Saturday, 21 October 2017

Poppies, Redbuds, and Lilies, But Also Acquaponics in the Mix

What’s On The Show Today?

What to do about pests that shred leaves in Plant Doctor, grow a stunning tree with flowers on its trunk in plant of the week, discover the world of aquaponics in the Good Earth and a flower that signifies remembrance in Talking Flowers.


Lily Caterpillar
The secret to controlling pests in the garden is to understand their life cycle, and watch for early signs of infestation so they can be stopped in their tracks before they become a problem.
The first sign of infestation this next plant pest is the skeletonising of leaves. 
In the adult stage the parent (lily moth) lays up to 100 eggs at a time on the tip of a leaf, and the growing (pest) caterpillars then work their way down to the base of the plant.
These voracious pests ( caterpillars) can destroy a clump of clivias or other lilies in record time.
Lily caterpillars are a native pest common along the east coast of Australia but can be seen in other regions. Generally a dark grey to black colour with yellow and white markings down the side.; about 5 cm long.

The adult moth is like your average brown moth with a wing span of around 5 cm and can lay up to 100 eggs at a time.
Let’s find out all about this pest.
I'm talking withSteve Falcioni, general manager of

The Lily caterpillar attacks clivea, crinums, hippeastrums, the spider lily (hymenocallis) and other plants in the lily family.
Young caterpillars skeletonise leaves while older ones can strip leaves or attack the crown of the plant. 
Very quickly plants are an ugly mess of caterpillars, droppings and collapsing plant foliage. Attacked foliage dies and leaves the plants looking very unsightly.
Lily Caterpillar, calagramma picta, pupate under mulch and then travel up the stems of many types of lilies, munching as they go - eating leaves, stems and flower buds.
Caterpillars pupate in leaf litter or the soil before emerging as adult moths to start the cycle again. There are several generations a year with the most damage noticed during the warmer months.
Look for the caterpillars on the underside as well as the tops of the leaves.
Damage caused by the lily caterpillar is severe and can result in plant death.
Plants which survive usually take a long time to recover.
If you have any questions about growing your own turmeric, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Introduction to Acquaponics.
What is it?
Put simply, Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. 
The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish.
Start off with a fish tank, and buy your fingerlings ( baby fish) either Silver Perch or Barraminudi are a couple of excellent suggestions.
Attach plumbing to growing beds which contain a soilless medium such as Scoria, expanded clay balls ( Hydroton) even Perlite.
Each one has pros and cons for using it, for example, although Perlite is very light, it tends to wash away easily.
Water is reticulated ( circulated ) around the system so that the beds fill up with water constantly, then the water level drops as it's fed back into the fish tank.

The fish provide fish waste that feeds the plants.
The plants use this fish waste and filter out the water which is recycled back into the fish tank.
Robyn, says in here system of 5-6 growing beds, she never needs to flush out or replace the water other than to top it up due to evaporation.
There's more to it than that of course.
 Find out by listening to the podcast.
I'm talking with Robyn Rosenfeldt, editor of Pip Magazine.


Cercis chinensis " Avondale" 
Chinese Redbud.

Why this tree is so spectacular is that it has flowers not just at the end of the branches but all along the stems and trunk right down to the ground.
Masses of deep purple or deep rose-pink pea like flowers appear along the bare stems in late winter to early spring. 
The flowers are held close up and down the stem and right down to the bottom of the trunk.
A spectacular show of flowers that appear in large clusters.

Fruits are attractive bean like pot that's purple make a decorative feature in late Summer.
Flowers on the straight species are pink or milky white, and the leaves are a bit more rounded but still heart shaped.
Flowers last about 3 weeks.

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.

  • Cercis chinensis Avondale is very small for a tree being 3 x 2 metres, with spectacular flower and heart shaped leaves.
  • Does love a good water during dry spells but otherwise reasonably hardy.
  • All Cercis have a tap root so that's a no for transplanting and possibly for growing in pots too.


Poppies for Remembrance
Poppies were given the official title of Remembrance due them growing en masse in the fields where thousands of soldiers perished in WWI
Mercedes has an interesting anecdote about how you can make your dreams come true.
All you need to do is to whisper your dreams into your hand with the poppy seeds before sowing.
When the poppies grow and flower, your dreams shall come true. Let's hope.

Some of the most widely used grown types of Poppies include the Papaver somniferum ( only by licence because that's the Opium poppy), Papaver orientale, and Eschscholzia californica or Californian poppy.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

Recorded live as the show went to air on Facebook live.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Turmeric Spices, Growing Seeds and Citrus but admiring Daffodils

What’s On The Show Today?

How to grow this tropical looking plant because it’s good for you in the Good Earth, some great tips on germinating seeds in Vegetable Heroes; a native fruit with caviar like insides in plant of the Week and a flower that signifies “ new beginnings” in Talking Flowers.


