Artificial Grass v Real Grass

As I walk around residential areas one thing I have started to see more and more is artificial grass.

I have even seen builders put artificial grass on the nature strips in front of their show houses. (Can you still call them nature strips with artificial grass?)

Here are my thoughts on how they compare for use in the home:

Real Grass

Artificial Grass

Installation To get a good lawn requires good soil preparation whether you are going to use seed or turf. It will initially require heavy watering. Artificial grass should be laid on a level well compacted gravel bed. Following the laying of the mat a filler of rubber granules is added and brushed in.
Cost Low for seed to high for turf High
First use Can be a few weeks for turf to months for seed Immediately
Water Use 10-20L/m2 per week in summer without rain Zero
Maint’nce Weekly mowing in summer and regular edging Regular weedkill and monthly raking to keep up appearance
Repair Easy and low cost Difficult and expensive, particularly if it becomes uneven.
Suitability for sport Ok for garden putting greens Good for sports such as tennis as it’s resistant to wear
Enviro Effects Helps absorb CO2 Saves water
Look Seasonal and weather changes also watering dependant Always green
Feel Soft and cool on feet Neutral to pleasant smell Soft but Hot in direct sunlight, static can build up, and has rubbery smell*
Effect on the House Will help keep the house cool No effect
Allergies Can affect hay fever sufferers, especially when mowing No effect

* spraying with a weak solution of fabric softener will help with static and smell

As for me….. well my children have grown up and I don’t like mowing lawns so we haven’t got any lawn, just a native garden.

Which do you prefer?

Guerrilla Gardening

If you haven’t heard of the expression ‘Guerrilla Gardening’ is gardening on land you don’t own.

So why would you spend your time on this when you have got lots of other jobs in your new house?

Well in my case I lived on a corner block and had over 20m of colorbond fence at the side of the house.

Between this fence and the footpath there was this triangular piece of open space about 200mm wide at one and 5m wide at the other end.

The fence looked boring and within one week of it going up it got hit by graffiti.

The challenge was to prevent further graffitti and improve the look of the house from the side, without spending too much money.

I went for a fairly simple plan

  • Prickly native shrubs at the back.
  • An area of aganpanthus in the widest area
  • Native grasses and pig face at the front.

Although the shrubs were typically only 300mm high when they went it is interesting that no more graffitti occurred when people could see the area was being cared for.

What you can see in the photograph is after five years of growth. This has occurred in spite of minimal watering for the first year and nothing afterwards over a period of prolonged drought.

As for the mosaic its Che Guevara, probably the most famous Guerilla……………But I have changed the image you normally see on T shirts etc, to put a daisy on his hat and flowers around the bottom.

 

For similar posts see Garden

 

Recycling Builder’s Waste

During the building process there can be a lot of materials that would go to waste if you don’t speak to the builder and make sure they are left on site.

Here are some of the materials we have saved and reused to save us considerable time and money.

Bricks being used as path edge
    • Broken bricks and roof tiles were used to form the foundations of most of the paths around our property. A topping of Tuscan chippings has formed some great rustic paths.
    • Some complete roof tiles were saved, to be used in case of any future damage.
    • Sand was spread over an area that had been dug over to help break up the clay.
    • Complete bricks were used as path edging and Scoria from the drainage pipe surrounds was used to infill the area between paving slabs. (see photo )
    • Timber was used for formwork for additional concrete paths.
    • Large rocks from the excavation were used as garden features.
    • Small rocks were used to edge rustic paths and walls etc.
    • One piece of broken drainage pipe was used to make a washing basket stand near the washing hoist. Another was used to form a small bridge as a garden feature.

      Pipe as washing basket stand

 

What builder’s waste have you found useful?

For similar posts see Settling In

 

While The House Is Built

If you are getting a house built you can feel lost with not much to do between the contracts being signed and being ready to move.

Here are some suggestions for you to be doing during the wait.

Inspect Progress

I have always made at least weekly visits to inspect progress during construction.

It’s surprising how it gives you a better idea of what’s behind the walls. Y

ou might even discover some mistakes at an early stage and avoid time wasting corrections being needed later.

Growing Plants

With a new garden you will probably need lots of new plants.

One we way we saved money was by buying lots of plants in 50mm pots, some compost and 100mm pots.

We then replanted all the new plants in the larger pots and refilled the smaller pots with either seeds or cuttings from our garden.

To make it easier to water them I set up a very basic spray system.

By the time we were ready to move we had over a hundred reasonably sized plants ready to go.

Making Garden Features and Furniture

I quite like making mosaics so for our last house I made a number of mosaics on concrete paving slabs, which were then set in paths around the house.

These made interesting features.

I also used mosaics to make a small garden table.

Another project could be to build wooden benches and garden tables.

