Saturday, 31 August 2019

Jacky Winter, Loofahs and Alocasias

We’re talking about a small brown native bird with a lovely voice in Wildlife in Focus, growing something we can use to wash with; in Vegetable Heroes. Choosing a tropical look in plant of the week and getting back into indoor plants in design elements.


Jacky Winter:Microeca fascinans
If someone asked you what bird sings loudly from high trees that sounds like a whistling call "chwit-chwit-chwit-queeter-queeter-queeter", would you hazard a guess or be completely in the dark?
This bird happens to be Jacky Winter and is almost sparrow like in its appearance, weighing only 15 grams.
Jacky Winter
Let’s find out more?
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

Native to Australia, Jacky Winter is widespread in open woodland , preferring bare ground, rural towns and peri-urban areas.
An insect eating bird that dars out from its perch onto open ground but then flies back to that same perch or perhaps another nearby.
Very acrobat in the way they chase their insect prey.
Jacky Winter builds a cup shaped nest which is often positioned on a dead branch so it blends in better.
Bird Calls:
Bird call recognition can be tricky, especially if there’s no chance of seeing the bird, but have no fear.
There are apps for your mobile phone which allows you to record the call and it will identify it for you.
There’s even one called Shazam.
 If you have any questions for me or for Holly email us at
you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW 1675


Loofah or Gourd: Lagenaria siceraria
Gourds, not Gawd but Gourds those funny shaped vegetables that provide more that just food.
 from the Cucurbitaceae family.
According to one website there is a claim “that Gourds are the worlds most versatile vegetable?”
  • Did you know that Gourds have been around since 7000 BC and are thought to originate from Africa not far from the Sahara or even India? 
  • Here’s something you didn’t realise, Because seed can germinate after 7 months in seawater, it’s thought that the spread of this plant was from just floating around in the ocean.

Gourds are a bit of a mystery as to why they grow some many shapes, textures and sizes.
A bit like the mystery that evolved in my garden.
Mystery in my garden
  • I couldn’t remember planting loofah and when the vine grew I noted the somewhat different yellow flower, almost like flowers of cucumbers but not.
  • Then when this long green fruit grew, I thought, maybe I mistakenly planted zucchini.
  • When quite a number of these fruits grew to about 30 cm long, I decided to try one. It was horrible, in fact more than horrible, yuk. 
  • Then a friend visited and pointed out that I was growing loofahs.
  • Ah yes, now I remember.
  • She said the only time to eat them was when they were really small because after that they become bitter. Got it.

Loofah of course is in the gourd family.
Did you know that that some loofahs or gourds can grow to as long as 2m?
They are so easy to grow, whether you are a gardener or a beginner, gourds have something to offer everyone.
If you can grow pumpkins, then you can grow gourds.
You may even have fun discovering the different shapes and colours.
When to sow
  • In tropical climates, they grow all year round, so those gardeners can have 2 crops of gourds every year.
  • For the rest of Australia, it depends what part of Australia you live in, normally from Spring (mid September to early December) after the danger of frost has passed.
  • In temperate climates, sow the seed when temperatures are around 200C to 300C.
  • In colder climates this means waiting until summer weather has come.

Text books say that to grow Gourds or loofahs, soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water.
I don’t remember doing this so it mustn’t be essential.
Sow the seeds in mounds of well composted soil about 30cm ( a ruler length) apart. 
The seeds should be planted around 2 cm deep.

Growing luffa requires a certain amount of patience.
 It's not a typical garden plant.
It grows slower than most gourds.
Add some organic pellets of fertiliser to the planting hole, and back fill with some more of the same fertiliser.
The Loofah vines can grow 30 feet(10m) long over the course of a growing season but you can trim it.
  •  Once the fruits form it may take a long time to fully develop fibre and dry for harvest.
Then the work of picking, peeling, and cleaning happens late in the year.
Luffa needs about 140 to 200 or more warm frost free days, depending on the location and variety grown.
  • Mine grew into winter then my friend said, bring them inside and dry them.
  • If you’re interested in growing loofah in Cool temperate areas, start the seeds off in pots, well before the last frost, that way you can extend your growing season.
  • It needs lots of sun, warmth, water, good root nutrients, and a large strong trellis.
  • The vines will grow on the ground on a well drained weed-free flat surface but tend to produce curved loofahs.
  • Luffa can also be grown in pots as can all other Gourds, but make them at least 30cm wide.
  • It’s also a good idea to stop the plant growing when it reaches about 1.5m by pruning off the tip.
  • This also increases the number of Loofah fruits that you get off your vine.
When the weather heats up, add layers of sugar cane mulch or something similar so the plant doesn’t dry out. Or you may lose your Gourd or in this case Loofah!
  • Tip: Gourd plants don’t transplant that well, so either use one of those pots made from coco peat, or a jiffy pot, that can be planted into the soil, or plant them where you want them to grow.
Because they’re a climbing plant, train the stems onto trees, over fences, that garden shed, or frames with 15cm mesh netting.
If your area doesn’t have high rainfall of between 800-1200mm per year, don’t worry, you still can grow gourds as long as you keep them well watered.
To keep them growing well, add a liquid feed of fish emulsion, or worm tea every three weeks.
One problem you may get, and it’s the same with pumpkins is lack of fruit set.
The separate male and female flowers may come out at the wrong time, or it’s cloudy, windy rainy when they come out, and that will mean the mainly bee pollinators won’t visit them.
Try some hand pollination. That’ll work.
Hand pollination is a very simple procedure.
It simply involves shaking or tapping pollen from the male flower (that you have picked) over the female flower. You can pollinate several female flowers with just one male flower.
It’s very easy to tell male from female flowers as the female flower will have the small gourd shape below the flower, and the male flower grows on a stem without the ball shape below the flower.
The flower, by the way is a single perfumed white or yellow flower that opens in the evenings and only lasts for one night.
Vines will start growing fruit after 3-4 months,