Growing Turmeric
Cucuma longa
Gardeners like to grow unusual herbs that are also useful.
But you won’t be planting out seeds to start this next plant because you need rhizomes.
Not only that, for this herb you won’t be using the leaves in cooking but the roots or rhizomes instead.
Turmeric plants
What am I talking about?
Let’s find out all about Turmeric in the podcast. I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

How To Grow
Turmeric Flowers
There are a couple of different types of Turmeric available in Australia.
One has bright orange flesh and the other is more yetlllow.
Sourcing it all depends on if you have " Crop Swap" or Farmers' Markets in your district.
Once you have a fresh rhizome or root, all you need to do is plant it. 
A large root will have several branches or fingers to it.
You can cut these apart and start more than one plant if you like.
The easiest way to get it to sprout is to just bury the root under 5cms of potting mix. If there are any knobs or buds on the root, turn it so they are facing upwards. 
Turmeric grows downwards and spreads sideways, so don't plant it in a narrow pot.
You can harvest the whole clump when the leaves have died , usually at the beginning of Winter of late Autumn depending on your district's climate.

If you have any questions about growing your own turmeric, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Growing from Seed
Growing from seed isn’t always easy and I know many a gardener from my days at Yates, that failed to germinate a whole bunch of different seeds. 

There's no need to be shocked if you seeds don't germinate.
It happens to the best of gardeners so don't despair.

Solutions to the problemThe answer to the seed raising question in a lot of cases was answered by saying that if seedlings get too wet or too dry, then they’re not going to germinate.
So, are there any sure fire techniques that could work for you for some of those tricky seeds? 

Keeping A Record

Some gardeners and horticulturalists keep a record of everything they sow.
Whether you are producing a few plants for your home flower and vegetable gardens or working at a larger-scale nursery, developing a propagation journal or notebook, is a good place to start if you’re having a hit and miss type of problem with your seeds.
  • What you need to do is keep a record of
  • when seeds are sown, 
  • the germination date and 
  • success rate, and 
  • when seedlings are ready for transplanting each year. 
At the end of the year, evaluate the timing of when you put the seeds in, noting what went right and what went wrong. 

Next year you might then consider making adjustments so that you’re growing plants under optimum conditions. 
Also keep track of where you bought the seeds, as their quality and reliability might vary.
Having said that, seed companies sell thousands of packets of each variety of seed and these have been batch tested for germination rates at above 85%.
It’s pretty unlikely that a batch of seeds is unreliable without implying that several thousand other seeds won’t germinate either. 
The Next Thing is Where to Store Your Seeds.
  • Store your seeds properly-not in a garden shed if it heats up during summer and is freezing cold in winter. 
  • The cold won’t matter so much as the heat. 
  • Seeds are a fragile commodity, and if not treated properly, their viability takes a dive. 
  • Did you know that some seeds can survive for thousands of years under the proper conditions, while others will lose viability quickly, even when properly stored? 
  • Parsnips is one that loses viability very quickly. 
  • The best way to store your precious seeds is to keep seeds in a cool, dark location with low humidity, like a cool laundry that won’t fluctuate in temperate that much. 
  • Some say put them in the fridge, but if you’re like me, you’d need a whole fridge just to keep the seeds in. 
  • Store the seeds in a plastic container, and label the top with the expiry date of the seeds. 
Seed Germination Test
There is a test you can do for seed viability for many of your seed, although it’s not 100% bullet proof, and that is once you are ready to sow, you can soak them in water for a few hours.
The seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom, while the dead ones will float on the surface. This test generally works better for larger seeds as a general rule. 
It’s worth a try in any case.
The other method is to lay seeds on one half of a damp paper tower, and put them into a zip lock bag.
Keep an eye on the moisture level of the paper towel, opening it when it looks dry and misting with water from a spray bottle.
You seeds that are viable will germinate and these can be planted out into the garden, so nothing is wasted.

Sowing Seeds in Punnets
When sowing seeds in punnets, especially if you’re re-using them, give the punnets a good soak with a 10% solution containing bleach so that any pathogens that might kill of the seeds is killed.
This’ll take about 15 minutes.
You’re better off sowing plants
that resent root disturbance when transplanted into small, individual containers like cell packs or plug trays.
Recycled plastic containers, like empty yogurt or margarine tubs, work well, too, as long as you've poked holes in the bottom for drainage.
It doesn’t matter what type of container you use as long as it’s clean and free of pathogens. 

How to Best Cover Your Seeds

Another big factor in seeds not germinating is covering them with too much or too little seed raising mix.
  • If you’ve got an old kitchen sieve, use that to sprinkle the mix over the seeds after you’ve sown them into the punnets or vegetable garden. 
  • Very fine seeds that need light to germinate should be barely covered if at all. 
  • In this case, I tend to light sprinkle some soaked vermiculite over the seeds, so they won’t dry out but are weighed down by the mix. 
  • Each seed must make good contact with the soil and the best way to do this isn’t with your fingers-the seeds might stick to them, but with a small piece of wood, or the bottom of a glass jar. 
  • Water in your seeds either from the bottom up, or with a spray bottle so the seeds aren’t dislodged. 
  • Then cover your seeds with a plastic bag, a cut off plastic drink bottle, or in a mini greenhouse. 
  •  Don’t water again unless you that you need to rehydrate your seed container. 
  • The best way to do this is, place the entire punnet, pot or whatever you’re using in a basin with about 5-7 cm of luke-warm water and allow the planting medium to wick moisture from the bottom. 
  • If just the surface has dried, you can lift the plastic covering and spritz the surface with water from a spray bottle. 
  • As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic covering.. 
  • Most seeds like temperatures of around 18 ° to 25°C to germinate. 
If your put your seeds near a hot heater or use, a heating pad designed for germinating seeds, you’ll get a much fast germination rate in the cooler months.
In this case be sure to check for moisture often, since the seed containers may dry out more quickly.
Keep in mind that most seeds won’t germinate without sunlight.
Once the seeds have germinated they’ll grow best if they have at least 8 hours of sunlight each day.
 For indoors, place seed trays in a sunny, north-facing window and give the tray or whatever a quarter turn each day to prevent the seedlings from overreaching toward the light and developing weak, elongated stems.

