Saturday, 26 May 2018

Sweet Peas and All Things Purple

What’s On The Show Today?

What to grow in tight spaces part 1 in the Backyard Biodynamic segment, purple veggies, but why? in. Vegetable Heroes, and plants that suppress weeds in Design Elements, plus the sweetest of flowers in Talking Flowers.


Gardening in Tight Spaces.
More and more gardeners across Australia have downsized and only have only a very small patch of dirt, or just a balcony.
You might only have a window ledge or a couple of steps but you still want some sort of garden.
Pity that apartments weren’t designed to follow the sun, can you imagine if they did?
You might have a beautiful sunny balcony in warm weather but it's dark, and cold in the cooler months. The reverse is true of course.
So what can the hungry gardener do to grow a few plants on their balcony?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Diane Watkin, Principle founder and member of Bioydnamics Sydney.

Diane shifts her pots from one side of the garden to the other every 6 months so she can catch 4-5 hours of sunlight to grow her herbs and veggies in pots.

It’s up to you really as to whether or not you choose plastic pots, some garden centres do accept plastic pots, but I’m not sure what they do with them. 
To keep the heat off your terracotta pots, before planting them up, soak them in water for about twenty minutes.
After potting, wrap an old tea towel or piece of hessian that you have wetted.
Spray the outer material every day when it has dried to keep up the moisture.

Diane has a particular recipe for filling garden pots, however, this may not be feasible, and too heavy for your particular situation. 

Remember, find out the weight bearing load of your balcony before you start filling tip with terracotta pots and garden soil. 

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


Purple Vegetables are Go!

Today it’s about growing purple veggies.
What veggie can you think of that’s purple?
Did you say eggplants and then were a bit stumped? 

  • What about purple carrots and beetroot?
  • Ok beetroot is sort of a reddish purple, but it can be considered purple, I’ll tell you why in a minute.
  • There’s also purple cauliflower and purple sweet potato not to mention purple chilli peppers.
  • Let’s not forget purple podded peas and purple king beans, red/purple mizuna, red Russian Kale, Red/purple cabbages. Need I go on?
  • So there are a few purple veggies out there.

Why should we grow purple veggies and why are they purple in the first place?
They’re purple is because purple vegetables contain pigments called anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red wine.
Think blueberries that are marketed as a superfood.
They also contain other health-promoting pigments such as betacyanins and carotenes.
Those anthocyanins and other pigments are good for our health.
Did you know though that anthocyanins are not the only cause of red colour in fruit and vegetables.
Betacyanins, members of the betalain family, are distinct from anthocyanins and the two pigments are not found in the same plants together.
Betacyanins also have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which contribute to health.
Here are some growing information for some of these purple veggies.

Purple cauliflower
In Arid zones, plant direct into the garden from April until June.

In cool temperate and temperate zones, February was the recommended time to sow seeds but you can sow seedlings until the end of May.
If your district is sub-tropical, transplant seedlings until the end of June also.
Purple caulie is a lovely coloured vegetable that contains all of the health properties of white cauliflower with the added bonus of extra anthocyanin (that lovely antioxidant that's so great for you!).
Just don't be surprised when it turns green once cooked. You can use purple cauliflower in any recipe that calls for cauliflower.

Purple Cabbage.
To sow cabbage, in temperate, sub-tropical and arid districts, March until June is the best time, but temperate and sub tropical districts can have another go from August until November,
In cool temperate areas March until May is best then again in August.
Purple cabbages are not only lovely in colour, but extra good for you with more than double the amount polyphenols than green cabbage.
Purple Vegetables: Shutterstock
Purple Carrots.
Purple carrots can grow year round in subtropical and arid climates.
In Temperate zones, you have from September through to May,.
In Cool temperate districts, September through to February, and in the tropics you can grow carrots from April to June.
Different-coloured carrots carry different health properties. The purple carrot specifically has 28 percent more of the antioxidant anthocyanin than orange carrots.

Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.
This pretty, purple-skinned vegetable also contains some of the most potent antioxidants: phytonutrients found in the skin.
Eggplant is also a good source of iron, calcium and a host of other vitamins.

Purple Potatoes.
Purple Potatoes can be planted August to October, in temperate and sub-tropical districts.
Arid areas August until December is your best time.
In cool temperate zones, September through to January.

These potatoes add more than four times the antioxidants in comparison to regular potatoes, according to reasearch, and score as high as kale and Brussels sprouts in antioxidants.
Purple potatoes were once considered the "food of the gods,

Why are they good for you?
Did I mention the anthocyanins? Of course.
Why grow them? Let's take a look at Cabbages: contain 90% water and are really low in kilojoules.
Also high in vitamin C, you need only eat 100g to get your daily requirement.
They also have dietary fibre, folate, potassium and help balance fluids when you’ve eaten too much sodium-salty foods. 



Plants That Suppress Weeds

We all lead busy lives and want a garden that not so much low maintenance, after all I’m not sure that exists, but want a garden that doesn’t need so much work.
Cyanotis somaliensis
Garden designer Peter Nixon suggests it’s all in the choice of our plants, but our heart often rules over our head and we end up buying plants that need plenty of maintenance.
So what can we do to make gardening tasks easier?
I'm talking withPeter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.
Let’s find out.

