Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gumboot Planters

The recycling theme out our local school is really picking up. Our gardening team knew that there was a resource that every growing family has: gumboots!

When we ask families for donations of recyclables for the school, you can pretty much guarantee that everyone has a pair or 10 of wellies that are too small or damaged for any future puddle use. Perfect for our recycling motto.

In my previous post I mentioned that we are also designing a teapot garden for our fence line. Well, that is still part of the plan. The second part of that plan are the gumboot planters. The colour and different sizes will make the garden come alive with colour.

So in my research to find out more about gumboot planters I came across some very clever ideas and tips.

Starting a Gumboot Garden
  • Use old boots that you are happy to cut and put drainage hole in.
    To make drainage holes, use a screw driver for soft soled shoes or a drill bit for the harder leather or thick rubber soles.
  • Any type of boot or shoe can be repurposed as a planter.
  • Will it be attached, hang or stand on the ground? Consider wire or cable ties, and and holes required.
  • Consider a gumboot as a portable flower vase (they hold water well, too)
  • Gather the right materials - right potting mix for your plant choices (e.g. cactus potting mix for succulents)
  • Remember that the soil is reduced around the root system and rubber boots can heat up during summer, so your choice of plants, garden placement and watering program need to planned well.
  • Choose plants that do NOT have a deep root system.
Choice of Plants

Succulents and cactus
Annuals - marigold, petunias, pansies, etc.
Herbs - basil, coriander, thyme, etc.
Small grass varieties


Gumboot Planting Tutorial - Strawberries

Check out the tutorial from - How to Plant a Strawberry Container Garden

Concrete Gumboot Tutorial

Make your own concrete gumboot for a real feature in the garden.

Check out Sticky TV's (NZ) step by step guide to making your own concrete gumboot planter here.

Here's another concrete gumboot used for miniature roses. Beautiful!

Must admit, they would make a beautiful gift for someone who loves gardening.

C'mon, great creative and don't forget the drainage holes!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Start To Grow is now on Facebook

Its been needed for a long time, but I've finally done it. Start To Grow is now on Facebook. I do so much throughout the week that blogging was taking too much of my time, whereas a quick FB update keeps everyone in the loop so much easier.

I've linked it up on my side bar or you can click here to follow me:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DIY Easy Compost Bin

Compost Bins can be pricey. The weekly budget can really take a hit when the average composter costs about $70. Just convert a 20 Litre bucket into your cheap compost bin.

Who said you needed something fancy or BIG?
It's true that a large compost heap builds up a really good heat to not only break down the waste but also takes care of the bacteria involved with the process. You can throw in a lot, but what if you don't have a lot?

The problem is that big compost bins that don't turn themselves often don't get turned at all, especially if the garden space is limited.

So what can a bucket Compost Bin achieve?

  1. Can fit almost anywhere in the garden
  2. Get worm activity into the parts of the garden that didn't have much before
  3. Because it is a smaller amount, you are more likely to turn it
  4. The sides are narrower to allow even heat from the sun to help composting
  5. No sides will fall off (unlike the big fancy bins)
  6. Durable plastic for all weather conditions

How to make a homemade Compost Bin

Grab your 20 Litre bucket, take off the lid and drill air holes down the sides - 3 or 4 vertical lines. Compost needs some air flow.

Cut out the bottom, leaving a small lip all the way around. You may need to start off the hole by drilling a few holes and using an appropriate cutting tool. Tin snips, hand pruners, standley knife, etc.

Find a good location that will receive sun for a few hours everyday, and give it a twist so that it sits deeper into the soil. This will not only prevent it from blowing away, but also encourage bug life to come up into the base. Fill with materials that you want to compost and pop on the lid to keep in the heat to aid good break down. It also helps to keep out vermin and spiders.

Make sure that your compost does not become dry (but not soggy) or smell sour.

Add a little newspaper, straw/mulch or leaves for carbon.

If you only add kitchen slops it will not become compost, just a sloppy, stinky mess. So carbon is a must!

