Saturday, 29 September 2018

Perfume, Sex of Flowers and Pesky White Flies

What’s on the show today?

Clouds of pests in the Plant Doctor segment, growing an ancient grain in Vegetable Heroes. Five senses gardening today’s it’s all about smell in Design Elements and the sex of flowers in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


White Fly Control
Are you experiencing a cloud of insects fly up when you disturb some of your plants?
Maybe you’ve had that in the past and haven’t been successful in removing them from a particular plant.
Whitefly infestation
Sweet Potato Whitefly
If that’s the case, there’s things you can do about it before that cloudburst of insects descends onto your garden.
Let’s find out .
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, Marketing Manager of

Are you surprised that there’s several species of whiteflies?
Shooing them away every time you go out into the garden isn’t successful. 
The numbers will soon build up into the hundreds even thousands.

Symptoms:What To Look For:

  • Don't confuse them with scale, because the whitefly juvenile stage can look like scale.
  • If your not 100% sure that it's whitefly larvae that you're looking at,there are other symptomes to look for.
  • Whitefly are sap suckers and will ssuck the chorophyll ( green part) out of the leaves.
  • Whitefly also produce mass of honey dew to which, sooty mould will settle.
  1. You must take action because whiteflies suck the sap out of your plants’ leaves. 
  2. Botanical oils work the best but you need to be able to spray under the leaves. 
  3. Using a pump action sprayer with help with the underneath the leaves. 
  4. Do a follow up spray 3-5 days apart to get the juvenilies. 
  5. Neem is approved overseas for this problem on edibles but only on ornamentals in Australia. 
  6. Encourage lacewings into your garden because the love whitefly as much as they love aphids. 
If you have any questions about controlling whitefly either for me or for Steve, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Chenopodium quinoa: Quinoa
You’ll find it in bread, muffins, breakfast cereals and health bars, drinks and plenty more, but is it just a fad or is it something worth investing time in?
This is the ancient cereal grain, Quinoa (keen-wah) which some of us probably thought, should be pronounced like it’s spelt, and that is Quinn-o-ah. 

Botanical Bite

Quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa, in the Amaranth family ( Amaranthaceae).
It’s not a grass but rather a pseudocereal botanically related to spinach, amaranth. beets, and tumbleweeds
You might know the Amaranth flower and have even grown it in your garden.
Amaranth flower
Did you know that quinoa is related to some weeds and does in fact look a bit like the weed fleabane.
Quinoa’s origins dates back 3-4,000 years to Chile and Peru.
So what happened to this grain and why did it fall into obscurity until about the 1970’s?
Blame it on Spanish explorers who burned 99% of the quinoa fields in an attempt to eradicate Incan culture.
Because the seeds have a coating which contains bitter-tasting saponins, you won’t be able to eat them straight off the plant.
Most of the grain sold commercially has been processed to remove this coating.
The leaves are also high in oxalic acid, so best not to eat too much of them.
What Does It Look Like?
Quinoa grows to about 1-2m high, has big hairy lobed leaves around a woody central stem.
The flowers are like plume on top of a stem
After flowering you’ll see the fruits which are really small seeds, either black or red, depending on the cultivar of quinoa.
Chenopodium quinoa
How To Grow
  • Quinoa is easy to grow, which shouldn’t surprise you being related to a weed.
  • Direct sow the seeds in late September to the end of October, while night temperatures are still cool.
  • Keep in mind. Quinoa seedlings aren’t frost tolerant.
  • The best soil temperature for germination is 18-24°C.
  • Anything over 320 C and it won’t germinate.
  • Keep the soil most otherwise your seeds will fail to germinate.
  • Sow the seeds about 5mm deep (that’s ¼” in the old scale).
  • That means you’re barely covering the seeds, and thin then out when they reach 10 cm in height.
  • Here’s a tip: because they look like weeds when they first emerge, show them in rows so you don’t confuse them with real weeds.
  • If you’ve got the conditions right, then the seeds should germinate in 4-10 days.
  • The spacing should be around 25-35cm (10-14″) between plants.
  • Perhaps you want to grow them for baby leaf production, then plants can be spaced closer together.
  • They’re slow growing for the first 10cm then seem to take-off after that.
  • Liquid feed them if you want to give them a kick along.
Can I Grow Them In A Pot?
Not really because they grow too tall.
When to Pick the seeds?
Wait until leaves have fallen off, leaving just the dried seedheads.
Usually that’s 90 – 120 days after sowing seeds.
Seeds can be easily stripped upwards off the stalk with a gloved hand.
Best to do this when the weather is dry.
A god idea is to bend over the seed heads into a large bucket and clip them off.
Working in a dry place, strip off the seeds and spread the seeds on screens or trays to finish drying indoors.
It can be left on trays in the hot sun or placed near an indoor heat source. 
Stir the seeds occasionally until they’re as dry as possible.
Store seed in air-tight containers in a cool dry place.
How to Eat Quinoa
Pomegranate Quinoa salad
Before cooking and eating quinoa, it must be washed.
The bitter saponin seed coating that keeps pests away is unpleasant to taste.
So, don't skimp on the washing.
Here’s some other methods for washing your quinoa seeds.
Remember saponin is very soapy so you have to wash it until the water rinses clear.
One method is to whirl the grain in a blender with cool water on the lowest speed, changing the water until it is no longer frothy.
It may take five or six water changes to do this.
Another technique is to put a loose-weave muslin bag or small pillow case of quinoa in the washing machine and run a cool-water rinse cycle.
Being a grain or really pseudo-grain, cook it up like you would rice.
Equal parts water to quinoa and steam or boil 12-15 minutes.
Why are they good for you?
Quinoa is high in protein.
Quinoa is a nutrient-dense food.
The grain is lower in sodium and is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than the more common grains, including corn, barley, and barley.