When to pick your loofah is the big question.

If the skin feels loose like it will come off easily, then it's ready.
The loofah gourd will also have changed from green to brown  or even yellow and feels a lot lighter.
The skin feels loose and thinner when they are ready to pick.
  • In my case it was hanging on and staying green, so my friend said ,it’s big enough, time to let it dry inside the house. If it feels like it can be peeled easily then it’s ready.

    Peeling Your Loofah photo M. Cannon
  • The bottom tip of the luffa pod can be broken off and many seeds can be shaken out before peeling. Seeds should be allowed to dry before storing so they don't get mouldy.
  • Peel your loofah, give it a bit of a wash under the tap and let it dry in the sun.
  • Loofahs can be kept for years as long as they’re dry and dust free.
  • "Imagine!" being able to grow your own bath sponge!
  • Yes, that’s right those expensive sponges used for exfoliating while bathing or showering-Luffa Cylcindrica?
 Are gourds edible?
Some people eat the gourd fruit when it is very young.
However as the fruit matures it has a sour, bitter taste. It’s really bad, believe me.
Apparently the young fruits are rich in Pectin and are popular in tropical Africa and Asia in stews and curries.
If you were interested in eating them •they are low in Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol, and high in dietary fibre, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Zinc, Thiamin, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.


Alocasia species
For an instant tropical feel, plants with large leaves are one of the main choices.
Some of these belong in the Alocasia family originating from a bulb or rhizome.
But will they grow in your district.
Alocasia amazonica
Let’s find out
That was Jeremy Critchley

Jeremy mentioned these varieties of Alocasi to watch out for.
Alocasia macrorrhiza, Alocasia zebrina and Alocasia amazonica, are all outstanding cultivars.
The latter has very dark green leaves with prominent veins, edged in white, while the back of the leaf is purple.
Slow growing but hates the cold.
Jeremy thinks that it looks a bit like an African mask.
Don’t be like me and forgot they die down in winter.
Luckily I didn’t throw it out.


Indoor Plants for Warm Climates
The most important elements required for healthy houseplants include light, water, temperature and humidity.
If any or all of these factors aren’t properly met, your houseplants will inevitably suffer.
You might be sweltering under the fans in the heat of a subtropical summer but what about your indoor plants?
Can they cope or is this the climate where they thrive the best?
So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.
I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

The good news is that tropical plants usually enjoy warmer conditions and don’t perform well once indoor temperatures fall below 13-16 C.
Plus they like a lot of humidity, that means at least 50%, but better at 70% or more.
Most of the tropical, ornamental indoor plants with attractive foliage & colourful leaf patterns are suitable for hot & humid climates.
For example Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane, Dracaena, house ferns of many kinds, Tricolor plant, snake plant, Philodendron, Money plant, Syngonium etc

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Seeds, Indoor Plants and Mint with Celery

We’re talking about why some seeds fail in the Plant Doctor segment, growing a different type of celery; in Vegetable Heroes. Mint is good for you in plant of the week and getting back into indoor plants in design elements.

Plant Doctor

Why Seeds Fail.
Some say that rules are meant to be broken but in the instance of seed sowing, I say these rules are meant to be adhered to.

