What’s to Come in 2019

Today was D-Day (or should that have been B-Day for Back-to-my-Blog-Day?).

I was going to post a quick 2-years’ worth of garden updates, but I’ve woken up to overcast skies, so photos will have to wait for a sunny day.

Starting soon, I’ll be doing a Plant of the Week (though maybe not every week!), showcasing both my indoor plants, and those in the garden, giving tips on growing and propagation, and where to get them.

Here’s a teaser of my favourite indoor plant ever – the amazing Electric fern:

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Depending on the light, it reflects a blue sheen – delicate and gorgeous! Stay tuned for where I bought it.

Moving right along…

As I planted a low maintenance garden all those years ago, there really isn’t much I need to do on a regular basis, other than occasional watering and some light pruning.

And replacing plants the gardener has killed.

(I say gardener, but he’s more of a garden maid – he likes to sweep (the driveway, the street, my poor paths) and pick up every single fallen leaf in the beds.)

It makes it hard to write a gardening blog when there’s nothing much happening out there!

So, as I’m about to start redecorating my house, I’ve decided to bore you with that instead.

I’ve scoured YouTube and DIY blogs and have found some lovely things to make to decorate my new spaces, as well as some great tutorials to help me with technique.

I’ll be posting my take on these things, together with links to the original tutorials, and where to buy supplies here in Mauritius.

Here’s another little teaser –  one of the many projects I’m still working on…

 

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Don’t say a word! It’s going to be lovely when I’ve finished!

Start collecting your guava branches!

Anyway, that’s it for today – see you again when the sun shines!

Veronique

PS It’s good to be back!

PPS I use so many exclamation marks!!!

Garden Update #6 – Feb 2014

As I mentioned, I haven’t done any gardening to speak of since November – so once again, I’ve found myself with a very overgrown and weed-infested garden.

And because I also haven’t written anything for this blog since then, I only remembered to take “before” photos once I was halfway through the clean-up. How quickly we forget!

Grass, Rhoeo Edging, and Heliconias

The grass has spread from the beds into the paths, and some paths have all but disappeared as the rhoeo edging has flourished with all the rain we’ve had:

Grass-covered path

Weeded rhoeo to the right, and grass-covered rhoeo to the left

Narrow path

When you turn the corner at the end, there is actually no visible path

Unweeded bed

Overgrown bed

Once I finish weeding, I’ll be reshaping the paths by pulling out a lot of the rhoeo. I’ll use some of them to replant areas where the rhoeo has died, or been eaten by snails:

All chewed up

All chewed up

The heliconias are also migrating into the path – I’ll dig those out when I tackle the rhoeo.

HeliconiasMealy Bugs, Pawpaw, and Frangipani

One thing I did do, was to continue weekly spraying for mealy bugs with Amidor, and other than the frangipani and pawpaw which were both way too tall to spray, all plants are now free of it.

Last week, I decided to cut the pawpaw tree down to about 5 feet to make it more manageable.

Mealy bugs

Mealy bugs

Chopped pawpaw

Pawpaw trunk

There are already signs of new growth around the trunk.

I tried “drenching” the frangipani with Amidor, which involves pouring the diluted Amidol on the ground around the tree. It gets absorbed by the roots, gets into the tree’s sap, and kills the mealy bugs when they suck on the leaves.

It didn’t work, as the frangipani is underplanted with bromeliads, and not enough of the Amidor penetrated the soil.

Square Foot Garden

The final thing that fell prey to the mealy bugs were my vegetables – nearly everything got infested with it, and as I didn’t want to spray edible plants with poison, I pulled it all out.

At the moment, I’ve only got oregano, mint, thyme, spring onions, and strawberries left, and have been using the bed to propagate cuttings instead.

After I poison the grass and weeds that are growing in it, I’ll get out my seeds, and start from scratch.

So sad!

So sad!

Dracaena Marginata

I also cut the these down to about 4ft – they had grown too tall and were hidden in the frangipani tree. Also, they were covered in sooty mould, as is everything else under the frangipani. To quote The University of California website:

Sooty molds don’t infect plants but grow on surfaces where honeydew deposits accumulate. Honeydew is a sweet, sticky liquid that plant-sucking insects excrete as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. Because the insect can’t completely utilize all the nutrients in this large volume of fluid, it assimilates what it needs and excretes the rest as “honeydew.” Wherever honeydew lands—e.g., leaves, twigs, fruit, yard furniture, concrete, sidewalks, or statuary—sooty molds can become established.