To give it a little boost, add a sprinkle of Blood and Bone occasionally.

If Vinegar Flies appear, then your compost is too sour/acidic. Just sprinkle a little Garden Lime over the compost to reduce the pH.

REMEMBER: Stir it, turn it, make sure only the right things are composted. Turned compost breaks down quicker and stays sweet for the soil. Compost that sits for months on end goes sour.

Reduce - Reuse - Recycle - Save Money!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Teapot Planters

My school gardening committee has been brain storming some unusual planting ideas this year, and this one tops the list in my book. We are going to attempt to decorate the school fence line with old unwanted teapots as planters. Upcycling has such a fun art element to it. Check out these great ideas we can try.

Succulent plants tend to be the most popular plant for this type of planter, but single season flowers such as pansies can look just as spectacular. The only challenge is creating the drainage.









 I think I am going a little potty now. I wonder what the kids will think of these around their school.

Winter jobs in my Garden

Its the middle of winter and the jobs are not slowing down. In between the showers of rain, digging becomes far easier (if though a little more muddy, as my floors can testify). Getting trees and new rose bushes in becomes the order of the season in my garden. I fear for next year, as I seem to have over done this year already! But I'm sure I will surprise myself somehow, someway.

Fruit Trees

If you have been following my earlier posts, you know that I have a fruit tree addiction in full swing this year. I've rezoned my front yard into a fruit garden with a landscaping design element (Pinterest inspired).

My inspiration came from this picture from - which uses crab apple trees with their pink blossoms. So my five ballerina apples now mimic this curve.

We decided to unpot our dwarf Mandarin tree as it was just not thriving.

Having dug out the big rose bush near to the front door, we made space for the tree. It was while we we were unpotting it that we discovered just how dry and horrible the potting mix had become. I had only watered the tree a couple of hours earlier, and yet there was no sign of an moisture having been held.

No wonder!

TOP TIP: Use a good loamy soil in pots in future, steering clear of bagged potting mixes.
I seem to have a consistent bad run with potting mix bags. They rarely hold the moisture or nutrients these days.

When planting out a tree or repotting, make sure that the canopy it lightly trimmed back to help reduce shock. Water in well with Seasol solution.

Flowering Plants

Planted a couple of Helleborus plants in the front yard called Winter Sunshine, too. Love their pale, green tinged flowers. Ideal for semi-shade conditions so close to the house.

Picture via
This plant, I cannot even recognise as the plant I have planted because it goes through a sort of metamorphosis. Its called Cytisus Callimorei Volcano (AKA Burkwood's Broom). I just called it my Volcano plant. Right now it looks like a green ornamental long thick grass. Completely green. By Spring it should take on the bright orange it is so famous for.


Two new roses have been planted in my gardens. One in the front and one out the back next to the espalier plum tree.

As they are still 'sticks' there's not much to show, but I can tell you the names of the varieties I have chosen this year:

  • Geewiz Rosa Generosa Bush Rose (Maselgi) - very heavily fragrant rose (no images available)
  • Floribunda 'Bonica' - apple fragrance


Vegetable Garden

Its been so quiet in my veggie garden, but I've had a flurry of activity this week in there with planting more chard (silver beet) and kale. Its a leafy greens time of year. My chickens will love the sound of that, especially when I peg some up for them on their coops for snacks.

Kale tucked in under their warm blanket of chopped straw.
But its also the time of year when manures need to be added to resting garden beds, in anticipation of Spring planting.

I've varied my fertilisations among the garden beds. Some with well rotted chicken manure, some with compost and well rotted cow manure, and then I have sown two beds with a Green Manure crop.

When school resumes at our local Primary School after the winter holidays, I will be getting the gardening students to plant their very first Green Manure crop to teach them how to add nitrogen to the soil without using animal waste. I am sure they will find it amusing when I send them out with their craft scissors to cut the crop down to size a couple of times before we uproot the lot, let it rot down and later dig it all back in. Fingers crossed it improves the untreated and very shady garden beds stuck under those gum trees.

