Cranbourne Botanic Gardens

If you live in Victoria and are planning a garden I would suggest you visit the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens.

I visited a couple of weeks ago and was really impressed.

  • Lots of different varieties of plants.
  • The opportunity to see mature examples of the plants you only see in small pots in the garden centre.
  • Examples of small gardens in a variety of themes, including my favourite low water gardens using natives.
  • ‘The Garden Shed ‘ where you can get personalised advice on plants.
  • Plant sales.
  • Large areas of native bush with picnic areas
  • A pleasant cafe

All this and free entry!

Pool Before, Or After House

I have seen pools built before the house is built, and afterwards, so I thought I would discuss the options.

Build First

A lot of people find it very hard to visualise a finished house and it’s surrounds from drawings.

Especially when you are faced with a large empty block.

If this is you then it might be worth waiting until the house is built.

The problem is that unless you have a wide, or corner block, you are likely to cut off easy access to the site.

This means that

  • There will be a lot of mess around your new home during the build
  • The pool build will be more expensive, and take longer.

Pool First

If the pool is built first there will normally be good access to the site for large excavators and tip trucks.

There will be no need tor large cranes to lift heavy loads over the house.

As a result it should be possible to save thousands of dollars on the price of your pool.

You should also be able to take a dip in the pool as soon as you move in.

Risks

Co-ordination between Architect, House Builder, and Pool Builder is critical.

Make sure that all three agree on the location, and height, before any construction starts

A couple of problems I have heard about with pools are:

  • A pool was built before the house where the pool builder was given the wrong height by the owner. . . . When the builder arrived on site he realised that for the house to match the pool height would cost another $30,000 for additional fill and foundations, which was down to the owner.
  • The property owner decided to have the pool built after handover, but didn’t tell the builder to avid the area. The builder laid the house drainage and sewerage pipes across the pool area. . . . . Re-laying the pipes cost an extra $4,000.

 

Photo from www.Buzzle.com

How to Start a New Garden From Scratch

A guest post by Dianne Lampe

Harvesting your own flowers and vegetables from your garden backyard is one of the most rewarding endeavours for homeowners.

You need to make good preparation if you’re to avoid making costly mistakes later.

A garden in your backyard has several benefits supplying you with fresh vegetable flowers whenever you need them.

A garden enhances the beauty of your outdoor space and gives a reason to spend more time outside than usual.

Let this be the year when you start growing your vegetables and flowers and stopping running to the grocery all the time.

The success of any garden depends on the soil preparation procedures.

You will need to plan well and prepare everything before you can start growing your first plants in the garden. . . . so here are some steps in starting a garden from scratch:

Mark the area you want to create a garden

The first step is to mark out clearly the area you want to start your garden.

You can make use powder to mark it or even wooden sticks.

Saw cut small wooden stakes and hammer them into the ground around the edges of the garden.

You can then tie a string from one stake to another to mark the boundaries.

The size marked depends on with the area available and the size of garden you want.

It is always advised that you start a garden bed  that is easy to maintain as starting a garden is just a tip of the iceberg, as there is much hard work in maintaining it afterwards.

The area chosen must be experiencing at least six hours of sunshine a day as this are some of the requirements of flowers and vegetables.

Clear away the grass

Most probably the area is covered by grass.

Getting rid of the grass should be your next step as these will be competing for nutrients with your vegetables.

Starting a new garden means sacrificing on some part of your lawn.

Get rid of all the grass and its roots for excellent results with your vegetables.

Dig the grass with a spade or sod cutter.

However, if you have time, you can cover the grass with several layers of thick newspapers and inches of soil compost and wait for the grass to die.

Dig up the soil

Now comes tilling your new garden to remove unwanted materials like rocks and roots.

All debris can now be removed before you can test your soils.

Tilling the garden must be done to depths of 8-10 inches deep which helps completely break up the soil and loosen it. A steel rake might be used to remove all debris that remains after tilling.

Test, and modify, the soil

You need to test the soil for pH analysis and nutrients to see if the soil as the ideal conditions for growing flowers and vegetables of your choice.

You can use a self-test kit found in almost all garden stores.

These kits come with all the directions and how to test soil and the recommended pH and nutrient levels. This will also be a good time to add some compost to your garden.

Depending on the condition of your soil after testing, you can add nutrients to modify the composition of the soil.

Acid soils can be balanced by soda ash and lime while alkaline soils can be balanced by iron sulfate.

An even layer of nutrients can then be spread over the soil before tilling them into the garden soil with a shovel or tiller.

