Banksia coccinea – Scarlet Banksia

A beautiful bright red and silver flowering banksia from Western Australia, very popular in the cut flower industry, and a plant with real wow factor in the garden. It grows as a large shrub to small tree around 5 metres tall.

It grows naturally on sandy acidic soils and dislikes clay. Gardens with shallow dense soil will benefit from creating raised beds or mounds for this plant, and it will also grow well in very large containers where it can have great drainage. It will possibly be a short lived plant in humid areas along the east coast of Australia, does well in southern states. It naturally grows in south west Western Australia including the Sterling Ranges in lightly forested areas, so it will grow well in filtered light or full sun. It does snow in the Sterling Ranges, so Banksia coccinea can tolerate some frost once established, some protection for young plants and actively growing ones in frosty periods is desirable.

Cut back old flowering stems that have finished along with any straggly stems, which will encourage a more dense habit. Only fertilise with a low phosphorus fertiliser in spring and summer if needed.

Composting: Frequently Asked Questions

Q – What is an ideal pH of compost?

A – Excessively high acidity or alkalinity levels can hinder the efficiency of worms and microorganisms at work in a compost bin. The ideal conditions for maximum efficiency is a neutral reading of 7.0. The composting process often leads to more acid levels in the materials. It is a good idea to test your compost every so often, either with litmus paper or with a meter. If your reading is too acidic, add a good sprinkle of Tumbleweed Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner, finely crushed eggshells, or dolomite, mixing into compost.

Q – I often have too much fruit and vegie waste for my home composting system to handle.  Is there anything we can do to speed up the composting process?

Aerating the compost will help to speed up decomposition. As it adds more oxygen into the materials, it creates a more aerobic system which helps keep problems at bay. I use the CompostMate tool which makes it easy to fluff up the compost. If you don’t have one of those then mix with a garden fork or similar. Finely chopping or blending your scraps before you put them in will help them break down faster. It is also important to keep the moisture level right – not too wet and not too dry will help the microbes and worms to be at their working best. Using only fruit and vegie waste will likely result in a very wet compost, so balance it up with shredded paper and plain cardboard, which will also bring much needed carbon to the system. Lastly check the pH levels, as excessively high levels of acidity or alkalinity can slow down the composting process.

Q – I started a compost bin and now it’s full of worms. What is the best way to get the compost out of the bottom without removing the worms?

It can be tricky to remove all the worms, even with a compost system designed specifically to encourage a worm free product. Additionally there may also be worm capsules which will hatch later. If I specifically need no worms in my compost, then I will stack it onto a very fine mesh in the sunshine for a couple of weeks, which will allow the worms to drop out of the bottom, and for the worm capsules to hatch. Some of the fine compost will also drop through with the worms with this method. If you don’t have fine mesh, then you can use a wheel barrow or large box in the sunshine, and heap the compost. The worms will tend to travel downwards, as they do so you keep removing the hopefully worm free compost from the outside of the heap.
If you don’t need worm free compost, then just use your worm laden compost in the garden and let nature take its course. Worms are added goodness to your soil.

Q – My compost heap is slimy and smelly, what can I do?

A compost heap with this sort of problem usually has had too many nitrogen rich ingredients added, and is holding too much water and not enough air to allow the composting microbes to work at their best. Firstly, adding more carbon rich materials in the form of shredded paper, dried leaves, torn corrugated cardboard or straw will help to balance the nitrogen content. Stirring up the compost every few days with a garden fork or shovel, or a specially designed spiral shaped tool as pictured below, will help to open up the compost to more air.

Tumbleweed Compostmate tool


Pickled Karkalla Recipe

A great use of Karkalla (Carpobrotus rossii – native pigface) leaves. The pickled leaves can be used in salads, on sandwiches, cheese platters etc

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon of mustard seeds

2 cups of karkalla leaves (tender new shoots work best)

Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds and ½ cup water in a  saucepan. Bring to the boil,  remove from heat and leave for a few minutes for the mustard to infuse. Add the karkalla to the pickling liquid, being sure all are covered with it. Allow to sit for at least half an hour or overnight if possible before use. Store in a sterilised jar if not using immediately, will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Carpobrotus rossii is a hardy Australian native succulent.

