Friday, 25 September 2015

Allsorts of Gardening


Have you ever wondered where the confection licorice comes from?
Did you ever think that it came from a plant?
Perhaps from a plant’s leaves, the stem, the flower or the roots?
Does the name licorice make your mouth water thinking about the soft mostly sweet confection.

Perhaps you think of your favourite, the Licorice Allsort.
Just imagine if you had a swag of recipes with licorice.
Would they belong in some dream world for the sweet of tooth?
But if manufacturers didn’t add all that sugar and flavour could you use licorice in savoury dishes?
Let's find out by listening to the podcast with Ian Hemphill from

Did it surprise you that Roman soldiers were chewing the dried licorice root all that time ago to give them endurance?
To make confectionary licorice, the licorice root is boiled to make a sort of molasses called Pontifract cakes which is very bitter and very strong.
Apparently you can buy Pontifract cakes in England!

Certainly if you chew the dried root, it’s definitely not the same experience as eating the confection but there is that definite licorice flavour.

Dried licorice root is used to make a Chinese Master Stock.
To make this Master Stock, boil soy Sauce, water and sugar and boil for a few hours with Fennel, Star Anise, Chilli, Black Pepper and Licorice.
Powdered Licorice root can be used to make Licorice Ice-cream.
If you have a herb garden, why not give the licorice plant a go.
It certainly will do well in frost prone areas because it dies down over the winter months and re-shoots in Spring.
If you have any questions growing Glycorrhiza glabra or licorice plant, or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.



This weeks Vegetable Hero is the CHILLI - Chilli peppers or Capsicum annuum or Capsicum chinese.
Have you ever witnessed someone, perhaps a fellow diner at a restaurant, gulping lots of water or waving their hand in front of their mouth because their mouth feels like it’s on fire?
Maybe you were that diner at an Indian restaurant.
Apparently Columbus accidently discovered the chilli pepper.
Was that from taking a bite out of one I wonder?
The chilli pepper comes from a pod-like berry of various species of the capsicum family found in Latin America.
Where Does The Heat Come From In Chillies?
Want to know the best way to get rid of the burning sensation?

The heat in chillies comes from the compound “capsaicin.”
Capsaicin is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn't dissolve in water but readily dissolves in fats and oils.

Chilli selection Photo David Little
And this explains why, something with a lot of fat in it - like yogurt or milk - is going to dissolve the compound and wash it away, and not water.
Ian Hemphill from Herbies Spices, recommends a spoonful of sugar to take the heat away.
Did you know that there are over 2000 different varieties of chillies most of which have some degree of pungency, hotness or fieriness.
Chillies come in various colours, sizes and states of smoothness or wrinklieness.
They can be yellow, red, brown and green, long short, round, bell shaped, tapered and thick or thin.
TIP:The colour of chillies is no guide to their hotness
All chillies begin life green and turn yellow or red as they ripen.
As a rule red fresh fruit are two or three times hotter than green fruit, and dried pods are up to ten times hotter than fresh pods.
Generally, the smaller chillies are the most pungent or hotter giving you the most burning sensation.
Did you know that most of the heat is in the seeds and the membrane, so if it's your first time trying chillies, or you don't like too much heat, get rid of this part.
Soaking a chilli in vinegar also dilutes this effect.
If you then throw out the first lot of vinegar and soak the chillies again, you’ll further reduces the heat.
But wouldn’t you just use a milder chilli?

Now the burning question, how is hotness of the chilli measured?

The unit of hotness is the SHU or Scoville Hotness Scale.
Wilbur Scoville was an American chemist who devised a test based on repetitively diluting an extract of the pepper with sugar water until the heat was no longer detected.
Hot chillies Photo David Little
By the way, now testing is more carried out using accurate laboratory equipment, like a chromatograph, and equating 15 parts per million (PPM) of capsaicin with an increase of 1 on the Scoville scale.
The heat comes from that same chemical compound called capsaicin which I’ve mentioned already,(the active ingredient in chillies), this intensifies as the chilli matures..

There is a theory that the heat in chillies caused by capsaicin was an adaptation to prevent animals from eating chillies so that birds, which are a better distributors for their seeds, can eat them. Birds don’t feel the heat of the chilli.

How to Grow and When to Sow your chillies.

Sowing chilli seeds can be done throughout the year in Tropical and sub-Tropical climates. Lucky guys.
Being a warm season plant the season is shorter in temperate climates only fruiting over the summer months and dying back in winter.
They’re totally not suitable in areas where frosts occur but if you really are determined to grow chillies, perhaps try them in a pot and place it a very warm verandah.
Because warm conditions over a five-month growing period are necessary for any good quality fruit.

Chillies need soil temperature of 15–30°C to germinate so if you’re in a cool temperate or even a temperate climate, start off your chilli seeds in a punnet or tray or pot using seed raising mix.

