Our Potted Garden, Spring Update 2011

Every spring I like to do an update on our potted garden, to look back and see what has survived the winter. Each year, we’re learning which plants are worth investing effort so we get as much enjoyment out of our garden as we put in. Here’s a link to last year’s update. During last summer, our baby son arrived 2 months early and I was also very ill, so our garden was severely neglected. But some plants really hung in there and have perked up after some recent tender care. The pumpkin and chamomile didn’t survive the winter though, and a new addition that’s been a success so far is the capsicum!

BASIL
I still have the three bushes of all-year-round basil. The eldest just doesn’t seem to want to give up, I keep removing the flowers, it keeps going on. Last summer the basil was very neglected and ended up very scrawny. I pruned it harshly, and now the three bushes are looking much better, even the eldest is still producing fragrant leaves. This is a surprise, as it must be 3 years old by now. The second season of sweet basil that the landlord Rose gave me finally died, but David’s father gave us some basil seeds planted in a pot when they last came to visit. These are now sprouted and David has planted the biggest of these into pots, we now have several new sweet basil plants for this season.

CAPSICUM
We collected some seeds from some capsicums and planted them in some pots. The strongest of the seedlings were planted into bigger pots, three to a pot. Now they are growing  fruit for our cooking! David keeps up the seaweed fertiliser on these, as with all the other flowering plants, to encourage them to keep fruiting and stay healthy.

CHILLIES
We’ve discovered to keep the chillies really happy, they simply need to be re-potted into new compost rich pots every year. We had several 2 and 3 year old plants that were looking terribly miserable and sure to die, we replanted half of them and they have done amazingly in a very short time. There are 3 very small 2 year old plants left that are in desperate need of a re-pot, which we hope to do this weekend. Even when they are scrawny, they still keep producing the red fruit so we always have some for our cooking. David’s father gave us a new variety of chilli plant, which now has its own large pot and is doing exceptionally well and is full of white flowers.

CHIVES
When the garden was being neglected, the chives suffered from a terrible case of a pest infestation, we think they were tiny black aphids. David had to spray them several times with pyrethrum until now they finally have perked up to their former happy selves. The problem though is that I’m guessing its because of that they haven’t flowered this year. Hopefully they will flower next season so we don’t loose our crop. David’s father has also given us some new chives, so we should be ok.

LAVENDER
After I pruned it last year, it has grown back and is flowering nicely, but now has some more branches growing in odd directions. It looks like it needs another prune, but I’ll wait till after the summer to do that. No cuttings of this bush have ever taken, so I still have just the one plant which is now 3 years old.

MINT
The mint was not happy at all after last summer, we lost the lemon balm and also the peppermint that was in the same pot. Luckily I had some peppermint in another pot and that is going fine. The mint looked awful, so we bought a special pot for it, a self watering one, because it really wants to be in the sun but also to be kept moist. Now the mint is doing great! These mints all used to be in hanging pots, as well as the strawberry, but we’ve given up on the hanging pots. They were the kind that has a coconut fibre lining which turned out be way too dry, all the moisture just seeped right out. The lining has been thrown into the garden for the birds, in case they want to use it to line their nests like they did last spring, and the metal cases are stored in the garage. Maybe one day we’ll live somewhere where they’ll come in handy.

PARSLEY
I don’t know what to do with our parsley! Its become very thin, with just a few individual plants, it doesn’t seem to be reproducing. It was supposed to flower and seed, which it has never done, and some of it is now 3 years old. David’s father has given us some new parsley so hopefully that will grow a bit better. Its so sparse at the moment that we can hardly use it in our cooking.

OREGANO AND MARJORAM
I still only have the two plants, one of each. They are looking very modest, but at least they survived last summer! They are now out in the sun with the rest of the plants. We’ve put all our pots where they can get rain, so no more pots under the roof. The oregano and marjoram are still in the same small pots on the shelf, which is now by the fence where they can get some sun.

DWARF LIME TREE
David’s mum helped him prune the lime tree when she visited us in the summer. This spring, it has sprouted shoots all over, even in the bare section that’s persisted all this time. Last season we did get a few more limes than the 3 we got the year before, and these got used in David’s cooking, mainly his spaghetti and meatballs. We lightly top dressed it again this winter, as we were just not brave enough to prune the root ball. Looks like it is doing fine without us doing that!

ROSEMARY
The rosemary is doing so well that I decided to invest in two new big pots for them. These plants seem very tough and managed the major neglect just fine! They were just kept in the sun the whole time, had good drainage, and didn’t complain at all.

ROCKET
Our amazing crop of rocket seeded in the winter, and we just finished collecting the last of the seeds. We have many, many seeds from the rocket now, it did so well. Now we don’t have to always wait for the rocket to flower and can keep up new crops for eating. I’m looking forward to making some salads, instead of just having rocket on sandwiches.

TOM’s GARDEN
When David’s dad visited us, he brought with him many seedlings from his home in Stanthorpe where he grows his own food. He also made a special planter box for Thomas with all sorts of plants in it, like beetroot and broccoli. There is lettuce and spinach, which we eat and there is plenty for us, as well as David has used the shallots in his cooking. Its busting with plants right now, and is a great addition to our potted garden.

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Colourful Crochet Baby Cube

I was going to make a set of these soft baby blocks, and did this first one last year before Thomas was born. Now, I don’t think I’ll make any more quite like this.

