Garden Update #3 – Mar 2013

Pots and Pot Stands

I found el cheapo plastic pots for the top of the stands, which I sanded, applied two coats of terracotta paint to, tiled and grouted, then applied a third coat to cover the grout, as it was much darker than the paint. They’re the right shape, but a bit smaller than I wanted. In Mauritius though, beggars can’t be choosers – you might end up waiting forever if you hold out for something specific.

Red potFinished potsUnlike when I bought the small pots, this time, I actually measured the pot stand so I’d know what size pots to buy.

Pot Stand

Perfect!

However, I made the fatal mistake of only measuring one of them:

Stupid pot stand

!!!!!

I’m starting to develop a serious dislike for those pot stands!

I’ll be planting the pots with ivy geranium, (after drilling holes in the bases – why don’t pots have drainage holes anymore? We have a drill, but I’m sure lots of people don’t). Hopefully, the geraniums will trail down and disguise the size problem!

Anyway, on a more positive note, I love paint – instead of ugly red plastic pots, I now have two lovely “terracotta” pots.

Even if one of them doesn’t fit! Grrrrr!

Moving on…with the pot stands, I’ve still got to apply rust converter and primer, and then spray them with either white gloss or matte black – I’ve yet to decide, though I’m leaning towards black. But I’d better do it pronto – with all the rain we’ve been having, they’re getting rustier by the minute – bits will probably start falling off soon!

Weeding the Beds

I’ve weeded the final two beds, and the only problems hiding under the grass were:

Easter Lilies

I have two plants – they both died back, but one is showing signs of new growth. My friend, Robin, said that you’re supposed to dig up the bulbs each year, store them, and replant them the following season.

Afraid not – I planned a low maintenance garden, and am not prepared to do anything like that – I’ve got enough to do! I’ll see how they go, and perhaps replace them.

Day Lilies

They haven’t grown at all (nor have the agapanthus). Maybe if you live in a tropical zone, you should stick to tropical plants! Having said that, the red ginger plants haven’t grown much either, so who knows?

Ruellia Hedges

I cut all the bushes back hard. However, I think it’s too little too late – most of them are growing sideways, and I can’t see them ever turning into the gorgeous hedge that at the moment exists solely in my imagination.

So I’ve stuck about 20 cuttings into a jar of water, and will start from scratch when they root – it will only take a couple of weeks.

This time, I’ll plant more of them, and reduce the spacing between them, so that as they grow, they can support each other.

Also, I’ll prune them regularly so that they become bushy, and turn into a low hedge instead of a tall, straggly mess.

The weeded garden:

Driveway bed

Driveway bed

Lemon bed

Lemon tree bed

Mulberry tree and front beds

Mulberry tree and front beds

House bed

Bed running the length of the house

House bed

Ditto

Side Bed

Side bed and passionfruit in the raised bed

Grass

The paths have been weeded and poisoned, and the grass in the new paths has been cut and poisoned, and the paths covered in sawdust.

The type of sawdust we get varies, depending on what wood the cabinetmakers are working with. So you end up with a patchwork effect when you first spread it as you can see from the above photos.

After a while, it fades in the sun and all looks pretty much the same colour.

The paths I’d already poisoned and covered were relatively easy to weed – it was mainly grass that had spread from the adjoining beds, so the roots were shallow and pulled out easily.

Half-weeded path

Half-weeded path

So to that extent, the sawdust mulch is working. Any grass that grows from now on will be promptly Roundup-ed or pulled out.

However, the grass in the beds is going to be a huge ongoing problem – the roots are very deep (even where I’ve previously poisoned), and it grows back very thick. It also grows back very fast.

Newly-weeded bed

Newly-weeded bed

Weeded two weeks ago

Two weeks’ growth

Half weeded bed

What I can expect in two months

There’s no point in just covering it all with mulch, as the grass will grow through it.

I don’t want to poison the beds as I killed some plants last time I did that – plus it takes forever as it’s too windy to spray, so I have to use a paintbrush. And it’s obviously not very effective.

I googled “weed mat” – the general consensus was that the soil underneath gets very dry, and because it’s loosely-woven, weeds/grass still grow through it. And it frays, so you get little bits of black plastic floating about the place.

Instead, I’ve decided to look for hessian (jute or burlap) fabric, and lay that on the beds before mulching.

