Do You Love Weeds In Your Garden

It’s amazing isn’t it, no matter what you do, or how hot it gets, weeds will always survive better than your plants and veggies.

Most of us prefer not to use chemical control on weeds.

I never dig over my garden or veggie patch because I use a thick layer of mulch to control weeds. As this mulch, and my composting, breaks down it keeps the soil friable and thus lessens any need to dig over the garden.

One exception to this is when I am building a new bed or renewing a bed that I have let go fallow. Then I do dig over, not so much for weed control, but rather to dig in any manure I may put down so that it breaks down in time for my planting.

Some weeds such as oxalis a really hard to get rid of. Sometimes we can only control their spread. With weeds such as oxalis you have to dig up the ball underneath the soil. Just pulling at their foliage will only give you a minimum control and the lovely things will spring up again.

If you need to use some sort of spray to control weed spread, such as in your lawn, then first of all try to find an effective organic weedkiller.

One of the things that you could consider is that gardening should be a joy and not all out chore. So perhaps some benign neglect about removing weeds from amongst your flowers and veg is not such a bad idea. Mind you, the weeds will also use up your water and fertiliser and thus compete with your veg and flowers.

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Early Morning Gardening Chores

Even if you are not an early riser, in the height of summer, some chores are best done early in the morning as the sun rises.

Obviously, you are able to avoid the heat of summer when working in your garden.

More importantly, some of your gardening is better done in the wee hours. For example, if you wish to pick roses for the house then they are best picked as early as possible and then way they will retain their colour better as well as their fragrance.

Early morning, is also the best time to make best use of watering when evaporation is less than during the heat of the day. This is especially helpful in your veggie patch so that your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will have enough moisture to survive the heat and sweet fruit.

With pruning, it is best not to hard prune. This applies to any of your plants, though roses can survive a medium hard prune. Most shrubs that flower in the spring can be pruned in the summer, after they have bloomed. But be careful not to prune them too late.

In Midsummer, to avoid the risk of silver leaf disease and canker, prune back your plum trees. These diseases gain entry through worms when the tree is dormant, so with plums, don’t do more than the usual winter tree pruning. Keep pinching out unwonted shoots during the growing season.

Check your herbs, they may need a haircut and benefit from a medium to hard prune back. Herbs such as thyme, which love the summer heat but can get a bit frazzled, benefit from a good cutback and a thorough watering. Also prune your herbs if they are starting to flower so that they will continue to produce the parts you want for your kitchen.

If I have been cutting back or pruning both shrubs and annuals, such as petunias, I prefer to do it in the early morning and then give the plants a good watering.

If your area is undergoing a period of drought, don’t be tempted to water established lawns too much. This will only encourage root growth nearer the surface, making the grass more vulnerable in future dry spells. The roots should be growing deeper into the soil in search of water. This really applies to all your plants.

In regards to watering, you will conserve water better and keep the soil moist if you have a good layer of mulch spread around your garden beds, both the veggie patch and the ornamental garden beds.

Remember water is one of our most precious resources, and whatever you can do to conserve your water use assists sustainability and helps keep your water bills down.

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Garden Pest Control


Nematodes can be a real nuisance for the vegetable garden especially. They are microscopic wormlike creature that works its way into the roots of plants, causing them to swell and distort which eventually leads to the death of the plant.

They are especially fond of tomatoes and if your soil rife with nematodes you often will not get any tomatoes.

One garden writer that I saw said he sowed the whole of his vegetable garden with French marigolds. He then dug them in, they rotted and it worked – and the nematodes were controlled. The main problem being though that he lost the whole seasons worth of crops.

One alternative that can be tried with marigolds is to plant them amongst the crops. I think this will depend on the type of marigold as some of the newer forms do not act as deterrents to pests and nematodes. Where I live, it is not possible to tell what marigolds are what or where they are from. So going by the garden writers use of French marigolds I suspect they are the ones to plant if you can find any.

I have read also that Mexican marigolds are said to offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well.