Carpobrotus rossii – Karkalla | Gardening With Angus

Carpobrotus rossii ‘Pink Passion’ – Pig Face | Gardening With Angus

Carpobrotus rossii ‘White Hot’ – Karkalla | Gardening With Angus

Goodenia ovata ‘Goodonya’

A low maintenance and tough ground hugging to mounding perennial plant. It gets buttercup yellow flowers over an extended period in spring and summer that contrast with bright green foliage, and it has a much larger flower than other forms of this species, the hop Goodenia. It is great no nonsense plant that can spread over a reasonable area, growing around a metre wide and 50cms high, and the dense habit can smother out most weeds. Give it a light trim at the end of summer to tidy it up if needed, and a handful of fertiliser. Rarely troubled by pests or disease. Tolerates light frost and long dry spells, a good waterwise plant. It is a great plant for stabilising embankments, or as a ground cover or long term container plant.

Wariapendi Native Nursery – Colo Vale NSW

Wariapendi Nursery, bringing beauty, ecology boosting, native plants to gardens and paddocks right across South eastern NSW! The nursery is located in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. They have 35 years experience in the nursery industry, and are here to help create beautiful and sustainable landscapes. Stocking thousands of plants to suit any application from the home garden to country estates and rural properties, catering to the environmentally conscious home gardener. The nursery offers a large selection of semi advanced, advanced, super advanced as well as forestry tube sized plants. Wariapendi also stock a large selection of plants for the landscape industry.

Wariapendi also offer design and consultation services for those wanting to create a beautiful, low maintenance landscapes using native plants that are not only good to look at, innovative and creative, with the bounus of benefiting the local ecology. They can also arrange professional maintenance services to ensure plant health and maximise growth.

33 – 35 Church Avenue, Colo Vale New South Wales 2575

Phone : 02 4889 4327

Nursery Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (8am – 4pm)


Wariapendi | Native Plant and Revegetation Specialists

Wariapendi Native Nursery | Facebook

Native Grace Nursery – Robertson NSW

Native Grace is a very special Australian native plant nursery with a great range of plants. There is also a garden design studio and a cafe, all at a beautiful destination at Robertson, in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Native Grace sell a comprehensive range of Australian native plants including familiar and less common species, ranging in size from small pots to advanced trees.  As well as native plants, they also have a wide range of edible plants, with fruit and vegetable plants and herbs as well as a selection of Australian native bush foods. If something is not in stock they will take the time to source it and order it in. Knowledgeable staff available to help with plant selections. You will find a bountiful selection of plants for sale, interesting things to buy, distractions for children, water bowls for dogs and free wifi. You can also see our garden design process in action at the on-site studio. 

Native Grace Nursery , 98 Hoddle Street, Robertson NSW 2577

02 4858 0368

Nursery, cafe and shop are open every day from 9am to 4pm (including most public holidays)

Landscape design consultations are available by appointment

Native Grace offers a delivery service for plants and products from their nursery in Robertson to the Wollongong, South Coast and Southern Highlands regions in house. Feel free to contact them if you are in the Sydney region or other areas to discuss delivery options.

Native Grace – Native Nursery | Landscape Design | Installation

Actinotus forsythii – Pink Flannel Flower

The pink flannel flower is an uncommon perennial plant to find in the wild, and even less commonly found as a garden plant due to the rarity of commercially available seed. It naturally grows in damp eucalypt forests from the Blue Mountains to the Southern Highlands of NSW, growing well only after a fire year followed by good follow up rains.

It likes a well drained soil, sunny to part shade. Can also be container grown. Seed germination is the same for Actinotus helianthii, they both need smoke treatment after sowing, and damp but not too wet conditions.

Worm Farming: Frequently Asked Questions

Q – I have had my farm for a few years….do I need to add some new worms or can I just keep going with the ones I have ?

A – If the worm farm is working well and processing everything you put in, then it is fine to keep on with the ones you have.

Q – My worm blanket only lasted about month, is this normal?

