Saturday, 18 February 2017

Having a Shearing Time with Flowers


Shears and Hedge Shears

Do you use a whipper snipper for just about every edging job in your garden?
Are you happy with the results?

Whether you are pruning a Knot  Garden or just a few shrubs you need to know what works best.
Knot Garden-Hatfield House photo M. Cannon
Whipper snippers aren’t so good for areas where you’ve got lots of low growing plants that have crept over your lawn.
If these plants get whippered snippered back, not only does it look ugly, but sometimes these plants don’t recover that well if ever.
The same with electric trimmers. They tend to tear the branches.
So what’s the alternative?
Hedge shears, Grass shears, Topiary shears. Straight blades or wavy blades.
Which is best to use for you?
Let’s find out about hedge and grass shears. I'm talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of

The old saying goes "you get what you pay for" so by investing in quality tools, you’re likely to have less fatigue, fewer breakdowns and longer tool life.

When choosing the type of hedge shears you want, think about how much you'll use them, where you'll use them, who will be using them, and, of course, how much you can spend on them.Wavy and straight blades are interchangeable in their use.
The wavy blades hold the stem of what your cutting rather than pushing it out. 
Wavy blades are no harder to sharpen than straight blades, with various sharpening devices to accommodate them.
There's also no difference in weight between wavy and straight blades. 
The weight is mainly in the length of the handles.
Hedge shears should not be used to cut twigs or branches bigger than a ladies fingers.
Grass Shears

Bigger plant material than that, and the blades will be bowed out which is pretty hard to fix.
There’s no need to use your hedge shears to cut your lawn edges; for that your need grass shears or edging shears because these are perfect for lawn edges.

If you have any questions hedge shears, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Edible Flowers

Have you ever thought of eating the flowers of some of your plants but decided you didn’t know if they were safe?

Why would you eat flowers anyway? Did you know that flowers that are edible are featuring in some of Australia’s top restaurants, including those of violas, baby’s breath, fennel, coriander, peas, rocket and Borage?
Some explanation can be found from the history of edible flowers which can be traced back thousands of years.
Romans used edible flowers such as mallows, roses and violets in a lot of their dishes.
You’ve probably heard of and even eaten capers, but did you know capers (Capparis spinosa) are the flower buds of a Mediterranean evergreen shrub and have been used to flavour foods and sauces for over 2,000 years? 

Edible flowers such as daylilies and chrysanthemums have been used by the Chinese and Greeks for centuries.
In a fifteenth century book of recipes is a list of herbs considered necessary for the garden and include borage flowers, daisies, violets to be used in soup, violets for sauce and gilly flowers (that’s clove pinks to you and me) for drinks."

Seems like eating flowers is nothing new

Which Flowers?

Nobody says you should tuck into a plate of flowers, because that would be too much.
If you suffer from hayfever, then give eating flowers a big miss as well.
Never eat flowers bought at a flower shop or nursery as these may have been treated with harmful chemical
Another warning, not all flowers are edible, and some are poisonous if you can’t identify the flower, then don’t eat it.
Then there are some that aren’t poisonous, but don’t taste nice.
Stick to the ones you can identify from the ones that are mentioned in this segment.

Which flowers are safe?

Well, I’ll talk you through a number of flowers some you might know already.
Back to that question of why are restaurants adding flowers to their dishes?..
Is there something that you eat that’s a tad boring that needs an extra bit of zing and colour?
Ever thought of tossing Nasturtium and Calendula petals into a fresh garden salad, or top a parfait with a couple of violets or heartsease?
Everyone’s heard of stuffed zucchini flowers, and maybe Nasturtium flowers as well. They’re easy to identify.

But what do they taste like?
Nasturtium flowers are sweet with a peppery flavour.
Zucchini flowers taste sweet, with a honey nectar flavour.

What about any others?

Calendula or Pot Marigold tastes a bit like Saffron-spicy tangy and peppery.
Flowers of the herb Rocket are much less peppery than the leaves, but the propeller shaped flowers are delicate, so handle these carefully.

Violets and heartsease taste like sweet nectar and suit desert dishes.

Borage is another one that many people might know already-those bright blue flowers on the blue-green stalks with large leaves that are a bit rasp like to touch. Borage flowers tastes a little like mild cucumbers.
Borage flowers
Pea flowers –guess what, they taste like peas.
What should you do when collecting the flowers and how do you use them in your dishes?
First of all, unless the flavour suits the dish, then there’s no point to adding the flower, so good chefs say.
Take note all you budding Masterchefs.
Looking pretty isn’t enough, it has to enhance the food.
You might use pea flowers with other green flavours, and of course the flowers that taste of sweet nectar are used to lift the flavours of sweet dishes.
Those with peppery or spicey flavours go well in salads.
Less peppery than the leaves.
How to pick your flowers.
Pick your flowers just before you’re about to use them if at all possible.
Check them carefully for bugs, but don’t wash them, because the petals are fairly delicate.
Store them in the fridge in a plastic container covered with a damp paper towel while you’re preparing dinner, or lunch.
Just as you’re about to serve the meal, add the flowers as a final touch.
Sweet flowers can be combined with tea or frozen into ice cubes.
Ground dried petals can be mixed into biscuit pastry or pancake batter for something different.
Some flowers in your vegetable garden you don’t want to pick because they’ll grow into veggies that you want.
So just be selective.
There are others that you need to pick even if you’re not going to eat them because the leaves of these plants become bitter, these are greens including spinach, kale, mustard, bok choi, broccoli, and lettuces,radish and for herbs, basil, coriander, thyme, and mint.

Why are edible flowers good for you?
The flowers contain a portion of the same nutrients that the plant they came from has. Simple as that.
Finally, remember if you’re not sure, to check with a reference book, your garden centre or nursery, before eating a flower to make sure it’s safe to eat.


How To Look After Your Worm Farm? Getting Started.

