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Category Archives: Urban Garden


Being cooped up at home during lockdown, one way to get to experience the outdoors is if you’re lucky to have a garden and can work with greenery.


Nature is incredibly generous which makes growing food at home so rewarding.


But with our garden, I faced so much growth, I hardly could keep up!


In South Africa the soil is so fertile and the climate so optimal, you just need to throw seeds on the ground and they will grow.


This is exactly what happened with our compost area: The seeds that came along with our organic waste started sprouting. ALL of them!

Before I knew it, there were seedlings popping up everywhere.


A lot of them came from oranges, lemons, mandarins and grapefruits.

Knowing they will develop into fully fledged trees, I couldn’t leave them in the ground. Our garden is not big enough to host a tree nursery.


So I started transplanting the tree seedlings. All 35 of them:



With garden centres closed during lockdown, I couldn’t buy plant pots and had to come up with a different way to give all these trees a new home.


So I experimented with making plant pots from soft drink bottles.


This turned into a win-win-win-win-win scenario: 

1)  Instead of using new plastic plant pots, I upcycled used plastic.

2)  Cape Town turned filthy during lockdown and all these plastic bottles come from Woodstock’s streets, cleaning up our neighbourhood.

3)  Upcycling all these plastic bottles means less waste for landfill.

4)  Washing the plastic bottles awarded me with the opportunity to store rainwater in them.

5)  Plastic bottles are free and unfortunately plentiful, this meant no costs for plant pots.


Thus, I managed to grow all these plants on a 0 budget!


I love when naturally things come together and fall into place. It just feels so good to do good.



#ChooseToRefuse  #Reuse  #Reduce  #Recycle  #Upcycle





1) Plastic Bottles

Depending on how clean your neighbourhood is, plastic bottles can be readily available as trash floating around your hood.

Alternatively go to areas that need a CleanUp, such as the beach or the forest.

Otherwise, involve your neighbours actively in collecting soft drink and water bottles and instead of throwing them in the bin, keep them for the Community Peace Garden.


Why plastic bottles?

It is very easy to upcycle soft drink, water and juice bottles into plant pots.

For upcycling, the bottles might need to get washed.

Plastic is light and sturdy, doesn’t wither and doesn’t break.

Soft drink bottles are designed to pour well – ideal for watering a plant.

At least, instead of buying new plastic plant pots, these plastic bottles are kept out of landfill.


2) Rainwater

Blessed is the rain! Since the drought crisis in the Cape, more people appreciate and utilise rainwater.

Rain is easy to collect. You can start by putting out simple buckets and get as organised as collecting your roof runoff in big water tanks.


Why rainwater?

It’s freely available and, depending on where you are, a scarce resource, thus worth collecting.

Using rainwater is eco-friendly and can help lighten the burden for the municipality to provide sufficient water.

Rain is naturally clean, a soft water, resulting from evaporation, hence low in total dissolved solids.

Drinking water is precious and should be reserved for drinking. Plants don’t need drinking water, in fact rainwater is better for greenery.

Properly stored, rainwater can keep your garden green even during the hot months.






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Somehow there is a misconception about rainwater that it’s dirty.


Rainwater is actually the cleanest you could wish for.

If you capture rainwater straight out of the air in a clean container, you could drink it.


Rainwater is better for your plants:

–   Besides being natural, rainwater is usually soft, which makes it a good option for watering your flowers and plants. Actually, the absence of those very chemicals that make tap water safe for drinking makes rainwater a better choice for your outdoor watering needs.

–  It is true that rainwater is acid. However, the acidity of rainwater is less dangerous compared to other things.

–  There is little concern about heavy metals in harvested rainwater.


So if you want your plants to flourish, it’s a good idea to collect rainwater.


Blessed is the rain. - Even when there's too much of it! If the outpour of rain floods the garden anyway, we might as well collect it.

Blessed is the rain. – Even when there’s too much of it! If the outpour of rain floods the garden, we might as well collect it.


When the rainwater is captured in a clean manner, it is possible to store it for a couple of weeks in appropriate containers. For short term use, it works well to fill plastic bottles with rainwater.


It’s a great way to keep your garden watered during the hot months. 🙂






Habaneros are really quite hot, but even though lips and fingers are burning, I still want more.

They just have this lipsmacking wake-up freshness and hotness at the same time.

In response to the burning sensation our brain releases dopamine, responsible for a sense of reward and pleasure. That’s why it’s easy to get hooked on hot chillie peppers.


It’s also super easy to grow habaneros with a yield that is too much to eat.

A quick and practical way to keep habaneros fresh is to preserve them in reused pickle brine.

Or simply add the habaneros to your pickled gherkins and spice them up:



Just don’t leave the gherkins in for too long: They do get quite hot!

The brine equalises the capsaicinoids from the habaneros between the pickles and the gherkins can get really hot.






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Can you reuse pickle brine?

Yes, as long as you reuse brine of refrigerator pickles in a jar.

And no, as you cannot reuse the brine of canned pickles.


With all the habanero chillies growing in our urban garden, we can’t keep up eating all of them fresh from the pepper plant.


How to preserve habanero chillies?

A super simple and quick way to keep habanero chillies fresh for longer is to reuse the brine from refigerator pickles in jars.


I used the leftover brine from pickled gherkins. Once the jar was empty, I simply filled it up again with our homegrown habaneros.



Ensure your leftover pickle brine is still fresh to be reused: It needs to be clear with no scum floating on the top.

Any cloudiness or discolouration indicates that the brine has gone off.


Keeping chilli peppers in brine mellows their heat: Capsaicin is soluble in acetic acid. When pickling chillies in vinegar the capsaicin leaches into the vinegar, so they taste a bit milder.

In turn the brine can get quite spicy!


An alternative is to dry the habaneros, but in in brine they stay fresh and crisp. Perfect to add to a sandwich or salad.


How often can you reuse pickle brine?

Brine cannot be reused endlessly. To be on the safe side, only reuse it once.

When adding vegetables to leftover pickle brine, the salt in the brine will draw out water from the fresh vegetables due to osmosis. So the pickle brine gets more watery and might not be as efficient in preventing the growth of pathogens.

Important is to always keep pickles made from reused brine in the fridge and consume them within days.

Using leftover pickle brine is not a method to preserve food for long-term.




Sometimes things come together nicely:


I have been transplanting a lot of fruit trees.

They simply kept on growing from the seeds we discarded in our garden as part of the compost. Nature is so generous, who would’ve thought that ALL of the seeds start sprouting.


Plants grow surprisingly fast and quickly get too big to be transferred into a pot. So I hardly could keep up getting the seedlings out of the ground and into proper plant pots.


In addition we had the coronavirus lockdown and there were no plant pots on sale.


But I couldn’t let 50 odd lemon, orange and papaya trees simply grow in our garden, it’d be a jungle by now.


So I started to make my own plant pots by upcycling plastic bottles.

It’s a win-win, as not only am I avoiding using new plastic plant pots, I’m also reducing plastic bottles going into landfill.


But of course these soft drink bottles need to be washed.


And even here a solution pops up out of necessity:


Thank goodness it has been raining a lot, as there are still water restrictions in place for Western Cape Municipalities after the recent drought crisis.


We keep on collecting rain water, and all our water storage containers are already full.

So the plastic bottles come in very handy indeed for storing fresh rainwater.



Again a win-win-win:

The plastic bottles get washed.

Rainwater gets stored.

And it’s actually super practical to water plants from soft drink bottles, as they were designed to pour well.
Much easier, lighter and more precise than a watering can!


#Urban #Gardening #Tip

#ChooseToRefuse #Reuse #Reduce #Recycle #Upcycle


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What gives people feelings of power - Bringing a plant back to life from the brink of death

What gives people feelings of power – Bringing a plant back to life from the brink of death



Growing food is possible for anyone and it is super fun.


