Garden Design with GardenPlanner

Note: This is a genuine review. HomelyCapers does not gain any profit for mentioning this product.Garden Design
Last month I purchased a copy of GardenPlanner help me in designing the final outcome of my back yard. After playing with the trial version, I though that $US19.95 was a bargain. They also have an online version that you can play with for free!

Starting with a blank canvas, all you need to do is measure the area you wish to design, measure and locate the existing structures (house, garden shed, garden beds, trees) then start playing around with with features such as edging, fences, different plants, ponds, swimming pools, paved area and even down to the details of furniture and pop up sprinklers! Overall the software is very easy to use, it’s all drag and drop, and it has a fantastic help file.

Planning your garden will give you huge time and money savings in the long run, as you will know how many of each plant you will need and where they will go. There is no point planting out a nice garden bed in one area, then having to get a truck load of soil brought in for the other side and having the truck drive right over the top.

In the long run, all the software in the world can’t beat sitting back in your garden with your partner and a cold beer and planning what you would like to see in your yard. The software will only help put it all on paper!

Garden Sprinkler Review

SprinklersAt my house I have three different types of garden sprinklers.  They are used in different parts of the yard to allow me to water my lawns and garden to keep them green and healthy.

1: Soaker Hose type – This hose works well to water my front yard as it is long and narrow. It can’t be used out the back as my dogs love to chew on it. It is around 4m long and uses ~12 litres per minute or 720 litres per hour.

2: Capitol – This is a great sprinkler that covers a large area quickly. It has a spread of around 6m circle (3m in any direction from the head) and runs at 16.5 litres per minute or a huge 990 litres per hour!

3: Rotoframe – This sprinkler covers a huge area, around 4.5 meters from the head. It runs at 7.5 litres per minute or 450 litres per hour.


The soaker hose works well for my situation, it covers a large area in a relatively short time. It is not as critical to my water bill if I forget to turn it off, or move it for an extra half hour or so. It can water my front lawn in around two hours, and I only need to move it once. It does the nature strip in the same amount of time with two moves as well.

The Rotoframe sprinkler is a great all round sprinkler, it covers a wide area but uses half of the amount of water that the Capitol sprinkler. It is a great set and forget sprinkler to water a large area of lawn. It is not good if you only have a short watering time frame, but for myself I tend to forget the sprinkler is on so the low flow rate works well for me.

The Capitol sprinkler is ideal for garden beds. It heavily covers the area being watered in a short period of time. Not a good sprinkler to use unless you have a tap timer installed on your tap. If you need to water a medium sized garden bed then the Capitol is for you.

Note: In this day and age of dryer weather it is best to water wisely. Use products such as wetting agents to ensure good water penetration, water retention crystals around plant roots to reduce watering intervals and mulch to prevent evaporation.

I will be posting about Polly drip systems in the near future so stay tuned!

Make seedling pots from Newspaper

Browsing YouTube the other night I came across this great video on how to make seedling starter pots out of newspaper.

[youtube: 250 250]

At the end Willi Galloway says that you should take the seedling out of the pot. I think that if you dig your hole for the plant, then pull the bottom out of the newspaper pot the roots will grow straight down and will reduce transplant stress.

Bubble Wrap Window Insulation

Insulation is one of the most important products to keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer. Did you know that up to 37% of the heat in your house isbubblewrap lost through your windows?

The best way to prevent heat loss is to install double glazed windows through your entire house. Like you, I am not made of money! So after searching the internet for a while I came across a site that suggests using Bubble Wrap as an insulation product for your windows.

The steps are quite easy:
– Cut the bubble wrap to size
– Mist the window with fresh water
– Stick bubble wrap to the window, bubble side out

They suggest that you use clear bubble wrap to let the light in, but if you wanted a change you could always use green or red semi transparent bubble wrap to change the mood of your room!

Check out the full page at: Build It Solar

You could always just pop the bubbles… Virtual Bubble Wrap

How to Grow Mango from Seed

Mango SeedsOne of the treats of living in a semi tropical environment is that we can grow mango’s! We have a huge mango tree in our yard which provides great shade and a huge crop

of mango’s every year.

