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Create a succulent ball

I love a bit of garden art so I’m going to create a living succulent ball that can be a hanging feature in your garden.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 good sized hanging baskets
A stylish selection of succulents
Quality potting mix
A piece of cardboard
Cable ties
A few pieces of floristy wire

I’m using matching Stratford Hanging Baskets from Northcote Pottery’s Clyde Garden Collection. The detail on them is bird cage like, which is wonderfully decorative and there’s plenty of room for planting succulents.

Start by filling both of the baskets with potting mix. Now the tricky bit is joining the two baskets to form a sphere – so here’s a neat trick. Simply place a piece of cardboard over the top of one of the baskets, put the two halves together and gently slide the cardboard out. Then firmly secure the baskets with cable ties.

Now comes the fun part the planting. I’ve chosen a selection of Echeveria’s from InStyle succulents. I’m using different colors and forms for extra impact. So I’ve got some darker forms like ‘Painted Lady’ which has burgundy coming through the foliage and ‘Black Knight’ which has burgundy or almost black tips and then some silver forms for real contrast.

These plants have been grown as plugs so they’ve only got a small root system which makes them perfect for this style of planting. Now all you need to do is cut little holes into your hanging basket liner and pop them in. If they are a little insecure just get your hands on some floristry wire and you can pin them in.

If you’re finding it tricky to get underneath then try resting the basket on a pot to do the lower half and remember to secure any loose succulents with floristry wire. Now all you need to do is reattach some of the wires from the hanging basket were removed earlier and it’s ready to display in the garden. The perfect garden disco ball!

How get rid of black flies around indoor plants – Fungus Gnats

The pesky little black or grey flies darting around your indoor plants are fungus gnats!

While the flying adults are just plain annoying, it’s the larvae which live in the potting mix that can be doing some serious harm to your plants.

The adult flies lay their eggs into the potting mix and the teenie tiny, larvae hatch out and feed on organic matter including plant roots and soft tender stems. This can cause wilting and slow the growth rate of your plants right down.

But there are 3 simple ways to get rid your fungus gnat problems!

Number 1 – DO NOT overwater your plants. Fungus gnats love wet potting mix and outbreaks most often occur when the soil isn’t allowed to dry out between waterings. The eggs and larvae need continuous moisture to survive, so allowing the soil to dry out before you wanter can help break the lifecycle.

Number 2 – Kill the larvae in the potting mix using a soil drench of eco-neem. This is really easy to do – simply mix up the right dilution in large bucket. Then take each of your plants and allow them to soak in the mix until the air bubbles have stopped. Let them drain outside in the shade, before bringing them back inside. You’ll need to repeat this soil drench in 7 days because the flying adults can live for a week or more.

Number 3 – Do NOT allow water to pool around the roots of your plants. So tip out excess water that may gather in cover pots or saucers after watering. Leaving it will just encourage algae to grow, which the fungus gnats will just feed on!

So don’t let fungus gnats invade your indoor plant jungle and remember….there is anyways room for one more plant!

You can buy eco-neem from Bunnings & all good garden centres OR online here: https://ecoorganicgarden.com.au/produ…

Orange & Thyme Panna Cotta

ORANGE, SAFFRON AND THYME PANNA COTTA

Downloadable PDF Recipe HERE

Serves approx. 8. Prep time 45min + 4 hours cooling time in the fridge.

This recipe calls for 5 whole oranges. You’ll need the zest of these for the first part of the recipe, reserving the flesh for serving. This sweet treat looks really impressive made in 8 martini or retro dessert glasses and can be made a day ahead of time. The ingredients can be halved to produce 4 desserts.

INGREDIENTS

For the Panna Cotta:

– 1 pinch saffron steeped in 1 TBL boiling water for at least 5 min

– Zest of 5 oranges

– 600ml pouring cream

– 400ml full fat milk

– 2 TBL honey

– 50g caster sugar

– 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

– 8 sheets (leaves) gelatine (we used mackenzies brand)

– Cold water for soaking gelatine

For the macerated oranges:

– 5 oranges, peeled and segmented

– 1 TBL caster sugar

– 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

– Fresh thyme sprigs for serving (flowering if you can get them!)

METHOD

Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for approximately 10 minutes. In the meantime, you can start on the panna cotta mixture.

Combine in a medium size pot over a medium heat all the panna cotta ingredients, except for the gelatine and the water it’s soaking in. Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture until it starts to steam and small bubbles form around the sides of the pot. DO NOT LET THIS BOIL. Once hot, pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside. Squeeze out the excess water from the bloomed gelatine and whisk into the hot panna cotta liquid until it has completely dissolved. Strain the mix into a jug and wait until it cools to a luke warm temperature before pouring into the dessert/martini glasses. Set these in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving your dessert, combine the segmented oranges, thyme leaves and caster sugar and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Top each panna cotta with the macerated orange segments and some of its juice. Garnish with beautiful thyme sprigs and thyme flowers if you have any.

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!