Peter mentioned Diclipetera suberecta
Dicliptera sub-erecta syn. sericea – with sage green leaves and orange trumpet flowers;this plant takes sun or shade so it can grow in the hot west or the southern side of the house.
Cyanotis somaliensis-you may have heard it called furry kittens or pussy ears.
Polia cristata - Commelina relative

If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Lathyrus odorota: Sweet Pea: 
Queen of annuals: Sweet pea's history can be traced back to 17th century Italy, when a Sicilian monk, Franciscus Cupani, sent its seeds to England. 

Sweet peas come in over 250 varieties. Annual varieties prefer full sun, regular watering and soil with plenty of humus.
Perennial sweet peas survive in average soils with moderate watering.
Sweet peas are wonderfully fragrant and were originally grown in the fields of Sicily.
Most types grow from 1-5' tall, though some may reach 2m+
Sweet peas are climbing plants that do well on supporting structures.

Growing Sweet PeasT
here are few pests or problems associated with sweet peas, but they are sensitive to too much heat. According to superstition, seeds sown before sunrise on Saint Patrick's day will have larger and more fragrant blossoms. Unlike their edible relatives, sweet peas can be toxic in large quantities.

I'm talking with florist Mercedes Sarmini of 

Recorded live during radio broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2rrr  88.5 fm in Sydney

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Chrysantheumums, Naughty White Birds and Perfumed Climbers

What’s On The Show Today?

Pesky white birds in Wildlife in Focus; what’s the difference between spinach and chard in. in Vegetable Heroes, and plants the hide the fence and climb in design elements; Lastly, beautiful flowers in Talking Flowers.


Little Corella
Some people love them some people hate these mostly white birds that arrive in huge numbers.
They're one of those birds that like to skid to rooves of silos, or swing around telegraph wires or the blades of a windmill.

  • When you see them in flight they do look like a few other similar birds.
  • Can you tell the difference between a Little Corella, and a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo?
  • Let’s find out about these naughty birds. 

I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons Manager of

The Corellas are still a biggish bird, measuring around 42cm long and weighing just under 500 grams.
The distinction is the long beak and the pale pink section between the eye and the beak called the "laws."
The also have a bluey coloured eye ring.
The West Australian newspaper writes
“White corellas will soon outnumber seagulls and will be one of the State's most serious animal pests, causing damage to homes and many businesses, according to wildlife experts.
Department of Environment and Conservation chief zoologist Peter Mawson said the rapidly expanding numbers of the Eastern States native, introduced in WA after pets were released into the wild, more than doubled in the Perth area each year and would continue to do so.”

Rather dramatic and perhaps overstated.
The beak is the dead giveaway if you’re looking up at a flock.
If you have any questions either for me or Holly, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Perpetual Spinach
Beta vulgaris supbs. vulgaris

Not just Spinach but Perpetual spinach
Did you know that Spinach and silverbeet seed was sent out from England in 1787 with the First Fleet but in the new colony they found spinach difficult to grow?

They found growing silverbeet much easier, which is why Silverbeet is sometimes called spinach in Australia, but true spinach has smaller leaves and a much sweeter, milder flavour.

I was asked recently about why perpetual spinach seeds looked more like beetroot seeds?

  • You might be wondering the same thing at home. 
  • The reason I ask is that both spinach and beetroot seeds in seed packets are not just one seed but a clump of seeds 
  • Saying that the perpetual leaf spinach is the same as beetroot seed, is correct because they are very similar. 
  • Here’s the thing; Beetroot and chard are multigerm seeds, meaning that they are actually a cluster of three or four seeds in a corky shell. 
  • Perpetual Spinach is not a spinach at all but actually a type of chard with short stems and large leaf blades; therefore each perpetual spinach seed is actually a dried cluster containing multiple individual seeds. 
  • So then the question came, “ why is it called spinach then?” 
  • Perpetual Spinach is called that simply because it looks like and tastes similar to real Spinach and so that name has become the norm since white settlement. 
  • The scientific Name is Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris. Common Name: Silverbeet 'Perpetual Spinach', 
  • Whereas, true spinach is Spinacia oleracea. 
  • spinach seeds
  • You might be surprised to learn that another name for chard is in fact ‘perpetual spinach.” 

So what’s the difference between Perpeutal Spinach and Chard?

Perpetual spinach or perpetual silverbeet, has smoother leaves than other silverbeet with narrower, greenish stems.
It’s tender with a taste more like English Spinach but it’s hardy and drought resistant.
This beginner-friendly plant is a cut-and-come-again crop that just keeps on giving.
The perfect plant for small but busy gardens
Perpetual Spinach
In all but the coldest districts, you can grow perpetual spinach for most of the year.
The bonus is that Perpetual spinach will continue on through to summer and autumn and possibly even into the following year.
Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
Plant your seedlings/seeds around 7cm apart in rows about 30 cm apart.
For once a vegetable that grows well in partial to full sun.
Spinach seedlings
Perpetual Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil.
  • Using a mulch of straw or grass clippings can help to keep moisture and warmth in the soil plus add plenty of compost and the usual organic matter to so that your spinach will grow well. 
  • Having a worm farm or compost bin really does help your veggie bed no end! 
  • Perpetual Spinach doesn't like acidic soils, a good pH is around 6.3 -6.8. 
  • Add lime to the soil if you need to a few weeks before you put the seeds in. 
  • Spinach like all leafy vegetables is what’s called a heavy feeder –ie, needs lots of Nitrogen to grow well. 
  • If you haven’t already applied Blood and Bone or cow manures to the soil a month or two ago, your soil will run out of nutrients. 
  • During the cooler months of winter, organic matter doesn’t break down that much and to get the needed Nitrogen, applying liquid fertilisers such as compost tea or fish emulsion often will be the best way to go 
  • Another thing to remember is that Spinach grows on shallow roots, so don't dig vigorously around it. 
  • If you get weeds because you didn’t mulch, carefully hand remove them. 
  • Water frequently to keep up with the fast growth of the plants. 
In about 8-10 weeks, your Spinach plant has put on enough big leaves so you can pick them one by one like you might lettuce.
The leaves will keep regrowing for quite a while.
Otherwise pick the whole plant for Spinach pie etc. 

