beginners guide to growing healthy House plants

I am always surprised by the amount of people I talk to who say, “I can't grow house plants, they just die on me". It surprises me because I can grow them and I'm no expert. I have been fortunate to learn from Pete, whom when I first meet him, his house was full of beautiful green plants and lots of cane furniture. Along side learning from my own mistakes over the years, I now grow lots of healthy plants in the home and I love them. It appears the house plants are certainly making a big come back so if you are thinking about getting some plants but not sure, keep reading as I share what I have learnt about growing beautiful, healthy (most of the time) house plants.

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benefits of house plants

Ok, so to start with, I would just like to remind you of just some of the benefits of having house plants, to help with your motivation.

  • They look great, they are a great home decor elements that can bring great impact to the look of a space

  • They make you feel good, being surrounded by greenery does wonders to your mood and general sense of wellbeing

  • They are great listeners!! yes I like to talk to me plants, they don’t argue with you.

  • They help to purify the air. They recycle the air by converting the carbon dioxide we breathe out, into oxygen that we breathe in.

  • They are inexpensive and you can easily take cuttings and multiply the numbers of plants.

Now that I have sold you on how great house plants are let me, tell you easy it is to actually grow them.

Watering and Feeding

All the house plants I grow are very low maintenance and only really need water and a bit of a feed every now and then. The most important thing about watering and feeding is to be consistent, have a routine. I find this helps to maintain steady growth and constant level of moisture in the soil.

Most common house plants are good with weekly watering. Pete and I water them on a Saturday morning. During the hottest months of the summer, we do water the sunroom plants mid week. We feed them about once a month. During the hottest months of the summer, we do water the sunroom plants mid week. I have always used Baby Bio Original House Plant Food, it's a classic and available everywhere.

If you are not sure how often to water, track it in a diary/calendar noting any changes to leaves and soil, you should be able to establish a good routine from doing that. When buying your plants just check the care for instructions as this information should detailed.

Do not over water, this will rot the roots. If you notice water pooled on the saucer and leaves changing colour, it may be too much watering. Also, the potting mix will start to smell.

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Placement

Most indoor plants, that we have, thrive in partial sun or indirect light, some like the 'Peace Lily' are great in bathrooms and other lower light areas. Avoid draughty spots, and direct sunlight. Plants are pretty good at telling you that they are not happy, just watch for changes in leaf colour, die off of the new growth, and wilting. You may need to move some around different spots until you find the right one.

I have placed plants all over the house, on shelves, tables, even in the shower. They all settle well in their place and I can only recall moving two plants, one was not getting enough light and the other one was getting too much!!.

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Buy Small - Grow Big

I always buy my plants when they are babies. This is done because I like to raise the plant in the environment I want them grow uo in....and well it's a lot cheaper. Any garden centre should have a good selection of baby plants as they are grown from cuttings. I have found that Bunnings have a good selection of healthy house plants.

If you do this you must regularly upgrade into bigger pots as it helps with growth and they will not get root bound in the pot.

Use good quality potting mix, this does not have to be the most expensive. All garden centres will be happy to recommend and often have their own name brand. I just use the name brand at Mitre 10 and have had no issues with this.

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Turning the Pots

Ok so I am not sure if this is normal but I always turn my pots every time I water the plant. I find that you get even growth as they will always grow to the light. This is a good example. As an aside this plant produces beautiful yellow flowers, its a Calathea or Peacock plant and likes to have moist soil.

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Top plants list

To help you on your way, here are a list of plants that I have and are actually pretty easy to look after. These are also very popular plants so would be easily sourced from your local garden centre. In Auckland , there is a fabulous garden centre which has a great selection of very cool indoor plants, Church Street Garden Central

There are also a lot of handy guides on the best house plants to grow

  • Arrowhead vines

  • Bamboo palm

  • Birds nest fern

  • Calathea/ Arrowroot/Marantaceae

  • Fiddle leaf fig

  • Maidenhair fern

  • Orchids

  • Peace Lily

  • Rubber plant

  • Spider Plant

  • Swiss Cheese plant

  • Succulents

  • Yucca

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If you want to learn more about house plants check out my Pinterest board, Plants and Gardening where I have pinned lots more great content for you.

I cannot finish this blog without talking about Orchids.  To be honest, I adore them. I only started to like them when we moved to Auckland. I have a few around the house and they are just so beautiful. They are not hard to grow and they bloom forever. There are some key tips you do need to know with Orchids. Beth, my friend gave me this great website which will help you on your way.

As a tip, I buy my Orchids when the garden centres mark them down which is normally at end of flowering. If you are happy to repot and "prune" them it's a great way to buy a few at a time. You do need patience as it will take months for the new growth and flowers to arrive.

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So lets get you started

Having read this I hope that you no longer think it’s a mission to grow house plants…coz it’s not, just remember the key things that I covered off;

  • Benefits for your health and decor

  • Water regularly, (I do mine weekly)

  • Buy them small , cheaper and helps them get use to their environment

  • Rotate plants if you can to help even growth

  • Talk to them …I do!

