Saturday, 30 December 2017

Everything from Lily of the Nile to Dry Soil

What’s On The Show Today?

How to improve your watering in Plant Doctor, crunchy like an apple but sweet like a watermelon in Vegetable Heroes, a mainstay of many gardens in plant of the week and festive flowers in Talking Flowers?


Watering The Garden and Hydrophobic Soils
Water is a scarce enough commodity in Australia, so gardeners would like to think that they are watering efficiently.
We all know the best times to water but what you may not know is that if you scratch the surface of your soil, you may find that the water hasn’t even penetrated.

There are many causes of soil that is water repellent or hydrophobic.
Why’s that you may ask?
Let’s find out. 'm talking with General Manager of

Water repellence can be due to the waxy substances that come from plant material being not properly decomposed. These in turn coat the soil particles. The smaller the soil particle, as in sandy soils,the great chance of the waxy substances clinging to them.

Through no fault of your own, the soil in your garden may be prone to being water repellent.
This means you may need to have routine distribution of a wetting agent, either wetting granules or the spray on kind.
The liquid form of wetting agent also comes in a hose on so it does seem an easy way to do a large area.

Wetting granules though are no more difficult to apply than spreading organic fertiliser around your garden.
When choosing a soil wetter one thing to note is that some are based on petroleum derivatives and alcohol, making them unsuited to organic gardens. 
Others contain only naturally occurring substances that readily biodegrade and cause no ill effects to the soil or plants. 
To help choose a suitable wetting agent check the ingredients. 
For organic gardeners, eco-Hydrate contains polysaccharides (natural humectants that can suck moisture from the air), soil surfactants (which aid in moisture penetration) and soil conditioners (including fulvic acid and seaweed extract).  

If you have any questions about hydrophobic soils either for me or Steve, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Yacon : Smallanthus sonchifolius (syn Polymnia sonchifolia)

Yacon is in the Daisy or Asteraceae family.

Yacon is sometimes called, Peruvian ground apple, ground-pear, and pear of the earth.

We’ll stick to Yacon-which is the name this vegetable mostly goes by

Yacon is native to the Andes- Colombia and Ecuador but did you know that until as recently as the early 2000s, yacón was hardly known outside of South America?
You probably won’t see it any time soon in your veggie shop but you can buy Yacon tea or Yacon syrup.

So what does this plant look like and which part do you eat?

Yacon is a hardy, attractive herbaceous perennial from which you get quite a few tubers.

The plant grows to 1.5 to 2 m tall with light green angular leaves that look a bit like a milk thistle’s leaves or even a Jerusalem artichoke.

When it flowers, you’ll have male and female daisy-like yellow to orange flowers that are pollinated by insects.

Each plant forms a underground clump of 4 to 20 fleshy large tuberous roots.
The plant itself is extremely hardy tolerating hot summers, drought and poor soils.

The part that you eat is underground.

Yacon tubers look a bit like sweet potatoes, but they have a much sweeter taste and crunchy flesh.
The tubers are very sweet, juicy and almost calorie free but more on that later.
I would say that the tubers taste like a cross between apple and watermelon, but with more sweetness.

Generally it’s a bit tricky describing the taste of a new food, but everyone agrees on the crunchiness.
If you can grow Jerusalem artichokes or Parsnips, you can grow Yacon.


Yacon has a long growing season-up to 7 months so generally suits temperate to tropical areas.

But you can grow it in cooler districts.
  • Yacon can be planted all year round in frost-free areas as it is day-length neutral. 
  • In tropical areas grow Yacon during the dry season before the wet sets in.
  • It appears to be drought tolerant compared to other vegetable crops and so far, pest-free. 
  • For cold areas of Australia the rhizomes can be started in styrofoam boxes in a greenhouse or on a warm verandah, usually in spring, and planted out when frost is past.
Split the tubers into individual shoots with their tubers attached and plant into smaller pots.

Yacon plants are quite sensitive to temperature, so plant them out when you would tomatoes.

Normally you plant the large tubers into large pots and wait for shoots to start growing from each smaller tuber.

Yacon actually produces two types of underground tubers, reddish rhizomes directly at the base of the stem that can be eaten but are a bit stringy and tough so they’re mainly used for propagation.

Then there’s the larger brown or purple tubers-these are the ones you eat.

Prepare the soil by loosening well with a fork and working in compost.

To plant, cover a large rhizome/tuber which has several sprouts, with soil to a depth of 3 cm. Space them 0.5m apart.

But you might just want to start with one plant which you can buy online or some garden centres.

Mulch well because yacon will grow up through the mulch, just like potatoes.

The stems of this plant are brittle so if you haven’t got a wind break tip prune the stems to make the plant lower and more bush.

Because this plant creates dense shade when it grows you probably won’t have to do any weeding. Bonus!

Yacon grows fast even in poor soils but gives you much bigger tubers in rich, friable, well-drained soil.