Even in a relative small plant pot, you can get impressive yields.


And plants are not expensive to keep, it is even possible to grow food on a zero budget.


Yet, the reward exceeds the effort by far.


Benefits of growing your own food


–  You know what you get.

When you grow your own food you can be sure no-one meddled with it.

You alone control what fertilisers or pest controls touch your plants. If you prefer organic food, growing it yourself is the surest way of knowing you eat pure goodness.


–  It can’t get fresher than this.

As soon as greens get cut they lose moisture and nutrients.

There is no way of knowing how old the food at the supermarket really is. When you grow it yourself, it goes straight from the garden onto the plate, packed with all its natural nourishment.


–  Homegrown food tastes better.

Even a small deformed tomato from your garden tastes better than the big plump tomato from the shop. Looks can be deceiving.

It’s also because you put in a lot of TLC and care that makes reaping the rewards taste delicious


–  You get instant results.

Food grows faster and more plentiful than we expect.

And wow, it is exciting to see the first seedling sprouting! It’s like a miracle that a fully fledged plant comes out of that tiny seed. You might get overwhelmed with how eager nature is to grow and multiply and end up with a nursery jungle: Plants and seedlings everywhere!


–  You improve your health.

Eating this fresh and organic will give you a natural boost.

In addition, working with soil and greenery is a stress reliever: It takes your mind off your worries and brings you back in touch with nature. Growing your own produce fills you with a deep sense of accomplishment.

If you’re lucky and have a garden, working outdoors keeps you fit with low-impact exercise and ensures you’re soaking up a lot of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.


–  You save money.

Even those superfoods that cost a fortune at the organic grocery store turn out to be very easy to grow. Rocket salad grows like a weed, yet even a small packet comes with quite a price tag.

You can save the seeds from your own produce and continue growing your food next season. Keeping plants indoors means you can grow food all year round.


–  You do your bit for the environment.

Buying local is lekker, but growing local is even better.

You reduce food miles and lower your carbon footprint. Your food doesn’t need to be packaged, so you create less waste for landfill. Composting means less rubbish goes into your bin. When you go green you become more aware of opportunities to recycle and upcycle.






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A great idea to deal with abandoned plots is to turn them into a peace garden.

Often however there is a lack of funds to get going.

With a bit of good will and creativity it is possible to make up for missing resources:


How to grow food on a 0 budget


1) Plant:

–  Seeds are readily available from most fruit and vegetables we eat.

I deliberately rate the fresh produce I eat and keep the seeds of what tasted really good.

–  Where seeds are tricky, cloning is a great alternative.

When I came across some mint growing rogue in a flower bed gracing a street corner, I took a twig. Mint grows like a creeper and spreads far and wide quickly, so it’s best to keep it in a pot. This makes it ideal to pinch a branch and plant straight into the soil at home.


2) Soil:

–  Soil is being moved by wind and rain. There are places where soil builds up and is unwanted.

I’m regularly cleaning up the abandoned plots next door. Plenty of free soil.

–  Compost is so easy to make and means less garbage for landfill.

You don’t need much space or know-how to compost your organic waste. A wormery works wonders in really small places. It feels good to do your bit to reduce waste.

–  Used tea bags still contain a lot of nutrition and can be mixed into the soil.

I drink a lot of tea. I empty out the tea straight into the pots of plants who need their soil topped up or collect it to stretch soil for the next planting session.


3) Pots:

–  It is so easy to upcycle plant pots from plastic bottles.

Since I’m making my own plant pots I can’t help but see potential containers for my plants in any plastic item I come across. And my gosh, there is so much rubbish flying around on the streets, it offers me a great choice.

–  It is also easy to upcycle the outer cachepot.

The plant pots need at least a drip tray or, to match your interiors, a nice ornamental cover pot. Also this is easy to DIY upcycle.

Alternatively you can buy a Ranzani Design Ueberpot for only R100, thus helping to keep rubbish out of landfill.

–  Planters can be upcycled from styrofoam cooler boxes.

Styrofoam boxes make great planters: Light and sturdy, they insulate the roots and are ideal for salads and microgreens that can be enjoyed by the whole family, including pets.

If you have good design and handy DIY skills, you can build a wooden crate that looks great in your backyard.


4) Water:

–  Grey water contains more nutrients than water straight from the tap and your plants need less fertilizer. Your dishwater probably makes for the ideal bug spray.

I’m only using grey water and dishwater to water my plants. They are thriving on it.
Careful though: Don’t accidentally use salty water, hot water or water with vinegar in it.

–  Rainwater can be collected and stored for watering plants throughout the summer.

The drought crisis in Cape Town has made me very aware of water. I actually can’t believe we are so wasteful with such precious resource. Collecting rainwater has become the new norm and makes perfect sense to keep your plants green throughout the hot months.


5) Happiness:

Yes, as an extra bonus you’ll be rewarded with happiness for your efforts.

Seeing your plants grow is highly motivational. Nature is so generous, you’ll be amazed about the results.

Plus it’s deeply reassuring when you harvest your own produce. Growing food from nothing makes you realise no matter what crisis we face, coronavirus and all, we can do it.

On top of it you know that you’re consuming pure goodness. No-one messed with the food you grew yourself. It tastes great and feels like a spa day for your tummy, especially when you have IBS.


This Habanero chili pepper plant is gifting 15 fruits. How amazing is that!




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This Bird’s Eye Chilli Pepper plant grew so tall, I call it a tree.


It reaches over 1.2m and it’s only staying at that height, because I have to cut it down so it fits into the window frame.

Its leaves are thinning out at the top, because there’s not much light beyond the window.


Still, it sits in a relatively tiny plant pot, small enough to fit into the Ranzani Ueberpot.


It grew like this in a clay pot.


With a clay pot you can do very little wrong to your plant:


Benefits of growing plants in clay pots

–  Clay is porous but not permeable, impeding the flow of water. It absorbs water when there’s too much and provides moisture when there’s too little.

–  The pores of the clay allow for oxygen to aerate the roots, so there’s very little chance of root rot.

–  Clay transfers temperature changes slowly to the soil and thus protects the plant from a sudden heat stroke or winter freeze.


However, clay pots break.

And so did the clay pot of this Bird’s Eye Chili Pepper Tree.


So now it’s in an upcycled yogurt plastic pot and I have to place stones on it to keep it standing safely.

At least the Bird’s Eye Tree seems to have forgiven me, because it’s still producing a couple of chilies.






While styrofoam works well for planter boxes, they don’t look that great.

Especially when upcycling a second-hand styrofoam cooler box that shows signs of heavy usage and breakage.


Having some plank cut offs left over, but not enough to make a solid box, this is the resulting clever design to encase the styrofoam box in a practical way:


–  The few wooden planks we had left are efficiently meshed together to create a sturdy crate.

–  The planks are aligned with the structure of the styrofoam box to offer optimal support and protection.

–  As this is not a solid box, it’s not too heavy and has enough gaps to easily pick up and carry.

–  The bottom planks are covered in rubber for anti-slip grip and further protection of the wood and the surface this crate sits on.







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Responding to some banging against our entrance door, this styrofoam cooler box was wanting to get in:


Pushed by Cape Town’s strong winds, it almost came in by itself, and I did not say no to what I would’ve normally considered an unwelcome guest.


But I’m getting more and more into urban gardening and of course my mind came up with the thought: Planter Box!


Apparently styrofoam works very well as a planter box, because it’s light and it insulates the roots of the plants.


Maybe a salad box?

Can’t wait to try it out.





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If you fear population growth could lead to hunger (spoiler alert: overpopulation is a myth), do yourself a favour and grow some food at home.