I have listed the most common and popular house plants to grow and generally you should be fine with any of those plants, even Orchids.

I really hope that you enjoyed this blog and that it may inspire you to have a go at growing some house plants.

Enjoy planting my Tidies

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My Garden She Shed

I had never thought much about having a garden shed, specially for me . I suppose that growing up it was always the Dads that had garden sheds full of tools and things so I was conditioned to think that it was a “man thing” to have a shed. What started to make me re think this was a combination of my Pinterest addiction and sheer frustration of not having a proper home for my garden things. I was seeing these amazing “She Shed” trend as well as Pot Sheds in Pinterest. So I said to Pete….”Hey Babe do you think you could make me a wee garden shed?” “Sure thing” he said… Now I have an amazing shed and I totally love it. I love it so much that I thought I’d share how we (Pete) built it, and how I organised it.

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how we Designed it

To figure out what sort of shed would be best, I needed to be clear on how I wanted to use it . The purpose of the shed was to house all my garden things that I use, tools, pot, feed, sprays etc. Obviously it needed to be handy to the garden so I could access it easily. Additionally I needed the design to be one where I could open the shed and have everything at easy reach from the door.

We had the perfect position for the Shed (albeit needing to get rid of a big old Daphne bush) which dictated the size of the shed . It could not be too large at all, which actually gave us the opportunity to get creative with the plans.

Pete was is charge of the build and in some way the design too, I helped by checking out online Timber Sheds and came across these which were exactly what I wanted. Pete then took the basic design and worked out a plan for our Shed.

A shed that pete Built

Have you heard the term “over engineered”? well that’s how Pete described our shed…in short it’s the place I’m going if we have a tornado. The best way to show the build is in this pictorial and the explanations of each stage.

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Stage 1

Cement in the foundation posts and frame up the floor

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Stage 2

Flooring down, Frame work up for the sides, wall lining and bracing in.

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Stage 3

Putting in the shelving

TIP: Pre stain/paint makes life a lot easier. This stain is just left over from the decking stain , Resene Kwila Timber stain

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Stage 4

Putting up the external cladding, with Plywood panels

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Stage 5

Roof and tiling. We used Asphalt Shingle roofing tiles for the Shed.

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Stage 6

Final touches, staining to match the house

We used Resene Woodsman stain in Pitch Black

Now most of you know that there is actually alot more to it than those pictures show, so if you are interested in wanting more details on the building of the Shed, Pete has kindly documented out all the measurements and materials and I’ve developed it into a guide with plans on how to build the Shed.

To access the guide just pop your details below to receive your very own copy

FREE Garden Shed Plans

A comprehensive guide including plans to build this small garden shed

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    Shed Organisation

    Now the fun begins! Build done and it’s my time to get my organising socks on!

    I had vision of drawing outlines of my garden tools onto the walls, yip that was a thing, back when I was a nipper, the neighbourhood Dads used to have their tools on the peg board wall at the end of their garage. They would have the shapes of the tools outlined on the peg board just in case they forgot which tool went where. I always thought it was a bit weird until I grew up and became an organising expert.

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    The best part of the shed is the back wall which Pete carefully designed to hold all my garden tools. He even wrote the names of each tool so I knew where to return them. By just putting up a few well placed nails I had all my tools lined up and they remain perfectly organised. 

    On both sides of the shed, Pete installed simple shelves, On these shelves I have my most common reached for items because it’s the easiest to access area in the Shed. All my garden feeders are corralled into a carry all basket so I can pick it up easily and take it outside. I tend to do all the “feeding” at the same time as I mix them with water into the feeding can (on old watering can). This is really helpful over the spring and summer season as you do need to feed regularly to have a healthy crop.

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    On the other side are all my sprays, manly for insects and spiders and other wee creepies. Hint don’t spray into cobwebs directly above your head , you never know what might be waiting in hiding in the cobwebs. I do have to be careful not to muddle up weedkiller with Organic Oil spray so I make sure that I label everything, on lids and the sides. Under the shelves I have all my large spray containers that I use to disperse the sprays. These are again well labelled so I know not to put the wrong sprays into them. Also I have all my weed and pest control spray containers on one side and the liquid organic sprays on the other. I just put up nails which I then place the sprays guns on, so this keeps them well contained and the guns have somewhere to hang. You will notice in the photo that I have used the space in between the frame work for storage. These are awkward items to store, so I thought by just criss-crossing the wall with bungie cord I could manage to have these items stored vertically and not take up too much room. Never forget to use your vertical space if you are tight for room.

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    On the other side of the shed I managed to create more shelving with these amazing boxes which I scored from Junk & Disorderly for only $12 each, a total find!!! One holds all my pot plants (indoor) stuff, pots and such like. In the other box are the soil and lawn fertilisers .