Still not convinced about worm farms?
Well did you know that in one worm, there is around 474, 075 million bacteria ?
These bacteria do an incredibly important job – mainly making minerals available to your plants.
From the reference “Earthworms in Australia’, by David Murphy,
When compared to the parent soil (the original soil), worm castings (the worm’s poo) have approximately:

7 times the available phosphorous: 6 times the available nitrogen
3 times the available magnesium: 2 times the available carbon
1.5 times the available calcium
So which worms go best in worm farms?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Sophie Goulding, environment project officer with a local council.

Worms like to be kept moist and covered because they're Sensitive to light.
Keep your worm farm in a shady spot so that they don't overheat and on hot days, give them a sprinkle of water.
worms hate light.
The worms don’t create the minerals out of thin air but change their form from insoluble to soluble by digesting them.
That’s reason enough to get into worm farming.


Crucifix Orchid.
Epidendrum ibaguense

For some people, orchid growing successfully eludes them but there’s a reason why.
Most supermarket chains sell the gorgeous and enticing moth orchid, but they’re not for beginners.
If you’ve failed with a moth orchid, (Phalaenopsis  spp.) you need to go for something tough and easy that you can practically throw onto the ground and it will grow.
Let’s find out about this plant.I'm talking with the plant panel- Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Crucifix orchids are constantly in flower and don’t have any trouble clinging to rock, as their roots work their way into tiny crevices and cracks.
Epidendrum ibaguense

Crucifix orchids have tough, leathery leaves along reed-like stems, which can be up to 1.2m long. The clusters of starry flowers appear at the end of each stem and come in red, orange, yellow, purple, white and salmon.

This is the perfect orchid for beginners as they’re incredibly tough and can be grown in any free-draining mix in pots or the garden, or simply tucked into a rockery.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Getting Gardening Under Control


Organic Herbicides vs Inorganic Herbicides

Weed control can be the bane of gardeners’ lives if you have weeds that continually pop up year after year.
Wouldn’t you love to dispatch them quickly without harming the environment, good bugs and wildlife in your garden?

Synthetic herbicides have a greater potential to contaminate surface water so if in the past you’ve succumbed to using systemic herbicides, here’s a good reason why you should put that down and pick up something better.
Let’s find out about what’s new. I'm talking with  Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

The sprays mentioned were those with (a) Acetic acid (vinergar) and salts. (b) Pine Oil based. (c)NEW, "Slasher" based on Nonanoic which is also called Pelargonic acid and occurs naturally as asters in the oil of Pelargoniums.
The advantage of "Slasher" is that it can be used on cloudy days and during winter. Acetic acid sprays rely on sunlight to burn or dessicate the plant you spray it on.
One thing to remember, these are knock down herbicides which doesn’t remain in the soil, so if new weeds come up, you’ll have to spray them again.
Systemic sprays are absorbed into the tissue of the plants like the roots, leaves and stems.
No systemic spray is organic and Glyphosate sprays have been proven to not bye "locked " by the soil and become naturalised. 
Glyphosate should not be sprayed near wanted plants whose root systems might be touching the root system of weed.
If you have any questions Nonanoic acid in weed control, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Fungal Problems on Beans
In the warmest time of the year when the temperature keeps going higher and higher and the humidity is not far behind, some plants in the garden seem to go downhill.
The reason is the humidity escalates fungal problems in the garden even if you planted them the right distance apart and your chose strong varieties.
Today I’m talking about some problems with the common bean.
We all know our beans, Phaseolus vulgaris which belongs in the Fabaceae family.
We love our beans that either grow on bushes or vine-like climbing plants.
Depending on which variety you have, your bean flowers could be white, pink, lilac or purple and the bean pods can be8 – 20 cm long in any colour from green to yellow to black or purple.
Common beans are warm season crops so unless you’re in sub-tropical areas, you can’t really grow them all year round.

Bean Rust
Bean rust
Let’s start of the bean rust which is used by the fungus Uromyces appendiculatus and first appears as small pale spots (lesions), which become yellow with a small dark centre.
These spots get bigger and produce brick-red rust (summer) spores to spread the disease Infection is favoured by ten hours or more of dew or water remaining on the leaves overnight, with temperatures between 17 - 270 degrees C.

As soon as you see symptoms you need to spray with a fungicide containing copper or sulphur. 

Alternaria Leaf Spot
The next problem is called Alternaria Leaf spot or Alternaria alternata.
This fungal problems likes warm humid weather and starts of as small irregular brown lesions or dead patches on leaves which expand and turn grey-brown or dark brown with concentric zones
Alternaria Leaf Spot
As the older areas of lesions dry out and drop from leaves this causes what looks like a holey leaf or shot hole.
Then these dead patches or lesions join together to make large necrotic patches
Disease emergence favoured by high humidity and warm temperatures but plants grown in nitrogen and potassium deficient soils are more susceptible
The best way to manage this problem is to plant beans in fertile soil and use a foliar fungicide that’s registered for the problem. 


Another common fungal problem in warm humid zones is Anthracnose or
Glomerella lindemuthiana.
This is a hard one to beat appearing straight away on the first emerging leaves and looks like small, dark brown to black lesions with oval or eye-shaped lesions on stems which turn sunken and brown with purple to red margin.
Stems may break if cankers are bad enough so that they weaken the stem while pods become dry and shrink above areas of visible symptoms.
Anthracnose on Beans
You might also see reddish brown spots on pods which become circular and sunken with rust coloured margin
Where does the disease come from?
Anthracnose can be transmitted through infected seed and the fungus can survive in crop debris in soil and reinfect crop the following season
If you’ve had anthracnose what you need to do next season is plant resistant varieties; use certified disease free seed and avoid sprinkler irrigation.

Instead, water plants at the base plus remove any bean plant material. 

Bacterial Blight
Lastly a look at something called Bacterial Blight or Xanthomonas campestris and can look like anthracnose to the untrained eye.
Bacterial blight looks like water-soaked spots on leaves which grow bigger and turn brown meaning a dead or necrotic spot on the leaf.
The spots may be surrounded by a zone of yellow discoloration.
Again, like anthracnose the spots join together and give the plant a burned appearance.
Leaves that die remain attached to the plant.
Bacterial Blight on Beans
This disease also shows up as circular, sunken, red-brown lesion on pods, which may ooze during humid conditions.
This disease can be introduced by contaminated seed, plus bacteria overwinters in crop debris.
Bacterial blight likes warm temperatures and the spread is greatest during humid, wet weather conditions. 