Chillies need a slightly warmer temperatures than tomatoes or cucumbers.
For good fruit development, night temperatures of 15–17°C and day temperatures of 24–30°C are best.
Make sure your Chilli plants are in a position that receives a good amount of light.
Chilli seeds can be tricky to germinate taking anything from 1 to 6 weeks so don’t give up.
To grow chillies well, add lots of high nitrogenous matter, like Nasturtium or comfrey leaves to the soil as well as compost and manures, so you won’t have to fertilise with chemical fertilisers.

There’s no special soil or potting mix that they need, just start to add a side dressing of fertilise when you see the flowers develop and don’t let them dry out too.

Protect your chilli plants from wind by tying them to supporting stakes.
There’s quite a few pests that like chilli plants like aphids and spider mites. Spraying with a horticultural or preferable a botanic oil to suffocate them, is the best solution.

The most common species of chilli peppers are:
Capsicum annuum (common varieties such as bell peppers, paprika, rating of 2 out of 10,
jalapeños rating of 6)
Capsicum frutescens (includes cayenne and tabasco peppers having a rating of 8-9)
Capsicum chinense (includes the hottest peppers such as habaneros having a 10 out of 10 on the heat scale.
Capsicum pubescens (includes the Thai chilli with a rating of 9)
Capsicum baccatum (includes the South American aji peppers). 
Worm Farms and Chillies are Partners
If you really like your chilli peppers and want to get the most heat out of your home grown plants, then you’ll need to start a worm farm and apply worm tea or worm juice to your chillies.

That’s according to Mark Peacock, a plant scientist from the University of Sydney, who in 2011 helped to cultivate the world's hottest chilli, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T.

Like all fertilisers, 'worm juice' is rich in nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, but what makes it particularly effective for bringing out the heat in chillies are the bodies of insects that have decomposed in the worm farm.
The insects in there are living and dying pretty rapidly, and bits of their shell will break down.
When you apply the juice to the plants' roots, the chilli plant responds as if it’s getting eaten by insects."
This in turn makes the plant produce more of their defensive compounds like capsaicin.
Why are they good for you? 
More chilli Photo David Little

Don't include too many chillies in your diet if you're interested in: Weight gain.
Chillies contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits.
Also when you cook with chilli, it only loses one third of its vitamin C content so you don’t have to worry about eating them raw!
Chillies are also thought to help buffer pain from arthritis, and headaches
Chillies are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Dietary Fibre, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus.
One Chilli divided into a dinner for four doesn’t cut it though but you’ll get a small proportion.
Capsaicin in chillies will cause an unpleasant burning sensation to eyes and skin. Try to avoid handling them too much, wear gloves if possible, and be sure not to touch your face or eyes during preparation.



Talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of
What do you do at the end of a few hours’ worth or even a day’s worth of gardening?
Do you remember to put the tools away?
More importantly do you give your tools a wipe down to remove all the gum and gunk after pruning?
We gardeners sometimes overstretch ourselves when we’re out in the garden and some of those finishing tasks get neglected. Let’s see how we can fix all that on tool time.

Tool time covered sharpening secateurs in a previous segment and you can hear the podcast of that segment by putting in sharpening secateurs in the search bar on
Are you surprised about steel wool not being so good to use on the blades of your pruning tools?
Encouraging rust to grow is not what we want at all so those soft brass brushes are the ticket for giving your secateurs a good clean.
Now that they’re nice and sharp let’s resolve to keep them nice and clean each time we use those pruning tools.
Then we coat the blades with some sort of machine oil based, such as sewing machine oil or even some olive oil.
The silicone based oils dry without leaving a coating so are not that protective of your gardening tools.
Apologies to all those conscientious gardeners, who have the energy to religiously clean first and then put their pruning tools away at the end of the day.


Xanthostemon chrysantha, Golden Penda
Just imagine if you were looking at plants at a plant fair and you saw something that you were pretty sure had never been seen anywhere else before?
If you love yellow in the garden, especially yellow flowers, you’ll want this shrub.
The flowers have been described like a golden powderpuff, or like the flowers of a bottlebrush but round.

The leaves are in whorls around the stems.
The flowers are pretty showy so let’s find out what it is.
Talking with the Plant Panel; Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner

Golden Penda is in the same family as all Lilly Pillies so the powderpuff like flowers are no surprise.
What is a surprise is that if you live in cool temperate climates, you can grow this tree indoors.
No need to worry about it reaching for the roof because you can hard prune it every year to keep it bushy.
In a garden situation it only grows to 5m but more in it's natural habitat.
Golden Penda is a spectacular, medium to large rainforest tree with a dense, spreading crown of  dark green, glossy foliage and contrasting reddish new growth.
The bark is rough and scaly with showy, dense clusters of golden yellow, fluffy flowers on the ends of the branches during summer, autumn and winter.
The flowers attract nectar feeding birds.
To grow Golden Penda, plant in any well drained soil and keep well watered.
Prefers warm to hot conditions, but tolerates light frosts and subtropical climates.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Friendship Makes The Garden Go Round


