Category Archives: Garden

Lush Lawns

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We’re not doing very well with our lawns. First, the back one turned to a mud pit (which was not our fault) and now the front one is a sad and sorry weed patch (totally our fault) which only looks vaguely pleasing right after it’s just been mowed. BUT the plan has always been to replace the concrete turning bay in front of the house with lawn, so neglect has been the name of the lawn game, knowing it’ll all be churned up some day anyway to get it all relatively level.

That day is now just around the corner though (now the patio is started) so I’ve been looking into how we go about killing it off, without killing the children. We’re not worried about the neighbours cats, but I don’t think you can get combination weed and pet killers, without also affecting small children.

We try to be a bit organic and chemical free, but within reason. I’m still pretty big on convenience, and budget is always taken into account.

So in a quick half hour trawl around with Google’s help I have found one “traditional” spray it on type weed killer sans chemical nasties, apparently available at most hardware/gardening stores in New Zealand.

Made by Kiwicare, and now called Organic Weedfree Rapid (was once called “No Weeds”) it’s available in a ready to use spray bottle, or a concentrate. It’s non-selective so I think it’ll do the trick for all green stuff it gets its spray on.

According to this blog just “watch your weeds wilt and die within hours with the new organic weed killer.  Kiwicare Organic NO Weeds is certified organic by BioGro® and uses a combination of natural technologies to achieve spectacular results. With a combination of both natural pine oils and plant fatty acids in the formulation the product strips the waxy cuticles from weeds and disrupts plant cell walls dehydrating the weed and killing it. The product works fast, particularly on warm dry days.”

This one adds: “Organic Weedkiller is a non-selective foliar herbicide for use around the home and garden. Organic Weedkiller causes rapid dehydration, wilting and death. It quickly and effectively controls a wide range of grass weeds, broadleaf weeds,   clovers and mosses. Organic Weedkiller is non-systemic and is inactive in the soil.”

If you’re suspicious of ready-made solutions, here’s another interesting idea to kill off some greenery. It’s quite likely the cheaper option too.

The blogging chappie at Landscape Design says “What she did was to use nitrogen in the form of sulphate of ammonia over the lawn. This was applied when the lawn was dry and the product was broadcast by hand in the same way as one would sow lawn seed by hand. North/South and then  East/West. A lawn spreader could be used instead if preferred. Now the nitrogen when it gets a little moisture from dew activates and burns. It burns off both weeds and grasses so for a time you will have a brown lawn. The grasses come back and most of the weeds don’t. Interestingly it can also kill off inferior grasses, leaving the better grasses to colonise the lawn. A month after application she would give the lawn a good dose of garden lime to overcome any damage done by the sulphate of ammonia.”

There’s a whole lot more advice in the article along with this tip for when we come to resow: “The best lawns are a combination of fescue and the new fine rye grasses with no brown top.”

Down in the southern hemisphere it’s not so long until the optimum lawn growing time (Autumn) so I hope this is timely advice for anyone else embarking on a lawn makeover. I’ll let you know how we get on…

Picture from Pinterest.

Patio Progress

Hope you’ve all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year break. I’m lucky enough to have Andre home this week… poor guy has a list far longer than this week but he’s doing his best!

I thought I’d do my fair share and get started on cleaning up the corner of the front yard where we’re planning a quiet little patio setting.

Before: On the left side of the front door you can see a small raised garden, with a few little shrubs and a large-ish succulent at the end.

During: Trimming the magnolia tree by the front fence – excuse the mess. The little shrubs are gone but the succulent has grown.0109

Progress: It looks messy but it was worth the back ache. A couple of weeks back we found that the garden (much like the back lawn that was) sat on a concrete slab. All good. That’ll save us a few concrete pavers. Although my first idea was a sweet little recycled brick patio… In the spirit of a positive 2013 I’m happy with pavers – they’ll look right at home next to the existing concrete, and be oh so much easier to lay.

Once I manage to haul that giant mass of succulence up onto the trailer and empty the last barrow load of dirt I’ll get to digging up a 600ish wide strip of grass and get it all smooth and level. Further progress will also involve a waterblaster, some paint to touch up that apricot, laying the pavers, some moss planting between the pavers and a whole lotta pots and plants!

