Category Archives: Gardening

All my Gardening threads in one place together…. in a row… like in a garden bed.

Building a planter for tomatoes

Building a planter for tomatoes

It’s been a while, but I wanted to post about the planter I have just built to grow tomatoes in.

I designed and built this myself and hoped to be able to save a lot of money, but be able to get fresh produce at the end of all this. The total cost of everything that I spent money on is $61.60 (AUD). Here’s a bit of a break down…

Timber – $18.57 – 3 x 3.6m lengths of 150x25mm treated pine @$6.19 each

Hardware -$0 – I already had spare decking screws

Soil and rocks – $11.37 – 2 bags of potting mix and 1 bag of compost soil additive – also some rocks and dirt from the garden

Plants – $31.66 – Heirloom Tomatoes $3.79 x 2, Mini Roma $6.17 x 2, Butter Beans $4.36 x 1, Marigolds $3.02 x 1, Nasturtiums $4.36 x 1.

Grand Total = $61.60

Having said that I did buy established seedlings which is always more expensive, but I wanted to get started straight away. A lot of money could be saved by growing from seed. I also had a lot of screws left over from a previous decking project ( so that could increase costs for others. (I used stainless steel ones with square drive heads)

Anyway to get to the details, I started with 3 lengths of 3.6 – which I cut to 1.8 lengths with a drop saw. I then cut one of the lengths up into smaller sections. This was for the sides and dividers. Each of the smaller lengths were 275mm long (the width of two boards on top of each other, minus the height of the bottom board). I also cut three equal length sections with the remaining timber to use as feet. I didn’t end up doing that, but it would be good if you needed to have better drainage.


The next thing I did was line it all up on the deck to make sure if fit together. A very important step – it’s good to find out problems before you start screwing things together.


Then I needed to drill some pilot holes for the screws holding the ends on. I used the timber I would be putting on the side as a guide, lined it up and then drilled. I also used a larger bit after the first one as a counter sink. I then found it easier to stand it up like a bench with the bottom up in the air. The three screws in each side gave it enough strength to hold it together.

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Once I was happy with the bottom and ends, I attached the two boards on the one side. These then matched up with the ends to keep it all square.

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After that the dividers needed to go in for both strength and to separate the plants. I measured the board in thirds and then drilled and screwed from the bottom first, then from the side.

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I then attached the last two boards in the same way, starting with the two ends first and then the dividers.

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Once they were done, the box was complete. I just put some drainage holes in the bottom with a hole drilling bit away from the dividers.

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It fitted perfectly in the area I wanted it – you can see the full sunlight above. 🙂

I then put some rocks in the bottom to help with drainage, and some rocky soil mixed with potting mix for a base. I later put another bag of potting mix and also organic compost in there as well. All up, I think I used about 100 litres of soil.

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Then the final result.

I planted two plants of heirloom tomatoes (big juicy ones) on the left, with mini romas on the right (they grow in clusters, almost like grapes). In the middle I put in Butter Beans for something different. All of these can be tied to the fence to help with their growth. Once they start to grow, I’ll tie them up with old pantyhose (because it’s flexible) or wire if needed. Around the front and side I planted Nasturtiums and Marigolds because they not only look nice, but help keep pests away from my tomatoes without using pesticides. The more organic the better.


It will still take a few months before I see fruit, but at least they’re in and growing. 🙂



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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 4

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 4

Last week we looked at growing an onion in a two litre coke bottle.

Exactly one week after planting the onion, I took a photo of it’s progress. I continued to take a photo each week to show the progress. Be aware, though, that there was a lot of growth and it had to be trimmed many times. We actually used the onion leaves as a herb in cooking.

Unfortunately I discovered a downside to Terrace Plants… bugs. I’m working on trying to find a solution, but our kitchen got infested with tiny bugs and I had to get rid of the (egg infested) plant. However it did give me an opportunity to see how much it had grown over a month or so.