So when do you pick this strange vegetable?
The plant takes 6 - 7 months to reach maturity.
You know when it’s ready when the top growth withers and dies back.
This is when you dig up the tuber.
The tubers look a bit like dahlia or sweet potato tubers, and on average should weigh about 300 g but can weigh up to 2 kg.
Once the soil starts to heave at the base of the plant, dig around to 'bandicoot' a few early tubers to extend the harvest season.
The tubers continue to sweeten as the plant dies back so the main harvest should only take place once all the top growth is dead.

If you planted your tubers in November they’ll be usually be ready by the end of May.

Don't leave it too long though, especially in areas that have mild winters, as the plant will start to shoot again as the weather warms up and the days get longer.
When digging them up, separate the reddish rhizomes from the tubers and wash off any soil, taking care not to break the skin.
The reddish rhizomes are kept out of the sun and covered with slightly damp sand, sawdust or cocopeat to stop them drying out and put aside for replanting in a dark, dry place.
These offsets are then replanted for the next season.
The plant needs to be dug carefully to avoid damage to the crisp tubers. After separation from the central stem undamaged tubers can be stored in a cool, dark and dry place with good air circulation for some months.
If your plant flowers don’t bother with any seeds you might bet because they’re mostly un-viable.

Yacon is almost always propagated from cuttings or tubers.
Why the tubers keep sweetening during storage is because of starch conversion.
You can put them in the sun for a couple of weeks to speed up the sweetening process.
The tubers can be eaten raw as a refreshing treat on their own, finely sliced and mixed into salads, boiled or baked, fried as chips or prepared as a pickle.

There’s plenty of eating tips, too many to mention, but I’ll post them on the website. For those without a computer, write in to me and I’ll send you a fact sheet.


First remove the outer brown skin and inner white skin by peeling with a knife as the skin has a resinous taste.
Inside is amber coloured sweet crunchy flesh.
Like all tubers there are no seeds to remove, so it is quick and easy to prepare.

Chop the tuber into chunks and add it to green salads where they impart a great flavour and texture. I
When cut into long strips, they make an interesting addition to a plate of raw vegetable crudites for dipping into your favourite guacamole or cream cheese dip.

It can also be boiled, steamed or baked with other vegies. In cooking they stay sweet and slightly crisp.

If boiled 'in the jacket' the skin separates from the flesh and can be peeled off like a boiled egg.
Yacon can also be used in a dessert crumble or pie with apples, pears or choko.

In the Andes, they are grated and squeezed through a cloth to yield a sweet refreshing drink. The juice can also be boiled down to produce a syrup. In South America the juice is concentrated to form dark brown blocks of sugar called chancaca. The young stem can be used as a cooked vegetable.

Why is it good for you?
Nutritionally Yacon is low in calories but it is said to be high in potassium. Yacon tubers store carbohydrate in the form of inulin, a type of fructose, which is a suitable food for type II diabetics. 



The old varieties of this tough as old boots flowers, are often seen in neglected gardens but did you know its Greek name means love flower?
Love flower sounds much more romantic than the German Schmucklilie which translated means jewel lily.

This plant with its lily like flower grows almost everywhere except where it’s extremely hot or extremely cold.
Let’ s find out what it is. 'm talking with the plant panel: Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of

photo courtesy plants
In some areas they are used as a fire retardant plant because of their fleshy green leaves and also for holding banks and stopping erosion with their large and tangled root system.
In the norther hemisphere, Agapanthus, other than in their native South Africa need to be moved into unheated greenhouses in winter.
So don’t underestimate the humble Aggie, plus breeders are always looking for new colourways, so that you won’t be disappointed if you seek them out.

Some newer varieties to watch out for Australia
Agapanthus Black Pantha
Agapanthus Cascade Diamond
Agapanthus Snowball
Agapanthus Golden Drop with variegated foliage.

Christmas Bush: Ceratopetalum gummiferum

Ceratopetalum....from Greek ceras, a horn and petalon, a petal, referring to the petal shape of one species.
gummiferum....producing a gum.
In the home garden, I would regard this plant as a large shrub in people’s gardens rather than a small tree because it rarely grows to more the 4-5 metres.
That’s equivalent to Coastal Tee-tree.

The leaves are up to 3-7cm long and are divided into three leaflets or trifoliate, which are finely serrated and the new growth is often pink or bronze coloured. 
Leaves are opposite each other.
I grew these plants as part of a trial when I was studying for my Hort Diploma at Tafe some years ago.
Testing a variety of fertilisers for growth factors. 
Definitely one plant that doesn’t tolerate Phosphorus in the fertilizer. 
Native fertilisers only.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded live in 2rrr studios and published on Facebook.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Delphiniums,Gerberas, Basil and Mini Vegetables

What’s On The Show Today?

What herb goes with tomatoes or cloves in Design Elements, not sprouts but still mini, in Vegetable Heroes, a new take on an old variety of flowers in plant of the week and once used to scare away scorpions in Talking Flowers?


