Thursday, September 29, 2011

The cost of unrivalled luxury

By Lauren Knight

This week we were alerted to a £1million crystal bath purchase, made by Tamara Ecclestone; daughter of billionaire Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. It took months for the crystal to be sourced from the Amazon, but Tamara insists it was “worth it.”

It got us thinking, what other expensive bathroom purchases have people made? One definitely worthy of note is a solid gold bathroom from Hong Kong, worth HK $80 million! It weighs 350kg of pure gold, and includes 6,200 encrusted gemstones in the bathroom features.

Image from the Whats the latest website

Another bathroom that caught our attention is from Frankfurt, Germany. The trendy public bathroom worth €900, 000, is complete with a reception desk and complementary wash cloths.

Image from the land lopers website

Doing the research: how the internet can make you a savvier shopper

By Lauren Knight

Statistics show Australian electronics customers are becoming smarter shoppers, with 79% doing their research online before walking into a store, and 71% haggling to get the best deal possible on products they wish to purchase.

A report from Canstar Blue showed Generation X to be the most likely group to haggle (76%), followed by the baby boomers (75%) and lastly Generation Y (58%). However, when it comes to researching online, the opposite is true. Generation Y came out on top at 86%, closely followed by Generation X shoppers (84%) and finally the Baby Boomers at 73%. The report also found men to be more likely than women to haggle for electronic goods at 71% and 68% respectively.

Despite being more informed when it comes to buying electronics, we still impulse buy, with 3 of 10 customers over committing once in the store.

Here are some tips on smarter ways to buy electronics:

1. Check the product warranty: Product warranties can vary between brands. A good product warranty is an attractive feature, giving you peace of mind that you won’t burn your money if the product develops a systems failure.

2. Energy Star rating: Appliances carrying the energy star logo will use 20-30% less energy than products without, meaning its better for the environment and for your wallet!

3. Features and Functionality: Unless you’re an electronics product guru, it can be difficult to distinguish the differences between models/brands of products. Reading online reviews or magazines can be helpful to decide which one will best suit your lifestyle or needs.

4. Ease of Use: Make sure you read up on the instruction manual and make sure to ask the sales staff lots of questions. You want to be getting the most out of your new product!

Escaping the daily grind: how to make the perfect cafe-style coffee from home

By Ashleigh Lonsdale

We all feel the pressures of the “daily grind”; after all, there are never enough hours in the day for the amount of work we need to get through. Despite our constant struggle with juggling work, life and play as well as the ever-present economic pressures, Australians are spending more time indulging in their love of coffee than ever before. In fact, the average Australian drinks on average more than seven sups of coffee a week, many taking time out of their busy schedules to visit a café for their daily dose of caffeine.
Catering to this increasing desire for café-style coffee, it’s estimated that three in ten households now have coffee machine at home. Intertwining cafe luxury and a “time-is-money” lifestyle, the at-home cafe experience is on the rise, with many of leading appliance companies offering innovative machines, making it simpler than ever to replace instant coffee with silky-smooth cafe lattes.
Being your own in-house barista can be a tricky task. From sourcing the best beans, achieving the right milk temperature and correct consistency, the checklist for the perfect coffee seems endless. UK-based World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies is in Australia to participate in the Fine Food Festival in Sydney and Melbourne and lends us a few minutes of his time to shed light on the skills you need to create a top-notch cup at home.

What are the most important tools to create a café-style coffee at home?
A coffee grinder is as important, if not more important, than the machine. Coffee needs to be ground just before use. [And] fresh roasted coffee beans – naturally – and a quality machine.
How do we know what coffee beans are best and tastiest to use?
The most important factor when choosing coffee beans is that they are freshly roasted and traceable. Personal taste is individual, so what's best and tastiest will be determined by your own taste.

What’s the best way to store coffee beans to maintain quality?
Treat coffee like fresh produce; buy and use very quickly. An airtight container in a cool, dark place is best. Coffee is an agricultural product and needs to be treated as such.
What’s your advice on how to achieve silky steamed milk, and what happens if it’s overheated?
If milk is too hot, you will lose sweetness and the foam won’t be stable, so it will break down quicker. When you are steaming, you put the air in with the steam wand at the start, when it reaches body temperature just spin the milk in the jug. When [the jug] is too hot to hold it is too hot to put in your mouth.

Does the type of water we use affect the coffee’s quality?
Absolutely, we should be using filtered water at all times. If you use bottled water, be careful not to get one that is too high in minerals because it affects the fine PH balance and can be disastrous to the taste.

What are the most common mistakes that untrained baristas tend to make?
They don't clean their machines. You cannot make good coffee with a dirty machine. Always clean your machine every time you use it.
They don't taste the coffee. A chef tastes his food; baristas need to do the same so they can determine if the coffee is over/under extracted. It is very difficult to visually determine this with coffee, so tasting is integral to serving good coffee.

What are the consequences of over/under extracting coffee?
Under extracted is sour and over extracted is bitter. They taste almost identical to some people, so it is very difficult. [The extraction process should take] somewhere between 22 and 30 seconds but this completely depends on taste.

How do we correctly pack the coffee to ensure perfect extraction?
Simply put, as long as the grind falls evenly into the basket and it is tamped level and flat, then that's all that is needed. Don't over think it.

Finally, what do you love about coffee and what makes it such a life-long passion for you?
Making delicious coffee is a very new idea. We don't know that much yet and there is a lot to discover. It is the excitement of that journey and that all the time we are getting better at producing nice coffee. There are so many new tastes and flavours as we discover different varieties and improved processing methods.

Whether you consider yourself an amateur barista or need a little more assistance, there is a range of coffee machines on the market to suit your needs. From coffee machines that do the hard work for you to ones that give you a lot more control, whatever your skill level, there is a product out there to help you get the perfect caffeine hit from home.

Bodum Grinder from Matchbox, for more
Information visit:

Nespresso Lattissima+ coffee machine, for more
information visit:

Vacuvin coffee saver, available from:

Smeg fully automatic coffee machine, for more
information visit:

Vibiemme Domobar Junior coffee machine, available from:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creating a worm farm in your garden

Owning a worm farm is one of the most unique and interesting ways to do your part for the environment.

From breaking down your table scraps and saving you waste, to fertilising your garden, a worm farm is economically and environmentally friendly.

A worm farm is easy to maintain and gives you a myriad of benefits! Setting one up isn't too hard either.

Choose your type of worm farm.
The most common type of worms for worm farms are Red Wriggler and Tiger worms. Both can be sourced from a hardware store or your local nursery. They come in bags of 500 to 1000, and they will multiply over time. It's best not to purchase more than 2000, depending on the size of your worm farm.

Worms love a good worm bed. Worm farm bedding is usually made up of a nice soil, leaves and some shredded paper, and is generally 15 centimetres deep.

Simply spray some water over this mix, just so that it becomes moist, but not wet.