In every garden lurks aphids, mealybugs, two spotted mites and other pests that prey on your vegetables and flowers.
What’s an organic gardener going to do ?
Is there someone to call? Certainly not ghostbusters!
Forget nasty expensive chemicals that do harm to our bees and the good bugs in our garden.
Because that’s the answer, enlist the help of the good bugs but you may need to call them up with some help.
Let’s find out.Q and A with Steve Falcioni from

Beneficial insects need food, water and shelter to come into your garden.
Different stages of their life cycle require different foods.
For example, the adult Hoverfly and Lacewing feed on pollen and nectar but the larvea feeds on pest insects.
If pest numbers are low, larvae will also feed on pollen and nectar to get them through the lean times.

Foods you should plant include plants from these families; Asteraceae or Daisy family, Apiaceae or Carrot family, Lamiaceae or Mint family.
The plant list includes all herbal plants and Mint, Lavender, Caraway Cosmos, Chrysanthemum, Alyssum, Queen Anne's Lace.
What these plants have in common is flower over a long period of time, the flower structure and a dense source food.
When you enlist the help of beneficial insects to your garden this is actually called biological control.
These insects are the natural enemies of garden pests and they can be an effective, non-toxic method for solving your garden pest problems.
Farmers used it in a system called integrated pest management or IPM.
Another reason to go natural and use beneficials, is that a greater number of insects are now showing resistance to chemical pesticides.
Funnily enough, no insects have shown immunity to being eaten
Plus, these insecticides have been shown to be harmful to bees as well as ourselves.
If you have any questions about identifying pests or beneficial insects, or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Ginger! Zingiber officianale
In the Zingiberaceae family along with Turmeric and cardamom.
Have you ever wondered about growing edible ginger?
For years I’ve wondered about growing the real deal ginger.
Of all the times I’ve bought the nobbly brown root, it’s never sprouted until now.
Probably because now I’ve bought organic ginger that’s not sprayed with stuff to prevent it from sprouting-some sort of growth retardant usually.
Now I’ve got two bits sprouting!
When to Plant
Before those of you in cooler climates get put off, I daresay, my own climate zone is a bit out of its range, but I’m growing it in a pot and so can you.
Indoors if we have to.
For those of you who don’t have a piece of sprouting ginger, mail order garden catalogues supply pieces of ginger that are sprouting between July and September usually.
Available from
If you’ve ever seen ginger in supermarkets, and all supermarkets have them, you’d know that it comes from the root of a plant that has lots of underground tubers with roots.
Are you thinking that bit of edible ginger is the root, technically it’s not, but most of us think of it as ginger root.
This usually means that the underground part grows quite a bit and is usually a rhizome. A creeping underground tuber.
Ginger has been around for at least 2000 years but mostly used in medicine rather than cooking.
Did you know that together with black pepper, ginger was one of the most commonly traded spices during the 13th and 14th centuries?
Ginger is native to south China, but it was Arabs who spread it around by carrying rhizomes on their voyages to East Africa to plant at coastal settlements and on Zanzibar.
Around the same time in England, ginger was much sought after, and one pound in weight of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep.
So what is Ginger?
It’s a herbaceous perennial which grows annual stems about a 1.5 metres tall with narrow green leaves and insignificant greeny-yellow flowers.
The leaves are much narrower than Canna leaves, and look more like the leaves of bamboo.
Zingibar officianale or ginger is a tropical plant as you’d expect so it doesn’t like frost, waterlogged soil direct sun and high winds.
But if you’ve got a sheltered area, maybe on your back veranda, and rich moist soil, or some good stuff potting mix, you can get by growing ginger.
If you’ve also got warmer weather and high humidity you definitely can grow ginger.
From reading garden forums on the web, ginger does well in the ground in temperate climates as well.
For most of us, growing ginger will mean growing it in pots.
If you plonk it in cheap potting mix, don’t expect much.
If you’ve got water storage crystals in the mix, that’s good, but if you’ve added some coir, that’s even better, because what ginger needs, apart from free draining potting mix, is a mix that has some water holding capacity 
In other words, potting mix that doesn’t dry out too quickly.
If you’ve only got one sprouting rhizome, put it into a 20cm pot, if you have 3 put them in together into a large 35cm pot.
You can also add one part of good compost to two parts potting mix, and that’s going to add some nutrients as well.
For those gardens with tropical or sub-tropical climates you can put that piece of sprouting ginger straight into the garden after you dug in a spadeful of compost. That should be good enough.
Put in your piece of ginger about 5cm below the soil surface.
Remember, filtered sunlight not direct sun for the position.
For cooler climates, your ginger plant can take full sun because it won’t be as intense for the most part as in the tropics.
Near a north facing wall is ideal so the plant can get reflected heat.
If it gets too hot in summer, move the pot into semi-shade if you can.
Also, for cooler districts, move it inside at the first signs of cold weather and don’t water it too much.
The best planting time is late winter/early spring, but if you’ve got a piece sprouting now, don’t waste an opportunity to garden, put it in anyway.
Ginger grows quite slowly and doesn’t mind being a little bit root bound if it’s in a pot.
A good thing about Ginger is that it won’t overtake your garden, because, it’s slow growing and after all, you’re going to be digging it up every year to harvest the rhizomes for your cooking.
Looking after Ginger in hot weather.