I mentioned the patio furniture back in the fence post (oooh!) and there’s a story behind this little table and chairs set… I’m great at not so subtle hints when it comes to birthday and Christmas presents, and this Christmas was no different. I spotted these in a Warehouse sale catalogue marked down to $139 and emailed Andre with “Christmas Hint” in the subject line and left it up to him to choose “Red or white?” – because I also like a bit of surprise! Expecting him to come back with “well what do you think, red or white?” I was a bit concerned to not get any response, so when I saw them marked down further a week later to $89 I rushed off to get them myself. I called Andre outside when I got home and said “Merry Christmas to me!”…. “Oh.” The look on his face said it all.

The good thing is he also got the white, so we’re totally in sync there. Plus he managed to take his back and get a full refund so we’re up $50!

More positive 2013: Removing this garden is helping our house to breathe. If you peer closely you’ll see a couple of vents that were previously clogged with dirt – just behind the table leg, and to the left of the green pot? This corner of the house gets the least sun and the worst condensation. Hopefully a bit more fresh and flowing air underneath will keep it healthier!

Fencing ourselves in

You got a little hint a week ago of what’s been happening here on the renovation front most recently. And it’s quite literally “on the renovation front” – our front yard has had a fence makeover. It is still in progress but I’m loving it and can’t wait to share…

So, we’ve lived two years here (more than!) with an old wire fence which was perfectly adequate for keeping small children in, but offered no privacy or peace of mind for mama to let the kids play out front without me (now that Master W is just getting to that stage).



I just got this in time before the gate came down… then missed all following demo progress – sorry!


The stack of blocks standing just inside the gate there is our attempt at visualising a concrete block gate post… it’s not quite a scale model.

If you’ll allow me to use a few more words I’ll just explain our fence planning process? Thanks…

The foundation of our wire fence is a little wee concrete block wall, complete with a few cracks and mostly wonky capping blocks. Rather than demolishing this, we decided to work with it because we like to try and keep things simple (and less expensive). So once the fence and gate were taken down and the fence posts cut off at the level of the blocks, the capping blocks were removed and some steel angle (if that’s what it’s called?) was concreted into the hollows of the blocks (scroll to bottom picture, or just wait until you get there). Blocks were also laid to make gate posts, which you’ll also have to scroll down for as I got no progress shots on those either. Then new capping blocks were laid on top of the wall, and fence posts bolted to the steel angle. Which brings us to here:


By the way, that sprouty stump there is where I got the sticks for my Christmas tree, which I did put back together and so far it hasn’t used up any more lives.

There followed a couple of nights of hammering, hammering, hammering to get all the fence palings on. Next thing, I stick my head out the window to tell Master W it’s bedtime and Andre is just hammering on the last one! Bedtime got delayed while we all did a happy dance around the front yard… or I did at least.


One of our first planting missions was the little hedge you see here outside the fence. Along the side by the neighbour’s drive, and just around the corner at the front is a well established hedge, and we wanted to extend that right across the front. It’s doing just fine but is just not growing fast enough to give us the privacy and security we need now, so up goes the fence and the hedge will just grow right on up to cover it eventually. The very next night after the palings were done the string came out to mark a line to cut right along the top and get it nice and level.


The string sits a smidgeon above the top of the gate post here because we decided to add just another few centimetres of privacy, figuring we can always cut it down later if it’s too much. So that capping block perched crookedly on top there has now been straightened out and cemented in place.


A few skillsaw minutes later we have a perfectly trim looking fence, and a few more handsaws later the posts are flush. Mmm mmm!


Good to see Andre has his safety jandals on.

There’s more to this story, which is why I haven’t left you with any great after pictures of a lush front lawn with a pretty patio off to the side.

But we do have half a gate frame welded up, some patio furniture waiting patiently by the hedge and some outdoor kids things on the way (Santa is bringing them). I have no idea what colour we will paint the fence yet. Andre keeps asking but my head space is limited to Christmas planning this week. We also plan to dig up the concrete turning bay in front of the house so we can increase the lawn (seeing as it is our only grass area) and plant some kind of border pretties along the inside of the fence. And the postie really wants a new letterbox mounted on the fence.

It’ll come… right now I’m just enjoying the fence. It makes our front yard feel like ours now – we don’t have to share it with everyone who walks past. Last night we even had an alfresco dinner just sitting on the lawn (mainly because we were filthy from a mud flats walk and I wasn’t letting any of that get past the bath – it was takeaway dinner outside and then straight into the bathroom!).


Father’s weekend in the man cave

Father’s Day rolled around this year with a few hints that tools were required (aren’t they always?!). Actually I should rephrase because he doesn’t do hints. When pressed I got “I think I need a spanner set.”