I am always amazed how eagerly plants grow and how generous nature is.


This Habanero chili pepper plant gifts us 15 fruits:


15 Habaneros!

All I do is give it grey water and sometimes a bit of natural fertilizer.

The plant pot is upcycled, so is the Ueberpot, the soil is from compost, the seeds are from chilies a friend had too many of.

— You can grow plants on a 0 budget.

Yet, with a bit of TLC you get impressive yields.


Guess how many Bird’s Eye chilies are growing on this pepper plant:


24 Bird’s Eye chilies!

(Hint: Some of the chilies are still green and hard to spot.)


Nature is so giving, all we need to do is treat it with kindness to understand how plentiful Mother Nature is providing for us.






Growing plants from seeds is never boring.


There is always an element of surprise as to when and how the seedling will develop.


Plants from the same seed pod can grow very differently. It is fun to see what factors impact on the size and shape of the plant.


The difference can be minimal, yet the result can be puzzling.


All of these plants are habanero chili peppers, but the one in the middle has much smaller and mostly rounder leaves:


For a while I thought it was a different chili pepper plant. Given the variety, it’s easy to mistake one for another.


But I only had one type of seeds, so the plants must be the same.


It makes me wonder what other interesting ways of shaping a plant there are.






Upcycling plastic bottles means less rubbish in the landfill.

In addition, all bottles were found on the streets of Woodstock, collecting them means a cleaner neighbourhood.


Plastic bottles come in various different shapes and sizes and the plants grow accordingly:

–  The longer the bottle, the more room for root growth, the taller the plant.

–  The wider the bottle, the more room for branch growth, the bigger the yield.


After trying out different plastic bottles for upcycling into plant pots, my favourite is:

The juice bottle.



The shape of juice bottles is the most efficient and best suited for good plant growth.

Obviously a bigger plant pot would be better. But who’s got the space for that on their window sill.

The juice bottle plant pot is giving just enough room for the plant to grow quite a respectable size and fruit yield.


Plus, it fits perfectly into the Ranzani Ueberpot. 🙂



So, if you happen to drink Simpl juice, please drop off your empty bottles at Ranzani Design. 😀






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After growing plants in different types of pots I think clay works best.

It helps regulate the water intake and thus is very forgiving with any watering mistakes.

Plants just seem to thrive in a clay pot, even if it’s small they grow tall.


But it breaks, easily. And it seems, eventually.


Plastic is light and sturdy. Plants can topple over in a plastic pot and nothing happens.


However, I don’t want to add to the ever growing plastic islands in the ocean, so I’m not going to buy a new plastic pot when it’s so easy to upcycle it from soft drink bottles.


Plastic bottle as upcycled plant pot

I’ve been upcycling plastic bottles for a while now and they really work well:

–  With enough drainage holes it is easy to keep plants in plastic pots. I find a minimum of 3 drainage holes works for 2 liter bottles and 4 are needed for 5 liter bottles.

–  Often the plastic is see-through which makes for interesting root display. It also looks neat in an Ueberpot, as the rim of the plastic pot is almost invisible.


Testing them with Bird’s Eye chili pepper plants shows that the plants do well in any bottle shape or size.


It is so interesting to see how different the plants grow according to the different bottles.

As if the roots taking form in the bottle are mirrored in the shape of the stems and branches.


Keep this in mind when choosing a suitable plastic bottle for upcycling.

Or do it like me and try them all, which makes for a very motley and mixed together garden.  🙂


If you like any of the pepper plants in an upcycled soft drink bottle, you can buy them for only R150.





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Chili pepper plants are ideal pot plants.

The smaller the chili, the smaller the pot can be.


It’s easy to grow chili pepper plants from seed, which you can take from any fresh or dried chili you come across.

You can simply bury the seeds directly in the plant pot and soon leaves are sprouting.


In an effort to avoid plastic I’m looking for alternatives to buying plastic plant pots from the nursery.

Growing Bird’s Eye chili peppers, I’m testing different materials and shapes, upcycling all sorts of used cans and bottles.


Tin can as upcycled plant pot

Using tin cans as a container for plants is tricky:

–  Without any drainage, watering is a balancing act. It’s easy to overwater and cause root rot.

–  Keeping the soil evenly moist causes the tin to rust and eventually break.


I would recommend using upcycled tin cans for germination only:

–  For the seeds to sprout wet soil can be helpful.

–  The initial seedlings don’t need much space.


Be sure to transplant the seedlings in time though, or you’ll end up with Chili Pepper Bonsai:


These Bird’s Eye Chili Pepper Bonsais show it is absolutely possible to grow pepper plants in tin cans.

However, it’s a lot of effort and the yield of chili peppers is not that great. It’s as if the restriction of space for the roots also restricts the amount of chili peppers the plant will produce.


Nevertheless, the chili pepper plants look stunning, even more so knowing what a feat it is to grow them in such a small tin.

Only very little water is required, which needs to be applied daily.

In return you will be rewarded with beautiful delicate flowers and bright red chilis that are a real eye catcher.


Or, if you just want the plant without the effort, you can always buy it for only R100. 🙂






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Chances are you’ve come across this inconspicuous delicate succulent, but dismissed it as a weed.

A weed it is in the sense that it thrives even in challenging environments, but there is much more to this sturdy miracle plant as some hail it.

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In comparison to Purslane: Spekboom #UrbanGardening

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Portulacaria Afra is known by many names:
Porkbush, Elephant’s Food (English); Spekboom. Olifantskos (Afrikaans); iNtelezi, isiDondwane, isAmbilane, iNdibili, isiCococo (isiZulu); iGqwanitsha (isiXhosa).

And many nicknames: elephant bush, dwarf jade, miniature jade or small leaf jade.

It is a species of the Portulacaceae, a family of flowering plants, also known as the purslane family.


5 surprising benefits of Portulacaria Afra



The Southern African cuisine uses Spekboom in salads, soups, and stews to add a sour or tart flavour. Apparently a small sprig of Porkbush steamed with a tomato stew imparts a delicious flavour.

Elephant Bush contains a good amount of minerals: manganese, cobalt and magnesium. It also contains iodine and selenium in large quantities.



The Elephant Plant was traditionally used medicinally for a variety of minor ailments:

Traditional uses also include the increasing of breast milk by lactating mothers. The leaves are used to quench thirst, sucking a leaf is used to treat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke. Crushed leaves can be rubbed on blisters and corns on the feet to provide relief. The leaves are chewed as a treatment for sore throat and mouth infections while the astringent juice is used for soothing ailments of the skin such as pimples, rashes and insect stings. The juice is also used as an antiseptic and as a treatment for sunburn.



Porkbush is being used beneficially in rehabilitating and restoring semi-arid and thicket habitats.

Due to its unique photosynthetic procedures, Spekboom can thrive in desserts just as well as it would in rain forests. This means that it can be planted anywhere in the world to help clean the environment and restore lands that are considered destroyed.



Spekboom has become the poster plant for climate change because of its ability to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than most other plants.

Its credentials are confirmed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, with a stand of Porkbush having “the ability to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than an equal amount of deciduous forest” – like, for instance, the Amazon rain forest.

A Spekboom can remove up to 100 times more carbon from the atmosphere than a pine tree of similar size can do.


Very low maintenance

Elephant Bush has the ability to raise water to the surface near other plants. The plant can thrive in harsh conditions, hence its ability to withstand certain environmental hurdles. Spekboom is of great help in low maintenance gardens. It is highly drought-resistant and can survive on just +-350mm of water per year, making it the ideal choice for waterwise and eco-conscious gardeners.

Large plants survive the winter frosts by growing dense enough to provide their own natural cover. Drought-tolerant and fire-resistant, Spekboom will endure desert sun and heat, and can help fireproofing a garden. Cuttings root very easily in most potting media.




