How to Care for and Grow a Desert Rose

Pink Desert Rose After purchasing a small tube stock Desert Rose yesterday, I put in a bit of research to find out the best conditions for them to grow and how to care from them.

A search found that there is a lot of snippets of information about growing Desert Roses, but nothing complete. Here goes to put it all together for you.

The Desert Rose is a native of East Africa and is a member of the Apocynacae family. Even though it is native to Africa it grows well in tropical an d sub tropical areas without too much special care, although if you have frosts you will need to bring the plant indoors over winter.

Leaves are fleshy and succulent and the flowers are 5 to 7cm trumpet shaped and will flower from late winter to early summer.

Plant your desert rose in a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and cactus potting soil, they love to have free draining soil as to prevent root rot. Mix in some slow release fertiliser to stimulate growth, in the first three years a soluble fertiliser can be added to increase the growth rate of the plants, after three years the soluble food does not have a huge effect.

Water your plant regularly as it is not a cactus, the best way to tell if it needs water is to check the top of the soil, if it’s dry you need to water.

Desert Rose needs plenty of light, full sun is great to ensure that you get the best blooms. Keep your plant above 12 degrees celsius.

WARNING: The flowers and sap of this plant are poisonous! Do not ingest anything from this plant, wash your hands thoroughly after handling the plant.

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Add value to your house with a great garden!

A small chorus
Recently posted on the TimesOnline in the property section, Stephen Anderton and Lucy Alexander have stated that having ‘A cracking garden’ can add 2 to 10 percent to the value of a property.

There are a few rules to follow though, City home owners want a small walled garden with nice pots and furniture. Their country cousins like a cottage garden in the English theme, fast paced people with little time to garden like low maintenance lawns and shrubs, while keen gardeners (Like us!) love to have a kitchen garden and herbaceous borders.

From all of that, I think I may be a bit of both. My front garden is going to be a low maintenance water wise garden, while the back yard will have an area of tropical rain forest, a kitchen garden and a formal garden. This may be hard to imagine, but I will post photo’s as it goes.

So lets see, having spent a lot of time and a little money on designing and planting your garden, you could easily make $30,000 extra on a $300,000 house… Not bad going if you enjoy gardening!
Thanks to ladybugbkt for the photo!

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Mulching – AKA Flat Composting

Mulch seems to be the new buzz word here in Australia when people start talking about having water wise gardens. What people don’t realise is that using an organic mulch is the same as adding un-composted compost.

In my garden we have very sandy soils which don’t hold a lot of moisture for a long period of time, sandy soils are also popular for some very prickly weeds that get stuck in your feet when you walk on the grass.

My solution to mulching a large area of nutrient poor soils is to remove any weeds, spread a layer of grass hay to around 5cm thick, then cover with a layer of rotted cow manure.

The mixing of the manure (nitrogen rich) and hay (carbon rich) will over time cold compost down into a thick layer rich in organic matter ready to hold water in the soil and to give your plants a boost.

Each year the hay and manure needs to be topped up, so put another layer of hay on top of last years manure then more manure to create a layered effect. This goes some way to being a ‘No Dig Garden’ but in a much slower format. After about 3 years you should not have to plant anything in the original soil, the mulch layer should be deep enough and have enough nutrients to support any plants in it.

The key to mulching is to use what you have available to you, this could be dry leaves, grass clippings or rotted manure. You just need to Mulch It!

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The New Compost Bin

I’ve been reading an old book a friend loaned me called A Practical Guide to Composting by Frank Haddon, its is all about composting in the home garden in large and small scales. After reading through it a light bulb went on and I have decided to use an existing structure in my yard as my new compost bin.

If you are looking for a book to read on composting here are two of my recommendations:

The chosen area is situated on a cement slab, and is constructed out of cinder blocks (large hollow bricks). It was previously used as a dog kennel, but after removing the tin roof I think it will be perfect for hot composting.

The structure has walls on three sides and is approximately 4m wide (lots of dogs!). I plan to build a pile in one half, let it begin to co 
mpost, then move it by garden fork across to the other side. By doing so it will aerate the mix, giving all the little microbes which break down the organic material oxygen to breathe.

