Hello, my name is Sandy.

Garden things in July 2016

The flower bed has progressed, with the addition of pansies (Viola tricolor var. hortensis) and lobelias. I believe some native violets (Viola hederacea) have sprung up as weeds; not sure if that's actually what they are, but we've had them as weeds before. And on either side of the geranium (Pelargonium) at the back, I've planted aeoniums (Aeonium arboreum, also known as houseleek!).

The bed is still a mess, though!

overview of the flower bed

This house has Hedera ivy and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) all over it, which will serve as lovely coverings for the very plain fence. I'm expecting the aeoniums to grow to just above knee height as the geranium gets bushier and taller. With the rosemary and lemongrass too, this is going to be one odd flowerbed, but hopefully it won't look unattractive.

tiny flowerpot and tiny triceratops

I found a tiny triceratops in our yard, and for some reason, we have a tiny flowerpot too. I'm sure there are stories behind both, but their new life will be in a yet to be decided tableau. Would be nice if this was the start of a floral arc sweeping around that bare front section.

main garden bed with arum lilies and nasturtiums

Here is an experiment. The three arum lilies seem happy doing their own thing. So between them, I've placed the bottom half of the broken pot, filled it with soil and scattered cat mint (Nepeta spp.) seeds in and around.

There might not be much to look at when the lilies and nasturtiums take over the bed, but when those die back, I'm hoping what's left is a lovely patch of catnip continually growing and self-seeding.

In front, there's an osteospermum daisy to provide colour on a similar schedule.

maroon osteospermum daisy

I'm not sure yet what to plant around it, but we're getting there. Maybe next week, I'll decide. After five years of playing in the garden, I'm satisfied that these things take time to cultivate - mentally and horticulturally.

purple pansy

pink pelargonium with a purple pansy perimeter

Time, however, is now something we don't have a great deal of. I thought we'd live here a couple years, but we've pulled the trigger on moving again, aiming for sometime in the next three months or so. I've decided that's my timeframe for making the garden presentable for the residents after us. So maybe next week, I'll have to decide.

rainbow radishes

Harvested a little rainbow of radishes! They tasted sooooooo peppery and went straight into my pickle jar. We have coriander, garlic & chilli salt pickles now.

rainbow radish row

That's it for now. Stay tuned for more garden make-nice adventures. :)

Garden things in June 2016

Confession time - I've had almost no motivation for gardening since the summer. For some reason, the fact that we're renting has weighed heavy on my mind, despite every assurance when we moved in that we could treat the place like our own.

But you know how it is. When something isn't yours, it's hard to pretend it is. I don't want to leave a legacy the owner or next tenant might not want. I don't want to add all these adornments we'll end up having to shift when we eventually get our own home.

Yet, maybe it's none of these things. Maybe this comes from being in my mid-30s and feeling the urge to nest my way. Whatever the reason for this horticultural malaise, my garden has become unkempt.

Not totally forgotten, though. Let me show you things.

nasturtiums spilling over the garden bed

The nasturtiums are going nuts, as they did this time last year. I thought they'd all died over the summer, but they seem to be a permanent seasonal fixture in this garden. Same with those arum lilies you see peeking over the top.

I see now why people say to observe your garden over a year before making drastic changes. I had intended on adding mediterranean plants over the warmer months, but now I realise they would simply be overshadowed by winter growth. To ensure our garden stays beautiful without severely upping the effort factor, I'll need to account for its natural ebbs and flows.

What I have done is expanded our no-dig bed (to the left) with kitchen waste, twigs, prunings and lawn clippings. But instead of using the space as a food producer, I've decided to make it a flowerbed. Something pretty and relatively low-touch for however long we remain in this house.

geranium in a broken pot

So far there's a Geranium Calliope (Pelargonium) in the back, decorated with a piece of broken pot we found by the side of the road. It currently looks like crap, but over time, the setup should look nice and quaint enough that it won't bother whoever lives here next.

