Friday, 25 June 2021

Lear Blowers and Vacs: Love 'Em or Hate Them


Blower Vacs: Leaf Blowers: You Know You Hate them.

For many years I resisted buying a blower or blower vac because not only the noise emitted by these devices is deafening, but I felt that sweeping leaves would be more productive, not to mention quiet.

You can just imagine the 'swoosh, swoosh' of the rake as it sweeps up piles of leaves.  
But do you find raking leaves instead of blowing them therapeutic or just a chore?  

On the other hand and let’s face it, you’ve probably seen so many instances of people, not necessarily gardeners, just blowing their leaves out into the street so that there neighbours get the leaves with the next guest of wind.
That kind of behaviour has given leaf blowers a bad rap.
Sure you're exercising more than using an electrical or petrol driven device, but is it really the best way to use up your valuable time instead of the multitude of garden tasks?

Apart from the noise, is that all there is to leaf blowers and blower vacs?
Straight blowers can be hand held or back packs as seen by commercial operators.
  • Battery operated leaf blowers can be as light as 2.5kgs which makes them very light to use.
  • When buying a leaf blowers, consider how much air volume and air speed you might want for your purchase.
  • Perhaps you want a blower vac, that sucks up the leaves and gets mulched by the impeller inside the bag.
  • The leaves get chopped up, not always that finely, but still you get a reduction in the amount of leaf matter that gets sucked up.A good average amount of leaf reduction is 5 bags to 1 bag.
Well how things change.
I admit to having used a blower vac to vacuum up leaves on hard surfaces and to some extent in garden beds.

I love the fact that leaves are mulched up and can be put straight onto the compost pile.

PPE and Safety
To use blowers and blower vacs always use right protective:gear-ear muffs or ear plugs, and safety glasses, gloves, strong shoes, full length trousers or overalls and long sleeves.

Listen to the podcast

I'm talkingTony Mattson, general manager of
If you have any questions about blower vacs or have some feedback, why not write in to

Bountiful Bananas for Your Kitchen Garden


Banana Growing parts 1 & 2

Did you know that bananas are the world's largest herb. Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to grow your own bananas?
 You may have seen the plants for sale in a couple of plant catalogues and thought to give it a try, but never got around to it.
Would it help if I told you that a number of gardeners around Australia already do it and it’s surprisingly not that difficult.
  • I'm growing the sugar banana or "Musa 'Ducasse.' The flower is pictured here and yes, it's a big plant.
  • The trunk is actually layers of tissue that are wrapped like a swiss roll.
The key to fruiting is keeping the amount of stems or suckers down to a manageable number so the plant doesn't take over your garden.
A good number is three which includes the mother plant which has an active flowers on it, then one sucker, and a smaller sucker.
  • Get rid of all the others by chopping them to the ground.
Once the mother plant has finished flowering, it won't produce anymore, so cut the stem to the ground and mulch it up for the garden.

Banana 'Ducasse' growing in my garden photo M Cannon

NOTE: You have to buy banana plants from a QABN-Quality Approved Banana Nursery, that way you are buying a disease free plant.
You can't just take a sucker from somebody else's garden.

Bananas do like a lot of moisture so during periods of drought, the banana plant do not throw as many flowers.

The other suggestions which I thought was worth a try, is to bury some kitchen scraps in the ground near the main stem of your banana plant.

Have a listen to find out more.  

If you want more information about bananas why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Growing Bananas part 2

Harvesting your bananas

Now it's time to get down to the pointy end of growing bananas.
It is really easy to grow those banan plants so don't be discouraged.

  • You may remember that the banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb and the stem is known as false stem or pseudo stem because it consists of compact cluster of overlapping and spirally arranged leaf sheaths.
  • No bark, or cambium layer at all.

So what else is there to banana growing?