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    Between the top of the boxes and the shelf there is the perfect space for the bag of pea-straw. I always a have a bag on hand and it’s the perfect spot.

    On top of the shelf I have a couple small baskets that once upon a time were plant baskets. I just use them for storage now.

    One I put my “hand cleaning” stuff in. Often when I am in the shed, I have very dirty hands from the garden so having hand wipes and disinfectant handy is great. I also have a pile of towels I use for two purposes, drying my hands and cleaning off my garden tools. In the other one I have some bits and pieces that I use in the garden, like garden ties etc. In the corner I use a old broken jug to store my pruning tools.

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    Now a little awesome idea I had, has turned into my mini garden office!!! The back of the shed door was unused space so I painted it with black chalk paint, and along with a wall magazine rack which I scored at the local hospice shop for $4 , I now have all my books, garden diary and notes on hard. The blackboard is handy to write notes to myself, like when I’ve feed and sprayed and things I need to do next!!. This is great use of vertical space.

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    Another wee genius ideas of mine was my garden toolkit. It was actually a spare tool kit Pete had (he’s a Tradie) which he wasn’t using. It just seemed to be the perfect size for me. I carry all my essentials in it so I always have these with me when in the garden. I just love it and it has a handy wee trick where you can slide the kit itself along the belt so when bending down it sits on my back and doesn’t get in the way.

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    And finally the coolest thing of all , is this little seat on the side of my shed which Pete made for me, man he’s thoughtful. It’s where I sit and clean down all my tools at the end of my garden session. Yes I am one of those who looks after her garden tools, always making sure they are cleaned, sharpened and oiled. It is amazing how long things last when you look after them. My loppers, secateurs and hedge trimmers were given to Pete and I when we got our first house, which would be over 25 years ago!

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    Having my own garden shed is fantastic and it’s such a great design and so practical , I just love it.

    Don’t forget to grab the Guide and Plans, above if you are interested in building the shed. Feel free to ask any questions, we are happy to help.

    Also , as always I’ll love your feedback and do share your ideas and thoughts

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    Happy Tidying and Gardening!

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    How to repot succulents in 3 easy steps

    Did you know that Succulents were never really my cup of tea…didn’t really see the beauty in them and kinda thought that they were a plant for “old ladies” garden…Well I must be an old lady coz now I love Succulents and have them added to my collection of indoor plants. The best thing about Succulents are how it’s pretty impossible to kill them as they actually don’t need a lot of maintenance. And I discovered that some produce the most delicate flowers.

    succulent in pots in sunroom | Tidying with Tania

    

    I first started growing them only very recently so am now just having to look to repot them. To be honest I did neglect some and they needed my attention. The poor things came second to the renovation work. As I know not everyone is confident in having indoor plants I thought it might be helpful to take you through how I repotted my succulents. I have tried to keep it to simple steps, well actually these are just what I do as I’m a simple person really.

    succulent with dead leaves to be repotted | Tidying with Tania

    

    Step 1 - Potting mix and pots

    When I say potting mix I do not mean the traditional potting mix. Succulents and Cacti both like alot of drainage and therefore do not cope well with the traditional potting mix. If you are making your own you would be best with a 50/50 potting mix to gravel(small). The easiest solution is to buy potting mix specific for Succulents and Cacti. I actually use this Cacti and Succulent mix from Yates. You should be able to find it at your local garden centre or hardware store. You will not need heaps of it as generally speaking you use small pots for the succulents.

    In terms of pots, well you can pretty much plant Succulents in anything. And yeah people do, like gumboots! I have used small white pots for growing a single plant and these look good when on a narrow window sill.

    small white pots | shallow clay pots | Tidying with Tania

    As I have a number of shoots off one plant, I decided to get a couple of bigger pots but shallow, as Succulents are not deep rooted. I just picked up these simple pots from Bunnings. Don’t forget to get the saucer! As these are shallow they don’t take a lot of potting mix.

    Step 2 - Prepare the succulents

    The next step is to take out the existing plants from their pots and prepare them for the new pots. As mentioned a number of the plants have grown babies/offsets. Added to this I have had not been removing the old leaves so there was a bit of tidying up to do with each of the plants. To start I just removed, gently, the plants from their pot, then again gently removed the babies. I made sure that I had a clear space to place these babies/offshoots so not to damage them.

    Removing the old leaves from under the succulent was a bit more delicate as I didn’t want to damage the plant, I’d suggest that you could use tweezers or your fingers if you are gentle.

    So now I had my babies/offshoots and tidied plants all ready to repot.

    Succulents ready to repot | Tidying with Tania


    Step 3 - plant and place

    My last step was to fill up the pots with the Succulent potting mix. I made sure that I filled the pots to a couple of cm’s from the top with the mix. I then simply took each plant and made a small hold with my finger (or pencil) and place the plant in, continuing until I had all plants repotted. Not a hard job really.

