Category: Projects & Ideas


Another year has gone by, and while most people find New Years a time of reflection of the past year and what they want to gain in the next – I find myself doing the same thing for the garden. What worked? What was a complete disaster? What do I need to plant more of this year? What do I want to try?

As the permanent plants and trees become larger in the garden I find myself needing to adapt and change where I am able to plant vegetables to still gain success. My knowledge grows each year though, which is something to be happy about. A good way of seeing how far I have come is a look over previous photos of how the garden has grown and changed since we first moved in four years ago. So here is a look over the evolution of the garden – I recommend all gardeners do the same thing; I promise it will make you smile. Happy New Year everyone, and for those who are gardeners – I wish you a large bounty and fast-ripening tomatoes this year 🙂

From the "for sale" adds - the garden when we first moved in

From the “for sale” adds – the garden when we first moved in

Initial work

Initial work

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Year 1 - initial brick work

Year 1 – initial brick work

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

ev 9

Year 2 - making my mark

Year 2 – making my mark

Year 2

Year 2

Year 2

Year 2

ev 14

Year 3 - Spring

Year 3 – Spring

Year 3

Year 3

Year 3 - Summer

Year 3 – Summer

Year 3

Year 3

ev 19

Year 4 - Spring

Year 4 – Spring

Year 4

Year 4

Year 4

Year 4

One of the main things I had to learn about renovating was to be extremely flexible. At times I did struggle this, however overall now that we’ve finished – I think I did (reasonably) ok. A fair amount of tantrums occurred though when the garden was invaded. Over the past few years renovations have been mostly inside, however at the very end (back in September) all the weatherboards were replaced outside and the eaves etc were sanded to make the front look… well…stunning. The only problem with this was the garden underneath was trampled in the process. To be fair to my partner Chris, I was warned of this pretty much the day we moved in, so I’ve really only planted annuals and a couple of bulbs. But still – when the time came I guess I’d put it so far in the back of my mind, that it was hard to watch.

new bit 1

I sulked for a good childish amount of time, but then given free rein to start building up the garden again did spark me out of my mood. I thought about it for weeks, trying to work out how to form a “screen” between the two new pillars. I thought about different grasses, small shrubs and even lavender came to mind. However a walk about our local streets revealed the inspiration I needed – my favourite native correas! It seemed very me and I loved the idea instantly.

What was left - a new blank canvas to work with

What was left – a new blank canvas to work with

new bit 5

I dug through some compost under both windows and planted my “Alba” correa (had been growing in a pot out the back) between the pillars. I found a couple of cheap mini “Alba” cuttings too which I planted either side – hopefully as they grow larger they’ll continue to form a screen. I divided a grass that I already had growing there and added a lot of annuals around the front to hopefully give the areas a burst of summer colour.

Initial planting (in September/October)

Initial planting (in September/October)

Under the bay window I also planted three correas – this time a “Canberra Bells” as well as a couple of my “Relexa” cuttings I’ve been growing. Again annuals were splattered around to hopefully give a burst of life.

Initial planting (September/October)

Initial planting (September/October)

I’ve now also moved a few spring seedlings out there too – including dwarf beans, capsicums and pumpkin seedlings (a bit hopeful I think, but worth a try!). Now that it’s been a couple of months, everything has grown and the area is looking a lot better (see photos below)

Even though the garden went through a very negative patch, and a lot of my spring bulbs were nowhere to be seen this year – things are now back to positive and on the way up. Thankfully rennos are now finished, and I can go back to protecting plants just from snails – at least they’re smaller.