What he got instead was a sweet handmade card that is the spitting image of our newly painted (yes, yes, more on that later I promise) garage and a promise from Mama and the kids that we would dedicate two whole days to help find a spanner set.

Some…. where….. in…… here:

A spanner? In there? Hardly likely… and he wants a whole set?! Before I go any further I need to say two things: No attempt has been made to sort this garage since things were thrown in on moving day, and with all going on inside the house the garage has born the brunt of hurried returning of tools and bits and pieces. Secondly, my poor husband can’t stand up in this garage… being 6’4″ has it’s advantages – a low roof is not one of them.

Now, arrow 1 points to the chest freezer where I have a few meals stored for “one of those days”. For some time I have not been able to get to any meals on “one of those days” which is just the last straw and makes it “ONE OF THOSE DAYS!!!” Arrow 2 points to the “tool drawer” which hung out in the house for quite some time and quickly became the dumping ground for anything that I or Andre couldn’t immediately find a place for ie. everything! Arrow 3 marks the spot where one or two motorbikes are usually parked but weren’t for this photo – I just have to point that out so you know I really, really couldn’t get to the freezer and there was a very valid reason for sending Andre back out for takeaways as soon as he got home.

Anyway, there are loads of photos so I’ll let them speak for themselves for a bit:

Ugh! Because this was a serious operation, Andre took a couple of days off work so we had ourselves a four day weekend to get this chaos into order. Being Auckland, rain was guaranteed at least four times in those four days so we put the tent up to store everything in the meantime. This is how it looked by coffee time on the first morning:

Some time after lunch everything was out (including Miss E) and in various piles designated for the rubbish truck or Trade Me or for keeps (this is where we put Miss E).

And we got to cleaning in preparation for a repaint (looks like someone had tried to clean their paintbrush on the walls previously…??).

I have no progress shots of the painting because it was all hands on paint brush to get it done before dinner. I was pretty delighted to get so far in one day – never thought we’d be painting until day two!

Day two was another big one which involved splitting all the scrap timber into kindling for next winter:

And starting the slow process of moving everything back into it’s rightful place. Because this is my kind of job I was so engrossed I also missed pictures of this process, but am delighted to be able to present some “finished” pictures after a solid three days of getting well acquainted with our man cave and all that is in it (and no longer in it).

Sooo much better don’t you agree? Thanks to removing an old blind off the window, freshening up the walls and painting the lower beams white (hmm… varying shades of leftover white or not so white) and putting everything “away” the garage looks bigger, lighter and there is space to work at the work bench at the back, or even work on bigger projects without having to hang from the ceiling beams. The bench just to the left of the motorbike holds all the “for sale” things, so if you squint and picture that free from clutter it just gets better! I didn’t wait for that to be gone before I took after pictures because… well, I just couldn’t wait.

I’m pretty proud of this corner:

It’s my gardening station. I no longer have to fight with the ladder for possession of the rake. Dare I give you a close up look for my tool rack? Oops, you can see where I took a wee shortcut and didn’t paint the underside, but I can assure you only small children or squatting photographers see this view.

Down below are these old nail boxes which have faithfully followed our every move since Andre claimed them from his Dad’s (or Opa’s?) garage when he moved out. They look so smart lined up together and they’re doing a great job storing the smaller gardening tools and gloves, seeds etc.

Further back in the garage are these shelves (repurposed from the kids room, which now has a new manrobe) which hold the only new purchase for this makeover: 8 storage crates from Mitre 10 at around $9 each. We’ll call them the Father’s Day present (I think we found the spanners!).

They hold painting supplies, plumbing bits and electrical things, as well as some other odds and ends. Based on the above view I have imposed a “no more paint” rule. Surely there is enough paint, sealer and filler to allow for whatever project we dream up next?

Once I had “my” gardening corner and these shelves set up I pretty much left Andre to get to know his man cave on his own. I am absolutely delighted at the transformation and am no longer afraid to venture in for a piece of sandpaper, but it’s Andre’s place to hang out, not mine. Besides, my usefulness had expired by then anyway – I was just getting in the way and putting things in the wrong place, which was definitely not the idea. I snuck back in one morning last week to get some more photos.

Long may it last!

Inspire Monday: Grow garden grow

All this rain might be keeping us inside but outside our little vegie garden is growing along nicely! Our little budding gardener is inspecting a teensy broccoli head for slugs. See here, here and here for more on this garden.

Note 1: Anyone notice the little sneak peek of non-apricot house paint?! It’s all happening!

