How to Make Your Own High Quality Compost
January 12, 2015

Australia has the thinnest layer of topsoil of all the continents. Many of us buy in soils for our gardens and/or add large quantities of humus to try to improve what we have.


Returning nutrients to our gardens.

Soils are being depleted all over the world.  With very little effort we can make a difference in our own backyard.  Here is an AWESOME info-graphic on How to Make Compost Work for You. It comes from Treehugger and although I have successfully produced soil from a number of composting methods, I still learnt quite things that I didn’t know. Enjoy!


Composting can help your pocket as well as your garden.

Have you got a composting system. Has it been successful? Please use the Comments Box to share your experiences.

Luscious Lavender

by David Wilks  –  an ambitious, amateur gardener from a long line of ambitious, amateur gardeners!

I have always found it very difficult to walk past a lavender bush without running my hands through the foliage. The oils are so pungent that I can smell them on my hands for the rest of the day. In fact, strangers probably think I’m crazy, walking down the street holding my hands to my nose. But that is the power of lavender! Of course, the foliage and the flowers are also reward in themselves.

A lavender farm in Tasmania, Australia

A lavender farm in Tasmania, Australia

Lavender has been popular since early Roman times, possibly earlier. The Romans are known to have used lavender oil as a lotion, a perfume, in their baths, for cooking and as a medicine. They even preferred to dry bedding over growing lavender so that the perfume infused into the sheets. (Lavare is the Latin word for ‘wash’!)

Lavandula, the herb we call lavender, is a part of the mint family. There are 39 known species of flowering lavender. The genus is native to Southern Europe, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and South East India.

Today, lavender is grown in many parts of the world, both as an ornamental plant and for commercial purposes. Perhaps the greatest commercial use is for the production of lavender oils. However, both fresh and dried cuttings are used in cooking, decorations, and in items such as potpourri.

Historically, France has been the world’s largest commercial harvester of lavender. Images of the lavender fields of Provence are well known. However, France has serious competition from countries like the USA, Australia and more recently, China, where substantial plantings have taken place.

Provence - the home of lavender farming...

Provence – the home of lavender farming…

In this post, I will only cover the three main types of lavender:

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – also known as common or true lavender. This evergreen is possibly the most aromatic variety. It grows as high as 2 m, with leaves up to 6 cm long and 6 mm across. The flowers are a soft pinkish – purple (lavender) sitting on spikes up to 8 cm long. It’s typically used in the production of potpourri and oil.

Lavandula angustifolia  -  English or common lavender

Lavandula angustifolia – English or common lavender

Italian lavender (Lavandula stoechas) – an evergreen shrub growing to a metre in height with a spread of around the same dimension. This variety flowers in late spring and early summer with lovely pink to purple spikes on slender, leafless stems. Each flower has two brilliantly coloured ‘wings’. In Australia, where I live, this variety has become a noxious weed in some areas. I will discuss this in more depth later.

Italian lavender - beautiful but a declared noxious weed in parts of Australia and Spain.

Italian lavender – beautiful but a declared noxious weed in parts of Australia and Spain.

French lavender (Lavandula dentata) – strangely, a native to Spain. This variety, so named because of its fringed leaves, grows to about a metre high with a similar width. The branches are very upright and woody. The foliage is a lovely silver grey, with the flowers tending to be more blueish, however both pink and white flowering varieties are common.

Lavandula Dentata  -  French lavender

Lavandula Dentata – French lavender

Growing lavender in your garden

If you have grown lavender successfully in the past, you could be forgiven for believing that it is an easy plant to grow. In fact, out of its native environment, it can be quite fussy. In particular all lavenders like to be kept to dry . A simple way to kill a lavender is to overwater it. Humidity can also be a problem.

Ideally, lavender prefers a sandy, alkaline environment. A simple solution, is to grow the lavender in pots. Alternatively, form a raised rock garden using a light, sandy soil. Use companion herbs such as rosemary , sage, thyme, oregano and even geraniums for a stunning effect. Throw in a couple of Agave Attenuata for drama 🙂 All of these species can tolerate dry and even drought conditions quite well and all are pest resistant, making for a very low maintenance garden.

Honey made from lavender is very highly regarded.

Honey made from lavender is very highly regarded.


Lavender is grown commercially in Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania and possibly other states. As a garden plant, it can be grown everywhere other than coastal central and northern Queensland, where the humidity is typically too high. Recent strains such as Bella, Bee and the Baby series are said to tolerate high humidity, so could be tried in these areas.