What the garden now looks like - photos taken this week

What the garden now looks like – photos taken this week

The garden now (photo taken this week)

The garden now (photo taken this week)

new bit 18 new bit 21 new bit 22

Making the most of leftovers

Back in autumn I pruned my callistemon (an Australian native) but what I was left with was a fair few branches that were a bit too big to compost and felt like a waste to throw out. I decided to use the branches in a pot to form a tepee and planted sweet peas all around the bottom.

 sw pea 11

The peas have only now decided they are going to flower, despite being almost summer. However when they are this pretty and delicate, I guess I shouldn’t complain that I had to wait – hopefully they will continue to flower through summer and make the most of my left over branches.

 sw pea 1 sw pea 2 sw pea 4 sw pea 5 sw pea 7 sw pea 8 sw pea 10 sw pea 12 sw pea 13 sw pea 18sw pea 20 sw pea 17 sw pea 16 sw pea 15 sw pea 14

Spring is here!

Towards the end of winter I planted out my first round of spring seeds. I’ve been keeping them inside next to a north-facing window and had hoped the warmer temperatures and protection inside would convince the seedlings it was spring. It worked! The seedlings are now a couple of weeks old and are looking pretty happy.

Now that they are larger I’ve been very tempted to plant some out into the garden, but the weather is still a little cool and fluctuating… so I might wait till the weather gets a bit more settled. For now, as with every year, our lounge room has turned into a mini nursery – but it certainly has started the spring excitement at our place!

seed trays 1 seed trays 12 seed trays 10 seed trays 5 seed trays 6 seed trays 7 seed trays 3 seed trays 8 seed trays 9

Revamping…

Last year we placed three small hanging baskets on the fence which can be seen out the window next to my desk where I write this blog. They flowered all spring and summer and made my work space very cheerful. However I’ve ignored them and they’ve been dead and empty for most of winter… With spring getting ever so close, it was time for replanting! I dug through some compost and fresh potting mix with the soil already in the baskets followed by planting some cheap flower seedlings and a few oregano cuttings. Instant colour & brightness! Hopefully they will continue to grow, flower and inspire me over the next gardening season.

Pretty much dead & empty...

Pretty much dead & empty…

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New view from the window

New view from the window

basket 3

I’ve been asked by a couple of friends recently about what I’d recommend to grow in pots, particularly for those living with only a balcony or small courtyard. My initial answer to this question is usually “everything”, because truthfully I grow most things in pots as well as in the ground. Not only does it help expand the limited space I have, but I find it much easier to protect plants from snails and slugs (as they are off the ground and I can use copper tape around the edge). I also find I can access sunny spots in the yard that would otherwise get missed.

However with a bit more thought, there are some I would recommend over others – here is my top 10 list of plants I would recommend for pots. Keep in mind that these are the ones I’ve had success with in my garden, and really the best thing to do is experiment as different things may work better or worse in different locations.

 

Top 10 for pots

1. Blueberries

I must sound like a broken record by now – but blueberries would have to be my top recommendation for pots. They look stunning most of the year and you get food as well! Blueberries prefer acidic soil which can be easier to control in pots (as you can buy acidic potting mix) and they are one of my favourite flowers.  Although I have both, if you’re only planting a couple (plant at least 2 – they do better in pairs) I’d stick with ones that are evergreen to have something visually nice throughout the year.

blue 1 blue 2 blue 3 blue 4

2. Tomatoes

Definitely a close second – if I could only grow two things, tomatoes would always be in the top two as the taste of a home grown tomato cannot compare to ones from the supermarket. I’ve had equal success with tomatoes grown in pots and in the ground. I even tried “Florida basket” last year, which is small and compact. Kept in a pot on the deck it was quite cute, but I had a lot more tomatoes from my other taller plants. I prefer growing cherry and grape tomatoes for the massive abundance of tomatoes they produce, however I usually grown several types for a variety.