Edge your new bed

Edging your new bed is one of the best ways to prevent weeds from crawling into your garden.

Make a trench of about 8 inches deep and some inches wide all around your garden.

You can even sink an edging material around the perimeter of your garden which will help stop even the worst invaders from crossing through to your garden.

Edging your garden is a crucial procedure that not only stops weeds crawling, but also keeps plants in the garden safe as the edge clearly defines the garden and prevents mowers and weed trimmers from affecting the plants.

Allow the soils to rest for a week or two

You don’t plant immediately after finishing with the preparation of soils.

The soils must be allowed to rest for a week or two to allow the nutrients to settle and start working.

Even before planting, you still need to rake the soil smoothly with a steel rake to give the soil the final preparation.

Site your plants

Don’t just remove your seedlings and plant them immediately.

You need to site them if you are to get the spacing right. It takes a little time to site all your plants on the garden but it is worth the effort.

You are now in the final step of seeing lovely plants in your garden and want everything to come out just fine.

This will also help you know the plants to place next to each other.

Get planting

When every plant is in the right spot, it is time to start planting.

ALWAYS loosen or tease up the plant roots before placing them in the soil.

This is very crucial especially if the seedlings were root bound.

This gives the roots space to spread out and hold into the new soils.

The vegetables or flowers must be planted according to their won specific guidelines.

Add some mulch

Adding 3-4 inches or organic mulch is one of the best ways to keep your garden healthy and well-maintained.

There are several things you can use as mulch. Shredded barks of trees, dried leaves, straw or newspapers all work fine as mulch.

Mulch is essential helping prevent the growth of weeds and keeps moisture in the soil.

The mulch decomposes over time adding more nutrients to your garden.

You will probably see the benefits of mulch during the dry season when the soil needs to retain enough moisture to keep the plants going.

Water your garden

By now your garden is planted and well-mulched.

Giving the plants a good soaking is highly recommended to give them good moisture levels.

If you used dry mulch, the mulch would absorb most of the waters before the soils.

It is always better to soak the mulch before using them or water them after spreading them in your garden around your plants.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of things that must be done before one experience the rewards of a garden.

There is nothing complex about starting a garden from scratch as long as you follow all the steps.

You will be able to see healthy plants growing in your garden in a few weeks.

 

Dianne Lampe blogs about gardening at www.igardenplanting.com
She is passionate about all things related to gardening and blogs about indoor and outdoor planting as well as offering useful information about the best gardening products.

Landscaping Ideas

I’m the sort of geek that follows a facebook site called Engineering and Crafts.

The pictures below are some great ideas for anyone wondering what to do with small and shaded areas of their land.

Want to follow this site?………..the link is Engineering and Crafts

Vegetable Growing Basics: How to Start a Home Vegetable Garden

This is a guest post written by Kylie from grohelps

For anybody that is looking at starting their very own home vegetable garden there are a number of important factors that you should be looking at getting to grips with before you begin.

After all, you will want to avoid making mistakes since it then leads to it becoming harder to grow those vegetables and actually being rewarded for all of that hard work that you are then putting into action.

So, these are some of the key factors that you really need to think about before you become too involved in your vegetable garden.

1. Size and  Location

It is important that you think about where your vegetable garden is going to be located as you must think about the quality of the soil, how much light it gets in that spot, and what the drainage is like.

In other words, you cannot just go and start growing vegetables anywhere that you want since that can lead to disaster.

Also, you need to plan ahead and understand what you will be growing as this then determines the size.

Alternatively, if you are aware of your limitations in the space that is available then you should then measure the space and spend time researching the different vegetables that can fit according to the space that they need in order to grow.

2. Planning Ahead.

You really do have to spend some time planning your garden and this means knowing what is going to be growing, where they have to be positioned, how they will grow together, and even when the produce is going to be ready for eating.

Some vegetables compliment one another in the ground while others fight against one another and restrict their growth.

Planning makes sure that you get the maximum number of vegetables in the smallest area possible.

3. Preparing the Bed and Soil

Vegetables are only going to grow in the correct soil and it is therefore very important that you prepare the bed correctly before you start planting.

You need to break up the soil, perhaps even turn soil over, and remove any weeds.

You might also want to also incorporate some fertilizer and work that into the soil so that the plants are able to get a real shot of those all important nutrients as they start to grow and develop as plants.

4.Selecting the Vegetables to Grow.

Next, you have to really study what you are going to grow and there are a number of deciding factors that will help you out.

First, learn about the vegetables that give you the best return for the effort that you put into getting them to grow.

Also, think carefully about what your family likes and take full advantage of those vegetables in the space that you have available.

