Citrus For All Seasons

Freshly picked, home-grown citrus isn’t a luxury reserved only for the picturesque gardens in the warm and sunny climate of the Mediterranean. Short on garden space? Growing citrus in containers can deliver you lemons even indoors. All it takes is some simple citrus basics, a little human ingenuity and you’re on your way to growing your very own fruits.

Citrus plants grown in containers do best in porous pots that dry out fairly quickly since the roots do not like to remain wet for long. Make sure you remove your citrus from the plastic containers they come in when purchased as the heat from the summer sun and can cause the roots to burn. 

Envious images of potted citrus can steer you toward big pots, but starting small and steady will win this race. Extra soil around trees complicates moisture control, so work your way up in pot size as trees grow. For small trees, a 30-cm diameter container is perfect for starters. Mature trees need pots double that width and at least 50 cm deep. This gives roots growing room and prevents tippy, top-heavy trees. 

Be sure that whatever container you use has plenty of drainage holes so that water drains away freely. It is prudent to raise any container off the ground on “pot feet” to facilitate drainage and ensure good air circulation.

The soil should be sterilized, gritty, and free-draining. Some of the soil mixes especially formulated for containers work well; if they seem to hold too much moisture, add sand or gravel to the mix. Water carefully, as overwatering is a common mistake, you may feel you’re doing the plant a favour, but this smothering of love may lead to the drowning death of the plant.

Most citrus plants like to partially dry out (the top Five centimeters of soil should feel dry) before receiving more water. These plants are quite greedy and require regular feeding to do well. If you are repotting a plant, incorporate some timed-release fertilizer into the soil at planting time. Also, select a liquid fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and apply this approximately every other week.

Standard citrus trees grow too big for indoors, but dwarf varieties are grafted onto special roots that limit their size and speed up fruiting. Growing them in containers keeps them smaller, too. If you’re new to growing citrus, start with dwarf types known to flourish and fruit well indoors. Easy-to-grow favourites, such as Meyer lemon, Key limes, Kumquats and Calamondin oranges, fit the bill.

When bringing pots in from outside before a frost, giving them a nice warm, slightly soapy wash will help to remove dust and any hidden pests, like a good wash should. They will also benefit from daily spritzing with plain water throughout the winter months to help raise the humidity level. When moving citrus from one area to another, do it gradually. Temperature fluctuations will stress the plant and can cause bud and/or fruit drop.

Do You Feel Grounded?

 

Connecting you bare skin to the ground is known as Earthing and Grounding, and any connection you have to the ground with your bare skin counts.

Regularly connecting to the earth’s natural, powerful energy is now known to be healing and vital. With busy lifestyles, jobs, families, errands and chores to do, we find ourselves spending very little time outside and even less time focusing on ourselves.

There are many ways to create a groundling link between yourself and the earth, but my favourite being the healing combination of plants and dirt.

If you’re already gardening, good for you! If you’re not then maybe you will be inspired. There are plenty of sensible ways you can improve your health by connecting to a more natural way of life.

Gardening Benefits:

  • You’ll find that in gardening, you’ll feel calmer, more relaxed and put together.

  • Able to release the electrical charge and free radicals we carry around with us all day just by digging around in the dirt.

  • Looking and being with nature reduces stress and promotes calmness.

  • Interaction with nature, familiar sights, sounds, different textures and smells provide a multi-sesnory experience that heals the mind.

  • Grow your own food and herbs and your likely to make better food choices and eat more fresh produce.

  • Gardening may just be one way to achieve your daily exercise and help keep those hand muscles vigorous and agile.

  • Achieve a healthy dose of vitamin D, there’s no place like the garden in the early morning.

  • Houseplants and indoor gardens help clean the air we breath indoors by removing household toxins found in furniture and building materials.

  • You’ll be able to admire and enjoy the fruits of your labour and beautiful gardens so they can be enjoyed with family and friends.

Everyone can benefit from taking a moment to focus on themselves and their connection with the Earth – and you don’t even have to be outside to do it.

 

Grow Your Winter Herb Garden Indoors

 

I’ts officially winter out there and the coming of winter is a not always the most exciting or activity packed time in most gardens. During this season of short, dark days, indoor herb gardens offer welcome greenery and fragrance. You can easily bring herbs indoors for the nippy months even if you have little experience with plants or very little space to work with.

Some herbs naturally lend themselves better to indoor growing conditions. Parsley, basil, sage and thyme are known to hold up stronger inside. Extra perk is they are all perfect herb solutions for winter stews, casseroles and roasts. Isn’t it great when those things work out?