Not sure what to plant there next, though. Maybe some flowering ground cover or pretty weeds.

rocket weeds

Speaking of pretty weeds, our rocket plants went mental and have made babies all over the yard. We now have them growing like weeds pretty much everywhere. I'm OK with this. It's been nice going outside and sitting around snacking on fresh leaves. They're super peppery and very satisfying.

radish overgrown with rocket

This (above) was my attempt to convert the rocket bed into a radish bed. Well played, nature.

white alyssums

flowers and herbs in a no-dig bed

In another part of the garden, we piled on more clippings and prunings, and planted herbs and flowers. Initially, the pile was as high as the grey brick, but eventually sank to a more reasonable level. As these plants grow and spread, this bed should become a pretty little sight in place of what was once a barren patch.

Grass and weeds are having their wicked way right now, so it'll take more attention to make beautiful, but we'll get there. Bit by bit.

wild veggie patch

Finally, my veggie bed. What can I say? It's a mess. Nasturtiums are poking through and will have to go. The basil is going nuts and we haven't the time to harvest and make pesto. It's a race against the flowers, because the plant will die back after going into full bloom.

The tomatoes are... I can't tell at this point whether they're succeeding or failing. Two tomato fruits started to grow on one of the plants, but they look like they're withering on the vine. The foliage in the back bed is looking healthy, but that end doesn't get enough sunshine to really take off.

At least we know planting basil and tomato in autumn is not a dumb idea in WA. :)

Outside the beds, grass has been growing beautifully. I think it's a type of buffalo grass, but I'm not sure. Last winter, this whole bed was a pile of thorny prunings we dumped deliberately with this exact situation in mind. It is now looking mighty lush.

So, there's a lot of green in this post. If I'm lucky (and not lazy), the next garden update should include other colours too.

Garden things in November 2015

my veggie patch at the end of spring

This is what my veggie patch looks like after a growing season (3 months exactly!). Mental, huh?

We have:

  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Corn
  • 3 sunflowers
  • Spinach
  • Basil (sort of)
  • Lavender
  • Zucchini
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtiums

The flat leaf parsley went crazy. My big mistake here was overestimating how much we actually eat parsley, ie. hardly at all. I've been told tabbouleh is the way to use this all up. Parsley pesto ain't half bad either. There's a chance we won't have that much after removing the crap leaves anyway.

an ear of corn

Out of the four corn kernels I planted, three got eaten by something. Probably birds. I replaced them, and only one sprouted, but hasn't flourished. Only the one proud hero stands, bearing two hairy ears of corn. As soon as those hairs turn brown and dead, we'll have our first proper homegrown cob snack.

The sunflowers are crazy tall. Taller than me. Taller than niaalist. Probably taller than if I were sitting on his shoulders. The tops of those giant stalks have buds that look like they'll put out a decent flowerhead. We may have some tasty sunflower seeds to nibble on through summer.

Our spinach was a success. Too successful, in fact. We had more than we found appetising. Don't know if we'll grow it again. We planted a lavender in the middle of them, as a bug repellent. Seemed to work well enough, if we got that many edible leaves, I guess?

zucchini fingers

After my run-ins with powdery mildew, I thought our zucchini crop would surely fail, but to my surprise, we're getting nice healthy looking summer squashes. We harvested a handful for the last BBQ we went to. Gosh, they tasted so good. We'll be having some tonight in a pasta bake!

mo junk in da trunk

Especially this weird one. The front half looks like a little courgette finger, but the butt is huge like the ones you get at the supermarket. I wonder why it did that, and why it's the only one?

grape tomatoes

Just outside the veggie patch are a couple of grape tomato plants that seem to be thriving. I didn't plant these. They sprung up like a weed from our worm compost. Yes, we do the dumb thing of letting seeds go in with our scraps. I don't see it as a bad thing. If they're seeds from our food, they'll make plants we're more likely to eat.

I'm annoyed that the tomato plant I actually made a point of planting and fertilising and paying extra attention to is pretty much dying. Balls to that. But I'm excited to actually get some tomatoes out of this season.