You can purchase ready made worm farms - or it's easy to make your own out of an old styrofoam fruit box. Make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom though, for the liquid fertiliser they will produce.

Gently spread out the worms for your new worm farm all over the bedding material and watch them settle into their new home.

Your worms may be a little uncomfortable after their journey to their new home, so give them a day or two to settle in and explore before you feed them.

A worm farm are best kept in the shade. It doesn't matter if it's inside or out, as long as they're not exposed to too much heat or sunlight. Under the house or in the garage is the perfect place to keep your worms happy.

Try not to feed them too much during the first week or so as they are still getting settled into the worm farm. Lettuce and small bits of mushy fruit such as banana is a good start. Throw some damp hessian or newspaper over the top to keep them moist, and keep this constant. After two weeks or so add a new layer on top. It's now time to start feeding them all organic waste.

Golden Rule: Don't Overfeed!
If the rate your feeding the worm farm is faster than they can eat, it can create an acidic environment and they will suffer. If you notice the food is being eaten slowly, stop feeding them and wait till they finish.

Your worm farm will eat its weight in food. So 1kg of worms will typically eat 1kg of food per day. But don't force them, they'll go at their own pace.

Worms are simple folk, vegetable and fruit peelings are ideal for their diet, along with tea and coffee grindings, egg shells, and small amounts of cardboard. Avoid feeding them dairy and meat, along with citrus, onion and garlic. These are quite acidic and will not do your worm farm any good.

Food disappears quickly in a worm farm if its size is reduced. Chop, mulch or grate their food first and they wolf it down quicker.

Give them food regularly in small amounts and cover this with a light dusting of soil or their bedding material. Feed them again only if they're close to finishing their last meal, or it could start to rot.

General Maintenance
Remember the worm farm needs to be kept moist. Some foods like fruit contain a lot of moisture, so keep that in mind when checking the soil.

Aerating the bedding won't do any harm. In fact if promotes a healthy worm farm population. Once a week or so, wait till the surface food is gone, and using a hand trowel lift the bedding gently.

Harvest for your garden!
If yours is the type of farm to capture liquid, empty this regularly. Its an amazing liquid fertiliser which should be diluted at least 10:1.

Worm farm castings, or vermicast, is pretty powerful too. There are several ways to harvest this. Move the old to one side and add new bedding. This will allow the worms to mostly migrate to the new bedding leaving you to take out the old and sprinkle it all over your garden. It doesn't matter if some worms get taken out as well. They'll just help improve your existing soil.

Another method is exposing them to light. The worms will tunnel to the bottom, allowing you to scrape off the top and surround your pot plants with healthy worm farm fertiliser.

So, now you're on your way to a happy and healthy worm farm and a fantastic garden - saving you waste and worry!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Howard Backen: Architect

World renowned for his rustic looking yet luxurious designs, Howard Backen is one of the most sought after architects in America.

Called upon to undertake projects for many high profile, and highly demanding clients, Howard can only be called a genuine Southern Gentleman, having never taken on the 'great architect' persona.

Howard's career has spanned generations. He has worked for such names as Steve Jobs, film director, Nancy Meyers, and the Harlan Winery Estate. Having started out in 1967 in San Francisco, and moving to Napa Valley in 1966, Howard Backen's career has been highly successful and incredibly exciting. He's designed restaurants, resorts and wineries. Although it's not so much the extravagance of his work, but rather the elegant simplicity and rural designs that make him so astonishing.

Backen launched 'Backen Arrigoni Ross' (BAR) in San Francisco. He was part of the highly successful firm for 35 years, which grew to more than 100 staff. BAR has overseen the design and building of vast projects like the Robert Redford Sundance Institute and the Disney Sound Studios and the new Restoration Hardware stores.

During his work at BAR, Mr. Backen had the opportunity to design the main office for the Delancey Street Foundation, a successful rehabilitation centre. Most of Howard's work on the project was pro bono, undertaken as a genuine service to his community.

Not only did the project win several awards for humanitarian service, but it has also been recognised for the unique design and beauty it contributes to San Francisco city.

It was in 1996 when Backen took his career in a new direction and headed to a new firm in Napa Valley. The Head-office in St. Helena and his new, self-designed home not far away in Oakville. Such a decision continues to be one of the most exciting and advantageous of his life.

At 75, Backen starts his day wandering through the morning chill over a series of fieldstone paths, to reach an open-roofed outdoor shower. It's his favourite morning ritual which he finds sublimely invigorating.

Sketching and drawing seems to come so easily to Backen who keeps a sketch-pad and pencil by his bedside, ready for anything his inspiration might come up with.

One of his treasured sketch spots on his five-acre plot is a lengthy zinc table in his open plan pool house. Sketching only on paper and leaving the computer work to others adds to the farmlike, natural focused designs he is famous for. Backen often leaves whole walls open to the elements, almost like a picture frame, to enhance the natural beauty of the surrounding country.

In 2010, Howard Backen was named in the top 100 architects by Architectural Digest.

Howard Backen works 24/7. A few days a week he visits current construction sites, enabling him to talk directly with the workers and leaving him time at home to work without interruptions.

Currently, Mr. Backen is designing a company, off-site dining location for Apple employees, in association with Steve Jobs. Whatever Mr. Backen decides to do nexr, you can be sure it's going to have the same breathtaking natural, rural beauty he is celebrated for.

Electrolux – Plastic? Not so fantastic.


As Australians, we are pretty lucky with our land, our forests, and our oceans. Many of us do all we can to preserve these treasures with efforts such as Clean Up Australia Day, which help Aussies recognise the effect our careless lifestyles can have on our environment. Yet, with all the energy we put into recycling and disposing of waste, we are still not making a significant dent in the problem. What we are constantly reminded of is that we are running out of time.
According to a 2011 Electrolux Plastics Pollution Report, up to 72% of Australians do not understand what constitutes recyclable plastic. We all know that plastic bags are not recyclable, yet we still dispose of them thoughtlessly. When unusable plastic is disposed of incorrectly, we risk contaminating potentially re-usable materials. With nearly 88% of us confused about which plastics to recycle, is it any wonder that there is a blimp in our recycling programmes?
Champion Surfer and lover of the ocean, Layne Beachley has teamed up with Electrolux to introduce the global Vac from the Sea initiative. The collection of funky vacuums not only makes the humdrum task of cleaning your house more exciting, it is also made of 55% recycled plastics, from marine plastic debris.
“As a surfer I regularly experience first-hand the vast amount of rubbish that ends up polluting our oceans,” Layne explains. “The Vac from the Sea initiative brings attention to the issue of plastic pollution, while at the same time addressing the lack of recycled plastics needed for creating sustainable products for future generations.”
The scheme, initiated by Electrolux, aims to direct attention to the amount of plastic entering our water systems. “The Pacific Ocean is polluted with the largest floating garbage islands in the world,” says Julian Huitfeldt, Electrolux Product Marketing Manager, Floor Care and Small Appliances. “Yet, on land we struggle to get hold of enough recycled plastics to meet the demand for sustainable vacuum cleaners.”

