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Grow your own mushrooms

Check out or buy these kits here

Coffee lovers listen up! Our favourite drink also produces a TONNE of waste….in fact – in Melbourne CBD alone it’s estimated that nearly 5000 tonnes of ground coffee waste is thrown away every. single. week.

But thanks to a couple of clever lads, some of this coffee waste is being used to grow mushrooms! Life Cykel Mushrooms grow their shrooms on urban farms in shipping containers and then cleverly selling the super fresh mushies back to the cafes who gave them the coffee grounds! But so we can all be mushroom farmers – they created these brilliant Home grown Mushroom Boxes.

These kits grow the stunning Oyster Mushrooms which have a velvety texture, smooth taste and dense nutrient content. They’re also packed with B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous and iron – in fact they often get called the vegetarian steak!

Getting them growing at home is simple. Just open the grow window, cut a cross in the plastic and then mist the opening with water twice a day. All that white stuff inside the plastic is the mycelium or mushroom roots – that have grown in the waste coffee grounds and are revved up, ready to grow once you open the bag and add humidity.

You don’t need to put these babies in the dark – just keep them sitting on your kitchen bench and the crop will be ready to harvest in about 7-10 days. But as soon as you notice they aren’t doubling in size each day, you can pick the entire crop. And each mushroom kit will give you 2-3 flushes of growth, just turn the plastic bag around!

Cook these up however you fancy, but I can’t go past mushrooms on toast. Of course though, this classic cafe dish wouldn’t be hipster without a sprinkle of microgreens….but don’t worry there is a coffee waste kit for that too!

How to plant a butterfly garden

Butterflies are the Fairy Queens of our gardens flitting from flower to flower and with a little know how and the right plants you can transform your garden into a butterfly playground!

The secret to luring butterflies is to grow both host plants which provide food and shelter for young caterpillars and nectar rich butterfly attracting flowers.

While most caterpillars aren’t too fussy about the leaves they eat others are very particular about their dinner. For example Dingy Swallowtail butterflies like to feed on citrus and the Common Imperial Blue favours wattles. Just bear in mind that caterpillars will chew the leaves of their favourite plants, so just be prepared to accept a few holes here and there.

Butterflies flock to sedums with their masses of pink flowers from summer to autumn. You’ll also find them flitting around colourful daisies, nasturtiums and gorgeous yarrow flowers. The sunflower is a magnet for nectar hungry butterflies too – with its brightly coloured blooms so too is the pretty Verbena bonariensis.

Try growing colourful flowers in big bold groups to catch their attention as they’re flying overhead they also like simple flowers that are flat and easy to land on and don’t forget to grow plants that flower in different seasons to attract butterflies to your garden throughout the year.

A kids friendly vegetable garden

I’m going to create a pint sized patch – perfect for kids!

It’s gonna be filled with kid-friendly vegetables, oodles of pretty edible flowers and I’m gonna do it all organically.

I’ve chosen a range autumn and winter growing veggies to suit the coming seasons, but of course if you are planting in spring or summer then you’d reach for kids favourites like tomatoes, cucumbers and corn. I’ve already mixed through some compost into these veggie planters, so they are ready to go.

My kids go mad for peas, I’m going to plant 2 types. A snow pea and also a podding variety called Bounty. Now both of these are dwarf varieties which means they won’t need staking and their pickings will be in easy kiddie reach! This Bounty variety is a really early cropper, in just 7 -10 weeks we’ll be picking handfuls of full sized pods.

Next in goes some broccoli ‘Bambino’, this is one of the branching broccoli’s, so it will still produce a central head but if you lop that off when it’s about the size of a 10 cent piece you’ll get oodles of side shoots that you can pick for months.

Kids love colour, so I can’t forget this rainbow silverbeet – these brightly coloured stems keep their colour, even when cooked!

And you can’t bet mini carrots for a quick veggie garden snack. This is a variety called “Little Fingers” and they are ready to harvest in 4-6 weeks – and best of all they’re perfect picked when they’re about 8cm long.

To really make this patch eye-poppingly pretty I’m going to include some edible flowers too – you can use these to decorate cakes or toss through a salad. I can’t forget some herbs either – these Mixed Punnet Eziplanters are super handy coz you get 6 different herbs all in 1 punnet.