    Finding the best spot to place the pots wasn’t hard as I had a spot all lined up in the sunroom. A perfect warm and sunny spot. The trick to remember to ensure that I give them appropriate water, and not to over water them. Remember they do not like water sitting around them so it must drain well.

    succulents repotted in shallow clay pots | Tidying with Tania

    Ta dah!!! love the new pots and love their new pace.

    That’s it , just a short and sweet post today. Now my next post will be about my spring table setting with baby house plants and herbs, so make sure you stay tuned for this by signing up to my newsletter, below.

    Also make sure that you follow me on social media to see all the other cool pics and goings on in the Tidying with Tania world

    Happy potting everyone

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    Welcoming in 2018

    I love New Year, not just because you can have a fun night celebrating, more for the fresh start and the blank canvas ahead and the energised feeling that you are going to achieve your goals...this year!  Now I do think that most people do actually give themselves some type of goal or new years resolution, even if not openly stated, however most of us fail to achieve them. Goal setting can be easy, achieving them on the other hand is hard, and it takes planning, organising and commitment. For us, this year, planning 2018 is going to start with reflecting on what we achieved in 2017.

    Pete and I celebrating the end of 2017

    Pete and I celebrating the end of 2017

     

    Look Back 

    Pete and I set three goals last year, and they were actually pretty full on!!

    • Landscape the West Side garden
    • Create the Potager garden
    • Plan and start the renovations 

    Did we achieve them? Yes we did and it feels great. We are somewhat exhausted from such a busy year and do feel very happy with what we achieved. It really helps to reflect what you did achieve before your charge into the new year with more goals. There are things that we learnt that will help with our 2018 goals...like maybe have less! 

    The question I ask is how did we achieve them, what made this work?

    Setting a timeframe was the key to get us focused. We gave each one a date that we wanted the goal to be completed by. So for landscaping, that needed to be done by start of autumn, so we were not dealing with landscaping in winter. The Potager garden,  by October so I could get the summer crops in and the renovations underway by December. Another important issue is budget. Each of these goals costs to achieve so we needed to ensure that we had the budget for them. I think that is an important factor in setting goals. If, to achieve the goal, it is going to cost then you must factor that in, no point setting it if you do not have the budget for it...that's a real bummer as you just set your self up to fail and no one wants that.  Lastly we broke down the goal into tasks and focused on each task rather the overall goal. Doing each task took away that overwhelming feeling. This really helped with the landscaping job as it was a huge job.

    So on reflection what worked well; setting timeframes, having a budget and listing out the tasks. 

    Basically to achieve them we needed to run them like a project. Check out my post from Jan 2017 on goal setting as it helps to show you how we did that.

    One of the other learnings was that we had three big goals and it has meant that 2017 was a huge year on the house and it took a lot of our time and effort...and money. Maybe a few less in 2018 would be good.

    Look Forward

    As with each year, Pete and I talked about our goals for 2018. One thing we agreed on was to have less, yep putting our learnings into practice. We agreed to three goals this year ;

    • Project free year
    • Financial goal
    • Health and Wellbeing

    Ok the first one is not actually a goal, it's more of a don't do, however for us we have to have it as a goal as we do tend to want to jump into a project.....finishing the renovations on the house is big enough really!

    The financial goal is a specific savings goal ...good thing that I have brought my planner supplies for the year and my new bag...!!

    The biggest one, really important to Pete and I, is Health and Wellbeing. We really neglected that in 2017, just didn't have enough time away and down time. So we have got specific goals each month to do and they are very motivational and easily tracked to ensure that we do them.

    What I have done is created an "Our goals" page in my 2018 planner and this is at the front so it keeps this visible to us. For those interested I will be doing a post all about my 2018 planner set up...this is coming up at the end of the month.

     

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    On a final note, Pete and I still did the walk around the house, from that I created a master task list of things to do. There are only 6 items and they are simply one off tasks that will not take a lot of effort and time. We will just spread these out over the year so they are not a big deal.

    I am still to complete a post of the landscaping of the west garden....that's because the lawn got a bit wrecked and I want to fix that before doing photos!!! Anyway it's getting there so expect that soon!!!

    For the other projects you can see how we planned and achieved them in the following post;

    Planning the Potager garden

    Build and planting of the Potager garden

    Our renovations plans

    I hope my sharing of our goals and achievements has helped you in your ideas and goals for your 2018.

    I thought that I would end with this great little quote;

    "Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible" - Tony Robbins

    Happy Goal setting my friends!

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    How I created my dream Potager garden

    To be fair it was my husband that actually created my dream Potager garden, I just planned it and gave a helping hand, like shifting 3 square metres of compost into the garden.  However I still can`t believe that I am finally starting to plant out my beautiful new Potager garden. Since moving into our home 5 years ago I have been running a large vegetable garden for the family, essentially three large garden beds. They were not ideal to work in as they were on a sloping site and at ground level. Becoming  empty nesters meant that we didn't need the as much vegetable garden, so I thought this is the perfect opportunity for me to finally get my Potager garden...OMG so excited as I've always wanted one.