TIP: When you want to store Spinach in the fridge a tip to remember is that Spinach is highly ethylene sensitive.
To stop leaf yellowing don’t refrigerate with apples, or tomatoes.

TIP: Water liberally in dry periods. Unlike true spinach, spinach beet won't bolt when exposed to a full summer sun, but don't let plants flower as this will shorten your cropping season.
Picking off flowerheads encourages the plant to grow leaves, not flowers.

TIP:Possums or even rats may eat the seedlings, so either cover with nets or grow under other plants.
Slugs and snails love young leaves, so set up a slug pub and organise a midnight watch if necessary.

Even if you can't use the spinach in your own kitchen, keep picking!
Give it away if you have too much, just don't saddle the plant with overgrown leaves as this will inhibit its growth.

TIP: Pick to eat and freeze, washed and dried leaves for cooking.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a veggie plot or it’s full up with other things like onions, broccoli, cabbages and the like because Perpetual spinach's is a great veg for container growing on a sunny ledge: thin and pick as and when required.

Why should you grow your own Perpetual Spinach?
Because Spinach is best eaten fresh and it loses nutritional properties every day.
Putting it in the fridge slows the deterioration, but half of the major nutrients are lost by the eighth day after harvest.
Why is Spinach good for you?
The amount of iron in spinach comes way down the list after vitamins A and C, thiamin, potassium and folic acid (one of the B complex vitamins).
Dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach, contain carotenoids.
If you have any questions about growing spinach or any other vegetable write in or email me. 


Stephanotis floribunda photo M Cannon
Useful and Beautiful Climbers to Hide That Fence.

  • Anything you can do to hide that fence in your garden has an expansive effect on your garden and who wouldn’t want their garden not to look bigger.

  • I can’t hear people saying “ My garden looks too big.”

  • They say instead, “ I’ve only got a small garden” then give out a sigh of lost hope.

  • The Stephanotis pictured is growing happily in a tall pot.

  • Let’s find out about them.

I'm talking with Peter Nixon  Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Peter mentioned

  • Dalechampia dioscoreifolia or the Costa Rican Bow Tie vine. 
  • Hibiscus geraniodes, with mauve flowers. 
  • Manettia bicolour or cigar vine and Manettia cordifolia John Ellerslee. 
  • Also for the perfume garden Stephanotis floribunda.
Both of these will suit the smaller garden, but don’t let that stop you planting it in a larger garden.
If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Greek prefix "chrys-" meaning golden (its original colour) and "-anthemion," meaning flower,
Chrysanthemum flower is one of the most popular flower in the world, next only to Rose.
Chrysanthemum flowers photo M Cannon
 There are 10 different flower types which are defined by the way in which the ray and disk florets are arranged.
Pom pom, Anemone (a-nem-mon-ee), spider, single. Semi-doubles,
intermediate curve, irregular incurve-giant flowers, reflex-florets curve downwards, decorative, spoon, quill, Bush, exotic.
Chrysanthemum flowers photo M Cannon
Botanical Bite
Chrysanthemum flowers are composed of many individual flowers (florets), each one capable of producing a seed.
The disk florets are in the centre of the bloom head, and the ray florets are on the perimeter. 
The ray florets are considered imperfect flowers, as they only possess the female productive organs, while the disk florets are considered perfect flowers, as they possess both male and female reproductive organs.

I'm speaking with florist Mercedes Sarmini of

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio program on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Funky Fungi,, Garlicky Garlic and Gorgeous Gardenias

What’s On The Show Today?

Not just ordinary mushrooms but wild mushrooms on the Good Earth segment. Find out why you need to grow your own garlic in Vegetable Heroes, and plants the scramble as well as climb in design elements; Lastly, one of the most aromatic of flowers in Talking Flowers.


Preserving, Pickling, and Drying Wild Picked Mushrooms
If you want to pick wild mushrooms, then you only have one opportunity which is this Autumn.
Where do you go? Any State Pine Forest as they are open to the public.
Take a guide with you if your are new to wild picking mushrooms.
Saffron Milk Caps
 So what do you do with them if you pick 5 kg of mushrooms to take home? 
Let’s find out about this wonderful problem.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska of

If you’re going wild picking, pick the ones with gills underneath, Saffron Milk Caps or ones with sponge underneath, which are the Slippery Jack. 
Slippery Jack Mushrooms
If you’re not sure, go with an experienced guide, like Margaret before you go foraging.
Slippery Jacks by the way taste similar to Porcini mushrooms.
Remember Margaret’s tip: microwave ovens don’t dry mushrooms.
Pickling mixture can be the same as for cucumbers. If you have any questions either for me or Margaret, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Your Own Garlic
Garlic-Allium sativum comes from the Onion family. Alliaceae

You might have guessed that in medieval times, hanging Garlic outside your door warded off vampires.
Not exactly in the same league as vampires but did you know that eating garlic helps keeps mosquitos away?
Growing Your Own Garlic
There’s even a fact sheet from the DPI about growing garlic
There’s also a website devoted entirely to garlic growing in Australia.
I'm talking with Dr Patrice Newell, Manager of Elmswood Farm in the Upper Hunter Valley.