Ginger grows to about one to 1 ½ metres and requires regular watering. Drying out will most likely set the plant back quite a bit, and even cark it.
To supply humidity for arid climates, you’ll have to get out there with the spray bottle and spray it when you think of it, hopefully every day.
For those growing ginger in the ground, and plenty of mulch to keep the ground moist.
Ginger growing in pots will need fortnight feeds of liquid fertiliser if you haven’t added any controlled release or organic slow release fertilisers to the mix before planting.
Now the most important question, when can you dig it up?
All books will say the best time to dig up your ginger plant is when all the long green leaves have died down, 8 – 10 months after you’ve planted it.
This is easy if you’ve been growing it in a pot, because you can tip the whole thing over and just pull it out.
For areas where ginger growing is out of it’s range, you might be best to leave it for a couple of years for the rhizome to build up in size before tipping it out.
Break up the rhizomes into smaller useable pieces and either store it in the freezer, or my tip is, put the pieces into some Chinese cooking wine or sherry in a resealable jar and place it in the fridge.
Doing it this way keeps it fresh for quite a few months.
Don’t forget to replant some rhizomes for your next years’ crop of ginger if you’ve been successful that is.
Why is Ginger Good for You?
Ginger is said to stimulate gastric juices, and provide warming and soothing effects for colds and coughs.
Ginger is an excellent natural remedy for nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness and general stomach upset due to its carminative effect that helps break up and expel intestinal gas.
Ginger tea has been recommended to alleviate nausea in chemotherapy patients mainly because its natural properties don’t interact in a negative way with other medications.
Ginger is a very good source of nutrients and essential vitamins.
It is also a good source of minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and copper.
Ginger also has Calcium Carbohydrate  Dietary Fiber  Iron  Magnesium and Manganese, but wait there’s more.
Potassium Protein Selenium Sodium Vitamin C, E and B6
Many thanks to tropical permaculture group for providing some of the growing information.


 with Landscape Designer Glenice Buck
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taken on a journey to just outside a little hamlet called Germantown, about 2 hours drive from New York City.
photo Glenice Buck
photo Glenice Buck
 We’resurrounded by mountains in the distance, and so far, the Northern Hemisphere trees have been identified with the help of a local arborist, and some shrewd detective work on Glenice’s part.
Listen to the podcast to find out what happens in the final of this series.
  By now the veggie patch had been installed, a retaining wall and a new garden bed had been built.
Then it was buying the perennial plants; Rudibeckia, Hemerocallis, (Day Lilies), Mondardia ( Bee Balm), Agastache, Wormwood, Veronica, Salvias and Ornamental grasses.

photo Glenice Buck
photo Glenice Buck

The arborists will continue withy the selective clearing and maintenance.

Lastly, a native land steward will be employed to replant the native woodland in the south point of the garden.


Talking with the Plant Panel; Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner
Just imagine if you were looking at plants at a plant fair and you saw something that you were pretty sure had never been seen anywhere else before?
You certainly would have to know your plants, but that’s just what happened at a plant show in 2005 in Argentina.
It seems that (Friendship Sage) we must say thanks to Rolando Uria of the University of Buenos Aries for this very fine plant. Yes, at a plant fair, Rolando really know his Salvias and picked out that this plant was a truly unique hybrid sage.
Needless to say that it’s generated a great deal of excitement in the Salvia world.
The flowers are pretty showy so let’s find out what it is.

A medium size semi-shrubby perennial with fast growth in the warm seasons to reach 1.2m by at least as wide with glossy green deltoid shaped leaves that are textured in a way similar to Salvia guaranitica.

In Spring through to Autumn and the flowers or whorls of large rich royal purple flowers emerging from near black dark bracts.

Best grown in full to part sun along the coast or at least with protection from afternoon sun in warmer inland locations in a fast-draining soil with moderate to regular watering.
Ideal for pots or summer borders, this is a strong growing variety with stunningly beautiful flowers. Dark purple buds open to deep purple flowers with an almost black calyx. If you give it a light trim you’ll be rewarded with repeat flowering.
Salvia Amistad can take cold winters to -6 0 C, but because it’s always flowering, it’s worthwhile even if it only lasts the year.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Down In The Corner Of The Garden


Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taken on a journey to just outside a little hamlet called Germantown, about 2 and 1/2 hours drive from New York City.
We’re surrounded by mountains in the distance, the Catskill Mountains to the west and the Berkshire's Mountains to the east. So far, the Northern Hemisphere trees have been identified with the help of a local arborist, and some shrewd detective work on Glenice’s part.
Central garden area. Photo Glenice Buck
The barn on the property is now the residence. Outside the back door of the barn there is a stone patio area then a grassed area with a few mature trees; two old Gleditsia, stone fruit, a Magnolia, Lilacsm Pin Oak, White Oak and Shaggy Barked Hickories.
Looking towards the north point. Photo Glenice Buck

So what next in this design series?
Talking with Landscape Designer Glenice Buck.
Let’s find out some more by listening to the podcast.