They must be the scented type of marigolds if you are to plant them and use them as a repellent. One side-effect of marigolds I have noticed is that they do attract snails though and possibly spiders.

Here is a list of some plants that can be companion planted to help repel pests.

SUNFLOWERS – these can draw aphids away from other plants. Sunflowers are tough enough that they suffered no damage.

NASTURTIUMS – these can be planted with your tomatoes and cucumbers as a way to fight off woolly aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. The flowers, especially the yellow blooming variety, act as a trap for aphids. Of course, as you know, the flowers can also be eaten.

GARLIC – apart from being a great addition to any cooking and general health benefits especially to fight colds, garlic planted near roses repels aphids. It also helps to deter codling moth, Japanese beetles, root maggots, snails and carrot root fly.

DAHLIAS – these old-fashioned favourite cottage flowers repel nematodes and the blooms are great or adding bold splashes of color.

DILL – these are best planted with cucumbers and onions. Dill repels aphids and spider mites. Dill leaves sprinkled on your squash plants will help repel squash bugs. Tomato hornworms are attracted to deal so if you place it at a distance away from your tomato plants it will help draw destructive insects away.

CHIVES – not only a great herb for cooking planted they can repel Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies.

CHRYSANTHEMUMS – you can make an organic insecticide from these flowers called pyrethrum. Sprayed on your plants helps control things like roaches,  silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, and also to control ants in your garden.

There are many more plants that are claimed to help control pests and diseases in your garden. There may be some doubts as to their effectiveness, but if nothing else they will add some color and possibly herbs for your cooking if nothing else.

See this list from Wikipedia for a comprehensive list of companion plants – click here

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How To Grow Sweet Oranges

We all love sweet oranges and mandarins For their taste as well as for their rich taste and vitamin C content. However, it is often a disappointment to discover that our beautiful orange tree growing in our backyard produces only sour or how to get sweeter orangeshalf sweetened fruit.

One of the reasons that orange trees fail either to bloom or grow sweet oranges is due to a lack sun and nutrition. There are certain steps you can do to encourage your orange tree to produce sweeter juicier fruits.

Orange trees do need least eight hours of sun each day otherwise they will fail to bloom or only bloom sparsely. Orange trees need high heat to form the natural sugars that make oranges taste sweet.

This is especially true for navel oranges, while Valencia oranges have lower heat requirements and may be better suited to your area.

The ideal would be to have one of each as they fruit at different times of year.


  • 1.       Thin out some of the branches so that more of the foliage can receive the sunlight.
  • 2.       Increase the nutrition by amending the soil with a mix of quick draining mulch and organic compost.
  • 3.       Add a dose of citrus specific fertiliser to your orange tree’s soil in early spring to promote growth and blooming.

4.       Orange trees like lots of water so douse with 2 to 3 inches of water a week. Increase this watering when the tree begins blooming and bearing fruit, as water at that time will encourage bigger, juicier oranges.

5.   At the start of the fruiting period to encourage better fruiting and ripening, fertilisewith  citrus specific or phosphorus and potassium fertiliser. Orange trees require additional resources to bear fruit and will bear those larger, sweeter fruit you desire if the right nutrition is available to them.

6.       By using citrus specific fertiliser you can be assured that your tree is getting the correct balance of proper nutrients, which include trace minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and a few others.

You can also apply potassium sulphate in a foliar spray just before flowering and once again after the flowers turn to fruit buds.

Try also to ensure that the surrounding areas of the trunk are clear of other plantings which could compete for the nutrition that the tree requires.

Some orange trees are self-infertile, meaning that their flowers will not pollinate other flowers on the tree. If your tree is not bearing any fruit at all, you may need to plan second orange tree as a pollinator, to fertilise the flowers and produce fruit.

The above steps also apply to mandarins, lemons, limes and other citrus fruits. Of course, the lemons and limes will not become sweet like an orange but they will become juicier and larger.

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Are You Caring For Your Roses

With a little effort in their care roses will always reward you with beautiful blooms and healthy growth. 