Seeds photo M Cammpm

Are you the type of gardener that breaks rules such as the first rule?
The first rule when it comes to sowing seed, is to sow at the correct times of the year for your district.
But there are plenty of other reasons why seeds fail.
Let’s find out why? I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from

There are quite a few good reasons why seeds can fail for example, some seeds are more sensitive to temperatures and refuse to budge if it’s not within their preferred range. 
Seeds that are old or have been stored incorrectly, say in your garden shed which heats up to over 30 Celsius in summer. 
Seeds drying out if planted too shallowly, or running out of energy because they’re planted to deeply.
Some seeds need darkness to germinate, like pansies, but others need light to germinate. Lettuce need light, for success with these seeds, just press the seeds into the soil surface.
Good drainage for great success, eg cactus and lithop seeds need excellent drainage.
This can mean if they’re sitting in the soil longer, there’s more chance of them rotting off.
So apart from old seeds, the main reasons belong in the environmental category.
If you have any questions for me or for Steve email us at


Celery Leaf is botanically-(Apium graveolens var. secalinum).
Herb-Celery Leaf , Leaf Celery or Chinese Celery.
  • Did you think there was only the celery with the stalks?
  • Maybe you’ve heard of Celeriac, well that’s a type of Celery too, but instead of stalks, it’s a bulbous root.

Well, there’s also a type of Celery that’s all leaf and nothing much else.
  • Before you say, I chuck the leaves away from the stalk celery, I say, hang on, this one tastes a bit better than those.
  • Celery Leaf looks a bit like parsley but tastes similar but slightly better than regular stalk celery!
  • Some say it tastes a little stronger than stalk celery or celeriac.
Leaf Celery has been around for a long time and was in fact used by the ancient Romans as a medicinal herb.
Supposedly, Celery seed has been used for around 3000 years as a seasoning for food.
  • Did you know that crushed celery seeds are steam distilled to make celery oil?
  • This oil is used for flavouring sauces, meats, liqueurs, perfumes, cosmetics and soaps.
Some gardeners have run out of room in their veggie bed already-full of tomatoes, Basil and whatnot.
Never fear, Leaf Celery will grow in pots because it’s a compact plant that only gets to around 20 – 25 cm.
Leaf Celery
If you live in a cool temperate district, container veggies can be moved under cover during winter.
Leaf Celery is a darker green with thin stalks and leaves that look like a cross between the Italian Parsley and the Curley Parsley.
  • Celery leaf is perfect for container gardens because it’s a cut and come again plant and is great used as a herb in stews, dressings and salads.

When To Plant
In cool temperate districts, Spring and Summer are your sowing times.
In temperate and sub-tropical zones, you have from Spring right through to Autumn, in arid areas, the only time you can’t really sow it is in summer, and tropical districts win the jackpot, because they can sow it all year round.
How to grow:
  • From putting the seed into the ground or pot, it’ll take around 2-3 months.
  • Like most veggies, Leaf Celery needs full sun but can do alright in part shade in soil that’s not too dry.
  • You can start them off in punnets if you like because they don’t mind being transplanted.
  • Keep in mind, Leaf Celery isn’t frost tolerant.
  • Sow the very fine seeds thinly, and only 5mm (1/4”) deep.
  • Be careful not to cover the fine seeds too much because they need light to germinate.
  • For fine seeds I tend to use a light cover of vermiculite which I then mist to make moist.

They can be slow to germinate taking up to 21 days at 100C-180C, so be patient.
In warmer areas, seedlings should emerge in 1-2 weeks.

Once the seeds have germinated it’s a good idea to thin them out around 30cm (12”) apart.
TIP: number 1: Don’t let them dry out.
TIP: number 2:-If you believe in companion planting, then leaf Celery is supposed to be an insect repellent for cabbage white butterfly.
Try planting some around your Brassicas like Broccoli, Cauli, and Cabbage.
TIP: number 3 and now for the Celery Seed.
If you leave your Celery leaf over winter, the plant will bolt to seed in Spring.
What can you do with that?
Apart from replanting fresh seed, the seeds are actually edible.
Ever heard of Celery salt?
What you can also do is grind it up in your mortar and pestle with a little sea salt. Better than from the supermarket shelf.
Plus you can enjoy the dainty white umbels of flowers.
After a couple of months, pick leaves as you need them to put in soups, stews, stocks and sauces.
A few leaves go well in salads with a strong blue cheese or some or cured meats.
Why is it good for you?
The leaves are brimming with five times more magnesium and calcium than the stalks. They're also a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidant’
The good thing is Leaf Celery is low in carbs, and has even a small amount of fibre


Mint:Piperita officinalis-Peppermint: Mentha spicata-Common Mint or Spearmint
Even non gardeners would be familiar with the mint herb and many would have imbibed peppermint tea, and perhaps even eaten after dinner mints.
But which mint helps you sleep and which mint helps with a sore stomach?
Let’s find out
I'm talking with was Simone Jefferies, naturopath and herbalist of 