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    The Design

    Good things do take time! It was important to me to take my time to design and plan this out properly, thinking about how I want to use the garden in the future. I shared my thinkings, design and plans for my Potager garden in a previous post which you can access here

    new_potager-layout.png

    Designing is certainly the fun part....oh I'll put that there and have that over there ...ohh beautiful...then you have to actually work out how to make it happen and that's the hard part , the planning stage.  The thing I love and hate about planning is the reality of what you actually need to do to achieve the goal. The time and cost it will take and therefore the changes that you may need to do because of finance or design constraints!. 

    The Plan

    For us the planning started with me handing Pete the design and saying....hey Baby can you build this for me ...pretty please!. Bless him as he said yes, but with my help of course. So I sat down and planned out what we needed to do.  A long list evolved from that as below;

    • Plan out the new beds in the existing garden
    • Calculate the measurements needed for the wood
    • Work out the lengths, size, type and quantity of wood 
    • Purchase and pick up of the wood
    • Building of the raised garden beds - over two weekends with clear weather
    • Create and fill the two garden paths
    • Purchase and pick up compost mix for the garden beds
    • Fill the beds with the compost mix
    • Finalise the planting plan
    • Purchase of plants
    • Planting out the beds
    • Sit back and relax

    We had a budget of $2000 which we had to stick to.

    the build

    The measurement and working out the actual foot print of the beds was not difficult, but did take a bit of "arranging" as each one of the beds had slightly different lengths and measurements. 

    We purchased the wood from the local Mitre 10, cost came out at $900 all up. It was a lot of wood and it's all H4-5 as it needs to be treated for outdoors so it does not rot. Word of warning that means it's heavy!. 

    The biggest challenge was getting a break in the weather. The spring in Auckland has been, well, rubbish!!!  so the actual construction took place over about 3 weekends. I recall at one stage Pete trying to skill saw between rain showers and hoping not to electrocute himself.

    Once that massive job was completed we wheelbarrowed 3 cubic square meters of compost, super rich organic vege compost from our local, Central Landscape & Garden Supplies around to the actual beds. This was backbreaking and expensive ($500). I was hoping that I could fill the beds up with my home made compost but there was no way that I could make that much compost!!!!  I was pretty naive about that aspect of the job.

    The key improvement for me in the new garden was to have paths in between the beds and also have a frame on the top edges. This meant that I can have much easier access to the gardens and actually sit comfortably on the edge and attend to the garden...this really helps to prevent the old "garden back pain". To avoid having more lawns to cut we used the left over white chip from the East garden landscaping job for the paths in between the beds. I have to say I am in love with these paths and it's great that they connect to the upper garden.

    path.png

     

    The Planting

    Whoop, Whoop the fun part!. I now have four lovely new garden beds.  In the true style of a  Potager garden I planned the planting to ensure that I achieved good companion planting so I could reduce the use of pest control and improve my crops. There are really good resources on companion planting, however it can be a bit overwhelming. So what I did was list out the vegtable crops that I knew we wanted to plant now and then slowly worked through the guides on what are the best companion plants for each. My main resource for this was my new book Companion Planting in New Zealand by Brenda Little.  This book really helped me to plan out each garden bed. 

    The Berry Patch

    Blueberries, Boysenberries and Raspberries

    The Strawberry Patch

    I moved all my strawberry plants from the wee garden that they were in into their very own patch. I have companion planted Borage for the bees and Sage for the berries. 

    The Lettuce Bed

    A mix of spinach, cos , red and green leaf lettuce and Lebanese cucumber, surrounded by marigolds. Coriander herb planted in the corner.

    The Potato Patch

    My all time favourite Jersey Bennies , sweet peas, beans, capsicums , and zucchini. Nasturtiums to border them.

    The Corn Fields

    Sweetcorn, tomatoes, carrots, spring onions with basil companioned to the tomatoes and borders of marigolds. 

    To do

    https://home.howstuffworks.com/staking-vegetables.htm

    https://home.howstuffworks.com/staking-vegetables.htm

    Poor Pete still has a couple of build jobs to do, build permanent staking for the tomatoes and berry patch, similar to the illustration.  

    My to do list includes adding in more herbs into the garden, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme. These are mainly for companion planting purposes. Herbs for cooking I grow in pots in the kitchen..that's another post for another day. Did you know that Basil is a great herb to have in the house to help keep flies away?

    Developing more permanent hedging in the garden beds is longer term goal. Ideally I want to have a combination of lavender and Buxus or Mock Box. 

    I am so going to enjoy this spring and summer season in my new Potager garden...I just hope that the weather improves so I can actually get out into it without being rained on.

    On a closing note I came across this planting journal for $7 at our local Warehouse Stationery store and I will be trying this out to help track my plantings and growth. I have always done this in my own ratty journal but thought hey why not have a pretty one! 

