Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Bit of Sage, Coriander and Masses of TriColoured Jasmine


Salvia officinalis
What would you say to a herb that can remove grease from plates?
Not only that, drinking tea made from the leaves of this herb helps treat sore throats and coughs; often by gargling.
All these attributes are for the herb sage.
To get grease off your dinner plates without using harsh chemicals all you need to do is macerate some fresh sage leaves and rub them on the plates, and voila', clean plates.
But did you know that the world's best sage comes from the Dalmation coast growing amongst rocks on the island of Kornati?
Find out more by listening to the podcast.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill

Scientifically known as Salvia officinalis, sage is closely related to rosemary, and they’re often considered “sister herbs.
Sage grows best in sandy, alkaline soil.
It grows up to 75 cm in height and has woody, branching stems.
Its pebble-like patterned, aromatic leaves are grey-green, with a soft surface and fine hair-like filaments growing on either side.
During summer, the violet-blue flowers attract bees.
If you have any questions about sage the herb, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Coriander or Coriandrum sativum?

Is Coriander really Cilantro or is that just what Americans call it?
Well, it’s just a bit of a technical difference to confuse us poor gardeners.
Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant and coriander refers to the seeds.
In Australia we call the leaves and the seeds coriander and some people even call it Chinese parsley.
So coriander leaf is nothing else but cilantro.
People either hate it or love Coriander because it does have a pungent citrus flavour to the leaves.
Coriander flowers belong in the Apiaceae or carrot family, where Parsley, dill and carrots belong.
Coriander has been grown for over 3,000 years.

Did you know that about half a litre of coriander seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen?
Because this plant doesn’t grow wild in Egypt, this suggests that coriander was grown in the gardens of ancient Egyptians.
The Chinese once believed it gave you immortality and in the Middle ages it was used as part of a love potions. \
What is Coriander?
Coriander is a very familiar herb that we are used to seeing at the greengrocers and in the supermarket.
It’s called an annual herb because it flowers, sets seed then dies in under a year..

So why should we grow Coriander?

Heaps of Coriander leaves and seeds are used in curries, tagines and many other Asian dishes.
In fact the whole herb, including the roots can be ground up to make Green Curry paste.

Now here’s a big tip:
Always grow coriander from seed, sown in the exact spot you want it to grow as it absolutely HATES being transplanted.
Transplanting coriander stresses it so that it goes straight to seed and then it dies. And you never get any leaves at all!
Coriander gets a has a big taproot as it grows so growing it in a pot won’t work either, it’ll go straight to seed as well.,
For sub-tropical and arid zones, you have August to September;
And in temperate districts, sow the seeds from September until the end of November,
In cool temperate zones, October to November,
Sow your seeds about 1 cm deep, cover them and keep them moist.
Whether or not you sow them in rows, scatter them amongst your other veggies, or use them to grow as a shade plant for your lettuce, it really doesn’t matter.
Coriander takes a couple of weeks to germinate, so go do it after my program.
Coriander grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall.

Big Tip: Grasshoppers don’t like coriander, so plant it around the spinach to stop the grasshoppers eating holes in the leaves.
You want about 5 cm between the plants if you grow it for the leaves..
Leave a few plants to go to seed, yes, on purpose so you have a continuous supply.
When your plants is big enough, take the leaves off from the base of the plant.
Just make sure the plant is big enough to cope and leave some leaves on it so it can continue to grow.
As soon as that flower stalk appears, your coriander plant stops making more

Just remember when coriander plants get stressed, or in hot weather, or once they reach a certain age, they stop making leaves and instead start growing a tall flower stalk. 
So it’s a good idea to-sow some coriander seeds every few weeks during the growing season. 

Coriander flowers arean important food source for beneficial insects.

It’s a good idea to leave in a few plants that have gone to flower because the Coriander flowers are an important food source for beneficial insects, especially little parasitic wasps and predatory flies.

To attract many beneficial insects you want lots and lots of coriander flowers why not sprinkle some coriander and parsley seeds through your other vegetables under your fruit trees and in any other place you can fit them.

Keep watering and feeding your coriander plants well, and wait for the flower to develop and set seeds.

In hot weather this may take as little as 4 - 6 weeks from when you first put the seed in the ground.

Fresh cilantro (coriander) should be stored in the refrigerator in a zip lock bag or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. Use as early as possible since it loses flavour and nutrients quickly if kept for longer periods.

Why Is It Good For You?

Coriander contains no cholesterol; but is rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fibre.
The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.

It’s also rich in many vital vitamins like folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin- A, beta carotene, vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. Coriander leaves provides 30% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C.

Coriander is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K; provides about 258% of DRI.



Mass Planting Series
Mass planting for large and small gardens part 1
Would you think that mass planting a garden would be something easy to do?
On the surface it sounds easy; just pick a couple of types of plants that you like and away you go, would that be right?
Mass planting for large gardens: Scampston, England photo M Cannon
The answer is no, because visually you might end up with such a boring garden as to be exasperating.
Have you heard the rule “ the greater amount of texture you use the louder your garden reads visually?”
Let’s find out about this wonderful rule.
I'm talking with Garden Designer, Peter Nixon, Director of
If you have a large expanse of garden with all the same colour green , the same leaf shape and the same texture, the garden will be homogenous and even boring.