Once your seedlings have grown at least 4 leaves, they’ll need some nutrients fairly regularly to keep your seedlings growing strong.
When the embryo inside a seed is developing, it relies on food stored in the endosperm to fuel its growth.
s the shoot emerges from the soil and the true leaves develop, the initial nutrients supplied by the endosperm will be depleted.

Most seed-starting mixes contain a small amount of nutrients to help the initial seedling growth and not burn the developing roots.
But, once the true leaves emerge, it’s time to begin a half-strength liquid fertilizer regimen on a weekly basis and to get the most out of your seedlings, start using some kind of seaweed solution to get strong root growth. 

Australian Native Citrus: Citrus australasica
Citrus Gems
The lemon tree is ubiquitous to most home gardens but are you aware that Australia has its own native citrus?
The fruit from Australia’s citrus is so unique though that top chefs are using it as a garnish in their cuisine.

Australian Native Citrus is still citrusy but not as we know it.

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.

 What it looks like
The leaves are similar to Murraya Min a Min being much smaller and finer that the leaves of a regular citrus tree.
The inner fruit consist of vesicles that aren’t joined as in the segments of say a Mandarin, making them pop out like the finest of Beluga caviars.
The trees are thorny, as Karen says, they're not called nature's barbed wire for nothing.
Australian native citrus produce finger shaped fruit up to 12 cm long with a typically green-yellow skin and pulp. 
These citrus trees tolerate light frost; grows best in light shade or sunny spot.
Suits sub-tropical. Warm temperate, cool temperate and Mediterranean climates.
Prune: Lightly, in spring. Don't prune too hard when fruit is forming as you can accidentally cut off your upcoming crop.


Daffodils of all kinds for the vase.
What is a Daffodil?
All Daffodils belong to the genus narcissus, which includes jonquils and paperwhites. 
Some gardeners call yellow narcissus, daffodils and the smaller, paler versions as jonquils, but they all belong to the genus narcissus and technically all carry the common name of daffodil. 
The genus name comes from the Greek god narcissus. 
According to legend, Narcissus was so enamored with his own reflection in the river that he drowned trying to capture his reflection.
The daffodils growing along stream banks in their native Mediterranean origin and all soon became associated with Narcissus and took on the Greek god's name.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Lilies, Poppies and All Things Sweet with Stevia

What's On The Show Today?

Illegal in some countries but we can safely use it in Spice it Up, beat that sugar addiction with this plant in Vegetable Heroes; a showstopper of a flowering tree in plant of the week, and flowers that bring your money in Talking Flowers segment.


Poppy Seed. Papaver somniferum
This next spice may have some people wondering as to how safe it is.

The reason is that the name suggests links with the underworld and drugs, but nothing could be further from the truth.
After all it’s there for all to see in the spice aisle of your supermarket, and is often seen as an ingredient in ready mix cakes.
did you know that poppy seeds have been used for thousands of years because of the wonderful, some say nutty flavour?
What am I talking about?
Let’s find out all about it
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

Poppy seed is a beautifully culinary spice used in dishes of many countries.
Drugs are made from the latex of the poppy, however the seeds contain negligible amounts of any narcotic content.
The ones that Ian is talking about are the blue poppy seeds for your cakes, breads and sprinkling over pasta.
Ian recommends sprinkling some poppy seeds over cooked pasta because it compliments carbohydrates so well.
There's also white poppy seeds which is used a lot in Indian cooking. 
The white poppy seeds are soaked in water and then macerated, before using in Indian dishes as a thickeners.

Be warned though, some countries in Asia, like China, Thailand, and the Arab Emirates, have banned poppy seeds of any kind, culinary or otherwise.
If you have any questions about poppy seeds, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Stevia Leaf

Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.

Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.

So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.

Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.

So what does Stevia plant look like? 

  • Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like. 
  • Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn. 
  • Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C. 
  • Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant. 
  • Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy. 
  • Stevia plants also hate being water logged. 

By the way, I’ve grow my stevia plant in a pot for several years now without any problems and it’s survived several bouts of dry hot summers and lack of watering during spells with a house sitter.

But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.

During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant.

But don’t plant your Stevia in waterlogged soil and don’t overwater it.

Adding a layer of compost or your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.

Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content.

Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.

HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter.

Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.

If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.

How do you store Stevia leaves?
If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secauteurs before stripping the leaves.

TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevio-side as do the leaves.
  • If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning). 
  • These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates. 
  • In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop. 
  • Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey. 
  • Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option. 
I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.
So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a moderately warm day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. (Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of the final product.)
If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand, in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Why are they good for you?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.