A herb that grows well where it is a bit damp and shady.
Simone says, "mint has a sense of humour, because in Simone's garden, it pops up almost anywhere, including cracks in the pavement. "
Peppermint tea
You can easily buy peppermint plants as well as the many other different varieties of mint.
There are many types of mint: eau de cologne mint, mojito mint, ginger mint, and banana mint.
Banana mint sounded quite delicious and may be an ideal addition to ice cold water on a warm summer’s day.
Benefits of Mint
Peppermint Mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid with upset stomach or indigestion.
Mint is a mild sedative and can be used just before going to sleep as a calmative.
Cooking with Mint
Mint Sauce-handful of mint, add some sugar, vinegar and boiling water.
Add to steamed peas.
Tabbouleh: 1/3 mint; 2/3 parsley, cracked wheat, spring onions, cucumber  (if desired.)
If you have any questions for me or for Simone, please write in to


Indoor Plants:  Introduction
Did you know that NASA has carried out a Clean air Study to figure out which plants help to clean the air in our homes and offices?
Selection of indoor plants about to be potted up. photo: M Cannon
These plants are best at cleaning the air to eliminate toxins.
Toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.
I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

Indoor plants not only look attractive, brighten up gloomy areas and generally improve our moods, but they also have an added benefit of cleaning the air.
Those chemicals that I mentioned are all common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted into the air in our homes by everyday items such as furniture, carpets and common household appliances as well as air fresheners, hair products and nail polish. Wow!
If you have any questions about indoor plants why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Seat Yourself Under A Tamarind or Rainforest Tree

There’s more than one tamarind that you can use in cooking in the spice it up segment with herb and spice expert, Ian Hemphill ; grow these earthy wonders in Vegetable Heroes. A keystone species that originates in the rainforests of the tropics in plant of the week and get your garden seating sorted in design elements.


Tamarindus indica: Tamarind
You've probably heard of tamarind, but can you describe what it is, exactly?
A bean... maybe? A spice... or something?
Spices and herbs aren’t always used in the way you would think.
For example, this next spice you soak then throw away the spice and use the water.
Sounds strange but what’s even more strange, is that even though it has a sour note, you can make lollies out of it.
Tamarind pod
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

The tamarind tree, Tamarindus indica is perhaps not for suburban backyards because of it’s massive height. 18 - 20 m.
Ian recalls driving through a part of India where the Tamarind trees lined the road for over 30km!
Tamarind pods look like pods from the Australian Black Bean tree. (Castanospermum australe.)
Inside the pods is a sticky mass of pulp with seeds and fibre.
Be careful though when purchasing Tamarind for use in cooking because there are 3 types.
  • Asian cooking: use tamarind paste which is flesh mixed with salt and water. DON'T USE for Indian cooking.
  • Indian cooking-use the dried out tamarind pulp, soak that in water and macerate. Drain off the acidulated water and use in your Indian dishes, but throw away the pulp.
  • You can also buy Tamarind concentrate which is the tamarind mixed with water, then boild down to a substance as thick as black molasses. Just use 1/2 teaspoon in your Indian dishes.
Fun Fact:Ever heard of chef Yotam Ottolenghi -- pretty much the "it" chef for all things vegetarian.
Ottolenghi uses tamarind paste in everything; it's one of his "secret" ingredients.

If that's not reason enough to get to know tamarind, we don't know what is.
Just get the dried pulp to use in cooking but be wary of using tamarind paste for Indian dishes.
If you have any questions for me or for Ian, email us at
Or you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW 1675


BOTANICAL NAME: Turnips or Brassica rapa
It’s funny that some vegetables have received a bad rap through no real reason other than not looking all that appealing.
One thinks of Turnips as some bland vegetable that’s used to flavour soups and stews.
But you wouldn’t eat it as a stand alone veggie or would you?
Swedes, Parsnips maybe, but not the regular or even mini turnip.
  • Did you know that the Romans used to throw turnips at unpopular people? Maybe that’s why turnips got such a bad reputation?
  • But back the UK in the early 1700’s a bloke called Charles Townsend made turnips popular in England. He did this by discovering that animals could be fed and fattened by eating turnips because they grew in cold and damp climates.That meant that farmers were able to keep their livestock instead of having to kill them all for winter because there was nothing to feed them on.
Why are Turnips Good to Grow Again?
You’ll be glad to know that the large woody turnips of old have mainly been replaced with smaller mainly white varieties that are delicious grated raw into a salad or as a side dish, leaving the swedes to take over in the stew department!
Turnips can be harvested when mature or when they’re still quite small, cooked or eaten raw and the young tops can be used like spring greens.
Not only that, they’re quick to mature and easy to grow.
What does the Turnip look like?
Just in case you’re mixing up turnips and Swedes and Parsnips, the turnip is round, sits in the ground with just the top exposed to the light as it grows, and is actually the swelling at the base of the stem of the plant.
Regular turnips
The Turnips that I’m going to talk about have mainly a white flesh and skin with a rosette of green feathery leaves that can also be eaten.
How do they grow?
Turnips can grow in full sun and partial shade, but like a well-drained soil.
Whatever you do when you plant turnips, don’t let them dry out.
When to plant your turnips?
Well I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mixed bag around Australia, so here goes.
From September until May in temperate districts and also cool temperate districts.
From August until May in sub-tropical areas.
For arid areas, you’ll have to wait until February then you have until August and Tropical areas, have even less of a chance, only between April and June.
Before you sow your turnip seeds, give the veggie bed some chook poo-about a handful per square metre.
Turnip seedling in my garden. photo M Cannon
Sow the turnip seeds no more than 6mm deep.
It’ll be a bit tricky to get the right distance apart so keep thinning them out until they’re about 15cm apart.
If you thin them before 8 weeks, both the root and leaves are good to eat at this stage.
The leafy tops of these early pickings are great in salads.
Even though you’re getting an early start on your turnips, if you have some unseasonal warm weather, look after them by not letting them dry out, otherwise they’ll be small and woody.
Mulching with sugar cane, pea straw or something like that will help with keeping the soil moist.
Turnips take about 2-3 months to grow, so add a handful of chicken manure every 4 weeks.
You can pull them out when they’re the size of a golf ball when they’re at their sweetest, or wait until they’re the size of a tennis ball.
There are quite a few new varieties out there so why not try
Turnip White Mini-Tender round white roots, stores well. Crisp, beautiful well shaped rounds, ideal for the turnip lover. Harvest in only 7 weeks.

