Protect plants from frost

If you are one of my readers who are preparing for Winter, then here are some tips to protect your plants from the frost!

It is getting mighty cold here in Zurich, and I’m not actually preparing my garden for winter because my balcony is very tiny. But if you are someone with a large garden then I’m sure you will benefit from my suggestions!

Frost can cause the water in plants to freeze, which breaks down the cell walls. The result can be a browned, soggy or scorched appearance and if tender, the plant may die. Early spring frosts can kill new growth and reduce fruit crops. Snow is often less damaging because it acts as an insulator, but tender plants still require protection from it.

Which plants need to be protected? 

Tender shrubs such as bay, pittosporum, myrtle and tree fern. Tender perennials such as dahlia, pennstemon, and agapanthus. Tender climbers – passion flower, evergreen shrubs container plants, fruits and vegetables.

When to do it?

October or November or wait until frost is forecast. Fruiting plants with the exception of figs, which do not need to be covered until they begin to produce blossom buds in early spring.

Attractive protection

Hessian looks rustic, so makes a pleasing wrap for shrubs. Hazel stick teepees are smart too: pack the plant with straw, then wrap hessian around the teepee. Alternatively, coil bundles of a lengthy grass around it. Tender perennials can be cut back and covered with straw over which a wooden cloche is placed. (a cloche is a small translucent cover)

Tender shrubs

Pad the main branches with straw secured by netting or string, then encase the whole plant in insulating material (hessian and biodegradable fleece are eco friendly) During rainy spells, cover with plastic, remove when dry, to prevent the plant from sweating and rotting)

Evergreen shrubs

Apply mulch around the base of the plan

Hardy shrubs and trees

Gently shake the snow off weak branches so they do not snap

Tender perennials

If large, wrap in hessian, cover small plants with a dry mulch. If the plant has woody stems, place a hat of wire netting over the plant and sit the mulch atop this, to prevent rotting. Hardy perennials can still be bitten by frost. Wait until spring to cut them back, as the years growth provides protection.

Tender climbers

Insulate the base of the plant with fleece or hessian

Container plants 

Move to a sheltered spot and swathe in bubble wrap, put small pots in a cold frame.

Fruit 

In early spring, fruiting small trees and bushes require a shield of fleece or hessian on nights when frost is forecast. Remove during the day so pollinators can reach the blossom. Young vegetable plants and strawberries need the protection or waterproof cloches or a ploy tunnel in early spring. Remove in mild weather to prevent rotting.

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Travel diaries – Venice

To be honest with you, Venice was never high on my list of places to visit in Europe. I was reading my Lonely Planet ‘Europe’ book, and it is included in their Top 25 destinations. BUT they recommend in Winter to avoid all the tourists. I am aiming at doing the entire 25 things before i leave Europe, and Venice makes it half way for me…..so 12 to go!

Arriving at the airport, you then need to take a ferry or water taxi, and this depends on how much money you want to spend. I opted for the ferry because it was night time, and therefore couldn’t admire the view coming into Venice. But it was still a pretty site with thousands of lights. When i say ‘ferry’ i don’t mean a huge ship with hundreds of people…their ferries seat 30 and it takes about an hour.

I am fascinated by the fact that Venice is a floating city. Everything revolves around the water. Ferries, taxis and even ambulances are boats. You are completely surrounded by water and sometimes dead end streets lead you into the canal. I fell in love with the colours of the city and how unbelievable gorgeous it was.

It rained on and off for the entire weekend, but i still thought it was beautiful!!

Going in Winter also means that you will experience ‘high tide’. Our first morning there we heard loud bells ringing around the city. Only 4 times. Then it stopped. Later as i was reading my travel book, i found out that this is the high tide alarm. But we found this out soon enough anyway!

The San Marco piazza was under water as were many other places. In this case, the city provides elevated walkways for people to move around, but this is only in the major tourist areas, because the locals wear gum boots and very easily make their way through the water. At some spots in the piazza the water was half a metre deep as well.

All weekend we walked….and walked. It is my favourite thing about being a tourist…i rarely take public transport unless entirely necessary and you will never catch me doing an organised bus tour. I like to immerse myself in the culture by getting lost and finding places that most other tourists don’t know about. Both nights we were walking the tiny streets until 2am…only a few people were around and the atmosphere was beautiful.

I had read a lot about the terrible but expensive food in Venice.  I had prepared myself and done a lot of research for our two evening meals and was not disappointed. As for the other meals we had- they were also fantastic. Friday night we had dinner at De Mamo, a pizza and pasta restaurant in San Marco. Cheap pizza, and good food. Saturday night we ate at Ristorante Le Bistro de Venise. This was a little more fancy than the pizza place. The food was divine. We had a beautiful seafood meal there with some lovely matching wines. Staff were very helpful and friendly. I would definitely go back here when i return to Venice.