Growing conditions are so favourable in the southern mainland areas that Italian lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has become a declared noxious weed in some areas. For that reason, you should only buy plants from a local nursery. (This variety has also become a noxious weed in some areas of Spain!*)

New Zealand:

Many parts of the South Island are well suited to lavender. High rainfall and humidity could be a challenge in many parts of the North Island. Check with your local nursery as they may well have varieties selected for local conditions.

Southern Europe and North Africa:

This, of course, is the home of lavender so all varieties should grow well in these areas. The caveat remains, that too much water in any location will kill your lavender.

Central and northern Europe:

Most of the lavenders are a perennial down to Zone 7 and even down to Zone 6 in sheltered conditions. In Zone 5 and below, treated as an annual or bring pots inside in winter.

North America:

All the lavenders should do well as perennials in Zone 8 and above. English lavender could be treated as a perennial as low as  Zone 5. As always, the sunnier the position, the more likely your success.

If you live in a state with high summer humidity, such as Florida or Louisiana, look for adapted cultivars at your local nursery. In Zones 6 and below, treat your lavender as an annual unless you are prepared to greenhouse it over winter. If planted in a sheltered, sunny position, heavy mulching in mid autumn may allow outside plants to survive.

Central and South America and South Africa:

Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about these areas to be able to write with any confidence. Even so, it is very likely that lavender would do well in many areas.


* Any plant taken out of its natural environment has the potential to become a weed. Natural predators and other controls, such as cold winters, are left behind, leaving the plant to run rampant. Australia is a land plagued by imported fauna and flora. Something that looks spectacularly beautiful when you are on vacation may well be a declared noxious pest where you have your permanent home. For this reason, it is always worthwhile taking all cuttings locally or purchasing plants from local nurseries.

In the next post, I’ll write about the many uses of lavender oils and fragrances around the home. I hope today’s post has encouraged you to grow lavender. It is a beautiful, rewarding plant. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, or any questions that I may be able to answer, please use the comment box below.

Thanks for joining me.

How to make your own Vertical Planter
October 19, 2013

Here’s a step by step guide on how to make your own vertical planter.

Vertical Strawberry Planter

Vertical Strawberry Planter


– Any length 100mm-150mm (4″ – 6″) diameter PVC or any other kind of pipe
– Potting mix and compost
– Plants (not large plants or bushes)
– Large pebbles of about the same size for added support/stability
– A drip irrigation pipeline (or you can simply water from the top and it will trickle down) *

– A drill and circular drill bit OR
– A jigsaw if you don’t own the above
– A hacksaw (if pipe needs to be cut down)
– Marker pen

Materials and Tools

Materials and Tools


A minimum of 25% of your above ground height needs to be below ground, to ensure stability. e.g. if you want your planter to be a metre high then the overall length of your pipe must be 125cm (or more).

How to:

If you are using an off cut or leftover material from a previous job, then the size and height of your project have already been determined for you.

If you are buying the materials you need to decide on the height and width of the pipe. For a 100mm pipe it is recommended to have only one hole in a horizontal row so the plants have enough room for their roots to grow. For 150mm pipes you can have up to 3 holes in each horizontal row depending on which plants you choose (three holes for flowers only, the rest either one hole or two).

Using a marker pen, mark out the holes you want to cut for your plants using the guidelines above. The size of the hole directly depends on the plants type and size.

Using the markings, cut the planting holes using either a hand drill with circular drill bit or a jigsaw.

Cutting the holes...

Cutting the holes…

Set up the pipe in a large pot or directly into the soil, using the pebbles for additional stability.

Set up the pipe in a large pot or directly into the soil.

Set up the pipe in a large pot or directly into the soil.

Finally, put the compost and soil into your pipe and start planting.

Keep the water up to your plants and sit back and reap the rewards.

* Because the planters hold only a limited amount of soil, it is essential you keep the water up to your plants. If you are relying in watering only at the top of the pipe, you’ll find that the plants at the top will get plenty of water but those at the bottom will get a lot less dry. That’s fine if you plant accordingly, but the best solution is to insert a weeper hose into the main pipe. This can be purchased or simply made by using 1″ conduit drilled with weep holes down it’s length. Wrap this inner conduit in geo-fabric or weed-cloth to prevent it getting blocked over time.