Thursday, 28 April 2016

Composting Is Your Best Friend

This is the truth. A good composting bin or pile is really your garden's best friend; and making sure it's at its best all year round is something you must do to keep your garden - and your house and yard - in top shape.

What I mean is: make sure you keep things you don't want out of it - like termites. 

As recently as last week, I had to get rid of my composting bin because of termites. These little critters were around because my unit/townhouse complex hasn't been kept up to scratch - not because I didn't care for my compost bin. I cared for my bin in every way. I put gardening lime in it once a year, turned it over during the cold season and kept it hot so the termites didn't get into it. 

However, when you rent in one of these townhouse complexes, the way they're cared for compacts hugely on your garden. 

I live on a boundary fence, which means the complex next door had to work with the complex I live in to get the fence my townhouse backs onto fixed. This took so long I can't believe I had to wait over a decade to see it done! By this time, the fence was so decayed and derelict that the fence builders were shocked that it had been left for so long. However, the termites had made a right meal out of it long before it needed to be replaced. This meant, that once it was, with treated Pine, we had another problem - where would those termites go for another meal? They'd head to anywhere where there was a nice cool area to nest - and some of those cool areas are composting piles and bins. 

I didn't expect to find a nest of termites in my big plastic bin next to the fence... as it was in the sun a lot of the time and usually very hot all day inside and out. So, finding the nest was a total surprise. But when you do find a termite nest in your composting bin, you either discourage them from it by heating up the bin with green waste and garden lime or you get rid of the whole lot of the nest by tossing it out. 

I opted for the latter as I didn't want the termites hitting my house next - as that was what they were going to do.

At many unit complexes, there's a green waste disposal area where you can get rid of everything you need if you don't have a composting bin in your yard (and this is for people who aren't staying all that long in unit complexes). And so, I used the care-taker's wheel barrow and took three loads of contaminated composted up to the bins. It took a little under an hour to do and when I came to the bottom - underneath - where the compost started - I was pleased to find that there was a Green Ants nest present. These guys are your best friend when it comes to termites; as they eat them for dinner! 

However, with composting - and composting well - a healthy compost doesn't house termites. It is filled with the right amount of nutrients for the garden and you can get in and use it within a year of starting it. I had never used mine; as I worked mine to be a slow-processing composting pile. Unfortunately, the termites had other things in mind for it; namely a nursery for their nest.

So, make sure when you start out your composting pile or bin, to get in and work it over well, feed it the right things and don't put garlic skin or eggshells in it (as they don't really do it any favours) and teabags are okay but take the label off them first along with the staple. Garden Lime will help the compost too by keeping the ph balance to your compost - but many people are divided in whether this is true. When I started out with the compost, it was beneficial to my compost... however, over time I forgot to add it once in a while and found that no matter what I did, it was okay - until I found the nest. 

If you have a compost - and it's working well - how have you kept it up to its best potential? Do you add any animal poo or garden lime? Or is it just lawn clippings and vegetable skins you add? 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

In The Beginning....

Okay... that was cliche, right? But really, I'd like to tell you all how it started with me - my gardening and my love for plants.

I moved out of my parents house aged 29 into a townhouse in Woodridge, Logan City, Brisbane to find a tiny postage-sized backyard filled to the brim with weeds of all kinds. It was overgrown and I couldn't step outside without having something 'bite' me. 

I had some serious work ahead of me.

I spent a good 6 months just pulling up what the landlords called 'lawn' and putting down weed killer; causing me to start the whole place to start over completely. Yes, I had a completely blank slate of a back garden... yard... it looked like something from the early 1980's - it had absolutely nothing in it except two Logan City Council drain lids and a sewage filter lid an that - my friends - was it.

We had a care-taker here at the complex who helped me out with top soil and grass seed and watering it all it, fertilising it and making it grow the way it was supposed to - but I kept on getting bindi's and Scotch Thistles. The first was a complete mystery but the second was a matter of just pulling them out at the right time... and eventually, I got rid of all 15 of them (yeah, you read right!). 
The damned, Bindis? Well, it wasn't until I looked over the side fence one lovely day that I found out that I was next to what was commonly known as a Queen Patch. This is a huge round patch of the weed which had a flower sprouting out of the middle of it. I had never seen one before and haven't seen one since, but our care taker used full-strength weed killer on it and to dig up half the dirt to pull out all the weeds. It was amazing to watch - but I never got a huge infestation of Bindis again; instead, I only got a few here and there which I pull out as soon as I see them.

Once the lawn was starting to look good, I began to grow vegetables and herbs. It was great! Seeing I was from a family who grew their own veggies all the time, I got a lot of advice from my Dad and other family members on how to grow them. I also started collecting books on how to grow them as well. But my biggest pest were possums - who loved my home-grown food as much as I did.

After a few years, I gave up on trying to keep the possums out and pulled out the veggie and herb garden and started to grow just ordinary, hardy plants. It was fun to get in and do just that... and it also made me look at succulents which I could cultivate and grow more than one of - saving me a lot of money buying more plants. All I needed to do was buy more pots and potting mix.

Then, my townhouse was going to be sold by my landlords and so I had to have the yard cleaned up, the house cleaned up and people trampling through my place during an Open House looking around. And if you've ever suffered through those things, you know people just have no respect for anything - especially if you're investment property (which I was) and I found people were helping themselves not only to my food, making offers on my furniture and clothes (thinking I was dead) but they were making off with my potted plants in my back yard too! It took 3 real estate agents to keep people under control around the place - and I also walked around to keep them from looking through my personal items (ie: jewelry and make-up - yes that happened too). 

It's been a long, long time since my place was sold that way. My folks bought the place from my last landlord and I'm my own person when it comes to this place now; which is good. The garden is what I want it to be, and every year or so, it changes it the most wonderful way. I change the pots over, change the plants over, add new plants, remove old ones... I make it look better and better. But...

... my garden is always a container garden.

Even if I move from here, I'll have a container garden at my next place - and I'll be using huge containers to hold my plants out of habit. Or I'll use containers around the place to make it look quaint. However, for now, I'm using this garden to the best of my abilities. 

Welcome to My Garden

Hi there!

This is the first of hopefully many posts about gardening in a small garden. I have lived in rental properties over my whole life - never having bought a house - and so gardening with a container garden has been my only choice with how to decorate and make my garden look and feel very much my own.

It's been an idea of mine to get in here and write a gardening blog - but how and what kind was still a bit of a wonder. However, when I realised that I'm not that bad at keeping my current garden alive, I thought to give this a shot.

Container gardens aren't that difficult to start up and you can grow pretty much anything you want in them - from fruit'n'veggies and herbs to flowers, roses, palms and shade plants - the list of plants you can grow is endless. I know, as I am growing some really hardy plants in my postage stamp back yard and they really should be in the ground; however, they're pretty happy in the massive pots I've chosen for them.

And that's the first secret of planting plants that will grow big, put them into enormous pots/planters to start with and they'll be happy for their whole life. The next thing I've learned is that shade mesh is wonderful to put over the hole in the bottom of the planter, then... you use a bag of river stones on top of that for drainage.  Not only does it help the water get through, but it stops the plant from getting root rot as it lets the water drain away faster.

I've never let my plants sit in saucers - as much as they are tempting to buy for your planters, as pretty as they look because they match - I just don't put them in saucers. I let the water drain into the ground as those saucers encourage mosquitoes to your garden, there's nothing worse than not being able to go into your garden because you're going to be eaten alive those little blood-suckers. 

So, there you have it. My first three ideas for making your little garden lovely. I'll be back soon to help you out with other secrets in gardening - and they won't always be for the outdoors.