New Pond and Rock garden

The new pond and rock garden are now in (have been for a week and a half now)!  So here’s an update.

I (with a bit of help from Mini and MrObsi) cleared out all that garden bed – dug down about 20cm, ended up with 2 full wheelbarrows (lucky we have 2 wheelbarrows), 1 large garbage bin and about 8 buckets full (bagged in plastic) dirt that can’t be used for anything.  Still no idea what we’re doing with it….. contemplating a garden skip (since we likely also have to remove the entire lemon tree due to gall-wasp, and that’s taller than the house).

dscn5642I also cleared out the overgrown grass and passionfruit vine growing up the fence.  No before pic because it was a disgrace, but the stuff I cleared away filled the garden waste wheelie bin, and I estimate I recovered a space about 6 metres by 1 metre.   The replacement sealant of the holes in the pond shell was holding up fine, no leaks so that was all set.  Of course the day after we dug it all out, it rained and we had a pond!  (ahh the joys of clay soil).  Luckily it did drain out.   So we sprayed more weed killer through the bed, put down the black plastic that was the old pond liner and 3 bags of screenings gravel.  Then filled the pond and gathered the rocks to make a rock garden!




But then I decided we needed to paint the porch railings because they were rusting away, and if we didn’t do something about it soon, we’d have to replace them.  Ideally you’re supposed to sand back all the rust and repaint, but if sanded it all back there are some spots that wouldn’t have much actual metal left, so we just wirebrushed off the loose bits and painted over everything.  Should give us a few more years before we need to replace it.  Avoiding the now filled pond was fun though 😛







We had to put the fish in before the pump/fountain arrived because we started getting mosquito lavae in the pond.  We’ve lost one fish, I’m hoping we don’t lose any more 😦




*Gasp* I’ve been inspired to garden!!!!

