Tackling a tough garden bed part 1 in Design Elements

September 27th, 2021


When the going gets tough

Many gardeners have a section of their garden that might often see plant failures year after year.
They’ve tried all sorts of plants that claim to be tough as old boots, but still they fail.

Glenice Buck has dealt with one such problem garden bed where she lives and this week starts a series of 3, on how she went about solving the problem.

Glenice explains that the bed is on a slope (see photo below) so the water would just hit the soil and run down the hill.
This garden bed also gets all day sun on heavy clay soil.
Access to water is limited to hand watering. Not ideal considering the busy schedule that Glenice's parents have.
On top of the lack of shade and being baked by hot afternoon summer sun, the soil had been previously used as bit of a driveway and had been compacted by heavy machinery when the house was being build.
Glenice said in her post that 


"This section of garden bed in the rear garden at #thegardenattheberkshires has been the toughest bed I have ever dealt with. Five years on with a lot of work and improvements it is finally starting to fill in and look good. It has been hard to get anything to grow in this area. The reasons for it being a difficult spot to deal with is

Tough garden bed at the Berkshires photo Glenice Buck

Have a listen to the podcast
I'm talking with Glenice Buck Landscape design and Arboriculture consultant.

Real World Gardener Beautiful Banksia in Talking Flowers

March 12th, 2019


Banksia species

Australia isn't overwhelmed with different types of Banksias.

Banksia is a genus of only around 173 species in the plant family Proteaceae.

All but one occur naturally only in Australia.

Breeders have hybridised many more, think Banksia 'Birthday Candles.'



The flower heads are made up of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of tiny individual flowers grouped together in pairs. 

The colour of the flower heads appear very similar across many species. 

Think a honey coloured brown with some red.

Banksias are great for nectar feeding birds because they flower over autumn and winter when food is scarce for them.

The fruits of banksias (called follicles) are hard and woody and are often grouped together to resemble cones. they're not cones of course because Bankias aren't conifers.

In many species the fruits won't open until they have been burnt or completely dried out.

  • An easy way to release seed is to place the 'cone' in an oven at 120°­140° C for about an hour. 
  • The follicles then open and the seeds can be removed with tweezers. Two black winged seeds are usually found in each follicle.

Real World Gardener Gardening in Dry Soil in Backyard Biodynamics

September 6th, 2018


Soil-Organic-Fertilizer-Compost-Garden-HGardening in Dry Soil: How to Make Your Soil Healthy

Is your soil healthy and full of earthworms or is it dry, degraded with no sign of anything living?

When you pick up a handful of soil, what colour is it and does it run through your fingers like sand, or stay in a big clump?

All of these things are important to know but here are some ideas to help improve your dry soil so your plants will be more vigorous and healthy. 

Let’s find out .

That was Diane Watkin, co-founder of Biodynamics Sydney.

PLAY: Gardening in Dry Soil_29th August 2018

Neglected soil, degraded soil, sandy soil, all of these possibilities add up to "lifeless dirt."

It's no good putting in a bagful of earthworms because they will surely perish as there is no food for the worms.

To encourage life back into your soil you need to add liquid in the form of compost eat, worm tea, seaweed tea or fish-head tea.


Chelsea Physic Garden photo M Cannon

Also you need to add organic matter in the form of organic or biodynamic compost.

All these things will bring back the microbial life and encourage earthworms to return.

For those gardeners not able to access bio-dynamic compost and any of the preparations Diane talked about, the second best alternative is to use organic compost, especially home-made compost and some sort of seaweed tea, weed tea, or similar.


If you have any questions about improving your soil, either for me or for Diane, why not email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Real World Gardener Make Your Soil Wet Again in Plant Doctor

December 31st, 2017


Watering The Garden and Hydrophobic Soils

Water is a scarce enough commodity in Australia, so gardeners would like to think that they are watering efficiently.


We all know the best times to water but what you may not know is that if you scratch the surface of your soil, you may find that the water hasn’t even penetrated.

There are many causes of soil that is water repellent or hydrophobic.

Why’s that you may ask?

Let’s find out. 'm talking with General Manager of www.ecoorganicgarden.com.au


Water repellence can be due to the waxy substances that come from plant material being not properly decomposed. These in turn coat the soil particles. The smaller the soil particle, as in sandy soils,the great chance of the waxy substances clinging to them.


Through no fault of your own, the soil in your garden may be prone to being water repellent.

This means you may need to have routine distribution of a wetting agent, either wetting granules or the spray on kind.

The liquid form of wetting agent also comes in a hose on so it does seem an easy way to do a large area.



Wetting granules though are no more difficult to apply than spreading organic fertiliser around your garden.

When choosing a soil wetter one thing to note is that some are based on petroleum derivatives and alcohol, making them unsuited to organic gardens. 

Others contain only naturally occurring substances that readily biodegrade and cause no ill effects to the soil or plants. 

To help choose a suitable wetting agent check the ingredients. 

For organic gardeners, eco-Hydrate contains polysaccharides (natural humectants that can suck moisture from the air), soil surfactants (which aid in moisture penetration) and soil conditioners (including fulvic acid and seaweed extract).  


If you have any questions about hydrophobic soils either for me or Steve, why not email us realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Real World Gardener All About Biodynamic Composting

December 8th, 2017

Backyard Biodyanamics

Biodynamic Composting

Have you ever asked the question, “why don’t my plants grow?” or why is my neighbour/friend/relative’s garden so much more healthy than mine?