The weather in Cape Town is fantastic.


After the drought crisis, we’re even happy when it rains.

Rainfall can be extreme, every now and then it rains so much in such a short time, water flows in streams down the roads.


And into our garden, which gets flooded.

The terrace, the walls, the plants are being sprayed clean from dusts.

All the woodchips start floating and get a good wash.

The sand in the dog’s running track gets leveled out and settles perfectly.


The next day is like a fresh start, as if nature spring-cleaned, or well winter-cleaned, all outdoors.


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After the #rain: Everything is washed clean. #LoveCapeTown

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After the Cape’s drought crisis, rain is always a welcome sight.


Even when we get too much of it!


It can rain like out of buckets, with thick heavy raindrops pelting down like the clouds ripped open. The pouring rain blurs your vision like a waterfall curtain and everything is instantly soaked wet.

All the water from the roof and the terrace flows into the garden.



Our backyard is all clay ground and apparently we did a really good job with our raised flowerbed wall.

So the water drains very slowly, too slow for the water masses building up in minutes. And our garden gets flooded.


Luckily the rain stopped just in time for the woodchippings not to float over the poll and into the dogs’ running track.

Because I had just laboured away a day at getting that sorted and neat.


All in preparation for the bad weather to come.

As that’s just one of the wonderful effects of heavy rain: Everything gets washed clean.




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When your tomato plant looks like this... - probably got eaten by your dogs...

When your tomato plant looks like this… – …it probably got eaten by your dogs…


The joys of having puppies! Yes, we love them, but they can be up to some mischief!


When this tomato plant fell (or got dragged?) off the window sill, it was a matter of minutes for it to be destroyed.


Our dogs love munching on greens, but be aware that not all plants are good for them:


Tomato plants are poisonous for dogs!


No, not the actual tomato: Tomatoes should be fine and even tomato sauce should pose no risk for your dog to ingest in moderation.


But if you are an avid gardener, chances are you have some tomatoes growing in a pot or in a vegetable patch.


Tomatoes are nightshades or Solanaceae. The stem and leaves of tomato plants contain a high dose of tomatine.

Tomatine is toxic to dogs, cats and horses. For humans a moderate amount of tomatine seems to be ok, as the popular consumption of ‘fried green tomatoes‘ shows.


So obviously when we found the shredded tomato plant, we got quite a fright of tomato poisoning.

But dont’ worry:


No dog or plant was harmed in the production of this post.


If you catch your pet eating the green parts of the tomato plant, the first step of aid is to induce vomiting.

So I took our puppies to the dog park where they all happily chomped away on some fresh grass.

Gigi turned out to be the culprit: She did not throw up, but pooped out the tomato leaves whole and in one go. Lucky us, as when the tomato leaves are expelled, so is the risk of poisoning.


However, if your pet ingested a large quantity of tomato greens and it has entered the digestive tract, consult your vet.


Fortunately the tomato plant too has recovered and is sprouting lots of new leaves everywhere. So no harm done.

But a big lesson learned:


Restrict access to tomato plants for your pets.


If you grow your tomato plant in a pot, make sure it is out of reach for the dogs. Especially when you leave your dog or cat alone, you might want to keep your tomato plants in a different room and keep it locked.


If you grow your tomato plants outside, keep them fenced off or put up a screen that your pet can’t jump over or push aside.


Offer alternative greens to your pets.


If your dogs like to snack on some fresh greens, offer them a healthy alternative and grow some safe plants, for example fresh grass, in an accessible place for them.



Building with concrete: What effect does it have on the surrounding soil?

Building with concrete: What effect does it have on the surrounding soil?


We’re building raised flower beds and fitting to the industrial raw look of our house we want to use concrete blocks.

Concrete blocks are flexible to use, inviting to play Giant Lego, so we might even turn some of the top row on the side, functioniong as additional planters.


Our garden is square, surrounded by boundary walls. The idea is for the flower beds to run along two of the walls, in an L-shape.

All we need to do for that is build a parallel smaller wall next to the two higher boundary walls. Doing a proper job, we need a concrete foundation for this wall.


So we have concrete blocks and a fresh concrete foundation holding up the raised flower beds in which we want to grow our vegetables. The question is:


Is concrete bad for your garden?


Concrete is the mixture of sand, gravel, cement and water.


Premanufactured concrete such as concrete blocks can contain fly ash, which is toxic.


Cement contains a variety of materials, such as limestone, shells, chalk, shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, silica sand, iron ore, some of which are harmful.

The main hazardous effect of cement is that it is highly alkaline. Wet cement is strongly corrosive (pH = 13.5) and can easily cause severe skin burns.

Even when the cement is dry, lime leaches into the soil which raises its pH levels. Plants usually like a slightly acidic to neutral soil, in the 6.0 to 7.0 pH range.


Protect soil from the effects of adjacent concrete


If you’re concerned unwanted substances might be leaching from concrete into soil, you can protect your soil:

–   Seal concrete blocks with concrete sealant and polymer paint.

–   Line the concrete blocks with plastic sheeting.


If you just want to deal with the altered pH level, you can treat your soil:

–   Use sulphur to lower the soil’s pH level.

–   Any acidic substance can help reduce the pH level, as long as it’s not too much acid for the plants. Funny enough, dog wee could be beneficial.

–   As a quick fix, water affected plants with a white vinegar solution.

–   Plant greens that prefer a more alkaline soil, for example Clematis, Asparagus, Ferns.



What a buzz!

Some new visitors decided to make a stop in our garden: Bees!

Bees are settling in our garden.

Bees are settling in our garden.

Every now and then a bee colony runs out of space. Part of the bees pack up and decide to find a new place: They swarm.

On their way they stopped in our garden. Unfortunately they didn’t stay. Maybe not yet enough plants around for them to make it an attractive spot.

But a nice inspiration for what could be: Some homemade honey sounds very appetising.

Maybe next time they’ll settle for good. 🙂



Your dirty dishwater could kill some of those creepy bugs.

Your dirty dishwater could kill some creepy bugs.


My urban gardening guerrilla tomatoes (guerrilla because they kind of have the tendency to grow themselves) were all of a sudden not faring so well. A close inspection revealed they were under attack: Red Spider Mites!


When I researched How to Get Rid of Red Spider Mites Organically I was surprised to read a simple recipe for bug spray listed:


Easy recipe for bug spray

1 litre water

+  2 tablespoons cooking oil

+  2 tablespoons soap


That’s basically my dirty dishwater!


If you brush your dishes free from food leftovers and wash them with biodegradable dishwashing liquid, you can use the dirty dishwater on your plants as a bug repellent. You might need to add oil or soap, or just want to use it as a preventative in a mild mixture.


Vinegar, lemon juice, hot sauce, essential oils are also great bug repellents. So if you have any of these left over, don’t waste them down the drain, but spritz them on your plants instead.


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DIY Dog Digging Defence: Our dogs are allowed do dig anywhere in the garden, except here.

DIY Dog Digging Defence: Our dogs are allowed do dig anywhere in the garden, except here.


We have clay soil in our garden and it’s super difficult to work:

When it’s dry it’s rock hard and requires a pick axe to be loosened up.

When it’s wet, it’s so dense, it’s waterproof and we have puddles in our garden.


In addition, we have a whole house buried in our backyard and any gardening work is interrupted by digging up rubble and rubbish and excavating the odd curious piece easily dating back several decades if not 100 years.


So I don’t mind our dogs digging. They’re doing us a great favour with this unmanageable soil and are inspiring in their determination to keep on digging.

However, out of all the places in our garden, the dogs choose the one corner they’re not allowed to dig: Where our paving meets the clay ground. – In order for the pavers to stay in place, we need the clay ground to stay put.