    Now I think Pete and I will have a wee sit down and just admire all our hard work.

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    Take care my friends and enjoy your gardens

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    Getting my garden ready for spring

    Spring time in the garden is the best!!! Beautiful blossoms out on the trees and the scent of fresh blooms and newly cut grass...hmmm just take it all in. Spring time in my garden has to be the busiest time in the garden all year and I love it. This year spring has been somewhat wet and I am feeling very frustrated at not being able to get out into the garden. However this weekend wet or shine will have me in the garden getting the garden ready for spring and the coming summer. So let me take you through how I "spring clean" my garden!. 

    Twiggy, My little helper in the garden.

    Twiggy, My little helper in the garden.

     

    the Lawn

    Now I am no expert when it comes to lawns and I don't even mow the lawns, however I hate weeds in my lawn. Over the years I have used a few different approaches to the old lawn weed issue, nothing actually beats digging out the weed root and all, however it's very labour intensive. So I simply just spot spray the weed with a natural weed killer .  Sprinkle a bit of lime over the lawn to help balance the ph level and replenish the nutrients. A quicker and easier option is to use Weed n Feed which I have used before and works well.

    It's also a good time to sew some lawn seed if you have patches to repair. We have had a bit of damage to the lawn on the west side of the house that we have landscaped, so it just needs some seeds sown around. When doing lawn patch repair try and make sure you get the same grass seed as the exisiting lawn, otherwise your lawn might look a bit patchy. A good way to do this is to take a close up photo of the grass and take it into a garden centre, they will be able to match you up with the right seed.

    the edges

    There is nothing like a tidy and neat lawn edge. I am a bit particular about my lawn edges and this time of year they can get away on you, so giving the lawns and garden path edges a good trim can make a big difference. It's good to do this now to prepare for the the spring and summer growth. 

    I also do some trimming and light pruning of bushes and trees, mainly my roses. Here in Auckland you do not get the cold frost so the roses tend not to go dormant, so I wait until September to give them a good prune and stake them in preparation for the rapid expansion of size with the spring and summer growth.

    the garden Weeds

    A good old dose of Round up on paths and driveways is needed at this time of year. I just make up a concentrate mix and use a spray applicator and walk around the house attacking these little blighters!.

    It's also a perfect time to weed your garden beds. I do not use any weed sprays on my garden beds, just dig them up with my trusty trowel. Over the spring and summer months you do have to regularly weed the garden other wise the weeds can get out of control, but hey it's a great work out. A good weeding job once a month should be sufficient to manage the weeds.

    the food

    All plants get very hungry in spring with all their new growth so it's really good time to provide as much food and nutrient to your plants now to prepare them.

    In my vege patch I add in my home grown compost mix, it smells really good and the vegetables love it. I also add in sheep pooh pellets as the vegetables plants start to produce. Make sure that you have a good watering system also set up. This year Pete is putting in some water tanks so we can use the rain water off the roof to the vege garden in summer. 

    fresh compost on the vege garden

    fresh compost on the vege garden

     

    My citrus plants get a good dose of fish compost, any organic citrus fertiliser is good and pea straw around the base to keep the moisture in over the drier summer months.

    Last winter I planted out a Hydrangea garden, two plants so far and will be adding another one soon. Over the flowering months, the flowers changed colour from blue/white to a pink/red.  I have read that you can actually change the colours of the flowers by changing the ph levels in the soil. My research has identified that I have a more alkaline soil and therefore a high ph level, probably over 7. Therefore I need to add aluminum sulfate to bring down the ph levels, ideally to 5. I could also try adding in coffee grounds and or fruit and vege scraps as this would also help to bring the ph levels down. To fertilise the bed I need to add low phosphorus and high potassium. As we produce a lot of coffee grounds I will give that a go and see if this can help and add in the appropriate fertiliser, fingers crossed

    my white flowering hydrangea

    my white flowering hydrangea

     

    New plants

    Early spring is a good time to plant out any new plants that you want in your garden. This year I will be adding another Hydrangea and some Hostas, so I am on the hunt for these in the garden centres.

    Other Spring chores

    Besides the actual garden, there are a number of spring chores we also do around the outside of the house;

    • Clean the outside windows and walls
    • Wash down patios and outside furniture
    • Spider spray around the external doors and windows

    Although it sounds like a lot of work, it is not really, generally with two days of solid work in the weekend you will tick off most of these chores and have your garden and outdoors space all ready for the arrival of spring and summer...so you can sit back and relax and enjoy your beautiful outside space.

    Happy Gardening everyone! 

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    If you like this post , check out my post this time last year on creating a seasonal vegetable garden. 

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    Planning my Potager garden

    Pronounced  'Pot-Ah-jay', this french term basically means "Kitchen garden" and was seen in Monastery gardens as far back as the 1500's.  The vegetable beds are essentially laid out in a way that the produce is grown and easily accessible from the kitchen by the cook. In more modern times there are Chefs kitchens still used in large estates and some restaurants. For those keen vegetable gardeners, like myself, it is a way to have a more ornamental vegetable garden, mixing veges, flowers, fruits and herbs.