You also have to think about what is the easiest to grow since this does also vary and if you are new to it then you do not want something too taxing.

5. The Care and Maintenance

This point is all about care and maintenance of your vegetables and the plot. As you can imagine, there are a number of things for you to think about with this and we will look at each point individually to help you to really make sense of it all.

Plant Supports for the Vegetables

You have to be aware of the fact that some vegetables are going to require some support to help them to grow.

This includes the likes of peas, runner beans and a number of other vegetables that tend to grow to a reasonable height. If you do not support them then their growth will be restricted.

Fertilizer.

If we can go back to fertilizer as it does play an important role throughout the duration of the growth and development of the vegetables.

You need to understand the kind of feeding that different vegetables prefer and also how often they need to be fed.

This will more than likely increase when they are at the part of developing the actual vegetables, so you have to be aware of the growth cycles so they can be fed at the correct moments.

Watering

Water is important if you want impressive vegetables, but you also need to understand how much water the different vegetables like when they are growing.

Some such as leeks love to have their roots soaked while others are not so happy with that.

Understanding the watering cycle for different vegetables can also make it easier for you to plan the garden in the first place.

Weeds

Vegetables hate weeds as they are just going to compete for the various nutrients that are in the ground and they can also start to fight against the roots and inhibit the growth of the plants themselves.

It is important that you weed the vegetable garden on a regular basis to keep on top of this issue.

Mulching

Mulching is something that you can use in order to boost the fertility and overall health of the soil and the best part is that you can even use old food scraps from your kitchen and throw it into the soil.

The plants are going to extract the nutrients and this will then boost their growth.

6 Protecting Your Vegetables

Protecting your vegetables is also just as important because you can easily get to a point where they have been destroyed and you are left with nothing in return for all of your hard work. Once again, we will look at several points individually.

The Problem of Pests

Different vegetables can be affected by different pests and that just means that you need to be aware of the most common issues for the plants before you go ahead and start your vegetable garden.

In addition, it is important to know that you can use organic insecticides to deal with the issue as at least then it is not going to give you any cause for concern with the health of the vegetables.

Dealing with Disease

One major problem with vegetables is that they can often be prone to different diseases.

As with the pests issue it is important that you know the main diseases that tend to affect the plants or vegetables so you know what to look out for in advance and how to deal with it.

Once again, there will be organic options for you to use that can be just as effective.

Dealing with Wildlife

Finally, there can often be a problem with wildlife and of course you then want to deal with them.

We are talking about more than just birds as well, so you might want to look at the idea of investing in some netting to protect especially the young plants.

Also, you have to think about the ways in which they are going to attack the vegetables and then counteract those problems.

As you can see, there are a series of things for you to think about when growing vegetables at home and the main thing is that you spend time getting to grips with the basics before you then go ahead and get started.

However, there is nothing complex here so keep that in mind and ultimately you should end up with some vegetables that you can be proud of.

The Essential Things to Know About Adding a Deck to Your Home

If you are thinking about ways to add a bit more magic to your new home, building a deck might be a great option.

Before you start your deck-building adventure, it’s a good idea to take a moment and go through these essential aspects of adding a deck to your home.

The advantages and disadvantages of adding a deck

Building a deck to your home won’t be without a cost, so, you need to understand the benefits, as well as the drawbacks of it before you start.

Listing out the reasons can help you better understand whether the decision is the right one.

In general, the benefits of having a deck include:

  • A deck makes spending time outdoors more fun.
  • A deck can make the garden area look neater and ensure upkeep is quick and simple.
  • A deck adds more living space and you can even use the space below it for storing items.
  • A quality deck will increase the value of the house.

On the other hand, a deck could possibly provide the disadvantages of:

  • Creating a deck will mean extra costs.
  • It can be time-consuming if you are building the deck yourself.

The good news is that both of the disadvantages can be taken care of with careful planning.

What to consider when picking a deck?

Once you’ve made the decision to build a deck, you need to start planning.

There are a number of things you need to consider to guarantee your deck ends up looking great and your bank account won’t feel robbed.

The most important questions to answer include:

  • What is my budget? Before you start, come up with a budget to ensure you don’t end up overspending.
  • What do I want from the deck? You need to list the things you want from your deck, including things like:
    • An area for barbecue
    • Space for plants and flowers
    • Enough seating space for entertaining guests
    • A roof to stay dry during rain
    • An aesthetic look to go with your house(matching paint, for example)

Please note these might not all apply to you, but the idea is to identify the things and functions you need.