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Florida basket

tom 1

Roma tomato growing in a pot

tom 3

“Sweet bite” cherry tomato in a pot

3. Climbing Beans

I try every year to grow beans in the ground and snails always find their way in my protective containers and destroy any hope I had of a crop. The majority of beans I’ve harvested have been from pots. It also gives me a chance to experiment with places to put them and things to climb up, such as my mailbox beans in the photo below. As they grow up, they really don’t take up much space, so won’t overcrowd a small area.

bean 5 bean 4 bean 2bean 3bean 1

4. Potatoes

Last year I tried a mix of potatoes and planted some in the ground and some in pots. Planted in winter, I eagerly awaited the harvest in summer. I’d forgotten one thing though – we have clay soil. By the time summer came around and our clay soil had hardened to brick-like consistency in areas (despite my best attempts to work with the soil, there are still rock hard patches) – I realised potatoes in the ground probably wasn’t well thought out. After trying for a while to dig the potatoes out (imagine trying to dig a potato out of a brick), accidently splitting several as I went – I decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. By comparison I had loads of buttery potatoes from the ones I’d planted in pots and grow bags. I’ll only be growing potatoes in pots from now on.

potato 2

Potatoes growing in grow bags – add more soil as they grow

potato 1

Potato in flower

Potato in flower

5. Strawberries

While they have grown really well in the ground at my place too – I never make it to the ripened strawberries before the slugs do. I now really only grow them in pots and they look very cheerful too which is a bonus! Mine tend to get very thirsty in summer, so keep an eye on watering.

straw 1 straw 2 straw 5 straw 4 straw 6

6. Baby carrots

As with potatoes, carrots can be a nightmare to get out of the ground. Many times I’ve ended up pulling off the green top of the carrot and have to dig the root out. Baby carrots can easily be grown in pots and harvesting is a lot less effort. Just make sure the pot is deep enough to fit the carrots in.

carrot 1 carrot 2

7. Flowers

Very broad I know – but if you’re growing veggies in pots I’d highly recommend flowers as well to help bring bees in for pollination. They also instantly cheer up any area! I tend to stick with annuals which grow fast and are pretty hardy. I’ve had particularly good success with alyssum, dwarf sunflowers, petunias and violas.

 flower 1 flower 2 flower 3 flower 4 flower 5

8. Broad beans

I grow broad beans in pots and in the ground and I’ve had equal success with both. In the front yard I often grow them in pots purely for extra sun access. I’ve found they are pretty hardy plants and a good winter/spring crop while you’re waiting to plant summer veggies.

br bean 1 br bean 2 br bean 3

9. Lettuce

Compact and can be grown pretty much all year round. What else do you need?! I tend to use a mix of different types as I like the variety of colours.

 lettuce lettuce 2

10. Dwarf fruit tree

Although I haven’t had a huge amount of success with my orange tree –I love the smell and the flowers which is why it makes it into my top ten list. As you may have seen in my previous post, all of my fruit trees are currently growing in pots due to limited space. A fruit tree may be a bit a stretch if you only have a balcony, but the “lots of lemon” citrus tree is a very dwarf citrus and some types of fruit trees are even grown specifically for small spaces (such as my ballerina apples). A bay tree cutting will start out pretty small too.

So hopefully this has given those of you with limited space an idea or two past the obvious kitchen herbs. And if none of this seems to work – try cats. I’m extremely good at growing cats in pots….

cat 7 cat 2cat 1 cat 6 cat 4 cat 8cat 5

One of the best things about having your birthday in early winter and being a gardener – people give you fruit trees. I now have 7. Not that I’m complaining – I’m absolutely thrilled with the additions! Enough so that I thought they should have their own introduction…

1. My “Oldest” Tree – a Dwarf Valencia Orange.

Ok, so 4 years isn’t that old, but I’ve had it the longest out of all the trees. I love the smell of it and the look of the beautiful white flowers it produces. Unfortunately I haven’t had any oranges yet (despite my initial hopes of making marmalade in the first year I had it… I’m so naive) but I still have high hopes for the tree. In spring the flowers are glorious, then buds form and one by one… they all fall off. I’ve tried different fertilizers, different watering methods, heaps of compost and lots of mulch… but still nothing. After the small fruit buds have fallen off, I throw around the idea in my mind of throwing out the tree and getting a “real fruiter!” But then it starts to flower again… and the smell is great… and it brings in the bees… and it wins me over again for another year.