As our fruit aren’t quite ripe yet I was tempted to buy a couple of mango’s at the supermarket over the weekend. They were both delicious!Mango Tree

Seeing the seeds sitting in the top of the bin made me think that it would be fun to try and get them to germinate.

The first step is to take a pair of kitchen scissors and carefully cut the edge of the husky part of the seed away opening up the pocket that protects the seed. Carefully squeeze the edges of the husk open to reveal a large seed, not unlike a bean.

These seeds need to be planted in a pot of seed raising mix with the notch pointing down. The seed needs to have about 1/4 of the seed poking out of the top. Give them a good water and wait for the magic!

Stop plants frying in the sun

Recently we moved to a much warmer climate than the area where I grew up. While the thought of being able to grow fruit such as Mango and trees such Shadeas palms,the challenges of getting plants to grow in a hot climate have taken the toll on some of my plants.

While at the local garden centre, I was discussing the best way to grow plants in a garden bed along my fence. After telling her that I had a large backyard with a galvanized tin fence, she recommended that I buy a length of shade cloth or brush fencing to place along the portion of fence that is directly behind my plants to insulate them from the reflective heat in the mornings and the radiant heat in the afternoons.

Generally it only needs to be for the first summer, but depending on the plant it may need to be for a bit longer.

I’ve installed some shade cloth at my house, but my partner would like to see us use a brush fencing to cover the tin over the other fence.

Eco Friendly Cleaners

Think about the environment and your wallet next time you need some cleaner for your bathroom and kitchen. These cleaners are safe for the environment and cheap to make. Try them out in your home!

Vinegar cleaner

All-purpose and long-lasting, this removes grease and dirt. Ideal for stainless steel sinks, tiled and timber surfaces and plastic finishes such as fridge shelves and phones.

• 2 cups white vinegar
• 1 cup water
• 25 drops eucalyptus oil

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before use, spray onto a soft damp cloth and rub. No need to rinse.

Lavender disinfectant

Keeps bathroom surfaces safe and smelling sweet. It also makes a marvellous spray when ironing bed linen.

• 25 drops lavender essential oil
• 2 tbsp methylated spirits or vodka
• 500ml distilled water

Add the oil to the alcohol in a clean, dry bottle and leave to dissolve for 24 hours. Add water and decant into a spray bottle. Shake thoroughly before use.

Keep your Christmas tree greener for longer

Christmas is just around the corner and it is in the back of my mind that we must start to look for an Xmas tree.

We collect and decorate our tree in the second week of December, but being hot down here in Australia the tree could look a bit sick by the time Xmas Day comes around. It is becoming popular to have plastic trees, but there is nothing like the smell of a freshly cut pine tree.

My grandmother taught me that to keep your tree looking greener and healthier for longer, all you need to do is add a couple of dissolvable Aspirin to the water the tree stands in. Apparently the aspirin keeps the water flowing up to the leaves for longer, thus keeping your tree green!

I hope you all have a merry green Christmas tree!

How to grow Lettuce

Lettuce is a staple in our home, fresh leafy lettuce in a bowl with carrot cheese boiled egg and cherry tomatoes is a favorite at a BBQ.

Lettuce from the supermarket just doesn’t taste the same, or give you the variety that you can get when you grow your own.lettuce seedlings
There are four main lettuce varieties

Head lettuce: This is the most common type found in the supermarket. It’s a family sized dude. However, it’s also the most temperamental when grown in the home garden. It takes the longest to grow and in hot weather will bolt to seed very quickly.

Butterhead lettuce: Similar to Iceburg (head lettuce) but has smaller, softer and more loosely packed leaves.

Leaf Lettuce: These types have open growth leaves. With a wide variety of shape, taste and colour, they mature quickly and are easy to grow. These are often referred to as ‘cut and come again’ varieties.

Romaine or Cos Lettuce: These plants are sweet with big, crunchy leaves. They grow upright with tubular heads of leaves and can get up to 10″ tall.

