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How to use garden screens

The right screen in the right place can be the difference between an eyesore and a decorative feature in the garden.

I love the look of rusted metal in a garden – I think it adds style and character to outdoor living areas. These outdoor garden screens from Northcote pottery are made from weathering steel so they have a lovely rusted appearance and they come in different patterns and sizes to create privacy, block unsightly views and decorate every corner of the garden.

This bare old fence is screaming out for a makeover, so in go these Moroccan style Geometric screens and what a difference. I’ve broken up the screens with some simple climbing frames so that I can get some greenery growing up here. It’s looking a bit bare at the moment, but I’m planting a beautiful deciduous climber called Boston Ivy. It will create a lovely wall of green in the spring and summer and in autumn it turns beautiful shades of red. So the combination of the rusted screens and colourful foliage will be just stunning.

Now it’s time to update the old gate and give it a new lease on life. Goodbye boring gate palings, hello stylish new entrance. The biggest screens in this range are 1800 x 900mm, which is the standard size of a lot of garden gates – so I just removed the old palings and kept the frame intact, then drilled the screen to the frame and wha la – there’s just no comparison.

I also like to use rusted screens as works of art in the garden and the smaller screens in Northcote Pottery’s collection are just perfect for creating a focal point, dressing up a tired old fence or spicing up a dull wall.

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.