 Dr Newell's farm has diversified into not only growing garlic commercially but also olives, and honey.
Best Tip: Plant out your garlic bulbs before they have sprouted so that the bulb can form roots before the vegetative growth.
However, if your little bulbs have already sprouted, don't throw them away, they will still grow for you. 

Types of Garlic to Grow

Like onions, there are early, mid season and late varieties available.

There are softneck and hardneck varieties.
  • Softnecks are the most common garlics grown, and are the ones found in supermarkets. 
  • Softneck garlic usually doesn’t have a flowerhead and have a longer shelf life (up to 9 months).There’s one called “Italian White” that’s available online. 
  • Monaro purple, and Rocambole- are Hardnecks variety and these do have flowerheads like onions, and usually bigger cloves. 
  • They don’t have as good a shelf life as the softnecks and prefer cooler winters. 
  • Rocamboles have excellent flavour, glamorous red-purple skins and easily peeled, with a single circle of 6-12 plump cloves. 
There’s also the extra large garlic called Elephant or Giant Russian garlic and has a milder flavour but is great for roasting.

This is actually a type of leek that you can get these from some markets that are around or from an online bulb company.
Remember most garlic in supermarkets comes from China and has been sprayed with Methyl Bromide in quarantine.
When to grow
Sow direct in garden where they are to grow.
Garlic grows best when the temperature is between 13º to 24ºC.
That’s why Garlic is traditionally planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest").
You can plant Garlic blubs now in all districts of Australia, including cool temperate.
For cool districts, you’re right on the edge of when you can plant, so don’t delay, plant today.


Beautiful and Useful Scrambler Shrubs
When is a shrub not a shrub?

When it’s a climber shrub or is there such a thing?
You may have even heard of scrambling climbers such as Bougainvillea.
These are climbing plants that have much thicker stems and sort of support themselves partially, in fact I think of them as leaning against a support rather than twining, weaving or twisting into one.
Let’s find out about them.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Peter mentioned Solandra longiflora, which has thick stems but a manageable habit.
Jasminum multipartitum or Jasminum nitidum for a shadier spot. 

There are plenty of scrambling climbers or climber shrubs in the rose family also as well as Pandorea jasminoides, or Bower vine, Hibbertia scandens sometimes called guinea or snake vine. 
Pandorea Jasminoides
If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Gardenia is named in honour of Scottish born Alexander Garden (1730-1791) who moved to Charleston, South Carolina in the 1750’s and was a botanist, zoologist, and physician,
The Gardenia is a group that is made up of 142 species.
The most popular cultivated Gardenia species is Gardenia Jasminoides (also called Gardenia Augusta, Gardenia Grandiflora, Gardenia Schlechteri or Gardenia Florida), commonly known as Common Gardenia .

These are great flowering plants and they are actually going to be found mainly in tropical and subtropical climates.
The gardenia is actually an evergreen shrub, and is one of the most aromatic of garden flowers. The flowers are a waxy creamy white that contrasts with the dark green glossy leaves.
They love heat and are native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australasia and Oceania.

BUT, they’re not the easiest shrubs to grow with “ my gardenia has yellow leaves” being one of the most asked questions on gardening talkback radio.
They grow best in frost free areas north of Sydney and Perth but will grow in Adelaide and Melbourne in a warm spot. 

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio program in Sydney. Unfortunately only the first two minutes came out.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

A Bit of Garden History and Flowers of the Night Sky

What’s On The Show Today?

Is that a pest or disease or not in Plant Doctor?Find out which veggie was discovered by accident in Vegetable Heroes, and flowers that last almost all year in Plant of the Week; Lastly, Give our garden tools a good clean in the Tool Time segment.


Plant Viruses Uncovered
If your plants look unhealthy but there’s no sign of pests or disease, then chances are the plant has a virus.
Rose Mosaic Virus
On the other hand if you have some unusual patterns on your rose and camellias leaves, these don’t harm the plant and are fine to leave alone. 
Viruses that effect edible plants are a different problem all together. 
Let’s find out about this problem. 
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni General Manager of 

Steve mentioned the "tomato spotted wilt virus" which as the name suggests, affects tomatoes, but it also affects 500 other plants!
The Cucumber mosaic virus affects all members of the Cucurbit family, where the rose mosaic virus only affects members of Rosaceae.
How virus's in plants are spread?
`Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus on Basil Leaves
Sap suckers are the usual vectors of viruses in the garden; these include aphids, leaf hoppers, thrips and whitefly are good examples.
Weeds can also harbor these sap suckers so it’s important to keep on top of the weeding.
The weeds can also have viruses in their tissue.
Also don’t forget to disinfect your garden tools after pruning particular plants and buy plants that are certified virus free.
If you have any questions either for me or Steve you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Endive : Cichorium endivia

Endive-the bitter version of lettuce or is it?
Endive is leaf vegetable belonging to the daisy or Asteraceae family, like all lettuces really.
Because it’s in the daisy family ,should your Endive bolt to seed, or you let a few go to flower, you’ll attract beneficial insects to your garden that’ll control your pest population.
Endive is a green leafy plant that looks a lot like frizzy and crinkly lettuce with a slightly bitter taste
Curly Leafed Endive
Did you know that Endive is a cool weather green, because like hearting lettuce, it bolts to seed in warm weather? 