How much fertiliser?
To get your bananas ready for harvest, fertilise your banana plants well.
Fertilise well with a bucket of organic fertiliser around the base every month in the warmer months.
Or the permaculture way is to dig a pit right next to the trunk and put in fresh food scraps. Cover well so your chickens or rats and mice can't dig the scraps up.It does take quite a while, up to 6 months for the bananas to ripen after the fruits appear.
You can take down the whole bunch, but for the home gardener, that is too many bananas that will ripen at once.
  • Instead, take off a single hand at a time, and bring them into the kitchen to ripen.
  • Looking at the photo on the right, you can see that there are layers  or groups of bananas that make up the whole bunch.
  • Each layer can consist of up to 10 or more individual bananas or 'fingers' that are connected at the same point. This layer is called a 'hand.'
  • Several hands make up a banana bunch.
Fertilise well with a bucket of organic fertiliser around the base every month.
Or the permaculture way is to dig a pit right next to the trunk and put in fresh food scraps. Cover well so your chickens or rats and mice can't dig the scraps up.

The big tip is to be patient because it can take up to 6 months before your bananas become ripe.

The other tip is the whole bunch is harvested when the angles on the fruit have almost disappeared and the fruit is evenly filled.

You can also take off a hand of bananas and see if they ripen in your kitchen perhaps in a brown paper bag.
Have a listen to the podcast.

If you want more information about bananas why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Friday, 11 June 2021

This Month's Plants: Correas, Blue Hibiscus, Winter Grevilleas, and Two Beaut Banksias


Correa glabra and other correas.

Scientific name: Correa species- Correa Glabra, Correa reflexa, Correa alba, Correa nummularifolia
Common name: Native Fuchsia
Family: Rutaceae
Distribution: Mainly eastern Australia  from southeast South Australia, through Victoria to eastern New South Wales and continues into south-east Queensland; it includes eastern Tasmania and Kangaroo Island off South Australia.

Australia has many small shrubs that are equivalent to if not better than some northern hemisphere plants and this one is no exception.
Plant breeders love this plant so much that there are now many hybridised forms with bigger flowers or flowers on a plant that can take full sun.
  • Correa Canberra bells
    Did you know that there is a correa study group?
  • Or that Correas makes great small bird habitat and also are a food source for insects and small birds.
  • Correas are also great for those dry shady spots, so think about planting one soon.
Correas are generally easy to grow. 
  • Correa alba and C. glabra varieties are the hardiest withstanding heavy frost and severe droughts. Correa glabra varieties have fragrant leaves.
  • Correa lawrenceana is the largest of the correas. These need to be grown in the shade and do best in an understorey habitat.; attractive to birds for both nectar and nest sites and are ideally planted in a thicket.
  • Correa pulchella varieties produce the most beautiful coloured bells ranging from pale pink to deep orange to carmine. They need to be grown in part shade and watered regularly.
  • Correa reflexa varieties range in colour from green to deep red: these also need to be grown in a partly shaded position and watered regularly.
Correa reflexa nummularifolia
You need to know which species of correa you have so that you know their particular requirements.
  • Some of the more modern hybrids can take sun but others need morning sun and/or dappled all day shade.
To grow correa at its best, a light sandy soil with good drainage and a position protected from wind, with broken or morning sunlight, is desirable. 

Groups of three to five offer added protection and enhance visual appeal.

I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, qualified horticulturist and avid native plant expert.


Scientific name: Alyogyne heugeli
Common Name:Blue Hibiscus or Lilac Hibiscus
Family: Malvaceae
Flowering: late spring to summer
Position: Full sun to part shade.
Fertiliser; low phosphorus (P) or native fertiliser only.

As in all Hibiscus, the flowers open in the morning and last one day.  

A. huegilii is a prolific flowerer-lots of flowers from late spring until the end of summer.

I’ve seen it grown at the back of the border, amongst exotics like May Bush, Loropetalum, and in front of Princess Lillies, and I must say, I regret having pulled mine out because the flowers are really lovely.

This plant blends so well with any other plant on the planet.
  • The original A. heugelii needs to be pruned to promote lower growth and this one grows to about 2 ½ metres tall. 
  • Although, you can keep it down to 1 ½ metres because it sends out fast-growing shoots from old wood.
There are new select forms that are more compact and lower growing.
Alyogyne heugelii Karana-a medium shrub 1.5m by 1.5m wide
Alyogyne heugelii Misty-a medium shrub 1.5m by 1.5m wide; also frost tolerant.
Have a listen to the podcast.
I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, qualified horticulturist and avid native plant expert.