How to explain to dogs they’re allowed to dig over there, but not over here?


So I put up a DIY Dog Digging Defence:

Every time the dogs started digging too close to the pavers, I’d plonk down a concrete brick.

Needless to say: Our dogs would just start digging right beside it next time they got a chance.

So I’d plonk down another concrete brick.

Now we have a row of concrete bricks forming a small divider wall between pavers and clay ground.


Turns out this has additional benefits:

With the ground becoming loose in times of drought and Cape Town wind, we have dust everywhere. This small barrier helps keep the sand at bay.

It also works as a little jump in the obstacle course that our garden turns into when our dogs get the zoomies. They love any reason to jump, which seems to more than make up for the lost digging opportunity. 😉


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This piece of glass excavated from our garden can tell a story.

This piece of glass excavated from our garden can tell a story.


I love excavating things that have enough information on them to date them.

Amongst the endless amount of glass shards buried in our garden, I do find every now and then an intact bottle or a piece of glass with some inscription on it.


This small piece of the bottom of a bottle reads “Harveys Bristol”.

Turns out this is a sherry called Harveys Bristol Cream.


Furthermore, their bottles are blue now, and changed from green to blue in 1994.

So this bottle is definitely from before 1994, and probably vintage.


I can just picture how the residents at The Broken Palace sat on their stoep, sipping on a glass of sherry on a warm summer evening.

Does this ring true or is it just a romantic notion? If you know more kindly get in touch:



I can start a coin collection:

South Africa, 1952, Threepence (1937 to 1952), King George VI Series – Silver Threepence (Tickey)

South African 1952 Silver Threepence (Tickey) (1937 to 1952), King George VI series. As per Professional Coin Grading Service: The obverse design: Head of King George VI. Inscription: “GEORGIVS VI REX”. Designed by Henry Paget (“HP”).

1952 George VI South African Silver Threepence

1952 George VI South African Silver Threepence. As per the PCGS: The reverse design: A Protea (National Flower), in full bloom, forms the center of the design. An inverted triangle surrounds it. The sides of the triangle consist of three bundles of four sticks each. The three bundles denote the coin’s value and the sticks represent the four provinces of the Union of South Africa (Transvaal, Cape, Orange Free State, and Natal). Inscription “SOUTH AFRICA” to the left, the date at top center, “SUID-AFRIKA” to the right and “3p”, flanked by two little flowers to the left and right, at the bottom center. Reverse design artist: Kruger Gray (“K” to the left and “G” to the right of the flower’s stem).

I found another 3 pence coin amidst the rubble of The Broken Palace in our garden.

It is part of the 1937 to 1952 King George VI series coins from South Africa and made from real silver.

But it’s so small and so light the value of the coin outweighs the value of the silver.

The 3 pence coin is also known as the “Tickey” in South Africa.

Even though the tickey was only around until 1960, after which the British currency was replaced by the Rand, the word stuck in South African vocabulary.

Many South Africans will remember the “Tickey Box”, the old public telephone:

Excavating relics from our garden is like a history lesson in action.

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: 🙂




Look what I excavated from our garden: A vintage Mother of Pearl button

Look what I excavated from our garden: A vintage Mother of Pearl button


The excitement of excavating something shiny when cleaning up the garden soil from rubble and debris!


I gave this Mother of Pearl button a rinse and it’s gleaming in the sun.


According to Vintage Button Emporium this nacre button is even worth something, like a pound or two. It is the rim that makes it more valuable than just a plain version. Craftsmanship is always worth something.


Interestingly, this button seems to have been fastened with a metal noose, which is still attached to it. So was it part of some sort of uniform maybe?


If you know more about The Broken Palace or the people who lived there and what happened that we’re digging up so many artefacts. please get in touch: 🙂




These pieces of plaster have been around for a while: They all show different layers of paint.

These pieces of plaster have been around for a while: They all show different layers of paint.


This looks like we have many houses buried in our garden, with the colour palette ranging through the entire colour spectrum.

I love how each plaster piece has at least 2 different colour layers.

Do they all come from one house? That must’ve looked like Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Villekulla.

Or are these remains of the houses that stood on the now abandoned corner of Greatmore and York Street?

And why are they still in our garden, why did no-one ever clean up the rubble?

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: 🙂



Metal bits and bobs that I find plentiful in our garden soil.

Metal bits and bobs that I find plentiful in our garden soil.


These are the contents of only one hole.


You might think I excavated this over time.


Far from that: The dogs start digging and I start collecting. This is the result of only one of their digging holes. I don’t even know what half of these things are.


The metal bits sit compacted on top of each other. Like parts of a house that has collapsed and been buried.


In a matter of one session of removing all items from the ground that could pose a danger to digging puppy paws, this is what I collect. Besides gazillions of nails and other unidentifiable scrap metal.


What happened to The Broken Palace that once stood here? Are these the remains? How come this never got cleared up? If you know more, kindly get in touch:



It doesn't take long to dig out a variety of nails from our garden soil.

It doesn’t take long to dig out a variety of nails from our garden.


This is the reason why I start excavating when our dogs start digging: Rusty nails.


They are everywhere in the ground of our garden. When the dogs are digging, I have to extract the nails, preferably before the dogs even reach them. Who knows where they come from, but best to get rid of them before they come too close to any soft dog paws.


Only one hole dug by the dogs contains a variety of numerous nails making me wonder how it came to be that The Broken Palace was destroyed.


From masonry nails to tiny screws, from bolts to cut clasp nails to staple fasteners, this is a collection of pretty much every nail type there is. So how did all of these come to be in our ground?


If you know more about The Broken Palace please get in touch: 🙂


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What a find: A sealed Heynes Mathew Ltd. vial. It even still got some liquid inside.

What a find: A sealed Heynes Mathew Ltd. vial. It even still got some liquid inside.

A lot of the items we excavate from our garden are puzzling: I have no idea what they are or what they were used for, nor how old or from where, and most importantly: why they are buried in our ground.

The more surprising when it’s still intact and traceable: I’m always amazed that it is still possible to excavate entirely intact bottles. After removing the garden soil with a digger back to ground level, hacking at the clay earth to loosen it up, and dogs digging up the rest:

How amazing that this vial didn’t break. And it’s sealed! With something inside! 😮

It is even possible to read the pressed imprint of the manufacturer’s signature: Heynes Mathew Ltd.

Now, there’s something to research! And it comes up with results, even with dates:

Extract from The Cape Town Guide (1897) p139:
“Heynes, Mathew & Co. – This firm so widely know throughout South Africa was established in Cape Town at the beginning of the century. Their operations increased so rapidly that they found it necessary a year or two ago to construct new premises, and these are now amongst the most attractive in Cape Town. Heynes Mathew & Co.’ Building is six stories high, and is situated at the corner of Adderly and Longmarket Streets. The first floor is let to various tenants, but the remainder of the building is devoted to the requirements of their large business. They manufacture numerous specialities for their trade, and are agents also for many remedies which have a world-wide reputation.”

Even though the Heynes, Mathew & Co. building has been demolished, it appears the company still exists: HEYNES MATHEW LTD – DIVISION OF SA DRUGGISTS

Maybe they can help me date the year when this vial was made. 😮

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: 🙂


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I excavated this from our garden. What could it be?

I excavated this from our garden. What could it be?


After excavating what appears to be a door knocker, I thought I had dug out a door bell next.

Wondering why you’d want both – maybe the people at The Broken Palace were especially hospitable – I’d better double check.


As I started researching my find I quickly realised things didn’t add up. The mechanism of a push button door bell would look very different:

This 'original art deco vintage wooden electric door bell push press button' looks similar to my garden excavation, but when it's opened up to show the mechanism, it's clear that this doesn't match up.

