Saturday, 30 June 2018

Peas, Trees and Camellias

What’s On The Show Today?

Looking after Citrus trees in winter on the Plant Doctor segment, should you be really growing snow peas yet in Vegetable Heroes, and a shrub that’s everyone’s darling in winter in Plant of the Week, plus what does an arborist do in Design Elements with arboriculturalist and garden designer Glenice Buck or is it Glenice Davies now she’s married.


Citrus Winter Care
Are you wondering “what’s wrong with my citrus tree?” right now.
Perhaps the symptoms that you’re seeing now seem to happen every winter?
If that’s the case, then you’ll need to listen in closely to this next segment which is just about that.
Let’s find out.. I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general manager of

Steve offered quite a range of things to do for your citrus tree.
Firstly though, you need to assess your tree to determine what’s going on with it.
The number 1 problem to look out for is scale.

Citrus scale ( white louse scale) will cover the stems, twigs and branches of your citrus tree in what looks like fine shredded coconut that has tuck fast.
To treat this problem spray with Eco Oil making sure all surfaces are covered well.
Spray again a week later as a follow up spray.
If it looks like nothing's happened try flicking off the scale with your finger. Live scale easily flicks off, whereas dead scale sticks fast.
If the scale problem is so bad that the oil spray doesn't seem to be working, then go for a lime-sulphur spray. Winter is the only time for this one on citrus.
Some districts that have warmer weather all year round need to hang a pheremone trap to control citrus leaf miner. 
The moth lays its eggs into the leaf where the larvae feed and finally tunnel out created leaf distortion and silvering.
One things for sure, and that is there’s no point in spreading granular citrus tree fertiliser around the tree in winter.
There is next to no if any, uptake of nutrients from the fertiliser because the tree isn’t in active growth, (unless you’re in subtropical areas) and the fertiliser won’t break down to release the nutrients because of the lack of microbial activity in the soil during winter.

If you have any questions either for me or Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Snow Peas: Pisum sativum var sacharatum

Today’s vegetable hero is in the family of veggies that is technically classed a fruit and that is the Pea family.
Snow peas and the similar sugar snap pea are part of a family with a long and exotic history.
  • Would you think that snow peas originate in Asia or even China because they’re used so much in Asian cooking? 
  • If you did you’d be wrong because in fact, snow peas originated in the Mediterranean, and were grown widely in England and Europe in the nineteenth century. 
So why are they called snow peas? 

  • Strangely they were first called English sugar peas.
  • But sometime later they began being called Snow peas-no-one really knows why except that they’re picked very early in the year, sometimes before the last frost, and are in fact very resistant to frost, snow, and cold weather. 
  • The Chinese adopted these peas into their own cuisine from the English, and they have been known as Chinese snow peas ever since. 
Have you ever eaten fresh snow peas raw as a snack?

Some people find them more tasty that way but they also lend themselves nicely to quick blanching, so that they stay crisp and green.
There’s nothing worse than soggy snow peas.
Snow peas may be added to Asian stir-fry dishes, soups, and pasta.
Because they need very little cooking time, add them towards the end of cooking so they remain crunchy and crisp.

Why Can You Eat The Pods Of Snow Peas?   
  • Snow peas are known as edible podded peas because they don’t have the same cross fibre in the wall of the pod as the common garden pea and can be eaten whole. 
  • The snow pea is Pisum sativum var. saccharatum. or (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon) is a distinct botanical cultivar or subspecies of garden peas 
  • The pod is pretty much flat and is eaten before the string develops and the peas start to swell. 
  • There are dwarf and vine varieties of Snow peas. 
  • The vine varieties produce tendrils, so they’re especially well-adapted for climbing wires or trellises. 
  • Snow peas have light green pods that follow purple or white, sweetly scented flowers which you can also eat. 
When to Plant
  • You plant Snow Peas from April until September in warm Temperate climates, April to July in sub-tropical areas, April to October in cool temperate districts and May to July in Arid zones 
  • Edible podded peas do best under cool, moist growing conditions. 
  • Winter is the best time to grow snow peas because they’re sensitive to heat, and temperatures above 30oC will cause them to grow poorly. 
  • Snow peas like day temperatures from 15o to 18oC average, with a maximum of 24oC and a minimum of 7oC, are ideal. 
Preparing the Soil
  • Before sowing your seed, it is best to incorporate into the soil garden lime/dolomite to sweeten the soil and potash to encourage flowering. 
  • Avoid applying a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen as this will encourage leafy growth at the expense of the flowers and subsequent fruit. 
  • The stems and foliage of Snow Peas mostly aren’t affected by frost, but will get some damage if a cold snap follows a period of warm weather. 
  • Having said that, did you know that the flowers are made sterile by frost and so are the pods -affected pods have a white, mottled skin. 
  • Snow Peas thrive on a wide range of soil types, as long as the soil is well drained with good depth. 
  • Because peas' feeder roots run shallow, mulch is essential to keep the soil around the roots moist and cool. 
  • When the seedlings are 5cm tall, apply a mulch of clean straw, chopped leaves, or compost. 
  • As the pea plants mature, you can add more mulch to keep them happy 
  • The ideal pH range is 5.8 to 6.8 (in water). 
Did you know that Peas and other legumes (even wattles) have symbiotic bacteria in their roots called rhizobia, that 'fix' nitrogen in the soil meaning that peas are capable of manufacturing their own nitrogen..
Peas then don’t need as much fertiliser as other vegies and are good to dig into the soil to concentrate available nitrogen for future crops.
I assume that they're still pretty hungry for other nutrients though - so a bit of fertiliser won't go astray.

