Small space gardening

I went for a short walk this morning as I have been impressed for a while with some tiny gardens around the corner. Share! Not having any land to garden on has not stopped these gardeners. Wombat Park, a local magnificent, huge, massive, impressive in every way, garden is having an Open Day, which is great. But don’t neglect to admire the gardening on a shoestring displayed in small pockets.

Here is my morning walk. First up is the new hairdresser on the post office corner, Class A Styling. I like how they have not been content to put pots on the sills, but also halfway up. The windows have a string arrangement for the climbers to attach to. Let’s hope the imminent frosts don’t hinder their progress.

small garden12

small garden8The succulents below cascade out in a green luxurious pour, in full sun which is gruelling for any plant. This one blooms bright red, spectacular. I bet it never gets watered either, it is in an awkward spot. Brilliant. I am growing some of this myself, when it gets bigger I will be happy to give cuttings. It strikes as easily as you could wish, put a piece in the ground and la! There it is.

small garden11small garden9Opening hours included in case you need a lock of hair snipped off on your visit.

small garden13The entry is a jungle. Very hard to photograph (with my phone) but it is a vertical garden, where every wall is covered head to toe.

This dark pic shows the length of the terracotta pipes seen above which they are using as planters. Interesting.

small garden14Here is an example of extremely hardy agapanthus growing around a tree in the road. Do not dismiss this gem.

small garden10For comparison, I present to you my convincing argument. A neighboring tree, without plants. Lush.

small gardenA couple of steps down:

small garden2

Or it could look like this, ten steps further:

small garden3Lower maintenance, better for birds and bees. Rosemary to harvest. Zero water yet green year round. Annual weeding and pruning, that’s about it once it is established. Plant up your nature strips!

Sometimes a small garden can be as simple as letting it continue past your fence.

small garden 5Or baskets at a cafe, here Bocconcini on Vincent Street. Yes, a little more effort in carrying everything in and out every day but patrons will be able to season their own food with the herbs…

small garden 16On Vincent Street is Frangos and Frangos, where rampant climbers grow from the tiniest opening in the tar. I honestly don’t know how plants do that. There is no SPACE, no nothing. Yet they grow. There is a lesson there, I’m sure.

small garden 17I have shown my own flowerbike before, but it can be included again. I used to grow parsley in it but now it has ivy and succulents, a little daisy. Let the strongest win!

small garden4But the prize goes to local caterers Spade to Blade, hands down. They grow things in large wooden potatoboxes at the back, but have recently squeezed in plantings in sacks, pots, whatever, along the wall. My personal favourite is the triangular pot set in a niche, working to avoid the downpipe. Go up the laneway between Harry and Me and Cellarbrations to fully appreciate this.

small garden15small garden 19Soon to come, peas.

small garden 18

small garden 20It is an inspiration and I feel I need to upgrade my own plantings, somehow. Thank you Gary and staff.

Flower bike and planterbox DIY

There is a large and bland wall at one side of the house, originally green. I first thought I’d replace the entire wall but have since had second thoughts. Now, I am just going to fix it, paint it black to make it disappear, replace a door and draw the eye to something more attractive. I think a flowerbike, bright red, will do the job to make you not look at the wall.

Here is the bike, finished.

plantbox59and here is the old bike as it was when I found it under the house.


First I cleaned it up and sprayed it red, to make it stand out against the black backdrop.

Now I need to make some planter boxes, a straight one for the back and an angled one for the front. I use a sliding saw which is accurate and easy. If you don’t have access to one, you can use anything at all, it will just be harder to be precise. Doesn’t matter hugely in a project like this. If you plan to do a lot of carpentry, I recommend this to be the third investment after a drill and a circular saw. Your life will never be the same. For this project you will also need a drill, a hammer, some tinsnips. All the techniques used are the same as I would use for making bookshelves, kitchens, any basic carpentry. The first thing I ever made on my own was a box, it was for keeping vinyl records in. Yes, I admit that it was a while back… Basically, if you can make a box, you can make a kitchen, which is just a series of boxes and planes of varying complexity.

plantbox35I have used actual baskets on a different bike I did some years ago, but baskets don’t last very long. I thought I’d do something else this time. The wood I have used is a sturdy treated pine which I plan to line with plastic. I don’t recommend using anything which will not stand up to water very well, seems like a wasted effort. I have a love-hate relationship with treated pine. I love it because it is affordable and durable, and hate it because you can’t sand it (toxic, remember!), or manipulate it like some other woods. For this project it is fine, though. Don’t make birdhouses from treated pine. Any eggs hatched in the house will be infertile, losing a generation of breeding birds.

planterbox1Here is a really good trick to get exactly the same length of your pieces of wood. I only ever mark the first piece I am cutting, the rest are copies of the original. If I am doing loads of pieces the same length, I mark the original piece and cut all from that. It is guaranteed success and fast.

Lay the cut original on the piece you want to cut on the saw. Put a finger on the end of the boards so you can feel that they are exactly level.