What can you do if you think you have this problem in your beans?
Plant only certified seed; plant resistant varieties; treat seeds with an appropriate antibiotic prior to planting to kill off bacteria; spray plants with an appropriate protective copper based fungicide as a preventative, before appearance of symptoms.

Rob's Beans  
Lastly, from an email, Rob says his bean plants were growing poorly, meaning they were stunted and not many beans.
When I asked Rob to test the pH of his soil, he was surprised to find that it was pH 5, so very acidic.
Now Rob has to apply garden lime or dolomite to bring the pH back to neutral which is around pH .
Just goes to show that you can manure your garden bed, add lots of compost and still have over time, quite acidic soil.
You can’t beat that pH test.


Worm Farms Series Part 1-All About Worms
Quite a few people are still not sure about whether or not they should invest in a worm far.
Is it too much work, where do you put the worm farm, and will it attract vermin are some of the questions that emerge?
But you can get away from the fact that a worm farm is a fantastic way to minimise food waste by turning your organic kitchen waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser for your plants and soils.
So how do the worms do it?

Let’s find out. I'm talking with Sophie Goulding, environment project officer with a local council.

Worms don't have eyes, but have areas or spots on their skin which sense light.
B because worms dislike light, you need to keep them in a shady spot and covered.
Worms have up to 7 hearts but if you cut a worm in two, the back half will die and possibly the front half as well.
Worms start of as tiny eggs the size of a fertiliser prill.
Out of each egg, 5-7 worms will hatch out.
Keep your worm farm moist but not overly wet. worms don't like to dry out, but if your district experiences heavy rainfall, check the worm farm to make sure that your worms haven't drowned.
We’ll continue the series next week but just to remind you that compost is a soil conditioner but worm-improved compost is a slow release fertiliser and biostimulant as well.


Peppercorn Tree Schinus molle var. Areira

Large trees provide lovely cool shade in the heat of summer and what’s not to love about a tree with drooping ferny leaves that keeps you cool?
You see these trees on rural properties lining the driveway leading to the home, but should they be grown at all?
Peppercorn Tree
Let’s find out about this plant. I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
The Peppercorn tree is evergreen and grows to about 10 metres.
Bear in mind that this tree spreads readily by seed; is invasive in a variety of habitats including grassland, woodland and riparian areas; and is regarded as an environmental weed in most Australian states.
The berries from the peppercorn tree have been dried and ground for use
as pepper, but are not the source of traditional pepper.

Peppercorn tree.

From Grow Me Instead choose an Acacia, or Eucalyptus torquata.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Scarlet Flowers on Trees and Cleaning Naturally


Natural Cleaning in the Home

A lot of gardeners like to go organic because it’s good for the environment, safe for beneficial insects and it’s also good for our health because we’re not eating pesticide residue.
But what about inside the house?
We’re still cleaning with toxic chemicals whose manufacturer’s instructions tell us to wear face masks and gloves.
Some of these chemicals are so harsh that their smell is enough to make one feel sick.
Not only that, the whole production process uses derivatives from oil or from mined sources.
Let’s find out about what else you can use to clean your house.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, President of Permaculture North.

Switching to natural cleaning options is an important part of creating a natural home. Natural cleaning options can save time, money, and reduce chemical exposure.
The best tip is bicarb soda and vinegar to clean most things.
Vinerage is a mild bleach and can be used to clean the kitchen bench top, bathroom surfaces and even the toilet.
To clean your oven just mix a little water with bicarbonate of soda and place on the grease spots.
Wait a few minutes, then spray with vinegar.
This will foam up and lift off the grease.
You can use normal white vinegar.
There’s also citrus infused vinegar.
All you do is fill a jar with (organic) citrus peels and pour undiluted white vinegar over them. Leave for a few days (up to 2 weeks) and strain out the vinegar to use as a natural cleaner. It works as a window cleaner (dilute with water), for mopping floors, or for disinfecting surfaces.
Isn’t that what people used to do in the olden days?
Funny how some things come around to again.
If you have any questions about the right tool for the right job, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Celeriac or Apium graveolens var rapaceum
Ever heard of the ugly duckling of the vegetable world?
I could think of several but Celeriac or Apium graveolens var rapaceum has been described as the ugly duckling of vegetables, or just plain ugly.
But if you don’t think of vegetables as pretty or ugly, don’t be put off by all that talk because it’s pretty useful to have in your garden.
Celeriac is closely related to celery even though itlooks nothing like it.
The early Greeks called celeriac, selinon and it’s mentioned in Homer's Odyssey in 800 B.C.,
That means, Celeriac has been grown as an edible plant for thousands of years.
But it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that celeriac became an important vegetable .
From that time on, it spread from the Mediterranean, finding its way into Northern European cuisine.
Celeriac looks like it might be the root of something, but it actually is the swollen stem.
The usual size you see in the supermarket is roughly 10cm, a very pale brown, rough, almost acne’ed looking ball with lime green tops.
The green tops look a bit like celery, and the smell is similar but a bit stronger.
The thick, rough brownish skin covers a creamy white, crisp inside that’s slightly hotter tasting than celery.
Celeriac also grows more easily and keeps longer than celery, making it an excellent winter vegetable.
You also don’t have to do any of that blanching the stems as they’re growing like you do with celery.
When to grow it?
In sub-tropical areas you can sow the seed in March, April and August.
In arid areas, you’ll have to wait until next Spring and in most other regions of Australia, you can sow the seed in Spring, Summer and Autumn, except for the tropics. It’s not really suited to that region.
But should you be listening somewhere in tropical Qld, and have grown Celeriac, please drop us a line about your success.
Celeriac is best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 21°C.
Hot summers won’t suit this plant. Wait until this hot weather takes a break or start the seeds off in punnets.
Tip:Celeriac seeds are a bit hard to germinate, but if you soak the seeds in a saucer of water with a splash of seaweed solution, this will help the germination rate.
Like a lot of members of the Celery family, Celeriac likes soil that has plenty of organic compost and manures, otherwise, it’ll bolt to seed.
If you start your Celeriac seed in punnets, you can control the moisture content of the mix more easily rather than in the garden bed.
Transplant when there’s at least 4 leaves.
Celeriac loves wet soil. You can’t water it too much, and a thick layer of mulch will help in keeping the soil moist.
If you don’t water it enough you might get hollow roots or the plant will bolt to seed.
Keep the weeds down as well because celeriac doesn’t compete well with weeds, but don’t disturb its shallow roots.
As the root develops, snip off side roots and hill the soil over the developing root.
Side dressing periodically during the growing season with an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen, like chook poo, is also helpful, but don't overdo it, otherwise you’ll get lots of leaf, rather than root, growth.
Celeriac, like many "roots", is a long-season, cool-weather crop;
slow-growing, taking around seven months from seed to maturity (that is, about four months from transplanting), although the root is edible at any earlier stage.
As a rule, the longer you leave celeriac in the garden, the larger the root gets; some say they don’t really get woody when large, while others say dig them up when they’re small (10cm diameter) –
And again, some say celeriac is frost-tender, while others say a few light frosts won't bother it.
I’ve heard that "celeriac increases in flavour after the first frost.
You can leave them in the ground over-winter, harvesting as you need them..
One other thing, some recommend drawing soil up around the stems in early autumn, to blanch them; but that’s entirely up to you and I tend not to bother.
When it grows, the swollen Celeriac stem tends to push itself out of the soil, sitting just a few centimetres of soil level.
If it doesn’t do that for you, you might have to give it a helping hand, and scrape away some of the soil towards the end of the growing season.
Apart from the long growing season, pests don’t seem to like Celeriac, so a bonus.
No spraying needed.
What do you do with this vegetable?
Whatever you do with potato you can do with celeriac.
You can also eat it raw. –can grate it or cut it into thin strips or cubes, and to serve it as a salad seasoned with a dressing.
Celeriac can also be cooked, either on its own or together with other vegetables.
It makes a good puree mixed with potatoes, but best of all, it makes a non-starch substitute for tatoes.
Why is it good for you?
Raw celeriac is an excellent source of potassium and a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron.
Cooked celeriac is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
celeriac is said to be diuretic, demineralising, and a tonic, and stimulates the appetite and cleanses the system