Traditionally lettuce is eaten raw but Endive can be cooked or used raw in salads.

A bit of history

Belgian endive was first produced in 1830, by accident.
The story goes that Jan Lammers, a Brussels farmer, stored chicory roots in his cellar, intending to dry and roast them for coffee (a common practice in 19th century Europe). 
But when Lammers returned to his farm after serving in the Belgian War of Independence, he found that the roots, had sprouted small, white leaves.
Lammers took a taste and found the leaves to be tender, moist and crunchy.

There are two main varieties of cultivated endive:
Frisée or Curly endive, (var crispum) and Escarole or broad leaved endive. (var latifolia.)
Curly Endive has narrow, curly outer twisted leaves that are firm and bitter to taste. The outside leaves are dark green, while the core can be yellow or white.
It is sometimes called chicory in the United States and is called chicorée frisée in French.  
Broad Leafed Endive
Broad-leaf Endive consists of a bunch of thick broad leaves that are coarse and slightly tough in texture.
This type of Endive is eaten like other greens, sauteed, chopped into soups and stews, or as part of a green salad.

Belgian Endive or Witloof Chicory is really quite different to the other types of endive, with a narrow, lightly packed pointed head that looks like a spearhead.
Witloof as I’ve seen it called, ranges in colour from pale yellowish-green to white.
The Real Chicory
But whatever type of Endive you grow, you’ll find that’s it’s dead easy, like a lot of lettuce type vegetables.

If you grow Endive yourself you’ll save money because it tends to be the more expensive of the greens in the supermarket or greengrocer.

When to Grow

  • Are you asking when shall I put in the seeds of Endive ? 
  • For Tropical, sub-tropical and Arid areas, sow your endive seeds from April to July, 
  • In temperate zones, March until May, then again in early Spring, and in cool temperate districts you had March, possibly still try in April, but unless you have a greenhouse of some sort, wait until September, October. 
  • Endive is best planted at soil temperatures between 15°C and 25°C. and should be ready to pick in 10-11 weeks. 
  • Endive seeds are very fine but try and spread the seeds as thinly as possible directly into the garden. 
  • Cover the seeds with a very fine layer of loose soil or seed raising mix. 
  • Water lightly, and keep soil moist. 
  • Thin plants to 15cm apart, in rows 45cm apart. 
  • Tip: Some people sprinkle the seeds on top of a fine soil, and just water them in. 
  • You can start endive in punnets or trays just as you would for heading lettuce and transplant later if you want to. 
  • If you’re doing the punnet thing, spray them daily with a fine mist of water until the seeds germinate, transplanting them about 20 - 30 cm apart 
    Endive seedlings
Like other greens, endive tastes best when it grows quickly and steadily.
Make sure it gets enough water and fertilizer.

Now here’s the tip on reducing the bitterness.

  • Endive has a slightly bitter taste which can add zing to a salad bowl but if you’re not into bitter tasting lettuce, you can take out the bitterness by blanching. 
  • Not in boiling water, but out in the garden. 
  • Blanching is a technique used in vegetable growing. 
  • Young shoots of a plant are covered to exclude light, so that they don’t produce as much chlorophyll, which is that green stuff in leaves. 
  • The result is leaves that are paler in colour. 
  • Blanched vegetables have a more delicate flavour and texture than unblanched vegetables. 
  • You can also blanch your Endive by tying the leaves together when a rosette begins to form or cover with a large pot for about 3 weeks. 
  • Tip: An easy way to blanch your endive is to cut off the top and bottom of a milk carton and pop it over your Endive plant 1-3 weeks before they are ready. That should be about 7 weeks after you sowed the seeds, so put a note in your diary. 
  • That way, the stems will be whitish and not so bitter. 
Why is it good for you?
Endive is rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate and vitamins A and K, and is high in fibre. Endive is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, a great addition to your weight loss program.

Petunia Hot Lips


 Petunias: New Varieties
Some gardener, myself included, have tended to think that these next flowers are mainly for Summer, and get replaced with the likes of Pansies, Sweet Peas and others for the cooler months.
These plants are often sold as potted flower colour, but you can start them off as seed, although be warned, the seed is as fine as dust.
Now there’s heaps of new varieties that are worth trying and will flower for longer.
Let’s find out about them.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Petunia Hot Lips, Potuna and Night Sky are all perennial petunias and ones to watch out for.
Perennial Petunias have the advantage of lasting a few years in the garden as opposed to their annual counterparts.
Interestingly Jeremy mentioned that even though these plants are propagated by tissue culture; in other words are clones, they sometimes change colour on the same bench.
Petunia Hot lips flowers sometimes changes to all white or all maroon, whereas Petunia Night sky sometimes loses its stars! But the stars do come back.
Petunia Night Sky
They have excellent cold tolerance, are renowned for being tough with weatherproof blooms.
If you have a question either for me or the plant panel, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Cleaning Gardening Tools: A Refresher
What do you do at the end of a few hours’ worth or even a day’s worth of gardening?
Do you remember to put the tools away?
More importantly do you give your tools a wipe down to remove all the gum and gunk after pruning?
We gardeners sometimes overstretch ourselves when we’re out in the garden and some of those finishing tasks get neglected.
By-pass secateurs needing a good clean
Let’s see how we can fix all that on tool time. 
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of