Five Senses Gardening: Smell or is it Perfume?
As gardeners you’ll already now that some plants have flowers that have smell or perfume, and some plants have leaves that have smell or perfume.
But if you want a really perfumed garden, you might want to think about including plants in the garden that you don’t necessarily need to crush, rub or touch to inhale their sweet perfume.
What does that mean you should do?
Let’s find out.
Magnolia Champaca
I'm talking with Chris Poulton, Sydney Convenor for the Australian Institute of Horticulture and an experienced horticultural lecturer and consultant.

Some suggestions for introducing more perfume into the garden that will pervade the whole garden.
  • Sweet Olive, (Osmanthus fragrans), 
  • Honeysuckle, 
  • Jasmines, 
  • Angel Trumpets, 
  • Michelia varieties, (now included in the Magnolia family) like Port Wine Magnolia; Magnolia Chamopaca, and many others.
All of these plants just throw their scent out into the garden without you having to lift a finger.
If you have any questions about five senses gardening or have a suggestion either for me or for Chris why not write in or email me at  


Sex of Flowers
Complete Flowers: Incomplete Flowers
Bisexual: Unisexual
Plants can have complete flowers or they can have flowers with only male or only female parts.

Complete flowers, also known as hermaphrodite, or bisexual flowers have all the reproductive parts: the Stamens and Pistil ( stigma, style and ovary) inside the flower.

Examples of complete flowers, are tomato flowers ( self-pollinating) Hibiscus ( pictured), roses, tulips, passion flowers. 
  • The pollinator visits the flower and brushes past the stamens. 
  • When the pollinator visits the next flower, the pollen is rubbed onto the sticky stigma. 
  • If it's the right type of pollen ( fits the opening) then the flower will be pollinated resulting in some sort of fruit.
Flowers which only have male or female or called Unisexual .
Some examples are watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin,white mulberry,coconut flowers,and birch.
For fruits to occur, pollinators must visit the male flower first then transfer pollen onto the female flower. 
Can be problematic sometimes when only male flowers appear on some cucurbits for the first few weeks.

I'm talking  with Floral Therapist, Mercedes Sarmini.from
Recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show on Wednesday 5pm at 2RRR 88.5 fm studios in Sydney.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Sparrows, Beans and Edible Flowers

What’s on the show today?