Lower the blade on your saw without any power. Nudge both pieces of wood up to sit closely against the UNMOVING blade, still holding the finger at the end, like this:plantbox16

plantbox22Now just lift off the original piece, hold the wood still, run your cut.


plantbox9The result is two identical pieces, no need to measure and mark! When you put a mark on wood, it is very hard to gage exactly where the saw blade should go, as the cut itself takes out a mm or so. With this method, there is no guesswork.

When I cut the front box I wanted an angled side at one end. I found the woods no longer matched up, as the angled pieces meeting the front are shorter, like this.

plantbox7Easy fix, just put it on the saw and slice off a little bit. Really, it won’t matter by the time you have flowers spilling out all over it but I did it anyway. Because I have the saw!


Next we need to assemble the pieces. I use screws, make sure they are made for exterior use or they will rust. As I have chosen to go double depth, I also need to add a small piece of wood to help hold it all together. Single depth would be fine with some plants, but I want to allow for deeper roots as I don’t intend to run out and water every five seconds. Shallow soil heats up very fast here in summer. For this reason, I wouldn’t paint a planter black.



Now some paint, I have chosen green. I would have preferred a slightly different shade, but found a bucket of this in the shed. It will do fine. In regards to paint, there is a great way to get free paint, handy for smaller jobs. Go to your tip and see the paint mountain! Since you are supposed to give the paint in to the tip rather than binning it, they build up a large collection. As long as you can still read the labels, it is just perfectly fine paint that someone has cleared out of their shed. When I painted my pencil fence I needed an awful lot of different paint, far more than I was prepared to pay for (was happy to pay for exactly none, actually) and so I headed to the tip. Here is a pic of the fence, totally irrelevant to this project but never mind:

pencilfenceSee what I mean? To get the different shades, I added increasing amounts of white. Save the world and your wallet and get some unwanted paint!

After painting, I added some steel strapping. Not really necessary, but I think it looks great and will also have the bonus of making the planter very strong. This stuff is sold in rolls. The true purpose of strapping is to be nailed in huge spans diagonally across your walls and roof before cladding it, to act as bracing. Also you use it for tying down your roof to your walls. Like I said, this is strong stuff. I use it for so many things. I sprayed mine black first, cut with tinsnips. If you have no tinsnips, a hacksaw will do too.


Nail the strapping on with a clout (short nail with large galvanised head) in every hole.


You will note that it can’t go round in one go on the angled box. I just let it finish, and will now cover my corners with a piece of scrap metal, like this. If you have a shed, chances are it will be hiding plenty of odd bits like this. If it doesn’t, start collecting. Don’t throw things out too quickly, you never know when a piece of metal comes in handy. The local tip can be a great source. Of course you can also head to the hardware but if you can give new life to something, why not use it? This metal is very stiff, so is impossible to bend with anything less than violence. Put it over the edge of a strong surface, cover with a piece of wood where you want the fold, and start beating.



Before nailing on the corners (and I had to predrill all the holes, as my metal was far too thick to nail) trim any angles, if you are doing an angled version.


I discovered the bike was too far away from the wall, couldn’t attach the boxes as I had planned. I cut off a handle with the angle grinder (or hacksaw, if you don’t have one) and suddenly the bike was in the right position. I also used pliers to snip off all the wires. Who needs brakes and gears when there’s no handle?


Now the bike needs to be attached to the wall. Depending on the wall, work out your best options. Mine is just a sheet of metal, so I have used tekscrews, fat strong screws with a hexagonal head. Here it is from the back wall side:

plantbox69and straight into the basket… It doesn’t matter if they stick out, you can cut them with a grinder or leave them.


The boxes will be very heavy when they are full of wet soil. They are resting on the wheels of the bike, but also need attaching to it. I used more strapping with tekscrews. Make sure the tires have no air in them. The air will go anyway over time, assuming there was any to begin with, and it will leave the boxes slanting. Somewhere in the shed I have a tin of tyre black, whenever I find it I shall make the tyres a little better.



I also wanted to add a totally pointless handle to one of my boxes, found one in the shed.


Line boxes with strong plastic, I use builder’s plastic, the stuff you lay under concrete slabs for instance. It will last well unless it is exposed to the sun. Make drainage holes in the bottom. You can buy as much or as little as you want as it comes by the metre.

plantbox60Plant up! I am not intending to spend much time caring for the plants in this box. The position is very exposed as it gets full strength winds in winter and scorching afternoon sun in summer. I have to plant the hardiest that I have. I will try some succulents and some seaside daisies which I have dug up elsewhere in the garden. I would go geraniums if it wasn’t for the frost, but they die back here. Treat your garden like a nursery. Dig something up, divide, take cuttings. Hopefully it will all take and look splendid in a month or so! In total, this job cost a little bit of wood, a few screws, nails and paint, everything else was recycled. If you want to make a flowerbike, head to the tip. You will find the paint, the steel, the bike itself, probably a handle, maybe even the wood. A great little budgetjob, using unwanted things to make a slightly more attractive world.


The next job here will be to make a new door to replace this exciting specimen. I have a plan…