Bloody mealy bugs!

I’ve got the tops of the dracaenas soaking in a bucket of water in the hope that they’ll root, and I can replant them in the driveway bed. I’ll also have to wipe the leaves individually with warm, soapy water to remove the sooty mould.

Again, bloody mealy bugs!

Dracaena trunk

Pruned dracaena – it should sprout a lot of new growth soon

Dracaena

Dracaena “cuttings”

Sooty mould

Sooty mould

I’ve transplanted a third dracaena from a pot to the driveway bed – I took three 4-inch cuttings from a friend’s plant a couple of years ago, rooted them in water, planted two in the ground and the third in a pot.

The ones in the ground were over 8 feet tall before I chopped them back, and the one in the pot might be 2 feet tall if it’s lucky. Huge difference!

Gardenia

I’ll be moving this to a new spot, as it’s growing over the path:

GardeniaI don’t know whether it will survive the transplant, but if it doesn’t, I’ve got a lot of cuttings on the go.

And having it closer to the house means that the perfume might drift up to the patio. Lovely!

Mulberry Tree

I had a lot of mulberries – but as I had to spray the tree with Amidor, I didn’t get to eat a single one!

After a recent visit to the Bagatelle Shopping Centre, and seeing these planted all through the carpark:

Tibouchina

Close-up of the flowers

I’ve decided to replace the mulberry with a tibouchina tree.

They’re gorgeous!

Vaneron Garden Centre in Trianon sell them, but at rs4500 for a 1.5m tree, I think I’ll shop around for a better price! So if you’ve seen them elsewhere, please let me know.

Anyway, that’s it for now – just a bit more weeding to do, and then I can move on to more interesting things.

I couldn’t work out how to start writing this blog again after Alf died, so almost didn’t.

Now, I’m glad I did – it’s brought a sense of normality back into my life, albeit in a small way.

I’m Back!

I won’t bore you too much with how I’ve been for the last few months – suffice to say that it’s been the hardest time of my life.

I’ve had a lot of very dark days, and imagine there’ll be a lot more ahead.

I think of Alf from the moment I wake up, right up to when I fall asleep, and miss him during every one of those moments.

I miss the things we used to do, and cry over those things we will never do.

On the positive side, I’ve made new friends, seen a lot more of old friends than I used to do, and started on a lot of projects that I was too lazy/busy to tackle before.

I’ve also started an art class, and will shortly be starting a concrete sculpture course – hopefully, my Plus-Size Diva will finally get her day in the sun, and I might even manage to make some head planters.

I decided it was better to keep busy doing things I enjoy, than to allow myself to drown in my pain – though it’s very tempting to go down that path sometimes.

Anyway, thanks for your support, and patience – I just need to finish getting the garden into shape after having ignored it for the last four months, and My Mauritian Garden will be up and running again!

Till next week.

Veronique

2. Compost Materials and Ratios

 For effective composting, you need a combination of dry and green waste.

Another direct quote from BH&G, Australia:

“There should be 25-30 times more carbon than nitrogen for it to work well.

What’s high in carbon? Woody prunings (chopped small), shredded paper, fallen leaves.

What’s high in nitrogen? Grass clippings, green plants, old flowers, manure, fruit and veggie scraps.”

Our green waste will include:

  • kitchen scraps
  • old bunches of flowers
  • fresh prunings and weeds from the garden
  • grass clippings (or, in our case, swathes of long grass)
  • seaweed to bulk out the green waste, as between the two of us, we don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables to have a lot of kitchen scraps (though with Alf being Irish, we always have a lot of potato peelings!)

And our dry waste:

  • torn newspaper
  • coffee grounds
  • dead banana leaves (but I won’t use the trunks as they’re too slimy)
  • fallen leaves from next door’s mango and Coeur de Boeuf trees
  • sawdust for extra “carbon”, if required
  • crushed eggshells (though if we don’t get worms in the compost, I don’t know whether they’ll break down, so I’m not sure yet if I will add them)

If you have access to it, animal manure (cow, chicken etc) makes an excellent addition, and speeds up the decomposition process, as will chopping everything up as small as possible.