Dr Holly Parsons talks about a bird that seems to have disappeared in Widlife in Focus, growing soybeans that you can eat straight of the vine in Vegetable Heroes. Five senses-today’s it’s all about sight in Design Elements and all about edible flowers in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


Common House Sparrow

Did you know that the House Sparrow is actually a finch?
But when was the last time you saw a house sparrow?
Can’t remember or do you have plenty in your district?

Funny how there were plenty of house sparrows around and then suddenly you realise, yeah, I haven’t seen one or even heard one for years.”
Maybe that’s a good thing?
Let’s find out .
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

The male House Sparrow has a black face, and black throat that extends down the chest during the mating season. Otherwise, Sparrows are a combination of black, grey and brown; easily missed.
Sparrows eat seeds, insects, fruit, berries and food scraps, which is quite a flexible diet.
Yet, Sparrows have seen a worldwide decline in the last decade.
In fact House sparrow numbers have declined so dramatically in recent years that the species is now included on the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List.
House Sparrow in the former nest of a House Martin
A recent study in open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution found that compared to sparrows living in the country, urban-dwelling sparrows showed clear signs of stress linked to the toxic effects of air pollution and an unhealthy diet.
Maybe one factor. Another is competition for habitat and nesting sites; changes in the amount of insects when they're feeding their young.
If you have any questions about house sparrows either for me or for Holly why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Soybeans: Edamame Soybeans.

Did you know that Soy Beans are an ancient crop?
In fact soy beans were first domesticated by Chinese farmers around 1100 BC and by the first century AD, soybeans were grown in Japan and many other countries.

Ever though of where soy sauce comes from?
Yep, soy beans.

Are you wondering “aren’t soybeans more of a commercial crop, so why would I want to grow soybeans.?”
Yes it’s true, soybean crops are grown for their oil production, but we can eat the beans just the same.

The bushy, green soybean plant is a legume related to peas, groundnuts (peanuts) and alfalfa.
Growing soybeans as a green manure crop will benefit the soil because the plant will add lots of nitrogen to the soil.
Not enough gardeners realise that growing a green manure crop  benefits that are really amazing.

  • In fact in the early 1900’s, American cotton grows were advised to “rotate” their crops in a three-year plan so that peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes or other plants would add nitrogen and minerals to the soil for two seasons, and then the third year farmers planted cotton. 
  • To the surprise of many farmers, this produced a far better cotton crop than they had seen for many years! 
Today, though, we’re growing green soybeans or Edamame soybeans.
  • Edamame soybeans are different varieties than the types grown as a dry field crop for making tofu, soybean oil or other soy products. 
  • Edamame varieties are harvested while they are still green, before the pods dry, much like shelling peas. 
  • So what’s the difference between soybean and edamame soybeans? 
  • The difference between soybeans and edamame is in the level of maturity when the beans are harvested. 
  • Soybeans are mature, while edamame are picked while the beans are still young and soft. 
How To Grow

  • Edamame does well in many different soil types, but make sure the spot is well drained with plenty of mature compost worked in. 
  • Soybeans are a warm-season crop, so plant the seeds when it's time to transplant tomatoes, or when the soil temperature is at least 16 C degrees. 
  • Choose a sunny spot, and add some organic fertiliser into the soil before planting. 
  • Sow eight to 10 seeds for every 30cm in the row, at a depth of 2 – 2 ½ cms. Edamame plants can get rather bushy, so space your rows at least 1 ½ m apart. 
  • All soybeans, including edamame, are legumes that host beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots. 
  • To take advantage of this natural nitrogen production, you can dust your seeds before planting with a bacterial innoculant for soybeans (available from most seed catalogues that offer edamame.) 
Can I Grow Them In A Pot? `

Soybeans don’t grow very high and usually don’t need staking or support .
In fact they grow from ½ - 1 metre tall so this makes them ideal for growing them in all sorts of containers.
Great to grow if you don’t have much space in your backyard.