Winter flowering Grevilleas

Scientific Name: Grevilliea

Common Name: Grevillea

Family: Proteaceae

There’s a lot to choose from but before you run out to the nursery to buy up all the winter flowering ones for your garden. Let’s look at what conditions Grevilleas need to thrive.

Red soil is too heavy for many grevilleas. So if you live in Moree, you may not be able to grow many grevilleas  because of the heavy soil.

Grevilleas like air in the soil, so a light sandy soil is preferable,but you could easily just plant them on a bit of mound mixed with good compost and some light potting mix in it so they  can get established first..

Once they are older they don't seem to mind the heavier soil, but  drainage is a must.

G. superb. 1.5 x 1.5m. Red to yellow flowers, Yellow tips on the stamens. Tolerates frost to -30 C Bird attracting.

G. coconut ice 2 x 1.5m. Reddish pink flowers through out the year. Dense semi-spreading habit. Not like coconut ice confection atl all. Tolerates frost to -40 C

Grevillea Coconut Ice : photo M Cannon

G Honey Gem, an old favourite although rather big. 4 x3m Large leaves which are deeply lobed, dark green above silver reverse. The flowers cylindrical and bright orange which drip with sweet nectar. Bird attracting. Tolerates frost to -30 C

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream' grows to 1.5m x2m. with cream flowers which change to pink as they age. Flowers all year.

Have a listen to the podcast.

I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, qualified horticulturist and avid native plant expert.


Banksia ericifolia and Banksia spinulosa: what's the difference?

Scientific Name: Banksia spinulosa
Common Name: Hairpin Banksia
Family: Proteaceae
Plant height: Mostly a multi-stemmed lignotuberous shrub. Varies greatly in height 1 -3 m
Position: Full sun, frost hardy including Canberra winter frosts.
Leaves:long and narrow, 3-8 cm long by 2-7 mm wide, and variably toothed. Leaf margins often recurved which is an adaptation to dry environments.

Flowering:The flower spikes range from 10-20 cm in length. A spike may contain hundreds or thousands of individual flowers, each of which consists of a tubular perianth made up of four united tepals, and one long wiry style.
Position: Prefers to grow in the open where it makes a nice rounded shrubs.
Shade makes it spindly.
Banksias are an import source of nectar during autumn and winter when flowers are scarce.

Scientific Name: Banksia ericifolia
Common Name: Heath Banksia
Family: Proteaceae
Plant height: Mostly a multi-stemmed shrub. Varies greatly in height 3 -6 m
Position: Full sun, frost hardy including Canberra winter frosts.

Leaves: The linear dark green leaves are small and narrow, 9–20 mm long and up to 1 mm wide, generally with two small teeth at the tips. 
The leaves are crowded and alternately arranged on the branches..
Flowers: cylindrical flower spikes are quite large at 4-6 cm wide and up to 30 cm long

Differences: Banksia ericifolia has much narrower leaves and is fire-sensitive in that it does not have a lignotuber for vegetative regeneration after bushfires. The species relies on seed for regeneration - seeds are retained in the cones for many years and are released by the heat of a fire.


People are afraid to prune Banksias because they think of them as being a bit tricky.
If you’re not sure what type of Banksia you have, then only light pruning.
If you know your Banksia has a woody rootstock (lignotuber) then it can be heavily pruned.
  •  Only low phosphorus fertilisers should be used if at all. I’d recommend Blood n Bone.
Here's an interesting tidbit: Historically B. ericifolia is supposed to be the first specimen collected by Sir Joseph Banks at Botany Bay in 1770. 
For some reason, Banks did not describe this new discovery however and it was left to Carl Linnaeus who later named the genus Banksia in honour of Banks in 1782.

Have a listen to the podcast.