It is important that we sustain a recycle programmes in our households and familiarise ourselves on plastics that can be recycled, and those that cannot. Daily waste such as plastic bottles, bags, containers and lids can easily be discarded or used as landfill if they are not put into the correct disposal bins. More often than not, these unrecyclable items end up in the ocean, causing potential harm to many of our protected species such as sea lions, whales, dolphins and penguins.
DIY jobs and renovations are also a huge source of waste and considerable effort must be taken to ensure that we dispose of our plastics smartly. Exercising wise choices can mean a sustainable environment for all our beautiful Australian marine life.

The colourful Electrolux Vac from the Sea range includes a model manufactured from waste found in Australian beaches and the coastline.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Growing tomatoes in your garden

The fresh taste of a tomato is one easily recognised in your Grandmothers' pasta sauce or in a light, summer salad that everyone enjoys.

Growing tomatoes doesn't have to be hard and the reward of home-grown, succulent tomatoes is reason enough to give it a go!

Whether growing tomatoes in a pot or in a garden bed, all types love similar conditions. As a spring/summer plant they adore warmth and sunlight, so keep that in mind when thinking of growing your own.

Before planting either the seed or a seedling, make sure their future home has fresh soil (to prevent disease and to ensure a nutrient rich food base). Preparing the soil a few days in advance is ideal by digging in compost or manure, and adding a little potash and some lime per square metre. This gives growing tomatoes plenty of calcium.

A raised planting bed in an area that gets at least five hours of sunlight is the most ideal location to plant your tomatoes, to prevent water-logging and to keep the soil warm. Be sure to give your seeds plenty of space and avoid overcrowding.

Growing tomatoes is easy. Don't be afraid to bury them deep and remember - warmth and sunlight is key!

It's advised to set stakes in to provide support for the growing tomatoes now, to prevent disruption to the roots later in the growing process. Keep plant ties handy, as the tomatoes start growing they'll need the extra support. You can use almost anything as a stake; wooden poles, chicken wire, even the back of chairs - but be careful when considering metal objects, as they can heat up and burn your plant.

When it comes to growing tomatoes, remember the plants will need lots of nutrients, so mulching every so often is required. The afternoon is a good time to mulch as the soil is warm. Try to find a brand of mulch that breaks down quickly, like straw, which also adds to the soils valuable organic content, or slivered plastic, which is useful in retaining soil moisture and reflects sunlight back onto the tomatoes.

Watering goes hand-in-hand with mulching. It is a very important step when focusing on growing tomatoes. Keep it regular, giving them constant moisture, but avoid over watering and watch for signs of water-logged soil.

As your tomatoes grow higher and higher, give them some extra TLC by pruning. You don't have to prune if you don't want to, but it can lead to a better crop with bigger, fuller, and more flavoursome tomatoes.

Pruning should be directed to the lower leaves. When these start to become yellow it's best to get rid of them to prevent disease affecting your beautiful growing tomatoes.

Side-shoots are a growth of new leaf between the shade leaf and the main stalk, in what's known as the "crotch." If these are only a few centimetres long, pinch them away gently with your fingers. Side-shoots only take energy away from your growing tomatoes.

Go easy on pruning! Due to Australia's hot climate and sunny disposition, pruning an excessive amount could lead to the scalding of your tomatoes.

From here on out it's only a short wait till your delicious tomatoes will be ripe and fresh, becoming a juicy addition to the delights of summer.

Friday, September 16, 2011

2012 Venice Architecture Biennale

By: Johanna Grahn

Planning for the world’s most important upcoming architectural event, the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale is in process. The latest news is that the creative directors who will be designing the Australian Pavilion for the event have been announced, namely Anthony Burke and Gerard Reinmuth.

The two creative directors were chosen for their deep knowledge about the field, and the expertise they will provide to the Australian contribution at the event.

Anthony Burke specialises in contemporary design and theory in relation to technology and its implications for architecture in the built environment. He works as associate professor and Head of the School of Architecture at UTS, he is an international curator, writer, and architectural designer, and a director of the architectural practice Offshore Studio. Anthony also has a prestigious academic background, with a Bachelor of Architecture from UNSW and a first class honours in 1996, and he is a graduate of the MS AAD from Columbia University from 2000.

Gerard Reinmuth founded Terrior in 1999 together with Richard Blythe and Scott Balmforth, and is today one of the directors for the practice. The idea was born from conversations between the directors around the potential for architecture to open up questions of cultural consequence. His research and practice on these questions led to his appointment as visiting professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture in 2010 and Professor in Practice at UTS in Sydney in 2011.

The Australian Pavilion will be designed as a “soft landscape of connections and possibilities”, and display the exhibition ‘Formations: New Practices in Australian Architecture’, which will “challenge traditionally held beliefs about what architecture can be, and celebrate new opportunities for architects working in non-traditional ways”. ‘Formations’ will highlight “the unconventional and world-leading innovative range of architectural
practice types being developed across Australia”.

The Australian pavilion will be a “space of engagement” in which viewers can interact and “participate in architectural conversation at close quarters”, as it will focus on actual projects and their impact. There will also be a series of what they call ‘flash formations’, which are free informal and intimate public events around Venice that will “allow viewers to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most innovative architectural practices and commentators and their work”. The creative minds of the Australian team will be bringing their skills and expertise to areas as diverse as robotic fabrication, government policy, and indigenous housing.

To find out more about the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale visit The Australian Institute of Architects at:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Easy azalea care tips

Azaleas are known for their ability to grow beautifully with little attention. However, if you want the best looking flowers around, then these tips for azalea care will help you get on track!

Azaleas come in all sorts of colours including vivid pinks, violet, orange and golden yellow. Azaleas also respond well to pruning and make excellent hedges or feature bushes. However, to ensure you get the most from your plants, proper azalea care is needed.

These vibrant flowers thrive in the afternoon shade, though now more species of hybrids are available that are able to adapt well to survive in any garden. They prefer to be situated in the mild and humid regions, making them perfect for the backyards of low coastal Australia.

Azalea care doesn’t have to be a complicated matter. Following these few steps for azalea care will get your flowers in full bloom in no time.

Azalea care 101
Azaleas need soil that has good drainage, but still slightly damp. They prefer cool, slightly acidic soil that doesn't become too dry. When the heat sets in, try to water your azaleas once a week or so. However, remember not to over water.

When it comes to azalea care, be aware of their root systems. Roots that have wrapped themselves around the root ball can strangle the plant when it grows.

If this occurs, use an old knife and cut the matted roots away. Make sure to leave most of the roots intact, but spread out, to keep growing.