You'll be asking "Where's my beautiful garden?"

Find plants that you like but try and like ones with different leaf shapes, colours and textures when you’re doing planting on a biggish scale.

Peter suggests as an example of texture and leaf contrast, Poa Eskdale with Opuntia Burbank Spineless.

If you want mass planting to hide the fence, try
Viburnum odoratissium "Dense Fence," or Quick Fence.

As Peter says, even if it’s a small garden, don’t put lots of little plants in, but less plants that are bigger works better.


Tricolour Jasmine

Last week I asked if you liked the colour pink in your garden?
This next plant doesn’t have significant flowers but does have pink in it’s leaves.
Better still, it grows in shade, under trees and in other difficult spots where you might find it hard to get something to grow.

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.

Tricolour Jasmine is nothing like the Chinese Star Jasmine because it doesn’t have those perfumed flowers and doesn’t need a whip and a chair to keep it under control.
Ahem, whip and chair borrowed from Peter Nixon Garden Designer that is.
As long as you don’t put it into full sun or afternoon sun, you won’t get burnt leaves.
Another one of those low maintenance plants that horticulturalists say doesn’t really exist. But here it is.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Weeding Lawns, Growing Radichio, Smelling Dianthus.


Weeding Lawns
Did you know that knee problems start with gardening on your knees for long periods of time?
But you don’t have to get down on your knees to do weeding these days if you’ve got the right tools.
Even weeding lawns is possible without spraying and kneeling.
So let’s find how to make that weeding job  in the lawn a little bit easier.
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

The Weed Hoe (pictured right)  is exclusive to Cut Above Tools. 
Operation is by a foot pedal to lever out the weed and the two handles to take the weed out of the lawn or garden bed. 

Real World Gardener's Tip for Lawn Weed Control.

Get to know your grass type and the ideal cutting height for good health and strong growth.

When cut no lower than that height, and when cut before it gets too long, the grass will usually out-compete weeds as long as it’s also fertilized and watered properly.
If you have any questions about weeding tools why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Radicchio or Cichorium intybus

A little while ago I talked about growing chicory for either the edible root, or leaf.
Today, a plant with the same botanical name but looks more like red cabbage than it does the green leafed chicory plant.

So what’s the difference between red cabbage and radicchio?

Firstly ra-DEEK –e oo is spelt ra-DITCH ee-oo and is sometimes known as Italian chicory.
Red cabbage is more like green cabbage in flavour and is quite firm, but radicchio is more like a lettuce and is quite soft.
Red cabbage is purple when it’s raw and only turns red when you cook it.
Radicchio has a slightly bitter and spicy taste and is more a salad vegetable, although you can use it grilled and as a pizza topping.
The flavour mellows when it’s grilled by the way.

Even though radicchio has been around for a while it didn’t take off until the fifteenth century, in the Veneto and Trentino regions of Italy.

Did you know that the deep-red radicchio of today was engineered in 1860 by the Belgian agronomist Francesco Van den Borre?

He used a whitening technique which involved pre-forcing, or blanching to create the dark red, white-veined leaves: radicchio plants were taken from the ground and placed in water in darkened sheds, where lack of light and caused the plants to lose their green pigmentation.
Red Cabbage
Growing Radicchio
Radicchio is easy to grow and can be sown all year round, but it does best in spring and Autumn just about everywhere in gardens.
But to be more specific, here are some dates.
In temperate districts, you can sow indoors in August and outdoors from September until May.
For arid areas, you can sow outdoors all year round.
For Melbourne residents, sow indoors in August to September, or outdoors from September through to May.
For subtropical zones like Brisbane, sow outdoors from March until November.
In cool temperate zones, sow indoors in August or Mar-April and sow outdoors in September or April.

When is it ready?
Radicchio matures in approximately three months. 
While some gardeners start the seeds indoors for later transplanting, most simply sow the seeds directly into the garden bed. 
Popular varieties include Red Surprise and Verona Red

Radicchio likes fertile, well-drained soil in a mostly sunny location. 
With a garden fork, work some compost or soil conditioner into the top 20cm of soil.
Sprinkle the seeds in rows or just scatter them and cover lightly with some more soil.
The radicchio seeds should germinate in about a week.
When the seedlings are 3cm tall, thin them so that the plants are spaced 10 – 15cm apart.
You can do this by just cutting or snipping the plants at the soil level with a pair of scissors.
Radicchio matures in about 80 to 90 days or 2 ½ to 3 months.
As soon as the heads are compact and firm -about the size of a baseball, just cut the plant off at the soil level with a sharp knife.

When to Eat?
It's best to eat radicchio soon after harvesting it, but it’ll keep for as long as a week in the refrigerator.

For those living in cool temperate districts, raddichio can be made to stand through a very cold winter, and the head will regenerate if cut off carefully above ground level, so long as the plant is protected against severe frost.