First off, prepare your soil so that it has been dug to around 30cm deep and has had rotted manure and compost forked in. You can grow lettuce from seedlings or from seed. I prefer to do a little of each, as the seedlings will come into production much quicker.

When you visit your local nursery, pick up a couple of punnets of lettuce seedlings and two packets of mixed lettuce seeds. When you get home plant the seedlings and a couple of rows of seeds at the same time. It is best to soak the seedlings in water while they are still in their punnets for 10 minutes, this will reduce the amount of transplant stress on them.

Plant the seedlings about 10cm apart, and water them in with a gentle sprinkle from a watering can. It is best not to fertalise them in the first two days, as they are getting used to their new environment.

Plant two rows of seeds in trenches around 1cm deep. It does not matter how many seeds you plant, as you will thin them out at a later date to leave only the strongest seedlings. It is best to plant a row or two of seeds out each week. This allows for enough time for each planting to grow and while another planting is being eaten. By doing this you should never run out of lettuce.

Planing seeds when other plants have been is fine to do, as long as you refresh the soil with some nutrients. Compost, rotted animal manure or blood and bone make for excellent soil rejuvenators.

Watering your lettuce is important, on hot days expect your plants to wilt slightly in the afternoons. Make sure you water the plants and let them absorb the water before picking, if you wanted to eat wilted lettuce you would buy it from the shops!

Lettuce grows very quickly, so it is a great plant to get the kids involved in gardening.
Let us know what your great lettuce growing tips are by posting a comment!

How to grow Basil

About basil

Basil is a herb that is native to India and tropical Asia, but grows well in the warmer months of cooler climates or all year around in warmer climates. Used in a wide range of foods, mostly Italian and Asian, it is one of the easiest herbs to grow even from seed.

Growing tips

Basil loves to be grown in pots or in well drained humus rich soil. It loves to have rich organic matter such as rotted manures and compost blended with the soil, as the more nutrients and food you give it the bigger the leaves will grow.

For a quick result purchase a punnet of 8 seedlings, these are usually six to eight weeks old and are ready for picking within about 4 weeks. Plant them in a large pot (~750mm) or plant two to a 250mm pot. Ensure they get plenty of water and a mixture of seaweed and fish emulsion every two weeks. Start picking the leaves when obvious new growth is occurring.

TIP: if you use fish emulsion on the leaves, make sure you wash them before using them in the kitchen!

Basil seed looks a lot like fine charcoal. To grow from seed, 4/5 fill a 250mm pot with quality potting mix and top off with a seed raising mix. The best way to get the correct depth is to take a couple of handfuls of soil out of the pot and set aside, firm down the mix then spread the seed evenly from the packet over the pot and cover with the removed soil. Firm it down, then water.

In cooler climates germination may take up to 10 days, but warmer climates expect to see seedlings within 7 days. When the seedlings grow their second leaves, you will need to separate them into individual pots two to three seedlings fit nicely into a 250mm pot.

Basil Care

Pick your basil regularly! You will encourage new growth and better flavour. While saying that you must also continue to feed your basil to maintain the vigorous growth. 8 weeks after the plants mature you will notice that flower buds are forming, pinch these off as soon as you see them to increase the lifespan of your plant. Basil will try and seed as it matures but this is also increased when not enough water is applied.

If I get a good pot of plants that are very healthy and grow well I will let it go to seed to collect the seed and plant out again.

Basil seedlingsHow to preserve Basil

Basil is a vigorous producer and you will need a method to store it. Drying basil works well but the dried product only remains good for a couple of months, then it begins to taste different and not unlike hay.

The best method to store basil if you can not keep a plant all year is to pick a batch of leaves, wash them under cool water then quickly blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds. Transfer from the boiling water directly into ice trays (1 or 2 leaves per cell) then fill with fresh cool water and freeze them.

When you need some basil, simply take a basil cube out of the freezer and throw it into your cooking. Alternatively you can defrost and chop to the required size.
It may be possible that you could blanch the basil and chop it prior to freezing.

If you are looking for a place to plant your basil, plant it beside your tomato plants. Basil and Tomato are great companions as the sweet aroma from the basil keeps pests away from your tomato!