Saturday, June 30, 2012

Veggie Garden Fashion

Love anything veggie inspired♥
Well, if anything the kids love it when I wear something that matches my activity!
Non-cheesey, just fun to wear!

Today's great finds come from One Lane Road on Etsy.

These are gorgeous and so cheeky...

And in keeping with the chicken theme...

There's some seriously good stuff in store at One Lane Road and really affordable too!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Milk Container Gardening

For almost a year and a half now, my husband has been increasingly making more homemade cheeses. In fact, you could call him literally obsessed with cheese. I'm his Gromit to my Wallace. Which leaves a rather large recycling problem every fortnight... plastic milk containers.

I was searching for a ideas for school gardening lessons that I volunteer to teach at our local school, when it suddenly occurred to me that we could use the empty milk containers, implementing the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle ethos. Two problems solved!

Milk containers as planters. Holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.
Milk containers in the garden are not just for planting in, but also for plant protection from invading slugs, snails and possums.

In fact, I needed a few for my garden this week! I went a bit merry with the slug and snail bait as I was at my wits end with discovering 100% of all bait gone by each morning for a week and a half! I honestly began using it like confetti. Something had to be done. The milk container solution has really saved my curly kale!

Protecting my very munched Kale plant.

So far I have been cutting off the bottoms to cover plants, and cutting off the tops to create planter pots.

But what can be done with the top, handle and cap?

Vertical gardening with milk containers...




Not everybody will have access to a great wooden frame like many of these pictures. Instead, you can attach milk containers to Weldmesh or a fence with wire. Ensure that the caps have holes for drainage. Regular watering will ensure healthy growth.

Here's a few more great recycled container ideas that I love...





Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree

A big welcome to my gorgeous new Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree.
It comes as my second citrus addition this week.

Does the $39-$43 price of a standard potted Lemon tree put you off?

Here's some exciting news...
I have discovered Bunnings have another option.
Smaller fruit trees from the Pick 'n' Eat range for only $11.98 per pot this month (June 2012).
Hooray! Lemon trees have finally become affordable!

Meyer Lemon Description

  • Cold tolerant citrus.
  • Requires full sun.
  • Thin skinned fruit that is less tart than a 'Lisbon' or 'Eureka' variety.
  • Highly fragrant flowers.
  • Meyer Lemons have abundant juice that is slightly sweeter and contains less acid than regular lemons.
  • Mature fruit go from green to yellow to a slight orange tinge.
  • The Meyer Lemon has the reputation of being the best potted citrus. Ideal for patios, verandas, balconies and even indoors.
  • Requires regular consistent watering for fruit to mature without early dropping.
  • Fertilise with Dynamic Lifter pellets or dried chicken manure twice a year.

Citrus × meyeri trees are around 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) tall at maturity, though they can be pruned smaller. Their leaves are dark green and shiny. The flowers are white with a purple base and fragrant.
The Meyer lemon fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon. The skin is fragrant and thin, coloured a deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemon fruits have a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common Lisbon or Eureka supermarket lemon varieties. The pulp is a dark yellow and contains up to 10 seeds per fruit.
To learn more about How to Plant a Citrus in a Pot, check out my article here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Growing Citrus in a Pot

My Dwarf Imperial Mandarin
Who says you need to dig a big hole in the back garden to grow a large fruit tree?

Plant breeders have finally brought citrus into the 21st century by introducing dwarf rootstock so that even a city apartment dweller can grow beautiful fruit on the balcony!

Dwarf Imperial Mandarin Fruit
Younger dwarf trees actually bear faster and fruit just as well as a full size tree. The only difference is that they need to be watered every 2-3 weeks and re-potted approximately every 3 years.

Potted fruit trees must be grafted to dwarf rootstock to be able to survive in a pot. Standard fruit trees cannot live beyond a couple of years within a pot as their roots need room to grow. The only true dwarfing rootstock is ‘flying dragon’, however not all dwarfs are as small as you may think! They can really vary depending on the rootstock variety.

The back of my house has exceptional sun throughout most of the day, and this led me to rethink my fruit garden and harness the micro-climate in my yard to finally add more trees for food… in some more unique ways.

First on my list was to add a potted Dwarf Mandarin tree.

I headed out to McLaren Flat in South Australia to Perry’s Fruit and Nut Nursery and met with Nursery owners to find a Dwarf Imperial Mandarin.  It was not grafted onto ‘flying dragon’ rootstock, so it will be a little bigger. My tree will need a little more pruning on a regular basis but will still be a manageable size in a pot.