Make a raised mound for planting when you're ready. This provides the best drainage possible. Dig out the middle, adding some peat moss and a sprinkle of fertiliser. Place your azalea in the middle, fill in the surrounding hole, and mulch.

The best mulch for azalea care is pine needles or pine bark. Apply twice a year to get the best from your plant. A peat moss fertiliser is best applied at the same time as mulching. It's okay to use plenty of compost. It acts as a sponge around the roots, keeping them moist but not too wet.

Pruning and fertilising is best done shortly after their main flowering period from July through to October - although there are some varieties that will flower earlier or later. Pruning gives your azaleas a full growing season to fill out and time to mature before the colder months hit.

Azaleas aren't known to have too many problems with pests or disease. The most common problems are red spider mites and lace bugs (both of which can be controlled easily and do not affect the plant much).

During the wetter months you may discover that some of the azalea flowers have become mushy and brown. This is a process known as petal blight, a fungal disease. Although, it's easiest to pick them off and throw them away, spraying with a fungicide and/or Bordeaux mixture for best azalea care.

Azalea care isn't hard and it's a hugely rewarding process that will allow you to reap the final product of beautiful blooms and vibrant colour in your garden for a long time to come.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweet sensation

Kathryn Sutton, owner of Sydney’s suave Sparkle Cupcakery talks to us about a world-wide love affair with cupcakes

What sparked your love for baking?
My passion has always been food, either eating or making! Straight out of school, I studied Hospitality Management and after years in the world of hotels, returned to my original passion.

What’s the one item in your kitchen that you can’t live without and why?

A great oven. Love thy oven and get it know it well!

What’s your most interesting food experience?

I love to travel and love to cook. Combining the two is pure bliss. I had the luxury of spending a week in a small school, in a tiny town in southern India. Students had the choice of fabulous studies such as yoga, languages, art or cooking. Of course, I ended up in the kitchen with an amazing teacher who's philosophy was ‘you must enjoy the chop’, meaning enjoy the entire cooking process...not a bad philosophy for life. Indian sweets are such a sugar hit. Our Pistachio & Cardamom cupcake is inspired by my travels in India - aromatic and sweet!

How do you think Australia’s love affair with cupcakes began, and where do you see it heading?
It's not just Australia, but the world, that has fallen in love with the cupcake. I think it came from a strong trend back to the simple things in life. A cupcake is a little sugar bliss bomb that is suited to any of life's celebrations.

What surprisingly delicious flavour combinations have you created?
So many! Oriental flower, lychee and rose is a fabulous flavour sensation. I also love the simplicity of Pure Sparkle, our signature cupcake, made with fabulous vanilla bean paste.

What’s the best accompaniment to a cupcake and why?
Sparkle is all about combining a cupcake with a glass of bubbles (which is lemonade is you are under 18 and French is you are over!). Nothing quite says 'celebration' like this combination!

Sparkle Cupcakery, 132 Foveaux St, Surry Hills, (02)93610690,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bathroom ideas and inspiration

The bathroom is one of the most popular spaces to renovate in the home. There are plenty of options to consider in that bathroom whether you are going for a full scale renovation or just want to make a few small changes.

Create a sanctuary 
We are working longer hours, getting burnt out and stressed. For many of us, there’s no better way to relax than to soak in a bubble bath after a hard day's work. There are so many ways you can turn your bathroom into a private retreat. Be creative. You could opt for some simple additions such as scented candles and soft Egyptian cotton towel. If you wanted something a bit more luxurious think of adding some bathroom furniture such as an ultra modern or even upholstered chair (for when you want to sit back and paint your nails!) or a mounted TV or sound system to help you unwind.

Bathrooms do not have to be completely white and neutral. Be bold and add a dash of colour. A black and white colour schemes create an interesting contrast, but don’t be afraid to go brighter and bolder. This doesn’t mean an entirely hot pink bathroom, but using splashes of colour to create a different mood and feeling in the space.

Go large
This will of course depend on your budget, but it is common to hear of designers knocking down walls to increase space of the bathroom. If this isn’t an option for you, there are many clever ways to properly utilise and maximise what space you have. There are countless options when it comes to cabinets, fixtures and storage options to efficiently organise your bathroom

Lighting can be an effective and economical way to change the mood and feel of a space. For instance, ensure you select and light the key features or objects in the bathroom such as bath or feature wall. When it comes to mirrors, the light source should be at face height and provides both reflected and directed light to the face. For atmosphere consider both switch and dimmer lights. This is ideal for when enjoying a relaxing bath. Create the mood by switching off the down lights and dimming the mirror lights for a soft glow.

Complete Home also has plenty of bathroom ideas and inspiration. Check out some beautiful bathrooms here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recycled Interior Design

Many homes and businesses are choosing to use recycled materials for interior design. It's no longer just a piece of furniture or flooring. It's now a piece of history . It's a part of a story that's going into your architecture.

Recycled Timber
This trend began in the 1980s. Timber is now being restructured and re-appreciated in many different ways. It's only old growth timbers that display unique qualities that are sought after by many interior designers.

Being mainly used for structural purposes, the beauty and individual effects of timber has often been overlooked. Now we observe the varying colours and grains and so they become recycled interior design or dress timber.

There are two main types of recycled timber, salvaged and re-milled.

Salvaged comes from old buildings that have been torn down or are falling apart. It can be quite strenuous and time consuming to lay as flooring. There can be gaps or noticeable grooves. But many prefer this 'earthy' style. It's seen as warm and comforting. This type of recycled interior design really shows it's history.

Try to contact your supplier and make sure it has been inspected. If not, it may have grooves close to cracking, some areas may be sanded too thin or it may even have nails still sticking out of it.

Using re-milled timber for recycled interior design is the more 'dressed out' option. It is sourced from second hand materials. Once found, it is sanded, polished, and re-milled to look brand new. Re-milled timber will fit neatly together as flooring, and will display its colour and grain as a feature.

When considering recycled interior design in any manner, it's important to make enquiries as to how the materials were stored - for instance perhaps if it was stored undercover or if it was rained on during demolition.

Salvaged wood can be given to you dirty. It can be extremely hard to lay if this is the case. If you're sourcing salvaged wood for recycled interior design, enquire as to if it has been cleaned or not.

Recycled interior design is doing wonders for the environment. Being eco-friendly and a beautiful addition to any room, recycled interior design provides a myriad of benefits.

However, because of the long process requires to attain recycled timber, it is more expensive. Your supplier needs to have it removed from the building, milled, cleaned and made into new flooring. It's a costly process, but recycled interior design is a beautiful and unique way to add history to your home.

Recycled timber is structurally sounder, even though it is more expensive. The timber has already had time to acclimatise, there is less movement in the wood and the moisture content would have dropped significantly. All this makes it perfect for creating furniture or recycled interior design.

