Saturday, 26 March 2016

Trumpets of Angels and Herbs of Love


Tomatoes are almost the number one plant to grow in the vegetable garden.
Shall we say, botanically a fruit, but we call it a vegetable?
Home grown tomatoes. photo M. Cannon
Last week Plant Doctor looked at the pests that are attracted to your tomatoes, but today we’re looking at the diseases that your tomatoes can succumb to.
Not that you can’t grow healthy plants but in case you’ve had problems and are on the point of giving up, here’s how to deal with some of these diseases.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

Some of the disease problems we talked about are the wilts:-Verticillium wilt which prefers cooler conditions and has a dark brown centre if you cut the stem; Fusarium wilt which occurs more in warmer conditions and has a pinky brown centre when you cut through the stem.
Basically you have to pull out and destroy the plants and not put them into the compost because they will the disease will spread.
Then there's the spotty problems like Septoria or Target Spot which are a combination of fungal and bacterial disease. This can cause spotting on both the leaves and the fruit.
You might be starting to think that there’s too many pests and diseases that go for your tomatoes, but don’t let that stop you from growing them, because they are enjoyable to grow.
Prevention where possible is always best and fortnightly sprays of seaweed solution strengthens the cell walls of the plant. 
Blossom end rot is not a disease but a calcium deficiency. Sometimes caused by lack of sufficient water or irregular watering during dry times.
Adding a sprinkle of Dolomite around the plant when first putting them in will help solve this problem.
Blossom end rot. photo M Cannon

Another tip is to not have the plants flopping around but staked up and remove the lower leaves.
The biggest tip is to rotate where you grow your tomato plants rather than planting them in the same spot year after year.
If you’ve only got one dedicated spot for your veggie bed, then you may have to rethink where you put these tomatoes, say in the front garden amongst your perennial flowers.
If you have any questions about pests of tomatoes or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Well it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HERO a herb today, and it’s Savory, The Herb of Love.
Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a perennial herb in the mint family (Lamiaceae,) and it’s native to warm temperate regions of southern Europe.
How many times have you heard the phrase "a savory stew?"
Savory is used in herb combinations, such as Herbes de Provence, a French combination of herbs used for seasoning.
Savory is an annual or perennial herb, Satureja hortenis, for Summer Savory, or Saturejo montana being for Winter Savory.
Winter savory is now little used

Winter Savory

in Australia, but for hundreds of years both winter and summer savory have been grown and used, virtually side by side.
Both have strong spicy flavour.
What do they look like?
They have dark-green, narrow leaves for winter savory and light green narrow leaves for summer savory.
The savories can be used fresh or dried and crushed.
The history of savory goes back about 2000 years and it’s one of the oldest culinary herbs.
Here’s a surprising fact, the genus or first part of the latin name Satureja is derived from the word satyr, the half-man, half-goat creature in mythology who owned the savories.
It has been associated with love potions for centuries.
Romans used savory as a medicinal and culinary herb long before they discovered pepper.
In medicine they used it for bee stings, and as an aphrodisiac.
When the Romans brought savory to England, it was used there as an herb for chicken stuffing instead of a medicinal herb.
I have an English friend who says she grew this herb back in England and used it often in her cooking, especially with chicken.
As previously mentioned there are two distinct varieties of savory - summer and winter.
Summer Savory
Summer Savory

Summer savory is most often used for healing.
Summer savory is said to increase sex drive, while winter savory decreases it.
Make sure you get your savories right.
The active ingredients of savory are carvacrol, p-cymene and tannins. It’s an astringent and mild antiseptic. A tea made from summer savory is said to control a mild sore throat.
Rubbing a sprig of savory on an insect bite will bring instant relief.
What does Summer or Winter Savory like?
Well, it’s no different than growing Thyme, it likes full sun with well-draining soil.
Savory prefers to be planted in soil that's slightly alkaline.
Give it a side-dressing of compost or worm castings whenever possible. Summer savory is bushy and low-growing so it makes an excellent edging plant for a kitchen garden, herb bed, or vegetable garden.
Summer savory likes regular water. I have some growing in a strawberry pot so that it cascades out of one of the holes. It seems to like that spot better than the strawberries. As far as the soil in my container goes, well it’s just potting mix with soil wetter crystals added to it. So you see it's well-suited to container gardening, as well.
Summer Savory can be grown from seed sown in spring, but that’s if you can get the seed. Some say these tiny plants resent being transplanted, but I’ve taken pieces from my stock plant and transplanted it into other containers no problems at all/
If you know of someone with this plant, now’s the time to take soft-stem cuttings of about 2-3 cm long and put them in some seed raising or propagating mix. You probably don’t even need to cover it, because, just like the herb Thyme, it strikes very easily.
Savory flowers in mid-January with white or pale pink 5mm flowers grouped in terminal spikes.
You can begin to take the leaves from your savory plant as soon as it reaches 13cm or about 6 inches in height.
Savory Herb