CRABAPPLES Malus floribunda

Flowers on this tree are so spectacular that you’ll be wondering why you’ve never planted it in your garden. 

Not only that, it’s easy to grow, is a small tree and is quite hardy.
But maybe you have one in your garden, and you’ve had it for years.

So instead you’re the envy of neighbours all around you but they’ve been either too afraid to ask you what it is or have been trying to sneak cuttings.

Let’s find out about this plant.

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

There’s quite a few other varieties of crabapples to choose from with enticing names like Sugar Tyme,  Showtime, Royal Raindrops and Golden Raindrops. 

The bonus is even though it’s a small ornamental tree, you get these crab apples and if you’re into masterchef or other cooking shows, you’ll be wanting to make crab apple jelly to use on your cooking creations. 
If you have any questions about growing crab apple trees, why not write in to


All About Lilies

Lilies-Tiger, Asiatic and Oriental

The genus Lilium belongs to the family of plants known as Liliaceae. True lilies belong to this genus and, despite their names, some species such as the Peace lily or Day lily are not true lilies, despite the ‘lily’ part of their name.

There are true lilies and there are fake lilies.
What I call fake lilies are thoese flowers that look like lilies, have lily in their name, but are members of the Liliaceae family.
Some of these fake lilies are  Daylilies, water-lilies and arum-lilies.
Lily Flower Meaning
White: Virginity, purity, majesty. It’s heavenly to be with you.
Yellow: I’m walking on air. Happy.
Tiger lily: Wealth, pride.
Pink stargazer lily: Daydreamer, pure of heart. Heaven in your eyes. Congratulations.
White stargazer lily: Sympathy
Taurus flower
Lily contains compounds that induce renal failure in cats.
Even small amount of pollen can induce poisoning in cats.
If you want to have lilies inside the house, and you have cats, cut of the stamens which hold the pollen, and this will also prolong the life of the lily in the vase.
I'm talking with expert florist Mercedes Sarmini of

Facebook post was recorded live during Real World Gardener radio program

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Gladdies, and Blueberries But Watch Out ForTPP

What’s On The Show Today?

A new pest to watch for in Plant Doctor, berries that are high in antioxidants in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and an flower and Gladioli in Talking Flowers segment.


New Pest: Tomato-potato psyllid

A new pest that could be coming to your garden soon is not something we gardeners would be glad to hear about.
But it has been detected in Australia and New Zealand so it’s something we need to be on the lookout for because it seems to combine the damage of a couple of pests.

Worse than that, it attacks plants from the Solanaceae family, like tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes, and even some plants in the Lamiaceae like Catmint.

Let’s find out all about it….
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general manager of

This new pest is something to watch out for and possibly a good time to take a hand lens with you out into the garden to have a closer look at the pests. 
The distinctive dame is when you see leaves that have curled up from the edge.
There is other damage as well that is similar to aphid and mite damage combined.
What does it look like?
The adults are 2-3mm in length or aphid size.
The main body is grey with some white markings. Click on the link below to see a photo.
The important distinction is the clear wings which sit at 45 degrees, almost like a mini cicadas wings or the peak of a house.
If you have any questions about this new pest; the tomato-potato psyllid, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


There are fruit that are at the some ranking as vegetable heroes,.

Would you have thought that the second most popular berry after Strawberries are Blueberries?

Blueberries are the fruit of a shrub that belongs to the heath family includes cranberries, azaleas and rhododendrons.

FACT: Did you know that Blueberries are one of the only natural foods that are really true blue in colour?

They’re sort of a bluey purple colour and have what’s called a waxy ‘bloom’ that protects the surface of the blueberry.
This bloom you can rub off with your finger if you’re curious to see what the true colour of blueberries are.

WE all know what blueberries look like from the punnets that are sold in the supermarket, but what do they look like when they’re growing on the plant?
Blueberries grow in clusters and come in sizes from a pea to a small marble.

Did you know that blueberries are one of the only fruits native to North America, but it wasn’t until the early 1950’ that blueberries were first brought to Australia.Why’s that?

A couple of guys- Messrs Karel Kroon and Ralph Proctor from the Victorian Department of Agriculture trialled growing them.

But, Australia was out of luck there because these guys couldn’t get past the disease problems.
Twenty years later, the Victorian Department of Agriculture tried again.
This time, a chap called David Jones carefully planted and tended to his blueberry seeds and eventually successfully grew several blueberry plants.
Still, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Blueberries were commercially available.

Where to Grow? What They Need?

Blueberries need moist soil, good drainage and lots of organic material.
Blueberries are acid loving plants that do best in soils with a pH between 4.5 to 5.5
If you can grow Camellias and Azaleas, you can grow Blueberries.
If you don’t have that ph you will have to add either elemental sulphur (where the pH is too alkaline) or lime / dolomite (where the pH is too acid). If the soil pH is higher the plants may show signs of iron deficiency.
If that sounds too hard, grow you blueberry plant in a pot.

Tip:Very important when growing blueberries. they have a very fine fibrousy root system, just like Azaleas, and this root system needs a porous medium in which to grow, a bit like coarse sand from where they came from.