But its not just timber making its way into the heart of recycled interior design, there are many examples of people using wine bottles as pots for plants, and old binders as a headboard.

Many artists are now turning to the trash heaps to find their next treasure. Recycled interior design is a growing trend all over the world and many architects are trying to find ways to recycle whole buildings.

From shipping containers to old bicycle wheels, anything can be used to create new and inventive pieces to use in recycled interior design. You're not only doing your bit for the environment but you get a charming piece of art or history to transform any living space!

D.I.Y Garden lighting

From just another garden, into a night-time wonderland of light and colour - garden lights can transform your landscape design in the blink of an eye. With post-lights, underwater and solar lighting options, there are garden lights to suit everyone's tastes.

Garden lights offer a brilliant way to highlight your favourite plants or the unique features of your garden and are an easy way to impress your friends.

There are two main uses for garden lights, functional and aesthetic. You should ask yourself what you're trying to achieve in your garden before deciding on what lights to put where and how many you're going to need. If you're trying to highlight and showcase your garden, opt for a more flamboyant spray of garden lights.

Functional garden lights are used to help you navigate your garden at night. They accent specific areas of your garden for repeated use. This can include barbeques, paths, stairs, seating areas, etc. In-ground lights or the most common post-lights are the favourites for functional use.

Aesthetic garden lighting draws attention to the key features of your garden. In an attractive and appealing way you can highlight in general a gentle lighting effect across your night-time escape.

Take note of seasonal aspects when deciding on garden lights. For example, accenting the pool in summer or creating an interesting focal point such as around deciduous tress in the garden during winter. Having the switches leading back to a panel in the house can let you play around with the lights and lets you decide what you want to become all that more stunning at night.

There are many varying types of garden lights available for purchase. The range is growing everyday. LED, Solar, and 12 volt, can go in-ground, underwater, be used as post-lights...the list goes on.

In-ground garden lights are an amazing way to accent a carefully sculpted garden path, or highlight the walk to your door. They're also really useful when trying to navigate and trying to avoid not to fall over in the dark!

Underwater garden lights are a unique and inventive way to draw attention to your water feature. They add and create that beautiful reflective water patters and display that across your garden.

Post garden lights are the most common way to accentuate and pinpoint the main features of your garden. Place them around paths or against hedges to add that slight decorative ornamental touch.

You can choose which of LED, solar or 12 volt you would prefer. But as a general fact, solar lights tend to wear out pretty quickly and get bogged out by light rainfall.

When considering installment of your garden lights there are only a few things to remember:

Purchasing garden lights in a kit will make it easier for installation. Most 12V kits include lights, cables and a transformer, which are simple enough to put together. If you can screw the garden lights into place it means extra security! Your garden lights could be pulled out, pushed over or stolen with little resistance if not.

If you want to go all out, purchasing garden lights with motion sensor technology is extremely useful in lighting up an area more significantly when someone passes by. Definitely a good choice if you're sick of getting stubbed toes from bumping into garden pots in the dark!

If you're going for a certain effect, using garden lights with a lower brightness, but more fittings are a possible way to create that dreamland feeling. It reduces the number of dark spots around your landscape, enhancing your gardens natural beauty.

Garden lights are themselves, a striking design element. In addition they are generally low maintenance, eliminating overall hassle and creating a lasting effect.

Garden lights are a beautiful and timeless way to add that final touch to your garden. They can create harmony between indoors and outdoors and will never fail to impress even you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bathroom clutter busters

By Ashleigh Lonsdale

How many hours do you spend in your bathroom each week? Add up the time you clock up showering, cleaning your teeth and primping and preening in front of your mirror every morning and night and chances are you probably spend more than you realise!

Keeping your bathroom in good order not only helps create a welcoming and calm environment, but also ensures that the space remains a clutter-free zone, saving you time and from stress while you go about your daily bathing rituals.

Reclaim your sense of order and transform your bathroom into an organised haven with these clever storage tips and tricks from organising guru Carolyn Verhoef, owner of Outside the Box Organisation Solutions and member of the Australian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO).

Bamboo bathroom range from Howards Storage World.

1. Over the door hanging: These storage systems are one of the best ways to store items in a space-starved bathroom. You can even use the shoe-type hanging bags for your spray cans, lotions, hair dryer, etc.

2. Convert bathroom cupboards to drawers: An easy and cost effective way to do this is to use the plastic drawers often used in offices or craft rooms. There are types available that you can fasten to the cupboard floor for a more permanent solution.

3. Pedestal shelves: Pedestal basins are very popular with bathroom designers, but aren’t very storage friendly. Some companies now make self-standing shelves that will fit under the sink around your pedestal.

4. Instant towel hanging space: For those with shower screens, extra towel hanging space is easily achieved with metal hooks that sit on top of the screen. They don’t require any fastening or cause any damage.

5. Make-up caddy: There are some excellent acrylic make-up caddy systems available on the market. I’ve used these for several years – they make morning make-up routines short and sweet, everything is easy to see and at my fingertips.

6. Cube book shelves: These have been very popular for children’s toy storage and books for many years, but also make perfect bathroom storage. They offer endless possibilities; you can roll towels up and stack to fill the cubes or use baskets to store cleaning products and smaller items and hide them from sight.

7. Laundry basket with a lid seat: These are wonderful for spacious bathrooms; somewhere for the dirty washing or sit while putting on your stockings or socks.

The Moriki Bamboo double hamper and ottoman from Papaya.

8. Go vertical with slim line shelving: If you are space starved there’s nothing better than to go up the wall. As many things we use in the bathroom are quite small, a shelving system could start narrow at the bottom and widened further up the wall as to not hinder the floor space. Add decorative features like lovely candles for a extra touch of style.

9. Use vanity doors for storage: Many vanities waste valuable space around the plumbing. Attach wire baskets to the doors for access to things you need in the morning rush. Baskets on a pull-out rail system are also a fabulous option.

10. One last thing: If you have a rarely-used bath, consider covering it with a wood frame. A handyman could easily put a simple frame to rest across the bath top to create more bench space.

Carolyn and other AAPO members are currently celebrating DYMO National Organising Week (NOW), which wraps up this Sunday, September 11.

For more hints on how you can whip your bathroom into shape, visit or

Creating a tropical garden

It's spring (although if you are in Sydney today it probably wouldn't seem like it)! To experience a tropical garden you don't need to head off to Bali. Adding a tropical touch to your garden let's you fully take advantage of the warmer season or if the case may be, brighten your spirits on a dreary day (like today).

Plant choice is essential to create the tropical look. Tropical naturally means bright and vibrant colours that make a statement - think bold reds, burnt oranges, warm yellows, and cool blues and greens. Hibiscus are great options as are frangipani trees, orchids and bird of paradise. Tropical foliage is also bright and bold. Ferns, palms, canna lilies and cordyline are ideal options.