This ‘original art deco vintage wooden electric door bell push press button’ looks similar to my garden excavation, but when it’s opened up to show the mechanism, it’s clear that this doesn’t match up.

In contrast:


Instead there are three prongs sticking out at the backside similar to the Australian thee pin plug:

This ‘black 3 pin extension lead AU/NZ plug top’ looks quite similar to my find.

This ‘black 3 pin extension lead AU/NZ plug top’ looks quite similar to my find.

In comparison:



So maybe this is an antique cord plug for lamps or fans like these:

These antique replica mid-century plugs look quite like my excavation.

These antique replica mid-century plugs look quite like my excavation.

Quite a resemblance:


However, the shape of the three pins is quite different. Some similar looking plugs refer to ‘early’ electric style, so maybe this is what plugs used to look like in South Africa in the early days of electricity?

If you know what this could be, or have references to antiques in South Africa, or remember The Broken Palace, please get in touch: 🙂


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Our new garden design: Chillout area with braai at the back.

Our new garden design: Chillout area with braai at the back.


Progress in our garden is slow: There’s still so much fixing going on around the house, that our backyard is mostly abused as a storage facility.

So when finally the east wall got done, we had some extra space freed up to move the concrete blocks.

And the rest was left to play:

Like tending to a zen garden, an empty space is quite inviting to be reflective and creative.


The first time the concrete blocks turned into an interactive group seating area:


Now the concrete blocks form a centre piece, as the garden work will continue along the garden wall. They cover quite a bit of ground, which will prevent dust being blown around. And they stretch out like a giant sofa, an outdoor lair, complete with backrest and bird bath. And of course, the braai at the back:


With water restrictions plans for our garden are changing, so let’s see what the next giant lego reshuffle will look like. 🙂


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Digging stuff out from our garden: What could this be?

Digging stuff out from our garden: What could this be?

With a new puppy in our home, we got a new force for digging at work. Gigi has reached that stage, where digging is the coolest thing ever.

Luckily our garden is not yet done and our dogs can dig as much as they like. In fact, they’re actually helping us: With the clay ground it’s super hard labour and with an entire house buried in our backyard, there’s still plenty to excavate. So wherever you dig, you’re bound to dig something up.

This time it’s an Iron Ring Pull with Flower Rosette. At least that’s the closest I came to finding something on the internet that resembles this.

An 8 petal iron rosette with a twisted pull ring. Was this perhaps the door knocker of The Broken Palace?

Could this be the door knocker of The Broken Palace?

Could this be the door knocker of The Broken Palace?

If you remember this door knocker or know anything about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: 🙂


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Chino is having a great time exploring balconia.

Chino is having a great time exploring balconia.


Keeping plants outside makes them vulnerable.

Putting a plastic crate upside down over your plant pots safeguards them from birds who would otherwise pick seeds and seedlings.

The plastic create also gives your pet rats a feeling of protection and allows them to roam their rattie garden freely without having to be anxious something might be out there to get them.

The openings of the plastic crate are the perfect size for their cute heads to pop out and check that everything is still alright. 🙂


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Rattie Bean enjoys hanging out in the rattie garden.

Rattie Bean enjoys hanging out in the rattie garden.


Our first rattie garden started by accident:


To my surprise something began growing in the abandoned flower pot on our balcony.

It was tomatoes!


Seems like rats have a green thumb, well if they had a thumb.


Because this is what happened:

One of our pet rats wanted to hide her treat – a cherry tomato – away from the rest of the clan.

She left it in a flower pot on our balcony. Really a great hideout, especially if you bury the treasure.


The tomato plant thrived and everyone had a good portion of delicious cherry tomatoes.


I contribute this to our pet rats:

They played an important part in loosening up the soil to the point that it flew in form of sand dust into our apartment, planting new seeds even if they were no seeds at all but rather food stolen from our plates, and trimming the plants sometimes with the result of total destruction.


Well, without our pet rats, the rattie garden would’ve never started.

So if they want to demolish it all and start anew with a different plant, then so be it.


It’s a bit like tending to a zen garden, just that the ratties add a random wrecking factor which teaches you to let go of the things as they are and understand that nothing is lost, it just comes back in a different way.


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Marked CGCB Jurbise, Made in Belgium, this tile could be close to 100 years old.

Marked “CGCB Jurbise, Made in Belgium” this tile could be close to 100 years old.


According to The Antique Floor Company:
CGCB is the inscription for the Compagnie Générale de la Céramique du Batiment (commonly shortened to Cerabati), a period ceramic tile producer which were an amalgamation of some of the older companies in Paray-le-Monial, Bourgogne and other usines around France.


As per Mario Baeck‘ doctoral thesis “The Flourishing of Belgian Ornamental Tiles and Tile Panels in the Art Nouveau Period”:
In addition to these floor tile factories there were a few earlier established factories, which made fireproof fireplace tiles, floor quarries and tiles for other forms of heavy use, such as the S.A. de Produits Réfractaires et Céramiques de Baudour and Utzschneider, Jaunez et Cie in Jurbise, established in 1876 by Charles Michelet.


As researched for GR-Atlas all these different factories united under one name in 1921:
En 1921, les différentes usines de la société Utzschneider et Edouard Jaunez deviennent La Compagnie Générale de la céramique de bâtiment ou Cerabati.

It also states that due to difficulties this factory closed in 1985:
Cependant, dans les années 1980, le site connaît des difficultés et l’usine ferme définitivement en 1985.


So this tile could date back as far as 1921, but it is definitely from before 1985. Even if it’s not antique that still makes it vintage.

Was this maybe a tile in the fire place of The Broken Palace? And was it common practice to use imported tiles from Europe?


If you know more about Woodstock’s unique history, please get in touch:



One of the tiles we found in our garden dates back to 1901 - 1911.

One of the tiles we found in our garden dates back to 1901 – 1911.


Marked “De Baudour, Oscar Gerard, Directeur” on the inside, and “Ste ANme de Produits Refractaires & Ceramiques” around the outside of the circular emblem.

According to the Western Australian Museum: refractory, dark grey ceramic, made in Belgium.

As per De Baudour opened as a pottery factory in southern Belgium in 1842 under Francois Declercq. Oscar Gerard was Director from 1901 to 1911, dating these tiles to that time period.

The question is when did these tiles make it to South Africa?

And: Are these tiles relics from The Broken Palace?

If you know more, please get in touch: 🙂


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The whole soil is covered in water like a glass sheet.

The whole soil is covered in water like a glass sheet.


After some heavy rainfall our garden is completely under water.

That’s because we have clay and other things in our soil.

In times of water restrictions maybe a blessing in disguise: Clay, because of its density, retains moisture well.

Clay soil has very good fertility and needs less fertiliser than other soils. Simply adding organic material can maintain that fertility, improve drainage and lighten heavy soil.

A good idea is to build raised flower beds, where the water can freely drain off.

So it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we’ll make the best out of our clay soil garden.




In my Indiana Jones quest to clean out our garden so we can grow veggies, I came across this apartheid relic: Two coins from the 1950s.


South African coins from the apartheid era. Left: 3 Pence from 1951, and Right: Quarter Penny from 1953.

South African coins from the apartheid era. Left: 3 Pence from 1951, and Right: Quarter Penny from 1953.


Left: 3 Pence coin from 1951, Silver, King George VI third series (1951–52).


Right: Quarter Penny coin from 1953, Brass, Queen Elizabeth II series (1953–60).


Could this be a time reference? Was it maybe in the 1950s that The Broken Palace got destroyed? If you know more, please get in touch: 🙂



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Juice bottles: Cut the head off, drill some holes in the base - for some practical flower pots.

Juice bottles: Cut the head off, drill some holes in the base – for some practical flower pots.