After being there for a week, Glenice had a clear idea of how she wanted to define the areas and also the order in which these needed to be built.
By chance the property was in the shape of a boomerang which is quite serendipitous because it now is in the hands of Australians.
Looking through the trees at the south point. Photo Glenice Buck
Nonetheless, there were still no requests for gum trees of banksias or wattles, but instead using the native vegetation and the idea of creating 3 zones.
Plus, all the things that a lot of gardeners really want, like the veggie garden, compost bin and play areas for the kids and if you have the space a fruit orchard.
They also wanted to attract bees, birds and butterflies to their garden. What real gardener doesn't?
Of the zones, the north point became the arboretum or orchard area and the south point became the woodland that surrounded the pond. Mulched pathways were introduced to lead you through the existing trees. Underplanting was with Trilliums, Toad Lilies, Brunnera, Ferns, Viola, Polygonatum and Pulmonaria.


Is there a fruit or vegetable you detest?
Maybe it’s the texture of it in your mouth you can’t stand, or the smell puts you off, especially when it’s being cooked.
I’m not talking allergy type of detest, but purely because, Nah… you just don’t like it.
You don’t order any food that even has a slight hint of it being there.
That’s my lot with corn.
Well, after four years of broadcasting, I’ve only mentioned sweetcorn once, and it’s time to look over what corn cob lovers want to hear.
So you might think I know nothing of corn growing, but no, from my years at Yates in technical advice, it seems that growing corn has it’s fair share of problems and I’ve heard and solved most of them.

Fast Facts

Sweet Corn  or Zea mays var. saccharata  is a grass, native to the Americas.
Yep, a grass.
But wait, Corn is actually a vegetable, a grain, and a fruit.
It’s a vegetable because it’s harvested for eating; a grain because it’s a dry seed of a grass species; and a fruit because that’s the botanical definition.
Corn (Zea mays) is sometimes called a vegetable grain.
Did you know that a vegetable is defined as a plant cultivated for an edible part or parts such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds/fruit, corn is a vegetable?
If you wanted to be very picky, all cereal grains could be called vegetables, but by convention we separate the cereal grains from the rest of the "vegetables" such as peas, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage
Corn has a long, long history.
Apparently tiny ears of corn have been discovered at ancient village sites on the Mexican plateau or the highlands of Guatemala.
Kernels dating back to 6600 BCE have also been found in caves in Mexico.
There’s even evidence that in central Mexico, about 7000 years ago, sweetcorn was domesticated from wild grass.
However, the fresh, or sweet corn, the kind we like to eat as corn on the cob, didn’t come about until the 1700s.
Along with wheat and rice, corn is one of the world’s major grain crops.
Would you have guessed that only 9 percent of all the corn grown is used to produce food for humans?
64% of all corn grown is used as feed for livestock.
Then there’s food manufacture which include corn meal and other food products such as cooking oils, margarine, and corn syrups and sweeteners (fructose) and breakfast cereals, flour.
But there’s also non-cooking uses such as dyes, paints, chemicals, Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn, has shown the possibility of becoming a major renewable fuel for the world’s automotive industry.
That’s just to name a few.
 Much of the corn now grown around the world is genetically modified for herbicide and/or pest resistance, so a good reason to grow it yourself.
Sweet corn belongs to the grass family. Poaceae
There are various different types of corn and some have been around longer than others.
By the way, Popcorn is made from a corn variety that dries on the stalk, while the corn we eat on the cob is referred to as sweet corn.
When to Plant-
You can plant sweetcorn all year round in tropical and subtropical climates, in spring and midsummer in temperate and arid zones and late spring to early summer in colder regions.
TIP: Before planting out your corn, soak the seeds in a shallow saucer of water overnight.
You can either sow the seeds directly into the garden, 25cm or a hand span apart in short rows 50-60 cm apart, or in seed trays.
Dig in some chook poo a couple
of weeks before you plant the corn.
By sowing your corn seed directly into the garden you mightn’t always get a 100% germination rate; and you may have breaks in your rows, particularly if you’re growing the high sugar varieties.
Try growing your corn in seed trays or in punnets first, then transplant the seedlings out into the garden, when they are 50 to 75mm tall.
You’ll have complete rows then.
Corn being a grass has no nectar or odour to attract a physical pollinator.
In fact all grasses are wind pollinated, so sweetcorn needs to be planted closely for pollination.
You could also try planting your corn in a circle.

