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.

Advertisements

Our Potted Herb Garden, Spring 2010 Update

My spring update for our potted garden is a bit late, as summer feels like it’s already here! Here I like to keep a note of what the garden is doing, what’s flowering now and how it went over the winter. This information is specific to where we live, on the mid-east coast of Australia in Brisbane.

What didn’t last the winter? Well, we have decided that as a potted garden, we shall only grow that which wants to be grown and will not fuss over ‘sooky’ plants anymore! The rosella we picked up for $1 died after one crop, as good as it was, we got just one jar of jam out of it! We have also decided to give up on tomatoes. For all we have heard about how easy they are, we have not found that. It may well be they just need too much fertiliser to make the crop worthwhile. This is why we’ve decided to not bother with most fruit and vegetables, and to concentrate mostly on herbs. Herbs have given us the most success, are easier and cheaper to grow, are more suited to a potted garden and give us the most joy. Also, the cost of growing herbs is much better than buying them fresh from the shops, which can be expensive.

BASIL
I was expecting the sweet basil to die right back, but it now has some young shoots at the base, so after some pruning, it looks like we will get another season out of it. I have now three pots of all-year-round basil including 2 large bushes, which all seem happy and look to last. Although the eldest is showing signs of age with smaller leaves, I do still remove all the flowers to see what it will do, and these flowers are still very fragrant and are used in our cooking.

CHILLIES
Most chillies in our potted garden seem very happy, returning a good crop even in the smallest of pots. We use the red fruits in our cooking, well that is, David does! He makes a most excellent chilli jam with it. A few of the smaller seedlings did die over the winter, it may have been due to where we had them. I’ve moved them near the rosemary and lavender, as these are good companion plants because their scent confuses pests. The chillies like full sun and don’t like to sit in water. We are hoping to try capsicums this season, as they are related to chillies so we should (hopefully) have more success with those than with the tomatoes.

ROSEMARY
Our second rosemary plant had a case of white mould just like the 1st plant did last winter, so I treated it the same way by rubbing off as much white as I could and made sure it was getting full sun. It’s now looking happier, I’ve also staked it to stand more upright, and I’ve planted a 3rd shoot for hopefully another bush. Our eldest rosemary plant is looking much happier this year, I’ve been pruning it into shape nicely, and it’s giving us a good crop for kitchen herbs.

POTTED DWARF LIME TREE
The lime tree had some yellowing of leaves at the base which turned out to be a vitamin deficiency so we treated with extra fertiliser. Also, we were more vigilant with making sure excess water is tipped out of the base, as citrus hate to have their roots sitting in water. We did some minor top dressing this spring, gently removing as much soil from the top as we could and replacing with some fresh potting mix. The roots do look quite bound, so we will have to prune the root ball next winter, which I am very nervous about. When the tree was up against the fence a whole section of leaves went strangely missing. I guessed it was a rodent nibbling on it so moved it away from the fence and we haven’t noticed any more mysteriously missing leaves.  At the moment, the lime tree is flowering, and it also has some tiny fruits developing. To keep the tree happy during this fruiting we really need to maintain the fertiliser, and watch the water. We pull it under the cover when it rains so it doesn’t get too much, and pop it back out into the sun. This seems to keep him happy, at least for now. Last season we got just 3 fruit of it, we’re hoping we get a bit more this season.

CHIVES
The chives seeded late last summer, so I collected them and planted them out in early spring. One of the older pots also got pulled open and re-potted in spring. The chives do very well in the sun, those in smaller pots need more water. David really likes to trim a bit off for his cooking, they go especially well in his dumplings and dampers, and because we have a fair bit now, he can chop a bunch off without any worry.

ROCKET
Last summer we bought one punnet of rocket, which had 6 individual plants. These got planted, and provided us with a very modest crop in the summer. It was so very pleasant to have fresh salad leaves on our sandwiches, we only wished we had more. Thankfully they all seeded late in summer and into the winter, so I diligently collected the seeds. About 3 weeks ago we planted about half of our stash of seeds in a new, large rectangle planter box. We couldn’t believe our eyes when within 3 days the shoots started to appear! The weather had been humid, warm and wet. Now we are very hopeful to have a more substantial rocket crop for salads this summer!