Got inspired to actually do something in the front garden yesterday and today!
We’re not gardeners, we don’t like gardening and we’re no good at it 🙂
But we went for a drive into the hills and I always like looking at other people’s houses (and wishing mine looked like that :P). I was thinking how much I love hydrangeas (they are everywhere up there!) and would like to have a nice looking garden even though gardening is right up there with going to the dentist on my list of fun tasks to do 😛
Because every single time we’ve tried to do gardening we’ve put effort in to doing something and then everything just dies and it’s depressing and I figure what’s the point trying again. Especially when we HATE gardening and we’re always so busy.
Also almost everything we’ve ever put in there (with the exception of the lavender hedge that didn’t work and the irises and daffodils that never grew) – are plants we’ve only put in there because they were cheap or we were given them…. not plants I actually liked or wanted. Mostly because we’ve not really had the money to spend on the garden, but it might inspire me to get into gardening if I can look at plants I actually wanted to put there, rather than plants I’m obligated to look after because otherwise the yard looks like it’s an abandoned house 😛
The few times I’ve suggested to hubby that we should grow hydrangeas he’s said no, because they are “Grandma plants”. Which admittedly yes, they are 😛 But I still love them (well, the purply-blue ones anyway). So yesterday I didn’t ask, I just declared we’re getting some 😀 Once we do some work on the garden to have somewhere to put them.
So now I’m inspired to do something with the garden because 1). I’m sick of our house looking like we’re squatters  2). I’m excited about the concept of actually having plants in the garden that I like!
So first step yesterday was removing the pond…. took us 3 days to carve it out of the clay/rock we have instead of dirt 😛 and it took only a couple of hours to completely remove it *sigh* But it was just a bit pointless really.  It was made as a frog habitat since I love frogs and wanted to encourage them into the yard.  They say “build it and they will come” – but it’s been 11 years now and they have not come!  (I can hear them in the area, but behind the house and obviously they won’t travel to my pond).  Since it was made specifically to be a frog habitat we couldn’t have goldfish in there (they can eat tadpoles), so only smaller fish that you can’t even really see in the pond – so it’s not like you can see fish swimming in there or anything…… it’s in the side of the front yard that I NEVER go to….. it’s just collecting leaves (the trees near it have grown more to overhang it) and mosquitos (when the fish in there eventually die off – as they do)… so now it’s gone.
Pond before (admittedly when it was looking nice, before it got overgrown)
Pond now 😀
We’ve filled it with leaf litter I raked up from the lawn and footpath – as we didn’t have spare dirt…. nor room in our garden waste bin…. so we’ll work on filling the hole up later  (Probably will have to buy a load of topsoil), for now it’s a weird dip in the lawn but at least it’s no longer filling with water and breeding mosquitos.   All the rocks that were around the edge will now become a new rock garden next to my NEW POND! 😀
Several years ago we found a small fibreglass pond in someone’s hard rubbish pile, so we rescued it and had been planning on making a second pond in the backyard (closer to where the frogs in the neighbourhood sound like they are coming from).  But that never happened… and I’ve given up on the idea of having a pond for frogs…..  but I would very much like to have a goldfish pond!  And one where I will actually see it!  So I’m going to try setting up a new pond and rock garden (more our level of gardening effort :P) in the disgrace for a garden we have by the front entrance.  Where, by complete contrast to everywhere else in the yard where nothing will grow – nothing will stop growing in there!  Seriously, plants just self-seed into there and go insane!
It looks like it’s just grass, and there is some grass in there I’ll admit, but most of it is some weird grass-like plant (something in this family it seems –, and I just cannot get rid of it.  You can’t pull it out because it just snaps off and leaves a clump at the base, and it has all these weird roots with alien-like pods (“tubers” I think is the technical term) running all through the garden bed, and try as I might I’ve never been able to remove it all and they seem to grow from those bizarre pods, so it’s a never ending struggle and they are like the headlice of the plant world 😦  …..
The pond will *just* fit into that space there (phew), and we’re going to have to nuke the stupid grass-like plant I think (I don’t normally agree with using poison in the garden, but I’ve made an exception here), then put down plastic and place down all the rocks from the old pond and have a pond (with goldfish) and a rock garden with the aloe vera plants I have (which miraculously I haven’t killed yet!)…. and also in that steps area is a cute wandering plant I adore, which will grow on just concrete stairs!  No need for dirt even, it’s amazing!!  so I’ll let that grow among the rocks too.  It should look pretty!  I can sit on the steps here and watch the fish!!
Testing the pond does fit there…. I test filled it with a bucket of water because unfortunately someone had drilled holes in the bottom of it and plugged it with silicone sealant, but one of the holes was leaking a little.  So I had to pull all the sealant out and reseal the holes  – hopefully I’ve done a good enough job and it holds water!!!  (I used aquarium sealant so it’s not going to be toxic for any fish).
You can’t really see but we’ve dug out all the dirt from one section now…. down about 20cm.  I wanted to keep the garden edging even though it is a bit crap…. saves buying new stuff.  So we’ve also thoroughly sprayed weed killer all over that exposed dirt and the edging.  I’m praying that with the plastic will kill that plant off forever!
Since the dirt we removed from there is all infested with the roots/tubers from that stupid plant, I don’t know what we’re going to do with it….  When I say that annoying plant infested the garden, I really mean it.  Check this out:  The whole garden bed was like this!
I’ve tried several times over the years to weed it all out, but you can never get it all, so it keeps growing.  It can’t go anywhere in the garden or it will sprout new plants 😦   I don’t even want to put it in the garden waste bin for the same reason.  We might have to shovel it into garbage bags and leave it sit for a few years until it all dies?  I don’t know…. while we’re figuring out that conundrum we’ve temporarily shoveled it to the other side of the garden bed so we can focus on the bit where the pond is going…. we’ll deal with it on the weekend when we’ll be digging all the dirt out from that side too and putting the plastic and all those pond rocks in there.
So now we’re waiting for the sealant to cure… and the weed killer to take effect…. also for the next few hot days to pass 😛   Then we’ll line the hole, put the pond shell in and work out what we’re going to do to fill in the space around it (buy potting soil (which may grow weeds) or stones (probably cost more))….  We’ll need to get water plants set up for a few weeks before we add fish, so I’d like to get that done ASAP.  I’ve also bought a cheap solar powered water pump off ebay, so we’ll have a little sprinkle of water to give it some interest… by the time that arrives it will be time for the fish!
Elsewhere in the garden…..
I’ve decided that our front “flowerbed” (more realistically “plant graveyard”) needs to go.
It’s better to just bring the lawn down to the footpath (as it’s attempting to do itself anyway) and do away with the idea of having a garden there. So we’ll rip out the sad attempt at a lavender hedge (where only half the plants survived and those that did went all woody and crap)…. and the 3 things that decided to grow there on their own (no idea what they even are!) I also want to remove the old wooden edging and put 2 rows of bricks there instead.  Since with the amount of leaf litter the tree on the nature strip makes (that tree is responsible for the fact nothing will grow in the garden there), it really needs to have an edge to be able to sweep up to.
Then we’re going to remove the oval “graveyard” from the centre of the lawn too.
(hahaha, it’s so pathetic!)
It’s like half sand half dirt for some reason (came like that) so nothing ever grew there either (except some spindly stuff I don’t like but mum gave to us to put there and occasionally a sad looking iris or daffodil). Both that and the front bed have a sprinkler system buried in there that has never worked, so that will have to be removed too….
Then along the house… where I’d attempted another hedge like situation using 2 different purple hebe plants that dad gave us – the lighter purple larger plant we planted between the windows and the darker purple smaller plant we put under the windows – but only some survived, and only the lighter ones I didn’t like as much *sigh*.  Which was the point where we said “F*ck it, I’m sick of this gardening caper” and neglected the garden ever since 😛  As the photographic evidence shows 😀 😛
Problem was by the time it was obvious everything had gone to hell and we needed to just remove everything and start again, not only was our care factor ZERO, but also everything is all full of dead bushes and grass, so removing it all is going to be a nightmare…… and with the knowledge that most likely whatever we replace it with will die too, it’s making us less inspired to do anything 😛
So ideally I’d like my hydrangeas along there, but it’s full sun and they don’t like that (damn you house position!), so I’ll have to take out the camellia in the corner that is in partial shade and put the hydrangea there, and then I don’t know what else for along the front – but I’ve given up on the neat ordered hedge type idea now, as I know that DOES NOT WORK.  So what we put in there will just be a random assortment of stuff, so if when something dies we can just shove something else in its place and it won’t matter.