Tool time covered sharpening secateurs in a previous segment and you can hear the podcast of that segment by putting in sharpening secateurs in the search bar on
Are you surprised about steel wool not being so good to use on the blades of your pruning tools?
Encouraging rust to grow is not what we want at all so those soft brass brushes are the ticket for giving your secateurs a good clean.
Now that they’re nice and sharp let’s resolve to keep them nice and clean each time we use those pruning tools.
Then we coat the blades with some sort of machine oil based, such as sewing machine oil or even some olive oil.
The silicone based oils dry without leaving a coating so are not that protective of your gardening tools.
Apologies to all those conscientious gardeners, who have the energy to religiously clean first and then put their pruning tools away at the end of the day.
If you have any questions about cleaning or sharpening your garden tools, when not write in or email me

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Gardens, Lavender and Carnations to Fill Our Senses

hat’s On The Show Today?

Join Garden Historian Stuart Read talk about some gardens of note in the garden history segment, find out which veggie is a hiding place for little demons in Vegetable Heroes; spice up your home with these fragrant flowers you can grow in Plant of the Week.;Lastly, a flower that’s strongly linked with perfume in Talking Flowers.



There are a lot of heritage items in Australia that get commemorated by a plaque but how many gardens get the same recognition?

Probably only a handful and these are not even well known.

So the Garden History Society started to take note of some historic gardens and with a local council in Sydney, are recognizing that it’s not just built spaces that make up the fabric of history.

Let’s find out about some of these.

I'm talking with Stuart Read, Garden Historian and committee member of the Australian Garden History Society
These 'garden plaques' celebrate famous gardeners and notable gardens.
Does your local council have a garden plaques program?
If so let us know so we can give them a shout out. 
The Australian Garden History Society has branches in all states and the A.C.T. which arrange local activities and act as advocates for issues which are of interest to the society. 
For further information contact

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


Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family which also includes, cabbage, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi.

Is there one veggie that you have trouble growing?
For some reason, that veggie doesn’t work out to how it looks on the seed packet.
Maybe it’s your environment, think weather or your soil or your regime of fertilising.
It could also be that whenever you try to grow this veggie, hordes of pests descend onto your veggie plot and turn those plants into a horrible version of what they should be?
That’s my lot with Brussel sprouts.
Before we go any further, you may not be surprised to know that Brussel sprouts are one of the most hated veggies in the UK and US.

So why call a veggie Brussel sprouts?

Maybe because it was sold in Brussels' markets in the 1200's, or, maybe Brussels sprouts were named after the capital of Belgium where some say that’s where they were first grown.
Brussel sprouts are also one of the few vegetables to have started off in the northern Europe.
You probably know what a Brussels sprouts looks like - miniature heads of cabbage-about 2.5 to 4 cm. to be precise.
They taste a bit like cabbage, but slightly milder in flavour and denser in texture.
If you’ve ever grown Brussel sprouts, you’ll know that the sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of around 60 to 120 cm tall.
They all don’t mature at once but take several weeks, starting from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.

If you want to grow them well, there’s a few tips that you need to know about.
  • Firstly, when learning how to grow brussel sprouts they need a firm, fertile soil because the main cause of failure (blown buttons) is the opposite, that is, loose, infertile soil. 
  • Those gardeners with a fairly heavy soil have an advantage over those of us with loose sandy soil. 
  • If your soil is loose, then your sprouts will be tasteless, loose and open, and only you’re to blame and not the seed company. 
  • If you’ve got the room to follow crop rotation, then you’ll be planting them where you last planted peas and beans. 
  • If not, dig in a whole lot of compost and cow manure and leave it for a couple of weeks to mature. 
  • AND, because compost, especially home- made compost can be on the acidic side, add some lime to your soil while you’re in the veggie bed. 
  • That old saying “feed the soil not the plant” applies especially to Brussel Sprouts. 
  • Tamp the soil down with the back of your garden rake to make it firm when the soil is dry. 
When to Sow;
For temperate districts, February until May, for arid areas until the end of June, for cool temperate zones, until the end of April and for sub-tropical areas, April seems to the month for you.
To grow sprouts, sow the seeds into seed trays or direct into the garden, or you can buy seedlings from a garden centre, organic markets and so on.
It’s cheaper of course to start from seed.
The seedlings are ready to transplant when they’re 10cm high.
Did you know that you can get early and late cropping varieties?

You can plant out your brussels sprouts either in full sun or partial shade, in fact partial shade is a bit better in warmer districts.

  • Water plants the day before you aim to transplant them into that well-firmed bed that you prepared. 
  • After you have transplanted your seedlings, firm the soil around each plant with your hands or the dibber. 
  • Remember - firm planting helps to grow firm, tight brussels sprouts. 