  • What kind of material fits my needs and my budget? Once you’ve determined the above, you can start looking into deck materials. The most popular options includewood decks and composite decks.
  • Can I build it myself? Finally, you need to decide whether you want to build the deck from scratch, perhaps with the help of friends, or whether you’d want a professional builder to do it for you.
  • Do I need a permit? Don’t launch your project before you’ve checked the building permissions. A deck is a structure that often requires a special planning permit and therefore, you might end up paying a hefty fine if you forget to apply for one.

If you want to find ways to save money, your attention needs to be on the materials and the labour.

Don’t forget that while assembling a deck can be a lot cheaper if you do it yourself, the costs can mount up if you have no idea about DIY or experience in building.

With the above tips, you should get your deck-building project underway smoothly. Remember the importance of planning and don’t rush into the project before you are certain of what you want.

 

Turf Laying Guide

I have previously spoken about the value of the Homeone Forum where you can get some great advice on all sorts of matters.

One forum topic of ‘Laying Turf’ was started by one of the Gardening Experts going by the name of ‘Fu Manchu’.

The wisdom from this extensive topic has now been summarised by one of the forum members who runs a landscaping business.

If you want a read it, you can find it at the below link:

Ultimate Turf laying Guide

 

Concrete or Fibreglass Pool

Most pool companies will tell you that their type of pool is the best. . . but what are the differences?

Here are some thought on various aspects of the two options:

Cost

Generally concrete pools are significantly more expensive.

An exception is if access is poor and a large crane is needed to lift the pool over 2 storey buildings which can easily add $5,000 – $10,000 to the cost.

Shape

If you want, or need, a particular shape this can be achieved more easily with concrete.

Fibreglass pools usually come as rectangular pool with a very limited range of alternative shapes.

Flexibility of Location

Because a concrete pool is a very rigid structure it can be constructed closer to a boundary than a fibreglass pool. (the sides of the pool are in effect a retaining wall.

Speed of Construction

It is quite possible to have a fibreglass pool installed in a couple of weeks.

More, weather dependant, site work and concrete curing times can make concrete pools much slower to build.

Durability

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect 30-40 years use out of a concrete pool although some resurfacing may be required during that time.

Although the life of a fibreglass pool is likely to be much shorter will you still want to be using the pool in 20 years?

Water Temperature

People who have owned both concrete and fibreglass pools say that the water in concrete pools is generally cooler (requires more heating) This is due to the faster heat loss to the surrounding ground.

One advantage of the cooler water in a concrete pool is that it will make algae growth less likely if you are away for a couple of months!

 

Which type of pool do you prefer?

Decor Ideas for a Gorgeous Outdoor Space

Guest post by George Z

A beautiful outdoor space is a great addition to any home, particularly if you love lounging, entertaining or just relaxing with friends and family on a warm day.

An excellently designed outdoor space has a stunning effect on the general appearance of a home.

Here is a brief rundown of four tips that will come in handy in ensuring your outdoor space is not only breathtaking but also homely and practical.

Creatively Incorporate a Fireplace into Your Outdoor Space

Contrary to popular misconception a fireplace is not reserved for indoor décor but can be a great focal point for an outdoor space.

Based on preference you can either go for a portable or permanent fireplace.

A portable fireplace is a great option as it gives you the freedom to change location.

On the other hand, a permanent outdoor fireplace is also a viable option as it adds a touch of luxury to your outdoor space.

Let your outdoor space act as a gathering area with some furniture around it and it will act as a serene and beautiful place to converse or read a book.

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Add Colour and Drama to Your Outdoor Space by including Living Walls

Instead of boring walls make your outdoor space more lively and dramatic using plant walls.

Plants on walls not only beautify your outdoor space but also eliminate unsightly and boring blank walls.

The idea of plant walls is amazing as it equates to literally having a vertical gardening.

Based on your preference you can either go for annual plants, edibles or perennials.

For décor and style reasons it is better to choose plants that have varying textures and have different floral hues.

This will create a beautiful contrast that will make your outdoor space stand out.

Another option is to choose artificial plants.

As stated on BuildMat plant walls page, they “instantly add life and colour to any indoor or outdoor surface” and “their real power comes from their capacity to encourage healthy living”.

Enhance the Visual Appeal of Your Outdoor Space by Incorporating Artistic Accessories

Add sculptures or beautiful statues that will make your garden more stylish and artsy.i

Depending on your taste go for sculptures with sentimental value such as your favourite animal or alternatively go for statues with historical significance such as Roman and Greek sculptures.

Also include other artistic elements such as intricately shaping the plants that are on walls or even mosaic pavers.