The shape of these juice bottles is actually ideal for flower pots:

– The diameter of the bottle is about 10cm, a standard size for flower pots.

– The base is raised into a punt and gives the ideal points to drill drainage holes: As they are raised, it ensures there will always be a bit of water in the very bottom.

– The top bit can be used as a greenhouse roof to protect seedlings from weather and mice.


How to make flower pots from soft drink bottles:

With a pair of nail scissors, cut the top bit off.

You’ll have to cut round, that’s why it’s easier with nail scissors. Follow a line on the bottle, it’s hard not to cut skew.

Depending on the length of roots the plants will grow you can keep the bottom bit quite tall or cut it down to a standard size.
Because the plastic is see-through, you can leave a wide rim above the ground level which keeps in all the mess.

Drill drain holes in the base of the bottle.

Hold the drill steady, it’s easy to slip on the plastic. Drill about 5 holes around the centre point of the base.

Depending on the water consumption of the plant you can drill large holes so the earth will drain well or small holes to capture water.
If the plant likes wet feet, you can drill the holes higher up.

Drill ventilation holes in the top bit of the bottle.

Hold the drill even steadier, this is a slanted surface. Drill about 5 evenly spread holes in the shoulder of the bottle.

You can use the remaining  bottle tops as mini greenhouse roofs. They fit very tight into the flower pot and won’t easily come off.
Depending on the humidity preferences of the plant, you can drill large holes for good ventilation or small holes for capturing moisture and heat. 


#Reuse #Reduce #Recycle #ChooseToRefuse #NoPlastic 


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How many flowers is this sunflower going to sprout?

How many flowers is this sunflower going to sprout?


Another sunflower from our rattie garden! 🙂


I don’t always know what type of seeds were left over from the pet rat food, so when I throw them in a flower pot to grow into a rattie garden, whatever comes out is a surprise!


Such as this sunflower, which appears to be growing a sunflower at each leaf intersection. Are we in for octuple luck of sunflower beauty? 😮


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Hello Mr Mouse! What you doing in our house?

Hello Mr Mouse! What you doing in our house?


We have mice in our house. They are not scared of us and run around the kitchen every now and then.


Our puppy Lola is of course intrigued but as we have pet rats, she must not chase rodents or any small animal.


But the mice are running across right in front of her!


And every time we cry out: “Mouse!”


So the other day she caught one.


I heard the tumult downstairs in the kitchen and then: “She caught it!”


I readied myself for the bad news of this poor mouse’s life.


“And she held it down with her paw, so I could pick it up. It’s in my hands now.”


Wow! Lola the Humane Mouse Trap! 😮


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This little mouse and his friends are unwanted guests in our house. But they're so cute, and almost tame!

This little mouse and his friends are unwanted guests in our house. But they’re so cute, and almost tame!


We have some unwanted guests living right under our nose: Mice.


They’re super cute, and almost tame, at least in the sense that we don’t seem to bother them at all.


One of them got caught in a net bag when he was stealing chestnuts.


Lola found him and licked him all over, so that he was sogging wet.


I detangled him and put him in a fruit punnet with food and water to relax.

The fruit punnet makes a perfect mouse house.

The fruit punnet makes a perfect mouse house.


What a cutie! Somehow not really afraid of us.


But alas, he had to return to the wild, we set him free at a field. 🙂


All his friends however are still having a party at our house, every single night! 😮


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#MoopSwoop Find: Seed packets that flew into our courtyard. Thanks for that, this will grow nicely in our garden. :)

#MoopSwoop Find: Seed packets that flew into our courtyard. Thanks for that, this will grow nicely in our garden. 🙂


This was odd: I didn’t realise at first these seed packets were #MoopSwoop finds, because my husband had just been given some by his brother and I thought the Woodstock wind had somehow gotten hold of and dispersed them.


But when I showed my husband the salvaged seed packets, he said they were not his.


So, whoever lost or dumped these seed packets: They made it safe and sound into our courtyard and will surely be of good use in our urban garden.


And thanks to the Woodstock wind for bringing them to us. 🙂


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This sunflower grew as a leftover seed from the rattie food.

This sunflower grew as a leftover seed from the rattie food.


Whenever my pet rats don’t finish their rattie food, I throw the leftover seeds into a flower pot.

Whatever grows in there I refer to as our rattie garden. 😉

The ratoots get to roam in their rattie garden and love nibbling on the wheat grass.

Every now and then however, a plant makes it, and breaks through amongst the other seedlings that end up as #RattieTreats.

This plant then gets a chance to grow to its full potential. Such as this sunflower! 😮

Which is doubly useful, as this sunflower in turn will produce seeds which again feed the ratties. 🙂

And of course, it’s also incredibly beautiful. So when the sunflower opens, it features a proper indoor flower pot plant in our kitchen.

Who would’ve thought that it’s all thanks to the ratties! 😀


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One of the many 'excavations' from our garden: A ladle

One of the many ‘excavations’ from our garden: A ladle


This ladle is only one of the many kitchen utensils we excavated from our garden: Pots, pans, can openers, mugs, cutlery…


Now, did all these kitchen tools break and were dumped decades ago in what is now our garden?


Or are all these items part of the kitchenware from The Broken Palace? But shouldn’t they then have been packed up and moved before The Broken Palace was destroyed?


It feels so curious finding these long forgotten leftovers from a house that is shrouded in hearsay.

If you know what happened to The Broken Palace, please get in touch: 🙂


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Some of the marbles we excavated from our garden.

Some of the marbles we excavated from our garden.


This is how I remember marbles!


A quick Google image search reveals that marbles really revved up over the years, have you seen modern marbles, they are amazeballs. Each one like a piece of art.


So I guess the marbles we found in our garden are a pretty good indication for a time reference: These look like from the 80’s / 90’s.


Anyone remembering playing with marbles at The Broken Palace back in the day? If so, kindly get in touch: 🙂


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Zenning our garden: The circular pattern is nice to look at

Zenning our garden: The circular pattern is nice to look at


Just because our garden seems to have an entire house buried in it, and the soil is full of building rubble and other curious rubbish, doesn’t mean it has to look like a construction site:


You can always create a Zen Garden

A Zen Garden is a doubly good idea:

1) Creating a Zen Garden is meditative

There’s something very soothing about raking patterns in the sand. Apparently a circular pattern is specially relaxing, as it takes more concentration.

2) Looking at a Zen Garden is meditative

In Zen Buddhism zen gardens were designed to stimulate meditation. As places of quiet contemplation and reflection, zen gardens offer a counterbalance to the modern life stressed out FOMO existence.


Even our puppy Lola added her contribution: 😉


The design of a zen garden is not meant to stay permanently. It gets easily disturbed and invites to create new patterns.

It is also a fun way to try out different landscaping ideas:

Zenning our garden: A pathway and some flower beds give it structure

Zenning our garden: A pathway and flower beds give it structure



These shells look like freshly collected from the beach, but we excavated them from our garden where they were burried for decades.

These shells look like just collected from the beach, but we dug them out from our garden where they were buried for decades.


Another maybe a bit puzzling item we keep on digging up in our garden are shells.

It is so many of them, especially the shells of the moon snails, that this must still stem back from the days when Woodstock had a beach.


I wonder if The Broken Palace was maybe a beach house? Or are these shells coming from a time preceding The Broken Palace?


If you’d like to share any memories about The Broken Palace, kindly get in touch: 🙂


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Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden soil.

Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden.


Yes, imagine digging out these babies! When all you wanted to do was planting some tomatoes…

At 63cm tall it really feels like unearthing a house. And it gives a better idea of “The Broken Palace” that once stood here:


The colours vary in layers of pink to yellow to babyblue, and leave a chalk-like imprint on everything they touch.


These concrete pillars look like Victorian style balusters:

Different styles of porch spindles.