I haven’t looked for chook (chicken) poo yet, but will start asking around – someone told me there’s an organic chicken farm in Mon Choisy, so I’ll make that my first stop (though if it’s fresh, the car might get rather stinky!).

(One thing I regret not doing back in Australia, was buying some Zoo Poo – the idea makes me laugh – spreading (well-rotted, not fresh!) elephant or giraffe poo around the garden! I love it!)

Ashes from wood fires is also good to add, but we don’t have any.

Things that DON’T go into the Compost

  • Diseased plants
  • Dog and cat poo
  • Meat, fish, dairy products
  • Fried foods and salads dressed with oil
  • Glossy magazines
  • excessive amounts of citrus peel or onions (though how much is too much?)

So, more trial and error ahead.

Hopefully, one day, I’ll actually know what I’m doing!

Transforming a 1960’s Stool into a Garden Planter

Sadly, I can’t make one of these for myself as I don’t think I could find a retro stool in Mauritius.

But back in Perth, whenever I saw one at a garage sale, I’d snap it up – they were only a couple of dollars each.

They’d come in gold-coloured metal, with a vinyl, or horribly matted fake fur cushion, so I’d spraypaint the metalwork in matte black, and recover the seat in (new and clean) fake zebra fur.

Look to the right(Sorry, the stool isn’t exactly front and centre –  but this is the only old photo I can find – my focus at the time was on our cat, Psst, who liked to squish herself into small spaces, which would make me laugh)

Anyway, the stools weren’t very comfortable to sit on (unless you had incredibly short legs and a well-padded derrière!), but they looked good, and were handy short-term seating when friends visited.

However…

Stool planter

Source: gatsbysgardens

…had I seen this picture back then, I would have removed the seat altogether with an angle-grinder, and inserted a hanging basket (minus the chains) in the resulting hole. After spraypainting the metalwork in a bright gloss of course. I love spraypaint.

The stools I bought didn’t have backs – but I’m pretty sure I could have worked something out with metal coat hangers and wire.

Unless you really enjoy angle-grinding, check underneath the cushion, so you don’t buy one that looks like this:

Too many bars

Source: Some etsy page charging a fortune for a $2 “vintage stool”!

All the ones I bought must have been the cheap version back in their day, as they had just two cross-bars holding the cushion up.

Planting-wise, I would go with a non-aggressive climber to slowly twist its way up, something bright and upright in the centre, and a trailing plant to spill over the edges of the basket.

I love the unusual.

In hindsight, I wish we’d brought a couple of stools to Mauritius with us.

Mmm, let me think…who are our next visitors from Australia?????

You know who you are. Any space left?

Those stools weigh nothing!

Really!

They’re just slightly bulky.

Medinillas

When I first saw these, I fell in love with them.

Large, strikingly striped leaves, with dark red new growth:

Medenilla leaves bunches of pale pink flowers:

Medinilla flowerswhich turn into pink berries:

Medinillawhich darken to mauve:

Medinillas berriesI had to have them.

I planted them in pots in the mulberry bed, but they got badly sun and wind-damaged.

So I swapped them with the palms in the side bed, where it’s more protected.

They hated it there and all their leaves fell off.

I moved them to the lime tree bed.

They didn’t like it there either, and they both died.

We’d bought them at a plant exhibition, with sellers from all over the island.

In hindsight, I should have have asked for advice on their requirements and care. I did check on the internet, but as with a lot of gardening advice, the information isn’t specifically targeted to the tropics – it’s best to ask the local growers.

But more importantly, before buying them, I should have checked whether they had been grown in a greenhouse, or at least where on the island they had been grown.

Even though Mauritius is tiny, the temperature, humidity, and rainfall vary greatly.

The growing conditions and soil in our garden obviously weren’t what they were used to.

It’s such a shame, because they were stunning. Not to mention, expensive.

Grand Baie Nursery has one as a specimen plant (ie it’s not for sale – just for show). It’s in a pot in full sun.

If, in future, another plant dies and I have a space that I need to fill, I’ll ask them to propagate a plant for me – as we’re both in The North, it should be more suited to the conditions in our garden.

Just something to keep in mind when buying plants here.

Planting the SFG Bed

Call me sad (don’t you dare!), but I’m all excited – our Square Foot Gardening bed is up and running!

