Wednesday, 22 June 2016

5 grow lavender

Think lavender is just for old ladies? Think again.


1. It looks and smells great
You don't have to love Prince to appreciate a nice burst of purple in the garden or indoors - certainly makes a nice change from all the green succulents and hardy shrubs that are so popular these days, and it means you'll always have some flowers on hand to pop in a vase without spending a cent. The fragrance is lovely and relaxing too, making it a quick, non-toxic and cheap way to freshen up any room; and you can even use it to decorate a table setting or add as a finishing touch to a wrapped present.

2. It's super easy to grow
You can buy lavender seeds or plants, but better yet simply take a softwood cutting from a neighbour in spring, stick it in a pot and watch it take on a new life. You can then transfer to the garden later if you wish. It's a very resilient, low maintenance plant so perfect for those who struggle to keep anything in the garden alive. Why not grow a few cuttings in pots that you can then give to friends as gifts? 

3. You'll help save the bees
If you weren't already aware, the worldwide bee population is in serious trouble due to diseases, pesticides and a reduction in flowers everywhere, thanks to drought resistant plants like succulents being all the rage. If the bees disappear we lose more than honey - our food crops which rely on bee pollination will be drastically affected meaning globally our food supply is in danger. Bees particularly love flowers with strong colours such as purple, so lavender will not only make them happy as they can get a good collection of nectar, but they'll also be more likely to hang around your garden and pollinate the flowers of any edible plants or trees you have which will result in fantastic harvests for you too.

4. It's a tasty culinary herb
Lavender margaritas anyone? Be the coolest kitchen cat around by using dried or fresh lavender in your cooking. There are stacks of recipes available on the internet that incorporate the flower such as cakes, teas, salads, cheese and cocktails - even the old lamb roast can be given a fresh twist with it instead of rosemary. Plus, it can also double as a nice garnish on the plate - fancy!

5. It's good for you 
Scientific studies have proven that lavender scent can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and even things like headaches and labour pains; so if you're feeling a bit down get into the garden, take a seat next to your lavender plant and breathe deeply. If you're particularly handy you can go even further by creating your own lavender essential oil which you can then use in concentrated form on your skin or in creams, baths, candles, surface sprays, linen fresheners and more.

Did you know...
There are 39 different types of lavender that range in shape and colour? The purple English variety (shown above) is the most common and is considered the sweetest for flavour.    

photo credit: Echter Lavendel (Lavandula angustifolia) via photopin (license)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Buzz off bush turkey bastards

Hello - I'm a bastard buzzard

At first I thought they were cool. "Hey check out these gigantic birds in our backyard!" I'd never seen bush turkeys (or brush turkeys, as they are actually called), in gardens before - even though I grew up in Sydney.

A few years on and the novelty factor has completely worn off. Bush turkeys are bastards.

Ok sure, they're protected native birds of Australia, but I couldn't care less at the moment because they are PESTS. Just like possums. If they stayed in the bush I would probably still think they were cool, but they don't. They're bloody annoying backyard intruders who scratch up your garden and trash your plants.

The reason we're seeing so many more of them now is because you're not allowed to kill them or their eggs anymore (aborigines used to eat them - can totally understand why). There are also less foxes around (which used to hunt them), and lots of gardens are now shrub and mulch heavy which is just what they love.

At the moment we have four of the buggers lurking around our place - the Turkey Gang I call them. They're ugly and so destructive. I've tried getting our cat to scare them but he couldn't care less, so have resorted to spraying them with the hose. Even the kids get in on the act and try and scare them off too by shouting at them.

I know this might seem mean considering they were here before us settlers, but we live near the Manly Dam so there is plenty of native area around for them to find food and create their mounds - the piles of earth the males create to impress lady turkeys. If they're lucky, the female will choose their mound to lay her egg in, but only after a quick sexual favour has been granted. The egg is not theirs either but the next one will be, when she's moved on to some other turkey's mound. Nice.

Anyway, my efforts to get rid of the Turkey Gang aren't working. It's a downright invasion. So I've researched a few tips for frustrated gardeners like myself. Knock yourselves out fellow turkey haters... 

How to save your garden from bush turkey bastards
* Make the ground hard for them to rake - so place stones, sticks or heavy mulch around plants or chicken wire under the mulch.
* Use netting over plants you particularly love.
* Try placing a large mirror outside - they'll think it's another male and after attempting to fight it will find another place to create their shag piles.
* Don't leave pet food or other food for animals lying around outside.
* Don't leave your compost uncovered.
* Don't leave piles of mulch lying around.
* Do leave piles of mulch lying around - only if you've decided to give up the fight and coexist with the bastards. This way the pressure will be off your plants and garden beds, and they can use the mulch to make their mounds. 

Do you have any other solutions for the suburban bush turkey conundrum?

Photo credit: Birds in Backyards

Thursday, 24 March 2016

I'm too scared to go to the Easter Show

Laugh it up clowns
I used to love the Easter Show when I was little. The best part was when the special newspaper supplement came out showcasing all the different showbags you could buy. My sisters and I would spend hours looking at that thing discussing the pros and cons of different bags and what would get us the most stuff with the number of bags we were allowed to get (Bertie Beetle hands down always a winner). I also enjoyed seeing the animals, fruit displays, food and general vibe of it all - but mostly it was about the bags.

The last time I went to the show though was probably 20 years ago as a teenager. And it wasn't that fun. I went with one of my sisters and after fighting our way there on the train with the hoards of people, we stupidly tried to get money out at the venue but the ATMs were all bust and we had something like $20 between us to buy food and bags - which even back then was a complete joke. Disaster.

And now, even though I have two small ones myself, I haven't been since. I just can't face it! The crowds, the expense, the hassle, and with two children to lug around - it's not appealing at all. I hear others talk about it, and even those who say the kids love it admit it's a mission. In recent years I've sometimes entertained the notion by bringing it up with my husband, but if you thought I wasn't keen, well in no way, shape or form is he up for the challenge. The closest I've come is getting a friend to buy me some showbags.

It's such a shame though. I wish it was easier to go because I'm sure I would go back and let my boys soak up the Easter fun. But sorry, I think I'll just stick to the good old Easter Bunny visit instead. Luckily the children don't know what they're missing out on, yet...

Do you go to the Easter Show?

Photo credit: The Thud