In moderate climate areas your roses should be well on their way to a full spring blooming. If you are having a late winter or live in the colder area, roses will be a little bit further behind.

If you haven’t already done it, put your compost and mulch around your rose bushes to create healthier soil and conserve moisture. This of course, will also help keep weeds suppressed.

Fertilising your roses as they come into bud will help keep them healthy by boosting their immune system for natural control of pests and diseases.

When you prune the spring growth after flowering, fertilise again and your roses will produce a new crop of beautiful blooms.


By this time of the year your roses should start to show signs of getting ready to go dormant.rosepruned13a

As the foliage drops make sure you clear it up especially if it has black spot, and put this foliage into the trash bin.

In mid to late July you can begin the winter prune. See this page on my website here for more details about pruning.


You’ll also note on that page there is an app available if you have an android phone. The app is free.

The dormancy period is good for roses as it gives them a chance to rest. However, in some parts of your country the climate may be so mild in winter that the roses will not go into full dormancy. An example of this is in Perth Western Australia. If your country or area is on the same latitude you may very well have the same conditions for your roses.

Nothing can be done about this of course as you cannot force roses to go into dormancy when the climate and soil warm simply encourages them to keep on growing.

Despite a lack of dormancy, treat the roses as if they were dormant and don’t fertilise them until spring. If they are new roses, e.g., one year old in your garden, don’t prune them at all. I would recommend however, that you cut off any developing buds so that the growth is in the root system more than on the top of the plant. A strong root system will mean a stronger and healthier above ground plant.

More FREE Gardening Apps

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Northern Hemisphere Spring Gardening Checklist

As winter ends do a survey of your garden areas and see what needs to be done and write up a checklist so that you can work systematically through it.

  • Clean up any winter detritus as such leaves from deciduous trees and place in your compost heap.
  • Prepared to renew your mulch.
  • Remove any winter weeds before you mulch.
  • Plant any seedlings in your garden and veggie beds will – likewise seeds.
  • As your roses start to build foliage keep an eye out for black spot. As soon as it appears, start to spray with Neem oil or triforine. This may need to be repeated three or four times throughout spring. Once you have established control over blackspot it may only need a spray every six weeks. Ensure that you pick up from the ground any of the fallen affected leaves.
  • If you have taken cuttings in the autumn check to see whether they have established any roots yet. If they have and the soil has warmed up you can plant them out into your garden.
  • Spring is also a good time to add colour to the garden after Winters darkness. Go to your local nursery and choose the selection of your favourite annuals and plant them all over your garden for colour.
  • If you haven’t completed planting in winter of bare rooted shrubs and trees and vines you can continue to do so in spring.

This is the time to prune fast-growing summer flowering shrubs such as high biscuits by at least a third. It is also time to prune plants like Oleander, Abelia, plumbago. Don’t prune your spring flowering shrubs under after flowering.

When the spring flush of rose blooms is finished prune a third off or simply deadhead. Feed them again.

Fertilise your ornamental garden with a slow-release fertiliser, in addition to giving them a liquid feed. With your veggies they will need regular feeding to produce full fruits.


  • Check to see that your irrigation system is working ready for summer’s heat.
  • If you haven’t done so before clean and sharpen garden tools as needed.
  • Prune any plans that still need to be trimmed.
  • Check the plants you have in pots and repot if the soil is over three years old.
  • Renew any of your herbs that you will want to use in your kitchen and that have died off during winter.
  • Clean any of your bird feeders and baths, plus small ponds, garden ornaments and seating.
  • Mulch your garden after you have planted everything that you want to. Keep an eye on your roses and other plans for pests such as aphids, caterpillars and other bugs that think you have planted just for them.
  • Remember to let your tulips and other winter bulbs die off before you lift them and store them in a cool dark place.
  • Stir up your compost heap so that heat builds up and rots what you have stored there.
  • If you have compost all ready for the garden then spread it before you mulch.
  • Good mulching will help you save the need for weeding, will conserve water and keep your soil moist.
  • Tester swimming pool pH and amend levels as needed.