    Reference: Photo by Gil Hanly from the book New Zealand Potager The Ornamental Vegetable Garden, Author Diana Anthony

    Reference: Photo by Gil Hanly from the book New Zealand Potager The Ornamental Vegetable Garden, Author Diana Anthony

    I was in one of my favourite Hospice shops late last year and came upon a book on Potager gardens, it was all of $3. At the time I was starting to think about what I was going to do with my large vegetable garden. As empty nesters, overproduction in my vegetable garden was becoming a norm and there is only so much you can give away to your neighbours.  It was this book, and that absolutely stunning cover picture,  that sparked my idea of downsizing my vegetable garden into a Potager garden. 

    Fast forward 6 months and one major landscaping project nearly finished, I have Pete out in the vege patch measuring up and redesigning the new Potager garden....excited oh yes just a little!! 

    So here is what I am thinking, of course with some, as always sensible, reality check suggestions from Pete.

    Our Current Garden

    At present we have three garden beds. Two are large, one being the original garden bed and one that Pete and Chris rotary hoed up for me about 4 years ago. The third is actually a small raised bed which I just grow lettuce and spinach in.

    On the east side of the garden, along the fence line, I have a grapevine and a patch of strawberries.

    Our current needs

    As newly empty nesters, we are discovering the needs of a two person household are certainly different from a four person household. In terms of the vegetable patch this has seen a big reduction in the amount and type of produce that needs to be grown. 

    To help in the layout of the new Potager garden, I thought about what changes I wanted to make to the gardens in terms of production and use, such as the veges, herbs, flowers and fruit.

    Peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis, sweet peas, beans, corn, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, chillis, asparagus, potatoes, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage were the main vegetables still to be produced.

    Additional to the usual vegetables, I want to expand the berry patch. I have already got some blueberries, blackcurrants and raspberries, however I want to increase production.

    I also did a lot of research looking on companion planting as I wanted to improve the use of other helpful plants to reduce pest in the garden and introduce more herbs and flowers.  Annabel Langbein, who is awesome, has a great blog on vegetable gardening and provides information on companion planting. There is also some great guides that you can download from various gardening blogs on this topic, such as this one from Tui  

    Layout and structure

    At this point I thought about the layout of the garden and how I could redesign it in the Potager style. As I am reducing the crop production, I can take space out of the existing beds, which I thought I would turn into paths. 

    One of the biggest issues I have currently with the garden beds is that they are on a slope. Apart from a mowing strip there is no frame around the beds to keep the soil in. It's a pain really, especially on the downward slope of the beds. It seemed to perfect opportunity to fix this by making the beds into raised gardens...poor Mr P he was not that impressed when I mentioned that. Ideally I wanted the frames to be made of railway sleepers...but budget brought me back to reality so just the usual timber frames will have to do.

    The plan 

    The two large beds will be split into four by creating a path through the middle of each of them. The third bed, which is the only raised garden bed I have, will remain. 

    So all in all there will be 5 small raised garden beds and it will look like this;

    The new beds will be framed up as raised gardens and level...yeah so much easier for my gardening. The paths will be created by removing that section of the garden. The existing dirt will be used to build up the new garden beds, so I will not lose too much good soil. 

    Also look to build more permanent wooden structures for the plants, like the A-frame, Teepee and Flat Trellis.

    For the paths, we have leftover white stone chip from the east side garden landscaping, so will use that to lay out the paths. 

    There you have it folks, the plans for my Potager garden, easy as that !!! well now all we have to do is to make it!

    What do you think?  Any suggestions?  I would love to hear from you , leave comments below. 

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    How to plan and achieve your goals for the year

    Let's take you back to New Years day. You have great ideas on what you want to achieve, change and do this year...full of excitement and lots of goals for the year ahead. Forward a few weeks and it's nearly the end of January and well reality has sunk in and those goals just look like silly ideas that you are never going to achieve....But it actually doesn't need to be that way. Let me take you through how Pete and I plan our goals at the start of each year and more importantly how we actually achieve them.

     

    Types of Goals

    Generally speaking there are long term, medium and short term goals. These can be personal, career, financial or life goals.

    Pete and I have a long term goal, which is to grow old and crazy together and drive our kids mad...no but seriously....

    Ours is to be able to enjoy retirement together, which is a challenge as Pete is 10 years older than me. Therefore that means when I hit 55 I have to be in a position to have some flexibility with my career as well as financial freedom to enable us to have choices and time together. I know it sounds strange that at 47 I am thinking and planning for retirement however we will never achieve our goal if we don't. So each year we ensure that we are on track to achieving that goal and make changes as we need to.