The advice I received at Perry’s was exceptional, so I will definitely be heading back there for more trees again. Perry’s understand how to pot fruit trees properly.  There are testimonies throughout their nursery as to how well they do it to.  Re-potting is not always necessary, but if you do, make sure you shave some of the roots down by a few centimeters all over before refilling.

How to Pot a Dwarf Citrus Tree

Sit the citrus plant in half a bucket of water with one cap full of Seasol (seaweed solution) to soak the roots to minimize shock from transplanting.

 Place 1-2 inches of pebbles at the bottom of the pot for good drainage.

 Use a high quality potting mix. I do not recommend using wetting agents until summer as the soil will become sodden during the wetter months and cause root rot.

 Fill up the pot 3/4 of the way.

 Remove the tree by holding the base and easing out. This should be easy as the roots would have had a good drink from the Seasol.

 Sit your tree in the pot to judge the height of the potting mix. Adjust accordingly.

 Sprinkle some Dynamic Lifter pellets or well-rotten dry chicken manure around the plant.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Pelletised manure like Dynamic Lifter can cause issues.
The salts can leach and cause acidity levels to rise too high.
I no longer recommend Dynamic Lifter for potted trees.

Instead use a Citrus Controled Release fertiliser such as Yates or Osmacote at the time of planting. These come in the small containers with a little spoon for measuring.

If your fruit tree looks sick no matter how much you have fertilised, test the soil pH with a cheap pH reader that you can stick into the ground near the roots. They tend to be more accurate and readable than the powder/liquid test. High acidity will interfere with the plant's health.

Citrus require 60.-7.0 soil pH.

To correct a highly acid soil to a more acceptable range gently dig through some Garden Lime, water through and test the pH over the next couple of weeks.

I also recommend a foliar spray (with a few drops of dish washing liquid to help adhere to the leaf surface) to help bolster the plant's health as the high acid levels will have prevented the regular in take of vitamins and minerals through the soil.

This was recommended to me by the good people at Perry's Fruit and Nut Nursery.

All my subsequent potted trees have been planted with control release fertiliser and have worked wonderfully well with no acidity problems at all.

Firm down and ensure that the roots are well covered.
Do not cover over the rootstock.

Water in well.
I used a full bucket of water with 2 cap fulls of Seasol liquid as the first drink.

Getting The Best From Your Citrus Tree

Get the right tree for you

Consider: non/seedless, easy to peel, taste, cooking use, fruiting season, dwarf or full size?

Right soil mix

Get it right and your tree will thank you. The drainage is as important as the nutrients. Any type of pot will do, but a 1" - 2" layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot will most readily promote drainage.

Citrus are heavy feeders

Every type of fruit tree needs to be fed, citrus are the hungriest of all the fruits.  Try Dynamic Lifter pellets, citrus fertilizer granules or well-rotted (dry) chicken manure dug around the soil twice a year. Alternatively, you can experiment with a little bit often. Yes, urine DOES make better tasting fruit, so don’t be shy. (We use to win many agricultural shows with our navel oranges that were regularly wee-ed beneath!)  I recommend that you go cautiously with urine on potted citrus so as not to overload the soil. 

Citrus trees need a minimum of 5 hours sunlight

Optimum sunlight exposure is 10 to 11 hours. Using a sunny side of the house that gets early morning sun is a great position for a fruit tree.

Water regularly

Regular watering is essential to encouraging your tree to fruit and keep their fruit to maturity. Irregular watering will make fruit abort. Watering potted fruit trees must be done every fortnight if done by hand. Alternatively, keep on a drip line.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Beetroot Chips

Remember that enormous beetroot that we harvested early in June?

Was it eatable? Absolutely! And this is what we did with it...

Beetroot Chips

Oven dried for many hours on a very low heat
and then flash fried for a few seconds in sunflower oil.


We have made beetroot chips many times before but the flash fry was a great twist. It's so fast, it's just like frying prawn crackers or papadums.

Our kids ate them so fast as did all their friends - begging for more. What a great recipe!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grow Bag Inspiration

Do Grow Bags really work?
Check out this video from Growing Your Own Greens and judge for yourself.
You may just be inspired to give it a go!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gardening Craft Ideas

Coming up with weekly school lessons for gardening can be a real chore especially during the winter months. My head spins every weekend trying to get ideas together so it was high time I put all my research into one handy place and share all the fun activities with you!

To keep up-to-date with all my craft finds, check out my Pinterest board for:

Each pin links to a tutorial for easy use.

Happy gardening!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Worms Jigsaw

Wish I had worms like these in my garden! YUM!

Click on the image below to start your game.
(Automatically saves where you are up to.)