Tip#3: a better reason to start your seeds off in punnets is that when you transplant your seedlings from pots or seed beds, this encourages a stronger root system to be established in their permanent bed.

Water the young plants in dry weather but unless you have a prolonged dry spell the mature plants shouldn’t need watering.
As the plants get taller make sure you support them so that the strong winds in winter don`t blow them over - tie them to stakes.

Should hordes of pests come a calling, you name it, Mealybugs, aphids, caterpillars and other grubs, use Derris Dust or a liquid concentrate containing Spinosad or Neem oil.
Try eco Neem from  and Success from Yates

When to harvest
When the brussels start looking like they’re ready you don’t have to pick them all at once because, the plant holds the mature buttons for many weeks without opening. 

Ways to eat Brussel Sprouts
To eat Brussel Sprouts, you don`t want those ` sprouts that have had all their colour and crispness boiled out of them.
Try dicing or grating your brussel sprouts raw and serve them up in a salad - go on, be brave!
Most importantly: Don’t overcook your Brussel sprouts; Overcooking Brussels sprouts produces a sulphur-like smell, which is usually what turns people off
Why are they good for you?
Brussels sprouts pack in 4 grams of protein per cup which is high for a veggie,
That same cup will give you 4 grams of fibre but only 56 calories— “
Brussels sprouts can also provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you use a steaming method when cooking them.
Brussels are also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium .
One 80-gram serving of these healthy veggies delivers four times more vitamin C than an orange.
And finally, Brussel Sprouts should be kept cool at all times and eaten before the leaves discolour or they develop a strong smell.

One last anecdote:
If you ever ate Brussels sprouts at home, there's a good chance you cut little crosses cut into the bottom of each one.
Most people assume it is done to speed up cooking, but they would be wrong. The real reason we cut crosses into our sprouts is because of a medieval superstition.
It was once believed that leafy vegetables such as sprouts and cabbages were the hiding places of tiny demons, and eating them would expose you to their evil influence unless you exorcised them with the sign of the cross before cooking—and that's actually not a surprising conclusion if you consider the evil odours Brussels sprouts sometimes inspire. From


Carnations New and Old
Scinetific Name: Dianthus caryophyllus
Did your dad or grandad, grow certain flowers in your garden which you think are too hard to grow?
Well the plant world and it’s bevy of hybridisers have been working garden to make this old fashioned flower new again.
They probably grew the "old school"carnations which grew long and lanky and needed some type of staking to prevent them flopping over.
Let’s find out how to grow the newer varieties.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Dianthus caryophyllus Oscar series.
Carnations love alkaline soil , therefore adding lime to the garden bed will help with any acidic soil problems.
Tip: Not to be grown where Azaleas and Camellias like to grow.
Keeping your Carnations tip pruned will encourage more flowering.

Carnation Oscar is a dwarf growing to 10cm in only 5 colours but designed for the balcony gardener.
Super Trooper and Sunfloor-also a dwarf around 20-25cm in height, with a high amount of fragrance.
In fact it’s hard to choose between what makes carnations special;the fragrance or the flower.
If you have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Lavender, Lavender, Lavender.
Need to relax? Or get a good night's sleep? 
You need cleansing, calming lavender in your life. 
Lavandula angustifolia: English Lavender for cooking

Lavenders are a fabulous, long-lasting cut flower and you can dry them to use in sachets and pot pourri. And by the way, lavender is a great insect repellent.
Lavender is a favourite, whose flowers range from white to deep blue purple and include pink.
You can cook with Lavender flowers but you must use Lavandula angustifolia or English lavender flowers.
The other varieties have too much camphor and will make food taste a little bitter.
Use your Lavender spice flowers in cakes, biscuits, pasta and salads.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers By Mercedes 
 Recorded live during radio broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr 88.5fm in Sydney

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Honeybees, Fragrance and Temptation Seeds

What’s On The Show Today?

Join permaculture guru Margaret Mossakowska talking about beeswax in the Good Earth segment; how best to look after those saved seeds in Vegetable Heroes; brighten up dark corners in the garden with this new groundcover in Plant of the Week.
Lastly, a flower that’s strongly linked with perfume in Talking Flowers.


Beeswax And How To Use It At Home
Honey isn’t just the only thing that beekeepers produce.
Beeswax is a by product of honey making.

So how can we use around the home other than for making beeswax candles?

Let’s find out I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

Margaret mentioned that you can make Florentine Wax tablets with pieces of melted wax in a muffin tray.
Making Florentine Wax Tablets:
Mix in a little coconut oil so you can spread the beeswax better, then add a few drops of essential oils for perfume.
You can even press dried flowers into the top to make them decorative.
Leave them around the house to let off their fragrance into the rooms.

TIP: Did you know that you can also coat things with beeswax, like hand tools, cast iron pieces and shovels to prevent them from rusting out.
You can even rub beeswax on the wooden handle of your shovel to help protect against wear and tear.

NSW amateur beekeepers associations
The ABA currently has 20 clubs/branches around NSW.
There are also a number of areas where new clubs are being started.
If you need any help finding a club near you, please contact the ABA Secretary.
For listeners outside NSW there’s also a national body,
If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Shelf Life of  Packet Seeds

Shelf life of packet seeds.
We gardeners are guilty of buying too many seeds and realise, we just don’t have enough space to grow everything we would like to from seed.