A – Commercial worm blankets and home made ones from old cotton towels, woollen blanket or jute are made from all natural materials, which will deteriorate and the worms will eventually consume. One month is quite fast though! You could try putting a few sheets of corrugated cardboard underneath the worm blanket, which also act as a type of worm blanket, which they can consume first. If you notice the worms really getting into the cardboard, add more so they can eat this rather than the blanket. Worm blankets are wonderful for the worm farm for so many reasons!

Q – What is an ideal pH for a worm farm?

A – High acidity or alkalinity levels can hinder the efficiency of worms and microorganisms at work in a worm farm. The ideal conditions for maximum efficiency is a neutral reading of 7.0. If your reading is too acidic or too alkaline, add a teaspoon of Tumbleweed Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner, finely crushed eggshells, or dolomite, mixing into soil. Ensure to also keep your worm farm slightly damp, which helps to maintain a neutral pH level.

Q – How much food do I put into an inground worm farm? Can I pile it in or just add a bit and wait for the worms to eat it before adding more?

In ground worm farms make things very simple. I have found they seem to process more scraps more quickly than above ground ones, possibly because of the extra worm action from the worms that live in the garden bed as well as the ones that reside inside the farm. One caution is to add in shredded paper and cardboard, if you add only vegetable matter the high nitrogen content can cause overheating of the worm farm as it decomposes. It is a bit of a misconception too, to think that worms will just start chomping away at whatever is added….the organic matter needs to start breaking down before it is in a form that they can start digesting. So adding new stuff to the top will start that process, they will squirm into whatever is at the stage they need, some scraps break down faster than others which is why you see worms going all through a pile of scraps.

Q – My lower of two worm trays has been ready for months to harvest. Even though they are full of very broken down castings, there are still a lot of worms in there. Apart from painstakingly picking out the worms from the castings, how do I remove them so I can use the castings?

It can be difficult to separate all of the baby worms from finished castings, but the beauty of the multi level worm farms is that they do make it easier to do so. Once the very bottom level is processed enough by the worms (or when I need some castings to improve my soil), I remove the top two levels and put them aside. I then take out the bottom level. The middle level gets replaced and becomes the new bottom layer, what was the top layer now becomes the middle, and the level that was on the bottom sits on the top. I then leave the lid off, and the sunlight and drying effect, coupled with the better food source below, should see most of the worms migrate downwards. Every day I push the castings to one end, and in doing so take out any worms I see to put in the layers below. If you do this for a few days in a row, you should end up encouraging most worms to migrate downwards. You will probably still have worm capsules in your castings, if you need worm free castings to use (say in pots), then you will need to leave your castings for a couple of weeks to allow the baby worms to hatch, then repeat. You can read more about harvesting castings here>>>

Using Leachate From Your Worm Farm

Q – What are your thoughts on leachate and whether it should be used on products you will be consuming?

A – There is the potential for unfavourable bacteria and fungi to be present in leachate, so if in doubt, keep it away from contact with any fruit, leafy greens or vegetables you will be eating, and use it directly to the soil. It is mostly manures that can be the cause of problematic pathogenic outbreaks from foodstuffs, but it does pay to be cautious, and to always wash whatever healthy produce you eat, wherever you get it from

Invaders Of Your Worm Farm – Friend Or Foe?

Q – I have seen tiny black beetles (oval-shaped, shiny) in my worm farm. Are they bad news for the worm farm and if so, how do I get rid of them?

A -I have had these and have tried to identify them without success. I did fix the problem by adding more carbon rich material to my worm farm, in the form of shredded paper and plain brown corrugated cardboard. The beetles may be attracted to the more nitrogen rich scraps perhaps, and bulking them up with ‘browns’ (carbon rich matter) seems to make it less attractive, with the added bonus of keeping the worms happier too. It also helps to add a sprinkle of Compost Conditioner or dolomite/lime to counteract acidity every now and then too.

Q – My worm farm has little white insects. Any hints as to reduce these?