Currently harvesting: Turnips

Can't wait for Spring! Getting all the hard work done now in the winter months to produce an abundance for the year ahead.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Edible Front Garden Make-Over July 2014

I'm on a quest to make over my front yard - into an edible garden. To be quite honest, I've run out of room out the back and I really, really, really wanted more fruit trees. OK, call it an addiction to winter planting. I had planned to plant one or two trees, but it all got a little out of hand. I might as well buy a nursery. ;)

Here's how we have progressed so far.

Ballerina Apples, Dwarf Peaches, English Black Mulberry and a Mandarin yet to come.

Check back for more updates.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Crazy mixed up Adelaide winter 2014

My plants have been struggling to decide what season Adelaide is currently in. My David Austin rose has been flowering in winter, even my dwarf Santa Rosa Plum tree has a single blossom already. The leaves would not even come off of my espalier Plum or Peach trees. But this week might finally set my garden right with an antarctic blast of a much needed winter, hail included.

With such a low chill factor this year some plants may not fair so well later in the year. The right low temperatures of winter can improve the flowering of specific crops.

Adelaide does not really ever experience snow, except for in the Adelaide Hills at Mount Lofty once or twice a year. So when hail descended on our southern suburbs last Monday, right school pick-up time, all the kids went crazy and had hail/snowball fights. Its a rare occurrence to have that much hail and for it to last as long as it did. It didn't melt for a couple of hours. The conditions were perfect for its preservation.

I'm hoping for a good chill this year.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good Bug Bad Bug - Identifying Australian Bugs

My garden is alive with bug activity at the moment ever since the aphids and more moved in. Its become a veritable smorgasbord for other predator bugs. If they are not harming my plants they can stay. The large chili plant seems to have the most activity. The temptation is to squash, but resisting the urge means less bad bugs.

For more info, check out these great resources to help identify the bugs in your garden.

Good Bug? Bad Bug? (PDF file) from

Ladybugs, good and not so good from

Order Coleoptera...The Beetles from

Here's more of mine. Can anyone identify what they are?

Fury caterpillar on the rhubarb

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Self Seeding Flower Garden

I am so grateful for autumn. I can look around my garden and see the amazing effort that all of last season's flowers have given back to my garden beds. I'm talking about self-seeding flowers. Those amazing money and time savers!

I have been introducing more self seeding plants into my garden every year. I have my favourites which are the 100% reliable sprouters that also bring colour and height to my garden.

Because they are so reliable that can fall into the definition of 'weeds', so a little bit of weeding out of any unwanted plants from amongst your beds and lawn will be necessary.

So here are my top plants that I highly recommend every gardener give a go for an effortless autumn.

Top 6 Self-Seeding Plants for Autumn
  1. Delphiniums
  2. Calendulas
  3. Californian Poppies
  4. Hollyhocks
  5. Sunflowers
  6. Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
I bet you weren't expecting Parsley to be on this list. Trust me, it is such a reliable self seeder that I couldn't possibly have left it off of my list.

Unwanted Self-Seeding Fungi

Then there are those that pop up in the merry month of May, particularly in the lawn. Mushrooms!

If your garden has previously had a mushroom grow in it or your garden has had a make-over with possible tree roots beneath, your garden is very likely to develop mushrooms.

Check under bushes and around soggy areas of the garden that get very little sunlight. There are bound to be some fungi surprises especially if you have laid down any mulch to act as a weed mat to suppress weeds. It certainly does not suppress the mushroom activity. 

Remember to never eat the mushrooms from your own garden unless correctly identified by an expert as they can be highly toxic. Use a fungicide spray to treat the affected area.

Inky Cap Mushrooms
For more information about how to identify and treat mushrooms in your lawn, check out these sites:

Or check out this home remedy to neutralise the fungi in your lawn.

Remember that self-seeders are not only effortless gardening but save you money.

Happy Autumn♥