Tip:Veggies need 6 hours of full sun every day, especially in winter.

Why are peas of any kind good for you?
1 cup or 10 raw snow peas is a serve, and is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of niacin, folate (another of the B vitamins) and beta carotene. 

The lutein present in green peas helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. 

Did you know that all peas with or without our pods, are among the best vegetable sources of dietary fibre. 

For all you vegetarians out there, you probably know that most vegetables are quite low in protein, but peas have good supplies. 

Green peas also provide zinc and all peas are a good source of potassium, especially edible-podded types. 



Camellia japonica 

Camellias originate in China and Japan and if you’ve never grown one, it’s time to start looking at those flowering in people’s gardens and in nursery and garden centres to choose one of your favourites.
Soon you will have a long list of favourites and find it difficult to narrow it down to just one or two.
I asked the plant panel this question, and let’s see what they came up with.
Camellia japonica Lovelight
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of

 Favourites mentioned are : Easter Morn; Lovelight, Mrs D. W. Descanso, Betty Cuthbert, Bob Hope.

Camellias prefer acidic soil so if you like to grow Azaleas and they’re successful in your garden, why not add a backdrop of Camellias or two. 
If you’re short on space, Camellias make good subjects for espalier too.
If you have a question either for me or the plant panel why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


ManagingTrees: Role of Arborist. Part 1
Trees have a valuable role to play in our immediate environment and also to our native wildlife.
A lot of gardeners really care for their trees when it comes to fertilizing and maintenance but when it comes to tree maintenance such as pruning, it’s not that straight forward.
So you have a tree that needs lopping or even a tree that you want cut down.
photo M Cannon
Who should you call?
Not Jo the lawnmower man or No Name Garden Maintenance.
You need to call a professional, but there is a distinct difference between these tree professionals and you need to know what they are?
This series is about arboriculture and managing trees.
Let’s find out who to call?

I'm talking with Glenice Davie, landscape designer.

People either love or hate trees, but trees have so many positive benefits.
Tree will clear air-they’re the lungs of the planet.
If you have any questions about tree maintenance or have a suggestion why not write in or email me

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Taties, Veggies, and Bottle Brushes

What’s On The Show Today?

We’re preparing for winter in the Good Earth segment, how to choose which potato to grow in Vegetable Heroes, and a shrub that’s everyone’s darling in winter in Plant of the Week, plus a couple of guys come into the studio talk about their favourite Australian plant .


Winter Gardening and Crop Rotation

How well do you know your plant families?
Did you know that you shouldn’t plant veggies from the same plant family in the same spot year after year?

That’s all part of crop rotation which means of course you need to know your plant families.
There’s good reasons for practising crop rotation, but what if you only have enough room for a couple of veggie garden beds, what does a gardener do?
Let’s find out.. I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, director of and Permaculture North Course coordinator.

Soon you’ll be saying things like Brassicas, Solanacea, and Fabaceae with ease and know what veggies belong to these families.
If you don't have much room and only have one area for a veggie bed, you can still divide it into four sections and follow crop rotation.
Otherwise, planting in pots is an alternative especially for the Solanacea family; the recommendation being wait 5 years before replanting any veggie from this family.
Created by Margaret Mossakowska

Brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi
Allium: shallots, onions,garlic,
Solanaceae: tomatoes, chillies, capsicums, potatoes
Fabaceae: beans peas, snow peas,
Margaret’s tip to fertilise your garden is to use your homemade compost. and add things like chook poo, or other organic fertilisers.
If you have any questions either for me or Margaret, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Potatoes or Solanum tubersum

Chipped, fried, sautéed, boiled, baked or mashed, potatoes are one vegetable that we couldn’t be without.
Did you know that potatoes were the first vegetable to be grown in space?

Originally there were about 1,000 varieties, but over the years this number has been reduced to just a few hundred.

It’s always interesting to find out where our vegetables started and how they became popular.
Farmers in the Andes Mountains of South America first discovered the potato 7,000 years ago

The potato is a member of the nightshade or Solanaceae family and its leaves are poisonous.

Here’s something to think about when storing your potatoes.
A potato left too long in the light will begin to turn green.

The green skin contains a substance called solanine which can cause the potato to taste bitter and green potatoes can upset the stomach, so don’t try them.

How to grow potatoes

Always grow potatoes from Certified Seed Potatoes from reputable suppliers.
Yes it is possible to simply buy some from a specialist green grocer and keep them for seed, or use leftover potato peelings.