Marketing gurus say that impulse buying is one big factor in seed sales. 
That’s why they make the packets so attractive with those lovely photos on the front of the packet to entice your to buy them.

What to do with all those seed packets?

Shall you throw them into the compost or give them a go?
Now’s a good time to get out your seeds and take a look at the dates on the back usually.
You’ve probably got seeds lurking in a drawer, or maybe you’re more organised and they’re in a storage box.
Firstly let’s deal with how you’re storing your seeds. 

  • If you’re keeping them in the garden shed that gets quite hot in summer, then the shelf life of your seeds is going to drop right down and possibly kill of your seeds. 

  • Never store your seeds in a humid warm or sunny spot. 

  • Seeds need to be kept cool and dry, ideally the temperature should be around 5°C and 10°C. 

  • Keeping them in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge is good but who’se going to have enough room in the fridge for all those seeds? 

  • A dark place somewhere in the garage or laundry that stays cool in summer is the best place. 

When properly stored in a cool, dry place, seed’s shelf life can be extended. - So how long do our veggie seeds last? 

If you want to be really sure that the seeds you’ve got will germinate and you’ve got quite a few to burn, why not do a simple germination test? 

  •  Fold over the paper towel and place in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it; this helps to keep the towel moist and protected. 
  • Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel. 
  • Then put in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the fridge but make sure the spot you’ve picked is away from exposure to direct sunlight. 
  • This can overheat your seeds. 
  • Next, check the seeds often—around once a day—to see if they’ve begun to germinate and to check the moisture of the paper towel. 

  • But don’t keep opening it everyday otherwise your experiment will go mouldy in not time. 
  • Only open the zip lock bag if it needs more water, and carefully mist the towel so it’s only just damp, but not soggy. 
  • Don’t apply too much water. 

I’ve recently heard that adding a drop of tea to the water helps with the germination rate. 

TIP: Your seeds should begin to germinate in several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. A good rule of thumb is to wait roughly 10 days;

We know that the packet comes printed with the expiry date of seeds.

But we want to know can they last longer?

In Australia, seed companies are generally required by law to germination test seeds before they sell them.

These definitely have a very short shelf life.

The longest lasting seeds that I’ve germinated well past their expiry date, let’s say 3-4 years past, without any problem, are Basil, Kohlrabi, Broccoli and Rocket.

But let’s talk in families of plants such as in the Brassicaceae family.
The long lasting seeds here are Beetroot, Silverbeet, Swish chard, Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kale and Broccoli.

Next are those from the Solanaceae family, including tomato and eggplant.

Lastly, the Cucurbitaceae or Melon family.
Long lasting seeds in this family include cucumber, squash and watermelon.

Then there’s those seeds that aren’t so long lived but usually have a shelf life of 3-5 years like lettuce, and possibly parsley. Parsely is one herb that I don’t need to sow anymore.
By leaving a Parsley plant flower and set seed, you’ll have, like me, a continual supply of Parsley year round.
Until a regular visitor to the garden, a ringtail possum, decides they need something to eat in winter.
Then no Parsely. 

There’s also the pea or Fabaceae family.
So yes, peas and beans are on the list.
A few seeds have a relatively short shelf life and are good for one to two years at the most.
These include onions, parsnips, chives, scorzonera and leeks.
That isn’t definitive and depending on who you ask, some will say that they were able to get their 10 year old bean seeds to germinate or some other vegetable.

The "sow by" date is based on the validity of the germination test and is not necessarily an accurate indication of the freshness or shelf-life of the seed.

Of course flower seeds are another category and I don’t have time to mention those other than to say, Pansies, Echinaceae, and Nasturtiums have germinated for me well past their use by date.

Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.



Lamium Mega
Are you after a groundcover for dry shade?
Would you like something with more colour where nothing colourful grows?
Something different perhaps than native violets, dichondra or ferns.
Dry shade tends to be dark, and the main way of enhancing a dark spot is planting something with either pale or white flowers or pale or silver foliage.

Cheer up the gloomiest of corners in your garden with this suggestion.
Let’s find out how to grow it.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Its common name, deadnettle, is unglamorous, but this lamium makes the best ground cover for tricky, shady spots.

Its silver, heart-shaped leaves with a green rim lighten up dreary corners, and the mauve (OK, "Mega Purple", if you must) flowers appear reliably throughout Summer.
This is a ground hugger, though, reaching a height and spread of just 30cm x 45cm
If you have any questions about Lamium mega , either for me or for the plant panel or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Meet Hyacinth Bucket! A bucket full of sweetly scented Hyacinth is this week's star in Talking Flowers with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers By Mercedes. Mr Hyacinth will grace your home with scent and colour for at least a couple of weeks, especially if you grow it from a bulb yourself. Hyacinths can be grown in a special water vase. Colours include red, white, blue, pink, orange, violet and yellow. 

Asparagaceae family.
Hyacinthus orientalis; Dutch or garden hyacinth.
Not to be confused with Muscari which are also called “grape hyacinths.”
You can buy bulbs right now and plant before autumn is over for divine spring fragrance.

TIP: Don't forget to pre-chill them in a brown paper bag in the fridge crisper for 6 weeks. but away from fruits and veg.
This will allow the stems to grow nice and long

I'm talking with florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5fm Sydney