It was the same story with basil. I sowed seeds, I fertilised and watered - in the end, the only one that grew and survived was one that sprung up as a weed. Just a couple weeks ago, I did see that one of my deliberately planted seeds has sprouted. It's in the shade of the zucchini plant, so it'll grow slowly, but I expect it to get going as we clear areas of the bed for the next planting.

My many attempts at growing chilli failed. From seed again. Maybe summer will be better for it.

I didn't get any photos of our marigolds and nasturtiums because they're not much to look at anymore. I'd always thought they produced smells that repelled insects, but this didn't turn out to be the case. They seemed to attract the insects that would have otherwise feasted on my herbs and veggies. The nasturtiums were especially distracting, and grow prolifically. The marigolds lasted longer than I thought. They actually kept their delicious heads, where previously, my marigolds would be eaten very quickly by snails. I'm hoping their impending demise will leave seeds that spontaneously spring up next season. Hooray for sacrificial plants! A+ would grow again.

a sleeping cat

Freelancing has been going well. I am pretty much constantly working my arse off, but we don't call it work anymore. We call it "life choices". :) Today's life choices are newsletter and website copy, twitterature, researching interactive fiction, and another 1667 words on my NaNoWriMo novel. I also hung out the laundry and ate a sandwich. How am I so good.

Garden things in July 2015

top down view of cos lettuce growing in a garden bed

It's been a while since the last Garden Thing, so let's get into it, eh? These are my cos lettuces in our no-dig garden bed. They indeed survived and appear to be thriving. Hooray, the garden bed is OK!

side view of cos lettuce growing in a garden bed

Except... are they actually cos lettuce? That's what the label said, but they don't look like what you get in a pub Caesar salad. Maybe they grow into that - we will see.

top down view of my new strawberry tower

We finally have a strawberry tower. I've wanted one of these for so long, but kept getting stuck on fretting over how to make it. Eventually, I decided to just suck it and see. Plants are hardy - if it doesn't work, I'll just put them somewhere else.

But looks like it has worked. It's been a couple weeks and the strawberry isn't dead. There's even new leaves growing.

The easy, cheap way to build a strawberry tower

Get 3 medium-sized pots, and maybe a little one to go on top. Fill with soil, stack, then plant. Water well for the first week or two.

Some tutorials tell you to cut holes into the pots - more holes means more spots for leaves to poke out - but I'm not down with the cutting, in case I need these pots for something else.

tomato seedling in a garden bag bed

I have two garden bag beds, containing the soil I've been cultivating over the last two years. Over the weekend, I found a little tomato plant growing out of it. At least, I think it's a tomato. It looks right, but the leaves don't have that tangy tomato smell (tomatine?). This bag bed gets full sun for most of the day so it's the perfect spot for my pre-season tomato.

carrot growing in a garden bag bed

In the other garden bag bed is a carrot crop. Not a particularly exciting one - I was hoping to have them harvested by now, but carrots take a long time, and I planted them quite late in the season. So, we'll just wait and wait. Once these come out, we'll give chilli another go.

a pleasant pot of catnip

Potted some catnip and cat grass too. Every time we've tried to grow these, they've ended up getting mangled or dead. But we're trying again in some nicer pots, in a nicer garden, to see whether they'll live longer.

At the very back, to the left, you can see a bromeliad, though I'm not sure what. It should be dead by now, but every so often, I notice it's grown a tad longer, so I'm hopeful it'll grow into something remarkable enough for me to figure out the name of.

Back and centre is a Crassula tetragona, grown from cuttings taken last October. Yes, they're still alive!

Partially in the photo, on the far right, is... drumroll... an arabica coffee tree! :D They have them at Bunnings now, so you don't have to drive all the way out to the larger nurseries to find one. It'll take 18 months or so before it bears fruit, but fingers crossed, we may eventually get enough for half a cup of coffee. It's growing in a pot, so it can come with us when we eventually move again.

a little succulent trio

OK, last one - my donkey tail Sedum morganianum with a freshly trimmed Crassula ovata (Jade plant), and a Lithops I've had for a couple of years. It wasn't looking happy indoors, each new leaf pair smaller than the last, so we'll try this outside instead.