Cupcakes & Christmas

This year I declared I would not use paper wrap. We do still have like 5 rolls left over from previous years, but I won’t be buying any more, and only 2 things were wrapped in paper this year. Everyone else got cloth wrappings!

See how pretty it all looked under the tree? I was hoping to get the wrappings back to reuse again, but some people wanted to keep them to reuse, so that’s good too. I’ll have to pick up more xmas fabric in the post-xmas sales.


And I made some festive mini cupcakes…. and carried them in MY NEW CUPCAKE COURIER! (yes, they are tiny ones, so they don’t fill the spaces)



Arty shot by hubby

And look what I got for Xmas….


A scarecrow! MiniObsi’s idea, made with help from her Daddy 🙂

(it even has cork earrings, a belt buckle and drawn on fingernails)

and my rose bush decided to grow a bunch of roses in the centre of the bush…. for some unknown reason…



And lastly…. Because I won the last round of cupcake competitions, I got to pick the next recipe. Chai Cupcakes!  (I did one half with vanilla frosting and half with the chai frosting, but we like the chai better)


Chai Latte Cupcakes
(Makes 24 large cupcakes)

1 1/4 cups milk
2 black (normal) tea bags
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground black pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup castor sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla essence (or vanilla bean)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups Plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1). In a saucepan, heat the milk until just before boiling. Add the teabags and spices (including the split vanilla bean if using this), cover and remove from heat. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, then give the milk a stir and remove the teabags, squeezing them to remove as much tea flavour as possible. (and remove and scrape the vanilla bean). Allow to cool. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of this, adding extra (plain) milk if some has evaporated off (I needed to add 2 tb).
2). Beat the sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs. Sift together the baking powder, salt and flours.
3). Gradually add the spiced milk and sifted flour mix alternately, mixing well.
3). Spoon mixture into baking cases and bake at 190C for around 20 minutes, or until cakes are cooked (skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean). Allow to cool before icing.