The Peggy Guggenheim Museum was amazing!! The artwork she collected was unbelievable. I highly recommend a visit if you are in Venice. We also visited the Galleria dell’Academia which is a gallery showing Venetian Art.

We spent a half day on the islands of Burano and Murano. Burano is famous for its lace and Murano for its glass. They are both gorgeous, but i preferred Burano with its hundreds of brightly coloured houses. Unfortunately 2 days was not enough. I would have loved another day or two to finish exploring and have some more delicious Italian food!

I hope you all enjoy the post and my photos!  Let me know if you have been to Venice and what you thought!IMG_6356 IMG_6349 IMG_6348 IMG_6324 IMG_6313 IMG_6288 IMG_6283 IMG_6272 IMG_6264 IMG_6258 IMG_6247 IMG_6237 IMG_6233 IMG_6223 IMG_6222 IMG_6221 IMG_6220 IMG_6218 IMG_6217 IMG_5714 IMG_5707 IMG_5668 IMG_5663 IMG_5660 IMG_5659 IMG_5639 IMG_5638 IMG_5634 IMG_0141 IMG_0085

Plant of the month – Passionfruit

The reason that i decided on passionfruit as plant of the month, is because a friend of mine recently sent me photos of her passionfruit vines that she grows on her balcony and they just look divine!!
The photos that i have attached at the end are actually the photos she sent me.
Passionfruit are one of the most bountiful backyard crops.
For my Australian friends – Spring is a good time to get started with planting a new vine or to give one that’s already growing a helping hand.
Passionfruit can be grown from seed.‘Nellie Kelly’, a grafted passionfruit variety that originated in Victoria, Australia which is the best choice for our gardens.It has large white and purple flowers and purple black fruit, which it produces without a pollinating variety, so there’s no need to grow two vines.

Nellie Kelly’ is grafted onto a vigorous understock called blue passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) to give it tolerance to cold and to soil-borne disease. This understock occasionally creates trouble for gardeners when the fruiting vine is lost and the understock begins to grow in its own right, often suckering from along its extensive root system. Digging in or around vines can also cause suckering.

You’ll know if you have suckers growing from the understock as its leaves, flowers and fruit are very different from ‘Nellie Kelly’. Instead of large, lobed, bright green leaves you’ll find smaller leathery green leaves. Pretty blue and white flowers appear rather than the large white and purple blooms and, the clincher, inedible orange fruits appear rather than the mouth-watering black passionfruit you were expecting.

For good growth and lots of fruit, plant vines in a sunny, frost-free spot and lavish them with care and attention. Passionfruit vines develop extensive root systems to fuel all that growth and fruit production, so allow plenty of room for roots to grow. As well, keep the surrounding area free of weeds and competing plants, including grass. Also give the vine space to climb. One passionfruit can reach at least 2.5m across and several metres high. An ideal spot to grow a vine is along a wire fence, across a balcony, or over a pergola where they provide year-round shade. If you want to grow a vine along a sunny wall or fence, install some wire, trellis or mesh as support for its tendrils.

Keep the root system in mind when feeding a passionfruit vine. Spread the fertiliser and mulch over the entire root system, not just around the base of the stem. Passionfruit thrive on a diet of pelletised chicken manure or any fertiliser designed to encourage flowering and fruiting, such as citrus food. Apply fertiliser in spring and then every four weeks through summer. Always water well when applying fertiliser. It can take 12–18 months for a newly planted vine to reach fruiting size, although some flowers may be produced in summer or early autumn.

Passionfruit vines perform best with regular watering. Water is vital when the vine is newly planted and when it’s flowering and forming fruit.

Although passionfruit do not require special pruning techniques to produce fruit, they are pruned to control their size and spread, and to allow sunlight to filter through the vine to help ripen fruit. Pruned vines also produce strong new growth that in turn produces fruit. Established vines that have fruited and are growing well can be carefully pruned in spring, before flowering, to remove excessive growth and to avoid the huge tangle of stems that develop naturally. Follow a stem along carefully before you cut it to ensure you’re not removing a major branch. Later in the year, excessive summer growth can be tied back onto the trellis or support, or simply cut off wayward branches.