All right, it's cold and I'm thirsty. Time for tea before bed. :) What are you growing in your garden?

Garden things in March 2015

miniature pine tree crassula

It has been overcast and gray, and sad as it is to say goodbye to summer, I hope we've turned the corner into autumn actual. Hot weather and sun-blast days destroy my motivation to hang out in the garden.

But today, we were back in business with 3 simple goals:

  1. Repopulate the worm farm.
  2. Plant something that will pay off.
  3. Tidy up a bit, you're a disgrace.

Repopulate the worm farm

For the last few years, whenever hot weather wiped out my worm tower, I'd do the suburban middle-class thing and buy a booster box, then hate myself for being so damn consumer. This year, things would be different.

We took steps to dodge the heat by moving the tower into the shed. This turned out to be utterly useless, because the one time we moved it was our weekend away, when it was cool and rainy here in Perth. This filled me with a false sense of security, so the next heatwave, I fell back on optimistic denial, and all my worms died. Mea culpa.

Luckily, a gardener friend mentioned she had put all her worms in flower pots and the garden bed before summer. So this afternoon, I sifted through our garden bed and found a few little wormies - alive! These little Adameves have been moved from Eden to the worm tower, to beget many wriggly Cains and Abels. Hopefully with less jealousy and murder.

The plan now will be to continually move worms between the tower and garden. Not only should this help towards self-sustaining plant beds, but it'll provide safe-havens for future breeding stock.

Plant something that will pay off

very messy garden bed

So, carrots. Baby ones.

After seeing how reasonable a pumpkin we can grow with some focus and attention, I'll try to be more conscientious this season.

We have 2 rows of 8 or so plant sites, with 3 seeds in each, taking up half the veggie bed. Once they've sprouted, the seedlings will be distributed more evenly across the whole patch.

Which is, at the moment, a right mess. Seems to be customary after every new planting. Whatever cat winds up living next door regards our yard as their patrol zone, so to protect our tender garden from harsh piss reality, we tart it up like a death trap until the plants are big enough to crowd out visitors.

Tidy up a bit

I'm not overly invested in carrot stocks here cos we may upset everything in a couple months. We're planning on moving to a house with more growing space, so it'd be worth it in the end.

In preparation, much of my funemployment time will involve finishing the konmari of our home, cleaning up, and packing. We don't know yet when this will happen, but we cut a deal with both the rental agent and the future landlord, that we'll be ready to haul ass asap at a moment's notice.

I'm excited about kicking off with this level of unpredictability. I don't think I could have taken it before, but with all the introspection and lifestyle changing lately, this feels befitting - like if it were to happen any other way, it would feel as though nothing has improved. There's a fire under my arse now. I don't feel so asleep today.

freshly planted marigold seeds in a red pot

This post is looking pretty bare, so here are a few more photos. Today, I planted some fresh marigold seeds. Here are the seeds in a pot. Exciting stuff.

Shari, talking about goats at the Less is More Festival

We went to the Less is More Festival this afternoon at The Grove Library, and while waiting for the ecoburbia goat workshop to start, the presenter Shari came round with a bag of dried marigolds for people to take home!

Danielle, talking about urban livestock at the Less is More Festival

My favourite workshop was on urban livestock, not just because the presenter Danielle is my friend, but because it was super interesting to deep-dive into some of the details of animal rearing. There are so many domestic animals I never thought of as livestock before today. I almost feel like a real suburban farmer now.

twin crassula

These are my Crassula tetragona cuttings from last October. They grew ever so slightly over summer. As you can see, some of the soil has washed away, so they'll need a top-up soon. I quite like how they look in this very tiny bonsai pot, though I'm not sure how well they'll survive. I have a larger pot with another cutting that hasn't grown at all. Maybe these twins should become triplets and encourage each other as a team.