Something you need to know.

If you’ve experienced partially formed cobs or a low amount of cobs it’s most likely a pollination problem.
Sweet Corn Tassels
Corn plants have separate male and female flowering parts.
The male flowers or tassel are at the top of the plant and female flowers or silks form the kernels on the cob.
Pollen grows on these tassels.
It then falls down onto the silks, or female parts of the plant.
Each silk is connected to a kernel of corn inside each ear.

Sweet corn silks

If pollen reaches the silk, it causes a corn kernel to grow.
If a silk doesn't receive pollen, the kernel stays small.
Tip:Don’t wet the tassels as they emerge.
If you have a small garden and are in need of space, you could also plant climbing beans and cucumbers in between the rows of corn, the beans and cucumbers will climb up the corm stems, making a temporary trellis.
The seed for the beans and cucumbers need to be sown out at the same time as the corn.                   
Pollination will result in a corn cob forming
Hints and Tips
A good tip is, once the corncob has been pollinated (the corncob tassels have gone brown and you can feel the cob forming) cut the top flower off about a 10cm up from the cob.   Hopefully this will let the plant concentrate on feeding the cob, making it grow larger and sweeter.

Remember: Corn likes lots of compost, comfrey, old animal manures, liquid fertilisers and heaps of mulch (around the main stem of the plant) give them a good soak around the roots, every second day, depending on the weather conditions

There are a number of heirloom varieties of sweet corn and maizes with different shapes and sizes.
There are golf ball shapes, bantam and lady-finger shapes.
There are a large variety of colours; multi coloured, blue, red, white, purple and the typical golden yellows and not forgetting 'pop corn'.

What’s the most asked question about growing sweet corn?
Q Poor germination and too few corncobs.
Can be caused by a number of problems. For example: 
 poor seed quality - if the seed is old or hasn't been dried or handled properly after harvest; 
 seed rots (Pythium and Rhizoctonia fungi); 
 planting into cool, wet soil, planting too deep and soil crusting.
Supersweet corn has lower vigour than normal sweet corn and needs warmer soil to germinate, but generally has poorer germination ability than normal sweet corn. 
 Uneven plant stands can also be caused by soil crusting and insects, mainly cutworms and wireworms; 
Nematodes, particularly root lesion nematodes, are often associated with poor crop establishment and growth.
Why is it good for you?
As corn cobs mature they develop more starches and sweet corn is one of the few vegetables that is a good source of the kind of slowly digested carbohydrate that gives you long-lasting energy.
Corn is an excellent source of dietary fibre vitamin C and niacin (one of the B group vitamins) and folate (one of the B group vitamins)
Corn is also good source of potassium to help balance the body’s fluids if you eat salty foods.
Lastly 100g corn kernels has 395kJ Corn is high in fibre.


Talking with the Plant Panel; Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner
These next plants are quite low growing but are the sort of plant that flower a lot and you can stuff here and there into rockeries and nooks and crannies in your garden, or if you like hanging baskets, they’ll trail over these.

They have a bit of a strange name so I’m surprised that marketers haven’t coming up with something more inspiring.

The flowers are pretty showy though so let’s find out what it is by listening to the podcast.

Bacopa is an evergreen  mat forming plant that grows about 5 - 10 cm tall and has stems covered in bright green, simple leaves that are slightly thickened.

If you plant your Bacopa in the garden it will make nice mat or groundcover
Bacopa has a five-petaled flowers which small  but profuse.

The colours vary from whites to pinks and mauves, depending on the variety.
Potted in planters, bacopa stems trail down over the container's edge and are especially attractive mixed with other plants in hanging baskets.
Growers now plant them up in Trixies and Mixies where 3 plants are grown in the same plug.
 Where to plant your Bacopa
Bacopa does best in a spot that receives morning sun and some afternoon shade.
It can tolerate being in full sun throughout the day if kept well-watered, although summer heat and full sun can cause the plant to droop.
This plant needs regular watering, especially during the first few weeks after planting, and isn't tolerant of dry spells or drought. Adding a 5 cm layer of organic mulch around the
It turns out that Scopia is just a name for a series of 16 varieties of Bacopa.