What’s wrong with that?
You run the risk of introducing diseases such as Potato Virus Y, Potato Blight or Potato cyst Nematode.
Potato blight by the way, cause the foliage to collapse and the tubers to rot.
If you use leftovers or buy from supermarkets or green grocers.
You might think it’s only a small risk, but once you get potato blight into your soil, it’s their forever.
No chemical will shift it.

When to plant
Potatoes can be planted now all over Australia, in temperate and sub-tropical districts, August to October is the best time, in arid areas August until December is your best time,
In cool temperate zones, September through to January is your best time so cooler areas have a bit of extra time to order some of the more unusual varieties before they grow in the ground.

So which potato to choose?

The first thing to think about is how you want to use your potatoes.
Different varieties have different amounts of starch, making the flesh of some break down into a fluffy texture while others retain a firmer, waxy texture.
Potatoes that are high in starch are great at absorbing liquids, causing the potato to break apart in cooking.
These types are great for baking, mashing or cutting into wedges.
Waxy potatoes contain less starch and hold together during cooking.
This makes them ideal for cooking in soups and stews, where you want the potatoes to retain their shape.
They’re also the ones to use in salads.
Here are some suggestion of the ones that are mostly available. 

Boil: Desire, Dutch cream, Golden delight, Kipfler, Nicola, Pontiac, Red Rascal, Sebago. Coliban is good for boiling, but breaks down if over-cooked. 

Mash: Chat, Coliban, Desiree, Golden delight, Pontiac, Sebago. Kipfler not recommended to mash. 

Bake: Chat, Coliban, Desiree, King Edward, Pontiac, Red Rascal. 

Roast: Chat, Coliban, Desiree, Golden delight, King Edward, Pontiac, Red Rascal, Sebago. 

Fry: Golden delight, Sebago, Coliban, Desiree. Kipfler and pontiac not recommended to fry. 

Steam: Chat, Coliban, Pontiac, Sebago. 

Salad: Desiree, Kipfler, Pontiac, Red Rascal, Sebago. Coliban not recommended for salad. 

All-purpose: King Edward, Nicola, Pink eye, Pontiac, Sebago.

Some unusual ones for you to try.
How about Cranberry Red?
Cranberry Red has red skin and red flesh, great in salads, for boiling and baking. 
These stay red, even after cooking.
Cranberry Red

Or what about Potato Sapphire that has purple skin and purple flesh?
Purple Sapphire I’m sure is sold also as Purple Congo, is perfect for mashing, boiling and roasting, and yes, it stays purple after cooking.

And for a good all rounder, try growing Royal Blue. Potato Royal Blue is oblong, with purple skin and dark yellow flesh.
If you’re buying through mail order or online, you have until the end of August to buy them. After that, they’re not available.

How to Grow
To grow your Potatoes-put seedling potatoes into a trench in as deep and rich a soil as you can get.
Altlernatively, grow seed potatoes by chitting them first.

That means to start them by leaving them on cardboard or egg cartons in a light position until they have produced short green sprouts. 

When you do plant them add plenty of compost and manures please. 
And as they grow pile the earth up around them.
  • You will need to hill the rows or potato container several times until the potatoes have flowered 
  • You need to do this to stop the greening of tubers and also protect them from potato moth. 
  • Also, hilling up the soil and mulch will give you more potatoes as they tend to form on roots near the surface. 
  • That means, as you pile up the soil, you get new roots, and more potatoes.... 
  • Chicken manure or blood and bone should be dug through the bed as potatoes need a lot of phosphorus but not too much nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will mean lots of leaves rather than potatoes. 
  • Keep the water up and but only water moderately as potatoes will rot in soil that is too wet. 
  • They can also get a fungus growing inside them if the soil’s too wet. 
  • When you cut them open, they’ll have grey patches inside which actually do taste mouldy. Euwwww! 
  • You can add fish emulsion and seaweed extract when you’re watering too.
Potatoes can also be grown in your black compost bin if you’re not using it for compost.
Plant the seed potatoes at the bottom, let them grow to about 50cm,( so with your ruler that’s almost 2 x ruler heights) then, over the top and add 8cm of soil, let them grow a little more, add some more soil, and so on, in the end a stack of potatoes.
Pick your potatoes when the vine has died down to the ground, that’s if you want the most potatoes, but they can be harvested from when the first baby potatoes are formed.
The lower leaves should be turning yellow – this happens about 3 to 4 weeks after flowering.
If you plan to store your potatoes, cut off the foliage and let the potatoes rest in the ground for 3-4 weeks to allow the skin to 'set', they keep longer this way. Store in a dark, cool, well ventilated spot.
For a great article on growing potatoes visit DPIW Tasmania

Why are potatoes good for you?

The potato is densely packed with nutrients. The Irish couldn’t be wrong could they?
A medium potato provides vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.
Potatoes are known as the foods people crave when they are stressed.
Why? because the carbs in potatoes (about 26%) help make space for tryptophan with a smooth passage into the brain.
This, in turn, boosts the serotonin level in the brain.
High serotonin levels help boost your mood and help you feel calm.
To preserve these nutrients it is important to peel the potato just prior to cooking and not leave them in a bowl of water.