Keeping the plant pruned means you’ll always have some.
My plant dies down a bit in winter, but always regrows, so that’s a good reason to get some summer savory for your herb garden.
Tips For The Chef
Summer savory, Satureja hortensis, is a nice herb to use when you are cutting back on salt-it's flavour is mild, a little bit similar to thyme, but with it's own unique flavour.
To me, it has a slightly peppery flavour, but a piney fragrance when you crush it in your hand.
You can mince summer savory and combine with bread crumbs for coating fish or vegetables such as squash before sauteing. Use it in potato dishes, tomato sauces, meatballs or vegetable juices. It's also great in egg dishes such as omelets and frittatas.
Savory is popular in teas, herbed butters, and flavoored vinegars. It complements beef soup and stews, chicken soup, eggs, green beans, peas, rutabagas, asparagus, onions, cabbage, and lentils.
Use savory when cooking liver, fish and game.
Mince fresh summer savory leaves and combine with garlic, bay and lemon for a good marinade for fish.
Savory blends well with other herbs such as basil, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme and rosemary.
Chefs and cooks say that the taste of savory brings all these herbs together in a unique taste that makes savory an Amalgamating herb.
Why is it good for you?
Savory herb is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins -.
Its leaves and tender shoots are one of the richest sources of potasium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium.
This herb also has dietary fibre. Who would believe?
Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.


Living Fences and Garden Loopers
This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.Today’s garden challenge is twofold.
Living Fence with Murraya paniculata
 Firstly white cabbage moths can lead to big troubles not just in your veggie patch and secondly; you may have inherited a few things that you don’t necessarily like, in particular that front boundary fence. 
You can change that without it costing too much. 
What about a front living fence:Let’s find out. I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer. 
Living fence-Muehlenbeckia and Plumbago. photo M Cannon
For a living fence some of the plant suggestions were Solanum longiflora, Plumbago and Muehlenbeckia, Hibbertia scandens, 


Brugmansia sp. Angel Trumpets.
Want to grow a showstopper that stops people in their tracks and even gets them out of their cars taking photos?Well this tree is one of those, because when it’s in full flower, it’s spectacular. Plus in the evening there’s a sweetly scented perfume that wafts through your bedroom window.Let’s find out more.
Angel Trumpet. Brugmansia versicolour photo M Cannon

I'm talking with the plant panel:-Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal,  and Jeremy Critchley, the owner of the Green Gallery Nursery

Most Brugmansia are fragrant in the evenings which is an adaptation to attract pollinating moths in the country of origin being the tropical regions of South America.
Brugmansia are mostly woody trees or shrubs growing to 3-5 metres, with pendulous, trumpet like, flowers.
They come in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange, green, or red.
Flowers may be single, double, or more.
Brugmansia are easily grown in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil, in sun to part shade, in frost-free climates. 
Morning sun is an ideal position for your Angel Trumpet. 
Fertilise with an organic fertiliser during the warm months.
Until recently only a few pale coloured common varieties were available in Australia.
Now plant breeders have dreamed up a whole new range. 
Here’s some to get you started; Aztec Gold with strong lemon yellow flowers and Hot Pink with deep lolly or hot pink flowers and My Clementine with deep golden yellow frilly double flowers. Mmmm, must get that one.
For lovers of gardening books, Alistair Hay's book "Huanduj" has all the new cultivars.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Tasty Tomatoes and Fabulous Fuchsias