    My medium term goal is building up of my new business 'Tidying with Tania'. Pete is a Tradie and still on the tools so it's pretty physical work and he is not 20 anymore, so for him it's about hanging in to retirement and supporting his lovely wife. There will be a few trips thrown in along the way, like the Orient Express to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, or a tropical island holiday and doing the bike rail trails and the Tongariro Crossing. I'm sure we will add more.

    We have also got medium goals for our home which we purchased 5 years ago, these are renovation goals.

    Our shorter term goals are focused on the current year. How we decide on the goals and achieve them is what I will share in this post. It's not rocket science however it may be helpful if you are struggling with setting and achieving your goals.

     

    Identify and prioritise the goals

    As we are slowly renovating our house most of our goals for the year are based on the home. This year we have also included some RnR (Rest and Recreation) goals......that I`ll talk about in my Feb post.

    Deciding on the house goals is really easy and fun. Pete and I do a "walk around" ...a what!  We literally walk around the inside and outside of the house documenting everything that we see that needs fixing, renovating, changing etc. 

    The "walk around" with helpers in tow

    The "walk around" with helpers in tow

     

    The next step is to narrow down the list to the things that are a priority and part of your short to medium goals. For example at the 5 year mark our goal is to renovate the kitchen and upstairs bathrooms. 

    It is year 5 this year so we know that this is likely to be our main goal so we do not want to load up too much around this. Last year it was painting the outside of the house, so that was the main goal, however I did manage to sneak in decorating my office.

    We also align the goals to our financial budget which we set annually from July to June, so we allow for the cost of these goals.....it really helps to ensure that you budget for them, it's makes it much easier to actually achieve them.  

    As an example our kitchen and bathrooms costs will be included into the 2017/18 budget, therefore the goal to the end of June will be to plan and get cost estimates.

    Our landscaping of the side garden is already budgeted for in this financial year so the goal here is to finish the plan, buy the plants and complete the landscaping in autumn.

    Our west facing garden awaiting landscaping this year

    Our west facing garden awaiting landscaping this year

     

    From the "walk around" there are a number of one off jobs which essentially make up our "to do list" and the actual goals we make into "projects" as they have a number of things that have to be completed to achieve them.

    Documenting and Planning the goals

    At this point can I just say how much easier this process is if you have a home folder or house file etc. If you want to create a really useful home folder just see my post here where I take you through the steps to create a folder.

    We have a Goals and Projects section in our home folder which is where we list out all the "to do's" and the goals and actions needed. 

    I then take the "to do`s" and put them into my yearly planner so we can break these tasks down over the year, makes it so much easier to achieve them.

    For the goals it's really important to detail the actions steps that you need to take to achieve the goal. I have an example here of what we need to do for the goal of Landscaping the side garden.

    Printable from  StrangeCharmed  

    Printable from StrangeCharmed 

     

    By breaking the goal down into key actions, you simply focus on one action at a time and before you know it you have achieved your goal. It's the old saying To eat an Elephant you have to take one bite at a time. I do find focusing on the actions and not the goal does help you to achieve it. The final point on goal setting is timeframes. You must give yourself a timeframe for the goals , so you can then work backwards on when you need to do to get the individual actions done. So for us the landscaping goal is to be completed by autumn. Therefore all the actions have to be done between now and May/June. The same goes for the plan and costings of the kitchen & bathroom renovation. We need to have this done by June when we work through the budget for the new year. 

    Achieveing the Goals

    Easy as! just focus on the individual action steps as I discussed above. If you are not convinced then let me illustrate.

    Below is a list of all the goals that Pete and I have done since moving into our house, just on 5 years ago. And I mean what we actually did ourselves. 

    Complete redo of the downstairs; [painting/wallpaper/shelving/flooring/upcycling furniture]

    • Entertainment room
    • Laundry
    • Toilet
    • Bedroom
    • Study
    • Office

    Decorated the guest room upstairs - painting/made bedding

    Reworked old ensuite to maintain until complete reno - wardrobe makeover/shower makeover

    Complete and extensive redo of the sunroom - new ceiling/new wall linings/new flooring/make furniture covers/painting

    Built and developed up two new vegetable gardens

    Planted out new orchard

    Built composting system

    Built garden shed

    Repainted all the external wooden windows and french doors (17)

    Re stained the cedar [external cladding] on the top story and repainted the block on the bottom story. (250square metres)

    Stained all new decks and stairs (4)

    Re cabled the entire house

    These goals were all achieved by having timeframes and key actions that we needed to do to complete the goal. So we just slowly worked through all the actions and over time we started to knock off the big goals, like painting the house!

    We did get our awesome builder in to complete the laundry reno and replace and build four external decks and stair

     

    So there you have it, planning and goal setting care of Pete and Tania !

    I hope that you might find something useful from this that can help you to achieve your dreams through great goal setting.

    I`d love to hear what your goals are this year and how you are going to achieve them.

    Oh and Kiwis enjoy Waitangi Day and the lovely long weekend.