One week after being potted:



Two weeks after being potted :


Three weeks after potting :


Four weeks after potting – the end…



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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday


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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 3

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 3




I once read somewhere that you can cut the bottom off an onion and grow a new one. I thought I’d give it a go.

I found an onion that had started to sprout a few roots in the fridge and cut the bottom off it. I then suspended the onion bottom with toothpicks over a glass of water. I topped the water up as needed and left it in there until there was a decent amount of green growth. You can see below when I thought it might be time to repot it.




Since I don’t have a garden, I decided to use an empty two litre soft drink bottle as the pot for the onion. I can keep it on my window sill and see how it grows.




I removed the label and cut the top part off, giving me heaps of room to pot the plant.


The next step was to drill holes in the bottom to give the soil drainage. Pooling water will rot the roots!


To further help with drainage, I filled the very bottom with small rocks. This will ensure that the water happily flows through and out of the holes.


Once the drainage is established, the next step is to put the soil in. I just used potting mix, but you can also use the soil I have spoken about previously on my blog. I also threw in some slow release fertiliser to feed the plant.


The slow release stuff works best right at the roots, so it’s good to put some extra soil in on top of it. Make it into a kind of funnel so that you can just pop the plant in and add more soil.


Here’s the “funnel” being filled by the plant. Try to get all the roots to go in to the middle of the dirt and then you can add more dirt around it…







Once you’ve filled the container up with soil and there is a little poking out the top to encourage growth, it’s time to water the plant. Since it can be a little traumatic for the plant to be repotted, it’s a good idea to water the plant gently. Do this by placing it into the sink with a plug in and slowly filling the sink with water until it’s at the same level as the dirt. This will allow the water to soak through and water the plant without displacing the roots.


Then remove the plant from the water, allow it to drain and then place it on the window sill and watch it grow! I’ll revisit the progress of the plant next week.


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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday


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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 2

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 2

For today’s issue, I want to look at fresh herbs.

The best way to have fresh herbs is to grow them from scratch, but the easiest way is to buy them already grown. Today’s issue is about how to keep the herbs healthy while you eat them, rather than letting them slowly rot in your refrigerator.

I’m going to start on the last herb I planted – parsley. I’ve used it all up so it’s time to plant a new lot. I purchased the plant from a supermarket and I already had a pot lying around. This is really about how you repot them so you can use them daily.


Step one – empty the pot. 🙂


Next, get some small rocks – I bought bonsai rocks, but any small rocks will do – and cover the bottom of the pot with them. This will give your plant great drainage and stop the roots from rotting.


Put in enough soil to cover the rocks and a little more. Normal potting mix is fine, and of course you can use the soil I spoke about in the last issue of Terrace Plant Thursday. On top of the soil, place some slow release fertiliser. I use Osmocote (pictured) but anything similar is fine. Not too much, just follow the instructions on the package.


The herbs you buy usually come in plastic “stock” pots that usually leave the plant root bound. Take the plant out of the plastic pot. You may see in the photo, I’ve laid down a plastic bag – this makes things so much easier to clean up afterwards.


Separate the roots and get rid of some excess soil down there. It doesn’t matter if you rip some of the roots out – new ones will grow. We just want to give the plant some room to breathe and grow.


Okay, this is the easy part. Get the plant and smoosh it into the pot. You won’t hurt it! Just get in in there! Push it down so it’s firmly in the pot. We’ll put some extra soil on top in the next photo….


Top up the soil around the base of the plant to bring it level with the top of the pot. I specifically used the coffee/egg/tea mix I spoke about earlier (without as much soil). You can also put a thin layer of rocks on top if the plant is in a heavily sunny place – it helps to stop the water being evaporated from the soil.


Once you’ve done that you’ll need to water the plant. The best way is to submerge it. That way the water seeps into the container, rather than watering it from the top which just washes all the soil away. Just put it in the sink and fill the sink up with water until it’s level with the top of the pot. Let it sit until the top of the soil looks wet. Then let it drain out.


Place on the window sill with your other herbs and enjoy! The more you prune, the more they grow, so don’t be shy. If you use too much, just buy more and replant them! You can see the level of growth over the next couple of photos. Enjoy!!