A – This are likely to be mites, or they could also be springtails. Generally speaking, the ones that live in worm farms are usually harmless to your worms. But they do indicate that conditions are becoming less favourable for worms, so can point to the need to change a few things in your farm. Try adding more carbon (browns), in the form of shredded paper and plain cardboard, and it also helps to add a sprinkle of Compost Conditioner or dolomite/lime to counteract acidity every now and then too. Stirring the contents around to aerate also seems to deter the unwelcome visitors. Mites and springtails like things on the wet side, so improve the drainage by propping the back legs of your farm up slightly so that excess water drains away quickly. You can also leave the lid open from time to time, the worms will burrow away for protection, unlike the mites or springtails who will not like the exposure.

Q – Recommendations for keeping cockroaches out of compost bin?

A – Cockroaches can be a visitor to both compost bins and worm farms, as they are attracted to the readily available food. Stirring things up as often as possible to make them uncomfortable and scuttle off will help. If you are fast enough you can squish them with a garden trowel. You can also console yourself that they will also help process the organic matter, but this will not help when one scuttles up your arm or into your hair! If you keep chickens, they love eating cockroaches, as do huntsmen spiders.

Using Liquid From The Worm Farm

Like many things in life there is often more than one way to do something and feeding your plants with liquid from the worm farm is one example of these. Worm castings are packed with nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that are known to improve soil health and plant growth. When water is run through a worm farm, and collected from the outlet, it picks up particles of worm castings and decaying matter. This liquid fertiliser can then be diluted to the colour of weak tea, hence why it is sometimes referred to as “worm tea.” Personally, I like to refer to it as leachate because I think this name more accurately describes the process of extracting it from the worm farm in this way. This substance is what I use on the plants in my garden both edible, native and exotic with very positive results.

how to make your own worm tea

Like any other manure, fertiliser or other decomposing organic material, liquid collected straight from the worm farm can also contain potential pathogens, which are not meant for human consumption. If using this to fertilise your edible plants, I recommend washing them thoroughly before eating. I would always recommend washing any fruits or vegetables before consumption regardless.

Another way to create liquid fertiliser from the worm farm is to create a “brew”, which is what some people call worm tea. This process involves collecting finished worm castings from the farm and placing them into a porous sack or bag (an old cotton sock or something similar could do the trick here.) The sack of worm castings is then put into a bucket of water, like a tea bag. An aerator, such as a fish tank bubbler and some molasses is also put into the bucket. The mixture is left to brew and bubble for approximately 24-48 hours. People who brew “worm tea” in this way believe that the beneficial microbes feed on the molasses and thrive in the oxygen rich environment created through the bubbling process. I often talk of compost and worm farm aeration because the presence of oxygen within this environment creates what we call an “aerobic” state. Worms and beneficial microorganisms tend to do very well in an aerobic environment. When a compost or worm farm is not aerated it can become “anaerobic” (lacking in oxygen) and this is when we may see the less desirable organisms become more prevalent. The theory behind brewing tea in this bubbling/molasses way is to tip the balance in the liquid extracted from a worm farm to a more favourable state. But does it really make that much of a difference? I have heard some claims go as far as saying leachate from a worm farm is actually harmful and shouldn’t be used at all. In my 35 years of collecting and using this liquid on my plants I’ve not seen any negative affects. On the contrary, I’ve had nothing but good results. With this in mind, I’d like to put both to the test on some home grown vegetables. Stay tuned

Newsletter #67 – January 2021 – Advance Australia Where?

As we embark upon a new year, it is an opportunity like no other for all of us to reflect on where we are going after the profoundly momentous year that 2020 turned out to be. The pandemic has highlighted a whole lot of things to the world about the place of humanity and how precarious our place in it can be. An invisible organism that amounts to not much more than  a speck of DNA in the form of a coronavirus and was totally new to humanity was able to spread to every corner of the globe where humans exist, and completely upend our way of life in spite of all our sophisticated technology and science. As you are reading this, scientists are grappling with the fact that this new virus is continuing to evolve with new mutations in its DNA that appear to be making it even harder to deal with. As an agricultural scientist by training, I have watched with the greatest admiration and awe for our medical scientists and health professionals as they race around the clock to save lives and create a protective vaccine (often in spite of individuals who are undermining their efforts for reasons best known to themselves).