If you have poor drainage, then grow them in a raised bed or at the very least, on a mound of soil and use lots of mulch.

So, a little bit fussy there.

Which to Grow

Not all blueberry plants are alike, so choose the variety for your region carefully.
For temperate areas which don’t get too cold in winter, we need to grow a variety which is low chill.
Gardeners in the know about chill factor will now know, that means a certain amount of hours below 7°  C. 
Blueberry flowers being pollinated
Gardeners in cool temperate areas can grow the low bush variety
Low bush variety-is a dwarf shrub that only grows to around 30-60 cm.
Low bush varieties love colder climates and need very low temperatures for the fertilised flowers to “set” and form berries.

They’re not grown in commercial quantities here.

The highbush variety, grows to 1.5–3 metres, has many different cultivars that are well suited to the Australian climate.
In Victoria, Tasmania and Southern New South Wales, you are more likely to find the Northern Highbush, high chill variety for sale in your nursery.

Winter chilling is quite high -(over 1000 hours below 2°C) but they can still able tolerate high summer temperatures.
The fruit of the Northern Highbush is harvested later in the season, from December to April.

For Northern NSW and Queensland, you need to grow a variety called Rabbiteye
The rabbiteye is a low chill, late season variety that’s best at coping with warm and humid summers
Rabiiteyes can also cope with dry conditions, making it right at home in Arid climates too.


IMPORTANT TIP: Blueberries fruit on the tips of the previous season’s growth.
I spoke to a blueberry grower last year and was told to let the shrub establish first.
That means, you must pluck off the flowers in spring so it doesn't set fruit, but the 3rd year you can let it flower.
If you let them establish for the first two years apparently the plants will last a lifetime!

Once your Blueberry shrub is established new stems will come up and fruit for up to four years initially from the tip to down the whole branch.
From the third winter onwards, cut back old, dry stems every winter.
Cut them back either down to ground level or to a vigorous new shoot near the ground.

They first produce sideshoots from the base of the plant soon after flowering in spring. Then in early to midsummer, vigorous growths push up from the base of the bush.

Hard pruning in winter will encourage this renewed growth and result in larger, earlier fruit.

Generally a tough bush that needs constant picking of the ripe fruit or they’ll get too soft.
MISTY another tough evergreen variety.. It is an early fruiting variety, with light blue, medium to large fruit of excellent flavour.
GULF COAST: The bush is vigorous and upright, with moderate toughness. The fruit is medium to large blue with a medium colour. The fruit has a problem in that it holds the stems on many of the berries at harvest. The flavour of the fruit is medium. 

BLUEBERRY BURST Good all rounder with super-sized fruits but best in pots.

Blueberries are pest free apart from caterpillars and birds, and if you prune the shrub so its open in the middle it reduces fungal disease.
Selecting and Storing Blueberries –
Pick or buy blueberries that are firm and have an even colour with a whitish bloom. Blueberries are another fruit that don’t ripen off the bush.
Blueberries should be eaten within a few days of picking or buying.
I tend to eat mine straight of the bush.
Ripe berries should be stored in a covered container in the fridge where they will keep for about 1 week.
Don't wash blueberries until right before eating as you will remove the bloom that protects the berries' skin from going bad.
If kept a room temperature for more than an hour, the berries will start to spoil.
Blueberries can be frozen.

Why are they good for you? 
Blueberries have large amounts of anthocyanins,- antioxidant compounds that give blue, purple and red colour to fruit and vegetables.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Antioxidants are very well known for their health benefits, especially their ability to reduce damage to our cells and Blueberries contain more antioxidants than most other fruits or vegetables

Blueberries are also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese and both soluble and insoluble fibre like pectin.
Plus they’re low in calories.
If you think they’re too fussy to grow, for the same price as a cup of coffee, treat yourself to a punnet of Blueberries, eat them straight out of the punnet (wash them of course) and enjoy the health benefits.



Mass Planting for Tropical Gardens part 2

Tropical gardens have a different regime of wet and dry compared to other climate zones in Australia.
The advantage is plants grow outside as if they’re in some huge greenhouse with perfect temperatures and irrigation or rainfall to make them grow like blazes.
But is the planting really all that different in tropical climates, and can we gardeners further south still grow these plants?

Let’s find out about in part 2 of mass planting in the tropics.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter mentioned the following plants.
Flowering shrubs to 3m 
Heliconia pendula - Waxy Red
Crinum augustum
Hakea bucculenta - large blood red flowers
Small trees to 5m
Malus ioensis plena - Double Crabapple
Plumaria obtusa  - Frangi pani
Xanthostemon chrysanthus - Golden Penda 

If you have any questions about mass planting for tropical climates, why not email us


1.      Gladiolus bulbs are not true bulbs. Gladiolus bulbs, in botanical terminology, are referred to as corms.

2.      A corm is a shortened and thickened section of the stem that appears at the base of the plant. On the corm are buds for each layer of leaves. Except for production of new varieties, Gladioli are not cultivated from seed.
3.      Gladiolus plants are outstanding perennial herbs being semi hardy in temperate climates. 
     They grow from rounded, symmetrical corms that are enveloped in several layers of brownish, fibrous tunics.