When to Pick them?
You can pick the fuzzy lime green pods when they feel well filled with seeds, but are still bright green.

They should be more than 5 cm long at this stage.
Store them in the fridge or you can blanch them whole or shelled then freeze them.
Most varieties produce all at once so unless you’re going to cook them all at once, I suggest you stagger the planting every few weeks.

One Thing to Note:Edamame Is Poisonous When Raw. 

Although a lot of plants are definitely safe to eat even when they’re raw, soybeans specifically the edamame variety isn’t one of them.

How to Eat Edamame
  • Boil the pods in salted water, about five to six minutes until tender. 
  • Or, steam your edamame by placing a couple of cm of water in a pot and bringing it to the boil. 
  • Place the edamame in a steam basket or colander and cover the pot for five to ten minutes. 
  • Once cooled enough, raise the edamame pod to your lips, squeeze the bean out of its pod, and pop it directly into the mouth! 
  • That’s the Japanese way of eating them. 
  • Enjoy as a healthy snack. 
  • Or, add shelled and cooked edamame to salads, rice, pasta, and other dishes; it adds flavour, a bright green colour, and low-fat protein. 
Why are they good for you?

Edamame is a gluten-free and low calorie bean that contains no amount of cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins protein, iron and calcium.
It’s the only vegetable that contains all nine essential amino acids.


Five Senses Gardening: Sight in Garden Design.

Gardeners tend to busy themselves with tasks that need doing in the garden, often forgetting to revel in the sight that their garden is providing.
Taking stock of what’s in flower is important not only for the feel good moment it brings, but helps us to relax and really enjoy our environment.
The Seeability Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008: How Macular Degeneration Affects Vision:
What can we do when designing a garden for the sense of sight.
Let’s find out about what, why and how.
I'm talking with Chris Poulton, Sydney Convenor for the Australian Institute of Horticulture and an experienced horticultural lecturer and consultant.

Take Chris’s suggestion and carry around with you the colour chart or colour wheel, so that when you’re buying a new plant, it fits in with what you want your garden to really feel and look like.

If you have any questions about five senses gardening or have a suggestion either for me or for Chris why not write in or email me at


Edible Flowers

Why Eat Flowers: Did you know that Romans used edible flowers such as mallows, roses and violets in a lot of their dishes?

You’ve probably heard of and even eaten capers, but did you know capers (Capparis spinosa) are the flower buds of a Mediterranean evergreen shrub and have been used to flavour foods and sauces for over 2,000 years?
Edible flowers such as daylilies and chrysanthemums have been used by the Chinese and Greeks for centuries.
Which Flowers?
  • Nobody says you should tuck into a plate of flowers, because that would be too much. 
  • If you suffer from hayfever, then give eating flowers a big miss as well. 
  • Never eat flowers bought at a flower shop or nursery as these may have been treated with harmful chemical 
  • Another warning, not all flowers are edible, and some are poisonous if you can’t identify the flower, then don’t eat it.
Which Flowers Are Safe?
Ms Calendula
Ms Carnation
Ms Clover  
Ms Cornflower
Ms Dandelions
Ms English Daisy
Mr Gladioli
Ms Hibiscus
Ms Honeysuckle
Ms Lilac
Ms Marigold
Ms Nasturtiums
Ms Pansy
Mr & Mrs. Peony
Ms Queen’s Ann Lace
Ms Rose
Ms Geraniums
Ms Snapdragon
Mr Tulip (petals)
Ms Sunflower
Ms Violets
Ms Poppy (seeds)
Ms Chrysanthemum
Ms Borage

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini.from
Recorded live during studio broadcast of Real World Gardener Wednesday 5pm for 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Garlic, Sounds in the Garden and Raspberries

What’s on the show today?

Garlic in the kitchen with Herb and Spice Guru Ian Hemphill, growing raspberries in Vegetable Heroes. Five senses-today’s it’s sound in Design Elements and more floral gossip in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes; today it's about flower allergies.