PUMPKIN
With several small pots fallow due to the plants that didn’t last the winter, we popped some pumpkin, watermelon and capsicum seeds in to see what would happen. So far the only thing that has appeared is this gainly and enthusiastic young pumpkin! Like the rocket, this handsome specimen appeared within the week. We are thinking we might be game enough to just chuck him in the ground, middle of the courtyard. What else can we do with a pumpkin? He needs to grow across the ground, doesn’t he?

MINT
The mints spent the winter out in the garden sun, but when the heat returned we popped them back in the shade. Since being moved to their summer spots, the mint has perked up, as has the lemon balm and peppermint. We just have to keep the water up on these and they will be happy there.

PARSLEY
I thought the parsley would flower and die off, but it hasn’t. It’s just bubbling along not doing much at all. I still have 3 pots of that and it doesn’t seem to have changed.

OREGANO AND MARJORAM
I pruned these when they got too big for the small pots I have them in, and they look quite attractive. I wash and dry, then de-stem the cuttings for our kitchen. They prefer sun, so I put one of the oregano plants in a pot we had hanging on our fence, but it was too dry, the pot didn’t hold enough moisture and the plant died. These might prefer sun, but they also need regular water, especially if they are in small pots that dry out. I’ve since started again with that pot, emptying it and lining it with a plastic bag. Then I chucked in some cuttings of the hardy cosmetic succulents that have ended up here from David’s mother’s garden. They can try their luck in that pot as nothing else likes to grow there!

LAVENDER
I’m at a bit of a loss as to how harshly to prune my lavender bush. I pruned it too hard last summer and didn’t get much flowering, so left it and now it’s been flowering fairly steadily for several months. But it’s getting quite big and hanging down below the pot and leaning over in what appears to be a very uncomfortable position! I’m waiting for it to stop flowering so I can prune it back. None of the cuttings I’ve tried to plant have taken. That’s a shame as I’d prefer to have a backup plant or two, as I just love having lavender in my garden!

CHAMOMILE
This is one very lucky plant indeed. When we got it last summer, it was part of a punnet of 4 which included the peppermint which was what I really wanted, and the chamomile was looking very droopy and sad. I had a spare pot left over at the end so gave it a chance and popped it in that. It’s now a year old, and has been in a sorry state. It’s had a case of persistent white mealy bugs, well that’s what I think they are anyway. But it didn’t die and seemed stunted, it’s stems growing in twisted bunches curling back upon itself. David has been occasionally spraying it with confidor, and just recently it decided it should perk up, which was a surprise! And now at last, the plant is showing it’s first flowers on a long normal looking stem, after having a good old boohoo for 12 months! It’s lucky, because we had decided not to fuss over high-maintenance plants, so we shall see how this one goes. Maybe I will be able to make my own chamomile tea afterall!!

Flowering Lavendar and a trip to the Museum

In preparation for my solo train trip to the city for an appointment on Monday, I did a trial run last Friday and ended up going to the Queensland Museum alone! This is my post for Outdoor Wednesday which I do every week to motivate me to post something about getting out of the house. Included are some images of my beautiful potted lavender which I’m so happy is flowering at the moment.

It was my first trip alone using the Go Card. As I left the station at South Brisbane, the station attendant looked at me so I asked her if I did the card thing right. Well, that was a mistake! I thought I did it wrong so touched on again, then she exclaimed ‘don’t do that!’  I told her I was new and didn’t know how to use the thing so she helped me to the machine to clear the second touch on. Luckily, I found it funny, LOL!

Travelling on the train was fun, I used to do it all the time when I first got to Brisbane years ago, now I’m really wondering why I haven’t been doing it these last couple of years? I thought to take myself to the art gallery but they were closed, and the museum wouldn’t open for another half hour so I went to a cafe, got a cappucino and rang David on my new phone while I waited. I spent about an hour in the museum, its fairly small but still good, and because it didn’t cost me anything, I bought a little specialist book on local birds. Because no pets are allowed on our complex, lots of different birds visit our garden and I’ve started looking up which ones they are and thought this book would be handy.
Thanks for listening ❤ ❤ ❤

Scented Rice Pack, Ribbon Gift Bag and Flowering Rosella

Today, I made up an organza bag to go with the hot rice pack I made last week. Well, I don’t think it’s proper organza, just a nice white sheer fabric I’ve had hanging around for ages. I finished it off with some of the new pretty deep pink ribbon I got from Lincraft the other week. My old machine did catch on the fine fabric, so I’ll probably have to get around to that service soon.

