Sunday, July 18, 2010

Homemade compost bin

I set the resident labourer a task this weekend. Make me a compost bin. Well it wasn’t quite like that. I had planned to try and make it myself but because I needed his help to “acquire” a pallet he became more involved than either of us expected. He became the master craftsman and I, his supervisor and assistant. Our existing bin was one of those large black plastic things, seen here on the right. I never could get the hang of it. It seemed to take forever for anything to break down and was usually a soggy mess. Plus I could never figure out how to remove a small amount of compost from the bottom without the whole pile spilling out. And turning the mound was nigh on impossible. My new bin is super duper brilliant. And it was so easy to make that hubby is now keen to make more. This from a man who could hardly swing a hammer before I met him.

First we cleared the area for the bin.
Step 1:
Find pallets. Most companies have these lying around and are only too keen for the public to remove them. I regularly witness my neighbour carrying these up his driveway to be chopped up and put on his fire. We only grabbed one as we knew we had an old slatted bed in the garage which we could recycle. Dismantle the pallet and try to remove all the nails.

Step 2:
Divide the wood into 2 piles. Only one pile will need notches cut into them. Work out where the notches should be cut. Measure and mark on each end of the planks in the “notch” pile. We marked our notches 60mm in from the end and 30mm deep. The width of the notch should be just big enough for the “other” planks to wedge into. Our notches were a little bigger so are a bit loose but this will not affect the overall sturdiness of the compost bin.

Step 3: cut the notches. For this we used a jigsaw.

Step 4: assemble in place.

Step 5: layer compost.

All done. Brilliant.

Frost damage on a Puka

We’ve had some great frosty mornings lately. Usually this doesn’t bother me and I quite like wiping a gap in the steamed up kitchen windows to see if jack has visited. Sometimes the back lawn looks like it’s had a dusting of snow overnight – very pretty. The morning chauffeur (hubby) has a different reaction to the frost. For him it means lugging bottles of water outside to throw over the iced up car.

Because the sun goes down so early in winter I usually don’t get a chance to look around the garden after work so I was horrified last week to discover my lovely Puka (Meryta sinclairii) had been struck by frost damage. The Puka was a donation to the garden from a friend about a year ago. It was root bound in a tiny pot so I transplanted it to a larger pot. It loved that improvement of living quarters and immediately started producing lush new leaves. Then I thought it would like life even better if it was in the ground. I planted it towards the back of the garden on the south side of the shed and slightly sheltered by a large old plum tree. Even though it liked its new location, even flowering, I wasn’t entirely happy with its placement and when I was offered two hydrangeas I knew that the hydrangeas had to go there instead.

So….. That is how a healthy young Puka found its way to an open lower part of the garden with no protection from frosts and getting the morning sun. It was only a matter of days after the move that it was struck by the frost. The exposed leaves lost their colour, some turning brown, and drooped horribly. I have since covered it every evening with an old mosquito net to prevent further damage and covered the soil with a good layer of mulch. Only time will tell if the Puka will fully recover. Not all leaves have been damaged and some only partly. I have researched what to do and it seems the best thing is to wait until spring (at least until the last frost) and assess the situation. Then I will cut out the severely damaged leaves and pray that new growth is still forthcoming. I blame myself. A fellow gardener had warned me that pukas were susceptible to frost but I hadn’t paid enough attention.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Winding the clock

This has nothing to do with gardening. Winding the clock at Old Govt Buildings.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How much is too much when it comes to topiary?

Last weekend I finally got the chance to visit Richmond Garden in the Wairarapa. This is a privately owned formal garden which opens its gates for a fee to the public. Inspired by the 16th and 17th century gardens in Italy the owners designed theirs less than 10 years ago. I couldn't help but be impressed by the mammoth task they had set themselves but at the same time I couldn't help wondering "why bother"?

The owners cleared mature native trees from the property and replaced them with hundreds, if not thousands, of European specimens. Everything is green - not a splash of colour anywhere. That's just not my cup of tea. The endless box hedging clipped within an inch of its life seems stifling and unnatural. Give me wild borders, roses clambering for attention or even lush natives doing their own thing naturally any day.

I shudder to think of how much work is involved in maintaining this sort of garden. Could you ever just sit back and enjoy a glass of wine from the balcony (and what a great balcony that was)? One leaf out of place could throw the whole symmetry out. I'd be a nervous wreck.

The best part of my tour was the vegetable garden. There the box hedging is seen in wonderful contrast to the rambling beans and the tomatoes laden with ripe fruit. At last I saw some colour.

I have, however, started toying with the idea of incorporating my own version of topiary into my quite informal garden. I am growing 2 little Buxus and am slowly shaping them into balls. I don't know why I just said slowly, it's not like Buxus grows any other way. I am also trying out Lonicera Nitida,or poor mans buxus - perfect for the impatient gardener like me. Plus I have grown some Rosemary from cuttings and am attempting to snip them into standards. When these all grow to a significant size I will place them in or near various beds to act as focal points. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time Lapse

I've put together a little time lapse video of my garden over a year or so.