TIP: If you put a light-excluding cover, for example, an inverted pot, during the last phase of growth, then you’ll get leaves with a more pronounced colour contrast, and at the same time you’ll be protecting against frost and cold winds. 

If the head is cut off completely just above the root, a small, new head will grow, especially if some frost protection is given.

You can do this a number of times.

Things that can go wrong
If you’re a bit haphazard with your watering, you’ll get a more bitter tasting leaf.
Bitter tasting leaves can also be the result of hot weather.
By planting radicchio in Autumn, the flavour is changed quite a bit by the onset of cold weather, because the colder weather, the mellower the flavour. Cold weather also starts the heading and reddening process in traditional varieties of radicchio.

Why is it good for you?
Radicchio is a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
The bitterness in the radicchio is something called lactucopicrin –LAC-TOO-SIP-RIN (intybin),
Lactucopicrin is a good anti-malarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic (painkiller) effect.
Something to have with your evening meal to help you sleep.
Fresh radicchio leaves are also one of the best sources of vitamin K and they have moderate amounts of essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin (B5, B6)- thiamin (vitamin B1),and niacin (B3).



Indoor Plants: Care and Maintenance
Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about what plants you can grow indoors wherever you live in Australia.
Quite a few in fact can cope with all weather conditions for the far north of Australia to Tasmania.
Despite all your loving attention though, some plants can be susceptible to pest attack, or just like plain unhealthy, making you think you did something wrong.
Bad case of scale photo M CAnnon
Not necessarily true, so let’s find out about looking after indoor plants
That was Julia Levitt Director of
PLAY: Indoor plants-pests_2nd August 2017

Even the best plant owner will come across pests.
Too much light for this Bromeliad  causing leaf scorch photo M Cannon
·         If your plant is showing signs of:
o   Wilting
o   Loosing it’s leaves prematurely
o   Leaves turning yellow and patchy
o   Leaves have a black dusty look or are sticky
·         Look for one of these pests as they could be causing the aggravation: Fungus Gnats, Whiteflies, Mealy Bug, Aphids, Spider Mites, Scale and Thrips. 
The trick is to keep an eye on your plants and act quickly as soon as you see something wrong with your indoor plant.
Why are we having plants indoors again?
Apart from plants reducing carbon dioxide levels in your home, did you know that people with plants in their homes have less stress, and plants have been known to contribute to lower blood pressure? 


Dianthus "Jolt"

Do you like the colour pink in your garden?
Light pinks, dark pinks and every shade in between?
Then here’s a plant for you that’s been developed by plant breeders so that it flowers for six months and can take the heat better than ever before.
But first, let’s find out about this plant.

The plant panel were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
Dianthus Jolt, is seed grown but unfortunately there has been a world shortage of seed this year due to a virus in the parent stock. 
However, if you do manage to secure a plant from this series, you'll be rewarded with flowers for 6 months of the year on 40 - 50 cm stems; great for cut flowers.
Dianthus Jolt 
Did you know that the history of Dianthus dates back to over 2000 years, making it one of the oldest cultivated flower varieties?
Greeks and Romans revered the plant, using its flowers for art, decor, and to build their iconic garlands.
Sweet William, Pinks or just Dianthus, the one that was mentioned, Dianthus Jolt is the most heat tolerant that you can grow.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Weed the Weeds and Sow the Seeds


Hand Weeding Tools for Garden Beds

Weeding the garden is one of those chores that you either keep putting off or you like doing.
Perhaps you liked doing it when your back was stronger and your knees not so sore but now you’re finding it that much harder.
Sure there’s spraying the weeds with herbicide but in between those cabbage or broccoli plants or in between those flowering bulbs or annuals it’s a little bit difficult to prevent the spray from getting onto the plants you want to keep.
So that leaves mechanical weeding.
So let’s find how to make that weeding job a little bit easier..
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

Weeding tools for mechanical weeding include, forks, all manner of hoes,, trowels cultivators and the NEW Garden Hook.
The "garden hook" along with cultivator and weeding tool. Handles sizes to help with weeding without kneeling.
The good news is there’s longer handles to help you do the weeding to which you can attach various cultivators or weeding hoes.
Don't bend over anymore, but purchase a long adjustable handle that can be fitted with different types of cultivators, and garden hooks.

Weeding is not only therapeutic but helps your plants stay healthy by removing competition plus weeds often harbour pests which then move onto your wanted plants.

This not only saves your back but your knees as well.
If you have any questions about weeding tools why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


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.

But what about the mail order companies?
No photos there, but we still go crazy buying up too many because the seed catalogues are so alluring.
Why? Because they’ve that alluring promise that you’re buying something no mainstream gardener will have.

 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 whose 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?