It’ll let moisture through, and the grass and weeds will have to try pretty hard to get through both the hessian and the mulch. Any that do make it will be easily seen as the mulch is black, and I can poison them immediately. By the time the hessian rots down, the grass should all be dead.

Theoretically!

It will probably take a while to do, as I’ll have to cut the hessian to fit around the plants. But if it works, it’ll be time well spent, and I rather do that than face a future of eternal weeding!

So much for low-maintenance!

(If you live in Mauritius and know where I can bulk-buy cheap hessian, please let me know.)

Step

I downloaded an English gardening program called “Lovely Garden” by my all-time favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, and in one episode, the garden owner had planted a tiny square of lawn in an otherwise brick-paved area. It was a bold statement and it made me laugh.

(As an aside, how is it that despite their terrible weather, the Brits are such fabulous gardeners? You can’t beat them!)

Anyway, initially, I thought that I’d buy some turf for the step by the front gates – this would be the only lawn in our garden.

However, after our problems with the grass and weeds, I’ve since changed my mind.

I HATE grass!

Instead, I cut some astroturf to shape and used that:

AstroturfIt doesn’t exactly look natural (or pretty – it’s a weird shade of green and is all sparkly in the sun – like Christmas tinsel!), but at least it’ll stop my shoes from getting muddy and the weeds from growing. Hopefully, down the track, I’ll find something better.

Well, we’re off to Perth for two weeks soon – lots of eating, shopping, and catching up with family and friends, leaving our house and Tipsy-the-cat in the capable hands of our housesitter, Amy.

Thanks, Amy, and enjoy Mauritius!

Garden Update #1 – February 2013

I’m a stepmother. Sometimes a wicked one, but often, fairly nice.

“Stepmother” sounds better in French – belle-mère – which translates to “beautiful mother”.

I like that so much more – it makes me want to twirl around, dancing and singing “I Feel Pretty” – just like Natalie Wood in Westside Story.

Anyway, being a stepmother is sometimes good (no giving birth, and you can always give them back) and other times it’s worse than Island Fever – I just want to slap someone!

Currently, Alf’s eldest child, Kieran, is on his first two-week stay with us.

He’s not into sightseeing or the beach – he’s finding it all a bit boring. Which makes me a bit bored with him – why did he come? There’s nothing else to do here! (And I don’t mean that in a bad way – that’s why people come to Mauritius – to relax and look around). Two days into his holiday, and I already started getting annoyed with him.

Then . . . he volunteered to do some weeding.

Alf told him that I love my garden, but am not well enough right now to work on it.

I don’t think Kieran’s ever set foot in a garden, let alone worked in one, so I was a wee bit worried that he’d turn into my ex-gardener and pull out plants instead of weeds.

But no!

Under Alf’s guidance (I’ve been too scared to look in case I shout and slap), the garden is slowly re-appearing.

And yesterday, the rain finally stopped.

It’s encouraged me to get back out there, finish the planting, do some serious pruning, and tie things up.

And finish making the passionfruit frame (I don’t know whether the passionfruit plant will survive being transplanted – it’s been sitting in the raised bed for so long, that its roots have grown into the soil).

Also, weeding, poisoning, and grass-cutting.

And once I’ve transplanted the passionfruit, filling the raised bed with the pile of soil currently blocking the driveway, and starting my Square Foot Gardening vegetable patch.

It only took 6 weeks for the garden to get this out of control. I really need to keep on top of things in future.

Anyway, Kieran, you’re the best! Come visit and find Mauritius boring any time you want!

Pre-weeding photos:

Vine-covered palm

Vine-covered palm

Weed-infested path

Weed-infested path

More vines

More vines

Weed corner

!!!!

Weed corner

Hopefully, the bougainvillea is still alive in the corner – that entire mass of green is weeds!

Raised bed

What happens when you don’t poison and cover the paths with sawdust…

path

…even the rhoeo edging (which is on the right of the photo) disappears!

jungle

Completely overwhelming!

Kieran

Poser, but my hero! Thanks Kieran! xx

My Mauritian Weed Patch

I haven’t done any gardening since November – it suddenly got really hot, really fast, and really early – I used to be able to garden from 6 to 11am – I’d move from one shaded part of the garden to another, until I ran out of shade.

And then one day, there was no shade anywhere by 8.30.

So I got too hot (and too lazy), and decided to take a break.

I moved on to sewing curtains, patternmaking, and sewing clothes for myself (I started a lot of things, but finished nothing – again, lazy, plus I have a short attention span ie I got bored fast).