However, tropical gardens will need maintenance. Tropical gardens typically thrive in warm climates that receive high rainfall. So you will need to recreate these conditions - meaning watering your plants several times a week is essential.

Water is also prominent feature in tropical gardens. Ideally this could mean a pool or water feature (no matter how small or large). The gentle sound of water trickling add a relaxing and ambient touch to the garden.

Using natural materials in the garden also adds to the tropical feel. Think furniture make from cane, timber day beds, woven hammocks, Balinese shade structures, bamboo fencing or pebbles and large stones to create borders.

Then finish it off with some decor. Garden art can create a focal point for the garden. Choose one or two key pieces in the garden such as a stone sculpture to add visual impact. Then, it's adding accessories and some personal touches. Think colourful throw rugs, candle holders, lanterns, or cushions. And there you have it! Your own tropical oasis that you don't even need to leave home to experience.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Combat kitchen clutter

By Ashleigh Lonsdale

Do you dread opening your pantry simply because you fear the chaos you’ll find inside? Or perhaps your cupboards and drawers are filled with mismatching pots, pans and other odds and ends. Let’s not even get started on the state of your fridge…

Organising your kitchen may seem like an overwhelming and timely task that you simply don’t have the time for, but with the right storage and organisation solutions you can easily (and quickly!) transform your clutter-filled space into one that’s welcoming, efficient and a joy to work in.

With the spring cleaning season now in session and DYMO National Organising Week (NOW) well underway, we thought it would be the perfect time to chat with organising guru Carolyn Verhoef, owner of Outside the Box Organisation Solutions and member of the Australian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO), to find out her top tips for a clutter-free kitchen.

Say goodbye to kitchen chaos and hello to your new calm, clean cooking area!

1. Create zones: Emulate all good restaurant kitchens by being able to put your hand on the exact tool you need at the precise moment needed while cooking. Cupboards and equipment need to be arranged so that all the items you need to create certain tasks are together.

2. Use drawers where ever possible: If you’re designing a kitchen, clutter will be a thing of the past if drawers are the main storage facility. Best uses for drawers are pots, pans, daily china, cups, and dry ingredient items like flour sugar.

3. Designate a home for incoming papers: Often the kitchen is where families gather, so paper is normally a problem. Use an A4 box with a lid to hold papers coming into the home; the lid can easily be placed on top when visitors arrive no need to hide and then forget your paperwork.

4. Use the same container storage throughout: When all containers are identical you won’t be searching the dreaded plastic cupboard for the matching lid. Another big plus is that the containers will stack and line up perfectly in your cupboards or on your benches.

5. Label, label, label: It seems so simple, but when everyone knows where something is supposed to go by being labelled somehow it stays there, keeping your benches free and cupboards in order.

6. Go vertical: When space is an issue, clutter seems to appear faster. Anything stored on a flat surface will use more space. There are many products on the market that can help you go vertical. Use hooks to hang utensils above the cook top, chopping boards and baking trays can be stored on their end. We designed slim open slots on either side of the oven to hold all these items making them quicker to access also.

7. Fridges weren’t meant to be notice boards: One of the most obvious spots in the kitchen that attracts clutter is the fridge. Yes, a gorgeous artwork from school is lovely, but drowning your fridge doors in bills and reminders is not only ineffective, but also visually overwhelming. Create an action station in the kitchen to help process all these types of reminders.

8. Use drawer dividers and mats: These will again help everyone who uses the kitchen: identify where something should live, remember to label your containers and you’ll be unstoppable. Non-slip mats are essential in large item drawers to keep them organised and ordered.

9. Move the turkey platter to another location: Are you keeping cooking or serving utensils that are used once a year in your work area? Consider where these infrequently used items would be better kept as the kitchen is hot property in your home.

10. Declutter and cull: Do you really need 23 takeaway containers and 16 plastic cups? Sort and eliminate what is not functioning or not needed. It’s amazing how much stuff we collect – the 80/20 rule applies to the kitchen, too. We tend to only use 20 per cent of all the items we store 80 per cent of the time, so clear out what you can live without you’ll be amazed by the sense of freedom this can bring.

NOW runs until this Sunday, September 11. AAPO members will be holding workshops and “Ask an organiser” sessions at selected Howard’s Storage World outlets, local shopping centres, community libraries etc. in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Darwin. Check out or click here to find where a NOW event is being held in your area.

Stay tuned for Carolyn’s top tips for banishing clutter from your bathroom.

Monday, September 5, 2011


One of Australia's foremost photographers, Max Dupain's geographic world had Sydney as its heart, its pulse radiating from the harbour, around Circular Quay, its streets, the many parks around the city and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was fascinated with photographing from unusual angles and vantage points.

MAX DUPAIN (1911-1992)

With a god’s eye view, Dupain’s photographs became intriguing and breathtaking, sometimes half-hidden by shadows but always mystified by distance. The moment to pull the shutter was always determined by the way in which the light fell. Dupain preferred the ‘raking light’ of early morning and late afternoon. Sometimes, with a compass he would watch a building and track the movement of the sun to predict when the light would be ‘just right’.
MAX DUPAIN (1911-1992)


In 1989, Dupain gave the RAIA over 1,000 photographs of Australian architecture covering a period of more than 50 years. He believed that the photographs should be in an architectural archive and that the RAIA was the rightful place. The photographs form the basis of an invaluable collection, and with buildings that have been demolished, a wonderful, and perhaps only, record of their existence. Some of those photographs are now exhibited here for the very first time.


Dupain was a minimalist. His approach: ‘keep it simple’. His attitude to colour: black and white—’that’s where the depth is, the meat’...

RESEARCH: Anne Higham, Eric Sierins

An exhibition of Max Dupain photographs by the Australian Architecture Association from the archive of the Australian Institute of Architects (New South Wales Chapter)

Pruning standard roses

Who doesn’t love roses? They are not only fragrant, but come in so many different varieties and colours that there’s sure to be at least one that’s for you. Roses have long been used as centrepieces in the garden and the tall standard rose is an increasingly popular option.

What are standard roses?
Essentially, standards are grafted onto tall stems, usually between 75 and 85cm. A typical flowering height for a full standard is around 1.2 - 1.5m, whereas the Patio standard grows between 45-60cm.

Typically, the central cane, onto which the hybrid rose is grafted is made to a rootstock at the bottom of the central cane. Another graft is made at the top of the cane to form the hybrid. The central cane (or standard) is usually supported by a stake.

Standards work to add height to plantings, define pathways, and their straight single stems give a sense of order to gardens.

Some of the standards available include Iceberg, Seduction, Gold Bunny, Friesia, Fruitee, Madame President and Bonica

Pruning standard roses
Pruning standard roses is very important, especially when changing the natural form of a plant or tree. Pruning standard roses incorrectly can worsen the case of pests and disease and removing too from the wrong areas can also cause the central cane to snap.