Among them are the Gulliver varieties, which have very large flowers.
If you’re area’s climate is really warm, then Bacopa doesn’t like to grow there so much.
However Bacopa does grow well in dappled and semi-shade so there’s another choice for all those gardeners that either have different amounts of sun and shade in their garden where they need a plant that can cope with both.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Settle Down With A Garden


Talking about the First Settlers in Australia with Gastronomer Jacqui Newling from Sydney Living Museums.
Early Australian settlers had barely survived the trip from England and were faced with plants, a landscape, a culture and foods that they knew nothing about.
So what did they do?
This is where the What’s Cooking segment comes in.
It’s not so much about what we grow, cook and eat today but about what people grew and ate 1 to 2 centuries ago.
The arrival of the First Fleet with Captain Arthur Phillip who became the first founding Governor.
Aren’t you curious about what went on in the kitchen gardens and kitchens of 100 – 200 years ago?
Was it that much different?
Well, today, we start with a look at what the first settlers ate when they set foot on Australian soil.
There’s a few misconceptions that will be busted so hang on to your hat.
Let’s get started.
PLAY: The First Settlers_2nd September_2015
We know that the first settlers' provisions were salt rations such as preserved meats, salted pork and dried peas that they bought with them, but what did they eat when they landed in Farm Cove?
We also know that the British sent a supply ship the Guardian in 1790, however that ship struck an iceberg of the Cape of Good Hope and lost all the back up supplies that Captain Phillip was expecting.
Fortunately Captain Phillip was pretty shrewd and starting rationing their dwindling supplies even further.

Governor Phillip's house in Sydney Cove. He sailed for London at the end of 1792, citing ill health
The First Fleeters'  all survived pretty much with only one reported death from starvation.
Maybe you’ve been thinking that the first settlers were poor gardeners and didn’t understand the seasons and what would grow in warmer climates.
Not so, as Jacqui says, they were on top of that concept because they picked up seeds and supplies from Teneriffe in Jamaica and from South Africa.
The also experimented with plantings all over what is now greater Sydney-from Pittwater to South Head and Wollongong.
In fact the naval officer at South Head lead by Daniel Southwell were quite proud of their successful veggie garden which as evidenced in their journals.
If you have any questions about the First Settlers, or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Water chestnuts. Eleocharis dulcis
Do you remember eating your first Chinese meal at a Chinese restaurant or eating Dim Sims when you were quite young?
Did you bite onto something crunchy that wasn’t a vegetable that you were familiar with because it was whitish and round.
Not exactly the same texture as a nut but still crunchy.
This vegetable most likely would’ve been a water chestnut.
The scientific name for Chinese water chestnuts is Eleocharis dulcis, coming from the Greek Eleos (marsh) and Charis (grace).
According to Chinese herbalist, water chestnuts can help sweeten the breath?

Water Chestnuts are a herbaceous perennial sedge like plant that’s popular in Asian cooking and are a tropical member of the sedge family.
The water chestnut is a native of the warm temperate regions of Europe and Asia and tropical Africa and it’s Cantonese name of ‘matai’ means ‘horses hoof’.
In Asia the water chestnut is grown in flooded fields, often in rotation with paddy (rice).
What does it look like?
Water chestnut plant is rush-like with upright tubular stems or culms, 1 to 1.5 metres tall.
Below ground grows a number of edible corms at the ends of rhizomes.
The plant spreads by these creeping rhizome that, making extra sucker plants all summer long.
The corms are plenty and mahogany brown looking a bit like gladioli corms. For those of you familiar with horse chestnuts, it’s called a water chestnut because it does look the regular chestnut in shape and colour.
These corms are sweet and crisp with a white flesh and nutty taste.
They can be cooked as a vegetable to give a contrasting texture to many dishes or just eat them fresh and raw or lightly steamed or sautéed for salads.
Why grow it?
Did you know that until 1993, this delicacy was only available in cans in parts of Australia ?
During canning, the antibiotic called ‘puchine’ is destroyed, but fresh corms remain crisp and keep that ‘puchine’ after cooking.
That’s why Chinese people regard fresh water chestnuts as superior to the canned product.
The flavour has been described as a blend between apple, chestnut and coconut.
A single corm is said to be able to produce 100 corms within a growing season.

How to sow?
Water chestnuts can be grown in a pond, Styrofoam veggie box or any container that holds water, even an old bathtub or a salvaged water tank cut in half if you have it.
Even though water chestnuts originate in monsoonal areas water chestnuts will grow in most areas of Australia.
They can grow in much cooler, even cold climates, but they are frost tender when not dormant and they need at least a 6-7-month frost-free growing season.
Frosts won’t damage the corms if they’re dormant.
 In colder areas, grow your water chestnuts in a greenhouse or poly tunnel or an old bath tub on your back verandah.
Better still, water chestnuts can be grown in hydroponics using buckets and using a suitable media such as perlite plus vermiculite.
When to Sow?
Plant the corms in Spring, pointy side up and about 10 cm deep into friable soil preferably rich in organic matter and course sand.
After you planted your corm cover it with more sand or fine gravel so hold it in place when you flood it with water.