Get the kids excited about these veggies growing and get them involved in caring for the patch as well. So once a fortnight give the plants a dose of the certified organic fertiliser eco-aminogro and then to really amp up production pop in some eco-seaweed too.

With this organic combo your veggies will be sweeter and more tender, which of course the kids will love and with this productive bunch of plants you’ll be picking from the patch in no time!

How to plant a bee friendly garden

Bee’s – what’s all the buzz about and why do we need them in our garden?

When I tell you that 1 in mouthfuls of the food that we eat is thanks to the work of bees and that 90% of all food crops are pollinated by bees… then you begin to understand just how important these supply!

So attracting bees into your garden not only helps pollinate your fruit and veggies, but it can actually help pollinate fruit and vegies on farms up to five kilometres away – because bees will travel that far for the sweet nectar.

Creating a bee-friendly garden at your place is easy – it can be as simple as some pots of flowering plants or as elaborate as a full flowering mass planted border just make sure you’ve got things in flower in every season.

Bright and sweetly scented flowers like these Bidens are irresistible to bees and I can smell why! Bidens are long flowering with a low growing habit and masses of these sunshine yellow, long-lasting flowers. They love full sun and a good trim back once they’ve finished flowering.

You could also try including some Pentas to bring in the bees – these tiny star-shaped flowers come in red, white or lavender shades and the bees just love them! Cut these plants back hard in winter to encourage oodles of new growth in the spring.

Now of course once you’ve attracted bees into your garden you want to make sure that you’re not going to harm them or worse kill them! So if you need to use an insecticide or a fungicide choose one from the eco organic garden range these are certified organic and absolutely safe for bees. Check out the range from eco organic garden here: https://ecoorganicgarden.com.au/

Pomegranate Gin Sour Cocktail

Downloadable recipe here

Makes 1 cocktail…double or triple as you need 😉 

For the cocktail:

  • Plenty of Ice (approx. 1-1 ½ cups)
  • 30ml of your favourite gin (we used Four pillars)
  • 30ml pomegranate molasses
  • 45ml lemon juice
  • 15ml simple sugar syrup*
  • 1 whole raw eggwhite* (optional)

For the garnish:

  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • A scattering of pomegranate seeds from half a fresh pomegranate
  • 4-5 ice cubes for serving

Equipment:

  • 1x short (rocks) glass
  • 1x cocktail/Boston shaker (alternatively you can use a large jar)
  • 1x small strainer
  • 1x manual citrus juicer
  • 1x jigger measure, or other small quantity measure

Method:

Combine all cocktail ingredients into a cocktail shaker (or large jar if you don’t own one) and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, or until the liquid looks light and fluffy. Place your 4-5 ice cubes into a rocks glass and strain the sour mixture over the top. It should look foamy and creamy like cappuccino froth! Beautifully garnish your beverage by sprinkling over a pinch of cinnamon and a small handful of fresh pomegranate jewels.

*Simple sugar syrup is made by stirring together equal parts white sugar and boiling water until the sugar dissolves. Wait until the mixture is completely cool before using in any cocktails.

*Raw eggwhite is optional in this drink, however it is necessary to achieve the light fluffy texture we’re looking for. The proteins from the eggwhite are what stabilises the froth, without it your cocktail will look a little flat and lack creaminess. 

Spring Onion Pancakes

Spring onion pancakes are one of my favourite Chinese dishes – you might think that they’re really hard to make but I’m gonna show you how to whip them up in a jiffy!

These tasty pancakes are best served as part of a shared meal, in a Chinese feast, accompanying meat/fish/tofu or as a snack with an ice-cold beer on their own.

For the full recipe in a downloadable and printable document click here.

INGREDIENTS

For the Dough

1 ¾ cup plain flour

½ cup self raising flour

3 tablespoons coconut oil

¾ cup warm water (plus extra if needed)

1 teaspoon table salt

For Assembling and Cooking Pancakes

3 Spring onions chopped finely (green part only)

3 tablespoons sesame oil for brushing

Table salt for sprinkling

Coconut oil for frying

Extra plain flour for dusting work surface

For the Dipping Sauce

¼ cup light soy sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

½ finely chopped long red chilli (seeds removed if you don’t like it too spicy)

Coriander for garnish (optional)

METHOD

Combine all dipping sauce ingredients (except coriander) in small bowl, stir and serve garnished with coriander.