Herb: Basil
At one stage the Greeks and Romans believed the most potent basil could only be grown if you sowed the seed while ranting and swearing. 
This custom is mirrored in the French language where semer le baslic (sowing basil) means to rant.
Well I hope you don’t have to swear and rant to get your Basil seeds to germinate, just have your pencils at the ready if you want to know how to grow, use and store. 

Try crushing a Basil leaf and think of cloves.
It should surprise you that they have similar aromatic notes because they both contain the volatile oil, Eugenol.
This means that they complement each other.
Ian suggests sprinkling a pinch of cloves into your pasta dish along with the herb Basil for a different take.
Basil can be used fresh or dried in cooking.
Dried Basil is sold as "rubbed leaves,' and has a slightly different flavour profile to fresh Basil.
The top notes are missing but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use it in coooking.
Dried Basil is used at the beginning of cooking so that the flavour can infuse, generally only taking around 10 minutes.
Growing Basil
If you live in arid or sub-tropical regions you can sow Basil in late august in a mini greenhouse or indoors, but otherwise you can sow right through to December which is the best time to sow Basil seeds.
The seeds are best planted at soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C
If your Basil starts to flower, pick the flowers off to prolong the life of your Basil plant.
For something different when not try sowing cinnamon Basil or Lemon Basil or even Holy Basil, that is the true sacred basil that is grown in houses, home gardens and near temples all over India.…

If you have any questions about Basil either for me or Ian, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675



Microgreens are very young edible greens from vegetables, herbs or other plants.

It has to be said, growing microgreens is the speediest way to growing leafy greens because you’ll be cutting them in 1-2 weeks.
Plus, they add packets of flavour to salads of larger leaves and the best part, it couldn’t be any easier.
You can grow them indoors all year round, you don’t even need a sunny windowsill.

Microgreens even though they’re really small have intense flavours but not as strong it would’ve been if the plant was left to grow to full size.

Usually I start talking about the history of the vegetable or fruit at this point.
There’s not much history at all about micro greens.
Maybe they started off as a fad in the 1990’s who knows?

They seem to be catching on more and more, because you can get seeds marketed as micro greens from major chain stores that have a gardening section.
How about greens, like all types of lettuce, Basil, Beets, Coriander and Kale that are harvested with scissors when they’re really, really, small?

So what’s the difference between microgreens and sprouts?

Microgreens are not at all like sprouts, but grown in a similar way and picked or more correctly, cut at a later stage of growth.
Sprouts are only the germinated seed, root stem and underdeveloped leaves.
So what is a microgreen? 
  • Microgreens are the mini-versions of the much larger green vegetable. 
  • Sprouts are also grown entirely in water and not actually planted. 
  • Microgreens are mostly planted in soil or a soil alternative like sphagnum moss, or coco peat. 
  • Although you can grow your microgreens on a special tray with water underneath. 
  • Plus you grow microgreens in light conditions with plenty of air circulation and not in a jar. 

You might be wondering why you’d want that?
What’s wrong with growing salad vegetables in the garden?
This might be more for the busy gardener who’s run out of space or time available to grow a full garden of vegetables.

So how do you grow Micro greens?
There are a couple of ways to grow Microgreens.
The first method is to grow your greens in soil like organic, potting mix, cocopeat, vermiculite, sieved compost or worm castings.
Use seedling trays or boxes and fill the tray with your selected soil mix 2 - 3 cm deep and moisten the mix.
Soak the seed overnight then sprinkle the seeds evenly on top of the mix and gently pat them down; then cover with 0.5 cm of mix.
Cover the tray with a lid or another inverted tray to help keep the seeds moist until they sprout.
Then water often using a sprayer.
Adding diluted organic nutrients e.g. kelp or compost tea to the sprayer will improve the nutrient levels in the microgreens.
Microgreens are usually harvested when there are four or more leaves. Cut the shoots just above ground level with scissors.

TIP:Many types of vegetable seeds as micro greens and will regrow and can be cut several times.
Afterwards the tray contents can be added to the compost heap.

The second way of growing your microgreens is using something called a Growing Tray.
This tray holds a reservoir of water and has holes in it so the plants can grow their roots down into the water.
You don’t even need soil, just a spray bottle of water and the seeds.
But you do need to remember to spray the seed, 2-3 times a day until the roots develop, then keep water reservoir topped up with fresh water until harvest a couple weeks later!
You can buy them in stores or via mail order and online.

  • Microgreens seed packet range includes 5 mixed packets, each containing 3 varieties typical to a regional cuisine: 
  • Flavours of the Mediterranean - Basil Italian Mix, Rocket and Sunflower 
  • Flavours of France - Sorrel, Chervil and Sunflower 
  • Flavours of Western Europe - Cress, Amaranth Red Garnet and Pea Morgan 
  • Favours of Eastern Europe - Kale Pink, Cabbage Red and Pea Morgan 
  • Flavours of the Orient - Mustard Ruby Streaks, Garland Chrysanthemum and Coriander 

TIP: One thing to keep in mind, the seeds used to grow microgreens are the same seeds that are used for full sized herbs, vegetables and greens.