Illawarra Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius
Do you need a fast growing tree or large shrub but not a Grevillea and it needs to be a native so it’ll attract local native birds?
If you do, then you can’t go past this one then because it’s a robust native tree, it’s only partially deciduous and has spectacular red flowers from early summer through to autumn.

rachychiton acerifolius photo M Cannon
Let’s find out about this plant.
I'm talking with the plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

This tree grows to around 10 metres plus in the home garden.
In a "good year" the Illawarra flame tree is arguably the most spectacular of all Australia's native trees.
Flowering  is usually in late spring  where the tree drops its leaves first.
This tree has large seed pods which if you’re a keen propagator, you can easily germinate the seeds.
Bear in mind though that flowering may take around 5-8 years from seed.
This tree is a food plant for the larval stages of the Pencilled Blue, Helenita Blue, Common Aeroplane and Tailed Emperor Butterflies.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Figs and Strawberries Are Just Divine


Designing a Vegetable Garden part 4: Terms Explained.
The debate is over according to the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden in South Africa.
You can pronounce Clivea-that’s rhyming with Clive or you can pronounce it Clivvea like give.
They’re both acceptable pronounciations of that plant.
But what about other gardening terms and names?
Pronouncing them is one thing but what do they all mean?
We’re going through a few terms in this next segments so let’s find out…
Vegetable Garden of Lyn Woods in Ulverston, Tasmania. photo, owner/
I;m talking with Glenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist

Some of the terms that were talked about were 'crop rotation, Mandala garden, and no dig garden.
Crop rotation has a basic idea that you do not grow the same plant in the same spot every year – you have separate beds laid out with different plantings in each year.
Why do you do this?
The main reason is that you don’t want to deplete the soil of the same nutrients every year – for example cabbages will take in the same nutrients each year and then those nutrients will no longer be in the soil.  
It also means that you may reduce the impact of soil born disease getting established for example the same virus,  insect or fungus might attack the one species and if you continue to plant same species there number will increase in the soil as you are giving them what they are already attacking
Almost back to the principles of biodiversity.
What is an example of a crop rotation plan?
The aim is to not plant same species in the same spot each year – the first year you could use plants in the legumes family such as peas and beans this have nitrogen fixing bacteria within their roots – this means you can leave their roots in the ground after cropping and they can then provide nitrogen for the next group of plants such plants the brassica family …which require high levels of nitrogen such as broccoli, cabbages, kale.  Then the 3rd year you can use plants which don’t require much nitrogen such as root vegetables – like carrots or potatoes and beetrootsIf you’re new to gardening then concentrate on starting off with a small plot.
You can buy ready made gardening troughs or planter boxes that fit the bill, or you can use large Styrofoam boxes, put in some drainage holes and fill them with a good quality potting mix but not gardening soil.
You can even have a veggie garden made entirely of pots with lettuce, basil, tomatoes and perhaps some chillies.
If you have any questions about designing a veggie garden, write in to


This weeks Vegetable Hero is Today’s vegetable hero is Strawberries or Fragaria x ananasa.
Did you know that Fragaria means fragrance in Latin?

Strawberries aren’t actually berries because true berries have seeds inside them.
And as every schoolkid will tell you, strawberries have seeds on the outside, and usually about 200 of them!
So what are strawberries exactly?
Did you know that Strawberries are sometimes called an accessory fruit or false fruit because of the seeds being on the outside?
Strawberry display at Chelsea Flower Show photo M Cannon
Fragaria vesca or the Alpine strawberry is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere. 
Botanists think this was probably the ancestor of the garden strawberry of today.