To make the dough, place the flours, coconut oil, salt and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 5 minutes or until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. (If you are finding the mixture a little dry and it doesn’t come together, add 1 teaspoon of warm water at a time until dough forms a ball and comes together).

The dough is done, when it holds a finger indent indefinitely and is smooth and elastic to touch.

Wrap the dough ball in cling film and leave in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

To assemble & cook the pancakes

Unwrap the dough onto a chopping board and using a sharp knife, cut into 6 equal pieces. Roll the dough into balls and drape them with a damp tea towel so they don’t dry out as you work.

Lightly flour your flat, smooth work surface and use a rolling pin to roll one of the 6 balls until it reaches 15-20cm in diameter.

Using a pastry brush, cover the entire top surface of dough with the sesame oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and approx. 1 tablespoon of chopped spring onion.

Starting from the edge closest to you, roll pancake away from your body, capturing the filling as you go. It should resemble a skinny, sausage shaped, Swiss roll.

Spiral the sausage shaped dough in to a snail formation. Cover with your damp tea towel to avoid drying out and set aside.

Repeat this process with all 6 portions of dough.

One at a time, using the dough that you rolled first, it’s time to flatten your “snails”. Lightly flour your work surface and using a rolling pin, gently roll your snail in to a flat, round, pancake shape approx. 15-20cm in diameter (the thinner the better!).

Heat 2 tsp coconut oil (on medium heat) in a fry pan. Fry your pancake for 2-3minutes per side, flipping intermittently to ensure the pancake isn’t burning. Once the pancake is crispy and cooked through, cut in to wedges and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

It is helpful to have two fry pans on the go to ensure quick cooking so the first batch of pancakes don’t go cold before the last batch is cooked.

Dahlia’s Ain’t Dowdy – how to grow beautiful dahlias

Dahlia’s certainly ain’t dowdy! In fact this old-fashioned beauty is making one serious comeback – this diverse group of plants comes in a stunning mix of shades from white and yellows to reds, oranges, pinks and purples and almost black! Even specky bicolour varieties and an array of flower shapes from single varieties that attract the bees, too fancy doubles in every design. You’ll find tall varieties and dwarf types that reach your knees.

You can grow dahlias from tubers which are planted sometime between late winter and spring or through the warmer months you can get them potted like this. Now dahlias like to bask in the sun and they do best in a moist well-drained soil, they also like protection from strong winds particularly the taller varieties.

Dahlias are one of those invaluable plants that burst into bloom in the summer and continue flowing right through until autumn, when a lot of that colour has dropped off. In fact if conditions are right you can get flowers on dahlias right up to a Mother’s Day! So they combined beautifully with other late flowering stars in the perennial border.

When the flowers start to fade just deadhead them to encourage more blooms – simply cut the faded stem back to a pair of leaves to keep the plant looking good. Or better yet harvest the flowers when they’re at their peak and bring them indoors for vases of spectacular colour!

Natural Dyed Easter Eggs with a botanical twist

How to create your own natural vegetable dyes….

HINT – these dyes work best on white or very pale coloured eggs. Hard boil the eggs (and allow them to cool) BEFORE colouring them.

Natural Beetroot Dye for Easter Eggs 
(will make eggs a purple colour)

– 2 cups of grated beetroot
– 2 cups of water
– tablespoon of vinegar

Simmer the grated beetroot in the water for 15-20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and strain off the beetroot. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the cooled, strained dye and set aside until needed.

 

Natural Purple Cabbage Dye for Easter Eggs
(will make eggs a blue colour)

– half a purple cabbage, finely chopped
– enough water to barely cover it in a small pot
– 1 tablespoon of vinegar per cup of liquid after simering

Simmer the chopped cabbage in enough water to barely cover it for 15-30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and strain off the cabbage. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar for each cup of dyed liquid left.

Natural Brown Onion Skin Dye for Easter Eggs
(will make eggs a golden/bronze colour)

– brown onion skins from 6-10 onions
– enough water to barely cover them in a small pot.
– 1 tablespoon of vinegar per cup of liquid after simmering

Simmer the onion skins in water for 15-30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, before straining off the onion skins. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar for each cup of dyed liquid left.