Simple Germination Test

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?
Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel.
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.
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. 
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. Parsley 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.
So, that’s why, when you hear, beans can be viable for up to 10 years shelf life.
That means, 10 years if they were stored in a cool dry and dark place, and that the seed company put fresh seed into the packet in the first place.
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.
Before you start buying up seeds in the hope you’ll beat price rises and food shortages.
Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.
Just a note on seed provenance.
According to the experts, cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted via the seed.
Also, from those in the know, they say that there are other viruses that are seed born, so that gardeners can’t afford to be complacent.



Indoor Plants for Cool Climates
It’s been said that indoor plants remove pollutants from inside your home but did you know that plants can help fight colds?
Yes, that’s right, indoor plants have been shown to reduce cold related illnesses by more than 30%.
This is due to their effect of increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.
Chamaedora seffirzii can also be grown indoors in cool climates
This series on indoor plants is to suit everyone around Australia so this week we’re focusing on what plants that you can grow indoors if you live in a cool climate.
Let’s hear some more.
I'm talking withJulia Levitt Director of

Did you know also that plants can stop your headaches?
That’s right, because they’re removing those VOC;s(volatile organic compounds.) that your appliances, carpet, and furniture are giving off every day.
Plants in the home have also been shown to lower blood pressure.
PLANTS mentioned
Sago Palm can also be grown indoors in cool cliamtes
  • ·       Palms-Bamboo palm (Chamodorea seifrizii), Bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii), Fishtail Palm(Wodetia bifurcata), Parlour Palm, ( Chamaedorea elegans), Walking Stick Palm (Linospadic monostachyia)
  • ·    Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) for clean air
  • ·    ZZ plant(Zamioculcas zamifolia)-minimal watering
  • ·     Sago palm ( Cycas revoluta) withstands cool winter temps.

There’s more, but I’ll fill you in next week.
If you have any questions about indoor plants for cool climates why not email us


Abelia grandiflora
Abelia grandiflora in my garden.
Fabulous shrub that is a must for most gardens either as a hedge, topiary or stand alone shrub.
The species grows 2 x 2 metres but there are also dwarf cultivars like Abelia Frances Mason.
Did you know that Abelia is named after British consul general in China 1817 - Dr Clarke Abel?
Abelias mainly flower in summer but can flower in autumn as well. 
Long flowering with the creamy white changing to a reddish color as they age, often have red calyces behind the flowers. 
Flowers have a nice sweet fragrance. They have trumpet shapes that form in little balls at the end of the stem. 
Flowers are bee attracting
Talking with Hugh Mandelidis and Lewi Beere, who are two young guys into gardening about Abelia grandiflora.

In autumn the leaves colour up to a reddish-bronze look but this depends on your climate.
If you live in a cold area such as Bathurst where temperates can fall to -10 C overnight, expect your Abelia bush to have the reddest of red leaves.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Keeping Goats and Growing Tropicals and Aloe Vera


Indoor Plant Series part 2
Phaelenopsis orchid
Indoor plants for warm climates.
So you live in a climate that's warm all year round.

Does that mean you need to grow anything indoors?

True, you can grow almost anything indoors in tropical and subtropical climates, as well as outdoors too. 

All you need to remember ks that the most important elements required for healthy houseplants include light, water, temperature and humidity.

If any or all of these factors aren’t properly met, your houseplants will inevitably suffer.

You might be sweltering under the fans in the heat of a subtropical summer but what about your indoor plants?

Can they cope or is this the climate where they thrive the best?

So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.

I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

The good news is that tropical plants usually enjoy warmer conditions and don’t perform well once indoor temperatures fall below 130-160C.
Indoor plants
Plus they like a lot of humidity, that means at least 50%, but better at 70% or more.
Most of the tropical, ornamental indoor plants with attractive foliage & colourful leaf patterns are suitable for hot & humid climates.
For example Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane, Dracaena, house ferns of many kinds, Tricolor plant, snake plant, Philodendron, Money plant, Syngonium etc

If you have any questions about indoor plants why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


 Aloe vera 
The botanical name of Aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis Miller. 
It belongs to the Ass-fodd-elacey (Asphodelaceae) family which has a subgroup (Liliaceae) whose members are also the lily plants as well as onions and garlic.
Did you know that people used Aloe vera at least 6,000 years ago in Egypt?

Known as the “plant of immortality,” Aloe vera was depicted on stone carvings and was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.

So where did the name come from?
Aloe vera derives from the Arabic word “Alloeh” meaning “shining bitter substance,” while “vera” in Latin means “true.”

Did you know that the word Aloe in Sanskrit means Goddess?

Not surprisingly, because of aloe’s well-known healing properties for the skin, aloe is one of the primary compounds used in the cosmetic industry.
There are even Aloe vera drinks that you can buy, or you can use the juice straight from the plant.
Aloe leaves contain a clear gel that is often used as a topical ointment.

The yellow sap that oozes from the base of the leaf when it is cut is called bitter aloes.

This bitter sap when dried is called latex and contains contains Ann-Thrak-Quinn-Owns (anthraquinones), used quite a lot in medicines that act as a strong laxative.

Be warned though, don’t feel you can make your own oral medicines from Aloe and I’m not recommending that you drink the gel straight from the leaf either unlike a vlogger that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

The reason is because not only is aloe vera juice pungent to taste, but there’s no scientific evidence that drinking the juice does anything.

