Saturday, 25 May 2019

Rosemary, Old Fashioned Shrubs and Beeswax Wraps

The show started with the herbalist segment of plant of the week, Simone is talking about the ‘dew of the sea.” growing a crop that’s good for the soil but not for eating in vegetable heroes, the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and how to use less plastic in the lunchbox with these beeswax wraps in the Good Earth.


Herbal: Rosmarinus officinalis: Rosemary
Dew of the sea, what can that be?
Not a rhyme but a riddle about which herb that grows by the coast, and is used by herbalists and naturopaths.
Rosemary flowers
With a pretty little flower either white, pink or blue and needle like leaves, this herb grows easily and has a minty-sage or pine like flavour.
No surprises that it belongs to the mint family. ( Lamiaceae).
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with Simone Jeffries, herbalist and naturopath.

The herb rosemary, is pretty hardy in any climate zone and most soils.
One thing it detests is wet feet being a herb originating from the Mediterranean.
Rosemary leaves contain many essential components and strictly speaking, the distilled oil isn't a real oil because it contains no fat.
The main chemical components of rosemary oil include a-pinene, borneol, b-pinene, camphor, bornyl acetate, camphene, 1,8-cineole, and limonene.
Rosemary is regarded as a memory herb, probably because it helps your blood to circulate.
Good for tension headaches and energises you if you drink it as a tea
Steep a large bunch in hot water for 10 minutes in this case.
In Cooking:
Use it scones and orange cake or saute rosemary and fresh mushrooms with some butter. 
In stuffing for chicken, combine rosemary with thyme and sage with either rice or breadcrumbs. Delicious!

If you have any questions either for me or for Simone drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Green Manure Crops for Winter
  • If you want to improve your soil structure and at the same time add nitrogen to the soil, consider a green manure crop in an overworked vegetable patch.
What are the benefits of green manure crops and why is it called  green manure?
  • Green manure crops are called that because the crop or plants are not for eating but when they are nearly mature, and before they set seed, the oats, or wheat or whatever are slashed and then turned into the soil.  This adds nutrients to the soil especially if you use legume type crops.
Field peas
They increase organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms
Green manure crops increase the soil's available nitrogen and increase moisture retention
They stabilise the soil to prevent erosion
Green manure crops also bring deep minerals to the surface and break up hard clods in the soil structure.
The provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reduce populations of pests
Improve water, root and air penetration in the soil
Smother weeds.
The crops used for green manure tend to be a combination of:
  • Legumes – These add nitrogen (critical for food crops) to the soil, such as cow pea, mung bean, woolly pod vetch, lablab, broad bean, fenugreek and soybean;
  • Grains and grasses - These add organic substance to the soil, such as millet, buckwheat and oats.
At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
Try faba bean, field pea, oats and wheat.
  • This will improve your soil incredibly, and, for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort.
How do you do this? I hear you ask, well here are the steps.
Avena sativa, Oats
  • Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed.
  • Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop. Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats.
  • Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies. You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well. Legumes like beans and peas are especially good, since they’ll fix nitrogen in the soil, but anything else you have will help.
  • Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square meter. Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them.
  • Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing.
  • Let the green manure crop grow 7-10 cm tall. Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop. 
  • Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because  the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process.
  • With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead o the one you want.
  • Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground.
  • If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower.
  • Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.
  • Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.

What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
  • Cover the newly dug bed with a blanket of organic mulch until planting time.
  • Use green manure crops in every unplanted vegetable, herb and flower bed.
  • Plant also in compacted areas - such as under trees - and newly graded lots. 
  • Allow little roots to break up the soil, which will aerate and renew its structure, before you plant a new lawn.
Take advantage of the natural power of peas and beans to take nitrogen from the air and hold it in their leaves.
Turn vines and leaves under, after picking the vegetables, for another green manure crop.
For a cheap alternative to buying the manure crops online, I’ve found this tip to be quite useful.
This is the absolute simplest, cheapest and best thing is do.
Bird seed
Just buy a bag of organic bird seed. Read the back of the packet and find one with the mix you want.
The last lot I planted contained millet, sorghum, wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn and sunflowers.
Bird seed will be chemical-free and fresh (since they don’t want to kill your pets!), and very cheap. It’s available at any supermarket.
Go on, give it a try, the whole thing should only take up about 6-8 weeks and it’s the best way to improve your garden soil.