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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday


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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 1

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 1

Welcome to the first edition of Terrace Plant Thursday!

Over the next few months (or as long as I have material), I’m dedicating Thursday blog posts to gardening tips. The gardening tips that I’ll be focusing on will revolve around stuff that you can do if you very little space. From a window sill to a balcony or terrace/courtyard, these tips will let you be able to do gardening without needing a garden to do it in. Of course if you have more room you can always just do more of it!

To start the whole thing off I want to talk about the soil that I use the whole way through this series, and in fact all the time. When you pot a plant, the soil is only one small part of the whole thing – you need fertiliser, water, the plant, etc. But, if the soil is nice and rich and the plant likes it, it really helps the growth.

This is the secret to my special soil mix.


What you see above is the key ingredients – egg, coffee and tea. Sounds weird, right? It’s not only great for the soil and the plant, but also for the environment.


So everyone knows that eggs are high in protein and nutrients and that they help living things grow up to be big and strong. Plants are living things!

I came to a point where I got sick of throwing away so many egg shells and wondered if I could do something else with them. I researched a bit on the net and found that throwing them in the compost is great. However, I can’t have a compost bin because my flat has nowhere to put it.

Then I remembered that a friend of mine throws his egg shells into a pestle and grinds them up with a mortar to get them to almost a powdery state. I looked this up and apparently this is a great way for the egg shells to deposit their rich nutrients into the soil and into the growing plants.

You have to make sure that you rinse out all of the white yolk and skin from inside the shells and then leave them to dry before grinding them up, though. Otherwise you end up with a papery type of skin in there and it doesn’t crush.


I love my coffee and I have a great coffee machine at home that makes great drip filter coffee. Again, I got sick of throwing out all of the coffee grinds and wondered if there was something else I could do with them.

I got really inspired by a bunch of guys in the US who are using spent coffee grinds to grow mushrooms and decided to dry my used grinds out and see how they go. (

Because I don’t need that much for my plants, I just occasionally tip the filter contents onto some paper towel and leave it sit in the sun to dry out. Then when it’s dry, I put it into a container and save it for later.

In my experience, I found that mixing coffee into the soil makes for a great rich nutrient meal for plants. Seeds also love starting off in coffee – it’s easy to grow in, has nutrients and makes them shoot up really quickly!


Okay, pretty much the same story as the above, but I hate throwing out the tea bags. I just open up the tea bags (black tea, not herbal stuff) and lay the contents out to dry like I do with the coffee.

I haven’t really seen if this makes a huge difference, but it doesn’t seem to hurt and it’s recycling a tea bag here and there.

The Soil

So, once you have saved up a bunch of these ingredients (the coffee and egg will do, the tea is a bonus), put them into a bowl and mix it all up. I usually put in a tablespoon of coffee, a tablespoon of egg “powder” and a cup of soil. It seems to be a nice mix.


In the spirit of keeping gardening cheap, I use the cheapest potting mix I can find. The extra stuff makes it great, but I really don’t think it matters too much what sort of soil you use. If you are potting seeds or bonsai, I would also suggest a tablespoon of sand, but it isn’t that necessary.

I will be using this soil mix for all of my planting and potting through this series, so I wanted to get this out there first.

Thanks for reading – next issue will be about how to make your herbs tastier.

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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday


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Okay, I gotta admit it’s been a while since I’ve done much with the bonsai. The place I’m in now isn’t the best environment for them, but I will start growing them again one day.

Here are some of the bonsai I had in the past…

Large Fig that I rescued from a mates place that was growing on a wall. Probably about 10 years old.

A Port Jackson Fig that had died but is now coming back to life (for the fourth time). 11 years old.

A root over rock Jacaranda. This one has been repotted recently, but the previous rock it was on shattered so it now needs to grow more to the shape of this rock. it’s also just getting it’s leaves back after winter… This one was grown by me from seed and is only 3-4 years old.

And more to come…

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Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Bonsai

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