I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, qualified horticulturist and avid native plant expert.

Ginger and Galangal: What's the Difference? Plus Grow Broccoli


What's the difference?

Are you into Asian cooking?
Not with the pre-made pastes but starting from scratch.
Even if it’s just a stir fry, you may be wondering about two items you can buy in the supermarket.
Both are used in Asian cooking but one is a more reddish brown colour and the other a sort of light brown.
Both are rhizomes,and both are members of the Zingiberaceae family, so what’s the difference?

Galangal tends to get used in South East Asian cooking.
Galangal has a very different and somewhat stronger fragrance to ginger.
Centuries ago, powdered galangal was used as snuff!
  • There's two varieties of Galangal,
Greater galangal is used mainly in cooking.
Lesser galangal is used mainly for medicinal purposes.
Some alternative names for galangal is Laos powder, and Siamese ginger.
Ginger can be bought fresh as a brown rhizome, but it's also available in various preserved forms.
Candied ginger; ginger in syrup; pickled ginger (pink in colour); ginger powder is derived by slicing the ginger root, then drying it and pummeling it into a powder. 

Ian's Tips
  • If you often buy fresh ginger from the supermarket, or even grow your own, the best tip for peeling it is not with a knife or a vegetable peeler, but scraping it off with a spoon.
  • The other tip is to use a ceramic grater especially designed for grating ginger and not the skin off your fingers.
  • Fresh ginger should not be fibrous.
  • The longer the ginger stays in the ground, the hotter and more fibrous it gets.
  • What great tips from Ian!

Can you substitute galangal for ginger?

Use about half but do not use it in sweet cooking because it has more of a savoury flavour.

You can grow your own ginger even though it's a tropical rhizome. 
Growing it in a container in cooler climates is perfectly acceptable.

So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

If you want more information about any herb or spice, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Which vegetable has more vitamin C than an orange? 
  • Would you have guessed broccoli? Brassica oleracea var Italica or botrytis cymosa
Freshly picked from my garden photo M Cannon

  • Would you also have guessed that Broccoli heads are actually groups of flower buds that are almost ready to flower? Each group of buds is called a floret.
There’s some confusion as to where exactly name broccoli comes from.
Some say it’s from the Latin word brachium, which means "arm" or "branch," other’s that it’s from the Italian word broccolo, which means "cabbage sprout."

Broccoli is of course in the Brassicaceae family of vegetables along with cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, turnips and many of the Asian greens.
Apparently Romans grew and loved to eat Broccoli way back in 23 to 79 BCE.

Why should you grow Broccoli if it’s available all year round in your supermarket?
Firstly, supermarket Broccoli has probably been sprayed for all manner of pests whether or not the pests visited the Broccoli plant.
Secondly, supermarket Broccoli stems are pretty tough to eat, when they’re supposed to be tender.
Why, because that type of Broccoli transports better?
But there’s another reason too.

  • Broccoli has had a resurgence in popularity – for its high vitamin content and anti-cancer agents. It’s a fast-growing and easy-to-grow crop, producing bluish-green heads.
Sprouting Broccoli Anyone?
The sprouting types – white or purple sprouting – are hardy and overwintered for harvest in spring, filling the gap between sprouts and spring cabbage.
  • Homegrown Broccoli, especially the heirloom varieties, also re-shoot after your cut of the central Broccoli stem.
When to Sow
  • Temperate and cool climates suit Broccoli best with a temperature range of 150C to 250C. 
How to grow Broccoli?

