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Radio Round Up January 30 - 31

Thunder, lightning and torrential rain; it’s officially the wettest January the East Coast has had for nearly 30 years. And there’s more on the horizon.

But it’s another glorious morning. Beautiful sunshine and the promise of another great morning in the garden. So let’s get into it before the next downpour!


If like me you put up a veggie tunnel to grow tomatoes and other veg you are probably harvesting up to 20 cucumbers a day. We cant eat them fast enough!


It’s Time To:

Pickle your excess cucumbers 

Get a hold of the new book from Cornersmith Cafe in Sydney. Alex Elliott-Howery shows you all you need to know about pickling and bottling your cucumbers and other seasonal fruit and veg to enjoy in the cooler months.


All areas

Dunk ant-infested pot plants into seaweed solution until bubbles stop. This will refresh plant roots, improve potting mix and deal with the ants.

Take a deep breath and prune the lavender even though it still looks lovely. Arrange trimmings in vases, or hang bunches upside down somewhere cool and dark to dry. Trim other Mediterranean favourites too, such as catmint, sage, thyme and rosemary.

Prune wisteria into shape by reducing long tendrils, making cuts above the short buds that will be next year’s flowers.

Too hot? Find a shady spot and a book. We’re enjoying Holly Kerr Forsyth’s Country gardens, Country Hospitality. Read an extract on page 48.



Add a splash of colour with agastache, a small shrub which flowers between October and April, has a tangy fragrance and comes in a variety of hot colours.

Tip prune basil to thicken up the bush. Harvest by removing a whole stem to ground level, which encourages new shoots and fresh tasty leaves.

Raise the mower blades slightly as longer grass stays greener.

Keep weeding, feeding, deadheading and watering if needed.


When you have 30 minutes

Adjust the compost. Do a simple ph test with one of the kits available at nurseries. Most compost will be overly acidic, so that adding it to the garden can spoil rather than improve the soil. We adjust the acidity of the compost as we go, by adding in some dolomite lime from time to time. You can use horticultural lime to raise the pH reading, but we prefer dolomite lime, which is essentially just rock crushed almost a powder. It has a slower and gentler action than lime and is also a good source of magnesium and calcium, which prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes and zucchini.


Bush Garden:

Flowering Gums

Iridescent orange, pink and red gum flowers are the must-have plants for summer, bringing in flocks of nectar feeding parrots into your garden. They are followed by ginormous gum nuts that the seed eating birds just adore.

They enjoy full sun and are tolerant of drought and light frost once established, can handle a good old ‘man-prune’ and need little else. Most are fast-growing and long-lived. They can be a little sensitive to wet and humid conditions in the Eastern states. They’ll be fine in well-draining soil.

Developed by Stan Henry, the Summer Series hybrids have been developed for gardens across to Sydney and up to Brisbane. Grafting has made them tolerant of most soil types and also insures that vigour, colour and size grow ‘true to type’.

Check out ‘Summer Beauty’ – soft pink flowers, to 5m tall, ‘Summer Red’ – red flowers, to 5m tall, and ‘Summer Glory’ – vibrant pink flowers, 4-6m tall.


Summer Glory in Linda’s coastal garden. Photo – Linda Ross



Watch out for scale

Most scale insects are parasites that feed on plants, feeding on sap drawn directly from the plant's stems. A few species feed on fungal spores on the plant’s stems, and their presence can indicate a fungal problem.

Scale insects feed on a wide variety of plants, and there are almost as many different species of scale insects as there are different plant species.

Scale are best prevented by regular spraying with Eco-oil. Treat fungal infections with Eco-fungicide and keep foliage off the ground where fungal spores reside. Keep the mulch up to your soil to stop these spores splashing up in the rain.


There are literally thousands of different types of scale insects out there. But the treatment is usually the same. Photo –


In the Veggie Patch

Cucumbers, tomatoes and other vine crops

As I mentioned before, we have so many cucumbers we just don’t know what to do with them. And the secret behind our record cucumber haul? We got them up off the ground.

Back in late winter – early spring we erected a veggie tunnel with some bamboo, light weight fencing mesh and a little tie-wire. All up around $20 worth of hardware.

By giving the vine crops a structure they can spread out on that is both large enough for them to ramble over, and is off the ground where pests and disease can easily ruin your crop, the vines are capable of producing fruit from most nodes. And that's precisely what we're seeing with the cucumbers. Vines literally dripping with fruit.

We'd love to know how your veggie patch is looking. Why not send us some pictures of your success stories?


Very little money and effort required. And the results have been extraordinary! The Veggie tunnel is here to stay! Photo - Luisa Brimble


Come away with us: Grand Gardens of Europe

Is a European tour on your bucket list? Our Grand Gardens of Europe tour is just the ticket to see the highlights of a European spring – great flower displays in Holland, France and England including Monet’s Giverny, Kenkenhof’s tulips, the Chelsea Flower Show on Members’ day and so much more.

Go to the Ross Tours website, or call Royce or Roslyn at Ross Tours to reserve your place on 1300 233 200 for more details on the tour.


Get ready to tick Keukenhof off your bucket list. Photo -


Garden News:

The Collectors’ Plant Fair is setting up to be the biggest garden event in Sydney this year with over 70 speciallist nurseries in the one place. The show has been running for 10 years. But this year it’s bigger than ever

The Collectors’ Plant Fair convenor, and my daughter, Linda Ross joined me on air to tell us all about the 2016 gardening event not to be missed. Linda said that part of the reason this fair is so successful is that it’s all about getting those little plant treasures you cannot get at the local nursery.

Back at the beautiful Hawkesbury Race Club in April, the Collectors’ Plant Fair will also feature talks from artists, garden designers, and our dear friend and secret gardener, Wendy Whiteley.

Many gardeners wait all year to buy their plants at the Collectors’ Plant Fair, and many growers will keep plants in reserve to sell on Sunday. But don’t leave it too long! The early bird gets the worm. You can get in early and get a discounted ticket online. Log on to to book your tickets today.


Get discounted tickets online now and beat the crowds on the day.

Alan Carle talks about Botanical Ark

Who'd have thought a derelict and degraded cattle property in Tropical North Queensland would become one of the world’s great ornamental and economic food source rainforest collections?

Today that property is Botanical Ark, the dream and brainchild of Susan and Alan Carle in Mossman, Queensland.


Botanical Ark is an incredible botanical collection in an amazing tropical setting. Photo - Alan Carle


Botanical Arc is on the very edge of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest in the Wet Tropics. It’s a global collection of beautiful and practical food trees gathered by Susan and Alan having travelled extensively all over the world. Each specimen has been grown to perfection under the guiding hands of these two eco-warriors.


Alan Carle. Last of the plant hunters. Photo - Norbert Guther


Much has already been learnt and studies continue into the plants growth habits, pollinators and flower and fruit production.

I visited there recently to film an amazing adventure and tropical paradise story for next Friday's Better Homes & Gardens. I discovered two hardy, dedicated souls hell- bent on saving the worlds rainforest, growing a representative example of rainforest plants, then opening it for the world to come visit, stay and learn.

For more images of some of the rare and unusual tropical plants in the Botanical Ark collection go to the Garden Clinic Facebook page.


Alan and Susan with Graham.  


And you can stay at Botanic Ark too. Log on to to book your stay in this beautiful and unique tropical treasure, and meet these horticultural heroes, Alan and Susan.


The Botanical Ark tropical billabong. Photo - Alan Carle