To bring your herb garden indoors for winter you need to find a table or shelf with sufficient fluorescent light (you must remember that to a plant, light is food) this will guarantee that your herb plants obtain all the necessary light and will also prevent them from die-back that occurs from being against a cold window. In warmer months, you can move your herbs to a sunny window or a shady balcony that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day so that they thrive.

The easiest way to start your indoor winter herb garden is to buy established plants especially if you’re only a novice gardener. There are several types of containers you can use for the plants, but terracotta planters are very popular and can me the modest option if you’re only starting out. Make sure the pots and container you select have drainage holes in the bottom Whatever container you select it should be deep enough to promote proper root development. You can plant multiple herbs in one container or select individual pots for each herb plant. You should also make sure that your herbs are not to overcrowded as this, too can lead to fungal problems that may kill your plants.

When repotting It’s a good idea to go with a store-bought potting mix. Be sure the mix is lightweight and will drain well. Pour a 5cm layer of potting soil into the bottom of your container and place your plant gently in its location. Finish filling it with potting mix, pressing it firmly around the plants. Leave about an 3cm of space at the top to make room for watering.

Remember that too much love can kill your herbs by watering too often: Excess water is harmful to the roots and causes rotting. Fertilize your herbs once a month with an organic fertilizer. Once you start to see new growth, you can begin to use your herbs for cooking.

Here are a few herbs that are particularly well suited for indoor growth:

  1. Parsley: Parsley needs at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. If you can’t provide enough natural sunlight, grow the plants under fluorescent lights.

  2. Basil: Requires bright light and warm temperatures.

  3. Sage: Appreciates a manicure (prune back spindly branches) and drier conditions.

  4. Chives: Member of the onion family is best used fresh. Chives like bright light and cool temperatures.

  5. Dill: Choose a dwarf variety. You’ll need to make successive plantings to ensure a continuous crop since dill doesn’t grow back after harvesting.

  6. Lemon balm: This is easy to grow from seed and its fresh fragrance can be enjoyed in salads and drinks.

  7. Oregano: The soil must need to be loose and well-drained to prevent over-watering. The plant requires partial to full sun light either in a well-lit window seal or under a florescent light for at least 6 – 8+ hours per day

  8. Rosemary: Soil needs to be well drained, but don’t let it dry out completely.

  9. Thyme: Many varieties of thyme are available. Very well-drained, or gravelly soil is especially important for woolly or creeping thymes. Keep the plants moist by misting until you see new growth.

 

Gardening As A Workout

Spring is almost here and with it comes gardening and seeing new foliage grow and flourish, it’s the season for rejuvenation.

But did you know that while you’re getting your garden ready for the sunny season your also working up a sweat! Wow. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too.

As a gardening enthusiast, you’ve probably spent hours reading and exploring how to produce a healthier, more beautiful garden or simply how to keep your plants alive and thriving. But have you ever considered how gardening can produce a healthier you without ever having to consume a single home grown meal.

There are so many simple gardening activities like raking, fertilizing, weeding and mowing that can all give you an enjoyable and rewarding workout. Gardening is, in fact, a legit physical activity. Sweet! It’s also a great alternative to traditional exercise because it incorporates elements of exercise while enabling you to engage in an enjoyable activity in the privacy of your own surroundings and amongst your own family.

Elements of gardening such as digging, weeding, trimming shrubs and mowing the lawn can require the same energy requirements as other physical activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics. It gives you zest for life and can even make you feel younger, after all it reminds us of those days as kids looking for the latest insect.

Gardening helps tone your physique while also tending to the plants. Work such as raking and carrying leaves can tone the upper arms and increase flexibility and strength. Gardening tasks qualify as moderate to high-intensity physical activity, you can expend as much effort raking the lawn as you would during a leisurely bicycle ride…it’s also great at perfecting your squat technique when pulling out those rude weeds.

Not only does gardening help you physically, but it provides us with the satisfaction of a beautiful lawn to look at or fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy. So as the gardening season approaches, consider your gardening time as an opportunity to get a healthier lawn and a healthier you! Go green to get lean, seriously it can put a spring back in your step.

So tell me have you been gardening lately? Would you give up a day of working out to work in the yard? I highly recommend it. You can also incorporate this time and include the kids. Teaching the little ones about plants and seeing them discover the process and transformation plants undergo with both time and seasons is beautiful.

I love the idea that just gardening as a workout can exercise nearly every part of your body. It’s also soothing for the soul to be in touch with the earth, a concept known as “grounding”. It can also be a very meditative activity as you’re absorbed with the task at hand, so it’s great for clearing the mind of white noise. Finally sit back and enjoy the literal fruits of your labour. Simply being in the presence of trees and plants reduces stress, so once your garden is looking neat and tidy it will be time to start the barbeque.