As you can tell, pruning standard roses requires more attention that the usual bushes. More focus must be placed on their symmetrical shape. Ideally, you want to maintain a rounded framework and only prune the head of the rose, not below the graft. Thin out the plant, removing thin growth unless.  Cut down the stems to a quarter to one third of their original size. Cut to a bud which points in the right direction.

Remember to also check the stakes and ties that will support the weight of the rose for the coming season. On some hybrids, it may be necessary to provide two or three support stakes until such time as the central cane becomes thick enough to support the weight of the grafted rose. In spring you should be rewarded with a beautifully shaped plant.

Healthy Design - the Key to Smaller and Smart Homes

Health issues such as natural light, fresh air and noise control have become three of the most important features for Australian home buyers and renovators, Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Australian Institute of Architects advises.
Indoor / Outdoor Alfresco - ideally flowing from an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area with bi-fold or stackable doors into a paved area or decking.
Design by Architect Cathi Colla With Governments planning policies pushing for higher density and housing affordability at an all time low, well designed smaller and smarter sustainable homes are becoming more popular.

Archicentre State Manager ACT & NSW, Ian Agnew said, for the past two decades the family home has grown in size, however, with an eye on construction and running costs for many people wanting to enter into the housing market, small has become beautiful.

Mr Agnew said, "One of the misconceptions for people to overcome is that a small home is a mean home, or is of lower quality. This is not factual as a well designed small home can maximise the use of space to deliver a pleasant, healthy living environment to suit people's lifestyle. Not everyone wants to live in a apartment and the solution is for a smaller smarter more sustainable home."

"A quick look around most homes usually finds that if people removed their clutter they could on average find they would have created an amount of space equivalent to a bedroom or a study."

Archicentre is finding more people are using its design concept service as the initial planning phase of their renovation or new home design before they commence commissioning finished drawings.

"This service provides the opportunity for people to clarify their wish list for the new home and or renovation looking at the design and importantly the financial viability of the project," Mr Agnew said.

"Key issues being raised during the design consultation include health, lifestyle and increasingly sustainability on the back of sky rocketing energy and water costs."
Mr Agnew said, "the noise factor has also become a major consideration with double glazing and sound proofing becoming a high priority for renovators and home builders who want to ensure peace within their home environment and cut out traffic noise."
"Basically people want to create a quiet spot within their home environment where they can relax and unwind from a busy world away from the maddening crowd."
"Period homes with little light are being transformed through atrium type extensions which provide more natural sunlight and viewing areas of gardens or water features."
"Internal courtyards providing private 'green viewing areas' from many areas of the home have also become popular."
"The healthy home renovation trend is also extending into the types of materials used and eliminating those materials causing respiratory problems."
Mr Agnew said that cashed up baby boomers and young professionals, conscious of fitness, are including small home gyms, spas and lap pools which are suitable for smaller housing lots and are easily maintained.

Archicentre is finding that renovators are focused on integrating landscaped outdoor areas into their informal living areas with the inclusion of walls of folding glass doors and decks.
"The quality of air and controlling of temperature of the home has also led to the return of the traditional louvre window."
Home buyers undertaking Archicentre's pre-purchase inspection reports on properties are also interested in the potential feasibility of the property to deliver a healthy home style renovation.
According to Archicentre, the typical renovation includes a master bedroom with an ensuite and a walk-in robe at one end of the house and at the other end, a multipurpose living area - kitchen, dining and lounge, backing on to a deck, dining area and small pergola.

Top Renovation Trends
Multi-purpose rooms are a new trend.
Kitchen and dining combined through high bench dining options.
Living and study.
Play room / study / guest bedroom.
Low-maintenance living
Paint-free architecture, earthy textures, very natural. Paved courtyards with an emphasis on drought resistance plants. Polished timber flooring is the epitome of low-maintenance.

Indoor/Outdoor Alfresco or open-air - ideally flowing from an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area with bi-fold or stackable doors into a paved area or decking.

Garden Design Multiple light-wells and courtyards around the home, bringing light and views to bedrooms and living areas.
Home Office
With the rapid spread of telecommuting with broadband cable facilities for internet access or wireless access, more people are able to conduct business affairs from home. The home office is now an essential feature for the modern business.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Growing frangipani cuttings

Frangipanis are usually grown from cuttings, but how exactly do you plant them? The good news is it’s a lot easier to do than you think! The cuttings are quite resilient and have been known to even withstand drought and neglect. Find out how to create a tropical paradise in your garden by growing frangipani cuttings.

Firstly, frangipani cuttings can be taken from several parts of the tree including herbaceous stems, woody stems, softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood. Once you have taken the cutting, allow it to dry out for a week or so before planting. This is gives time for the cut ends to heal over. Leave the cuttings exposed to air, but out of direct sun, to aid the process.

The frangipani cuttings can then be planted directly in the ground or in pots of sand. Just ensure the potting medium you use has good drainage and won't retain too much water. On this note, avoid using a normal potting mix for frangipani cuttings because they will rot if the mixture stays too moist.

The frangipani cuttings should be placed fairly deep in the pot or container. Pack the soil firmly around the cutting so it can stand on its own. Then water the frangipani cutting and pack the soil around the plant if it has loosened. Continue to water the container every three to four days, until the roots have started to establish themselves.

Place your container in an area that gets full to partial sun. Being quite drought tolerant, mature frangipanis will be able to tough it out if soil is dry for days or even weeks. However, young plants require watering weekly in dry weather until they are established.

If you decide to transplant the cutting, be wary as the roots are brittle. Gently remove from the pot and transplant into well drained soil and place in a sunny spot. Now you can enjoy the fragrant smell of frangipanis from a cutting you grew on your own. Could you ask for anything more rewarding?

Pruning fruit trees

Why prune
Pruning is not necessary in order to produce fruit. However, pruning fruit trees is needed to help ensure trees don’t grow too tall so the fruit becomes too high to reach. Pruning is also needed to remove unproductive wood.

fruit trees are pruned in two stages. First, to train the young tree and secondly to encourage the renewal of fruiting wood. Different fruit trees require different attention when pruning. Understanding the growth and fruiting habit and time of bearing of your trees will help you grasp how to prune fruit trees. However, as a general overview we've offered some advice when it comes to pruning fruit trees: .

The aim of pruning here is to clear clutter to create an open framework. Competing branches, especially any crossing or low branches must be removed as these cause the tree not to fruit properly.

The shoot on the end of each tip, known as a terminal won't ever fruit. This can be reduced to just five or six buds. The branch that comes off the side of the shoot at an angle is called a lateral. Leave these as they are as they will develop fruiting spurs for next season. Remove any old fruit left hanging on the tree and prune a quarter of an inch past a bud and at an angle.

For pears, reduce the terminal and leave these to produce fruit.