Do you remember a time when you refused to eat anything that contained garlic?
How things change as we grow older and as our taste buds develop.
Most of us would probably say now that apart from sweet dishes, we wouldn’t dream of not using garlic all the time.

But which is the best and can you grow your own?
Let’s find out . I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

Garlic's been around for thousands of years; even found in the Valley of the Kinfs in Egyptian pyramids.
Grow your own garlic, it's better quality. photo M Cannon
Fact or Fiction?
Garlic was known as "clown's treacle" or "poor man's treace."
It is a fact because "treacle" is an ancient word used to describe something that is used as remedy for all manner of things, including snake bites.!
Garlic has strong anti-microbial properties and is used as a food preservative along with food acids in manufactured food. 
Adding a little extra garlic in some products means that the manufacturer can use less food acid.
Sprouted Garlic?
No worries, you can use it but take out the green strip in the middle of the clove because this tastes bitter.
Did you know that the best way to release the health-happy power of garlic is to cut it, smash or crush it which then turns garlic’s thio-sulfinite compounds into allicin.
Allicin is an antibiotic and antifungal that is believed to reduce “bad” cholesterol, as it inhibits enzymes from growing in liver cells. 
Garlic Powder: Is It any good?
Yes it's good to use but only buy granulated garlic powder. If you do buy other garlic powder, check that rice flour hasn't been added to it.
Of course you can grow your own but stick to the cooler months of the year.
If you have any questions about growing or cooking with garlic either for me or for Ian why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675



Do you ever find yourself drooling over the plant catalogues that display summer produce that you can buy, just wishing that you could grow raspberries?
The fruit of raspberries are one of the most expensive to buy but we love their fragile flavour and can’t resist them.
If only we could grow enough to make real raspberry jam?

So who can grow them?
Anyone who can grow apples, then you can grow raspberries so that maxim goes.
Did you know that Raspberries can be found in assorted colours including gold, black and purple, but red raspberries are the most common?

But Aren’t They Cold Climate Plants?
Technically yes, but there are varieties that you can grow in temperate areas.

How To Grow
Before even plant raspberries, you need to put in some sort of support.
I’ve tried teepees but they don’t really work for raspberries.
You can grow a single raspberry cane in a large pot say 40 cm diameter.
Use bamboo canes as supports. 

Raspberry supports:

Drive 2.5m  long and 75mm diameter posts into the ground to a depth of 75cm at 5m intervals.
Stretch 12 gauge (3.5mm) galvanized wire between the posts at 60cm vertical intervals.

If you’ve planned ahead, you may have already received some bare rooted raspberries in the mail.
Before you plant these, cut the canes down to 20 cm.

If you’re picking a site for the first time, Raspberries grow really well in moisture-retentive, fertile, slightly acidic soils, which are well-drained and weed free.

What Do Raspberry Plants Like?

  • They don’t like soggy soils and shallow chalky soils.
  • They do like a sunny position (although they will tolerate part shade).
  • Raspberry flowers are self-fertile and pollinated by insects, so avoid a very windy site.
  • Also, the fruiting side branches of some cultivars are very long and may break in the wind.

Pruning and training

Raspberry varieties fall into two categories: summer and autumn fruiting.

Summer-fruiting (floricane) raspberries - produce flower and fruit on year-old canes (the previous season’s growth)

  • Summer Fruiting:
  • Cut back fruited canes to ground level after harvesting in summer, without leaving a stub
  • Select the strongest young canes, around six to eight per plant, and tie them in 10-15cm apart along the wire supports
  • Remove the remaining young stems at ground level
  • Loop longer canes over the top wire and tie them in.
  • Then, in August, trim the long canes to a bud about 10cm above the top wire.
  • Tying the canes up in bundles can make them easier to manage.
  • The smaller autumn harvest will be produced on the tips of the primocanes and these can be trimmed to just below the fruit after harvest.
  • Autumn Fruiting:
  • Probably the easiest raspberries to grow are the ones that only fruit in Autumn.
  • Autumn-fruiting raspberries (primocane) – flower and fruit on the current season’s growth
  • Cut back all the canes to ground level in August.
  • That’s all you need to do with these raspberries, and for beginner raspberry growers, that is by far the best to start with.
  • So yes, cut all the canes back to ground level and the new spring canes can be tied up as they grow.
  • Reduce the number of canes slightly in summer if they get overcrowded
  • During summer also remove any suckers growing away from the rows.
Which Variety of Raspberry for You?

