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.

Get The Gardening Glow

 

With almost 67 per cent of Australians living in our capital cities, we’re one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world. Considering the day-to-day stresses or urban living, traffic, overcrowding and simply not enough time – this means up to 16 million of us could benefit from the physical and mental advantages provided by gardening.

Whether it’s a sprawling veggie patch in the backyard, a flowerbed in a small courtyard, a window box or even a community garden space, almost anyone can achieve a gardening glow. 

Gardening is a great workout, It not only works all those major muscle groups, it burns calories as well. Also, gardening improves the mood almost instantly, so it’s fantastic for the soul.

The Fitness Factor

Forget about working hard in the gym or building up a sweat on the treadmill, gardening is just as good as a workout, if not better. Prolonged light exercise such as gardening can burn more calories than a gym session, despite being much easier to do.

Stress Relief

Gardening can increase life satisfaction, reduce and promote recovery from stress, enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression and fatigue. Ask any gardener and almost all will insist that they feel better after getting their hands dirty in the soil. An activity like gardening gives you something to celebrate and care about. When you’ve tended and grown something it gives you a sense of purpose and pride, which in turn make you feel good about yourself.

Mood Enchasing

Having flowers in and around your home not only looks beautiful, they also have amazing health benefits, such as reducing stress and depression. Flowers increase positive energies and soothe and relax the soul. Plants in the home also increase energy levels and vitality. 

Immunity Boost

We often avoid getting our hands dirty but there are health benefits to be gained from exposure to soil. We need to be 100 per cent hygienic but we don’t need to be 100 per cent dirt or germ-free because our immune system needs something to spar with.

Air Quality

Plants have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. We have a vital need for constant connections with plants for cleaner air, so gardening time is vital. Spending just 15 to 20 minutes each day in the garden can also improve sleep quality because breathing fresh air stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system in the brain, which is responsible for relaxation.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.