Choosing a Focal Point

Today RWG’s garden designer Peter Nixon is taking a look at focal points in the garden.
Natal Flame Bush

Plumeria Pudica
At this time of year, when trees are looking bare, and perhaps there’s not much to look at in the garden, it’s a good time to assess what you have and what you could improve.

Focal points are some plant, whether it’s a tree or a shrub a water feature or a statue, that draws the eye and gives the garden some sense of design. 

How do you know what to choose, especially these days when we have smaller gardens?

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, Director of Paradisus Garden Design.
Let’s find out.
PLAY: Best Fit Gardening_Focal Points_28th October 2015

The small trees mentioned were Plumeria pudica-the evergreen Frangipani, Synadenium grantii rubra or red south African mild bush; Alberta magna-the Natal Flame Bush for cool temperate to warm temperate regions or don’t go past the double flowering Crabapple-Malus ionensis plena. 

If you have any questions about growing small trees for focal points or have a suggestion why not write in or email me


Callistemon x citrinus "Red Rocket"
Bottlebrush "Red Rocket"
Segment produced and presented by Lewis Beere and Hugh Mandalidis.

Callistemon Red Rocket has bright red new growth and only grows to 1.5 metres high and 1.5 metres wide.
Perfect for pots and low borders. Like all Callistemons, they suit sun or part shade and cope with all types of soils.
Once established, (give it at least a year), it will tolerate dry conditions and light frost.
Bottlebrushes are also not bothered by too many pests and diseases.

If you are after low maintenance then this is one of those plants.

Start of fertilising it with a slow release low phosphorus fertiliser to help first establish the plant. 

Although it can cope without too much fertiliser, if you want lush foliage, it's best to follow up with the occasional reapplication of fertiliser.

Mulching around the base of the plant will help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Plant Breeder: Ian Shimmen.

Listen to Hugh and Lewi talk about Red Rocket Callistemon

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Thistles, Rooftop Gardens and Plants From Afar

What’s On The Show Today?

When a co-presenter’s garden features in a gardening magazine, we want to know about it, that’s in the Plant Doctor segment, something you might throw not grow in Vegetable Heroes, and a shrub that's  super fast growing in Plant of the Week, plus a a flower whose names comes from looking like a golden thread in Talking Flowers.


Steve's Garden On Show
Have you ever wondered how gardens are chosen to feature in gardening magazines?
Well, it all starts with a photo.
Steve's Garden photo Brent Wilson
Perhaps you’ve sent in a photo of your garden to a magazine editor hoping that they would think it worthy enough to come around and photograph?
If you haven’t, and you have such a garden, then it may just be timely to start taking photos, then choosing some of the best ones to send in.
RWG contributor from the Plant Doctor segment did just that.
Let’s find out how it came about.
I'm talking withSteve Falcioni General Manager of

Steve has a rooftop garden in the inner city of a major city, so it’s subject to many plant unfriendly conditions like strong winds, blazing sun or cold hard shade.
Over time time with the correct plant choices, and possibly some bad ways along the way that got turfed, Steve managed to create a suburban oasis.
Steve Falcioni’s rooftop garden shows he’s mastered the art of gardening on concrete (Photo credit – Brent Wilson for ABC Gardening Australia magazine)
Steve mentioned Aptinia cordifolia, Ficus pumila. Tracheospermum asiaticum, as ground covers to protect the potted plants behind.
When asked if Steve ever grew Dichondra repens " Silver Falls," he said that because it went " off" ( looked tatty) during the winter months, it wasn't appealing enough to keep.
There are also indoor plants featured in this garden in a light filled apartment.
If you have any questions either for me or Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Globe artichokes or Cynara ascolymus belongs to the Thistle family.

What a history this vegetable has!
There’s an Aegean legend about a girl called Cynara…who to cut a long story short got to be made into a goddess.
However she was spotted returning to her earthly family whom she missed and for her troubles was turned into the plant we know as the artichoke or Cynara ascolymus.
This legends originates about 370 BC.
Globe Artichoke Flower
Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and as well as an aphrodisiac.
Artichokes, including leaves, were thought to be a diuretic, a breath freshener and even a deodorant.

It’s also known as the French artichoke and the globe or crown artichoke, but is not related to the Jerusalem artichoke, which is actually a tuber. 

What is an Artichoke?
The artichoke ‘vegetable’ is actually the flower head which is picked and eaten before it flowers.
Only the heart and the fleshy base of the leaves is edible.
The floral parts in the centre and base of the flower (the choke) must be removed before eating. 

  • Even after artichokes are separated from their parent plant they’re still living organs in which respiration processes become the main function because their nutrient supply has been cut off. 
  • In short, artichokes can be very vulnerable and temperamental if they’re stored in poor ventilation,. 
  • What you’ll get is fermented artichokes if CO2 levels and atmospheric oxygen supplies aren’t enough for what they need 
  • That means you need to store them as if they were a cut flower, in a container of water. 
  • A centimetre should be cut off the stalk so there’s a fresh end to absorb water. 
  • If it’s not practical because you’re short on space in your a fridge t, they’ll still remain fresh when sprinkled with water and stored in a plastic bag. 
What does the plant look like?