orange 1

Dwarf Valencia Orange

orange 2

Orange blossoms

orange 3

The buds usually grow a bit larger than pictured

2My Kalamata Olive

A couple of years old now this tree has grown so much! Initially a small cutting, it’s now a miniature tree. Still waiting for it to flower, but at the moment the foliage is just as pleasing. I realise one day I’ll have to move it to the ground, but for now – until I make up my mind about where, it seems quite happy where it is.

olive 1

When I first planted the tree compared to now

3. & 4. My New Dwarf “Lots A Lemons” and Dwarf Tahitian Lime

I must admit, I have wanted both of these for quite some time. Given the limited space I have though, I’ve tended to remind myself “you have a citrus tree, just an unproductive one”. So this year when I was given both of these I was over the moon. The “lots a lemons” is a very small, pot friendly type of lemon which I have out in the backyard at the moment.  The lime I’ve put out the front and hopefully it will encourage the orange tree to fruit!

lemon

Lots A Lemon

lime

Tahitian Lime

5 & 6. My Two Ballerina Apple Trees

Another fantastic thing about birthdays is nursery gift vouchers so you can match companion apple trees which are needed for pollination! Another purchase I’ve put off due to limited space, but this year I couldn’t resist – particularly when I discovered these “ballerina” style apples which grow and fruit in a column shape rather than branching out making them perfect for small spaces for now. I have one green “Bolero” and a red “Waltz” which are a pollinating pair. At this stage I think I’m more excited about the idea of apple blossoms in spring than the actual apples – updates to come…

 apple 1

7. And Finally – My Bay Tree.

Just a tiny cutting when it first moved in – it has continued to grow, be used for cooking and preserving, and has foliage which looks good throughout the year. All without a smidge of effort on my behalf. I can live with that.

bay

So there is a glimpse at my small space orchard – mostly unproductive at the moment, but I have high hopes for the future. Even so, at least the flowers and foliage are worth the trouble. Apart from the bay (which I bought), each of these trees was gifted from people who follow my blog – so thank you, thank you, thank you!

My indoor avocado “tree” is still growing strongly too… maybe one day it’ll make it to the list as well, but for now I’ll have to wait for a rather long time.

 avo 1

One of my gardening goals this year was to learn how to take cuttings. I have always been envious of more experienced gardeners taking (or stealing) cutting from other people’s gardens – they’ve always given the impression of really knowing what they’re doing! The ultimate step to “you’re not an amateur anymore”. Plus it’s a really cheap way to get more plants! I must admit, I have tried cuttings in the past – but they never worked. In fairness I did absolutely no research into the type of cuttings I had, or the best time of year to try. I did try a little rooting powder but just stuck them in a pot & hoped nature would do the rest… nature didn’t.

So this year I decided I really wanted to learn how to take cuttings in order to move up the imaginary ladder of experience that is in my head. I decided to try again with the variety of correas I have, as I would really like multiples of the ones that are growing well. A little research found the best time to try correa cuttings is in autumn, and also that correas are supposed to be very easy to take cuttings – perfect! Back in March I filled a seedling tray of potting mix, cut tips off a few different correas, dipped them into a cutting rooting gel – and voila my work was done. I kept them covered with the seedling tray lid and all that was left to do was wait…

cuttings 1

My cuttings tray when first planted

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Cuttings when first started (March)

Several died extremely quickly. Way faster than I would have expected. It really didn’t get my hopes up. However I kept watering the ones that had survived every now and again, and after a while, when I’d really forgotten about them – I realised most of the remaining ones had started to grow!! With a joyful little jump and cheer I raced for the camera, and while the growth is small (considering I started them 4 months ago), the only way is up! I’ve now learnt that cuttings can be quite easy – I just needed a little research – and a lot of patience.

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Before and after of the same cutting – it’s grown!!