On the other hand, Aloe plants improve air quality, and when grown in pots inside the house, help remove toxins from the atmosphere.

So what is Aloe vera?
Aloe vera isn’t a cactus but a low growing spreading, xerophytic, succulent.

It grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, the Arabian peninsula and nearby islands such as the Canary Islands and Madagascar.

Not to be confused with other ornamental Aloes, Aloe vera has triangular light green fleshy leaves with serrated edges, but also with elongated pale creamy white spots on the leaves.

The Aloe plant is grown in warm tropical areas and because the leaves consist of 95% water, they’re extremely frost tender.

However the root can survive freezing air temperatures, so long as the ground is not frozen and the root destroyed.

On the other hand, Aloe vera doesn’t grow all that big and can be easily moved indoors in colder climates if outside temperatures are less than 5°C.

Place it near a sunny windowsill and it will survive for a few weeks or a couple of months if it needs to.

On the upside, for those gardeners living in warm climates, Aloe vera can cope with temperatures in the high 30’s and can even withstand severe drought.

Don’t water during the winter months if your plant is able to grow outdoors because it’s practically dormant.

Aloe vera tolerates either full or partial sun for at least 8 – 10 hours a day, but will require a little more frequent watering in full sun.

If you’re area receives a lot of rain, you may find that the plant turns to mush so move it under cover.

During the summer months, the soil should be completely soaked, but then be allowed to dry again before re-watering.

If you’re growing your Aloe vera in a pot, because Aloes have a shallow, spreading root system, when it‘s time to repot, choose a wide container, rather than a deep one.

Always use planters or containers with a drainage hole, or put a 3-4 cm layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot so it receives sufficient drainage. Use a good commercial potting mix with extra perlite, charcoal, or coarse sand added.
Or you could use a packaged 'cacti mix' soil.

Fertilising is only necessary once a year in spring but use only half strength. Aloe plants have relatively short roots and heavy leaves, so it’s best to move your plant to a heavier pot when they become top-heavy and tip over.
Aloe vera produces pups that can be re-potted
If Aloe vera runs out of space for its roots to grow, it may start to produce "pups" that can be moved to their own pot .
New Aloe Vera plants are grown by removing these offsets which are produced around the base of mature plants, when they are about 5 - 7cm tall (or larger). They can also be grown from seed.

Has your Aloe vera ever flowered?
Keeping an Aloe vera plant at home is one of the easiest ways to get the freshest and most concentrated gel.
If the leaves start getting burnt on hot days, you ‘ll definitely need to move your plant to a location with light shade.
If the leaves are growing flat and low, that means the need more sunlight. Aloe vera leaves should grow upward or outward at an angle, toward the sunlight.
Growing low to the ground or growing flat outward, is an indication that the plant is probably not receiving enough sun.

Move it to a sunnier area.
If it’s indoors, consider keeping it outdoors during daylight hours.
If the leaves turn yellow or fall apart, stop watering.
Yellowed or "melting" leaves are suffering due to excess water.
Stop watering altogether for the next week (or two weeks during the dormant season), and water less often after that.
You can remove the discoloured leaves from the plant without doing any damage.
Remember, water it only when the soil has become dry.
Using aloe vera gel, that’s the inner portion of the leaf, topically is OK straight from the leaf.

TIP: To use the gel, break off a leaf and cut it lengthwise to expose the inner layer.
Aloe vera gel
Scoop the gel out and apply generously to the area needing treatment. Discard whatever gel is not used immediately, as it will degenerate quickly.

Why is it good for you?
Aloe Vera contains many vitamins including A, C, E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6. Aloe Vera is also one of the few plants that contains vitamin B12.
Soothes and heals sunburns because it contains cooling properties similar to menthol.
Takes the sting or itch out of insect bites.
Use it on those joints that have osteoarthritis.
Aloe gel has not been shown to prevent burns from radiation therapy. AND WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY


Keeping Goats with Robyn Rosenfeldt editor of PIP permaculture magazine
Have you ever kept a sheep goat or pig in your backyard in suburbia?
Sounds a bit far fetched but I do remember see a couple of sheep keeping the lawn down in the front yard of near where I used to live which was only 8km from the CBD.
So what questions should you ask yourself about goat keeping and why would you want to anyway?
What are the benefits?
First why keep a goat or two in suburbia?
How much space do you need for say 2 goats?
Do You Want to Keep Goats So That You Will Never Have to Mow Your Lawn?
If so, think again. Goats will eat your rosebushes clean, carefully devouring every single leaf and flower. However, they’re not going to mow your lawn.
They’ll nibble at grass here and there in a sort of unorganized fashion, creating a look very similar to Rod Stewart’s hairstyle.
How much work is involved? Ie milking, feeding, building a goat pen?
Do goats make good pets?
Do I need to exercise my goat and take my goats for a walk?

What information does the prospective goat buyer need before getting their first goat?