Tools For The Urban Gardener

 

In these modern gardening times there is quite literally a device for every gardening function imaginable. With such a range available, it’s no wonder collecting gardening tools can border on addiction. The same could be said for the indoor garden, the only difference is you won’t need to install a tool shed to house all those addictive tools, a small basket should do the job.

There are only a few implements that are actually necessary when working in the urban or indoor garden, often coming down to personal choice or even adapting the odd household item for the task (trust me I’ve been known to have used a serving soon to move potting mix around).

So here are my “go to” or “must” have tools that I would suggest any novice gardener to invest in.

A fork of some kind is essential. The old two-prong kitchen variety is quite suitable but the prongs should be slightly blunted. This is a great tool, used to keep the top soil open, preventing soil compaction, allowing the passage of water and air to the roots.

A small trowel or garden scoop is necessary for filling troughs and other containers and a potting stick or dibble can also be used to make the appropriate size holes when planting all but the largest plants.

The selection of gardening tools should also include either a modern pruning knife or a small sharp secateurs that can be used for pruning and cutting, with the latter being my personal preference to snip off dead or withered leaves.

A finely nozzle spraying can, which can be used to spray the leaves of your plants (reducing cleaning) and also a great way to fertilise or spray pesticide on your indoor plants.

A watering can with a long narrow spout is also the best watering utensil because the flow can be directed beneath the foliage and away from the vulnerable crown of the plant, you can find some efficient watering cans that have a removable rose so you have both watering options. May I also suggest keeping the water at room temperature which can be most easily obtained by keeping a full can in the room.

Many other articles can be added as they are found desirable and could include a sieve for sifting soil for small pots, plant labels, twine, canes and stakes and gardening gloves or lined rubber gloves.

And as previously suggested if a garden tool basket can be obtained to hold all these gardening tools it will make for tidiness and save time. There is nothing more infuriating than having to search for a tool that is required for a certain trivial job at a certain moment.

 

No-Gardening Garden

 

Think ‘garden’ and you get a mind full of fabulous flowers, leafy trees and lush lawns; a gorgeously green place of peace and placidity. But, the truth is, most of us don’t have the ground to grow such greenery.

The busy, concrete congestion of city life can leave us pining for a patch of earth to call our own and nurture our connection to nature. With a bit of imagination, there’s no reason we can’t combine the two and give ourselves some breathing space.

Watching plants grow satisfies a basic, instinctive need. Caring for and cultivating a garden brings health benefits and soothes stress while nourishing you and creating a calm corner to escape to. Even though houseplants have made a comeback, they might not scratch your green itch or counter your garden craving.

While indoor plants give blooms to boost your living space, outdoor plants bring something more. Beyond thriving in artificial and protected environments, they speak to us of fresh air and open spaces, sunlight and summer scents. Bringing birds, butterflies and creatures, this open-air greenery changes with the seasons and plays to the patterns of nature.

By learning to make the most of your space, you’ll be astounded at just how much joy you can gain from gardening without a garden. There’s always a way – even house walls and boundary fences can carry climbers and wall plants. When you think outside the planter box, the variety of available containers means paths, patios, steps, porches and balconies can become green havens.

Don’t let a lack of space deter you; fruit and veggies can flourish in containers. While you’re not likely to produce a commercial-sized crop, they can still bring you great satisfaction. There’s nothing quite like strolling through your garden, gathering your own home-grown strawberries, lemons and herbs.

Get the kids involved in the ritual of gardening. By letting them get their hands dirty, they can learn about living things. Putting them in charge of their own pot plants and including them in basic gardening rituals helps furnish family-time. It’s so important that they gain a greater appreciation for the living world and the creepy crawlies that go with it.

Gardening in a small space can be equal parts challenging and rewarding. Each plant commands focus, and as you watch them reach maturity or follow a fruit to ripening, you get a real sense of achievement that you’ve been part of this growth. Whatever the size, gardening is all about trial and error. We’re not born with a green thumb – the reality is, it takes practice and patience to build the skills to keep your garden thriving in any space.

 

Harvest Your Own Rose Tea

The simple ritual of sharing a cup of tea brings people together in a way that restores body mind and spirit. There is something beautiful about tea, the scent, the dried herbs and flowers, and of course the taste. But have you ever attempted to make your own blend.

I wanted to create an invigorating tea using rose petals, after all it’s the start of rose season and we soon will have roses in abundance, so why not enjoy them once they have bloomed.

The important thing to note when making your own tea is to be sure that all your ingredients are safe for consumption. You could dry your own roses if you like. Just be sure they have not been sprayed with any type of insecticide or chemical. If you don’t have insecticide free roses this season, bring on a couple of your most fragrant varieties for next year and use organic protection methods to make them available for culinary use.