Old Fashioned Shrubs for Cool Sub-tropical part 2
This series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs that you may have some of in your garden.
Last week was part 1 of cool sub-tropics which is a zoning not mentioned before by any gardening book I know.
Leopard plant
Peter has added this zoning to cover parts of the east coast that are warm and humid but not as warm and humid as say Cairns or Townsville.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.
Peter mentioned plants for shade:
Barleria cristata
Barleria cristata -Lavendar lace
Lobelia laxiflora 1.2m height with orange/yellow flowers;
 Ruellia mackoyana-groundcover

Plants for semi-shade:
Farfugia japonicum aureomaculatum-Leopard plant
Plectranthus ecklonii and P. grandis with blue flowers

If you have any questions for Peter or for me, you know what to do..


 Beeswax wraps.
Plastic is back in the media as being bad for the environment, so much so, that some countries have banned the use of plastic bags.
Soft plastics such as what you use for wrapping your sandwiches are just as much of a problem as the bags because, it doesn’t break down ever.
So what else can you wrap your sandwiches in other than putting it in a plastic container?
So let’s find out.
Beeswax wraps for food storage
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of and course coordinator for Permaculture North in Sydney.

You can spend the dollars and buy the ready-made beeswax wraps, or you can do it yourself quite cheaply. 
How to Make Beeswax wraps
12g Beeswax
40 x 40 cm piece of cotton. Quilting cotton density.
Jojoba oil in a spray bottle.
So go on, kick the plastic habit and make some beeswax wraps yourself

Monday, 20 May 2019

Backyard Tea and Marigold are Archangelica

Starting with Backyard Biodynamics and are weeds really bad? growing a why grow Angelica in vegetable heroes, a the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and all about Marigolds in the Talking Flowers segment.


Weed Tea
Have you ever though of weeds as messengers?
Probably not because like most gardeners, when we see weeds, we think of the work that’s needed to either pull them out or spray them with something or other.
Technically, weeds are classified as those plants which are growing in the wrong place as identified by the gardener. Weeds in paths and driveways are one example.
Weeds are plants that are not wanted
Either way, it often involves a bit of back breaking work which over the years doesn’t get any easier.
But is there a good side to the weed story?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Diane Watkin, founder of Backyard Biodynamics Sydney,

Take heed of what weeds you have in the garden before you pull them out.
Identifying weeds by soil type can help you determine what your soil may ultimately be lacking.
If you have poorly drained soil for example, you may find that chickweed, spurge, violet, moss, knotweed and sedge  likes to grow there.
Stellaria media-Chickweed
chickweed and Spurge are also indicators of alkaline soil.
Weeds can also help you pinpoint nutrient deficiencies.
Thistles indicate lack of Magnesium and Copper.
Both are trace elements which is easy enough to treat your soil for.
Clover in your lawn indicates lack of nitrogen too..Another easy fix. 
Weed Tea Brew For Your Garden
Weeds are also good accumulators of specific nutrients.
Put this back into your soil by making a weed tea: all you need to do is steep a bucket of weeds (not seeded) in water for several weeks.
The resulting brew, can be diluted and poured back into the garden.
If you have any questions either for me or for Dianne, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Angelica archangelica or just Angelica
There are other varieties of angelica but only the one with the scientific name Angelica archangelica that can be used in cooking.
  • Did you know that supposedly an angel presented an angelica plant to man as a cure for the plague, and 15th and 16th century herbalists recommended eating or chewing the roots as a cure for a number of diseases?
    Angelica archangelica
  • Angelica is native to Europe, Asia and North America.
Although angelica is a biennial herb-growing the first year and flowering the second-it will keep growing for a few more years if you clip off the flower stems before they bloom.
So what does angelica look like?
  • There are a couple of different varieties.
  • One has yellowish green, feathery leaves that look tropical because of their large size which is about 0.7-1m long, and are divided into 3 leaflets with toothed edges.
  • This variety of Angelica has greenish white flowers that hang in umbrella like clusters at the ends of the stalks which are 1-1.5m tall, hollow, and stiff, so it's not really a plant for pots.
Another variety has by far the darkest of the Angelica's, with a rosette of near black delicately divided foliage.
During early Summer, dark flower stems carry broad umbels of purple buds, which open to soft pink.
How to grow it-
  • Angelica likes moist, rich soil that is slightly acid, growing best in semi-shade.
  • Angelica can grow it most of Australia although doesn’t grow that well in hot humid climates.
  • Find a shady, sheltered spot for growing angelica - it likes moist soil, so keep it well watered - if you have a pond and can provide shelter, then it would do well there because it’s normally found near water in the wild.
  • Although that’s not really necessary.
  • Mine grows well on the south side of a garage-but then it spread to a nearby veggie bed, and seems to be OK there too.
  • Angelica grows easily from seed that is if you’re growing your own or know of someone that has some.
  • To get the flower seed-it’s just a matter of waiting after the flowers have died.
  • One seed head has about 100 seeds.But you need to sow them within a few weeks after ripening or they lose their viability.
  • Either sow seeds in the late summer and thin to 15cm then in the second year to 60cm then to 150cm or buy plants in autumn or spring and set them a metre apart.
  • If they self seed, then keep the strongest as replacement stock.
  • You also can propagate angelica from root cuttings.
  • It grows for four to five years as a rule, then it’ll die.