So, If you want to use up that packet of Cabbage, Celery, Chard, Chervil, Coriander, Cress, Fennel, Kale, Mustard, Parsley, Radish and Sorrel, rather than throwing it out. Grow the seeds as microgreens.

TIP:Never use parsnips for micro greens as seedlings they’re apparently poisonous!

Coriander seed takes longer to germinate than other micro greens – up to three weeks.
Coriander takes longer because partly due to the tough outer coating of the seeds, preventing water from penetrating.
You need to break the seed coat to give it a hurry up by crush the seeds lightly then soak overnight to speed up germination and improve success.

Why are they good for You?

Just because they’re mini greens doesn’t mean they have a high concentration of nutrients or even a miracle food. No such luck.
So they have proportionally smaller amounts of the same nutrients that the full sized vegetable that they would’ve been has.
They are eaten as thin, delicate plants - as miniature variations on salad greens and herbs. They provide texture and colour when used as garnish, or exciting flavours when used as part of salad mixes.


Gerbera Garvinea
When I worked for a large seed and gardening supply company, I was often asked why Gerbera seed was so expensive, or Rudbeckia seed?
The reason was that some seed has to be hand collected and hand packed because it’s too large and irregular for seed packing machines.

Another reason is that seed is hard to come by of a particular species, or perhaps that year, it was contaminated by weevils, or the seed grower’s crop experienced fungal problems and failed.
Whatever the reason, the plant that’s featured today isn’t sold by seed anyway, because it’s a relatively new release and a fantastic variety of flower (Gerbera.)
I'm talking with the plant panel, Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of
Listen to this.

Florist Holland, a Gerbera breeding company started the breeding program over ten years ago.
Their aim was to improve the plant and it seems that they’ve done a marvellous job because Garvineas are winning awards around the world.

This new variety of Gerbera is nothing like the old school Gerbera, with it's multiple stems and long flowering period.
It’s always fun to try something new and buy a plant that you don’t know much about.
Can’t wait to get my hands on some Garvinea Gerberas as I’m sure some of you are too.
If you have any questions about Garvinea, or Jeremy or Karen why not write in to


In the Buttercup or Ranunculaceae, Delphiniums are also called Larkspur.
The delphinium name is derived from the Greek word for dolphin.
If you pick a single bloom from the tall spike on the plant, you’ll notice it looks like a leaping dolphin from the side.
The Delphinium flower’s message is protect yourself from the dangers of life so nothing stands in the way of your success.
If you want to grow your own Delphiniums, here are some tips.
Propagation Seeds – like to be chilled in-ground before germinating.
Root division (cutting root ball)
Mercedes has some zany tips for keeping the Delphinium stalks hydrated from when you buy them to when you pop them into the vase.
Tip 1: Fill the hollow stalks with water, then plug them up with cotton wool.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener 13th December

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Roses and Sneaking A Peak Into A Winning Garden

What’s On The Show Today?

Which scented rose for your garden in Design Elements, a rundown of what produce to plant in summer in Vegetable Heroes, and a walk through a prize winning garden in this feature interview special plus, the king of hiding and sleeping in Talking Flowers?


Scented Roses That Don't Fail
Have you hankered after roses for your garden but think they’re too much work?
All that spraying, pruning and fertilising.

But gee, whizz, it still would be nice to have one or two?
You may have even discounted have a rose because of the climate you live in.
The modern hyrbid teas are martyrs to high humidity which brings with it all manner of diseases such as the dreaded powdery mildew.
we're moving away from the long stemmed roses that you might see on Valentine's Day.

Instead, we're suggesting some more old fashioned types that have parentage from China and Vietnam.
Here’s a selection to suit different climates.
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon of Paradisus Design

Peter mentioned R. (sanguinea) chinensis ‘Miss Lowe’s Variety’ or Bengal Crimson
R. chinensis mutabilis
R. chinensis ‘One Thousand Lights’

Rosa General Schablikine
Lady Hillingdon, Monsieur Tillier, General Schablikine, General Gallieni, Mrs Dudley Cross, Duchesse de Brabant, Mrs. BR Cant, Niphetos, Jean Ducher, Lady Roberts, Papa Gontier, Safrano Alister Clark Rosa ‘Lorraine Lee’, Squatters Dream

If you have any questions about which rose to plant either for me or Peter, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


What will you grow in your garden this summer?
Same as last year or do you have no idea?

Well here’s a rundown of what can be planted in the produce garden around Australia.

Just a little note; this is not a definitive guide and if you grow something year after year in summer that I don’t mention, why not write in or email me?

Subtropical districts which includes: South-east Qld & Northern NSW, can plant the following.

HERBS – plant basil, chives, coriander, fennel, gotu kola, heliotrope, lemongrass, mint, parsley, tarragon and winter savoury.