  • Rake over your lawn to remove any dead growth and winter debris. This will help bring light and air to the soil level encouraging the grass to grow. Reseed any bare patches of lawn.
  • Apply a complete lawn food to all your grass areas.

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Checklist For Autumn Gardening

Autumn is almost over in the southern hemisphere, but have you taken advantage of this season before winter chills the soil. It is probably not too late!

Because the soil has sufficient moisture in still on the ground is still warm from summer plants have enough time to get used to the new position and form new routes.

Plants can be planted in order with a clear conscience and it is the last time before winter to bring a bit of colour into the garden.

This is also the season when you plant your bowls so that you will have a spring blaze of colour. The position is crucial for the Herald is a spring to thrive and flower stop most bowls like fresh moist soil in spring but in summer during their dormant period the soil can be dry and porous.

If you are planting tulips and hyacinths you made need to refrigerate the bowls for a few weeks before planting. Don’t forget that after the bowls have finished flowering you must leave them to dry out before lifting the bulbs.

In this season your azaleas and camellias should start to flower throughout autumn into the spring even almost to summer. When they have finished flowering, in say about the last month of spring, then this is the time to feed them and then leave them without any more food until the next flowering season. In other words, don’t fertilize during the flowering or as the buds fatten.

If you need to prune any of your deciduous trees wait until their foliage has completely dropped off in winter so that you can see the branches clearly and decide which ones are to be removed or trimmed.

For colour, there are many cottage garden flowers that will dazzle your garden in the coldest months of winter. Violas, lobelias, pansies, cinerarias, poppies are just a few of them. Stocks, for their perfume can be planted now in readiness for spring.

Dig out your summer Bob such as dahlias store them in a cellar or dark place in the shed.
Bring any pot plants indoors or place in a sheltered position. If the area you live in freezers during the winter switch off any of the irrigation system and empty either the pipes so that frozen water cannot do any damage ditto with ponds.

Keeping your grass longer in the late autumn throughout winter will help keep your lawn looking green as the longer blades of grass can make better use of less sunlight, and it also helps build resistance against weeds and moss. If necessary, you might need to aerate your lawn with a fork.

Autumn is an ideal time to make new plants from cuttings. You can take 10 cm cuttings from hardwood herbs such as Rosemary, Bay or any nation such as banksias, grevilleas and, coastal rosemary.

Simply remove the lower leaves, dip the cuttings in hormone powder and pot in small containers with good quality potting mix. Just keep moist and sheltered from strong wind and the sun.

Earthworms are a good sign that your soil is fertile. By adding organic matter such as these and cow manure to the soil in your garden will help attract earthworms. The worms you’ve attracted with organic matter will add nutrients from their castings and make tunnels which aerate the soil.

All foliage that has fallen from the deciduous trees and any other cuttings that are small or ground up can become a part of your compost heap.

Roses should still be in flowering in the nurseries, so if you are going to choose roses for your garden this is a good time to choose them as you can still see their colour and smell the fragrance of the blooms.

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How To Grow Lavender

The great thing about growing lavender is its high drought tolerance and low maintenance demands.

Add to that, lavender’s beautiful perfume, colour and health benefits (from its oil) and you have a near perfect garden plant – for ornamental purposes or as beneficial culinary and medical plant.

There are about 35 officially recorded species of lavender with hundreds of recognised cultivars, varieties and forms.