~ If you would prefer to use Chai teabags instead of the spices, use 3 Chai teabags and do not use the spices or black teabag, however the result will not be the same flavour as using the spices. If you really like Chai, try the Chai frosting, or if you prefer something more subtle, perhaps a plain vanilla frosting. ~

Vanilla Chai Frosting:
100g softened butter
100g softened cream cheese
Whatever you need from 3 cups icing sugar)
1 tsp vanilla essence/paste (or 1 vanilla bean)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

Beat butter and cream cheese together, then add spices, vanilla and enough icing sugar to make the right consistency. Halve the spices for a more subtle flavour.

My garden now

Lots of things have died unfortunately… I put my strawberry seedlings out too early and they died…. some of the broccoli, spinach and leeks died…. some egg plants (got only one or two plants left now), and some basil 😦 and most of my green peas, berlotti beans and butter beans.

But I have lots of things happily growing. I finally got around to making the paths in the vegie garden… I put down plastic bags, then pavers and covered it in stones. I need another bag of stones though… and got some eucalyptus mulch.


Mmmmm Apricots! Pity the bloody birds keep eating them! need to mesh them out I think.


Cabbages (purple obviously) and broccoli (boring green)


Bugs on my cabbage! Only one is affected. Not sure what they are, they aren’t aphids. I can give them a spray with neem oil, but I’d like to know what they are first, maybe I can feed them to the pet frogs.


Speaking of garden pests – made myself a slug killer…. since they keep going after my cabbages and broccoli. A milk carton with a doorway on each side, with beer!


Here is another slug catcher – caught 4 sluggies


Pink beans (berlotti)… should be just about ready to pick.


My purple beans are finally growing


The purple peas are going crazy!


So pretty!

Tomatoes (one has spring onions around it)


Chomped on basil and capsicum – and my slug catcher…garden1_17-12-07.jpg

as you can see, the corn is growing nicely… the butter beans between them not so well, and a pot (will one day be hung up) of oregano.


We have a vegie patch!

Well… slowly!

The seedlings have taken forever to grow up enough to go outside.  But we had a planting on Saturday, and everything is out now (a few were a little bit young).  Ohh, the parsley and carrots aren’t out yet, but I think I’ll forget about the carrots and the parsley is growing in some toilet rolls and will go outside later.

So we now have a vegie patch, rather than a bean and pea patch 🙂

I discovered 2 useful (I think) vegie planting ideas…. firstly is instead of buying the peat pots I planned to (where you get a disc that expands into a pot thing and you plant the seed in and it becomes the pot and soil, so you just plant it int he ground when ready)… taking a toilet roll and folding the bottom up to make a pot, and filling it with soil (or seedling raiser mix), and planting the seeds in there, means you can plant those directly into the ground, and the toilet rolls will break down as the plant grows.  The other is that when you plant seedlings in the ground, if you cut the bottom of a plastic drinking cup off, and put that upside down over the seedling(packing a bit of dirt around them so they don’t blow away), it protects it from wind, and when you water them, you can half fill the cup and the water goes just where its needed,  not wasting it on the bare earth around it.  Also you can find them better, and write on the cups what the seedlings are!  I took a crap video of watering some broccoli seedlings in these.  I guess paper cups would be a more eco friendly version, not sure how well they would handle prolonged exposure though.

video of watering

Now we have the pics:

In the hanging pots I have strawberries (bush strawberries and normal ones) and basil with a tomato hanging from the underside (upside down tomatoes) of 2 of them.  You can see the butter beans and corn infront of it.  They have been out there for a while.  I stupidly forgot to grow the corn first, to give the beans something to climb.  Next year!  Also some parsley self seeded itself into the vegie patch some how (I had it in a different area of the garden last year…)

These are our Purple beans, Purple peas, Pink (berlotti) beans and Green snap peas… and infront of them are eggplant and capsicum.  I wanted only purple capsicum (since I hate them), but I could only buy them as a mixed thing of 7 varieties, so I’m hoping in the 14 or so seedlings I planted, at least one will be purple.

My upside down black russian tomato is going well.  (Chives in the top, not liking it quite as much).  The upside down coke bottle allows me to fill it with water and it slowly seeps in, so the water doesn’t pour straight out through the hole the tomato pokes through.

My broccoli plants being protected by their plastic cup surrounds.  I also have purple cabbage, leeks and beetroots that are a similar level of boring seedling, so I didn’t bother taking pics of those.

Tomatoes in a pot.  Most of them are cherry tomatoes, a couple of normal ones. Probably not enough spacing, but we’ll see how they go.  These are spares – I planted too many seeds!  basil in the centre.

Spring onions, I think that’s a tomato in the centre

Capsicum and basil in the smaller pot.  (3 types of basil – just so I could get purple)

Companion planting and natural pest control

This is stuff I’ve gathered from several websites….

Companion planting
Plants that like living together and offer some benefit by being planted closely with certain plants.

(beans enrich soil with nitrogen – so good with corn and most other veg – carrot, celery, corn, eggplant, peas, brassicas (broccoli etc.), and strawberry)

Carrots with tomatoes, beans, lettuce, onion, pea, radish, tomato
Legumes (beans and peas) with brassicas (cabbage and broccoli)
Basil with tomatoes
Corn with climbing beans (let them climb the corn)
Chives with carrots
Celery with Cabbage, leek, onion, spinach, tomato
Eggplant with peas
Spinach with peas and strawberries
Beets with brassicas, onion, sage, lettuce
Brassicas with sage and rosemary
Celery with cabbage, tomato, spinach and leek
Chive increases growth and flavour of tomato and carrot
Leeks with carrot, celery and onion
Peas and celery
Capsicum with tomato, parsley, carrots, basil
Chilli with tomato, eggplant, basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary
Strawberry with spinach, beans, onion
Beans with Carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, marigold
Broccoli with Celery, chamomile, dill, rosemary
Cabbage with Beetroot, potato, oregano, sage
(Don’t plant these together as they don’t like it)

Cabbage does not like strawberry, tomato and climbing beans
Celery hates corn
Corn hates tomatoes and celery
Mint hates parsley
Strawberry hates cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
Tomato hates cabbage

Repelling pests
Tomatoes repel cabbage moths (so plant near cabbages)
Garlic spray for repelling bugs (mince garlic, add water and spray on garden)
Mint repells many insects – so plant around the garden (in pots – it takes over garden)
Oregano near broccoli and cabbage repell cabbage moth
Rosemary cuttings – repel cabbage moth, bean beatles and carrot fly

For slugs, take a margarine container cut holes in sides for sluggies to crawl in – bury yoghurt tubs or other smaller than the marg container things, fill them with beer, and cover with the margarine tub as a “roof” to stop it filling with water. You can poke holes in one yoghurt tub and put one pot inside the other as a sieve, so you just lift the inner (holey one) out with the slugs in it to remove them without tipping out the beer.

Other Tips
Use mulch of mint leaves around brassicas
Grow shallow rooted onions among deep rooted carrots
German chamomile good for all plants and puts nutrients into soil
Compost beet leaves – good source of magnesium

Sunflowers attract aphids to them (good to lure them away from roses)

Vinegar in a spray bottle will kill weeds. Cider vinegar has a higher acidity so works best.