This will add personality and pizazz to your outdoor space.

Make use of artistic ornaments made from different materials ranging from metal and plastic to stone and ceramic.

Strategically place all artistic elements at locations where they stand out such as close to flowers with contrasting colours or alternatively make these artistic pieces a centrepiece in your outdoor space.

Add a Water Feature into Your Outdoor Space

Enhance your outdoor space by adding a water feature, particularly if you want to bring your garden to life.

You can either design your own water feature as a DIY project or opt for a store bought manufactured one.

Keep in mind that you should choose an outdoor water feature that complements the décor of your outdoor garden.

 

These tips will help in transforming your outdoor space to an outdoor room that is an extension of your home and reflects your personal style.

A Beginner’s Guide to Building an Affordable DIY Garden Shed

A Guest post by Andre Smith

A garden shed is aesthetically pleasing to look at and adds ample storage space to every home.

Rather than house garden tools in a garage or basement, many homeowners opt to build a unit that sits near their garden so it’s easily accessible.

When developing a green thumb, you learn just how valuable it is to have a shed to house all your rakes, shovels, trowels, and hoes.

Without the proper tools nearby, it’s more effort to create a garden that produces fruit, vegetables, herbs or flowers.

Planning Your Garden Shed, Board by Board

When determining what type of DIY garden shed to build, there are a number of factors to consider.

The first, of course, is location. Where in the yard do you want to place the shed? Are there tree branches that need to come down before building? Do you want it in a place where others can see it?

Once you’ve thought about these things, it’s now a matter of cost. What type of budget do you have set aside for the project?

What are your garden shed must-haves and what can you do without?

Do you have a picture in mind as to what the shed will look like once it’s built?

Find a photo or set of plans on the internet so you’re able to communicate the idea to other efficiently (You can  find plenty of ideas on Pinterest)

This garden shed page on Sheds n Homes website can also help you decide what type of shed you want.

Who will help you with building your shed?

Is it something you’ll do alone or with family members and friends?

Take into consideration the time commitment it takes to build things by hand.

If you have helpers, it will take half the time it would take you to complete the shed by yourself.

Start with the Floor

When selecting a location for your garden shed, you’ll want to make sure it’s level and that the ground drains quickly and easily.

Once you’ve found a spot close to your garden, it’s time to build the floor of your structure.

If you have the opportunity to work with precast concrete deck blocks, you’ll save yourself time and money because you won’t need floor beams.

Use the DIY garden shed plans as a guide for setting the deck blocks into the ground.

  • Set straight lumber in the ground temporarily to work as guides.
  • Use the blocks to form long walls and when you’re done, remove the lumber guides. Cut pieces of lumber to place into each deck block.
  • You’ll need to use galvanized deck screws on the next part of the floor so make sure to read the plan’s directions and purchase the right number of screws to complete the floor.
  • Work the perimeter of the floor frame until all boards are on an even plane.
  • The last step in the process is installing a pressure-treated, plywood subfloor before moving onto the walls of the shed.

Work Your Way to the Walls

You’ll need to frame the walls next.

The plan allows you to use whatever types of windows and doors that you like making it truly a unique DIY garden shed.

Keep in mind that some older windows, however, let a lot of what is outdoors inside your structure.

If you don’t want bugs in your shed, look for something different to use for windows.

  • Continue building the walls according to the plans you were provided.
  • To finish them, cover the frame with sheathing. Exterior-grade plywood is a great option because it is affordable and easy to use.
  • Cut window and door openings after the sheathing is installed as it doesn’t help to do it before just in case your measurements are off slightly.

Put a Roof on It

  • Use steel connector plates to form the roof of your small shed as your roof will be strong and not require extra work making cuts.
  • Cut the rafters according to plan and secure them with steel plates and screws.
  • Once the rafters are in place, cut two pieces of wall sheathing.You’ll want them to be triangular in shape. This helps close the gables ends.
  • Fasten the sheathing to the top of the wall and the outermost rafter faces with nails. Take note of the spaces at the top of the walls because rodents, birds, and bugs get in this way. Fill the spaces with blocks that you then fasten with screws to the top plate.

 

Now that you know what you need to do to build an affordable, DIY garden shed, it’s time to get busy.

You’ll enjoy the process of crafting by hand and admire the level of skill that you have once your project is done.

After you’ve driven the last nail and put the finishing touches on the shed, you’ll step back, admire the work you’ve completed, and put the lessons you learned along the way to good use when taking on future projects.

Best of all, you’ll have a garden shed standing in a place where there once was nothing, and that’s all the more reason to celebrate your accomplishment!