I simply made 6 x 10cm squares of various colours in the same thick cotton I used for the drink coasters. They were fairly quick to make up, then I started joining them up into a cube with the black. I chose these colours because these were the brightest colours I had at the time, and the contrasting black is attractive to the eyes of babies. I then packed the inside with stuffing consisting of scraps of material saved from my sewing projects. I was unhappy with how the cube shape came out. If I packed it too much, it started to resemble a sphere! So I had to remove some stuffing, then the cube was a bit sloppy. So if I make any more cubes like this, they will need a firmer stuffing in the shape of a square, and the cube will have to be made to fit the stuffing. Hence why I probably won’t make any more, as I don’t have any stuffing material like that on hand, and I don’t want to buy it as I think it’s too expensive for what it is!

So here is an odd shape to throw into Tom’s toy box. Maybe in future I can make a sphere and a rectangle to match …

In other news, our little family has just got over colds that Thomas caught at a playgroup I took him to last week. That was the first time I’ve taken him to a playgroup and I won’t be taking him back. All we got out of it was the cold! This is the first time Thomas has had a runny nose and only the second time he’s been sick as the first time was a sore throat with fever. It was so awful listening to him breath through a runny nose all night! I know it’s good for his immune system to start building up resistances to these germs, but I don’t think he should spend his entire babyhood sick and uncomfortable. Getting sick only twice in 10 months is doing pretty well so far, considering how much illness is around!

Small Cream and Wine Hexagon Lap Rug

I’m not sure how useful this item I finished yesterday will turn out to be, it’s very small due to the amount of this wool I had. But it was so nice to make, I had to use it all up to make this small rug. It could be used as a baby rug, or maybe a small lap rug.

I’ve known for a while, I’d really prefer to make items using yarn that is locally grown, spun and dyed. This way, you can reduce your carbon footprint – its better for the environment if we use products sourced locally. Before I saw this yarn, any attempt to source something like that was way over priced in my opinion. But I found some assorted blends that were on special in Lincraft, which were from the Wangaratta Mill Shop. This may include synthetic fibres, so they are blended with local wool, but spun locally. I even found a local spinners site that sells drop spindles if I ever buy some raw local fibre.I’ve already made a beanie for Thomas using a sea green yarn from the same Wangaratta package.

This thick yarn has a nice, soft feel and it was a pleasure to make this small rug. But it is a bit small to be very useful, as I only had 3 balls of this type. I used a 7mm hook to make the stitches large and the rug quick to make up.

In other news, I sold my first item on ebay today, my old queen size mattress! We got a new mattress after Thomas was born, and my old mattress has been taking up room and had to go so I started bidding at .50c hoping someone would come and get it, and they did! The experience was a positive one, so I hope to sell a few other things from around the home that need to go. Who knows, maybe I can sell some crochet projects as well?!

Colourful Scrap Rug for a Toddler

This rug started off as a pile of scraps given to me by my mother last year, and is now the second rug like this I’ve done. I’m hoping it will be a useful rug for Thomas.

I really enjoy making these rugs. The material is not expensive, you can pick it up at op shops or find it in your own craft cupboard, and it’s satisfying to turn balls of left over yarn into something that can actually be used. I enjoyed making the first one so much I called it a ‘therapy rug’! There’s no pattern to the colours, the only rule is whenever I change yarn it’s a different colour to the last. It’s therapeutic because there is no stress at all about the design, it just comes down to a decision at the moment it’s time to pick a new colour.  And the idea of these rugs is to use up all of that left over yarn, that’s why there are not finished rows, rather they run into each other like spirals until the yarn runs out. Then I choose a contrasting colour to continue. This way there are no little bits left over at all.  That’s why this is much better than making a rug out of small granny squares sewn together. And I find sewing all those squares together at the end very tedious! For this rug, I used a 4.5mm hook, so not too small so it doesn’t take too long.

The first thing to do is sort the balls of left over yarn according to size. The very smallest ball of yarn is the one you want to start with, next choose a contrasting colour that looks to be amongst the smallest of the balls left. I’ve even resorting to weighing the balls on a small kitchen scale! This way you get the spiral effect. I’m rather proud how this one turned out, the pattern is quite nice considering there was little planning in it. It’s good to know I have something useful to do with all those annoying left over balls of yarn!

Homemade 40th Birthday Card

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged! The last few months have been full of looking after baby, he’s been having trouble with his sleeping, but he’s asleep in his cot right now so I finally have a chance to post!

It was months ago when I celebrated my 40th birthday in July with my family, my parents came to visit the day before and we all went to a local Chinese restaurant, the Landmark, for Yum Cha. It’s definitely one of the best Yum Cha places in Brisbane, if not the best. David and I like to go often, we first took Thomas when he was about 5 months old and able to sit up in the high chair. But we don’t have him sitting in the high chair the whole time, sometimes we hold him on our lap. For my birthday we didn’t have a high chair at all, and we all took turns to hold him. A special surprise (I hate surprises, by the way!) from my sister was she organised to send her eldest son Deegan down from Darwin to come to my special birthday lunch! Now, that was a surprise! Mum and dad had to go to the airport on the way to pick him up, which made them late, but of course they couldn’t tell my why they were late because it was a surprise! We ended up waiting an hour for our table, in future I must remember to go early on a Sunday, or make a reservation.

Once again mum gave me a special hand made card. This one looks very unique and tricky. It’s so unusual I wasn’t sure how to open it, but the message was hidden on the back. My mum is very talented, don’t you think?