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What to do in the garden this month – November

Yesterday i thought that November might be turning out to be a really beautiful month, BUT today its freezing and raining. Only 5 degrees!! I thought i was actually prepared for Winter, but as i look through the window to my balcony from the warmth of my living room….ive changed my mind. My balcony looks sad….my daisies are still looking quite fresh and still flowering but everything else is not looking so good. November is that transition month where you need to prepare your outdoor areas for the winter ahead!! Which makes me think that i need to go and get some soil for some hyacinths and tulips i have! Here is what to do for November in the garden…..

Southern Hemisphere – Fertilise roses – Lightly prune natives – Sow seeds- Celosia, Zinnia, Cosmos, Zucchini and Pumpkins – Spray Azaleas for Azalea Lace Bug. Use Confidor. – Prepare your garden beds for the hot summer ahead. Use water storage crystals. They actually have a liquid form that is much better and absorbs better into your soil. I recommend this one, and then a good dose of mulch. – Fruit fly can be a problem in some areas. Now is the time to treat them.

Zinnias are a really hardy Spring annual

Zinnias are a really hardy Spring annual

Northern Hemisphere – Plant bulbs now. Especially tulips. – Deadhead Hydranges. – Mulch your garden well in preparation for the cold months and the snow. – Lift Dahlias, Begonias and Gladiolus if your garden is prone to freezing. – Brighten your balcony or front door with annuals. Such as violas, pansies, polyanthus and primulas. – Plant Hyacinths (but remember to bring them inside during the very cold months of Dec and Jan) – Start to plant bare rooted roses now. – Start raking!! – Prune pear and apple trees between now and February. – Remember to set your mower on a higher cut height for Winter. – Aerate your lawn. – Plant deciduous trees now.

Pumpkin shopping at the farm this week

Pumpkin shopping at the farm this week

Travel diaries – Oman. Part 2

After leaving the desert we headed towards a coastal town called Sur. On the way we made a side trip to a place called Wadi Shab. Wadi is effectively a valley in Arabic. Wadi Shab was quite a trek but apparently well worth it….so we arrived and packed our little backpacks for the 1 hour hike into the mountains.

We underestimated how hot and how difficult it would be and i really struggled to get there. It was around 40 degrees that day, and despite wearing a large hat i was suffering with the heat.

At one point i wanted to turn back, but my boyfriend had other ideas!! When we made it to the first pool…i literally tore off my clothes down to my swimmers and jumped in. What a relief!

After the first pool we needed to leave our things behind and continue just with our swimmers and a good pair of shoes as there would be some climbing on slippery rocks. We continued to the next pool and met some people who told us that the ‘cave’ was just around the corner. I could see my boyfriends eyes light up, when all i really want to do was enjoy the cool water i was in.

I had come this far, so i decided to head on towards the cave. The only way into the cave is through a very narrow break in the rocks. You can only just keep your head above water enough to get in. You could hear the waterfalls inside but couldn’t see anything because it was too dark.

We only spent a short time in the cave as there was nowhere to stand…..you had to tread water the entire time, which was tough considering it was also quite rough in there!!

We were quite exhausted after leaving the Wadi and arrived into Sur later than we expected.

I imagined Sur to be this beautiful beach front town with lots of shops and restaurants but was very different to this. The Corniche was actually a quiet beach front street with men sitting in groups talking and playing cards. I imagined that if there were an area like this in Sydney it would be filled with cafes and people drinking wine and beer. But life in Oman is just so different. Men go out with men and women go out with women. We rarely saw them mingling, and most of the time in the evening its the men out while the women are at home with the children.

The main shopping area was located further back from the beach and was buzzing with people.

The next morning we decided to come back to the beach to see what it was like during the day and it was very different. Quite a cute little area. We also explored some of the Dhow yards, as Sur was where the original dhows were made!

After our little exploration of the original boats, we drove to Muscat where we were spending 5 nights.

Arriving into Muscat was scary!!! People really are crazy drivers, and we came so close to having an accident. It’s not only the way people drive but its how fast they drive. I was sooo unbelievably happy to get to the hotel and not have to drive for the next few days.

Our time in Muscat was fantastic! We spent our first 3 days scuba diving in the Diminyat Islands. This was the highlight of the trip for me, because for the first time i got to dive with turtles and a whale shark!

We took some time to explore the city and looked around the Souq and also the Grand Mosque. The Grand Mosque was a big highlight for me. This was my first visit to a mosque and the dress code was very strict. I had to be totally covered. No neck or hair showing.

This is the only mosque in Oman that you can visit if you are not Muslim.

It was magical being there and looking into life inside the Mosque. The prayers rooms were breathtaking, and materials had been shipped from all over the world. The windows from France, the stone from India, the timber from Burma and a massive rug from Iran….and the list goes on!

I hope you enjoy my photos from Oman. My trip here was one of my best and favourite travel experiences also.

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