Most gardeners will know that tomatoes are botanically a fruit, but as we also know, we think of tomatoes as vegetables.
Tomatoes looking great. photo M Cannon
Why is it that we love to grow tomatoes so much?
Probably because store bought tomatoes are somewhat lacking in flavour and they’re relatively easy to germinate and get growing.
But then, unless you have ideal climatic conditions, often you’re tomato plants are besieged with problems.
Let’s find out about how to deal with pests on tomatoes in part 1 of what’s going on with my tomatoes? Im talking with Steve Falcioni, Manager of
Sap suckers can be grouped together: aphids, whitefly and mites. The last 2 tend to live on the underside of the leaf and causes a silvery appearance.
The problem won't go away and unless you treat it, your tomato plants will suffer more.
aphids tend to cluster on the tips of the new shoots and leaves causing leaf distortion.
Spray with eco Oil which is a botanical oil and less harmful to beneficial insects.
Some of the solutions are pretty easy, like when dealing with pests that suck the sap of your plants.
On the other hand fruit fly needs to be tackled early in the growing season; that's back in Spring.
Hang out a fruit fly lure to check when they first start to appear, then begin using Spinosad based spray such as Eco Naturalure.
Garden loopers are easy to pick off if you can spot them. Check amongst your Basil plants, especially if you've planted them near your tomatoes.
Garden loopers could first start on your Basil plants then progress to your tomatoes. photo M Cannon
If you have any questions about pests of tomatoes or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Mugwort is the common name for Artemisia vulgaris, a perennial herb used since the Iron Age in medicine, cooking and brewing.
It’s sometimes called sailor’s tobacco, chrysanthemum weed and St John’s herb.
Other names for this herb that you might’ve heard are wild wormwood, and croneswood and felon herb, or perhaps you’ve never heard of it at all?
It grows easily in most climates and though it is classified as a weed in some places, it's commonly planted in herb gardens.
There is another Mugwort which is called Mugwort Tree or Chinese mugwort.
Botanical Name is slightly different being Artemisia verlotiorum
Mugwort leaves photo M Cannon
Mugwort Tree is a taller growing plant, with more aromatic leaves and small flowers.

Mugwort Tree is a perennial growing to ½ metre -1.5 meters high and 1.5 meters wide. It has several tall, green stems that are generally unbranched, but as the plant ages it may have several obvious stems.
In some areas it may die back to the rootstock over winter and be considered semi- deciduous.
When Mugwort Tree is not flowering it may be ‘chrysanthemum like’ in appearance.
Chinese mugwort flowers very late in the summer, but reproduces mainly by stolons, forming thick groups.
Chinese Mugwort grows in similar locations to the other mugwort= Artemisia vulgaris, but in beware in some states it’s considered an environmental weed, particularly in Victoria.
Mugwort has a long history of folk tradition and use. Anglo-Saxon tribes believed that the aromatic mugwort was one of the nine sacred herbs given to the world by the god Woden.
Mugwort has also been used from ancient times as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travellers against evil spirits and wild animals.
A traditional ingredient in the medieval witches formula for flying ointment.
Mugwort seed head
Would that mean witches flying on broomsticks?
Did they mention it in Harry Potter?
In the European Middle Ages, mugwort was used to repel insects, especially moths, from gardens.
Would you have thought that Roman soldiers put mugwort in their sandals to protect their feet against fatigue?
Perhaps you could try putting some Mugwort into your dancing shoes, boots, or joggers to relieve aching feet or sore leg muscles?
Then there’s the use medicinally, especially in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean traditional medicine.
Mugwort is also used as an herb to flavour food.
The leaves and buds, are picked just before flowering and is used as a bitter flavouring agent to season fat, meat and fish.
The flowers and leaves are also used to make a herbal tea.
 Did you know that mugwort has also been used to flavour beer before the introduction of or instead of hops?
Not only that, but it was also known as Sailor's Tobacco, because it was used when sailors ran out of tobacco at sea.
Drying Mugwort
The best time to pick the leaves of Mugwort for drying is just as the plant comes into flower, before the blossoms are fully open.
Pick the leaves from the stalks and dry them on paper-lined trays in a light, airy room, away from direct sunlight.
The flowerheads should be dried intact and the dried herb stored in clearly-labelled, tightly-sealed, dark glass containers.
What does it look like?