Fallen Dahlia Trees

Fallen Dahlia Trees
In an early post I featured our spectacular Dahlia Trees (often misnamed as Giant Dahlias) and mentioned that when it rains they can fall over. The reason why these tall stalks fall is that they hold the water inside their branches, become top heavy and thus toppling.

There is no need to worry, however. Just prune them off. Sometimes the remaining stalks will send out new growth or they will grow new stalks from the base at a later date. Such enduring trees.

June being a wet month for Adelaide certainly tests Dahlia Trees and their water capacity. Here's what happened to mine over night.

Snapped Dahlia Tree Stalks sending out new shoots

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sweet Little Vegetable Garden Jigsaw

Here's today's lovely distraction...
Click on the image below (be Java enabled) to play.

10 Indoor Winter Gardening Ideas

When it comes to winter I soon run out of gardening projects for the kids to do, and with it being so wet, windy and cold the kids would rather be indoors. So why not create something inside?

There are so many different ideas that they can be used by adults as well as in the class room.

Here are 10 great indoor winter gardening activities to get you started.

Pot a Seed/Flower
As simple as it sounds, grow plants in a pot indoors. If you are doing this project at school, you could turn it into a growing competition to see whose plant grows the tallest each week. This encourages tending to their plants, their nutrition, as well as a lesson in maths.

Plant in the Dark
Both mushrooms and snow pea sprouts need surprisingly little light to grow. Just one tip, they do need daily watering which cannot be neglected over a weekend. But the rewards are so quick and delicious!

Cook from your Garden
If you have an established vegetable garden, then it really is time to get harvesting and finally create something you can all enjoy together. Soup, casserole, pizza... If all else fails, make scones and bread for a great winter warmer. Add herbs to your mix.

Seed Saving
Open up your vegetables (non-modified) or seed heads and remove the seeds for drying. The trick is to use your best produce as they will create the best new plants. The easiest veg to get seeds from are tomatoes and pumpkins. Drying the seeds out is an essential lesson to learn. Making the packets is the next fun stage!
Visit: HowToSaveSeeds
Visit: International Seed Saving Institute

Sow into Planter Trays
It maybe too cold and wet now, but there will always be a break in the weather for a day of planting out. So get your next crop ready by planting seeds into seed raising mix in your planter trays or homemade newspaper tubes. Keep them in a protected sunny place such as a windowsill or small greenhouse to sprout. Make sure you choose the right plants for the season.
Learn how to make newspaper pots from Dig The Dirt.

Pot a Fruit Tree
Since winter is the time to plant fruit trees, why not pot a tree for sunny position against the building? Make sure that you only plant trees that are grafted onto dwarf root stock. Come summer time you should see the first signs of fruit. It may take a couple of years to really get started but they really do add a little extra cheer to the garden. The added bonus is that they can also be moved if you move.

Paint a Pot
Even adults like this one!
It can be as simple as using poster paint, or as interesting as image transfer. Transferring an image onto a terracotta pot is so easy. Simply print out your image/wording from the computer BACKWARDS, apply Mod Podge Outdoor Glue over the image front and stick it onto the pot. Rub out any air pockets gently so as not to break the paper, allow to dry for 24hrs. Once fully dry, wet your fingers with water and rub the paper off, leaving the image behind on the pot. To make it really stand out, paint the pot first.
Learn how to make an image transfer flower pot from Heaven's Walk.

Plan the Garden
Every good garden needs a plan. What climbs or spreads? What could be permanent? What sunny position have we not yet used? Can we vertical garden? When are our holidays? Yes, plan it all and ask the kids what they would like to eat. You maybe amazed with the ideas thrown into the ring. Order roses, fruit trees, deciduous trees and vines now. The garden catalogues are at their best during winter. Check out Garden Express among many others online.

Worm Farm
Purchasing a worm farm from the shops can cost as much as $70 to $130, and that is without the worms! But for only a few dollars (or even for free, if you are lucky) you can use polystyrofoam boxes with lids from the fruit 'n' veg shop. Put a few holes in two of the three boxes. Fill it with soil, organic matter, and a few worms. Keep it shady and moist, but not too wet. Add kitchen scraps (vegetables only!) Worms will help teach your kids about the interdependence of plants and organisms as they turn vegetable kitchen scraps into valuable compost. And remember to use a worm blanket as not to suffocate your worms. Worm stock can come from the local hardware stores or from other worm farming gardeners who have an abundant worm stock to share.
Worm casting liquid is pure gold for watering the garden with! The plants just love it, although my neighbour tells me that Australian native and succulents do not like it. Strictly for the yummy veggies and flowers!

