Friday, December 20, 2013

Under the verandah

I was going to include some pictures in my last post, of my growing plant collection. For some reason the images weren't linking however, so I gave it a few days. Whatever Gremlin was in the works, it seems to be sorted now.

Our verandah is only 1.8 metres wide, but still enough room for plants and walking! They get a wee bit of early morning sun, and a lot of afternoon. Because it only lasts for about an hour though, it doesn't seem to cook them.

Before I came to understand how this space works with plants, it really just accumulated garden tools, wheelbarrows and whatever else we were too lazy to put away - mulch bales, bags of chicken feed, etc. But I knew one day, I wanted to have plants for the view out the window, but also to shield the bricks and windows from the heat of summer.

I guess you could call this my "zone zero" area, as its the closest to the house and visited constantly. We even grow the odd vegetable...

I use a small amount of homemade compost in my potting mix so I get more value from the bags of potting mixes I buy. Not surprisingly, we get volunteers popping up - like this tomato. They will never produce the kinds of yields from plants which get all day sun, but the few which do grow, are so tasty.

Here are some more volunteers from the compost heap, only Dave took these direct from the compost. He dug up the mature clod and placed them in an old broccoli box. We always have these boxes around, because Dave collects them from work with vegetable scraps for the chickens.  We sit it on the very edge of the verandah so it can get more sunlight. Don't know what we'll get from this lot, but it will be a surprise.

We also use the broccoli boxes (upturned) to raise plants up. Especially the seedlings which I want to get a little afternoon sun, but not as much as those mature plants in big clay pots. It also makes it easier on the back, when I have to inspect and water them.

Right next to these boxes are some old tree logs, which are handy for sitting on, or in this case, used to hold the seaweed feed and spray bottle. Very handy on the back, not having to lift from all the way on the ground. They're placed close to the seedlings, as I use the spray bottle every day, especially just before the sun hits them in the afternoon. I like to spritz the leaves to create humidity.

I couldn't leave without showing the intricate mud wasp nests. These can grow quite big as they add to it. Their nesting coincides not with the heat - but with the rain. As that is how they obtain their building material.

I don't mind sharing the verandah eaves with the mud wasps, as they control the spider population, which also likes to inhabit the eaves. Everyone who visits, never fails to mention we take the nests down, but I remove them only if they're in the way (ie: near the front door). I don't blame people for suggesting we remove them, as the verandah becomes quite a freeway of wasp activity. But as they're carrying clods of mud or paralysed spiders, they're not interested in attacking. They're just about the business of securing the next generation of wasps.

I've only been attacked once by a mud wasp, and that was when it decided to build a nest inside our mailbox. I stuck my hand in to collect the mail, and it stung me. The poor thing only wanted to get away though, as once it was in the clear, it flew away. Paper wasps are the ones you have to watch out for. They will sting you repeatedly if you're too close to their nest. Thankfully we don't get too many of those

I've also tried something new this year in plant selection for the front verandah. I've never tried planting fruit trees in pots because we always have the space to plant them in the ground. But I was looking for something with a lot of foliage cover and when I saw this Cherry Guava in the nursery, I thought, why not a fruit tree? I couldn't find a good reason not to try it.

As it's so close to the house too, we may stand a chance of actually eating some of the fruit before the native animals do. It's worth trying anyway.

I also got the chance to break up some old raspberry canes and potted them on separately. An old milk crate and recycled plastic tray (found in any second-hand shop) makes for a nice place to grow them out. These will go in the ground around autumn, we have a special place in mind - more on that later.

This area on my verandah is constantly changing though. There's something nurturing about having green foliage embrace your house, so I will always try to find something to fill the space. Hence, my search on the internet for planting ideas. I'd rather recycle stuff than buy brand new.

There are many advantages to keeping pot plants though - even on acreage. They help control the micro-climate round the house, and create habitat for other animals - I've noticed a resident green tree-frog living in my seedling trays, as it's often very moist there. I'm sure as my collection grows, I'll notice even more animals turning up.

What I love most about keeping pots on my verandah though, is they're just one step down from the front door. It's all kept on flat ground, I can control what I feed the plants and spot problems very quickly too. It's also a synch to raise things up to a level my back will appreciate.

There are a few more Christmas surprises attached to our verandah, but I will probably write about that after the big day. So much happening beforehand. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are enjoying your plants and having a festive season.


  1. Oh so pretty! You really do have a way with plants Chris. I want to ask if you have every read the blog/website You Grow Girl? I think that is the name. She uses containers nearly exclusively and has lots of different ideas.
    I have always wanted to create a breezeway by using trellised plants but so far we have not been able to get to a project like that. A breezeway would be disturbed if we ever actually got around to siding our house so it has to come later. I also like the idea that your verandah is on the ground level and concrete. In our area that would help eliminate some rodent issues.
    I also agree with you that the mud wasp nests are cool to have around. We usually call them "daubers" here and they are not aggressive like the yellow jackets or paper wasps which are much more abundant around us. I some how feel that daubers nests are good luck but I don't know why I think that. lol.

  2. You Grow Girl sounds familiar, I may have happened upon it, or I have yet to discover it. Sounds interesting. Will definitely do a search.

    The breezeway sounds lovely - what were you thinking of growing up it? I can understand having to wait to get things done in the right order. No point taking the time to grow all those plants, if they only get damaged with renovating. I just had a crazy idea though. What if you could build a trellis on wheels, with platforms to place pots on? That way it can be moved later on.

    Probably a lot of work though and waiting may actually make more sense. Good luck with it.

    I wonder if the reason you think mud wasps bring good luck, is because they always follow the rain? Whenever it rains, plants grow and people get to eat.

  3. I love the idea of a rollaway trellis! I'll have to look into that! I would of course want roses. I ALWAYS want Or grapes.

  4. Those are my two favourites as well. Climbing roses or grapes. I make vinegar with the grapes that we don't get around to eating. Those are grapes we buy, as we haven't managed to get a vine in the ground yet.

  5. Do you eat or drink the vinegar? That is something I want to do is make a real one for consuming, not cleaning. A tutorial would be great if you ever have time. Our grapes do well over by the beehive though they don't need pollination. We have to fight off the wasps to get to them though.

  6. You can actually eat it, we're just not big consumers of vinegar. I use it more for cleaning. I should place some links for making vinegar. It's basically place your spent fruit in a container, fill with water, add a bit of sugar and leave uncovered for a few weeks. First it turns into wine, then it turns into vinegar.

    Notice that slight vinegar smell from fruit you've left on the counter for too long? It's basically all the sugars breaking down with the yeast in the air, and that's what makes vinegar. I use grapes (still on their branch) apple and pear, skins and cores - you can even use pineapple skin. Basically anything you don't eat from the fruit, can go into making vinegar.

    I always have a jar of vinegar brewing on my kitchen counter. I add it to the white vinegar I purchase because I'm not sure I could ever make enough for what I use it for. Next time I make some, I'll write a tutorial.

  7. I can't wait for a tutorial. I have read that vinegar is fiddly-God forbid should a fruit fly land in the brew for example-so I never tried it.
    Just in case you care though, vinegar is a good way to cut back on salt-its got the right kind of sour that helps fool your pallet into thinking a food is salty. Sour flavor is supposed to do that but I don't get the same feeling with lemon for example.


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