Hanging Baskets

As it’s winter, there’s not much happening in the garden – everything’s just doing its own thing – growing quietly and slowly.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be turning my hand to little projects that have been awaiting my attention for way too long.

I’m starting with these…

Coir matting in hanging baskets always falls apart and looks ratty.

Coir liningAs I had about half a metre of shadecloth left over from the raised bed, and I like to recycle, I used it to line the undersides of the baskets.

I removed some of the soil to make it easier to lift the lining, inserted the shadecloth, and replaced the lining.

(I left a fair amount of soil in the lining – you need some weight in there for the next step)

Once I had the shadecloth in place, I pulled it taut (the aforementioned weight stops the lining from lifting), and trimmed it, leaving a 2cm overhang.

I then turned the raw edges under, and roughly handstitched it over the rim of the basket.

Sewing the ShadeclothFinished basketIt’s not pretty, but it looks tidier, and I won’t have to keep replacing the linings.

And, being shadecloth, it might even act as an insulator, keep the soil cooler, and stop it from drying out so quickly.

Though that’s probably just wishful thinking.

Finally, if you plant something “weeping” that falls over the edges, no-one will ever notice your dodgy sewing!

I’m still looking for something that looks tropical, but “weeps” – preferably brightly-coloured, as that part of the garden looks dull because it’s in front of bland cream-coloured walls.

Any suggestions?

Garden Pests – Cats and Ants


The white cat from next door (the one Alf saved from hanging) has claimed our garden as its own, including the Square Foot Gardening bed.

And a black male cat has started hanging around – I can tell it’s male by the lingering smell it leaves behind.

Stinky thing.

Tipsy – get out there and protect your territory!

She occasionally chases other cats away, but I had to be proactive, as, rather than patrolling, she prefers this:

TipsySo, to protect my delicate seedlings, I cut some shadecloth to size, hemmed it to prevent fraying and stretching, and sewed ties to the sides.

I then screwed hooks into the trellis posts, and tied the shadecloth to them.

Hooks and tiesHemming might sound like overkill – but I want this to last a long time – I don’t want to replace it in a couple of months.

With the strong winds we get here, it would stretch and sag, thereby becoming ineffective.

And if it frays, the birds will try to pull bits off when they start nesting.

As it was 10 foot long, once I put it up, it sagged badly in the middle,so I hand-stitched a little pocket halfway along and held it up with a bamboo stake.

PocketI suppose the cats can still climb up it or crawl underneath it, but maybe they’ll look for easier places to dig instead.

Hopefully in their own gardens.

The shadecloth should also provide a little respite from the strong afternoon sun come summer, and maybe even act as a windbreak.

Shadecloth barrierIt’s ugly, but it’s removable.

Red Ants

They discovered the raised bed, told their friends, arrived in droves and started nesting.

Ants excavate the soil to build their nest, which can disturb and damage the plants’ roots.

Plus red ants are aggressive and quick to bite  – the bites really hurt, and they form little blisters, which itch for days.

So I’m trying a couple of things:

a) Miraculous Insecticide Chalk

I didn’t make that name up – look:

Insect chalkIt’s dirt cheap and it works.

Draw a line on the floor or wall where ants are invading your house, and they go away.

The package insert says it’s safe for humans and pets, but as it’s made in China, and so could contain melamine, lead, or God knows what else, I haven’t licked it to see.

Two other good uses for it are:

1) on the floor around pet food bowls

2) on the wall around your little tub of gecko poison


I drew around the edge of the bed with the chalk, but have to redo it every time I water or after it rains, as it gets washed off.

b) Coopex

Hopefully, this is a longer-term solution.

Coopex is a residual insecticide that I sprayed on the outside walls of the bed.

As it’s made in Australia, and not China, I believe the package insert when it says that it’s safe to use around plants, pets, and humans.

When insects walk on it, they absorb it through their tiny little feet, take it back to the nest, spread it around, and eventually it kills the entire community.

It sounds a bit brutal explained like that.

I feel like a mass murderer!

Anyway, it takes a while to work, so I don’t know yet whether it’s been effective.

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!


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:


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?