FRUIT & VEGETABLES – plant artichoke, beans, capsicum, celery, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, melons, okra, onion, potato (tubers), rosella, silver beet, spring onion, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato and tomato.

Wet & Dry Tropical districts which includes: North Queensland, NT & WA

HERBS – plant basil, coriander, lemongrass, mint and tarragon.

FRUIT & VEGETABLES – plant artichoke, beetroot, capsicum, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkin, radish, shallots, spring onion and tomato.

Dry Inland zones which includes: Arid or Outback areas.

Take a load off because technically there’s no sowing or planting throughout summer due to hot and dry conditions.

But hey, maybe your growing something anyway.

Temperate Areas which includes: Sydney, coastal NSW & Victoria.

HERBS – plant basil, chives, coriander, fennel, gotu kola, heliotrope, lovage, mint, parsley and tarragon.

FRUIT & VEGETABLES – plant beans (dwarf and climbing), beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, chilli, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, okra, parsnip, potato (tubers), radish, rhubarb (crowns), shallots, silver beet, spring onion, sweet corn, sweet potato and zucchini.

Cool & Southern Tablelands which includes: Melbourne, Tasmania & cool highlands

HERBS – plant basil, chives, coriander, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.

FRUIT & VEGETABLES – plant beans, beetroot, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, English spinach, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, onion, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, silver beet, spring squash, swede, sweet corn, tomato, turnip and zucchini.

Mediterranean zones including: Adelaide & Perth.

HERBS – Keep picking the flowers of parsley and basil to prevent them bolting.

FRUIT & VEGETABLES – Plant tomatoes, zucchini and capsicum by the end of January. Spray apples and pears against codling moth.


Feature Interview

Prize Winning Garden in the Large Garden category of Ryde Spring Garden Competition.
Have you ever wonder what makes a prize winning garden?

Recently I was master of ceremonies for the gala awards night for a spring garden competition and boy, there were plenty of prize winning gardens.
However, I was invited to one to take a stroll.
Let’s listen in to the conversation.
I'm talking with Anne Johnsons’ garden which won best large garden in the Ryde Spring Garden competition. Anne is of course an avid gardener

As you can see from the photos, the garden is really stuffed with plants that are lovingly tended.
Begonia metallica is a standout feature in Anne's garden.
 Begonias are easy care and Anne religiously gives them a hard prune every Autumn to achieve such a magnificent shape of Begonia metallica.
Anne has added personal touches everywhere with whimsical pot features and ornaments.

If you have any questions about Anne’s garden either for me or Anne why not write in to


King Protea  Protea cynaroides
Protea flowers are native to the southern hemisphere, primarily Australia and South Africa, but can also be found in Central Africa, Central and South America, and southeast Asia.
Protea is a genus of flowers from the Proteaceae family. One of the oldest families on earth dating back 300 million years.

Why the cynaroides? Because the centre of the flower looks like an artichoke. Artichokes belong to the genus Cynara.
Protea whas named after Proteus, son of the Greek God Poseidon, was known for his wisdom, but he was not always eager to share his thoughts and knowledge. It seems Proteus preferred to while away the day sleeping in the summer sun. To avoid detection, he changed his appearance and shape frequently. The Protea flower was named after Proteus due its many shapes and colours.
Some Growing Tips
Tip: Prune only the flowered stems of proteas – un-flowered stems are next season’s blooms.

Mulch: Proteas dislike root disturbance, so don’t dig around them. Apply a leaf or bark mulch around the drip line (away from the trunk) and pull out any weeds by hand.
I'm talking with floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded on Facebook live during broadcast of Real World Gardener.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Raingardens, Chives and Peonies to Delight You.

What’s On The Show Today?

Creating raingardens in Design Elements, a veggie that was once used to tell fortunes in Vegetable Heroes, finding out about Biodyanamics for the soil in Backyard Biodynamics segment, and which flower is an omen of good fortune in Talking Flowers?


Creating Rain Gardens
Getting a lot of rain lately or not?
Maybe you need a rain garden but it’s not what you think.
We’re not creating rain, but using the rain to help us grow plants without that bit of the garden turning into a quagmire or just being washed away.
So how do we do that?

Let’s find out how
I'm talking with Peter Nixon of Paradisus Design

So you know now that raingardens are designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns.
If you have a water pooling problem you have got to create a course for the water to go.
Of course you cannot divert the water onto neighbouring properties so the best solution is to create that rain garden.
When the garden fills up with water, gravity the pulls the water into a dispersion pit at the terminal end of the garden.
What you need to do, ( Peter explains in the podcast) but briefly, is to excavate a trench to 850cm - 1.2 metres at the low point.
The trench needs to have sloping sides.
Put in your slotted PVC ag pipe then cover with two layers of GEO fabric.
On top of that add riverstones.
What ever you do, DON'T cut the geo fabric.
You can plant up with plants that can cope with dryness and temporary inundation such as Eleiga, Restios, Alocasias and Dwarf Papyrus.
Did you know though that rain gardens are efficient in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff.?