For those that are in warmer climates these varieties are better suited.

  • Williamette, Chilliwack Heritage and Chilcotin raspberries will tolerate warmer climates, apparently because they’re primo cane varieties that need lower chilling requirements.
Need to be grown in afternoon shade, or a spot that gets some sun on the south side of a house, shed or whatever.

Raspberry – Chilcotin
Heavy cropper, excellent fruit size and quality but can be crumbly at times. Good disease resistance.
Canes need to be thinned during growing season.
Mid Season: summer for 4-5 weeks with a small late autumn crop.

Raspberry – Chilliwack
Excellent fruit size and quality but may be crumbly at times. Used for fresh fruit, jam and cooking. Berries retain gloss and colour when preserved.
Mid season: fruit produced in summer for 4 to 5 weeks followed by a small late autumn crop. Good disease resistance. Canes need thinning during the growing season.

Raspberry – Heritage
Medium red firm berries, good aromatic flavour, excellent quality.
A low chill cultivar. Thorny canes.
Mid season: February for 8 to 12 weeks.
Use for fresh fruit, jam and cooking.

Raspberry – Neika
Delicate soft fruit with a sweet taste.
Early season: harvest November to December.
Large berry easily detached, good flavour,
Hardy with some virus resistance.
Early to mid-season.
Frozen, fresh, cooking or excellent for preserves.

Why are they good for you?
Raspberries are a low calorie, low carbohydrate, high fiber fruit that is good for you.
Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese and dietary fibre.
They are a very good source of copper and a good source of vitamin K, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids.


Sound in Five Senses Gardeneing
Ever wondered how to add drama to your garden with plants?
It’s easier than you think and won’t necessarily hurt the pocket.
You don’t need fancy whirling mobiles or wind sculptures at all.
Certain plants make sound when the wind whistles through them
Let’s find out about what, why and how.
Phormium tenax; NZ Flax makes a rustling sound.
I'm talking with Chris Poulton, Sydney Convenor for the Australian Institute of Horticulture and an experienced horticultural lecturer and consultant.

Chris says even the leaves of Gingko tree can make a sound when they fall onto a concrete path if it's been raining.
Gingko leaves photo M. Cannon
Yes, you can just pick out plants that will make a sound.
If you have got room for an oak tree or a swathe of Casuarinas.
Tall grasses are definitely ones to choose like Kangaroo grass, fountain grass, or carex .
Then there’s NZ flax and Nandina.
If you have any questions about five senses gardening or have a suggestion either for me or for Chris why not write in or email me at 


Flowers and Allergies
The reasons behind the allergies reports one of the main reasons certain plants and flowers effect people with allergies stems from the plant's gender.
Monoecious plants are ones that have separate male and female flowers living on the same plant, such as a corn plant.

Because the male and female flowers are separated, the males, which contain the pollen, must send the pollen through the air to fertilize the female flowers.
Pollen grains travel through the air in their thousands and even millions, which is why people who are sensitive to this pollen get hay fever.

Plants that are dioecious ( different house), that have either all male flowers only or all female flowers only also rely on wind travel to pollinate these flowers.

Allergy sufferers may want to instead look for what is referred to as "perfect flowers," or ones that contain both female and male parts, like the rose.
This is the best option as these flowers don't need to use air travel to pollinate.

However, some people are sensitive to the perfume of flowers, in which case, the roses is a no-no unless it has little perfume.