Turnip ‘Snowball’ is a very popular first-class, globe variety with solid white flesh and a juicy, sweet, mild flavour. Snowball’s an heirloom turnip that was introduced before 1885.
Snowball is best harvested when no larger than a tennis ball and can also be enjoyed when much smaller. Snowball takes between 5-8 weeks to be ready.
Turnip 'Golden Globe'  Also known locally as 'Butter Turnips' locally. Were introduced before 1888, this a heritage turnip with a beautiful golden skin, amber yellow flesh and delicate flavour. Stores well.
Why are the good for you?
Turnip roots are high in dietary fibre, vitamin C and B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and copper.
The greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of calcium, iron, and riboflavin


Weeping Fig: Ficus benjamina.
Some plants are vital to many layers in tropical rainforests and some Old World trees(stranglers, such as the weeping fig (F. benjamina)), develop aerial roots from their branches and send them straight down through the air.

Let’s find out
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley

The actual definition of a keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions.
Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.
  • But back in suburbia, there’s not that much to worry about . except don’t plant that fig in your garden.
  • Because when the aerial root from the branches reach the ground, these roots grow into the soil, thicken, and become additional "trunks." 
    Weeping fig planted in the ground.
In this way stranglers grow outward to become large patches of fig forest that consist of a single plant with many interconnected trunks. In this way stranglers grow outward to become large patches of fig forest that consist of a single plant with many interconnected trunks.


Garden Seating Sorted
What’s the last word in garden seating for you?
Perhaps you can’t be bothered with garden benches, tables and chairs and an old milk crate or just perching on a step will do.

Or you’ve got the good ole’ cast iron table and 2 chair setting which is terribly cold on the bottom, not to mention hard.
Things have moved on considerably in the last thirty of forty years though.
Let’s find out what’s Peter’s last word in garden seating.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, principle of Paradisus Garden Design

Seating and lighting go together so rather than the awful floodlight stuck on the side of the garage, why not think about 12V lighting to compliment night time seating with your friends and family?

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Anemones, Spring Onions and Let's Go Garden Clubbing

Why join a garden club in the tool time segment? ; One of the easiest onions to grow in Vegetable Heroes. The final in the series, dig, it, plant it, grow it, in design elements;wind flowers for Spring in Talking Flowers


Plant Cuttings
Why Join A Garden Club?
Joining a garden club may sound a bit off topic for the tool time segment.
However, General Manager of cut above tools, Tony Mattson has given his fair share of gardening talks and has some insights to share about what the benefits are of joining.
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

Great reasons to join a garden club include
  • Share your gardening knowledge or gain knowledge from plant experts that may be in the club.
  • Pruning tips for your area.
  • Swap seedlings
  • Cutting table and plants for sale, usually for a few dollars each.
  • Homemade refreshments at the end of the night.
  • Excursions to gardens or gardening events such as Floriade or MIFGS (Melbourne Internation Flower Show.)
    Sei-Sei Tei Show Garden MIFGS
If you look up garden clubs of Australia website,
you will find your nearest garden club.
For example I looked up what garden club was near TANK fm in Kempsey. Turns out there’s a garden club very close, South West Rocks and District Garden Club Inc, that meets every 2nd Monday 10am.
Very few of the garden clubs have a website but there’s always a phone number, so go on, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, email us at
Or you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW


Spring Onions
Well Firstly are they Spring Onions or are they shallots?
Spring onions are Allium fistulosum. are really like thick chives.
  • Australians are often confused about what a shallot actually is, because we call them spring onions as well.
  • Elsewhere in the world the word ‘shallot’ is only used to describe a small bulb, growing much the same way as a garlic bulb, with mild, delicate flavour.
''True shallots (Allium cepa, aggregatum) are grown for their bulbs only. Unfortunately, spring onions are marketed as Shallots in NSW.
  • To onion lovers and growers here's where there’s a difference.
    Spring Onions in Australia
According to the Onions Australia official website, spring onions are Allium fistulosum and are 40 centimetres of green leaf and a slightly enlarged bulb. 
  • ''True shallots (Allium cepa, aggregatum) are grown for their bulbs only. 
  • Shallots marketed in NSW are similar to true spring onions and are harvested with about 40 centimetres of green leaves and a slightly enlarged bulb. 
    • They are marketed in bunches of about 20 plants with three bunches (per) kilogram. Shallots grown and marketed this way are also known as eschallots (Allium ascalonicum).'

  • So now we know that Spring or Green onions have long, - up to 40cms long, hollow green, delicate stalks and small, very slender, white bulbs.
  • The bulb of a spring/green onion is really only slightly defined.
  • Spring or Green onions come out of the ground early in their lives... in fact you can sow them from very early spring until at least the end of march.
  • Usually you can pick them about 7 weeks later.
What’s good about spring onions is that they’re mild tasting because they haven’t been in the ground long enough to gain much pungency.
Spring onions can be used sliced or chopped raw in green salads or creamy salads like potato salad, pasta salads, or on top baked.
  • Where do spring onions grow?
They’re a versatile plant with tube-like hollow leaves; that grows from cold regions right through to hot, tropical areas.
Spring onions prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil and are extremely hardy and pest resistant.
All onions need an open sunny site, fertile soil that is free draining.
Raised garden beds are the best if you have clay soil.
You can sow Spring Onions anytime really in Australia, because unlike other onions, day length doesn’t affect their growth.
Plus, spring onions aren’t affected by frost.

  • Raising them in seed punnets or tray seems to work best, then transplant them when they’re several cms high or as half as thick as a pencil.
  • It’s normal to sow the seeds of spring onions closely, and because these onion seeds are planted densely they bunch together so that the bulbs have little chance of fully maturing and rounding completely out
  • When planting into the garden, dig lots of compost through the topsoil first and then use a dibbler to make holes 10cm apart.
  • Place a seedling in each hole and gently push the soil around the rootball. Water the seedlings very lightly but if they fall over, don’t worry as they will soon stand back up.
  • Keep your onions weed free.
  • Water them when dry weather is expected, otherwise ease back a bit.
  • In about 2 months, your spring onions should be ready to eat.
When To Harvest?
You can tell they’re ready because the leaves are standing tall, green and succulent
If you want to harvest an entire bulb, use a fork to dig around the plant to keep from damaging it accidentally.
You can also just use scissors to cut the leaves and use them as a garnish in salads or casseroles for flavour.
Spring Onions belong to the class known as bunching onions and have a mild, sweet flavour; the green shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten.
Spring Onions must be harvested when the stalks are still green and you eat the whole plant, except the hairy roots
  • TIP:There is never any hint of a bulb in a Spring Onion so you can't leave the plants in the ground for the tops to dry off — they will, but you won't be able to save any bulbs.
  • If you forget to pick your spring onions, and they’ve started to flower. Let them keep flower and save the seeds.The flowers are attractive to bees and other useful insects.
  • The seeds can also be sprouted.
    Onion flowers are attractive to bees
You want to grow your own spring onions for freshness alone, because the ones you buy from the supermarket are only fresh for a handful of days.

  • For a dash of colour why not try Brilliant crimson spring onion red bulbs that are rich in antioxidants.
Ths one will grow into bulbs that can be used like shallots if left in the ground.
TIP:After you your spring onions from the ground, when preparing them in your kitchen, save the rooted bottoms and replant them.
Simply cut off the bottom inch (3 cm) of your green onions and plant them in damp soil, or keep them in a jar of water in a sunny spot.
You’ll a new lot of spring onions in a couple of weeks.
Why are the good for you?
Spring Onion is:
Low in Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Cholesterol
High in Dietary Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. Whew!
If you have never tried growing onions before, why not give them a go this year? 
They are a very versatile, easy to grow vegetable that can be grown from seed most of the year.
Happy Spring Onion growing everyone!


Grow Your Plants part 2: series final
Last week it was when and how much to water your plants to keep them alive, and today it’s about plant health problems.
We start off with finding out why the plant isn’t thriving and in fact is dropping leaves.
Sound familiar?
Gardens like this one need care and maintenance.
Let’s find out what needs doing. I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs.