One thing to note, Angelica dies down completely in winter and re-shoots in spring, so remember where you last planted it.
Harvesting Angelica. How Do I Use It?
So now you’re growing Angelica and you’re wondering what do I do with this plant.
Firstly, it’s a reasonably attractive addition to any cottage or perennial garden, because the flowers and leaves are various shades of either green or purpleso they blend well with just about anything.
Depending on which variety you have of course.
But you can use it in the kitchen if you’re prepared to wait a year.
Angelica stems
Plus, the candied angelica that you buy is not a patch on the real deal.
I’ll post the recipe on the website or you can write in for a fact sheet.
In the second year and onwards, you can cut the stalks for candying.
The books say do this in mid to late spring, whilst they are still young and green, but honestly, we’ve had such warm weather, that the Angelica I have in the garden is still green.
If you want to use the roots, then do it when the plant is still young in autumn or early winter or they may get woody
What Do You Do With It?
The roots, leaves, and stalks of angelica have a number of uses.
Young angelica stems can be candied and used to decorate cakes and pastries, and can also be jellied.
The leaves are used in herb pillows - it's said to have a calming effect - and the roots can be cooked with butter.
Chopped leaves may be added to fruit salads, fish dishes and cottage cheese in small amounts.
Add leaves to sour fruit such as rhubarb to neutralize acidity.
Boil the stems with jams to improve the jam’s flavour.
Remove the stems before canning or freezing. Young stems can be used as a substitute for celery.
You can also eat the boiled roots and stems like celery.
Commercially, the seeds and an oil made from the stems and roots are used as a flavouring in many liqueurs such as vermouth, chartreuse, and Benedictine, and the seeds also can be brewed into a tea.
Wait, there’s more, the leaves or roots can be cooked with rhubarb or gooseberries to lessen the acidity.
So, all round it's a good value plant and there's a great deal of satisfaction to be had from producing something that most people only buy in shops or see in restaurants - candied angelica.
TIP To keep your Angelica growing in the garden you need to make sure it’s well watered and remove the stems before they flower as the angelica will die after flowering and setting seed.
You can keep one or two going longer to fill in the gap left by waiting for seedlings to mature by not allowing them to flower.
Why is it good for you?
After the bacterial theory was disproven in relation to the bubonic plaque of 1665 it was realized that Angelica had antibacterial properties. 
Some people apparently chew the dried root for its anti-viral properties.

5 Old Fashioned Shrubs Cool Sub-Tropical Part 1

Last week I mentioned that gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
This series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs.
But we’re not just doing a blanket five but going through each climate zone in Australia, including some of Peter Nixon’s zoning.
Aucuba japonica

Some of these other zones might suit your area as well even though they’re classified as say arid or sub-tropical.
It all depends on whether or not you’ve got a micro-climate in your garden that will suit.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.
PLAY: Old Fashioned Shrubs cool sub-tropics part 1 8th May 2019
Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.
Peter mentioned for the south side: shady
Thevetia peruviana
  • Platycodon homalocladium or bad hair day plant.
  • Aucuba japonica-gold dust plant ; Japanese Maple
  • Selection of Fuchsias eg Tom Thumb.
  • On the northern side: Hibiscus mutabilis; Rothmannia globosa-September Bells
  • Thevetia peruviana-Yellow Oleander; Hibiscus schizopetalus
  • Melastoma affine-Blue Tongue; Eriostemen_Philotheca myoporoides
If you have any questions for Peter or for me, you know what to do..