To make the scented rice pack, I used a cup of rice (I got 10kg when on special), and added a tablespoon of dried lavendar petals, some dried homegrown marjoram, basil flowers, and lemon myrtle along with a drop of rose fragrance oil. I used more of the soft red cotton material, although I know red is not the best colour for a relaxing eye pack, but it is nice and soft. And it smells simply divine, if I do say so myself! It would be handy as a relaxing eye pack, or you can heat up it up in the microwave for a minute on high to use as a soothing hot pack. Alternatively, you can put it in the freezer to use as a cool pack. These rice packs are very handy to have around!

Flowering at the moment is our new rosella plant which is really taking off in this humid weather. We can’t believe we picked this one up in the bargain bin at our local nursery for only $1! Its got a heap of fruit on it now, and also some optimistic white meally bugs. I sorted those bugs out, so hopefully we will have some fruit to try and make rosella jam in a month or so.

Love Sprinkles and herbal Love Tea

I’m working on some herbal combinations, one is a herbal tea and another is some herbs to add to pasta sauce. I’m also working on a mix of herbs to add to a relaxing hot rice pack. All the herbs I’m using come from my garden and, according to tradition, are good for love and weddings!

Marjoram is thought to be the herb for ‘marital bliss’ and should be added to food to strengthen love! It has a very subtle flavour, so it will be the main ingredient of my Love Sprinkles. I’ve read marjoram is best dried, then elsewhere I read it’s best fresh, so who knows? I’ve dried a bunch already by hanging them up in a paper bag. I’ve started to remove some of the leaves to test how it holds its flavour. To that I’ll add a little rosemary, which is a strong flavour, and some flecks of chilli flakes for a bit of spicy passion! These herbs would be good added to pasta sauce or maybe vegetables. I hope to try it out very soon.

For a herbal Love Tea, I use peppermint, lemon balm and pineapple sage. This makes a subtly flavoured relaxing tea. As I used fresh herbs for this, it needed to be steeped quite long, about 10 minutes. Lemon balm is well known as a good herbal tea.

Here are three ideas I’m working on for herbal combinations which are good for love and weddings.

good for herbal tea (Love Tea)
pineapple sage – weddings, wisdom
lemon balm – love
peppermint – love & sleep

good for food (Love Sprinkles)
rosemary – weddings, memory
marjoram – weddings
chilli – passion

good for rest (Hot Love Rice Pack)
lavendar – love & sleep
lemon myrtle – love & sleep
oregano – weddings & sleep


The Herbs in Our Garden

One of my greatest simple joys at the moment is our cute little herb garden. Although it was a challenge to get established, it’s finally starting to become productive.That might be because our companion plants like basil and lavendar are growing nicely and their smelliness is discouraging pesky pests. Taking care of these herbs is a sure-fire tonic for keeping the blues at bay.

Growing your own herbs is a very simple and satisfying way to save money too. If you love good food, you would know having fresh herbs at hand is always best. Buying a bunch of herbs from the supermarket is wasteful, expensive and just not as good as growing them in a pot at your back door and taking a sprig or two as you need it. The absolute essential herb as far as I’m concerned, which is the first one we were able to successfully grow and harvest, is parsley. It’s very healthy, versatile and hardy. But now we have a bunch of other herbs that are turning out to be real joys, for example, having three types of basil and mint on hand is just wonderful!

Here is a quick break down of the herbs currently in our potted garden and what they are good for. Many also have traditional ‘magic’ properties too, which I think is nice to just keep in mind, even if you don’t fully believe in that kind of thing. After cross referencing several websites I found common themes amongst them using various words meaning basically the same thing. So I came up with three practical catergories that are meaningful to me.