I'm talking with Robyn Rosenfeldt, editor of PIP magazine  to answer all these questions and more.



If you’ve ever been to an international flower show in the northern hemisphere, chances are you turn green with envy when you see how easily these flowers can be grown.

These are tall plants that hover above most other flowering annuals you have in the garden but breeders have gone to the trouble of creating a sort of intergeneric hybrid that flowers for several months instead of several weeks. 

Of course the flowers are magnificent, so let’s find out what it is.

PLAY: Digiplexis digitalis_19th July 2017

I'm talking with Karen Smith editor of  Hort Journal Magazine

Unlike standard foxgloves, which produce a single terminal spike, ‘Illumination Flame’ will develop several flower spikes simultaneously.

To get more flower spikes and a more bushy plant, just pinch or tip prune the stems.

Plant breeders also recommend because it’s a vigorous tall plant, that if you do want to grow it in a pot, choose a fairly big one.

If you have any questions about this Foxgloves or foxxies as some like to call them, email us

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Plants Indoors, Spinach,Magnolias But Don't Feed Wildlife


New Series on Indoor Plants: Part 1 Introduction
Did you know that NASA has carried out a Clean air Study to figure out which plants help to clean the air in our homes and offices?
These plants are best at cl
eaning the air to eliminate toxins.
Toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.
I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

PLAY: Indoor plants intro_12th July 2017
Those chemicals that I mentioned are all common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted into the air in our homes by everyday items such as furniture, carpets and common household appliances as well as air fresheners, hair products and nail polish. Wow!
Indoor plants not only look attractive, brighten up gloomy areas and generally improve our moods, but they also have an added benefit of cleaning the air.
Are you looking for different plants to grow inside like cacti?
What conditions can they get by with?
Mini-cacti for indoor displays
Cacti need full sunlight so do consider where you put them if you want them to survive.
In fact, think about the light situation in your home before your buy any potted plants.
Remember you're adjusting the light level considerably the further the plant is from the window and by putting it on a plant stand.
Julia mentioned these plants that are "on trend" in magazines and other media.
Ficus lyrata-Fiddle Leaf Fig
Sanseveria "Moonshine"-Mother-in-laws Tongue.
Strelitzia nicholii-Bird of Paradise; this will grow very large so has a limited life inside the home.
Monsteria deliciosa-Swiss Cheese plant.
If you have any questions about indoor plants why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


English Spinach Spinacia oleracea

Spinach is also very sensitive to heat. Seeds will not germinate if temperatures are over 75° (24°C), and spinach bolts quickly once temperatures begin to climb in summer.
The best spinach to grow now is English Spinach not to be confused with Silverbeet or Chard.

Did you know that Spinach or Spinacia oleracea. Spinacia comes from the Latin word for spine and refers to the prickly seed coat.
The species name, oleracea, refers to a plant that is edible.

Did you try growing Spinach in Summer?

It was alright for a while then when the humidity got turned up the stalks went a funny grey colour, then the leaves turned a sort of greeny-brown.
Not that attractive or edible.
I had to pull them out, not a great experiment.
Where Did Spinach Come From?
Spinach originates from the Middle East, most likely Persia or modern-day Iran.
It was brought to Spain via the Moors somewhere between 800 AD and 1200 AD.
Did you know that Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint?
Spinach seed was sent out from England in 1787 with the First Fleet but in the new colony they found it difficult to grow.

They grew silverbeet instead because it was much easier, which is why Silverbeet is sometimes called spinach in Australia, but true spinach has smaller leaves and a much sweeter, milder flavour.

When to Sow

Spinach is a cool-season crop that can withstand a hard frost or two, but turns to green goo when exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for any length of time.
When growing spinach in cold weather, choose varieties like ‘Bloomsdale’ or ‘Regiment’.
Cool temperate zones, you can plant spinach from March until September.
spinach seedlings
In temperate zones you had from February until the end of June, and in sub-tropical zones, from April until the end of July.

In Arid zones choose the winter months also.
These times are only a guide, and personally, I plant some vegetables and see how they go even though it might be a month or two out of their supposed best planting time.

So, I have some Spinach seedlings coming up in my garden right now, even though I’m in a temperate district.
Commercially Grown Spinach
In Australia, Spinach is grown commercially mostly in Tasmania and Victoria over the cooler months, as it’ll go to seed very quickly in hot summer weather.

The seeds will germinate in temperatures down to 7 degrees.
You can get good germination results if you use an unheated poly-tunnel or low level cloche, or a mini-greenhouse.
This is one crop that can withstand the very cold winter nights at sub-zero temperatures.
It seems that the little plants can be frosted and frozen overnight then thaw out and keep growing! Amazing.
Commercially grown spinach
Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
Plant your seedlings / seeds around 7cm apart in rows about 30 apart.
For once a vegetable that grows well in partial to full sun.
What Spinach likes
Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil and doesn’t like to be stressed by drying out or not having enough nutrients, even in the cold of winter.
Using a mulch of straw or grass clippings can help to keep moisture and warmth in the soil.
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!
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

In about 6-7 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. Make sure you wash spinach leaves well - soil is not tasty!