What to Avoid
  • Most plants in Asteraceae family and that includes Daisies, Gerberas, Sunflowers and Dahlias.
  • Hybrid Dahlias classed as “formal doubles” have virtually no pollen.
  • You can also buy Pollenless Sunflowers
  • Baby’s Breath-although double flower varieties have much less pollen
  • Love-Lies_bleeding: _Amaranthus caudatus. 
  • Alternative is Chenille plant ( Acalypha hispidia)
  • Jasmine species, try sweet peas instead although it’s an annual.
  • Wisteria species-try Clematis instead.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini

Video recording ( FaceBook live) on 5th September in the studios of 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney, Wednesday at 5 pm.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Dry Gardens, and Scentuous Gardens

What’s on the show today?

Gardening in dry soil with Diane Watkin in Backyard Biodynamics, a vegetable cross to grow in Vegetable Heroes. Five senses-today’s it’s touch in Design Elements and fragrant flowers in Talking Flowers with floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini.


Gardening in Dry Soil: How to Make Your Soil Healthy
Is your soil healthy and full of earthworms or is it dry, degraded with no sign of anything living?
When you pick up a handful of soil, what colour is it and does it run through your fingers like sand, or stay in a big clump?
All of these things are important to know but here are some ideas to help improve your dry soil so your plants will be more vigorous and healthy.
Let’s find out .
That was Diane Watkin, co-founder of Biodynamics Sydney.

Neglected soil, degraded soil, sandy soil, all of these possibilities add up to "lifeless dirt."
It's no good putting in a bagful of earthworms because they will surely perish as there is no food for the worms.
To encourage life back into your soil you need to add liquid in the form of compost eat, worm tea, seaweed tea or fish-head tea.
Chelsea Physic Garden photo M Cannon
Also you need to add organic matter in the form of organic or biodynamic compost.
All these things will bring back the microbial life and encourage earthworms to return.
For those gardeners not able to access bio-dynamic compost and any of the preparations Diane talked about, the second best alternative is to use organic compost, especially home-made compost and some sort of seaweed tea, weed tea, or similar.

If you have any questions about improving your soil, either for me or for Diane, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Brukale: Kalletes

What do you get when you cross two veggies that have an image problem?
No, not a joke, but it could be.
Do you get a novelty, a passing fad, or a truly hated vegetable?
It could be any of these, you decide.
And you thought there were no more new vegetables.
So today’s veggie is Brukale.
Never heard of it?
Neither had I until I was asked about it.
A bit of research has revealed that it’s a fairly recent cross between Kale and Brussel sprouts.
For all those gardeners that love to eat Kale, good for you, but for others who have grown it and decided it’s not for them because it’s just too tough, this may be of interest.
Then there’s those gardeners that love Brussel sprouts, others that just can’t grow it well, and even others that just don’t like the stuff.
Probably reminds them of overboiled cabbage.
This is really Brukale or Kallettes
What is Brukale really like?
Can you imagine a plant that’s crossed with Brussel sprouts and Kale?
What would it look like?
Think of the actual Brussel sprout plant.
It grows to about one metre tall, with rounded blue-grey leaves that seem to make an umbrella at the top as well as growing along a thick stalk.
Normally you would get tight buttons that look like tiny cabbages, up and down the stem.
With Brukale, instead of those tight little buttons, you get a column of small, frilly, kale heads.

However, I’m told that these smaller kale heads are actually much more tender and the centres are actually soft enough to add to a salad to eat raw.
By the way, in England they’ve changed the name to Kalettes instead of using Brukale.