Note 2: My apologies for missing Inspire Monday last week… it was one of those days that I was just glad to make it to the end in one piece!

Wintering outside

With enthusiasm waning for any major outdoor projects at this time of year, and a birthday party happening last weekend we spent the one before having a jolly good tidy up around the place (again).

I surprised shocked Andre by getting out and digging out this planter box at the side of the driveway before he returned from an early morning pop into work.

I was already halfway through before I remembered to run back and grab the camera. But you can see in the wheelbarrow what I’d already pulled out. There had been a rose bush in there once upon a time, but it’s just been sitting in a sorry state for many months since I cut everything back and piled some old cardboard on top to kill everything off.

There were loads of bulbs amongst the roots so I had a good dig around to get those out as who knows what could sprout back up if they’re left to their own devices?!

Once I gave it the all clear I topped it up again with some rich and lovely More Than Garden Mix that we had left over from the new planter bed against the house.

Note: I snapped this photo before I’d had a good clean up and tidied away the concrete blocks to a less conspicuous spot down behind the garage. Also, the poles sticking up the back of the planter box… no idea sorry but they don’t seem to have any current function and we plan to chop ’em off.

We had a guava tree to pop in here but realised it wouldn’t be ideal due to the overhanging lemon tree and crazy rock climbing vine that would drastically reduce our guavas chance of a normal life. So it is currently awaiting some pretty colour in some flower form or another. Any suggestions?

While I was busy getting dirty with this, Andre and Master W were snipping and mowing and trimming their way around the rest of the front yard.

Actually Andre was trimming and Master W was wandering aimlessly with the orbital sander while “vrrmmm vvrmmm-ing”.

But doesn’t the edge of our drive look like your grandfather has been at it?! We gained another half a metre of drive just by trimming the overgrown edges of lawn. And the new hedge got some much needed tidying attention too and is now trimmed for further bushy growth potential.

The lawns also got done – amazing how just a simple mowing of the lawn can improve the feel of a front yard a hundred times over! Or it does ours at least, because mowing the lawn helps to hide the fact that it’s a little overgrown with weeds. Mown weeds more or less equals mown grass.

There was also a trailer of rubbish made ready to take to the tip:

Said trailer is now sitting empty in the front yard. It and I am enjoying that very, very much! (It’s usually piled high with builders mix or rubbish. Tomorrow it will be piled high with firewood… and we’ll be back to this. Sigh!

Rainy day gardening

We have finally got our plants in the garden. After part one and part two to get that wall up, some displaced back lawn, things going on with pea straw and a shopping trip to the garden centre, we have something that now resembles a garden!

It rained just as I finished the tidy up, and has rained off and on since, so our plants should be settling in nicely and if the rain lets up and we get some sunshine, I think we can expect great things!

The main hold up to getting our plants in was this irrigation system. Due to the need to drill into the plaster wall to attach it, and the garden wrapping around the side of the house where the little ones bedrooms are, it had to be done in the small window of time that they are not (supposed to be) sleeping, they’re not eating, getting bathed, dressed or otherwise attended to.

Andre put in a new tap for this system just under the house. The plan is to install a timer – we’re notoriously forgetful and tend to neglect anything that isn’t hanging around our feet whining for attention (which means the kids are doing just fine).

So we left you with this little peek at our plants back here, and you can see the five sprinklers that will cover the whole garden:

But now they’re hunkering down in their new home (broccoli, beetroot and cauliflower):

Leeks, lettuce and spinach:

Among the vegetables we’ve planted some companion nasturtiums, and a variety of herbs – rosemary, thyme and mint – as well as a row of garlic all the way along the back.

Here are a couple of lavender plants which will grow to become a border between the front (citrus trees?) and side (temporary vegetables and herbs) of this garden.

We have yet to get to the front part of the garden so here is how it is looking right now:

This made me smile – the name of this variety of lettuce is drunken woman, and with the incessant battering of rain the lettuce did look a bit sozzled!

Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom (whose current lifestyle looks rather idyllic… french countryside, yes please!) has just posted about some lavender planting too. It must be the French sunshine that makes hers look so much more glamourous! She’s also got some mouthwatering pictures of Speculaas (or Speculoos as it must be in French) which I made the other day. I found a little jar of speculaas spices that made its way to us when Andre’s Oma moved out of her house, and substituted it for ginger in a yummy gingerbread recipe from my mother-in-law.

Mmm mmm!

Grow plants grow!

Note: where possible we purchased organic seedlings – we think it’s the least we can do for our own and our children’s health.