  • Position plants in full sun for best results
  • grow in free-draining soil that will drain in winter – lavenders do not like wet feet!
  • Prune regularly – especially after flowering. This will keep the plants neat and bushy. If you neglect this, they will get leggy – and then, if you prune into the woody bits they won’t regenerate!
  • Lavenders tolerate well dry, windy and harsh spots. However, your nursery can also tell you about humidity tolerant varieties.

ornamental lavender


  • English Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) – which is really French! The one produces the best oil and potpourri.lavender potpourri
  • Lavandin (lavandula x intermedia) – this is a natural cross between L angustifolia and L latifolia
  • Slightly more camphor than English Lavender it produces easily extracted oil and is commonly used as an essential oil and in perfumes.
  • French Lavender (lavandula dentata) – has toothed, grey leaves and winter to spring flowering. Ideal for coastal areas as it tolerates humid conditions. Largest of the lavenders it makes for a great ornamental hedge.Lavenderbunch
  • Italian Lavender (lavandula stoechas). Recognised by the little “wings” on the top of the flower spikes, the oil has high camphor and a pungent pine-like smell – and is used in insect and moth repellents. They seed easily – so in some areas may be classed as a problem plant

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Work From Home Opportunity

At Better House and Garden, as you will have noticed I rarely add articles on the house or home as such – loving gardening as I do, I mainly have focused on the garden aspects.  This is another way of saying I am not much of a handyman or house decorator!

However, every now and again, I do publish a home-related article.

Today, many people are trying to develop further income into their households. This often takes the form of some online-related business.

Recently, friends of mine have started a business promoting the premium Swiss anti-aging skin care and health products from Arbonne. I am putting information about it here as a favor, but also because it is an opportunity for fellow gardeners who might like to make some extra income.

The quality of Arbonne products are of a high standard and price competitive with other high end beauty products.

The sales system is a bit like Avon – but with a difference.

  • No products have to be purchased and held in stock.
  • No deliveries have to be made.
  • No money has to be collected

This is all done online – by the client you have introduced to Arbonne products. So the only real work is to build up a list of clients. When a client orders and pays online (using your ID code) your commission comes directly from the company.

Why not check out this program – it is worth your time at no cost – and it may prove very beneficial and rewarding.

You can be a part of my friends program from anywhere – you don’t have to live in Perth – Skype solves a lot of issues!

CLICK THE BANNER and read more information on their website.

arbonnejoiningPLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a get rich quick scheme – you do have to work at it as you build up a client list – and the rewards are commensurate with your efforts. They do increase easily if you also build a sales team to work under you.

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Color Your Garden Purple

Want to make your garden different – even just for a change?  Why not consider the color purple**?

Tibouchinas (old name Lasiandra) are time markers within your garden calendar. When they start to bloom, they are heralding the end of summer.

They provide an attractive background in any garden, then as the end of summer and early autumn arrives you will see them burst into a dazzling display of royal purple.


  • Tibouchina “Jazzie” – low growing – ideal to hedge. Flowers deep purple with white stamens in autumn, though can spot flower throughout the year.  Also called “Carol-Lyn”
  • Tibouchina “Noelene” this one goes through an unusual bi-color process. Opening white they quickly change to a pinky mauve shade.
  • Tibouchina “Alstonville” – an Australian-bred cultivar, it can be grown as a small tree or if kept trimmed you can enjoy it as a shrub. Normally, will flower autumn into winter.
  • Tibouchina “Granulosa” – if left unpruned will mature into a small tree. Flowers are violet-purple and come out late summer and early autumn.
  • Tibouchina “Jules” – Needs good drainage – doesn’t like wet feet. This is a dwarf that will grow to about a meter (one Yard)TIBOUCHINA TREE

Tibouchinas are suitable for gardens, courtyards, balconies and even sheltered roof gardens.

They prefer frost free areas and a warm climate in a reasonably protected area. Soil – slightly acidic – if you have blue hydrangeas nearby – then the soil pH is probably good enough.

Like all plants – good composting and mulching with mature manure will give you healthy plants.

Light pruning will keep them from getting straggly and give you more blooms

A very similar plant is the Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today & Tommorrow) – they add a nice contrast in foliage with similar shaped flowers. They are also fragrant.
Blue Hydrangeas.
Click for our page called the Elusive Garden Blues for more ideas and companion plants

** Purple in flowers may range from a pinky mauve to royal purple and all shades in between – so always choose your Tibouchinas when in bloom to get the color you want.


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