Blown blooms (fully mature flowers) that haven’t browned will make the most flavorful tea petals. The most fragrant rose varieties typically make the best tea.

Although you can use any color of rose, you may find that sticking with a single color or color range makes the most visually appealing tea. (It does make a lovely gift.)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

2 cups fresh rose petals

2 vanilla pods

PREPARE YOUR INGREDIENTS:

1. You will first need to dry out your Rose Petals and toast your Vanilla pods. Rose petals dry quickly if you’re using a heat source, so watch them closely to make sure they don’t scorch. They should be “shatter” dry, but not brown. In an oven, they just take 30 min to dry completely (in a single layer).

2. Split your Vanilla pods and then add them on the same tray your drying out your rose petals so that they are also slightly toasted in the oven.

3. Once your Vanilla beans have been toasted and cooled roughly chop them and add them to a small glass container along with your dried rose petals, give them a good shake so they are all mixed in together, and your new tea blend is now ready to be brewed or gifted.

BREWING YOUR TEA

1. Measure the desired amount of your tea blend and place into a teapot or teacup. Use 1 tsp of tea for every 1 cup of water.

2. Add enough hot water at 90°c (just before reaching boiling) to submerse the tea.

3. Let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes for the first and then 4-5 minutes on the second brewing.

Note: Adding sugar or honey is optional. You can make rose-scented sugar to accompany the rose-scented tea.

How To Get the Kids Gardening

 

It won’t be news to you that today’s kids don’t spend enough time outdoors. Despite our frequent encouragement (or should we say please) the lure of phones, iPads and the TV, prove too strong a match for the prospect of fresh air and sunshine.

Throw in our own busy lifestyles and it’s a tough ask to meet the activity levels recommended for health and wellbeing. If you think you’ve used every trick in the book to get your kids off the couch, think again.

Gardening might just be your new best friend.

It turns out a bit of green thumb activity is the perfect fit for the creativity and boundless energy of children. If you don’t know the difference between a spade and a shovel (hint: they’re actually the same thing), these tips will come in handy when convincing your kids to get into the garden.

Motor skills and intellectual stimulation

Most children love being outdoors, creating things, digging in the soil, getting dirty and watching plants grow. By channelling that passion into gardening, your kids will learn new skills and develop self-confidence while they get to play and have fun. And there’s nothing more satisfying than tending to plants and growing food you then get to eat.

There’s no room for boredom

There are so many different skills needed in the garden, from weeding to pruning, planting seedlings to harvesting vegetables. That makes it perfect for restless, energetic little ones. Set up a circuit of different stations in your backyard so your whole army of budding gardeners remain engaged for hours at a time.

Muddy hands and face, oh yeah!

Do your kids love mess as much as you despise it? The garden is one place where it’s recommended to get your hands dirty, which your little ones are sure to love.

Gardening lets them get as filthy as they like, meaning they’ll get all that wild banshee energy out of their system – and at a safe distance from your beautiful linen sofa.

Keep it simple

As we all know, kids are inquisitive (read: easily distracted), so start them off with plants that are child-friendly: those that grow quickly, are hardy or have interesting textures or colours. Give your kids their own garden space and start small. Think a few pots, a large container or a 1 metre x 1 metre patch in the garden. Soon they’ll feel like this activity is really their own.

Use colours and shapes to stimulate them

Kids like large, brightly coloured flowers and vegetables. Sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries are all great choices for visually interesting plants.

Strawberries in particular are an easy (and rewarding) plant for your kids to grow, thanks to the added fun of picking and eating your very own berries.

Fruit trees are another great choice. Go for a lemon or orange tree – hello freshly squeezed OJ and lemonade – and make sure you buy an established tree, otherwise you (and your kids) will be waiting years for any fruit!

Stimulation overload – mission impossible in the garden

Create a sensory garden by adding some plants that reward touching, tasting and smelling, alongside those with bright colours and interesting textures. Find some varieties that make noise when the wind blows through them. By stimulating every one of their senses, the garden will quickly capture their attention.

Start a project

Make a mini greenhouse, set up a worm farm and plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects or birds. Show your kids where flowers, fruit and vegetables come from by planting seeds together. You can let them decide what they would like to grow, and they can see the growing process from start to finish. A great little experiment is to grow an avocado from seed. As well as enjoying a bounty of free avocados, you and your kids also get to see the huge seed turn into a plant. Another great way to bring the kids outside is by building a bean or vine teepee. By planting a vertical garden, this will create a fun hideout for the kids and you’ll be having to tell them to come inside for once.

This one is for the parents

Garden organically wherever possible and make sure you only give children garden tools that are safe and that they’re ready to handle. There are heaps of garden tools available now that are made just for kids.