If you have any questions about raingardens either for me or Peter, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Allium schoenoprasum-Chives
Chives are botanically Allium schoenoprasum in the Lilliaceae family, that includes, Garlic, Leeks and Shallots.
The Botanical name means rush leeks, and chives are sometimes called them, but I bet you’ve only heard them called chives.
Chinese are the first to have used chives from around 3000 years B.C.
Romanian Gypsies have used chives in fortune telling.
Folklore would have you believe that you should hang bunches of dried chives around your house to ward off disease and evil.
Also the Romans thought that chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat.
The Romans also wrongly believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and acted as a diuretic. Totally untrue.

The Chive plant is a hardy perennial. Chives have round, grass-like leaves with a hollow stem, and pretty mauve pompom flowers in summer and autumn.

The bulbs grow very close together in dense tufts or clusters, and are elongated looking, with white, rather firm sheaths.

There are two chive look-alikes that are also grown:

Garlic chives, sometimes known as Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum), and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). The leaves of both species are flat rather than tubular, but they’re grown in the same way as chives and can be substituted for them in any recipe that calls for chives.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) apart from having larger, flatter leaves have a milder garlic flavour. Garlic chive flowers are white but, look like common chives,

When to Sow
All chives can be grown from seeds just as easily and are great for growing in pots.

It's a good idea to remove the flowers before they go to seed because the leaves will have a better flavour if the flowers are picked before they’re fully developed. but and I’ll tell you about using the flowers a little later on,

In tropical areas sow chives between April and July, in temperate zones, you have September through to May, in arid zones, July through to March, cold districts have September through to April and sub-tropical areas win the jackpot by being able to grow Chives all year round.

In cold climates, chives will die right back in winter but, but because the plants are perennial they will live for a number of years.

New leaves will shoot up in spring.

Graham, cool climate gardener has written in to say that his chives are hardly affected by frost and after drying to straw in winter, come back fresh and green.

Germinating Chive seeds have been problematic to some, and when I worked at Yates, they weren’t on the most troublesome list.

But if you do have trouble germinating chive seeds, here's what you can do.

After you lightly sown the seeds onto a punnet, wrap the seedling punnet with a clear plastic bag, ( a recycled one would be good), blow it up like a balloon and tie off with a rubber band. That’s my cheap method of a mini-green house.

Usually works for most seeds that I’m having trouble with. Chive seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is in the low 20’s.

What Chives Need to Grow.
  • Chives will grow in any well drained ordinary garden soil or in a pot filled with a good quality premium potting mix. 
  • The plants need at least half a day's sun light. Feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser, every couple of weeks to keep them growing strongly. 
  • Once or twice a year spread some slow release or organic fertiliser around the base of the plants. 
  • You might think that Chives, are drought tolerant and are have a bit hardy in the garden but that’s not the case. 
  • Water your chives regularly because they have a shallow root system and some generous mulching won’t go astray either. 
  • The recent hot spell in my district saw the chives I had growing in full sun getting somewhat brown and crispy. 
  • Make sure you protect the young leaves from snails and slugs and watch. for pests such as aphids. 
  • Although I’ve never known my chives plants to be bothered by anything at all. 
  • Keep in mind, never spray your edible herbs with chemicals. 
  • If you do get aphid attack or something similar just wipe the leaves with soapy water. 
How Best to Harvest Your Chives.

The best and really only way to pick chives is to just cut leaves from outside of the clump with a pair of sharp scissors.

Like most plants the flavour of chives will always taste better if they are picked just before you are going to use them.
Snip the leaves into smaller sections then sprinkle onto soups, eggdishes or salads.
Even though you can easily grow chives from seed, they’re usually propagated by dividing the clumps in spring or autumn for most districts.

In places like Adelaide for example, you can divide the clumps in late winter.

In all areas, replant them straight away into the garden or pots.
When you divide the clumps, leave about six little bulbs together in a tiny clump, which will spread to a fine clump by the end of the year.
Set the clumps about 20 – 30 cm apart..

Dividing your chives this way is the best option for a quick return.

The unopened flower buds of both types of chives can be used in stir fries, or break up the flower heads and use them in salads or as a garnish for potato, pasta or rice salad.

The Chive contains a pungent volatile oil, rich in sulphur, which is in all of the Onion tribe giving them that distinctive smell and taste.

Why is it good for you?
Chives are an excellent salt substitute and a perfect aid for those on a low fat, salt restricted diet. Chives contains vitamins A, B6, C and K. Several minerals are also found including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Chives are also a good source of folic acid and dietary fibre.

Backyard Biodyanamics

Biodynamic Composting
Have you ever asked the question, “why don’t my plants grow?” or why is my neighbour/friend/relative’s garden so much more healthy than mine?
Usually the answer lies in the health of the soil.
How do we know if soil is healthy?