Sedum burrito

Finally, this guy. At the start of summer, I found a 'Little Donkey' Sedum morganianum under a pile of detritus. It had fallen off a plant that didn't even come close to making it. Somehow, spending months ignored in the dank shade kept this guy alive. He only had one 'tail' when we found him, but has now become three-tailed. We kept him shadowy and moist during the hot weather. I think he might be all right after all. I'd like a whole pot full of this, please. :)

What does your garden look like at the moment? What are your plans for autumn and winter?

Garden things in October 2014

messy garden wall

I'm annoyed with my garden. As expected, it went mental over winter. We completed a massive round of weeding and harvesting, and looked sweet for a while, but we're back to being a mess again.

The mint bed seems to be overgrown or half-eaten - always. That happy medium where the leaves are full, beautiful and under control lasts but half a moment. I hoped it would grow up the wall too, but it never took to a trellis, or died back when it reached half a metre in height.

patch of pruned mint, where a chilli seed has been planted

So to serve it right, I've pruned everything and planted a chilli seed. A small, manageable fruiting plant might do better in this space. Perhaps the mint will provide an undergrowth, keeping bugs away from the chilli plant itself.

Alyssum sprouts in an old tree stump

The stump is doing all right. Our alyssum (Lobularia maritima) seeds are coming up. Hit and miss with the fluctuating weather, but hopefully they'll take.

Violet creepers

A patch of creeping violet popped up just after we finished the stump. What a lucky coincidence - it's exactly what I wanted to plant there. Nature just saved me $8.49.

Violet flower head

At least, I hope it's a violet. The flowers don't look like the ones on the internet.

messy creeping fig

The creeping fig (Ficus pumila) looks a bit shit now by comparison, and I'm questioning my decision to use such dense foliage in such a small space. I'd like it if the violet took over the ground area, leaving the fig as wallpaper - that might be nice.

I'm also questioning our lone kangaroo paw. The summer/winter tag-team plants thing might not be such a great idea after all.

luxury bug house under an avocado tree

There are a variety of luxury bug villas around my garden. They're for good bugs like ladybugs, wasps, soldier flies, spiders and the like, but so far, I've not seen anyone living in them. To be fair, I've not marketed them very well. Best get to work on those airbnb listings.

tansy, tanacetum vulgare

Repotted my tansy. I'm very skeptical now, about the ant-repellant thing. When I took it out of its original pot, there was a gang of little workers hanging round having a chat. Maybe in this larger pot, with a fat-arse earthworm living in it, it'll grow strong and smelly, and keep the ants away. I'll give it one more go to see if it's not all bullshit.

bird's eye view of veggie bed

This photo perfectly captures the state of my veggie bed at the moment. Clockwise from the top:

  • Withered clover, pulled out and left on the soil as mulch.
  • Bare mound of dirt, with pumpkin seeds waiting to sprout. :)
  • Rocket - the crop just won't stop.
  • Chinese radish - you can barely see the leaf at 9 o'clock.

And in the centre are strawberry leaves. We've had tiny strawberry plants pop up all over in the last few weeks, most likely from seeds in the worm poo. I wasn't planning on planting strawberries this summer, but since these started from seed right here in our garden, they may fare better than last summer's plants.

tiny strawberry seedlings

So cute when they're little!

tiny succulent in a pot

I'm not sure what this tiny succulent is, but I got a handful of them from my mum's garden. They grow upright, with tiny finger leaves extruding on all sides. The nicer my mum's garden grows, the more interested I become in succulents. They are such funny little things.

two tiny succulents in a pot

Finally, I had my final assessment yesterday for garden school. According to the trainer, I am a competent junior level Horticulturalist - yay!!

I'm worried, though. I'm 99% certain I enrolled in 4 electives, but have only done assignments for 3. According to Open Colleges, I have no more units left in their system, so I must be all done. I will be most unimpressed if I can't graduate because of admin errors on their part, especially if they make me pay extra for a time extension. But I've checked twice to be sure, saved all the email correspondence, and passed the oral assessment for that unit without having been given the textbook. So surely there's nothing to worry about... right?