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.
Spinacia oleracea-Spinach
A problem you might get in the cooler weather is Down Mildew. Downy mildew (Blue mold). What is downy mildew- fungal disease, shows up as slightly yellow or chlorotic lesions of irregular shape on the top surface of the leaves and purplish sporulation on the underside. To prevent it, space plants for good air circulation and, when you water, wet the ground around the plants not the foliage itself

Why should you grow your own Spinach?

Because Spinach is best eaten fresh and because 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).



Magnolia "Little Gem."
For those wanting the large flowers of the evergreen Bull Bay Magnolia but a much smaller plant, then don't go past this little gem, ahem, pun intended.
It has many of the attributes of its parent (magnolia bullbay) including large (20-30cm) white fragrant flowers, but it is a smaller, more compact plant growing 4 - 6 metres in height.
The flowering season is considered spring through to summer but will spot flower all year round in favourable, frost free climates.
Magnolia flowers have a lemony scent.
I'm talking with two young guys who have a love of gardening. Something seemingly rare these days when most gardeners are in the 50 + age range.
Introducing Hugh Mandelidis, an engineering student whose into gardening, and his friend Lewi Beere, presenter of Breaking Bands program on 2RRR.

Play: Interview
Available in Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland and Tasmania, but may be hard to find in other areas. Expect to pay from $25-$40 for plants in 200mm (8″) pots. 
Some listeners questions:
Q.My flowers are not opening and they are going brown, why, and how do I prevent this from happening again?
A.Often due to a lack of calcium which prevents uptake of potassium or simply a lack of potassium. Occasionally hot sun and frost can destroy flowers before they open.
Q.Do i need to add lime to my soil? or any other feed stuffs?
A.Lime tends to raise the ph of the soil which can damage the roots which prefer a slightly acidic soil. Soil that is free draining and rich in organics is usually all the little gem will need, barring any deficiencies or micro/macro nutrients. Slow release fertilisers tend to work better as foliage feeds have a low absorption rate through the leaves.
 Leaves burn in summer & go crisp. Not growing as expected


Why Not to Feed Wildlife.
It’s great to have all kinds of creatures visit your garden.
You put out those bIts of white bread for the maggies, or those seed bells for the cockatoos.
What’s wrong with that? Animals that expect to be fed by people can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry.

The Ibis at the local Botanic gardens, are an example often seen circling around visitors and inspecting their bags for food.Whatever your thoughts, Listen to this….
The NSW department of Environment and Heritage suggests that when you feed native animals you're giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food.
See More About Not Feeding WildlifeA
When you feed native animals you're giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food. Instead of eating a wide range of natural foods, they depend on processed seeds, bread and other foods that are not part of their natural diet. This can make them very sick.
Animals that expect to be fed by people can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry.
Finches feeding
Once the animals you're feeding know that you are a reliable source of food, they may converge on your home or campsite, potentially disrupting their migratory patterns and displacing other species. If wildlife flock to be near you, their newfound population density may encourage the spread of communicable diseases between them.
They may also lose their ability to forage for natural foods.
Think twice before you feed wild animals - a moment's pleasure for you may lead to the animal you feed becoming addicted to junk food.When kangaroos and wallabies become used to being hand-fed, they sometimes attack people in their quest for food.
Remember, they have sharp claws and a strong kick.
Another example is in Flinders Chase on Kangaroo Island where they’ve had to put up cages around the eating tables in the national park, so people can eat in peace.
If you have any questions about this Feeding Wildlife, send it our email address

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Make Your Own Gin, Eat Peas and Grow a Silver Lining


Juniper Berries.

You probably missed it but 14th June was World Gin Day.
Why I mention this is because Australia is producing some of the best gin in the world.
You heard right, there’s a micro distillery industry that’s sprung up in Australia for making boutique gin.

But here’s the thing, it’s been said before on this show, you can make your own gin.
So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with  Ian Hemphill Owner of and author of The Herb and Spice bible.

Why everybody is falling in love with juniper today is because it's a thing to make your own gin.
Relatively a cinch but you need a good recipe.
You'll find one on Ian's site, just search for GINSPIRATION.
Australia's leading gin distilleries combine spices such as a cardamom, cinnamon and star anise with Australian oranges, Tasmanian Pepperberry leaf and lemon myrtle, a native Australian plant.
The juniper is still there but it is layered with a blend of modern Australian flavours, Southern European citrus and South East Asian spice, all of which makes it an entirely too drinkable gin.
Cooking with Juniper
Juniper berries go great in slow cooked casseroles and stews.
Juniper berries are also tasty when cooked with Salmon. Just place a few berries in with other herbs such as garlic, dill and add some lemon slices when baking or roasting whole salmon.
Juniper berries
If you have any questions about making your own gin, check out “ginspiration” or Ian’s webpage, or email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Pisum sativum

"I eats my peas with honey, I’ve done so all me life, it makes my peas taste funny, but it keeps them on me knife. "
Ever heard that one? 
Yes, my father used to say that everytime we harvested peas from our garden.
Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower.