Would you believe that there’s archaeological evidence suggesting that people ate strawberries as far back as during the Stone Age?

The first people to grow strawberries as a crop were the Persians in ancient Persia.
The Persian-called their strawberry plants - Toot Farangi.
By the 18th century Fragaria x ananassa had replaced the alpine strawberry because of the larger berry or fruit.
How about this? In parts of Bavaria, some people still tie small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves each Spring.

The Bavarians believe that because the elves love strawberries so much, they will help to produce healthy calves and lots of milk in return.
Strawberries have seeds on the outside photo M Cannon
When to grow?
It’s probably not the right time of year to grow plant out strawberries in many districts, but if you see them for sale as potted strawberries, because you surely will, you can plant them out in January.
For all sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones you can plant strawberries now, but you’ll get advice that May and June are the best planting times.
For cool mountain districts, October and November are your best planting times.
They’re frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants.
So what are the strawberry plants’ requirements?
Strawberries are short-lived herbaceous perennials, meaning plants can produce for 2-3 years.
Did you know that commercially strawberries are grown for only one season and replanted each year to keep up the yield levels? Strawberries Growing Pattern
The pattern for most strawberries is flowering in spring, set fruit in late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter.
At this time of year you will be able to get the ever bearing varieties which give you a second crop in autumn.
If you planted your strawberry plants, in last autumn and winter, they should’ve flowered already and you’ll be telling me that you’ve been enjoying strawberries with cream already.
But why not plant some more plants for Autumn strawberries?

What do Strawberry plants love?
Not sure what they like? Well…Strawberries love at least 6 hours of sun a day and will grow in most soils but strawberries prefer a sandy loam that is deep and contains a lot of organic matter.

IMPORTANT: When planting a strawberry plant, make sure that about a third of the crown is above the soil. If you plant too deep or shallow the plant might die.
Strawberries have 70% of their roots located in the top 8cm of soil.
By mulching the soil, it helps to keep the roots from drying out and will prevent the plant from drowning in boggy soil.

This means that if growing your strawberries in the garden, you need to grow them on mounds to improve drainage and you will also need to put down a thick layer of mulch such as hay, pea straw or sugar cane to prevent the berries from touching the soil and rotting.

Mulch as you should now, also prevents the soil from drying out too much.
Potting soils usually have the right mix if you’re planning on planting strawberries in a container.
In that case, add an extra inch or two of fresh compost either to the mix before filling the pot or to the surface of the potting mix.
I would also recommend adding some coco peat into the potting mix to increase water holding capacity.
The idea behind strawberry pots is good in principle but in practise I find it needs careful attention because the plants dry out too much.
And you know strawberry pots have several holes in them to cater for about5-6 plants.
Strawberry pot photo M Cannon
TIP: Attaching your pots to a dripper system and putting a saucer under the strawberry pot will save your strawberry crop this year.
Also make sure you water the plants, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry spells.
Strawberries prefer a moist environment.
Avoiding overhead watering will reduce fungal disease; drip irrigation or a 'leaky pipe' is best.

They're technically a perennial so live for a few years producing fruit. Plants will usually fruit best in their second year of planting and will need replanting with new runners by their 2nd to 3rd year.

After 3-4 years (or even sooner) the plants usually become diseased and die.
And don't forget nurseries do sell certified virus-free stock, and that's the safest way to grow new strawberry plants.
Feeding Strawberry Plants
To feed your strawberries, sprinkle a small handful of complete fertilizer (such as tomato food, organic pellets, fish emulsion and any stuff which is high in potash) around each plant when it first comes into flower, and water well. Liquid seaweed fertilizer once a fortnight will not go astray either.
Keep a close eye on the plants as flowering begins as the birds and possums are just as keen on strawberries as we are. You may need to net the strawberry bed. Slugs and snails can also seriously affect the crop so place snail traps in the bed.

Slugs and snails can be a problem, so lay beer traps, lay protective barriers (like lime or sawdust) or get out with a torch at night to get them.
TIP:Make sure your berries are fully red before picking them because they don't get any riper off the vine.
Cut the stem above the berry with scissors.
Summer time care of Strawberries
Over summer, strawberry plants send out runners. These modified shoots can be used to propagate new plants but if you don't need new plants, cut these runners off.
After fruiting has finished, tidy up the bushes by giving them a hard prune down to 10cm.

Stick 'em in the fridge soon after picking the strawberries and don't wash the strawberries until just before you want to eat them.

Strawberries don't last, and the extra water on them causes their cells to break down more quickly.

TIP: Wash the berries and pat them dry before removing the stems. That way you avoid excess water entering the berries from the stem end.

Use the berries within three or four days.
To really feed a family you need about 20-30 plants to provide plenty of fruit, but even a couple of plants can be fun to grow.
Strawberry Varieties
Varieties include Redlands Crimson was developed in south east Queensland so it does very well in subtropical climates sending runners everywhere.
Tioga's - is better suited to a cooler climates.

Summer strawberry varieties include Cambridge Riva for the intense flavour,
Chandler has huge berries and grows in all climates, Hokowase are wedge shaped and very sweet.
Kamu has blood strawberries from summer to autumn.
Torrey has medium sized sweet fruit and is best suited to warm climates
For Ever- bearing varieties, the autumn crop is the biggest and you can choose from Tempation which doesn't send out runners so it's great for hanging baskets and Sweetheart is very sweet to taste – an everlasting variety also have their fruit set in autumn .

Why are they good for you? Growing your own strawberries is much healthier because strawberries are ranked third out of 50 popular fruits and vegetables that retain pesticide residues.
Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fibre, folic acid, and potassium
From only half a punnet of strawberries you'll get more than 100% of your daily needs of Vitamin C, and 5.5g fibre in if you eat the whole punnet of strawberries that's about 20% of your daily fibre needs.
Did you know that eating strawberries, which are rich in nitrate, can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by 7%?
This prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.
Strawberries are also low in kilojoules, meaning you can eat 2 cups as one of your daily fruit serves!