Like a very, very large grey leaved thistle plant, and up through the middle of the plant comes this big fat segmented looking flower bud.
This is the bit you eat before it turns into flower.

When to grow you Globe artichoke

August until November for sub-tropical and temperate areas.
September through November in cool temperate areas and for Arid areas, June through to December.
In Tropical areas, grow Globe Artichokes from April to July. 

How Big Will They Grow?
  • Artichokes need a bit of space to grow - a mature plant will end up about 1.5m high and across. 
  • Because the plants are perennial and will stay in the same place in the garden for a number of years, pick a spot you don’t mind them being for a few years. 
  • For cold districts, Globe Artichokes won’t put up with the really cold winters because they don’t like temperatures below freezing. 
  • For these gardeners, choose a cold hardy variety from your local garden centre and grow it as an annual. 
  • They prefer an open, sunny spot in the garden, with well-drained soil, and of course add some compost and decomposed manure or fertiliser. 
  • Artichokes can be planted from seed now, but it’s far easier to plant suckers. 
  • A mature plant usually has a main stem and a number of lateral suckers. 
  • If you know of someone with a plant ask them to separate sucker using a spade. 
  • Trim back any woody leaves or roots and plant in a suitable place in mid-late winter. 
  • Water plants well until they are established and protect them from frost and later on from heat stress when they’re still young. 
  • Once mature, they’re fairly resilient. 
  • Next autumn build up mulch around them, and cut stems back once the leaves go yellow. 
  • Mature plants will appreciate a boost of fertiliser and mulch each spring. 
When to harvest those globe artichokes.

Not in the first year, because that’s when you take off any flower heads so that the young plants have a chance to grow and produce leaves.

From the second year on, pick the artichokes (generally 10-12 heads) once they are swollen, but before the scales have started to open and turn brown on the tips.
When picking your artichoke, leave a few centimetres of stem.
Small buds can be picked early in the season and eaten whole.
Globe artichokes will get crown rot if the drainage isn’t any good, and give them a good rinse to get rid of any earwigs and other insects.

Why are they good for you?
High in vitamin C and dietary fibre.
Current research is showing benefits to the liver from cynarin, a compound found in the artichoke's leaves.
Silymarin is another compound found in artichokes that has powerful anitoxidant properties and may help the liver regenerate healthy tissue.
Artichokes are nutrient dense, so, for the 25 calories in a medium artichoke, you're getting 16 essential nutrients!


Pittosporum " Tasman Ruffles"
Pittosporum tenuifolium "Tasman Ruffles."

Are you interested in a screening hedge that can grow to a metre a year?
This next plant has varieties that have delicate lacey leaves that are contrasted by that very dark coloured bark. 

The genus comes in a variety of shapes and sizes from quite small and almost self hedging to the larger screening shrubs.

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of

Let’s find out more about them

Originating in New Zealand, these plants are pretty hardy and even second line salt tolerant.
Pittosporum Golf Ball 
Jeremy also grows Pittosporum Golf Ball, which grows into the size of a basketball.
This pittosporum is ideal because it's practically self shaping with the internodes being much closer than you would expect to see on a pittosporum.

Pittosporums are generally tough plants but there is one exception though.
If you’re trying to grow a pittosporum on the shady south side of a fence in just half a metre of soil next to a pool, be prepared to be disappointed.
The bottom half will lose its leaves and you’ll eventually see them die off one by one.
This is the experience of a neighbouring garden which is little more than pool, these poor pittosporums and a patch of lawn.
If you have a question either for me or the plant panel why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Crocus vernus ( Dutch Crocus), Crocus sativus.(Saffron Crocus)
In the Iridaceae family

The latin word crocatus, meaning saffron yellow, gives the Crocus flower it's name. 
The crocus is the first to flower in Spring, although in some districts its Jonquils.
Looks like a light bulb so some people call it the light bulb flower.

 Growing Crocus
Plant crocus bulbs 8-10cm  deep (with the pointy end up).
Plant dormant bulbs in Autumn.
Crocuses needs a period of winter chilling, and will not persist long in warmer areas. Dormant Crocus corms require 6-8 weeks chilling in a refrigerator before planting out in warmer areas. Crocus are best treated as an annual in warmer areas.

Did You Know?
It takes 165 crocus flowers for 1 gram of expensive saffron spice. Saffron is the stigma (female flower part) of saffron crocus but you can grow.

I'm talking with Floral Therapist, Mercedes Sarmini of

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Dive into Garden History, Little Pea Shoots, and Medicinal Calendula

What’s On The Show Today?

What some directors of Botanic gardens got up to in the Garden History segment, grow something that’s super quick and super easy in Vegetable Heroes, and a plant that covers the ground in part shade, plus a flower for the medicinal garden in Talking Flowers.