You can read about the basics of SFG here if you haven’t already done so.

Preparing the Raised Bed

The trellises are in place – the posts were bolted to the inside of the bed, the top rails screwed on, and the wire mesh attached in the same way as I attached it to the passionfruit frame.

Sam and Alf

Alf with our friend, Sam. Loving your head-dress, Alf!

Bolts

The blue colour is a rubberised paint which may, or may not, stop the wood from rotting

Again, the wood was recycled from building scaffolding, so it’s fairly warped.

Some would call the trellises rickety and lopsided; I say, they’re charmingly rustic! Thanks, guys.Crooked trellisThe soil has been wheelbarrowed in – we paid Joselito’s son, Alan, to do it because it was too hard for us to do. You’ve got to recognise your limitations sometimes! I then tipped compost on top, and raked it in.

Filling the bedI tied together lengths of bamboo (which I bought because they were pink, but never found a use for) with fishing line to make my grid.

Fishing lineOur newly-laid tiles are 1 foot square, so they came in handy as a template – I lined up the bamboo along the grout lines.

GridI know they’ll quickly fade in the sun, but I’ll enjoy their pinkness in the meantime.

If we have trouble with stray cats (or Tipsy) using the bed as a litter tray, I’ll block off the long sides with shadecloth.

I’ve surrounded the outside of the bed with snail pellets because this is the time of year when the giant African snails really come out to play, and to munch their way through your garden.

Selecting the Plants

Using the companion planting guide from the website, My Square Foot Garden, I’ve come up with this plan (the brackets show the number of plants per square) – click on it to see an enlarged (and clearer) version:

Plan

I’ve positioned the more tender plants at the rear of the bed, so that the taller plants in the centre will provide shade from the afternoon sun.

The “blue” squares indicate successive planting – I’ll be sowing a new square of lettuce or English spinach every two weeks so that we have a constant supply – in theory, at least!

As you can see, I’ll be trying to grow parsnips, but I don’t think I’ve got much of a chance, as they like cold weather, which we never get. Worth a shot though, as I love them! I’d also try rhubarb if I could find a rhubarb crown. And asparagus. Yum!

I’ve chosen vegetables that are either expensive to buy, aren’t sold here, or varieties I can’t get here. I can’t see the point of planting things that are cheap and plentiful when they’re in season.

I’m also planting herbs that I use regularly. Even though they’re cheap to buy, it’ll save Alf a trip to the shops whenever I need them. They’re at the front of the bed for quick access.

I’ll plant butternut pumpkin as a groundcover in the flower beds – I’ve already had a practice run, and found that they grew best in the side and driveway beds.

Here’s a photo of my first pumpkin:

Butternut PumpkinAnd here’s a photo with my hand in it:

PumpkinHaha! The next few pumpkins were much more successful!

I also want to plant honeydew melon as a groundcover, but I have to source some seeds first – guess I’m going to have to fork out $6+ for a melon! But if they grow, it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Planting the Bed

According to my research, because we’re in a tropical zone, and therefore don’t get frost, we can plant at any time of the year.

I’m not too sure about that – even here some vegetables seem to be seasonal.

I don’t know, so I’ve stuck the seeds in anyway, and watered the entire bed with Seasol (seaweed extract) which is supposed to aid with germination.

I bought coriander and spring onions with roots still attached and planted those, and stuck some thyme cuttings in as well, along with a parsley plant I already had. This way, there’ll actually be something green in the bed while I cross my fingers and wait for the seeds to germinate.

Some of the seeds are pretty old, so I don’t know if they’re still viable.

HerbsI’ve mulched the “herbed” squares with seaweed, and will mulch the rest, if and when, the seedlings come up. The seaweed improves the soil, feeds the plants, suppresses weeds, and stops water evaporation and soil erosion.

Mulched squaresAs usual with my learning curve, I’m happily prepared to change anything as soon as I realise it’s not working.

Now it’s just a matter of watering and waiting.

And watching out for giant African snails!

African snail

African Snail

It’s thicker than my finger, and so very, very slimy and disgusting! And worst of all, it’s chomping away at my sawdust path! Eat the grass and weeds, you revolting thing!

Snail poop

Plus they poop all over the walls!

Snail poop

Don’t be embarrassed little shark – I know it wasn’t you.

Yuk! Where’s that pressure cleaner?