Not so much digging now, other than weeding but looking after your plant because, after all, it’s not plastic.
So why are the leaves dropping off?
  • Check your watering. You might think the water is getting through to the roots but is it really? Add wetting agent if you find the the soil is not being wetted sufficiently.
  • Nutrient deficiency-are the yellow leaves the new growth or the old growth?
    • new leaves yellowing signals possible iron deficiency. Correct with chelated iron.
    • Old leaves yellowing signals possible nitrogen deficiency. Correct with an all purpose liquid or soluble fertiliser.
    • Calcium deficiency results in distorted or irregularly shaped new leaves (top of plant). The leaf margins and tips become necrotic. Correct with an application of Dolomite.
  • Wind can cause physical damage, with leaves have brown/grey tips.
    Wind and sun scorch have similar symptoms.
Watering, fertilising and looking out for pest and disease issues are all part of gardening.
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Anemone coronaria: Wind Flower, Anemone.        
This flower is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and is native to the Mediterranean region.
  • The name Anemone comes from Greek and roughly means wind flower, which signifies that the wind that blows the petal open will also, eventually, blow the dead petals away.
  • Coronaria means used for garlands.
Tubers, corns or bulbs?
  • Bulbs have a tunic, corms have a basal plate, tubers have multiple growing points or eyes.
  • Anemone tubers are usually planted in early autumn, March until May.
  • Before planting, the tubers are recommended to be dipped in lukewarm water for 2-4 hours or overnight.
  • Planting Depth: Plant Anemones with the pointy end facing down at a depth of 3 to 5cm. Soak well each week until shoots appear.
 This windflower is an upright perennial that grows from rhizomatous tubers. 
Leaves are medium green, with basal leaves being biternate and involucral (a whorl or rosette of bracts surrounding an inflorescence (especially a capitulum) or at the base of an umbel..) Leaves are deeply divided.
Flowering time: late winter, spring.
I'm talking with floral therapist, Mercedes Sarmini.
Video recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR, 88.5fm Sydney.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Ashes, Kale and Growing Woolly Bushes

How to amend your soil or potting mix with something you burn in the Good Earth segment; Possibly a super food to grow in Vegetable Heroes. Continuing the series, dig, it, plant it, grow it, in design elements native shrub that’s silvery and tough in Plant of the Week


Woodash and Charcoal for the garden

Winter time is when woodfires are burning in homes for warmth in all but tropical areas around the country.
Or perhaps you’ve been barbecuing or smoking some produce for the dinner table, and have some woodash?

  • So what do you do with the leftover woodash and bits of charcoal?
  • Would you be thinking that the woodash and charcoal from the fire can or cannot be used in the garden?
  • Let’s find out .

It turns out the woodash and charcoal are great amendments for your soil in the garden.
Charcoal are the black bits left over when the fire has died down. Essentially, it's the wood that hasn't been fully combusted.
Woodash is alkaline, so it’s great for those plants, such as from the onion family but not for Azaleas, Camellias, Rhododendrons and other acid loving plants.
Charcoal, on the other hand, is great for increasing the water holding capacity of your soil, and potting mix, plus it’s a home for microbes and fungi.
  • You can put your crushed charcoal in the worm farm, but not too much, otherwise the worms will be dessicated. 
Margaret suggests making a liquid slurry of the woodash before adding only a small amount.

If you have any questions for me or for Margaret, email us at

Or you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW


Kale:Brassica oleracea variety acephala,
Did you know that Kale is the ancestor to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and mustard and yes in the Brassica family?
This attractive edible originated in Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean region, where it’s 
  • The Latin name Brassica oleracea variety acephala, the last term meaning "without a head.
  • Another interesting fact is that in nineteenth century Scotland kail was used as a generic term for 'dinner' and all kitchens featured a kail-pot for cooking.
    Curly Kale

I’ve seen this veggie grown in gardens in the cooler months but are people actually eating it?
  • Some gardeners would say that it’s mainly used for show in the garden, displacing other green decorations, thanks to the plant’s wilt resistance.

There are two types of Kale that you can grow in the garden.
  • Flowering kale, is closely related plant, but smaller in size with tight rosettes on the ground rather than upright, leafy growth.
  • I’ve seen it used as a bedding plant.Yes you can eat those too!

The second type of Kale and the one I’m concentrating on today is a green leafy plant that is great added to or substituted for cabbage.
  • By the way, Kale doesn’t form a central head but rather grows upwards like a palm tree.
  • Leaves are narrow, crinkled, dark green, highly nutritious & will continue to grow even when covered with snow.