So I started researching recipes for our New Year’s Day party instead, and then the party itself happened. It was fun – update to come once I get copies of photos from a guest I’ve yet to chase down – I forgot to take any myself – due to busyness, organisational stress, and, towards the end of the day, alcohol. Hey, I’m being honest! No comment please, Eileen!

Anyway, then I got strangely unwell.

Mauritius, having a humid, tropical climate, has a lot of airborne bugs, and consequently, airborne viruses – usually flu-like. Plus, a lot of people here are not very hygiene-conscious, so you might eat something they’ve touched with their filthy, germ-ridden, unwashed hands, and get an upset stomach.

I’m very susceptible to both of the aforementioned. Also I had surgery earlier this year that I’m still recovering from.

However, I’ve been suffering from Weird Sleeping Sickness, which has nothing to do with any of those things.

For the last couple of weeks, on average, I’ve been sleeping about 15 hours a day.

I’d get up early, have coffee, sit around, go on the internet, feel tired, go back to bed and wake up around 3pm. Potter around for an hour or so, feel light-headed, go back to bed again, and wake up the next morning.

Every day for two weeks.

Plus, post-op soreness re-appeared. Family and friends know about that – everyone else – none of your business!!!! Girly stuff! Not your problem. Anyway…

I’m pretty short-sighted, so during those two weeks, the few times I checked out the garden from our patio, it all looked pretty overgrown – but green.

“That’s a good thing,” I’d think to myself, “it’s all still alive”. Then I’d go back to bed.

Anyway, I’m getting better, so for the first time this year (hello 2013!), I went out yesterday for an up-close and personal look at the garden.

Lordy!!!!!

And holy crap!

It’s a Jungle of Monster Weeds!!!

It’s been raining a lot, and I guess Mauritian weeds appreciate it more than Mauritian plants do.

Giant weed

It’s taller than the plants!

Weed attackMore weedsEven my pile of soil in the driveway is sprouting greenery:

Dirt pileSome plants have been totally covered by the weeds – are they even still there? Or have they been smothered?

Barely visible bromeliads

There are bromeliads in there somewhere! And my camera bag to the right. Oops.

Or maybe eaten by disgusting giant African snails (those things are so big, slimy, and gross!!!!!)?

Giant African snail

This is a baby – you should see its parents!

Other plants either got blown over by the tropical storm/cyclone winds and are now growing sideways, or got waterlogged and fell over.

Cyclone-affected mulberry treeFrangipaniOr drowned and died.

Drowned ruelliaEven the grass/weeds I poisoned are growing back.

Ex-weed-free path!

My lovely Roundup(ed) path!

We need to buy stakes. And a few replacement plants. Also snail poison – no Dettol for them! I still have Roundup.

Arriving back up on the patio, I took another look (albeit in a squinty kind of way – things are clearer like that for me – I really do need to get glasses) at the garden – if I don’t cut the grass and pull the weeds out soon, we’ll have no visible plants, and even the pots will disappear!

Weed-covered potMajor work coming up.

Not feeling up to it yet, I’m still tired.

Maybe next week. Or the one after.

If only I had a gardener!

Anyway, enough of this, I need a nap.

That Damn Grass!

We do not have a lovely lush lawn.

Instead we have a variety of weeds and two types of grass, one that has surface runners only, and the other that has runners plus roots that go down more than a foot.

I neither know nor care what they’re called. I just want them gone!!!!

I‘ve tried:

  • Digging it up or pulling it out (ha!). Many times
  • Being environmentally-friendly and spraying the grass with vinegar – don’t believe those websites – it DOESN’T work!
  • Covering it with newspaper, then lawn clippings, seaweed and rocks to hold it all down

Slaters moved in because apparently they love newspaper – they chewed holes through the paper and the grass grew through the holes

The slaters are now permanent additions to our garden.

Those websites forgot to mention slaters.

I didn’t bother filling the kettle up about a million times and pouring boiling water all over it. Same websites!

Humidity is high in Mauritius, so covering the soil with plastic was not an option as I didn’t want a slime pit.

I decided to be environmentally-unfriendly, and to do the sensible thing instead – poison it all with Roundup.

It takes about a week for the grass to show signs of dying.

I don’t spray as it’s always windy. Instead I use a 1 inch paintbrush and am slowly painting the grass to death.

Maybe by the end of the year. Or 2015!