Marigolds: Tagetes erect: Tagetes patula
Native to North and South America
  • Sowing: They take off easily from seed, either grown indoors during the winter months or sown directly into the soil when it’s warmer out.
  • Good companion plant because they attract pollinators and improve soil quality.
  •  Be mindful not to water marigolds from the top. If their blooms get too wet, they will often turn into a mushy brown mess.
Did you know that one variety of the flower is even fed to chickens so that egg yolks have a more perfect yellow colour?

Myth or Fact?
Legend has it that Mother Mary of the Christian tradition was robbed by bandits, but when they cut open her purse all that fell out were yellow flowers, something that would one day by named “marigold” (Mary’s gold) in her honour.
Or was it because early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mary’s altar as offerings?

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recording live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Perfume Princess with Bite and Vanilla Bean Spice

Starting with the vanilla bean story part 2 with herb and spice guru Ian Hemphill, growing a root veggie that some people add to schapps in vegetable heroes, a the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and all the perfume you could want in Plant of the week.


Vanilla bean:Vanilla planifolia "Andrews"
Vanilla tahitensis
Commercially, Vanilla fragrans and Vanilla tahitensis are used but they have less vanillin in them.
Harvesting and curing the vanilla bean is very labour intensive.
Once the green bean has matured, then they are laid out during the day on drying racks.
At night , they are wrapped up in woollen blankets.
This process goes on for 2 months. 
I'ts really labour intensive, but if you missed it, you can catch up on my blog for last week.
There was so much to tell with the story of this spice that I had to split it up into two parts.
But this episode is about how we can economise with our hugely expensive cured vanilla bean in cooking.

I'm talking with Ian Hemphill, owner of
Let’s find out.

Plenty of tips on how best to use real vanilla in cooking plus a why not make a vanilla flavoured rum?
Vanilla Flavoured Rum Recipe:
  • Choose your favourite Jamaican rum to which you add 1 vanilla bean and 1 cinnamon quill.
  • Infuse for 1 1/2 - 2 weeks.
  • Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon and you will be left with a transformed flavour that equals botrytis semillon.
Vanilla Bean and Poached Pears: 
The rest is mostly synthesized from either guaiacol (which accounts for about 85 percent of it) or
1 Vanilla Bean and champagne OR
1 vanilla bean and sugar syrup of your choice.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
 Remove the vanilla bean and store if canister of caster sugar for a week. 
This gives you vanilla flavoured caster sugar.
NOTE: As long as the vanilla bean hasn't been used on milk, you can use the bean up to 3 times before discarding.
Here’s why you shouldn’t use imitation vanilla.
Did you know that less than one percent of the world’s vanilla fl lignin.
Guaiacol is a fragrant liquid obtained by distilling wood-tar creosote or guaiac (resin from the guaiacum tree).
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Armoracia rusticana syn. A. lapathifolia
Horseradish is a member of the mustard family or Brassicaceae
You may be wondering what comic book character loved this veggie and what country adds it to their beer and make Schnapps with it?”
If you were a fan of the comic strip that featured Dagwood and his wife Blondie, well you would know that Dagwood ate horseradish.
"Blondie," by Dean Young and Stan Drake.”
But did you also know that Germans still brew horseradish schnapps and some also add it to their beer?
Apparently the Egyptians knew about horseradish as far back as 1500 B.C.
And early Greeks used it as a rub for lower back pain and as an aphrodisiac.
In Germany, it’s called "meerrettich"
In the 1600s, Englishmen loved to eat their beef and oysters with horseradish.
But not only that, the loved it so much, that the English, grew it at inns and coach stations, to make cordials to revive exhausted travellers.
So Why grow Horseradish?
Armoracia rusticana
Gardeners grow horseradish for its thick, fleshy white roots.
Did you know that the bite and aroma of horseradish root is totally missing until it’s grated or ground?
That’s because as soon as the root cells are crushed, volatile oils known as isothiocyanate (ISO-THIGH-O SIGH-A-NATE)  are released.