Whist there undoubtedly was untold tragedy and suffering last year, and our hearts go out to those who were badly affected, there were nevertheless some positives. We learnt that we could work together as a community in Australia to keep the virus from getting completely out of control, and we also could observe how the undermining of community values in other countries could have devastating effects. Many of us also learnt that we did not need to travel backwards and forwards from cities to do our jobs, rather we could use technology to save both time and carbon emissions from vehicle exhausts. Walking the dog became an unexpected relief from lockdowns, giving our pets and ourselves some excellent exercise, both mental and physical. Growing your own food suddenly became such a trend that vegetable seedlings replaced toilet paper in flying off the shelves (not to mention that chooks also became as scarce as hen’s teeth – Dad joke apology). Many of us are now in a position to do this on a permanent or semi permanent basis and put our work on a more environmentally friendly footing. Every individual action can all add up to one major community effort to reduce our carbon footprints.

As a humble horticulturist I despair at times that there is an increasingly vocal crowd of people who are anti-science (whilst using the communications technologies that science has created to distribute their misinformation…..). There can be no doubt that science has created and contributed to some of the world’s problems, but like many things in life, it is how they are applied that is the issue. I have spent a lifetime working as a horticultural scientist trying to use science to make life not only more sustainable, but more enjoyable as well. There is that old saying that ‘agriculture makes life possible, but horticulture makes life worthwhile’.

It is always heart warming when we receive feedback from you about how useful you find the information on our website and we thank you for that. Our ethos is that we are sponsored by a wonderful group of Australian owned and run businesses such as the many small nurseries that specialise in Australian plants, to companies like Tumbleweed that manufacture compost bins and worm farms from recycled plastics and Neutrog, a South Australian fertiliser company that concentrates on biologically active fertilisers, and Envirosafe who make fly traps that eliminate the need to use poisons as a control method. Australia has been something of a quiet achiever in innovative businesses that can benefit the world in different ways. My sponsors definitely fit that description. We hope that the events of last year demonstrate abundantly that supporting good Australian run and owned business helps us all, and hopefully this movement will grow. Too often our great ideas have gone elsewhere! Our growers and manufacturers have a great track record of producing to better standards, and I think it is important to not only support Australian owned, but also Australian made. This will see money stay right here and thus create more jobs, and also better quality products.

We see our role as being educators about Australian horticulture and to that end we are constantly trialing new plants and products to see what we are comfortable with recommending to you. As well as educating you on how best to use (or not use) each product. Here is an example of a little trial I did with Neutrog’s liquid product ‘GoGo Juice’ which is a biologically active liquid that not only adds precious carbon and organic matter to the soil but also stimulates beneficial microbe activity that benefits plant growth enormously through the growing season.

flowering gum Gogo Juice trial

The dramatic increase in leaf size resulted from a watering to a red flowering gum sapling with Neutrog’s Gogo Juice a couple of weeks earlier.

I also want to mention one of our newer sponsors, Waterups, who have created a series of innovative wicking bed products that are so much more water efficient if you are looking for a way to grow your own food.

WaterUps cell and wicking bed

WaterUps cells, a great reuse of plastics that would otherwise be buried in landfill, to create water efficient wicking beds

As well as using my Waterups beds like this, I am also using them to grow my kangaroo paw varieties like Bush Pearl that flower all year round as a trial for my friends in the Australian native plant cut flower industry. More on this subject in the next newsletter.

Kangaroo paws planted into WaterUps wicking bed

Some of my breeding stock of kangaroo paws, they are thriving with the regular moisture provided by the wicking beds

We hope that you will support our wonderful sponsors as well as having a good look at our online shop, as any purchases you make help us create more new content for the website.

Myself and the Gardening with Angus team would like to wish everyone a productive year ahead and we will continue to strive to bring you the best in Australian horticulture. For our part we intend to plant several thousand trees and shrubs on the farm as well as recycle all our organic waste to turn into free fertiliser and soil conditioner to grow as much of our own food as possible. We wish you all the very best with your own horticultural endeavours for 2021. Advance Australia There!