William Guilfoyle
How’s your garden history knowledge?
You may have heard of Gertrude Jekyll, an Australian Garden Designer of some note, but have you heard of William Guillfoyle?
Melbourne Botanic Gardens' Volcano planting photo : Stuart Read
Possibly not, but this next segment is about to change all that.
Why are we talking about William Guillfoyle?
Because first and foremost, he had a lot to do with making Melbourne Botanic gardens the beautiful space it is today.
Let’s find out some history
I'm talking withStuart Read committee member of the Australian Garden History Society.

William Guillfoyle was not a botanist, but a horticulturalist, so had a different view of how a botanic garden should be presented to the public.
He came from a family of nurserymen/women and first worked in his parents' famous " Exotic" nursery in Double Bay.
Melbourne Botanic gardens volcano planting photo : Stuart Read
The Exotic nursery was one of the major nurseries in Sydney from the 1840's and imported thousands of Fuchsias, conifers, and ferns
. Plus it also had collections of Australian plants grown from seed collected on expeditions.
Guillfoyle was Director of Melbourne Botanic Gardens from 1873 - 1910
Plus, William was responsible for making available all those Jacaranda seedlings which now make Sydney and many regional centres so popular with Jacaranda tours in November.

If you have any questions either for me or Sotuart, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Small Stuff: Microgreens

Growing peas as microgreens, or shoots.
Peas are of course Pisum sativum scientifically speaking.

You might think that growing sprouts or shoots which have be re—branded as Microgreens is a relatively modern invention.
If you did, then you’d be wrong because medicinally and nutritionally, sprouts have a long history.

Did you know that Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago?

But though accounts of sprouting appear in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, it took centuries for the West to fully realize its nutrition merits.

In the 1700's, sailors were riddled by scurvy which is of course caused by a lack of Vitamin C.
Because of scurvy sailors suffered heavy casualties during their two to three year voyages.
From 1772-1775, Captain James Cook had his sailors eat limes, lemons and varieties of sprouts; which has heaps of Vitamin C.
These plus other fresh fruits and vegetables and a continuous program of growing and eating sprouts were credited with the breakthrough, thus solving the mariners' greatest casualty problem.

We obviously don’t have problems with scurvy now so why should we grow Pea Sprouts or Pea shoots as some people call them?

  • Pea sprouts/shoots or microgreens are great for small spaces – they grow fast, taste delicious and are rich in Vitamin C, A and protein. 
  • They’re easy to grow, they’re also perfect to try if you’re starting out. 
  • Seeing (and eating!) the fruits of your labour in just in two or three weeks is rewarding and motivating. 
  • Plus, pea shoots are a good choice for a shady spaces or to grow inside over winter – just sow a stray or two and keep near a bright window. 
So How Do You grow pea sprouts? 
The Water Method
  • Start with a tray that has a water reservoir and a sort of mesh or grate above it.
  • Fill the reservoir with water.
  • Place some moistened paper towel over the mesh or grate section.
  • Place your soaked pea seeds very close together; no more than a pea's distance apart.
  • Place near a sunny windowsill.
  • Keep the reservoir topped up.
  • Mist daily.
  • Sow your microgreen seeds.
  • In a few weeks you'll have microgreens sprouting everywhere.

The Soil Method
  • Firstly, soak the peas in water for 24 hours (dried peas sold for cooking will normally grow fine and are much cheaper than buying seed packets). 
  • Soaking the peas in water for 24 hours isn’t essential – but it helps to speed up the process of germination and they should double in size. 
  • Secondly, Select a container 6-9 cm deep. 
  • An old tray or Styrofoam box from a market stall will do fine – just make sure it has holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out. 
  • The trays sold in gardening stores for seed growing are about the right size, too. 
  • Next Fill your container with compost or potting mix, about1 cm deep to 1 ½ cm below the top. 
  • It’s always a good idea to use the best quality potting mix you can find – but having said that, pea shoots are pretty unfussy – and almost any mix seems to be OK. 
  • After that, water the mix then sow the seeds on top of it. 
  • If you want to use worm castings, never put more than 20% or 1/5 casting with the mix because you don’t want to burn your new shoots. 
  • You can sow them very closer together – I try to leave a gap the size of a pea between each seed. 
  • If you wanted to grow full sized pea plants, you’d sow the seeds further apart. 
  • But as we’re only growing shoots, we can get away with close spacing 
  • Cover with seed raising mix or potting mix– about the thickness of a pea. 
  • Then finally water the surface lightly again. 
  • TIP: if you’re using cheap potting mix, add some vermiculite to increase the water holding capacity and water your sprouts with a seaweed solution every time you water. 
  • That’s it! All you need to do now is keep soil is moist – check it everyday for the next 7 – 10 days using the thumb test. 
  • Use your thumb to press against the top of the soil. 
  • If your thumb comes off clean and dry, water the peas. 
  • If your thumb comes off even slightly moist or with a little soil, you’re good until tomorrow. 
  • Another test is to lift the tray. 
  • As you gain experience with growing sprouts and shoots in the container, you’ll get to know how heavy or light the tray is. 
  • Light trays means it probably needs water. 
  • If you are growing on a windowsill, or where there you have light coming in from just one side, you will want to rotate the trays so that the shoots will get sunlight more evenly. 
  • In two to three weeks (a bit longer in cold weather) your crop will have grown 7 – 10 cm tall. 