Start a Worm Farm

With most new houses by the time the builder has finished there isn’t much good soil left.

Although you can buy compost and top soil there aren’t many worms and other organisms in it.

Starting a worm farm can help.

To make mine develop faster I used to collect the coffee grounds and tea bags from the kitchen at work to add to the stuff from home.

You could also used paper from the shredder or ask you favourite café to save you their coffee grounds.

Build a Dog Kennel

If you have got a pet that spends part of its life outside you need to be sure its got somewhere to keep out of the weather.

You are getting a new house so why not make sure your pet gets looked after.

Make Pelmets

One way of keeping the heat in the house is to fit pelmets above the windows.

These, together with Curtains, stops the heat being drawn down the cold windows at night.

These can be reasonably easily made before your move and fitted as soon as you get possession.

 

What things have you made, or wished you had made, before you moved into a house?

Also see Settling In

Easy to grow vegetables for beginners 

Guest Post from Tristan

There’s no better feeling than growing your own vegetables.

It’s not only fun and healthy, its super rewarding.

When thinking of starting your own little veggie garden, sometimes getting it started can be the hardest part.

While choosing things to grow, it’s important to grow produce that is easy to grow rather than your favourite produce, save this till next year.

Growing produce that is simple, gives you the confidence to begin taking on bigger challenges, and before long your whole yards will be a little veggie garden.

Growing crops that require little maintenance and have a short harvest time is a great way to start.

Location

Pick a part of your garden that is sheltered but sunny.

Exceptions to this rule include salad leaves and some herbs.

Soil

The quality of your soil is another important factor for your grow, chances are if things are already growing there, your produce will to.

First step is to prepare the soil, this is done by removing weeds and turning over the soil, loosening things up.

Only grow what you have space for, don’t grow plants too closely together, so follow the recommendation on the seed packets.

Potatoes

Potatoes are one of my favourites to grow.

Plant them in the ground or even in a box.

Wait until the first leaves begin to show, then you cover these with soil.

This helps them grow faster for the next few weeks, then its harvest time.

Depending on what time of year you plant your potatoes, between planting and harvesting is roughly 3 – 4 months.

Beetroot

Beetroot is another simple vegetable to grow as and can be planted by simply twisting it into the soil like a drill.

Beetroot leaves can be harvested after 6 weeks or so (leaves are great for salads) and the bulb harvested after 3 months.

Cucumbers 

Cucumber seeds are simple to sow, and are best placed roughly 2cm under the soil.

Cucumbers enjoy the sun like the rest of us, and prefer warm temperatures.

Providing they are watered regularly, and have plenty of sun, they grow like crazy.

Cucumbers crawl along the ground or you can use a trellis.

Cucumber vines grow up to 2.4m so if you have a small garden it’s important to let them grow.

When crammed they produce a smaller more bitter yield, so give them plenty of room to breathe.

Spinach

Spinach is similar to growing Lettuce, something we should all be able to master.

Its best planted in well-drained soil as it encourages root growth.

It’s a plant that can grow year-round as its not deterred by the cold.

When you plant your spinach seeds, you will need to go through and thin where you planted a few weeks later.

Just be sure to remove any area where you see clusters appears.

After you have done this your spinach will be ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks.

Tristan is a writer from Sydney Gardeners, his passion for writing stemmed from his experience in the gardening industry. Writing first hand from years of practical knowledge.

Soil Heave – Protecting the Slab After Construction

Once the house is completed it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned about the foundations.

This is particularly the case if your house is Built on Clay as there is a risk of ‘Slab Heave’.

This is the result of moisture getting into the clay under the slab causing the clay to swell pushing the slab upwards.

Protection Against  Soil Heave

In South Australia there is a requirement for a 1m path around the building if there is a risk of ‘Soil Heave’,

That is good practice whichever state you live in.

The diagram below shows a suitable detail to protect the ground under your slab.

The key issues are:

  • Paving falls away from external walls for at least 1m with a minimum fall of 1:20 (50mm of fall in 1m)
  • Where the water will not continue to flow away from the edge of the path an Aggi Drain in a trench backfilled with granular material should be provided.
  • Although the requirement for an aggi drain is not as critical where the ground slopes away from the slab, it is nevertheless good practice to have one.

Got Problems?

Generally there aren’t easy fixes for foundation problems, and the cures aren’t DIY jobs

You really need to get an expert involved like Geotech Built 

 

Also see Agricultural Drains

Electrical Planning – Outside

A lot of people forget all about outside electrical work. . .  but it can make a big difference to how much easier it makes things.

I have listed some of the electrical things you might like to think about.