Sow Sprouting Broccoli seeds 6mm deep, spacing plants 35cm apart. 
Broccoli seeds take 7-10 days to emerge. 
  • Broccoli seedlings can be unstable and fall over during heavy wind, to help then send out additional roots to anchor them better you can remove the cotyledons (the first two seed leaves) once the first set of true leaves are formed and cover up to this point in soil. 
  • In temperate areas you should sow Broccoli seeds from mid-Summer until the end of August. 
  • Snail damage on young broccoli seedlings
    In really cold areas where winter growing is impossible, try sowing the seed during Spring and growing broccoli as a warm season crop. 
  • In the subtropics green looping caterpillars can be a major pest of broccoli so sow the seed from April to May to avoid their peak period of activity in Autumn. 
  • Broccoli is not suited for growing in the tropics as it is too hot and humid, try growing Asian or other tropical greens instead.
Fertilising your broccoli
Once a fortnight feed your broccoli with a liquid fertilizer; seaweed, manure tea, nettle tea etc.
When your Broccoli is growing always make sure that the beds are free from competitive weeds by hand weeding regularly.
Don’t plant or sow Broccoli in your veggie bed if you’ve grown it before in the past 3 years.
You may get a disease called Club Root that causes you Broccoli plant to wilt regardless of how much water you give it.
  • Remember the acronym. LRLC-Legumes, root veg, leafy then Cucurbits, Brassicas.
Harvest broccoli heads when they have reached maximum size, are still compact, and before the buds loosen, open into flowers, or turn yellow.

Broccoli is not too choosy about the site it grows in but prefers to be in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade with no problems.
  • Growing in too much shade will reduce the size of the Broccoli head.
The ideal soil is a reasonably heavy (not pure clay) which is rich in nutrients and has been well-dug.
Like all brassicas, Broccoli needs a minimum soil pH of 6; but really prefers a pH of 7.
  • Add lime if you need to raise the soil pH.
  • Broccoli is what’s called a heavy feeder, so do add plenty of blood and bone, and decomposed manures by the bucket load before you start.
Broccoli types
Broccoli comes in many shapes and varieties but is grouped into five major strains: sprouting, broccolini, purple, Romanseco, and Chinese varieties.
Today, I’m concentrating on the sprouting variety.
  • Now you probably thought that was what those little shoots of Broccoli are called but you would be wrong.
  • Those little guys are called Broccolini.If you plant the sprouting varieties, they can be continually harvested for up to 3 months.
  • Prepare the ground with plenty of well- rotted manure or compost.
  • Always pick the central head first, because this will encourage the prolific growth of side shoots.
Pick these shoots regularly and don’t allow it to flower, as this will stop production of new shoots.
Broccoli di Cicco
Broccoli seeds are easy enough to get at supermarkets, garden centres and online seed suppliers of course.
Try these varieties
Broccoli green sprouting
An Italian variety, the blue-green head is followed by side shoots for up to 3 months. Harvest in 9 weeks from transplant
Broccoli purple sprouting.
The ultimate cut and come gain vegetable, this broccoli keeps on producing for months.
Not only is it delicious and full of antioxidants; it’s visually spectacular with its wondrous spires of deep purple florets.
You can start picking the shoots in as little as 10 weeks from transplant.
Broccoli 'Green Sprouting Calabrese'
Broccoli 'Green Sprouting Calabrese' is a sweet, mild and tender Italian heirloom broccoli which forms multiple heads.

Did you know that this variety was introduced into English speaking countries by Italian immigrants during the 1880's?
This variety will produce over a longer period of time than singular headed varieties, and is mild in flavour, sweet and tender in texture.
Time to maturity is 6-10 weeks .
All of these varieties will provide months of continual harvest and can even be considered as a perennial plant if you can manage to deal with the influx of cabbage moths that come around as the weather warms up.
When do you pick your Broccoli?
You’ve got to time it just right, and that’s when the cluster of tight buds in the central head is well formed and before the individual flowers start to open.
Make a sloping cut (this allows water to run off), picking a piece that's about 10 cm long.
That way you’ve left a reasonable amount of the plant intact to produce smaller sideshoots or "florets," which you can pick as well.
Great for stir fries.
At this stage, don’t stop feeding and watering the remaining broccoli stem otherwise your plants will go to seed and you won’t get any side shoots.
TIP: If your Broccoli plants starts to flower it’ll going into seed production and you won’t get any more side shoots.
Why is Broccoli good for you?
Broccoli contains twice the vitamin C of an orange.
Did you know that just 100g of Broccoli has two day’s supply of vitamin C (don’t overcook  or you’ll lose some).
Broccoli also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and beta carotene
100g broccoli has 120kJ.
Broccoli also contains magnesium and as much calcium as whole milk.
One cup of broccoli boosts the immune system with a large dose of beta-carotene. 
Great for preventing colds. Don’t underestimate the power of broccoli! 