All you need to do now is pinch off each shoot just above the bottom leaves. Some of the pea shoots will regrow again giving you a second harvest.
You don’t have to eat them all at once but instead store harvested pea shoots or sprouts in resealable bags in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
TIP: don’t wash the pea shoots until ready to cook with them.
The extra water from washing will deteriorate the pea shoots faster.
Keep the shoots dry and the pea shoots should stay fresh for over 2 weeks!
If you find that there is moisture in the bag, take a single paper towel, and place it in the bag.

What next?
When the crop has finished, put the roots in your worm farm or compost heap if you have one. Worms seem to like them very much!

Why are they good for You?
Pea Shoots are a nutritious leaf with high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A.
A 50g bag of these tasty greens offers more than half of the RDA for vitamin C, a quarter of the RDA for vitamin A and significant amounts of folic acid plus Calcium, Iron and Phosphorus.
But wait there’s more, they also contain amino acids and they’re quick to prepare providing a tasty and convenient way to help people achieve their ‘5 serves of veg a day’ – especially as they are ideal partners for other vegetables whether served hot or as part of a mixed salad.


Ajuga reptans " Ruby Glow"
Carpet Bugle
Do you want a ground cover that suits shade, still flowers and provides plenty of colour?
William Turner, a 16th century physician and naturalist described it as ‘It is a blacke herbe and it groweth in shaddowy places and moyst groundes.’-
This can only be Ajuga reptans.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of
Let’s find more about it

Not only does Carpet Bugle cope with shade but it copes with sun as long as it gets sufficient watering.
It's great as a weed suppressing ground cover because it tightly hugs the ground and creeps along very lightly to form a dense cover.
If you want extra plants, simply divide the plants in Autumn and either pot up straight away or place in another garden location.
Nobody knows why it’s really called Bugle flower , it’s one of botany’s mysterys.
If you have a question either for me or the plant panel why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Calendula officinalis: Pot Marigold
Calendula derives from the Latin calendas, 
The reason is possibly because the plant flowers every month even in winter where temperatures aren’t too low.
The petals are edible and can be used fresh in salads or dried and used to colour cheese or as a replacement for saffron.
A yellow dye has been extracted from the flowers
You can toss them into a salad or soup; the taste is tangy and the bright colour enhances food.
Growing Calendula
Sow direct or in pots after the last frost has passed.
Companion Planting
Calendula repels a number of bad nematodes in the soil, but may attract slugs. 
Plant with tomatoes and asparagus.
Where will it grow?
Calendula grows best when sown directly into the garden. It tolerates any type of soil and will grow in partial shade to full sun.

Calendulas will do well in almost any soil, and semi-shade as well.
Calendula takes well to pot culture, and is easily grown in a variety of pots and window boxes on a balcony or deck.
I'm talking with florist, Mercedes Sarmini of

Video record live during broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney, Wednesdays 5pm.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Tight Spaces with Onions and Lilacs

What’s On The Show Today?

Preparing your plants for winter in “gardening in tight spaces” part 2 in the Backyard Biodynamic segment, something to make you cry in veggies, but why? in Vegetable Heroes, and plants that hide fences really well in Design Elements, plus best suited for a cold climate in Talking Flowers.


Gardening in Tight Spaces part 2
Keeping Your Plants Warm.
Last segment was all about how to keep the heat off your pots, but now we’re in the depths of Autumn, soon to be Winter so we want that warmth.
For every avid gardener, we want to use all the spaces we have to grow plants.
But what do we do with the cold to protect out plants especially if your space gets little sun?
Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Diane Watkin, Principle founder and member of Bioydnamics Sydney.

The same technique of keeping the sun off your pots is used to keep your plants warm.
the main difference is that you want the warmth during the day, so you are mostly reversing what you did in summer to keep the sun off.
Erect some sort of cover for your pots and put this on at night, but take it off during the day so the plant can enjoy the sun's rays.
You may have a glass cloche, but most likely you'll have to rig something up using sticks, twigs, shade-cloth, or other material.
TIP: Using diamotaceous earth, put a handful in a bucket of water, mix it up and then spray onto the soil. The silica in the diamotaceous earth will raise the temperature of the soil by 1-2 degrees, which may just make the difference.
If you have any questions either for me or Diane you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives.

Most of these have corms or bulbs or underground stems with long thin leaves and clusters of varying numbers of flowers. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Did you know that onions were grown as a crop and eaten since prehistoric times?
Onions are even mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto a banquet table.

Allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives. 

When to grow Onions? 

In sub-tropical, cool temperate, warm temperate and arid climates you can plant them from April until August.
Onions are sensitive to the day length for formation of flowers, so it’s important to select the right variety (early – mid-season – late).
These varieties have different requirements in the length of daylight hours.