You might be wondering is Brukale genetically modified?
Brukale or Kalettes were developed by a British seed house (Tozer) following a 15 year breeding program.
This process was entirely natural, using selective breeding and hybridisation only, so definitely no genetic modification.
How To Grow
This growing information is supplied by Ross Geach of the Telegraph newspaper in the UK.
Kalettes should be treated in a similar manner to traditional brassicas, grown in firm ground which is not too acidic.
To grow, it’s best to sow the seed in cell trays, indoors in the middle of the September.
Use a good quality seed raising mix and lightly cover the seeds. Water them well and don’t let them dry out.
Prepare your growing area by digging deep and incorporating some good compost or well rotted manure.
When your seedlings are ready to transplant, if you’re growing heaps, plant them ½ a metre apart with 60cm between rows.
These plants do need a lot of space if you want a good crop of kallettes.
 The plants will gradually drop their leaves.
These leaves are also edible, and can be used in the same way as a kale leaf.
Once all the side leaves have fallen off you should see lots of perfectly formed Kalettes growing all the way up the stalk.
Harvest them straight from the stalk by holding at the base with your finger and thumb, and then gently pulling them to one side so they split from the stalk.
If you want to harvest the whole stalk I suggest using a saw to cut it off at the base because it’s very thick and strong.
Crops grown in acidic soils will benefit from an application of lime or similar.
Trays of Kalletes or Brukale.
Kalettes are extremely winter-hardy, but may need staking to provide additional support during winter months.
How to Cook with Kallettes or Brukale?
Kalettes are a subtler tasting combination of the two great, traditional European flavours of kale and Brussels sprouts.
Known in Australia as Brukale but overseas, it’s commonly called the 'Flower sprout'.
Brukale is highly versatile, with a sweet, nutty flavour.
They can be steamed, used in stir fries, roasted, grilled - or even eaten raw.
Why are they good for you?
Kale is actually near the top of the list in terms of nutritional value, Kale has heaps of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, large amounts of vitamins A, C and E, and heavy doses of calcium, potassium and Kale is particularly rich in iron.

Five Senses Gardening: Touch
These days, many people live in high rises and so do their children.
Days, weeks and months can go by when these high rise dwellers don’t make contact with any living plant.
So instead of missing out on the nurturing effect of plants, why not be inspired to bring them into your life?
Let’s find out about what, why and how.
I'm talking with Chris Poulton, Sydney Convenor for the Australian Institute of Horticulture and an experienced horticultural lecturer and consultant.

Get your kids involved with plants like Mimosa pudica, or nerve plant whether in a pot on the balcony or on your back doorstep or patio.
Let them touch the plant and see how it reacts by closing up.
Or if you’re an advanced gardener, perhaps a venus fly trap would suit your sunny windowsill in your house or apartment?
Mimosa pudica : Nerve Plant
There are numerous sensory plants that invite you to feel or just touch them.
Try the felty leaves of Lamb's Ears, or rub the leaves scented geraniums or pelragoniums, 
Feel the rough bark of Casuarinas or Birches, perhaps even an Ironbark Eucalypt.
All of these sensations will awaken our sense of touch.
If you have any questions about five senses gardening or have a suggestion either for me or for Chris why not write in or email me at


Fragrance in the garden.
Perfume adds atmosphere and a wonderful feeling of romance to any garden.
The smell of any flower is never really just one single chemical compound. 
Flowers give off a complex mix of volatile organic chemicals, although not all of these will add to the aroma or perfume, a significant number will impact it to varying degrees.
Magnolia champaca will fill your garden with scent all day. Photo M Cannon
Some scentuous suggestions:
Star Jasmine, Tuberoses, Hyacinth, Daffodil, Roses, Carnations, Hydrangeas, Stephanotis, Honeysuckle.

Violets: Their scent is primarily caused by the presence of compounds called ionones.
Interesting fact: We become used to most persistent smells, our brain registers them as constants and phases them out.
This is why you can get used to the smell of a perfume, so that you no longer notice it.
TIP : Change your perfume every few days so that you can refresh your sense of smell.
But for Violets something else is at play.
The ionones in violets’ are different to every other flower because they are able to somehow bypass our sense of smell, binding to the receptors and temporarily desensitising them.
As this shut-down is only temporary, the ionones can soon be detected again, and are registered as a new smell.
Consequently, the scent of the violet appears to disappear — then reappear!
No wonder Napolean chose violets as his favourite flower.

My favourites: Frangipanis, Angel Trumpet, Stephanotis,  Osmanthus, Gardenia, Cherry pie, Buddleia,  native frangipani, Magnolia champaca.
Some of these fill the garden with their scent, particularly at night, others you have to sniff to get the full scent.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney on Wednesday 29th August at 5pm