Mugwort grows easily in most climates and though it is classified as a weed in some places, it’s been planted in English herb gardens for hundreds of years.
Mugwort grows 1½  -2  metres  tall with grey green toothed leaves that are hairy and white underneath,  with reddish brown or small yellow flowers on woody stems and roots in late summer.
It provides food and habitat for many moths and butterflies and a compliment to other summer flowers.
Mugwort Tree photo M Cannon
Seeds set easily so cut the dead flowers off if you don’t want the seeds to set.
Where and When to grow it?
Mugwort can grow almost everywhere in Australia because it’s not frost tender.
Plant it in full sun or part shade and Mugwort isn’t fussy about soil, growing I anything from light sandy soil, through to loam and even heavy clay soils, as long as they’re well drained.
Plants are longer lived, are more hardy and more aromatic when they’re grown in a poor dry sandy soil
Mugwort is an adaptable plant and can tolerate a huge pH range from and acidic 4.8 to a very alkaline 8.2
One thing to note, mugwort is mostly wind as well as insect pollinated so that if you’re allergic to pollens or have asthma, then this plant isn’t for you.
It provides food and habitat for many moths and butterflies and a compliment to other summer flowers.
To grow more plants, just keep the seeds from the previous years and sow them in late winter through to summer.
Growing Mugwort
Mugwort grows best in full sun and in soil with good drainage.
Start with plants from your local garden centre although if you have trouble, you can buy seeds via mail order.
The plant can spread quite wide so one plant for your herb garden or chook pen should be enough.
So why grow mugwort?
Mugwort is botanically related to tarragon and the leaves can be used fresh or cooked and have a slight bitter flavour that suits or goes best with fatty foods,  such as in stuffing for roasted duck or turkey.

The dried leaves and buds can be made into a tea.
The fresh or the dried plant repels insects.
A weak tea made from the infused plant is a good all-purpose insecticide.
Just remember, these all-purpose insecticides don’t discriminate between good and bad bugs.
It’ll kill them all.
Why are they good for you?
The leaves are said to be a good digestion and appetite stimulant. The Romans didn’t have it wrong when they places leaves in their shoes to relieve tired aching feet.
Some European farmers feed it to their stock as an all wormer.
If you keep chooks, leaves from mugwort among others, is a great poultry tonic and laying stimulant as well as helping to prevent parasites in your chooks.
General poultry tonics and laying stimulants include:- garlic, onion, chickweed, dandelion, fennel, wormwood, rue, cress, marigold, mint, vervain, comfrey, borage, thyme, marjoram, sage, nasturtium, mugwort, gotu kola and parsley.


This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
Today’s garden challenge is for those gardeners that are gardening on alluvial or riparian soil.
Alocasia brisbaniensis
That’s soil that’s a big boggy and occasionally gets inundated with water or even might get flooded.
The soil is without much structure and sometimes when you dig into it, it has a sour smell.
If that’ sounds like your type of garden then listen to what you can do to help your soil and your plants to grow better.
Let’s find out… I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer

Ornamental Banana - Ensete ventricosum
The soil develops that sour smell if it's anaerobic, meaning there's no oxygen in the soil.
You can help by incorporating lots of organic matter.
Find yourself a good local source of organic material to
improve that soil surface.

Even if you build raised beds that are 30cm high, unless they’re shallow rooted, your plants will eventually have to deal with that not so good soil.
If you want to select plants to suit these growing conditions, planting clump forming bamboo, anything from the Aroid family-Calocasia, Alocasia brisbaneiensis, the Taro group and Musa species or banana plants are suitable to grow in this soil.


As gardeners, we know that flowers have a season.
Some flowers bloom in Spring, like tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs.
Some flowers bloom in winter, such as Camellias, and Luculia, French Lavender.
Fuchsias photo M Cannon
But then it’s all over for another year.
Would you like a shrubs, even though it’s relatively small, that flowers all year long?
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with the plant panel - Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal,  and Jeremy Critchley, the owner of the Green Gallery Nursery

Jollies Nantes
One of the big tips for any type of Fuchsia, is don't have them sitting around in water because they'll rot; especially young plants.
Two varieties mentioned was Fuchsia ‘electric lights which is a Fuchsia that can be grown in full sun.

It never gets to more than 30cm so it’s perfect for container planting or front of garden borders.

Jollies Tarbies
Jollies Menton
Jollies Fuchsia Line is from the German breeder Brandkamp  who have modernized the familiar range of the famous bedding and balcony plant Fuchsia in the last few years.
The Jollies series are named after French towns: Nantes, Menton and Tarbes.