——-

Now to add the botanical twist! Before placing the eggs in the natural vegetable dyes, use a stocking or pantyhose to hold a leaf or flower against each egg.

Then pop the eggs into your choosen dye and leave them to soak up the dye overnight.

Remove from the dye, take off the stocking or pantyhose and the leaf or flower and allow them to air dry on a rack. Once they are dry – add a nice shine to each egg by gently rubbing over some olive oil.

And tah dah you’re done! Use these beauties to decorate your Easter table.

Fig, Goats Curd & Macadamia Salad

Introducing EJ Butler – our gorgeous new Guest Gardenette!

In this video EJ whips up her beautiful Fig, Goats Curd & Macadamia Nut Salad. This fig salad is a great way to celebrate figs and the dressing using WHOLE FIGS to make it rich and creamy is genius! This dressing would be just as amazing on many salads too.

For a downloadable copy of EJ’s full recipe click here 

Fig, Goats Curd and Macadamia Salad

Serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal.

For this recipe you’ll need 6 large or 9 small ripe figs in total. This dish is best made when figs are in season, they can be char grilled or caramelized for an extra depth of flavour. This gorgeous salad looks most impressive on a large wooden board or retro serving platter using a layering technique.

INGREDIENTS

For the Dressing:

  • 2 small or 1 large fresh whole fig
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt + ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed from stem

For the Croutons

  • 150g stale sourdough bread (inside part only, no crusts) torn into rough 3cm chunks
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt

For the Salad

  • 5 large or 7 small ripe figs, quartered
  • 150g goats curd (we used Woodside brand, but Meredith would be fine also)
  • 80g roasted macadamias, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 60g bitter leaves, we used watercress

METHOD

To make your croutons, preheat an oven to 180 degrees. Place your torn sourdough bread in a roasting tin and massage through the olive oil and salt.  Bake for 10-15 min (or until thoroughly dry), tossing after 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

For the dressing, simply place all your dressing ingredients in a mini food processor and blend together until nice and smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl and set aside.

To make your salad, start by spreading 2/3 of the goats curd on the base of your platter, reserving the rest for garnishing at the end. Sprinkle ¾ of your bitter leaves on the goats curd, and pour over 2 tablespoons of dressing. Liberally scatter the croutons and macadamias and add another 2 tablespoons of dressing. Add the remaining bitter leaves and quartered figs on top and drizzle 1 last tablespoon of that beautiful dressing.  Finally, finish by dolloping the goats curd with a teaspoon for contrasting colour.

Create a Zen Inspired Tea Garden

Life can get a little bit crazy sometimes and we love the idea that you can escape into the garden for a bit of me time. So here’s how to bring a touch of Zen to your little corner of the world.

Running water has to be one of the most relaxing sounds and nothing brings a calming sense of tranquility into the garden quite like water feature.

We’ve used a Harmony Fountain from Northcote Pottery to bring a touch of the orient to our design and it’s the perfect statement piece to bring out mini Zen makeover to life.

And also some statement pots. We’re using Modstone pots in a polished concrete look – so nice neutral tones – to create a calm vibe and complement the fountain. And because the fountain is big you want big pots too really create impact. With these pots you get a concrete look without the weight so you can easily move them around.

This design is needed a Weeping Japanese Maple – they’re the perfect plant for a this look and this variety is an absolute stunner. Introducing – ‘Dissectum Crimson Wave’. It has a more upright layered form than some of the weeping maples and the foliage is just divine – delicate, fine and a gorgeous burgundy colour.

Having a cup of calming herbal tea is such a simple pleasure, so why not create a mini tea pot garden filled with herbal delights that you can grow and brew.

Our favourite tea herbs (all available from the Oasis Horticulture range):

1. Lemon verbena – smells divine in the garden and in the cup with zesty lemon scented foliage that can help to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and calm the stomach.

2. Common mint – a mint tea can be used to relieve a nagging headache or treat the common cold

3. Spearmint – use a spearmint to reduce nausea and make your tummy feel good

4. Lemon Balm – brew a cup of lemon balm tea to help reduce anxiety.

So when life gets to you here’s the perfect place to escape to. Cheers!