But as always, cooks don’t stick to Science and peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking.

Peas or Pisum sativum, belong to the Fabaceae family, which means they fix Nitrogen from the air into their roots.

And you thought you knew everything there was to know about peas?

We all know what Peas look like- but did you know that Peas have been found in ancient ruins dated at 8000 years old in the Middle East and in Turkey?

And, the oldest pea fossils were found in the “Spirit cave on the border of Thailand and Burma dated 9750 years old.

Peas were common throughout ancient Europe as far back as the Neolithic Period and are as old and important as wheat and barley.

In these ancient times dried peas were an essential part of the diet because they could be stored for long periods and provided protein during the famine months of winter. No fridges then, remember!

The Greeks and Romans loved them and many varieties were traded in the Trojan Market in ancient Rome.

Did you know that both dwarf and field peas were part of the cargo of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and, on arrival at Sydney Cove, each convict and marine was given a weekly ration of three pints of ‘pease’.

By 1802 Peas were growing in Port Jackson and in Paramatta gardens.

When to Sow
The best time to sow Peas, if you are living on the East Coast is from April until September;

In arid climates from April until August.
In sub-tropical districts, from April and until July and for cool zones, late winter until October. On the Tablelands they should be sown after the last frosts.
Peas are best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 24°C.

Sow the seeds directly into the soil 15mm to 20mm deep (knuckle deep) and 75mm to 100mm apart . Water in well and don't let them dry out.

I like to soak my Pea seeds overnight.
This helps achieve a better strike
Some gardeners prefer to sow their seeds into tubs/punnets so they can keep a closer eye on them especially if there is a possibility of a frost.
Once they have their second crop of leaves and no more frost, they can be transplanted out in the garden.

Pea don’t seem to grow well near Onions, Chives, Garlic.

Peas don’t like a lot of mulch or manure especially up against the stalk/stem, or being over-watered as they tend to rot off at the base of the stem.
Don’t over-feed young plants or they’ll grow lanky and you won’t get too many pea pods.
Wait until they’ve started flowering and then give them a good feed of liquid fertilizer at least once a fortnight.

I prefer to feed my plants with liquid fertilisers in winter because in the cold weather, plants can use liquid fertilisers, easier and faster than the granular type.

TIP: Water your Peas in the mornings to avoid mildew.
Don’t overhead water late in the afternoon.
If you do have mildew, try spraying with a MILK spray mixed with a couple of drops of detergent.
With dwarf Peas you will have one main crop, with a second lighter crop and some pickings in between for the pot.
Peas freeze well and, providing they are processed immediately after picking, lose no more of their nutritional value than in just cooking them.

Chewing pests
If you’re bothered with snails and slugs, a good idea is to place a bottomless container around the young seedlings to stop the pests, or in my case the dragon lizard, from cutting/biting the tops off the new shoots; this will also give the new plants some protection from the wind.

How big do they grow?
Dwarf Peas only grow about 300mm to 600mm high but they will require some support.
You can use pretty much anything from wire/mesh, string and bamboo.

Climbing Peas grow to about 2m and crop for quite a long time.
If you pick them regularly, your pea plants will grow like mad and you’ll get a bigger crop.

They will need a good heavy-trellis or stakes. The position of the trellis should be facing towards the midday sun, (towards the North).

After the Peas have stopped producing the trellis can also be used for growing cucumbers, pumpkins or tomatoes.

Before you start ripping the pea vines off the trellis cut the stems off at ground level; leave the roots in the ground as pea roots produce nitrogen nodules.

These roots will break down and give your next seedlings a good kick start.

Why are they good for you?

Being low in calories, green peas are good for those who are trying to lose weight.
Green peas are rich in dietary fibre, may potentially lower cholesterol.

Peas have a high amount of iron and vitamin C to help strengthen the immune system.
The lutein present in green peas helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Green peas slow down the appearance of glucose in the blood and thus, help keep the energy levels steady.
Green peas have been found to aid energy production, nerve function and carbohydrate metabolism.
Green peas provide the body with those nutrients that are important for maintaining bone health.
The folic acid and vitamin B6 in green peas are good for promoting the


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

Let’s find out …I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal a

 The greyness and upright growth of the Albany woolly bush makes it look sort of snow covered making it the perfect choice if you want a real Australian Christmas tree.


Adenanthos Silver lining (40 cm x 1.5 m) is a very attractive native ground cover with fine, silvery grey foliage that is both soft in appearance and to touch,
'Silver Lining' is a low water user, thriving in dry conditions.
Adenanthos Silver Lining image supplied by Plants Management Australia
All Adenanthos are particularly well suited to coastal zones as long as you proived them with well drained or sandy soils.
Susceptible to borers and dieback (Phytophthora)
Woolly bush is best suited to dry summers rather than humid climates.
Some growers suggest that plants need rocks for anchorage in windy sites.
Fertilise with low P 1.6%


Plant Blindness with Liza Harvey
click on the link to listen to the segment