Edible Figs: Ficus carica

Know to Egyptians as the “tree of life,” this fruit tree is small enough to fit most gardens.Better still these trees ( figs) don’t need pollination for you to get the fruit.

Fig tree at jeremy's nursery. photo M Cannon
Let’s find out more.I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Ficus carica is an Asian species of flowering plants in the mulberry family, known as the common fig (or just the fig).
Native to the Middle East and western Asia
Fig trees develop sweet seedless fruits without fig wasps
Figs fruit should be picked when they are slightly soft to the touch and smelling sweet. Although according to some fig connoisseurs, pollination produces a more delicious fig with a superior nutty flavour due to the seeds.

Figs will NOT continue to ripen once they have been removed from the tree, so pick them when you need them and handle them with care as they can bruise easily

Care and problems
Figs really do have few problems if given a good start in life.
Expect to start harvesting your luscious, sun-ripened figs 2–3 years after planting.
Most varieties produce two crops a year when in full swing.
The first crop grows on the previous year’s wood and ripens in summer.
The second crop forms on new growth and ripens in autumn.

Most of the figs we grow don’t require a pollinator to set fruit, however you will need to fend off the birds. Netting is probably the best method but do check nets regularly to rescue any trapped birds, lizards or other animals.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Princettias and Autumn in Japan


 Vegetable Garden Series part 3-the planting stage.
Living in a particular place in Australia means that you have a particular climate and also means that if you’re into gardening that you need to know which climatatic zone you are in.
Some books suggest different zones to what you think you are in and in can be a bit confusing .
But it’s important to newbie gardeners to know what climate zone they’re in because it determines the type of garden you’ll have and the plants that you’ll grow.
We’re going through a few basics in this next segments so let’s find out.
Private vegetable garden of Lyn Woods in Ulverston Tasmania
I'm talking with Glenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist.

If you’re new to gardening then concentrate on what does well in your area.
Check the Bureau of Meteorology, local gardening groups and local newspapers to build a better picture of your local area.
In Australia we have 4 very broad climatic zones …
Hot tropics/subntropics
Cool Temperate
Arid areas
Hot Temperate
Very broad zones and then within these zones there are microclimates dependent on elevation and proximity to the coast. 
The higher you are the cooler the temperatures and the coast will keep temps more moderate – not as extreme.
These do get broken down into semi arid/arid climates, dry temperate and so on .
Of course every garden has its own microclimate depending if you live in a valley or on a hilltop.
How are vegetable classified or divided up?
Vegetables are basically divided into warm season and cool season
Warm season crops grow best when average temperatures 20 degrees
Cool season crops – best grown below 20 degrees
What are some examples?
Warm season
Tomatoes, sweet corn, French and runner beans capsicum, eggplant, cucumber,
 Cool season
Cabbage broccoli fennel cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts spinach, and peas.
If you have any questions about designing a veggie garden, write in to


Aubergines or Eggplants
This weeks Vegetable Hero is eggplants, aubergines to some and Solanum melongena to botanists.
Did you think that eggplant was a vegetable or a Fruit?
Yes, the eggplant is botanically a fruit, although the plant is used almost exclusively as a vegetable.
The eggplant is, or Solanum melongena, a member of the nightshade family closely related to the tomato and potato.

When you hear the words the night shade family you often think of “deadly”, and the reason for this is that the leaves and flowers of plants in the nightshade family are often poisonous.
So don’t forget that you can only use the “fruit” from this plant, which is the eggplant.

Did you know that the first eggplants to reach Europe during the Middle Ages were actually a rare white species, with oval fruits that closely resemble a hen’s egg?
No surprise that they began calling it eggplant even when other colours became popular.

The eggplant was once known as the “love apple” in England because it was thought to possess aphrodisiac properties. 
Without fail, everytime I hear that, I think that most vegetables and herbs were at one time considered an aphrodisiac at some point in history!
The eggplant is native to India and eastern Asia, and has been around for ages.
.Japan even has a proverb about eggplant:
“The happiest omen for a New Year is first Mount Fuji, then the falcon, and lastly eggplant.”
A Basic Guide for Growing Eggplants 
Eggplant is a short lived perennial plant that is usually grown as an annual. Eggplants grow best when the temperatures are at least 250C or above.
Eggplants or aubergines particularly resent frost and so far my plants from previous years never survive the cold and I have to start all over again.

Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in Spring to Autumn in tropical areas, Spring to early Summer in temperate zones, October to January in arid areas and September through to December in cool climates.

Tip for cool temperate zones: A bit late for this year but next year but next year plan to start your seeds 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date.
That will allow your plants enough time to become sturdy.
Eggplants have to have full sunlight or they simply won’t grow well.
Any spot that gets about six to eight hours of full sun (meaning no shady plants or structures nearby to block the sun) would do well.
Give your eggplants a reasonable amount of space-each eggplant seedling should be spaced a minimum of 40cms apart from one another.
You’ll probably have only room for a couple to see how you go.
Mix some pelleted chicken manure, or blood’n bone and compost in with the soil before planting your eggplants.
Eggplant flower
The seedlings don’t need to be planted too far into the ground. Just enough so that the soil covers the roots is fine. 

After the seedlings have been transplanted, give them a little water and leave them to grow.

TIP:Don’t overwater your eggplants as they are susceptible to root rot.
Research the different types of eggplant before choosing the species you want to plant, as some of the larger varieties will require a stake to help lend support as they fruit.
Make sure to add a little mulch to the top of the soil to help keep moisture in the soil.
Good idea for areas that get quite warm or are prone to drought.
Ready for picking in about sixty days, you should notice the fruit popping up on your eggplants.
As eggplants are the tastiest when they are young, most people prefer to pick them when they are about one third of their potential size.
When you pick your eggplant fruit is really up to you. As soon as the “skin” of the fruit is glossy, it is typically ready to be picked.
If the skin has turned brown then you’ve waited too long to pick the fruit.
They come in many colours besides the purple variety, there are white and yellow varieties, and a dwarf species whose fruits grow only three or four inches long. 