Usually the answer lies in the health of the soil.

How do we know if soil is healthy?



It’s back to that question of why won’t my plants grow.

Healthy soil will have healthy growing plants and we need compost to make healthy soil.

Most gardeners will either have a compost heap or at least know the basics of making a compost heap.

Building a compost heap the Biodynamic way is something else.


Let’s find out how it's different to making regular compost.

I'm talking with  Dianne Watkin, Principal of Biodynamics Sydney and an avid gardener.

If you want to know more or if you have any questions about Biodynamic preparations either for me or Dianne, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com


Real World Gardener An Introduction to Backyard Biodynamics

November 2nd, 2017


Introduction to Biodynamic Gardening.

Most of us have seen products like cheeses, wines, bread, flour, and many grains like lentils that are labelled biodynamic.


Jurlique Farm in Adelaide is a Biodynamic Farm

Biodynamic farms are all over Australia and have been here for nearly 100 years.

Like many people, you probably thought that it was just another way of saying organic, but even though it has organic principles it’s a different method of gardening or farming.

So, what does that mean exactly?

Let’s find out all about biodyamics for your garden.

I'm talking with Dianne Watkins, Principle of Biodynamics Sydney and she tells me, a keen gardener too.

PLAY : Biodynamics intro_27 th October_2017


According to Wikipedia the definition for Biodynamic agriculture is a that it’s a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925).


Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements.

It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.

Dianne mention a couple of preparations; BD500 uses a meatball sized preparation which is mixed in 100 litres of water. Too much for the small garden but good for parks, community gardens and a neighbourhood gardens if you can get people to share.

For home gardeners the best solution is the Soil Activator, which is also mixed with water and flicked all over the garden.


If you have any questions about Biodynamic gardening then why not email us realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Real World Gardener Weeding Tools for Lawns in Tool Time

August 10th, 2017



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 www.cutabovetools.com.au

PLAY: Weeding Tools part 1_26th July 2017



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 realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675





Real World Gardener BETTER Garden Walkways in Design Elements

June 8th, 2017




Up the Garden Path, Softly


Today’s garden challenge is for those gardeners that don’t want hard surface garden paths.


Concrete, brick or 

other types of paving for paths 

can be a bit harsh in areas 

where the garden is quite natural.

What do you opt for then?


Perhaps mulch?


Mulch decomposes rather quickly and you end up raking some up when you're trying to get rid of those leaves from branches that hang over the path.


Leaves that don't look attractive are usually from trees in the Proteaceae family, such as Madacdamia or Ivory Curl tree, 

because they're quite hard and take a long time to break down.


But there are other alternatives, although not necessarily ones that you can do yourself unless you're really handy with the compactor.




In this segment, garden designer Peter Nixon explores some softer alternatives.

Let’s find out…I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and Peter’s not a fan of pebbles on paths.



Scampston Garden in England. photo M Cannon


Instead why not try a combo of bark chips and shell grit, or decomposed granite, perhaps lillydale topping and bark or woody mulch.

You would need to run the plate compactor over these surfaces to compact the path.

If you have any questions about what to do for your garden paths in your garden, or have some information to share, write in realworldgardener@gmail.com


Real World Gardener Why We Need Worm Farms in Living Planet

February 15th, 2017

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at www.2rrr.org.au  and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network. www.realworldgardener.com


The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on http://www.cpod.org.au/ , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition


How To Look After Your Worm Farm? Getting Started.


Still not convinced about worm farms?

StartWormFarm.jpgWell did you know that in one worm, there is around 474, 075 million bacteria ?

These bacteria do an incredibly important job – mainly making minerals available to your plants.

From the reference “Earthworms in Australia’, by David Murphy,

When compared to the parent soil (the original soil), worm castings (the worm’s poo) have approximately:


7 times the available phosphorous: 6 times the available nitrogen

3 times the available magnesium: 2 times the available carbon

1.5 times the available calcium

So which worms go best in worm farms?

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


PLAY: Worm farms part 2_8th February 2017

Worms like to be kept moist and covered because they're Sensitive to light.

Keep your worm farm in a shady spot so that they don't overheat and on hot days, give them a sprinkle of water.


worms hate light.

The worms don’t create the minerals out of thin air but change their form from insoluble to soluble by digesting them.

That’s reason enough to get into worm farming.

Real World Gardener How to Measure Soil pH and Why We Should in Design Elements

May 26th, 2016

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at www.2rrr.org.au  and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network. www.realworldgardener.comREALWORLD GARDENER NOW ON FACEBOOK

The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on http://www.cpod.org.au/ , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.


Now that you know what your soil pH is in most of your garden, or you’re going to find out soon, what’s the ideal pH for plants to grow in?

What can you do if you don’t have that ideal pH and how do you actually use that pH kit?

Let’s find out in this segment about soil pH. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.

Alkaline soil pH


Acid soil pH

Just a reminder that soil pH is important because it influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil.




If you’re soil’s too acidic or too alkaline, it will take quite a few months to change the pH, but that doesn’t mean you should give up now.


Measuring pH is easy even with the most basic kit.

All you need to do is dig up some soil samples from several parts of your garden, and spritz them with some water, but don't make the soil sample soggy. Next add a few drops of dye indicator fluid followed by a few shakes of the powder (Barium sulphate.)

Wait a couple of minutes and the powder should colour up.

You can then compare the colour of the powder with the soil pH chart.

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