Weatherproof Lights

    1. Light at the front door. ( A good security feature Time switch control is best)
    2. Light to illuminate the driveway. (Sensor or time switch)
    3. Light at the back door.
    4. Lights on the deck/alfresco dining/patio/barby/pool deck/garden
    5. Light for the washing line.

For lights at the side and round the back of the house I generally find bunker fittings work well. They are inexpensive, not as harsh as floodlights, and can be fitted with a low energy bulb.

Weatherproof Outlets

    1. Back door (double socket)
    2. Deck/al-fresco dining/patio/barby/area (at least one double socket)
    3. Driveway (single socket or have a convenient double at the front of the garage)
    4. Pressure pump for water tank (single switched outlet should be OK)
    5. For Low Voltage Garden lights (double socket in a weatherproof box which can also house the transformers)
    6. Shed or separate garage.
    7. Underneath the front eaves. (Only if you are going to want to put up Christmas Lights, one double at least)

Other

    • Door Bell/ Security system
    • 15 Amp socket for spa/pool
    • 15 Amp switched Outlet(s) for future split system air conditioning outdoor unit.
    • 15 Amp switched Outlet(s) for Heat Pump
    • Conduits under driveway/ paths for future garden lights, and fountains.
    • TV aerial point in the Alfresco dining area for a grand final or Melbourne Cup Barby.

What’s the best outside electrical fitting in your house?

 

For similar posts see Electrical

More Electrical Planning including 24 pages of Check Lists in the ‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’

 

Pools – Don’t Forget The Extras

Just because a pool supplier gives you a price for a pool doesn’t mean that will be the final cost.

I have heard than an extra $20,000 – $30,000 is not unusual.

Here how the extra costs can mount up for a small pool:

  • Plans and approvals $2,000 plus . . . more if there is a sewer easement close to the pool.
  • Rock excavation $100 plus  per cubic metre
  • Carting dirt off site 30-40 per cubic metre
  • Fencing $5,000 plus
  • New Electrical circuit $1,000 plus
  • Cover $500
  • Landscaping and paving $8,000 plus

 

 

Planting trees and Shrubs

When you are starting a new garden most people want to hide the fences. . . . I know I do.

That means you will be wanting to plant trees and shrubs.

Here is how to avoid two common mistakes.

Buy Smaller

It is temping to buy the largest size of the variety as it seems as though it will quickly make an impact.

There are two problems:

  • The larger shrubs will cost 2-3 times as much, which is significant if you are going to be buying lots.
  • Smaller and younger shrubs are generally more vigorous. I have found smaller shrubs can overtake a larger shrubs in a single growing season.

I found buying smaller with a little patience provides an excellent result in a couple of years at a big cost saving.

Too Much Support

If you took my advice above with regard to smaller plants you may not need to stake many plants.

If you do need to support bear in mind that to grow strong trees need to be stressed and will react by increasing the size of roots and the trunk.

Staking plants too firmly can lead to a weakly anchored root system and tree damage

I normally stake about 1/3 of the way up (as you can see in this picture) using a soft tie to protect the bark.

The stake is positioned on the side that prevailing winds will blow.

The tree or shrub should be able to move gently in the wind to encourage the development of strong roots.

Regularly check the tie is not damaging the bark.

Generally it should only take a single growing season before the plant is established and the support can be removed.

Are You Going To Have A Washing Line?

When I was growing up all the washing lines looked like this. . . . long straight nylon ropes.

Since then things have changed backyards have got  smaller and some people don’t even have washing lines, everything goes in the tumble dryer

Well I think there are some good reasons why you should have a washing line.

Reasons for a washing line

Cost

A full cycle of a modern tumble dryer uses around $1 of power.

With just two of us at home now we would still do around 4 loads of washing a week. . . . That means tumble drying everything would cost around $200 a year.

Sustainability

As well as the cost there is also the sustainability aspect.

If the electricity from that full cycle comes from a coal power station it will release around 4kg of CO2.

Condensation

Unless you have got a venting kit you could be putting around half a litre of water into the air which can result in condensation problems.

If you start getting damp patches on the walls and ceiling mold can then become an issue.

Better Results

UV radiation from the sunlight kills bacteria and dust mites.

In addition nothing really beats the smell and feel of freshly air dried cotton sheets.

Less Wear Of Your Clothes

All that lint in the filter is the result of wear as the clothes rub against each other and the sides of the tumble drier drum.

Space

So how much space do you need?

The load from a typical front loading washing machine will take up around 10m of line, with a top loader it could be nearer 15m.

I would look at providing enough line for at least a couple of washes.

To get that amount of line in a typical backyard a good option would be a rotary clothes line (the traditional Hills Hoist) with line lengths ranging from 40 – 60m.

Limited on space? you could go for a wall, or fence, mounted rectangular folding frame which should give you around 20m of line.