Why not try ROSA BIANCA?
Vigorous Italian heirloom variety, heaps of fruit that are rosy lavender and white heavy teardrop shaped fruit with a mild flavour.


Beautiful red-orange fruit, round to 7.5cm, lots of fruit in 65-85 days.

For cooler districts, why not try the funny soundying UDUMALAPET

Yellow-green teardrop shaped fruit with vibrant lavender stripes, best eaten small at 8cm.

A peculiar variety called the snake eggplant produces narrow, elongated fruits up to a foot in length with their ends curled up like a serpent’s tongue.
Why is it good for you?

Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fibre, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1). It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.

They are an excellent food to aid in weight loss, being low in calories and fat. Eggplant is a nutrient dense food, which will help you feel full, and there are only 20 calories in one cup in eggplants.

,. Go the eggplant.



Autumn in a Japanese Garden and Ephemeral Plants
In Australia, only some parts of the country have defined seasons.
In other parts, sometimes it feels like there are only two season, slipping from winter to summer, cold to hot, wet to dry.
In Japan, there are definite seasons, and they are celebrated not by just visiting the spectacular parks and gardens, but by the food that is consumed by the Japanese.
Every thought of eating a fried maple leaf?
Chantelle Leenstra in Japan (Own photo)
That's only some of the delights on offer when visiting Japan in Autumn.
I'm talking with Chantelle Leenstra, Prinicpla of Garden Atelier, Garden Designer and Public Speaker about her recent trip to see Autumn in Japan.

Not all areas of Australia have defined seasons.
However, if you want to celebrate a change of seasons you can grow plants which only flower in specific times here are some of our suggestions.
For cool temperate districts, Japanese Maples and Cherry Blossoms, Nerines, Oriental Lilies, and Tree Dahlias.
Golden chalice vine
For temperate gardens, Day Lilies,Golden Chalice vine (Solandra maxima), Canary Creeper(Senecio timoides)and Snake vines,( Hibbertia Scandens) plus Golden Rain tree (Koelreutaria paniculata.)
Tropical zones: Poinciana tree, and Frangipanis. Check out the facebook page of the Frangipani Society of Australia.


Poinsettias Princettia
This next plant’s leaves was used by the Aztecs to make red dye and the plants’ milky white  sap  was also used to treat fevers.
Poinsettia Princettia Soft Pink
For some reason this next plant is considered a must have at certain times of the year.
The bloke that this plant was named after also founded the Smithsonian Institute in America.
What is it? Let’s find out..
I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

The ponsettias that you see for sale have been tricked into flowering in the summer months when they would prefer to flower when nights are long and days are short.
In America they're cheap as chips with plants selling for $US1 on 'Black Friday."
Here in Australia, plant growers have to provide a greenhouse with thick block out curtains to provide that 12 hours of darkness Poinsettias need to initiate flowering.
Then for the 'old school" varieties, they need to be sprayed with a dwarfing compound which is quite toxic, requiring the nurseryman/woman to suit up in protective clothing.
With all that extra effort, Poinsettias are that much more expensive to buy here.

Did you know that also in America Congress honor red Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day which commemorates the date of his death in 1851.
Poinsettias can be grown south of Brisbane right down to Coff's Harbour, and north of Brisbane they will grow as far as the land extends, although they can be difficult to grow in frost prone areas west of the coast.
They can also be grown in warm parts of South Australia and in Western Australia's coastal regions, particularly in the north.
If you have any questions about growing Poinsettias, why not write in to

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Summer Squash and Mouthewatering Blueberries


War on Weeds part 1. 

Physical and Cultural weeding practises.
Why is it that if you have strappy leaved plants in your garden, then grassy weeds colonise that plant just so you don’t notice them?
It’s not until those weeds start showing their seed heads that you realise that there’s a weed growing amongst that clump of daylilies or agapanthus.
Weeds sprouting in your vegetable garden include clover, petty spurge and panic veldt.
Then sometimes you just have to get down to ground level to see how many weeds have infiltrated that garden bed that you thought was thick with plants.
What can we do about them.
Let’s find out I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general Manager of

Not only do they look unsightly put the weeds are stealing sunlight, water and nutrients from your precious plants, plus they're harbouring pests.
Often pests overwinter on your weeds ready to jump onto your plants when Spring arrives.
Hand weeds of course is great for small areas but for larger areas, perhaps hoeing or solarisation using black plastic is beneficial.
That old saying of 1 years seed gives 7 years weed holds true.
If you’ve just put away all your garden tools and cleaned up and then notice that clump of onion weed that’s in flower, the best thing to do if you haven’t got time or are just too tired is snap off those flowers.
Stopping the seeds from forming is a good start and the weed will still be there when you next get out into the garden.
If you have any questions pruning saws or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Summer Squash-Cucurbita pepo
Summer Button Squash is the yellow or green saucer shaped members of the Cucurbit family that includes pumpkins, melons and zucchinis. Cucurbita pepo.

If you don’t like the taste and texture of Button Squash, some even call patty pan squash, maybe you need to buy a different variety to zhuszh up your taste buds.
Did you know that squash comes from a native American word which means eaten raw or uncooked?
No surprises that archaeologists have traced squash origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500 BC.

In terms of nutrients, button squash give bananas a run for their money.

Button squash are small veggies that look a bit like space ships with scalloped edges.
It’s a twining vine with large, broad, spiny, lobed leaves and an angled, prickly green stem.
Its yellow flowers are either male or female and the female flowers, after fertilisation, grow those little buttons.
They grow to between 3 and 5cm in diameter and although come in other colours, the most common are the pale green and the bright yellow ones.

The inside of the squash is pale white and the whole squash is eaten cooked, including the skin and seeds.

Button summer squash, particularly the yellow button squash, is a warm weather squash preferring temperate climates with a well drained soil.

When to grow squash.