Train the tree into a vase shape by opening up the tree and let light penetrate the centre. Look for around 6 strong branches to provide that framework and then reduce any tall, whippy growth.

Citrus trees can suffer from disease. Pruning your lemon trees and removing dead wood will help encourage new growth. to remove low hanging branches firstly make a small cut underneath the branch and then cut through from the top to stop the bark tearing.

Remember to properly dispose of the pruning and remove any old, rotton fruit which could harbour disease.

Pruning fruit trees is essentially a way to keep the crops manageable and produce reliable quality crops. Pruning fruit trees is best done in winter and although we’ve just entered spring it’s something useful to keep in mind. The time and effort spent here will allow you to reap the rewards later on.

Caring for and pruning lemon trees

Citrus trees, such as lemon trees are common in gardens across Australia. They not only are beautiful trees to look at, but offer fresh produce at your disposal (not to mention the wonderful citrus smell!). Lemon trees produce fruit all year, making it very convenient when you decide you need to add a dash to your cooking. However there are a few things to be wary of. Citrus trees suffer from pests and disease so it’s good to know the basics when it comes to caring for and pruning lemon trees.

Caring for your lemon tree
Lemon trees, and all citrus trees, in general thrive in full sun. When starting off, use plenty of cow or horse manure in the ground and fertilise in August and February. Your lemon tree will also need lots of water. It is best to water your trees generously especially when young fruit starts to grow in spring and early summer. If the leaves feel dry and leathery during hot weather, it is a sign they need more water.

Problems that can arise
As mentioned, citrus trees can suffer from disease. If your lemon trees have lost their leaves and have dead wood, it might be a sign they are sick. Pruning your lemon trees and removing dead wood will help encourage new growth.

Pruning lemon trees
While we’re on the topic, it’s important to know that pruning lemon trees is not necessary in order to produce fruit. However there are several instances when pruning lemons trees may be required. This might be if the tree is sick or to shape them. When pruning lemon trees to remove low hanging branches firstly make a small cut underneath the branch and then cut through from the top to stop the bark tearing. Pruning may also be required if too heavy a crop is produced. This can weight down branches and cause them to break. Here, simply pick the fruit to lighten the load or remove small branches.

Pest and insects
There are a range of pests and insects that can cause trouble for lemon trees. Holes in a citrus tree are caused by a borer which attack the weakest plants and those under stress. Other problems citrus trees such encounter include sooty mould – which indicates there is an insect or pest such as white fly present. Wriggly lines on your citrus tree may have been cause by citrus leaf miner and deformed looking fruit may be the cause of a citrus bud mite. Routine oil sprays will keep these pests under control and organic based fertilizers will keep your tree flowering.

Tending to your vegetable garden

What is the state of your vegetable garden? Is it thriving with fresh produce or does it need a bit of TLC?

Home grown produce seems to offer a greater taste and freshness when compared to what you get at the grocery store. Creating and tending to a vegetable garden also be a very rewarding experience. Gardening is known to be almost therapeutic and what better feeling could you get than watching your helpless little seedlings grow and thrive into glorious vegetables?

So if you want to reap the benefits of a vegetable patch, here's what you should consider:

Planning the vegetable garden
Planning is key and the time spent here will pay off. Work out how much space you can give your new vegetable garden then think how much time a week you can dedicate to it. Tending to your vegetable garden growing produce can be time consuming, so remember, you can always start small and expand later. In general, your vegetable patch will require an open space that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight per day. Prepare the ground, digging to 25-30cm and add lots of organic matter. Remember, raised beds are good for growing veggies.

Design your vegetable garden
Plots are ideally divided into three beds to allow for crop rotation. It is best to have rows running north to south giving equal sunlight to both sides of the rows.

Crop rotating in the vegetable garden
Rotating crops helps ensure that the same type of crop doesn’t occupy the same ground year after year as this can build up diseases that attack vegetables belonging to the same family. It also depletes the soil of nutrients. For most at home gardeners, strict crop rotation isn’t necessary however a simple rotation to avoid following one crop with a vegetable of the same type will suffice.

The what, where and when of your vegetable garden
Make sure you consider climate. There are warm season veggies such as potatoes and tomatoes that grow best in months that experience 20 degree and over weather. Then there are cold season vegetables such as brocollli and broad beans . Climatic considerations will also influence rotation. If space is limited, try sticking to vegetables that grow quickly including fresh tomatoes, greens vegetables that give a high yield or can be harvested regularly are effective when considering space.

Once you have planned your patch, it's time for some maintenance. Vegetables are shallow-rooted and need lots of water. Weed control is also needed to ensure the success of your vegetable patch. Remove the weeds between and within rows for the best results. At this stage you might also consider fertilising and spraying your plants.

When your vegetables are ready for harvest pick them when they are young to ensure the best taste and then, enjoy

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Growing strawberries

It's officially Spring! What better way to celebrate the warmer months than headings outdoors and embracing nature?

Spring is a great time to get stuck into gardening. It's also a great time for strawberries.

There are plenty of different ways of growing strawberries including from seeds, runners or in pots or hanging baskets. There are a number of strawberries varieties including Millewa, Lowanna, Kiewa, Adina and Tallara. What they all have in common is a delicious sweet taste.

Here's what you need to know when it comes to growing strawberries

The basics
Strawberries love the sun and welldrained soil so choose a spot where they will be well accommodated. Strawberries can be grown at all times of the year. You'll find most strawberries flower in spring. Set fruit which is harvested late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter. There are also varieties that flower throughout the year and in the colder months.

Starting off
When growing strawberries, firstly ensure you buy certified-disease free plants from the nursery. Strawberries can become susceptible to virus disease after a few years so this is a good way to avoid this.

Growing strawberries from seeds
If you decide that you will be growing strawberries from seeds, firstly buy a seed raising mix. Again, this is due to strawberries' sensitivity to pests and diseases potentially present in the soil. Fill a seed tray with the mix and level the soil before sowing the seeds onto the surface Cover the seed tray with a plastic dome to keep the mix moist. Strawberries like sunlight so place in a sheltered spot that gets the morning sun.

Growing strawberries from seeds isn’t your only option. Strawberries can be grown from runners. This is the natural way strawberries reproduce in which the old plants produce new smaller plants each summer. To find new plants, simply follow the runners along until you get to a point where the new plant is forming. Separate and uproot and there you have it – a new, well developed strawberry plant!

Caring for your strawberries
Remember to water your strawberries well, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry summers. Surround each plant with a layer of straw mulch so the fruit does not spoil by touching the soil.

Remember, human aren’t the only ones that love strawberries. Be aware of birds, snails and slugs. You might have to consider snail pellets or netting to keep away pests. Then, just wait until the strawberries are red before picking to ensure outstanding flavour. Now you can sit back, relax and enjoy your strawberries. The good news is during summer, it’s not uncommon to harvest every day or two. Bon appetit!