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Before and after of the same cutting – small amount of growth

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Before and after of the same cutting – 3 new leaves

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New shoots (July)

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Most are growing!

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Current tray (photo taken today) – a few have died, but lots are starting to grow

It’s been a month since I started off my seedling experiment (see previous post – breaking the first rule of blogging), but given the small amount of growth I wish I’d started a month earlier. By far, the winner at the moment is the seedling tray that has been kept inside under the window. The seeds germinated over a week earlier than the other two trays (greenhouse and “control” outside) and the seedlings are now visibly larger as well. A few tomatoes have even been large enough to plant out into the garden, which already feels like a success compared to last year.

Tray 1: kept inside under a sunny window

Tray 1: inside

Tray 1: inside

Seedling from tray 1 planted out in the garden

I was surprised that the seeds in the greenhouse tray took so long to germinate, but I think despite watering them daily they were drying out too much. After moving the tray to the middle shelf (rather than top) they seemed to do better. That was until snails found them…. I would have thought this tray would have been the safe one! But alas, having basil seedlings growing in there too – snails devoured the basil and a few of my other seedlings at the same time. Nightly snail checks over a week found a new snail in there each night, so I’ve moved some of the seedlings into the inside tray to keep them safe.  The seeds in the tray left outside (open to the elements) germinated around the same time as the ones in the greenhouse and growth has been at about the same rate. No snail attacks as of yet, but a few seed pots were obliterated by what appears to be a cat attack. Well I did say they were open to all elements…

Tray 2: greenhouse

Tray 3: outside

Tray 3: tomato seedlings (quite small compared to tray 1)

While I will still be updating on the progress of the three trays, I think I have already discovered why I have been struggling with small seeds – I bought a greenhouse. Two years ago I had a lot of success with small seeds, but I didn’t have the greenhouse then so I would move the seedlings outside during the day, and bring them inside (sheltered from the cold and snails) each night. The seedlings loved the attention and thrived. Last year I bought a greenhouse and grew all my seedlings in there. While it made sense to me at the time, the temperature fluctuations (even when keeping the door open on hot days) was obviously enough to stop the success of my small seeds.

Tray 2: greenhouse – eggplant seedling

I won’t be throwing out the greenhouse just yet though, larger seedlings do really well earlier in spring when it’s a bit too cold to be in the garden yet, and some plants can be moved in over winter to help keep them warm. For now though it looks like our house will be turning into a nursery each spring…

All of my gardening so far (apart from a couple of pots here and there) has been in our front yard. Our backyard has been, and will continue to be, part of the working space for our renovations. We have talked lightly about what we’d like to put out the back, but haven’t formed anything as of yet (probably because if it was left to me I’d turn the whole thing into one big veggie patch, and we haven’t finished the structural things like carports and paths yet). But when my partner suggested a veggie patch along the side next to the fence – that was all I needed!

Ok, in fairness he did suggest a raised veggie patch, but with the chaos that’s occurring in the rest of the house, it was being left to the backburner as a “non-essential” part of the renovations. Sacrilege! But I am probably one of the few people who would put a veggie patch above half a house (literally, we’re living in half our house at the moment). I decided while waiting that I would make the veggie patch myself, at least without the borders, until we decided what we were going to do (or my negotiation skills got better!).

Yes, we live here….

The soil out the back is actually pretty good as we’ve added a lot of topsoil already to the whole yard. I added a fair amount of my own compost to the section as well to help build it up. So far I’ve planted a couple of tomatoes, a couple of cucumber seedlings and a few flower seedlings to help attract bees (snapdragons, alyssum and linaria). I also planted a zucchini seedling and a couple of pumpkin seedlings which I realise are probably going to grow out of the patch and possibly take over the lawn… but give me an inch and I’ll take a mile! Although the pumpkins are supposed to be a compact variety that you can grow in pots, so I’ll see how it goes… if it gets too much I’ll take them out. Some climbing beans in a pot and a few strawberries have made the patch complete. For now…

The pets have already moved in