Vinegar stops this reaction and stabilizes the flavour.
Very similar to Wasabi really.
If you’re interested in making your own horseradish, and you don’t want it too hot and bitey, just add the vinegar straight away.
Growing Horseradish
Growing horseradish is easy – the tricky bit is stopping it taking over your garden.
  • Horseradish is a perennial to 1.5m high above ground but below ground there is a parsnip like tapering, fleshy taproot to 60cm long and 5 cm thick
  • The above ground parts look like lime-green large rough textured  leaves, 30-90 cm long, so that’s about 1-3 ruler lengths.
  • The edges of the leaves are extremely saw toothed, or serrated and as botanists would say, leaves with toothed margins.
  • Horseradish has white flowers in the middle of summer to mid-autumn.
  • Plant your horseradish in a permanent position and don’t disturb it because new plants will spring up from any broken roots and will quickly spread throughout the garden bed.
  • Horseradish can grow in most soils even damp soils and grows quite quickly.
TIP: This deep rooted plant can be used in orchards to open up compacted soils and return nutrients to the soil’s surface.
By far the easiest way to grow Horseradish is from root cuttings.
Now’s the time to get a piece from a friend or your friendly garden club members because Horseradish is propagated by root division in spring or
Don't worry too much about soil or position, other than too much shade because it’ll die off.
Dig out a trench at least 60cm deep – horseradish has extremely long tap roots.
Replace about 40cm of topsoil and then add some compost .
Lay the roots of horseradish on this about 30cm apart and then cover with more soil.
Firm down the soil.
If you can get seed. the time to sow it is in early spring.
Keep your horseradish well-watered.
Next year by mid-autumn if you were lucky enough to have planted it last year either in autumn OR spring, the roots should be ready to harvest.
Dig up all the plants.
Use the larger roots to make horseradish sauce and store the smaller ones in sand for replanting next year.
You could plant some of the smaller shoots in pots – either give them away or sell them once they start showing signs of growth.
By digging up all the plants, you’ll stop the horseradish from getting out of control and taking over your garden.
Although I must say, in my garden it’s extremely well behaved.
I have found suggestions that sinking half of an old rubbish bin into the ground, with its bottom removed stops its spread.
Horseradish is very versatile – not just as a sauce with beef, but it goes well with smoked mackerel, sausages, ham, trout, eggs and avocado.
Why is horseradish good for you?
Tuck into some horseradish sauce
Horseradish is a natural antibiotic.
If you’re on a low salt diet, then horseradish is really useful as a seasoning.
Horseradish has only 2 calories a teaspoon, is low in sodium and provides dietary fibre.
Where do you get it? Well there’s an online company that has divisions, but they won’t be available until July. Otherwise, the herb section of most nurseries and garden centres do stock this plant.


Old Fashioned Shrubs and Trees for Cool Climate Gardens
Last week I mentioned that gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
So this series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs.
But we’re not just doing a blanket five but going through each climate zone in Australia, including some of Peter Nixon’s zoning.
Michelia doltsopa
Some of these other zones might suit your area as well even though they’re classified as say arid or sub-tropical.
It all depends on whether or not you’ve got a micro-climate in your garden that will suit.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer and project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

Tabebuia chrysostricha
Tabebuia chrysostricha
  • Cool temperate can mean highlands and alpine regions and areas where you get a hoar frost..
  • Bauhinia acuminata-small tree less than 4m.
  • Syringas-lilacs
  • Michelia doltsopa or Michelia Maudii small tree with white scented foliage and dark green leaves.
  • Camellias japonica C.sasanqua, C. reticulata or C.vernalis.
  • Peter suggested the ‘girl’ series sasanquas from Paradise nursery.
  • Tabebuia chrysostricha-intense yellow trumpet flowers.
  • Daphne odorata, kniphofia, and peonies 


Daphne 'Perfume Princess'
If you love fragrance, you’re probably going to buy plants that aren’t supposed to do well in your district.
Daphne Perfume Princess photo M Cannon
Plants like Luculia, or Lilac (Syringia vulgaris) which are for cool climates mostly.
There’s another plant that has a reputation of keeling over without warning, but gardeners still want to grow if because of its high fragrance.
Now, there’s a new variety with flowers double or triple the size of the old species (Daphne odora) and hopefully, a bit more resistant to some of the problems that plagued the predecessor.
So, what so good about it? 

Let’s find out.….

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

  • Daphne Perfume Princess is apparently no ordinary Daphne and should be on every plant collector’s list.
Not only are the flowers bigger than the species Daphne, but it flowers longer, can grow anywhere in Australia and it has the strongest fragrance of any Daphne.
A definite must have.