Best time is to plant Gladioli bulbs or corms now for Summer flowering.

Rain is usually not enough especially after the plant has grown around 5 sets of leaves.
That’s the time you need to start giving it lots of water.
The new corm and the new roots are formed on top of the old one during the growing season.

Mercedes recommends cut the stalks straight across the stem for vases.
Remember: Burped water which is Merecedes' way of saying, NO TAP WATER, but filtered water or water from the kettle for your vase.
Gladioli only like to sit in a small amount of vase water.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini about how to get the most vase life from your Gladioli.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Pruning Up High, Tubers to Eat and for Flowers

What’s On The Show Today?

There’s more to know in how to prune in high places, part 2 in Tool Time, tuberous roots that will propel you in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and an Iris that signifies love in the new Talking Flowers segment


High Reach Pruning part 2
Now’s a good time of the year to do a bit of pruning, wherever you live in Australia.
Last week we talked to Tony Mattson, general Manager of Cut Above Tools on how to prune up high.
There was so much to say that we created a part two of high reach pruning.

Kifsgate, England photo M Cannon
So how do we prune this safely, and if possible, without getting up on a ladder?
Let’s find out….
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of 

Heavy Duty Gear Action Pruner can be attached to a 5m or 6m pole

Tony says using a straight ladder isn't too bad in that you can wedge the top two rungs into tree branches.
A better solution is to use platform ladders because it gives you space to walk along the platform and trim say a hedge before needing it to be moved.
Pol pruners are good for stems up to 35-40 mm in diameter.
For bigger stems thant 40 mm in diameter, you should be using a pruner with mechnical assistance.
Ratchet pruners and pole pruners with gears are the way to go.

Here are some things that you don't want when you’re selecting high reach pruning tools or pole pruners.

•Blades on pruners that separate when you try to cut a tough branch.
•Poles that bend too much.
•Telescopic poles that start to twist around each other as the friction lock wears out.
•Also, ropes on the outside of the pole are more likely to get tangled in small branches than chains.
Chains inside the pole are better; they will never get tangled up.I
If you have any questions about high reach pruning why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Jerusalem Artichokes.  Helianthus tuberosus.

There are other names for this vegetable, such as earth apple and sunchoke but here in Australia, we just call the Jerusalem artichokes as far as I can tell.

From the scientific name, would you’ve guessed that the sunflower, Helianthus annuus is in the same family.

It’s not only in the same family but a large part of the fun of growing this veggie is that it also grows sunflowers.
Here’s another surprise, this veggie originates in America and Canada.

That’s right, Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America, growing in the wild along the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Nova Scotia.

Did you know that the Jerusalem artichoke was titled 'best soup vegetable' in the 2002 Nice Festival for the Heritage of the French Cuisine?

So what do they look like when they’re growing? 

As with potatoes, the top part of the plant looks nothing like what you get underneath the ground.
The top part of the plant grows like a bushy sunflower plant. 

The gnarly tubers would remind you of ginger roots if you saw them.

Why grow them?

Because they’re going to surprise you how delicious they are.
They have a sweetness about them and they’re not starchy.
That’s because they don’t contain starch but the carbohydrate inulin which is component of the fructose molecule.
In fact, Tubers stored for any length of time will convert their inulin into its component fructose.
That explains why Jerusalem artichokes have an delicious sweet taste. 

Fructose by the way is about one and a half times sweeter than sucrose.
Definitely one for the sweet of tooth.

When and how do you grow Jerusalem artichokes?

  • In temperate climates plant the tubers between September to December –because the best time is when the soil temperature is between 8°C and 15°C 
  • For cool temperate districts buy the tubers now and plant them in November and December, 
  • In sub-Tropical climes, they’re best planted in Autumn-winter. You can plant them in tropical climates but they’re likely to rot off during the wet season. 
  • Lastly for arid districts you can grow them from April until October. 

Jerusalem artichoke will be ready to dig up in around 4-5 months.

Tubers, or chunks of tubers can be planted in full sun or in part shade.
The sunflowers will make their first appearance in late spring or early summer and look like little baby sunflowers.

For great tasting Jerusalem artichokes add some organic fertiliser during planting otherwise they’ll taste quite bland.
That being said, the plants themselves are not picky and will grow in just about any soil.
If you are going to grow Jerusalem Artichokes or sunchokes, make sure dig them up every year to prevent them from going taking over the garden. Otherwise confine them somehow with a border stop.

Roots can be dug in the autumn after the plant dies back.
Re-plant the tubers you don’t eat or at least save some to replant.

Once you taste them you’ll be tempted to eat them all.
As mentioned before, these tubers as with other members of the Daisy or Asteraceae (including the artichoke), store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch.

Warning: Some people have no problem digesting them but they are a minority.
Over 50 percent of their carbohydrate is in forms we don’t have enzymes to break down

Store them in a cool place that isn't too dry.
Wrapped in plastic in the fridge will do nicely.

TIP: They’ll get bitter if kept too long in storage so that’s why it’s best to leave them in the ground and dig them up as you need them.
You can continue digging them up from autumn right through to early spring in temperate districts anyway.