It’s back to that question of why won’t my plants grow.
Healthy soil will have healthy growing plants and we need compost to make healthy soil.
Most gardeners will either have a compost heap or at least know the basics of making a compost heap.
Building a compost heap the Biodynamic way is something else.

Let’s find out how it's different to making regular compost.
PLAY: Biodynamic Composting 29th November 2017

I'm talking with  Dianne Watkin, Principal of Biodynamics Sydney and an avid gardener.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about Biodynamic preparations either for me or Dianne, why not write in to


There are a couple of types of Peony.

There are many species and cultivated varieties of peonies but they are broadly divided into two groups in the garden:
  • tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa Hybrids), which are shrubby plants not trees that do not die down below ground in winter
  • herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), smaller growing plants that do die down to below ground in winter and reshoot in spring.
Mercedes is talking about the herbaceous peonies in this segment.
All peonies need cool climates and are best grown only in the colder parts of Australia including mountain districts, parts of Victoria and Tasmania.

  • Peony roses are strong growing perennials that flower late spring to early summer. They make beautiful cut flowers and last well in a vase. Prefers a well drained position in full sunlight. Plants will die down over Winter and re-grow each year forming a leafy clump. Spread lime towards the end of flowering to improve root development and improve flowers for the following year.

The best time to buy Peonies is when they're supplied as bare rooted plants.
Meaning of Peony.
One legend has it that the peony is named after Paeon, a physician to the gods, who received the flower on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. And another tells the story of that same physician who was "saved" from the fate of dying as other mortals by being turned into the flower we know today as the peony.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recording live during Real World Gardener radio broadcast. (recording not complete.)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Water Jars, Water Chestnuts and Olive Trees

What’s On The Show Today?

Grow the relative of rice but easier in The Good Earth. Lower your cholesterol with this Vegetable Heroes, used in hedge laying in Plant of the week, and which flower means an apology in Japan, and rejection in Europe in Talking Flowers?

water chestnuts photo Margaret Mossakowska


Growing water chestnuts in the home garden

Do you remember biting into something crunchy when you tried some Chinese food for the very first time, probably when you were very young.
Did you ever wonder what that crunchy sensation actually was?
If you were clever enough to find out that they were water chestnuts you might have also discovered that you could only get the canned variety.
But now we can grow them ourselves.
Let’s find out how
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of Moss house

Water chestnut plants look very similar to reed rush.
You can grow water chestnuts in a waterproof pot, old laundry sink or bathtub in the home garden.
Allow for a depth of at least 20cm.
Like rice, water chestnuts need to be grown in a watery medium.
Margaret recommends flushing the pot with water every couple of weeks to get rid of mosquito wrigglers.
You can buy the corms from Diggers Seeds or Greenharvest
Harvest your chestnuts  by digging them up in June/;July Water chestnuts are just like the chestnuts that grow on trees in that they have shells which need to be peeled.

The good news is that you can grow them in cold climates if you have a nice warm or sheltered verandah.
Water chestnuts and turmeric plant. photo M. Moxxakowska
If you have any questions about water chestnuts either for me or Margaret, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Olive Trees
Well, it’s not a vegetable, perhaps more a fruit, and that is Olives or Olea europeae.

The olive tree is a symbol of joy, peace and happiness.

Did you know that the Mediterranean diet which includes plenty of olives and olive oil has long been known as one of the healthiest?

Another interesting fact is that residents of Crete in the Mediterranean have the highest consumption of olive oil per person in the world but Australia is second; the Cretians though have the lowest rate of death from heart related diseases in the world which we can’t say about our diet yet.
Olive Tree
Olive trees can look good in any garden with their silver grey-green leaves. 
Would you have guessed that growing olives dates back 5,000 years and that olive trees can live up to 2,000 years?

Some people have mistakenly bought ornamental olive trees thinking that they will also fruit, but that’s not the case.
These ornamental olives have darker green leaves and only produce pea sized fruit which isn’t much good.
The good news is that true olives can grow right from Queensland through to Tasmania and across to South Australia.
Not only that, olives can grow with neglect and start producing fruit again with a bit of care plus they make excellent wind breaks and great for gardeners with black thumbs.

What Do Olive Trees Really Like?

  • We have to remember that the olive originated in the Mediterranean region and will grow well in areas of Australia with a similar climate—cool/cold winters and hot summers. 
  • Even though olives are evergreen trees, they still need a cool winter so they can rest to prepare for their main shooting. 
  • Many mature olive trees will survive and crop well even in the very cold areas of Australia. 
  • Some varieties will also fruit well in 'no frost' areas as long as the winters are cool enough; 
  • Winter chilling is needed; winter temperatures fluctuating between 
  • 1.5°C and 18°C and summers long and warm enough to ripen the fruit. 