How to Design For Shady Gardens



This shady garden series is not so much what makes the best shade trees, but what can grow in various types of shade, whether it’s a shady side passage, a shady balcony, or just a shady part of the garden.
Do you have some shade in your garden?
Perhaps it’s a really shady garden because of neighbouring trees or buildings, or perhaps your own trees have grown quite big and created a lot of shade.

Over the next four weeks, Steve and I will be discussing what plants do best in a variety of shady gardens, but today, why is shade in a garden so important?

Shady gardens will provide refuge from the heat in summer. Your garden may be basking in full winter sun right now, but in summer, you and some of your plants will want more shade for cooling.
The leaves take advantage of even the slightest of breezes providing some air movement.
Shade in gardens that is provided by trees has a much bigger cooling effect that say shade sails or umbrellas.
On a hot day, the shade under a mature tree can be up to 10 degrees cooler than the actual temperature but the trick is to find what grows under those shade trees. 
Alternatively, you may be able to lift the canopy so that more light reaches the lower levels or the understorey.
Let’s find out more? I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.

PLAY: Shady gardens intro_14th April 2021


Plants for Shade Under Trees

Shade trees are great, but what can you plant under them that can cope with the root competition and low levels of sunlight throughout the year.

You want something attractive of course and not just a bare area.
In one of my shady spots 

I've attached a birds nest fern (pictured) to the trunk of a silk oak (Grevillea robusta). 

In the same space are many cliveas, which is a bit of  a standout with evergreen foliage and available in more colours than just bright orange, pastel colours such as creams, yellows and white.
The cliveas are around the base of a macadamia tree.

Neomarica gracilis or walking iris, are another perfect suggestion.

Shade in gardens that is provided by trees has a much bigger cooling effect that say shade soils or umbrellas.
Other suggestions this time  for cool climate gardens are Huechera species.  

This shady garden series is not so much what makes the best shade trees, but what can grow in various types of shade, whether it’s a shady side passage, a shady balcony, or just a shady part of the garden.

Let’s find out more ? I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.


Plants for a Shady Balcony, Porch or Verandah

This series is about what you can grow in a shady area around your house or garden.

Balconies or verandah’s look better with plants, but what if they’ve got shade for most or a good part of the day?
This situation is a bit of a challenge , Steve says he gets customers into his nursery that say they have shade in this situation but get some afternoon sun.
Golden can palm is a perfect example for such a situation, plus they provide a fantastic screen.
This palm then provides a microclimate for other containers underneath.

You don’t have to be limited by shade on your verandah or balcony, because there are quite a lot of choices.

Think about a particular look that you like such as a tropical big leafed look, then add a bamboo palm and the fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata).  

Pots or containers that are elevated are a good idea to take advantage of more indirect light.

My favourite right now are hoyas of all types, in fact I’ve started a collection of about 8 so far, with 6 in hanging pots. (pictured right.). The hanging baskets and pole assembly were from Aldi of all places.

Let’s find out what will grow there?
I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.


Plants for a Shady Side Passage

Often there's one side of the house which is quite neglected because it's cold and not much light gets there, and and as much as you've tried, no plants have survived.
It's time to re-look at that side passage, usually the south side of the house, and give it another red hot go.
Steve thinks these are 'little gems.'

Treated in the right way, this could be a turned into a special place.
One suggestion is stone flagging with border plants.
What about some narrow plants?
Viburnum Dense Fence and 
Nandina domestica or sacred bamboo.; there are many varieties of this old favourite.
Some trees will fit.
Blueberry ash , (Eleaocarpus reticulatus)
Steve likes the idea of Japanese maples, (Acer palmatum.) Being deciduous it can take the extra cold in winter especially if there's no light.

Let’s find more of what will grow there?
I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.