Early varieties are short day length onions, mid-season varieties are medium day length onions, and late varieties are long day length onions.

If planted out of season, onions may bolt to seed prematurely.

For example in temperate climates mid-season onions are sown in winter, growing through spring and harvested in summer. These include Sweet Red and Brown Spanish Onions. 
They love sunny well drained beds, especially when the bulbs mature in summer. 

So why Grow Onions?
  • Onions are a good companion plant. 
  • Grown around the garden they repel pests. 
  • They contain sulphur which is a strong disinfectant. 
  • Did you know that onions were was used to heal gun shot wounds and during World War 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in the juice as a wound dressing. 

How to Grow Onions with Success.
  • Remember to always lime your soil well a week or two before planting onions. 
  • They love a sweet or alkaline soil. 
  • Don't forget avoid applying manures and blood and bone to the beds in which you're about to grow your onions because they prefer alkaline soil. 
  • You can use spent mushroom compost instead of cow manure. 

Sowing seeds with Success
  • Onion seeds can be sown into seed raising mix into punnets. 
  • Or if you want to sow them directly into the garden, make it easy for yourself, mix the seed with some river sand-say one packet of seed to one cup of sand and sow it that way. Bit like sowing carrots! 
  • They can be transplanted to garden beds when the seedlings are around 3 inches (8 cms) tall. 
  • According to the “Vegetable Patch” website, there is a secret to planting onion seedlings. 
  • Instead of planting them sticking straight up, lay them down in a trench and move the soil back over their roots. 
  • In about 10 days they're standing up and growing along strongly. 
Some tips to keep your onions growing strongly is
1. Hand weed around onions to avoid disturbing their roots and bulbs.
2. Keep away from nitrogen based liquid fertilisers when your onions are maturing. Otherwise their efforts will go into their leaves instead of their bulb.
3 Regularly water your onions. Lack of water can delay growth or split the bulb. 
4 Because of their strong taste pests generally leave onions alone.

When Do you Pick Your Onions?
Harvest onions (except spring onions) when the tops yellow and start drying.
This usually takes 6 months, so if you plant seedlings today, yours will be ready in December.
Add a couple of weeks if you’re using seeds.
Pull the whole plant from the ground and leave it to dry in the sun.
Turn it every few days and avoid getting them wet (eg dew or rain).
Hang them in a cool dry place for around 3 weeks to cure.
If you store them in a cool dry place they should keep for a year.
This explains why you can buy onions all year round.
Eat the bulbs without a good dry skin first .

Why do we cry when we cut onions?
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds.
When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place.
First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odour.
Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulfur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Keeping Onions in the fridge can help with this problem.
To avoid a bitter flavour never, never buy onions that have begun to sprout greens from their stem portion.

This means they’re more than a year old.

If you see sprouts forming in your onions stored at home, simply snip them off and use the green part like chives, put the rest in the compost.

Why Are They Good For You?
Some health studies have shown raw onions to be effective in lowering overall cholesterol while raising HDLs, the good cholesterol.
Additionally, onions kill infectious bacteria, help to control blood sugar, aid in dissolving blood clots, and may help to prevent cancer.


Plants to hide that fence
Are you the sort of gardening that doesn’t think too much about the look of the fence?
Perhaps you’ve had the fence so long that you’ve gotten used to the idea of looking at it without realizing that it’s really an eyesore.
Montanoa hibiscifolia: Mexican Tree Daisy
It’s really important to conceal the fence for a few reasons.
You may remember that last week I said, no-one is saying “ my garden looks too big.”
Plus it’s not all about climbers, climbers climbers, to hide the fence.
Let’s find out. 
That was Peter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Hiding the fence will make the garden look bigger.
So, Peter mentioned
Viburnum odoratissimum “Dense Fence” or Viburnum odoratissimum “ Quick Fence.” if you’re wanting a free standing shrub.
Mexican Tree Daisy or Montanoa hibsicifolia
For Cool Temp districts:
Prunus lusitanica - Portugese Laurel Prunus laurocerasus - Cherry Laurel 
  If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to


Syringia vulgaris: Lilac
We all love the Lilac but all can't grow it.

Lilac is a deciduous medium to tall shrub. 

Highly fragrant flowers appear to cover the bush Spring.

What Lilacs Like:
Lilac Shrubs in Vienna: Photo M. Cannon

Prefers good, rich soil in cooler districts but not clay soils; prefer sandy, gravelly soils. 
Tolerant of lime, resents acid soils.
The Story Behind The Name
The story of lilac, according to Greek mythology, begins with a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac's botanical name). Captivated by her beauty, Pan, the god of the forests and fields, chased Syringa through the forest. Frightened by Pan's affections, Syringa escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush – the flower we now refer to as lilac.
In A Vase:
Lilac flowers can last up to a week in the vase if you singe the bottom of the stem.
Because of the sap in the stem, it's best not to mix with other flowers in the same vase.
I'm talking with florist, Mercedes Sarmini of 

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 23rd May 2018