Squash can be grown all year round in hot, subtropical climates, from spring onwards in temperate zones and only in early summer in cool temperate regions.
As for arid zones, from Spring until early Autumn.
For tropical areas, summer squash is a bit of a misnomer because for you, growing squash is only during the dry season.
So squash can be grown somewhere in all parts of Australia right now.
In fact, did you know that Squash is grown in all horticultural production
areas including Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia,
Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania?
Squash like to spread out, but will follow a trellis if the vines are tied to one.
Seeds can be planted individually into small holes or planted on small mounds, three to five to a mound.
This can take up a lot of space, but one squash plant can produce a lot of squash. Unless you’re feeding an army only plant one or two mounds of squash then.

Flowers on Squash, where are they?

Squash have male and female flowers that bees, flies, wasp or other creatures must pollinate it.
Do you only have male or just female flowers on your cucurbits?

Or did they fall down on the job for you last year?
If you got male and female flowers but not too many squash, plant plenty of flowers alongside your squash otherwise you’ll end up having to hand pollinate using an artist’s paintbrush.
Mostly gardeners start to worry when they see only male flower.
It is perfectly normal for the males to arrive first, and, they do so in big numbers.
A week or so goes by without any ladies appearing, and you are beginning to think there's a problem.
The female flowers usually arrive 10-14 days after you spot the first male. (Sometimes it takes a little longer than this).
Once the ladies appear, there’ll only be a few at a time.
The male flowers greatly out-number the female flowers.
It’s fairly uncommon for females flowers to arrive first but does occasionally happen.
Patience is all that's required.

Fertilising your squash
Squash are, like most vegetables, heavy feeders and need lots of fertilizer and water.
Don’t over fertilize with chook poo pellets or you’ll have big plants and no squash.
Water requirements are high and you really need to be on top of keeping up the watering for your button squash during hot weather and when fruit is filling out.
If you don’t you’re very likely get shedding of flowers and partly formed fruit.
Button squash grows very quickly and will start producing us in about 8 weeks.
Pick your button squash carefully by cutting them from the vine through their stem.
Fact File
Did you know that button squash need to be harvested often even commercially because of their very soft skin and so they’re very labour intensive to grow?
Picking should be done regularly, at least every day as the fruit develops. When the squash start appearing more and more, you’ll have to go out more often to the veggie patch to pick them.
If you leave your squash on the plants too long they’ll stop growing new ones altogether.
Picking your Summer squash at about 2 ½- 3 cms in size is when they’re at their most tasty.
If you plant an open pollinated type, (doesn’t have hybrid in its name) you can let one or two squash grow out until they are completely ripe and save the seeds from them at the end of the season.
Some varieties from various online seed suppliers.
There’s a French heirloom variety Squash Jaune Et Verte especially for those of you who are not convinced about the merits of growing squash. Picked young, the flesh is sweet and buttery and the skin cooks to lime green. Compact variety producing scallop shaped fruit over a long period. Takes 7 weeks from seed to harvest.
New Gippsland Seeds-Golden Ruffles Hybrid is a Yellow Button Squash- High quality button squash capable of tremendous yields. Fruit gold, often with a green end spot. Tasty and popular.
Eden seeds_EARLY WHITE BUSH SCALLOPED Known pre 1722
Greenish-white skin, with lots of round flat fruit on a bushy plant. Best when picked young. 46-60 days.

Scalloped patty pan squash, pale green, harvest 7.5cm—10cm, fine texture, medium sized bush, very productive over a long period, popular traditional variety for home gardens. 47-56 days.
Why are they good for you?
Summer squash is very low in calories and high in fibre.
Button squash is rich in beta-carotene an excellent source of vitamin C, folic acid and calcium.
One cup of summer squash has nearly as much potassium as a banana!
They also contain the valuable mineral nutrient phosphorus.
Button squash are vitamin C
The darker skinned squash supply some beta carotene.


Style of veggie patches
If you do want to have a dedicated area in the garden for growing your fruit and veg you need to think about actual layout for the planting areas
What are the options? 
Lyn Wood Vegetable Garden Ulverston Tasmania

You can have an in bed system where it is really just grown as you would any garden area or you can do raised beds either by building them up with materials such as timber sleepers or just by mounding the soil up …almost like a burrow and furrow style.
Have we convinced you yet to start a vegetable garden if you haven’t got one?
It might seem like a lot of hard work, but you don’t have to build it yourself.
There’s plenty of pre-packaged vegie beds read for you to install.
But in case you do want to build one, this segment has some tips.
Let’s find out…I'm talking withGlenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist.

Those treated pinelogs that don’t have arsenic are called ACQ.(alkaline, copper quaternary.)
Vegie Pod
There’s also “ecowood,” that uses a different treatment method from ACQ and will last the distance too. If you do have CCA treated pine and are worried about the arsenic in the pine, the CSIRO recommends painting the logs both inside and out or line the bed with builders plastic.


Blueberry "Vitality." Vaccinium corymbosum Vitality (high bush variety)Are you looking for something to boost your vitamin C without eating all that Broccoli? 
I know some Broccoli haters that would love this next fruit.
There’s a place in every garden or outdoor space for this evergreen plant that makes a great pot specimen or a low hedge that will end up being full of fruit.
Let’s find out..more.
I'm talking with the plant panel Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Blueberry vitality grows to 1m x 1m making a perfect low hedge and a great productive pot plant.
Light pink flowers appear during winter followed by fruit from late spring through to summer.
Blueberries have three common varieties: lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye.
Lowbush blueberries – This variety, which produces a big harvest of intensely flavoured blueberries, is not grown in Australia’s milder climate. It thrives in colder climates in the northern hemisphere.
Highbush blueberries – This is the most common variety in Australia, with many cultivars suited to the Australian climate. The two most popular cultivars grown here are the Northern Highbush and the Southern Highbush. Just to confuse things, the Northern Highbush is grown in Victoria, Tasmania and Southern NSW; while the Southern Highbush is grown in milder regions like Northern NSW and Southern Queensland.
Rabbiteye blueberries – This is another late season variety, which can cope with warm and humid summers and tolerate dry conditions like no other, making it right at home in Northern NSW and Queensland. Its name comes from the calyx, which when ripening looks just like little rabbit eyes looking back at you.
Grey green elliptic -ovate leaves (5 cm) growing 1m x 1 m.