If you’re put off with the wind theory, let me tell you it’s a bit overstated.
But just in case you’re worried here are some steps that are supposed to alleviate the problem.
Windy Problem?
Put the tubers in the fridge for a month, then slice and boil in lots of water for 15 minutes, adding one tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 litre after 10 minutes, or right at the start if you want crisp tubers. Drain, slip off peel, and pat dry. Then use them as you would in recipes with pumpkins.

Actually the best way to eat them is to roast them in the oven with some olive oil for 40 minutes. Just yummy.

Why Is It Good For You?
Nutritionally, Jerusalem artichokes has very high potassium.
In fact jerusalem artichokes have six times the potassium of a banana.
They are also high in iron, and contain 10-12% of the US RDA of fibre, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper.
For a half cup serve of Jerusalem artichokes you only get a tiny 57 calories, along with some1.5. gr. protein, 1.2 gr. fibre, 10.5 mg. calcium.
So if you like sunflowers, why not have an edible crop as well?


Mass Planting for a Tropical Garden part 1
Tropical gardens have a different regime of wet and dry compared to other climate zones in Australia.
The advantage is plants grow outside as if they’re in some huge greenhouse with perfect temperatures and irrigation or rainfall to make them grow like blazes.
But is the planting really all that different in tropical climates, and can we gardeners further south still grow these plants?

Let’s find out about in part 1 of mass planting in the tropics.

I'm talking with was Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter mentioned the following plants:
Ground cover -  Canavalia rosea 

Tall Groundcovers:
Peperomia argyreia - Watermelon Peperomia  
Stroemanthe sanguinea tricolor
Hedichium arundelliana - Wavy Leaf Native Ginger

Costus woodsonii ‘French Kiss’
If you have any questions about mass planting with a tropical them why not email


Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris-not an iris at all.

One of the world’s most popular florist flowers because of its dramatic flowers with long straight stems that are easy to arrange and last a long time in bouquets.

Dutch iris, also known as Iris hollandica, which has orchid-like flowers with silky petals.
Flower colors range from pale blue and lemon through deep purple, bronze, rose and gold.
Did you know that the Dutch Iris never grew wild in the Netherlands?
Instead, it’s been refined over many years through hybridisation by Dutch growers.
Dutch iris are popular cut flowers because they are dramatic, easy to arrange and long-lasting. Unlike other types of iris that grow from thickened roots called rhizomes, Dutch iris grow from teardrop-shaped bulbs that are planted in the Autumn.

The iris's mythology dates back to Ancient Greece, when the goddess Iris, who personified the rainbow (the Greek word for iris), acted as the link between heaven and earth.

It's said that purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the goddess Iris to guide them in their journey to heaven.

Irises became linked to the French monarchy during the Middle Ages, eventually being recognized as their national symbol, the fleur-de-lis.I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers with Mercedes.

Dutch Iris like rich, well-drained soil is important and, while it is quite acceptable to leave the bulbs in the ground, there is a risk of disease.
Mine have never come up the following year.
Facebook live during the Real World Gardener radio broadcast.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Pruning Up High, Growing Fruit Trees, and Gifting Gerberas

What’s On The Show Today?

How to prune in high places, part 1, in Tool Time, growing fruits from seed in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and talking about one of the top 5 cut  flowers, the Gerbera in Talking Flowers.


High Reach Pruning Part 1
Now’s a good time of the year to do a bit of pruning, wherever you live in Australia.
Sometimes though our garden gets away from us because we all lead busy lives, and can’t fit enough things in the day.

The problem is, there are some branches of either a shrub or a tree, that are quite high up.
So how do we prune this safely, and if possible, without getting up on a ladder.
Let’s find out…
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

Just in case you’re thinking of getting up on a ladder, is a couple of information from Staysafe NSW, which I’m sure will apply to all states.
Only use ladders for simple access jobs, or for a short duration.
It’s best to work from ground level whenever possible.
If you must use a ladder:
Always maintain three point of contact with the ladder. This means two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it. 
Tony suggests that tie the ladder to the tree so that it won't move.
The staysafe link:

Instead of ladders consider the different types of pole pruners.
Keep in mind that you'll be holding it up for a period of time so choose one that suits your strength capability.
If you have any questions about high reach pruning why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Growing Fruit Trees From Seed
Is growing fruit trees from seed just something for kids or is it something that we can do ourselves?

But if we grow it ourselves from seed, is it going to be useful?

That’s a good question and something that is hard to answer because it all depends on what seed you’re trying to grow.

The thing to remember is that most of the time, you will be getting a chance seedlings of perhaps the mother plant or perhaps something a bit weaker.

What Are The Drawbacks?
Then there’s the drawback of when growing from seed, it takes a lot longer before the tree starts to fruit.

But there’s even one more drawback.
A lot of fruit trees are grafted onto understock.
The reason for this is because the understock is more hardy and a stronger grower than the scion.
The scion is that bit of the tree that is the actual tree that you want.

Of course the disadvantage of grafted trees is that when the tree graft gets damaged or the top part of the tree dies for whatever reason, the understock takes over.
Quite often the understock is not a great fruiting tree.
Think those rough or bush lemons with the thick yellow nobbly skin and inside, the fruit is most probably not very juicy.