Corms will sprout when the soil temperature gets above 130 C.
Keep the plants moist until the shoots are about 20cm tall, then fill the container up with water until it's about 10cm deep, with the tips of the leaves just showing.
As the plant grows, keep topping up the water until it’s about 1 metre deep.
Leave the container flooded at that depth for about 6-7 months, then drain off the water in late autumn.
When to pick?
Leave the soil moist but not wet for another month or so until the shoots die down, but don’t pick them just yet.
There’s a post-maturing stage of 3 weeks where the corms harden and sweeten.
If you do it before this, your water chestnuts will taste floury.
TIP: Never plant your corms too close together, because the root systems will get entangled & make harvesting a nightmare.
A mail order aquaculture plant supplier (Nick romanovsky of Dragonfly Aquatics,) recommends the “Hon Matai” Chinese variety for its productivity and large size of corms, whilst it grows well even in cooler climates.
Related Australian varieties, Eleocharis acita and E. Sphacelata, commonly called Spike Rush, are widespread, have taller stems, up to 1.5m, which provide good bird shelter and the corms are a favourite food of water birds, who may also nibble off the chestnut stems.
Where do you get it?
Mail order or online suppliers or fresh from food retailers between June and September.
How to eat them?
The water chestnuts should be first washed and peeled.
They can be eaten raw and slices can be added to salads (even fruit salads) or clear soups.
They need only brief boiling or frying (as in a stir fry), can be added to any stew or curry, be used as stuffing for poultry, made into flour, used as thickener, or minced and made into puddings, pickled in vinegar, or crystallized in sugar or honey as a sweet.
So why is it good for us?
Water chestnuts are high in sugars (2.5%) and also contain about 18% starch, 4.7% protein and less than 1% fibre.
With carbohydrate levels at 30% and protein 1.5%, they are a nutritious food source.


Designing a garden in New York state with Landscape Designer Glenice Buck. :
This series of garden design is about a garden in New York State and is situated very near to the Hudson river that also flows through New York.
Today’s challenges are to discover what plants including trees are growing there.

Looking through the trees at the south point. Photo Glenice Buck
First thing that needed doing was to walk around the 2 acre property's perimeter and assess the vegetation, even identify the trees.
Not so easy when they’ve lost their leaves.
It seemed overgrown, like a forest of trees and dense undergrowth.
Also, what environmental problems that the garden faces, and not just the weather but things that might be on the move.

Let’s find out some more by listening to the podcast.

The climate zone where Glenice has designed the garden has temperatures down to -200C in winter with 40 inches or about a metre of snow on average, and in summer up to 300 C.

Looking towards the north point of the property in New York State. photo: Glenice Buck
After lots of walking around and taking photos, other landscape design essentials were garnered such as sun patterns, drainage, aspect, soil types, weeds and the four legged pests, the Deer.
Certainly big extremes of temperate which we don’t get here in Australia.
Still, plants that can cope with such extremes can cope with the climate in Australia as well with the exception that they won’t go so well in the tropics and sub-tropics.


with Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner

You don’t see too many Melaleuca's which are tough and hardy plants being promoted in nursery, garden centres or even gardening magazines.
Why then have they got this poor image?
Perhaps it’s the small narrow leaves that don’t have the visual impact of Grevilleas?
The flowers are pretty showy so let’s find out what it is.

Melaleuca linarifolia - a large tree

Melaleuca linarifolia or “snow  is in Summer” Myrtaceae family along with Eucalypts of course.

This large tree is found naturally along the east coast of New South Wales and southern Queensland usually along watercourses and swamps.

The habitat ranges from heath and dry sclerophyll forest  to moist or swampy ground.

Known as Snow-in-Summer, or Narrow-leaved Paperbark, and naturally too big for most gardens.
Did you know that Melaleuca comes from the Greek melas meaning black and leukos meaning white, referring to black marks on the white trunks of some species due to fire
Also the meaning of linariifolia is drawing a similiarity to leaves in the genus Linaria.
So what do you do if you like the flowers"
This is where the dwarf versions of Melaleuca linarifolia become interesting.
Let's find out more by listening to the podcast.

If you’re area’s climate is really dry, then Melaleuca’s will still grow there, but they won’t grow so well.
That’s because Melaleucas are much better when the soil is boggy, or swampy, or has temporary inundation.
They also won’t go to well if there’s root competition from other trees because that will make the ground much drier for them as well.

A note to gardens in cooler climates, quite a few melaleucas, including these newer dwarf cultivars, clearly dislike frosts down to -70C or lower, especially in their early years.
Melaleuca linarifolia “Mini Me” grow to 0.3m x  1m and M. linarifolia “Purple Tops" or Claret Tops.
This last one has new purple or claret growth.
Grows  to 1-2m.
Mine has yet to flower. But is supposed to flower in Spring.A dwarf, evergreen shrub that naturally forms a round dense ball. The new growth is smoky bronze red and emits a rich aroma when crushed.The best place to grow your miniature Melaluecas is in full sun and they can take most soil types. Will also grow in dappled shade.
Melaleuca linarifolia Mini Mel grows to 0.3 x 1 metre.
A dwarf, evergreen shrub that naturally forms a round dense ball. The new growth is smoky bronze red and emits a rich aroma when crushed.