aloe vera – skin (burns and rashes), “health”
basil (thai, all-year-round, sweet) – relative to peppermint, antioxidant and antibacterial, add last to hot food, “health & passion”
chamomille – flowers make a relaxing tea, also good for the skin “health & sleep”
chilli – antibacterial, good for nasal congestion, migraine relief, high blood pressure, good in winter, increases metobolism, “passion”
chives (garlic, onion) – like garlic and onions, antibacterial and antioxidant, but milder, fresh is best “health”
coriander – wonderful fresh herb for salads, “health & passion” (weddings)
lavendar – relaxing tea, migraines, insect repellant “health, passion & sleep”
lemon balm (a type of mint) – relaxing tea, stomach aches, pre-menstrual cramps, headaches, overuse can cause insomnia “health & passion”
lemon myrtle (eucalyptus, part of the myrtle family) – a relaxing tea, good for headaches, used in cooking for a mild lemon flavour, antioxidant “health, passion & sleep”
marjoram – food preservative, relaxing tea, good in cooking, upset tummy, headaches, mild antioxidant and antifugal, dried is best, “health & passion” (weddings) “add to food to share with your object of affection to strengthen love”
mint – good with peas, juices, punch, tea, icecream “health & passion”
oregano – antioxidant rich, antibacterial, close relative to marjoram, makes a good tea for nasal congestion, dried is best “health & sleep” (weddings)
parsley – high in iron, good for high blood pressure, tummy upsets and uti, breath freshener, toothache, constipation, detox, salads “health & passion”
peppermint – tea, indigestion, tummy upsets, IBS, cough suppressant, morning sickness, relaxing herbal bath, “health, passion & sleep”
pineapple sage – tea (with lemon balm), anti-anxiety, “health, passion & sleep” (weddings & wisdom)
rosella hibiscus – native bush fruit for making jam “passion”
rosemary – food preservative, cook with lamb, good for upset tummy, relaxing baths, may protect against cancer, use liberally in food, “health & passion” (weddings & memory)

resources
http://www.global-garden.com.au/gardenherbs.htm
http://www.scribd.com/Herbs-and-Their-Magickal-Properties
windspirit57.tripod.com/id4.html
http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html
http://www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk/pagan/articles_magass.htm
http://www.gardensablaze.com/HerbMarjoramMag.htm
http://www.herballegacy.com/Branca_History.html
http://www.ehow.com/how_4436311_oregano-tea-rid-sinus-problems.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtaceae

Lavendar Afternoon

Last Easter, when we visited David’s father and his fiance in Stanthorpe, we stopped by a lavendar farm and got our very own lavendar plant to grow. So far it seems to have adjusted to the climate change (it can get very cold in Stanthorpe). We gave it a good sized pot and put a lucky grow charm at the base. I’m trying to shape it by pruning lightly. I’m supposed to do this after it finishes flowering I know, that’s why there aren’t as many flowers on it as there otherwise might be.  After the flowers finish, I deadhead them and keep the dried flower. It prefer’s a sunny spot and a good water, but doesn’t like to sit soaking.

After the stresses of the morning, I knew I had to take my stress management into my own hands and decided to make a lavendar bag! I made this one in about 30 minutes and did it by hand, not machine, as I did it for relaxation more than anything. It’s quite easy, this is how I did it.
Fold a scrap piece of pretty material in half with the back of the material on the outside, the front facing each other inside.
If a seam of the lip will fray, hem it first using blanket stitch and some matching coloured thread.
Using backstitch hand sew down the side of each of the two edges.
Turn the bag right way out.
Fold a scrap piece of thin white ribbon in half, put a knot in the end.
Sew the half way point of ribbon about an inch down from the top of the bag.
Put some tablespoons of dried lavendar inside and twist the ribbon around the bag to close it.

On one of our trips to Indoorpilly with David’s mum and his sister Michelle, we stopped by the T2 Tea shop, which is full of relaxing teas.  While we were there, some tea cups and saucers fell from a high shelf, as if of their own accord. One tea cup remained intact, so I declared it a lucky tea cup and bought it! I also picked up a packet of dried lavendar from there. Lavendar tea is very good for stress management and soothing migraines. I didn’t know you could drink lavendar tea like that, and through trial and error this is how I’ve come to prefer my lavendar tea.
Add 2 teaspoons of dried lavendar to a small tea pot with a removable mesh cup.
Fill with boiling water for no more than 2 minutes.
While waiting, jiggle the pot!
Test the colour every 30 seconds to make sure its not too strong.
Add 1 teaspon of sugar per teacup of tea before sipping.
Enjoy!

I remember a song my dad used to sing to me when I was little…
“Lavendar blue, dilly dilly, lavendar green.
When I am King, dilly dilly, you shall be Queen.
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so.
Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, who told me so.”
/awwww

Previous Older Entries