Having said that, the olive industry in Australia has been doing research into what olives do well in warm winters and wet summers.
Some of these are warm winter varieties include: Arbequina, Arecuzzo, Barnea, Del Morocco, Koroneiki, Manzanillo and Picual.

Tip: If you already have an olive tree and experienced very few olives; hot, dry winds or rain at pollination time in late spring can reduce fruit set..

How To Grow

Olives will grow in most soil types as long as they are well-drained  and have a subsoil pH range of 6.5–8.5.

The olive three’s worst enemy is too much water.

If your soil holds too much water when there’s been a lot of rain, then you need to improve the drainage or raise the bed that your olive tree is growing in.

Fertilising: When it comes to fertilising, olive trees have similar needs to Australian eucalypts except for the fact that they’re not phosphorous sensitive.

Traditionally all you need to use to fertilise your olive trees are well rotted manures and mulches; anything else and you risk over fertilising your trees.

Problems with Olive trees.
Lots of rain at harvest-time, can reduce oil content due to the higher water content in the fruit.
The most common pest is black scale, which also affects citrus.
Olive lace bug (not to be confused with beneficial lace wings) can also be a problem.

All of these pests can be controlled, but they should be positively identified . If you’re not sure what’s attacking your tree, take a piece of the affected branch to your local garden centre.

Use an organic spray so that you won't kill beneficial insects as well..
The main fungal problem is peacock spot, which results in  leaf fall and poor fruit set:It’s more common in humid areas.

You need to prune to allow enough air flow through the leaves to help keep it under control.
Anthracnose, or fruit rot, can also affect olives.
Copper sprays can be used for (any both of these) fungal diseases.

Olives are also harmed by some soil-borne pathogens such as phytophthora, verticillium and nematodes common to other fruit trees.
If that still doesn’t put you off growing them, here’s part of what you have to do to preserve olives.

Harvesting Olives

In about February - March, some of the fruit begins to turn from plain green to purplish black.
When some of the olives begin to change towards black, it will be fairly safe to pick the green olives for pickling
If you have ever tried to eat an olive straight from the tree, you will know what I mean - it's VERY bitter and VERY hard.
If you use the method I’m going to talk about, you’ll end up with wonderful sweet olives and you can add all sorts of herb combinations to create your own special marinated olives.

•Make a slit in each olive or crack each one open carefully with a wooden mallet. THAT’S RIGHT, EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE!

This bruising, pricking or cutting will allow the water and salt to penetrate the fruit, drawing out the bitterness and also preserving it

•Put the olives in a large bowl or bucket and cover with water with ½ cup of coarse salt for every 10 cups of water.
Place a plate over the top to keep the olives submerged.
•Change the water daily for about 10 -12 days to extract the bitterness and make the olives "sweet".
Test an olive to see if all the bitterness is gone.
•After 14 days, drain the olives and place in a solution of cooled down brine; 1 cup of salt for every 10 cups of water that has been boiled together first.
Then all that’s left is bottling the olives in brine topped up with 1 cm of olive oil.

By the way, olives will keep for years in the freezer.

Why are they good for you?
Olives are nutritious and rich in mineral content as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine
Olives provide essential vitamins and amino acids.

Olives contain oleic acid, which has beneficial properties to protect the heart. THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY

Hawthorn tree

From a story on ABC’s landline "Growing hedges actually was the latest agricultural innovation in England and it naturally came to Australia, they tried looking at local things like the prickly mimosa which grows on some of the hills around Victoria.
Hawthorn Tree in Young. photo Glenice Buck
"They found they weren't suitable and instead chose(the hawthorn tree)what was the ideal thorn shrub to grow, they found it did particularly well in Australia and particularly well in Tasmania."
This large shrub also has pretty flowers.

Let’s find out

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley and Karen Smith of

There were tens of thousands of kilometres of hedges around Tasmania in the early days of white settlement, records indicate there are 3,000 kilometres of historic hawthorn hedges left.
When wire fencing developed, new highways were built and small five acre lots were developed, many were pulled out, others died or went into ruin

If you want to know more or if you have any questions about the Hawthorn tree, why not write in to

Hydrangea is in the Hydrangeaceae family
The name comes from the Greek words for water, hydros and jar, angos.
Native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia)
The most popular types or the "mophead" hydrangea and the 'lacecap" hydrangea.
Mopheads are sometimes called "grandma's showercap."
Mophead Hydrangea
Hydrangea shrubs can grow 1-3 metres.
Flowers-early Spring to late Autumn. 
The colour of pink or blue hydrangeas depends on your soil pH. Blue hydrangeas grow in more acidic soils and pink hydrangeas grow in more alkaline soils.
The time to change the colour of your hydrangeas is in winter when the plant is dormant.

White hydrangeas should not change colour.
Some are repeat flowerers, eg Endless Summer.
Did you know that in Japan, they are said to be a sign of apology or gratitude because an emperor gave them as apologies to his maidens.

I'm talking with floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini from

Recording live during Real World Gardener broadcast.