So do you still want to give growing a fruit tree from seed a try? Why not then?

Let’s start with growing a lime tree from seed.
Lime trees are great because you can use them in cooking, especially Thai food or with your gin and tonic.

Since the lime seeds you’re going to use is from fruit that you buy from the shops, they’re most likely hybrids.

Therefore, planting lime seeds from these fruits often won’t produce identical limes. Polyembryonic seeds, or true seeds, will generally produce identical plant.

I’ve never heard of these types of seeds being available in Australia.

Keep in mind that other contributing factors, like climate and soil, also affect the overall production and taste of lime tree fruit.

You can plant the seed directly in a pot using potting mix or place it in a plastic bag. Before planting lime seeds, however, be sure to wash them and you may even want to allow them to dry for a couple days, then plant them as soon as possible.

Plant seeds 1 cm deep in containers in potting mix

Germination usually happens within a couple of weeks.

As I mentioned before the downside to growing lime trees from seed is that it can take anywhere from four to ten years before they produce fruit, if at all.

Nectarines from seed
Let’s go for something bigger like a Nectarine seed.

Fruit trees are most often likely to be hybrids as well so that the new plant will be the same kind of plant, but its fruit and vegetative portions may not look the same as the parent, because the plant is "heterozygous."

There’s a good word.

The genetics term heterozygous refers to a pair of genes where one is dominant and one is recessive — they're different.

This means that all fruit trees must be vegetatively propagated by either grafting or budding methods.

The seeds of all common tree fruits (apple, pear, peach, and cherry) require a chilling period before they’ll germinate and grow into plants.

What you need to do know is put the seeds through a cold treatment.

·         First take out the seed from the fruit and clean off any fruit the is sticking to the seed and allow the seeds to air dry.
·         Then place them in a glass jar with a loosely fitted lid or cover.
·         Set the seeds aside June of next year.
·         Mix the seeds (in mid-June) with either moist (but not wet) sphagnum peat moss, sand or shredded paper towels.
·         Put the mixture to the jar and replace the lid.
·         Place the jar with the seeds in the fridge.
·         The seeds should stay in the fridge for at least 60 days.
·         Early in Spring plant the seeds out.
But before you rush outside to plant your seeds, there’s one more thing that you need to do.

Special Note

·         Stone fruits have a hard covering over the embryo.
·         It’s a really good idea to crack the hard covering slightly using a nutcracker just before planting so you’ll have a better chance of germination.
·         Be careful not to crush the embryo inside the covering.
·         The new seedlings will develop a tap root.
·         You can also improve the rate of germination by soaking the seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours before planting.
·         Keep the soil moist but don’t fertilise at this time. 

Once the seedlings have gotten going, you can plant them out into the garden or a larger pot.
If you’ve started your seeds in the ground first up, then to make transplanting easier,
You need to cut the taproot by pushing a spade under each plant.
Of course now what you can do is learn the art of budding or grafting, but that’s for another day.


Mass Planting For a Mediterranean Climate
You may have heard that some parts of Australia experience what’s called a Mediterranean climate.
That’s where you can have moist mild to very cold winters and warm to hot and mostly dry summers.
Sometimes the winters are a bit harsh and cold so how do you plant out a garden that has harsh freezing cold frosts but warm to blazing hot summers with little rain?
Do you stick to just having a desert style garden or one with succulents, but that has limited appeal really.

Perhaps you would like a garden with lots of mass planting instead and plants of different heights and flowers?
So what can you really plant in this climate.
Let’s find out about. I'm talking with Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter mentioned plants like Chinese plumbago, Grevillea rhyolitica and Cistus species which do well in mass plantings and definitely work in a Mediterranean style climate.
If you have any questions about mass planting for Mediterranean climates, why not email us


Gerberas as Cut Flowers
Did you know that Gerbera flowers were named after Trauggott Gerber, a botanist and physician from the 1700s?
Another fascinating fact is that supposedly, many people place gerberas by their bed to enjoy a better sleep!
Gerberas emit oxygen and absorb toxins and carbon monoxide at night instead of during the day like most flowers.
I’ve heard that they’re the longest lasting cut flowers in a vase.

The Gerbera is the birth month flower for April.

If you look at gerbera flower, you would think that it’s just one big flower head with lots of small petals. In fact, the flower head is a huge cluster of hundreds of flowers.
Gerbera seeds are expensive because each flower only produces a few seeds that are only viable for 1 year.
Plus the large fluffy seeds don’t fit into automatic seeding machines so need to be hand sown, maybe still today?
They are native to South Africa, but a lot of breeding has gone into developing the large daisy-like flowers we see today.
Listen to the podcast here

Watch the video of Mercedes Sarmini talking with me (host) on Real World Gardener radio show.
We're talking about how best to look after Gerberas in the Vase.

How to grow a Gerbera-

Gerberas are perennials and do best in full sun, in well-drained soil.
They’ll grow in most parts of Australia but are happiest in a warm climate.
In cool or moist areas plants need excellent drainage and shelter from the cold. I
If your soil is poorly drained, grow the plants in a raised garden bed.If you experience wet autumns and winters plant gerberas where they will keep dry during the colder months.
If you have any questions for Mercedes, why not write in to