether or not you already have a nice garden doesn’t mean it can’t be updated.
But does it mean you do the updating yourself or do you get in one of those professional landscape designers?
Let’s find how to start the design process.

Cottage gardens are part of any design process. photo M Cannon

You probably wouldn’t update your house without consulting a builder or architect, so updating your garden might be on the ‘to do’ list too.
Choosing someone to give you a “go to” or concept plan that will see your garden develop into the future sounds like a good idea.


with Jeremy Critchley owner
and Karen Smith, editor of
Why is rosemary used for remembrance?
Is it because the smell of rosemary is thought to improve the memory?
Greek scholars apparently wore rosemary in their hair to help them while they studied.
For Australians rosemary has a direct link with Gallipoli, where our troops fought in 1915, and here, rosemary can be found growing wild all over the peninsula.
Let’s find out about some more about this commemorative plant as well as tips on how to grow Rosmarinus officinalis or Rosemary

Find out more about the Avenue of Honors project
As early as 1584, rosemary has been used for remembrance and an emblem for particular occasions such as funerals and weddings or as a decoration for brides dating from 1601.

Gallipoli Rosemary is like every other rosemary -a tough evergreen shrub grown for aromatic foliage and pretty flowers.  
This variety is very compact  with pale blue flowers growing to 1m
Like all rosemarys, full sun is best, and they are also frost tolerant, suit coastal planting and windy positions. 

Rosemary plants will grow in any soil as long as it's well drained.
Landscape Ideas-Makes a great low hedge.
Propagation: Take small cuttings of 2-4cm and strip the lower third of leaves.
Dip in hormone rooting powder or gel and place  into potting mix around the edges of a small terracotta pot. Keep under cover for about six weeks. By then roots should have started to grow and may be ready for potting on.