When To Plant Kale
  • Kale can be planted all year round in most districts but some people prefer to avoid the cabbage white butterfly and plant it in Autumn.
  • For the best tasting Kale though, you should aim to plant kale so that it matures and is ready to pick while the weather is still cold.
  • This means that in northern Australian locations, you could plant in early July whereas in southern regions, you could plant as late as September.
  • Also it’s apparently winter hardy and its flavour is improved by frost.
  • How does that work? Well a frost or even several frosts, will help break down starches into sugars making the Kale a whole lot sweeter.
  • The leaves take on a strong flavour if stored longer than two weeks in the fridge, so picking the leaves only as you need them.
  • By stripping the lower leaves from the base of the plant you will encourage new growth and get a much longer harvest.
Kale is easy to grow and a fast grower as well taking only 7-9 weeks from seed sowing until harvesting.
Kale likes soil temperatures of between 8°C and 30°C., full sun and a pH of between 7.0 and 7.5, so a sweet or alkaline soil.
If the soil is too acidic, add lime.
If the soil isn’t already rich, dig in compost or well-rotted manure.
How To Grow It
Sow Kale seeds direct into the garden or they don’t mind being transplanted so you can start them off in punnets if you like.
Sow the seeds about  30cm or a ruler’s length apart.
Three or four seeds can be planted together and thinned out at the two-leaf stage.
Look after young plants by watering during dry patches and keep weeded.
  • TIP: Tread around the base of the stem every so often to prevent the larger varieties from toppling over.
  • During the winter months, apply liquid fertiliser from your worm farm or you can buy fish emulsion which is great too!

Remove yellowing leaves, "earth up" the stems and stake tall varieties if they’re exposed.
Did you know that kale can handle exposed, slightly shady plots.
  • Kale – Is rarely bothered by the dreaded banes of the brassica family like snails and slugs so that’s a plus.
  • Kale is a cool weather crop and takes a full two months to reach harvest.

If you’re growing the curly Kale you need to cut the first set of leaves .
That’s because Kale is a perennial crop and for it to grow new and bigger leaves when it reaches maturity, you need to harvest the leaves from the bottom.
If you pick the leaves this way, it will continue to grow bigger and curlier leaves.
If you pick from the top, the Kale will be stunted.
The second set of leaves will come out curly as in the packet.
So What Do You Do With Kale?
  • Eat the young leaves chopped in salads, grind the old leaves for juice or feed to chooks.
  • Vates Blue Kale
  • Tip: If you have chooks they prefer kale leaves to anything else!

Try these varieties-
Lacinato an Heirloom dating back prior to 1800 in Italy. 
Also known as 'Black Cabbage', 'Tuscany' or 'Cavalero de Nero'., this old, rustic Italian variety is ready in 55 days( around 8 weeks)
Red Russian, is another heirloom originating from Siberia.
This has red frilly, oak-shaped, bitter-free leaves with purple veins.
Another hardy variety and when you cook it the leaves deepen to dark green
There’s also Vates Blue Curled; this is a vigorous plant to 40cm high with heavily curled, blue-green leaves. 

This one withstands really cold weather and the leaves won’t yellow from frost or heat. 
You can also get traditional purple leafed curly kale.
Red Russian Kale
This one works well in a container, as well as in the border.
Purple leafed kales like ‘Redbor’ or ‘Red Russian’ look great in flower beds  as do green-leafed forms.

Why is it 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.
Cook as you would cook cabbage - stewed, boiled, braised, blanched -but remember that kale takes a little longer to soften.
Hint:Tuscan kale is traditionally used in minestrone.
But you don’t have to munch on the plant to gain benefit from it:


Grow It part 1
A new series called ‘dig, plant, grow’ & today and it’s all about grow it pt. 1.
The biggest issue for new gardeners, is “how much, and how often do I water?”
Almost like asking how long is a piece of string?
This and other vexing questions are answered.
Let’s find out what needs doing. 
I'm talking with Glenice Buck of Glenice Buck Designs.
PLAY:Grow It Part 1_24th July 2019

Not so much digging now, other than weeding but looking after your plant because, after all, it’s not plastic.
photo Glenice Buck
Watering, fertilising and looking out for pest and disease issues are all part of gardening.
For all the latest news - Follow Glenice on Facebook or Instagram
Facebook : www.facebook/glenicebuckdesigns
Instagram: Glenice_Buck_Designs
Or Subscribe to my monthly Garden Greetings Newsletter:


Albany Woolly Bush : Adenanthos sericeus
Are you a fan of Western Australian plants?
They grow so many wildflowers, banksias, and Eucalypts with huge inflorescences or inflo’s as those in the now like to call them.
But how do they do in other parts of Australia, particularly if they’re grey and fluffy and have been used mostly as a Christmas tree? 

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
Let’s find out …

The greyness and upright growth of the Albany woolly bush makes it look sort of snow covered making it the perfect choice if you want a real Australian Christmas tree.
  • If you want to grow this well, choose a rocky sandy spot in your garden because that’s the kind of environment it comes from.
  • Otherwise grow it in a pot