Different styles of porch spindles


Just that they are like two opposing each other, similar to these symmetrical balusters:

Example of symmetrical balusters from a building in Italy

Example of symmetrical balusters in Italy


I’ve seen these on houses around the neighbourhood.

Do you know this particular baluster style?

Can you remember the Broken Palace being adorned with these balusters?

If so, kindly get in touch: 🙂


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Let's begin the puzzle work! These are the ceramic pieces we excavated from our garden.

Let’s begin the puzzle work! These are ceramic pieces we excavated from our garden.

Luckily my grandma was good in passing on practical skills, such as how to puzzle!

Can you imagine that I put 6 tiles together out of the pieces we found scattered around our garden soil!

Flower Tile 1

Flower Tile 1

Flower Tile 2

Flower Tile 2

Flower Tile 3

Flower Tile 3

Flower Tile 4

Flower Tile 4

Flower Tile 5

Flower Tile 5

Flower Tile 6

Flower Tile 6

After decades of being buried beneath layers of building rubble, clay, soil and other rubbish, this tile is almost intact:

This flower tile is one remembrance of The Broken Palace we excavated from our garden.

Is this flower tile we excavated from our garden one of the remembrances of The Broken Palace?

Do you remember this flower tile? Was it part of “The Broken Palace”? If this flower tile triggered some memories, please get in touch: 🙂


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How can these bottles have stayed intact for decades?

How can these bottles have stayed intact for decades?


Our garden soil is littered with glass shards and I’m the one who MOOP swoops them.

But every now and then I get to feel like Indiana Jones, because lo and behold, I excavate fully intact bottles.


Interesting small bottles I dug up from our garden.

Interesting small bottles I dug up from our garden.


Quite delicate little flasks in shapes we are not even used to seeing anymore. How can it be that they didn’t break in all these decades? What were their contents, what were they made for?

If you can remember what these bottles were used for, please get in touch: 🙂


Excavated bottles we found in our garden from the good old days.

Bottles we found in our garden from the good old days.


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The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden:

The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden: “The Broken Palace”


Renovating a heritage house in Woodstock comes with lots of surprises. Turns out our garden is full of them too!

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden.

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden, and this is only the work of one morning.


Loving urban gardening we can’t wait to grow our own herbs and veggies.

But the ground in our garden is not what the lush grass field might have indicated.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of lush grass.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of grass.


Instead of digging up rich soil, we have to tackle the solid surface with pick axes.

Loosening up the soil in our garden has to be done with a pick axe.

Loosening up the soil in our garden is real hard work.


Beneath lies one jaw-dropping curiosity after another:

From dishes and pots and pans, to tools and screws and metal plates, to clothing, in particular shoes, also lots and lots of buttons, to entire intact bottles and lots and lots of glass shards, many many stompies,

to tiles that can be puzzled together from the broken pieces, metal roof sheeting, wooden floors, to entire bricks and even four matching columns,

to old light bulbs, coins from the 1950s, to lots and lots of bones, teeth, hair clips, marbles and other toys,

we’ve probably dug up an entire house by now, together with its contents.


So what happened here?

Neighbours tell me there once stood a house called “The Broken Palace”.

One anecdote goes that, as the naughty boys ran away from the police, they’d take a shortcut into the alleyways behind The Broken Palace. A fishing net would catch the police, as only the boys knew where to slip through.


As we’re uncovering more objects from the depths of our garden, we can only imagine the stories that took place here.


Do you remember The Broken Palace? Does any of the items we found in our garden jog some memories? If so, please get in touch: 🙂


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Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.

Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.


Why is dog pee harmful to vegetation?

“There are three primary reasons why dog urine burns grass: alkaline urine pH, the concentration of the urine, and its nitrogen load.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

“One of the primary components in dog urine that affects shrubs and other plants is urea, a type of nitrogen waste that is produced as the body metabolizes protein. Because dogs have a large protein requirement in their diets, a significant amount of urea can be produced by a healthy dog. When a dog pees on your shrubs, the urea in the urine acts as a source of nitrogen for the plant and the surrounding soil.
Nitrogen is an essential element for plant development, and in small amounts the nitrogen provided by dog urine can actually benefit your shrubs.
While shrubs need nitrogen for proper growth and development, too much nitrogen can be detrimental; it can stunt or potentially even kill the shrub.” – Will Dog Pee Kill Shrubs?


How to prevent dog pee from damaging your plants

–  Protect your plants

While fencing your garden off is a bit of a harsh way to keep your dog out, raised flower beds are just as effective and have other practical benefits.

–  Train your dog not to pee on the grass

“Provide an area in your yard, away from your garden, consisting of sand and soil covered in mulch or pebbles, where your dog can urinate without harming any of your plants or lawn. Plant salt-resistant greenery and grasses near this potty spot, in case it has any accidents. These plants are typically found along the coast and are more urine-resistant than other flora.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

–  Steer away from (distressed looking) plants and trees

“Of course, a dog’s gotta go when a dog’s gotta go. But when you have the option, steer Fido to a lamppost rather than a tree and a bark covered area rather than a stressed-looking lawn. You can spot stressed trees by bark that is discolored or even peeling off around the base. And trees that are under six inches in diameter or have thin bark are at higher risk.” – Why Does Dog Pee Kill Plants?

–  Keep the pH in balance

“For the health of both your dog and your lawn, you should strive to keep your pet’s urine pH right around 6.5, and no higher than 7.
I recommend buying pH strips from your vet or at the local drug store to check your pet’s urine pH at home so you know when it’s in or outside the desired range. In the morning prior to feeding your dog is when you should collect the urine sample. You can either hold the pH tape in the stream of urine while your dog is voiding, or you can catch a urine sample in a container and dip the tape into the sample to check the pH.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass


How to help your plants recover from dog pee

–  Neutralise the soil

“You will need to neutralize the acid fairly quickly or your vegetables will not survive – my father’s trick was to use a few tablespoons of baking soda in a watering can and water the area.” –  Is Dog Urine Bad for My Vegetable Garden?

“Sprinkling lime or gypsum in the affected area speeds up the recovery of existing grass, or new growth if you’ve reseeded, by neutralizing the acidity of the affected area.” – Gardening 101: How to have your dog and keep your garden, too!

–  Dilute the urine

“After your dog urinates on any plants in your yard, douse the area with water from your garden hose. A thorough rinsing of the area within eight hours of urination dilutes the urine enough to prevent damage to the plant, according to Don’t wait more than 12 hours to rinse the plants because this could actually increase the damage to the plant. Provide your dog with plenty of water to drink, which dilutes the urine even before it winds up in your garden.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

–  Treat dog urine as fertiliser

If you fertilise your lawn, take into account the overfertilisation your dog can provide and avoid fertilising these areas on top of it.

–  Consider plants that like dog wee

“Selecting plants that can survive getting drenched in dog urine is a good idea around your property perimeter. Violas, columbine, lilac, ornamental grasses and a host of other plants are virtually urine proof. Make sure the border plants are not poisonous to dogs.” – How to Stop Dogs From Urinating on Plants

“Clover is highly resistant to pet urine and helps maintain a uniformly green lawn.” – Benefits of a Clover Lawn

–  Grow a back-up lawn

“With a little planning, you can easily grow small “turf repair” pots in your back garden. All you need is a small plastic flower pot (3 inch is fine), fill it with some soil, either compost or garden soil, then sow a few grass seeds in the top. Give it a good water and leave it outside somewhere keeping it moist over the next week or so. When your dog has burnt a section of lawn, simply dig out the circle, drop your lawn repair pot grass into the hole and hey presto … fixed! You can set up a number of these pots next to your shed and the grass will sit happily in the pot until needed.” – Dog urine patches killing your lawn?




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