Learn about micro climates.
All you need is a large jar such as one for pasta sauce, mayonnaise or Vegemite.
Add a little gravel mix at the bottom for drainage, a layer of charcoal and a good quality potting mix over the top. Not too much soil or it will spoil the look. Keep moist at all times. Adding moss can help hold the moisture more successfully. When adding plants, reduce their roots by half. The perpetual moisture of the terrarium will see to their moisture needs with reduced root stock. Once you have chosen your plants, add little accessories such as pebbles, driftwood or a plastic tiger or two!
Learn how to build a terrarium from Front & Main.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Great School Garden in Organic Gardener

This one is for real garden lovers!

I've recently discovered Organic Gardener magazine which comes from the ABC Gardening Australia fame. Technically, it's not Gardening Australia, but this is a juicy magazine that any keen gardener will fall in love with. If you think I'm gushing, you've read right♥ I do love this one.

In the July/August 2012 issue there is superb article on a small rural primary school garden in Balnarring, Victoria. Four lovely pages of the story behind their amazing school garden with great pictures (p. 55-58)

If you're involved in your school's garden like I am, you will love this piece. Most parents and carers who get involved in their school's garden love to see what other schools are achieving and integrating into lessons. I know I certainly do.

Organic Gardener magazine is out now for $7.95
If your newsagent does not stock it, ask them to get it in. You'll be delighted.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hardening Off Plants

'Hardening off' means to acclimatise your punnet of seedlings before being planted into the garden.

As simple as it sounds, many gardeners do not know how to do it and end up losing their new plants soon after planting out.

If you have sown your plants from seed and kept them indoors until they are well developed they will be 'soft' and will die quickly if planted out from being in such comfortable conditions. Likewise if you have bought your plants from a hardware store and put off planting for a few days.

Rule of Thumb

Give the seedling punnet the same amount of days outside as you had it inside the house.

So if you bought your plants four days ago and kept them on the windowsill, then you need to give them four days outside under the porch or veranda for the first day, then gradually moving the punnet into the sun before finally planting them into the garden on the fifth day.

If moving your plants from a greenhouse, the best time in on cooler, overcast days. Overcast conditions keep the stress of the plant to a minimum.

Do not expose the seedlings to intense heat or a night of frost during the hardening off period.

Your plants will then be ready to handle the outside temperatures.

To boost your plant's ability to cope with the transplanting, frost, resist diseases and establish a healthy root system, apply a little seaweed solution at the time of planting (e.g. Seasol).

If you are at all worried about how your new seedlings will cope, try adding a few seeds of the same plant amongst the seedlings at the same time as planting out as a back up measure.

Hardening off should be a hard and fast rule♥

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Growing Potatoes in Sacks

Last year I started a potato planting experiment which has helped my design of this year's new crop. This year I'm planting the Sebago variety, the great all rounder.

Winter is a great time to start as the constant damp cooler days seems to work it's magic on the potato crop yield. Certified Potatoes are now available in most good hardware stores, major stores and nurseries during late Autumn to Winter.

My harvests, however, have often been a little lack luster. And so my experiment began - using three different ways to grow potatoes and different levels of fertiliser.

I struggled with the potting mix bag experiment right to the end to try to increase their yield. When I finally opened the bags I was delighted to discover a mass of potatoes for harvesting. I was quite amazed to find that the bags did BETTER than those sown directly into the garden bed. Maybe it was the soil mix I used.

So this year I begin a new crop using a new product on the market, potato planter bags from Jute Shop. Available at Bunnings Warehouse stores for $9.95 each.

Jute Shop potato planter bags
Shorter Jute Shop planter bag
There are two sizes in the planter bags to choose from at Bunnings. The shorter bag size I have used for my English Spinach. There are drainage holes at the bottom, which the interior of each bag is plastic coated to help keep the bags from rotting during the season.

Mounding The Soil

One of the things that I was very lazy about during the experiment was the amount of extra soil that needed to be added throughout the growing season. Heaping soil around the base of the plants was more important that I had first thought. And not just a little but a jolly good load of it!

Potatoes are very similar to sour sob weeds. Their bulbs grow near the surface of the soil. They need to stay covered to prevent them from becoming green and poisonous.

The great thing about these Jute Shop bags is their height. I have rolled each bag down to ensure that the potatoes will receive enough sunlight. As the grow and I add more soil, I can then roll the sides of the bags up. Add more soil when the plants grow to about 200mm in height.

Step 1: Fold down sides of bag

STEP 2: Add soil mixed with cow peat and plant potatoes

STEP 3: Cover with extra soil and water
I am also trialing a different potting mix with this crop: Richgro Garden Soil Mix

Remember that Potatoes need a liquid fertiliser every few weeks to get those beauties to a good size.

Are you planting potatoes this year? I'd love to hear from you.