Here is my starting mix:
– 2 parts mango leaves
– 2 parts dry lawn clippings
– 1 part horse manure

I have had success using a similar mix in a small 60 litre bin.

By moving the compost from side to side in the bin it will aerate the mix, giving the microbes more oxygen in which to work and generate temperatures of up to 70 degrees celcius. High temperatures such as that will kill off any weed seeds and diseases that may be living in the plant material added.

By aerating the mix it will prevent any anaerobic (live without oxygen) microbes from growing and giving off a horrible smell.

The compost I create over the next few weeks will be used on my garden to enrich the sandy soils that I have.

In an up and coming post I will detail the best uses for compost.

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Twist and Spout – Come on everybody!

Ever need a new use for an old PET bottle? Here is a new product that will allow you to use old bottles as watering cans, or use the smaller one to help pour soft drink at home.
Bring in the Twist and Spout. We have been using these at home for a month now, and have found them to be great! A friend gave us one as a gift, it was put to use on our patio to water my seedlings. Since then we have bought another set to allow us to have one in the back yard as well.

Twist and Spout Kitchen Pour Spout

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Recycled Fence for Garden Screen

Recycled fence pannels for garden screenThis weekend has been a great time in our garden. I managed to get five fence panels from my boss to grow some creepers over to create a green screen in our yard.

The panels were going to go to the rubbish tip as he had no use for them, so I gave him a carton of beer ($40) and he helped load them into my ute. Beer may not be an important part of your culture, but this small is an Aussie gesture of thanks. Beer can also be a form of currency when you get your mates to help out with the labor! This is the first of many recycling projects over the coming months.

I had to purchase three star pickets to hold them up ($30), and a roll of tie wire to hold everything together ($8). The plants which we placed at the bottom to grow up the fence are variety of Mandevilla called Sun Parasol ($8 each). We chose these as they like part shade, which is what they will get since they are under the Mango tree.

All up this only cost me $94 and kept me amused for half of the day. Now I can’t wait for the screen to grow, then I’ll hang my hammock from the Mango tree and no one will be able to see me reading my book or sleeping.

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Catching Snails with Beer

It is pretty common knowledge that snails and slugs areDSCF1890 attracted to beer, but how does one make a trap
for the snails without it filling up with water, the dog drinking it or in my case having cane toads come and getting liquored up before a night of terrorising the countryside.

Bring in the Beer Can Snail Catcher.

Recycled from a humble beer can with the sides cut down to allow the snails easy access to their favorite drink. If you are really thirsty you can make many of these in one session.

Simply take a beer can, carefully use a knife to cut little ‘draw bridges’ into the sides. DSCF1889

Dig a small hole in your affected area and place the can in so the ‘draw bridges’ are level with the soil surface.

Snails and slugs will enter the can and either drown or die of alcohol poisoning.

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Herb Garden for under $40

Here’s a photo of my new herb garden.

Planted in it is Lemon Grass, Parsley, Oregano, and Thyme.
To set this up, it cost me $36.50 Australian Dollars.

Here’s the breakdown:

The pot is a powder coated ‘BBQ Tub’ – For putting drinks in, holes drilled for drainage.
Cost: $13

The soil is a normal potting mix (25L).
Cost: $3.50

Parsley – A mature parsley plant with a big root system
Cost: $6.00

Lemon Grass – A large mature plant
Cost: $8.00

Thyme – 4 small seedlings
Cost: $3.00

Oregano – 6 small seedlings
Cost: $3.00

Over the next few weeks these herbs will mature into plants that I can pick and use in my kitchen, and save me lots of money.
Have you seen the price of fresh herbs at the supermarket these days? $3.50 a bunch, and they only lasts three or so days. By growing your own you will have better quality and save money!

This project could be completed much cheaper than I have done. You could go to your local rubbish tip and recycle a container, use your own compost for the soil and buy seedlings or even grow your own plants from seed.

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