Barbie's garden Gardening Home page features Miscellaneous Products Reviews

Starke Ayres Garden Centre Visit

My favourite outing – going to buy plants at my best-loved nursery – Starke Ayres Garden Centre. If anyone has it, they do! A great selection of seeds and seedlings (where I always go to first!) Every plant I have bought here has been well nurtured and tenderly cared for, from the supplier to the helping hands at Starke Ayres Garden Centre.

My first impression was that they support organic gardening, first and foremost. The variety of all things natural – from feeds to pesticides – is heart warming and gives me a secure feeling that I can confidently shop and find what I am looking for. The huge barrel of organic worm tea on tap was a great addition and if I didn’t have my own worm farm, I would be tapping this tea for sure!! The best compost can only be found here – Reliance. When I started my organic gardening, I did a lot of research on compost and the one that came out tops was RELIANCE. The ONLY nursery that originally stocked it was Starke Ayres. So, for being the most progressive in organic gardening…. I shop here  a lot.

[one_half]Set in the suburbs of Cape Town[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Great pots and garden accessories[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Indigenous plants display is beautiful[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Seedlings is where I spend my money[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Always full of colour when entering the nursery[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Worm Tea! Keeping abreast with best practices[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Best selection of seeds anywhere![/one_half]

[one_half_last]A true variety for all gardens and homes[/one_half_last]

I forgot to mention that they also have a popular tea garden, with great food and great coffee – so do yourself a favour and spend an afternoon at Starke Ayres Garden Centre, in Rondebosch Cape Town!

To find out more about Starke Ayres, link here.

Happy gardening xxx

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Grow bag with style

Thank you so much, Chris, for this lovely new addition to my gardening arsenal, which you brought back for me from Munich. This very attractive grow bag is from EMSA – Germany and is versatile and stylish for indoor and outdoor use. It is waterproof too and with a big feel-good factor they have already taking continental Europe by storm. EMSA call these wonderful products – Soft Bags.



Plants also need sufficient drainage to ensure that they grow and flourish. With EASY DRAIN (the black and red pillow in the photo) this is child’s play and it even saves time: Simply place the felt bag in a container or window box, cover with soil, plant and you’re done! Waterlogging doesn’t stand a chance. The professional drainage system’s high-quality clay granulate also serves as an addition water store – and it can be reused for several years.

It is simple to use – place in container – soil on top – done!

I am itching to get to a nursery to buy something to put in my Soft Bag.

Thanks my friend

Happy Gardening xxxxx

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Products Reviews

Lets talk about Mulch

Today I tried a product that completely blew me away. I am thrilled to have found Rooibos Mulch by Carmién Tea (based in Citrusdal in the Western Cape) and I want to tell you a bit about it.

[note_box](For our foreign visitors that are perhaps not familiar with Rooibos: Rooibos – Afrikaans for “red bush”; (scientific name Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. The plant is used to make an herbal tea called rooibos tea, bush tea (esp. Southern Africa), redbush tea (esp. UK), South African red tea, or red tea. The product has been popular in Southern Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries – source: Wikipedia)[/note_box]

A few weeks ago I saw Rooibos Mulch for sale at a nursery and saw someone walking out with a few bags. I was curious. I stopped the friendly gardener and asked her about it and she pretty much raved about it to me. As I had just finished laying bark mulch all over my garden so I decided against buying any that day but made a mental note to try out Rooibos Mulch before the next time I need to mulch all my beds.

Coincidentally, a few days later I received a mail from from Lize at Carmién Tea offering me a few free sample bags of their rooibos mulch, with no strings attached. I responded, admitted that I was considering using it and I offered to pay for a few bags to trial it. A few days later a charming young man delivered five bags of the mulch to me as a gift. The correspondence was clear – I would trial it and if I felt that way inclined I would blog about it giving my honest opinion.

So where to use? My vegetable planters have never been mulched with anything other than compost, I’ll give those some of this mulch. In the garden I have been pulling out spent annuals and overgrown ground covers, so I have a few blank spots of exposed soil that could do with some fresh mulch.

I decided to compare the Rooibos Mulch with the mulch I have been favouring – Bark Mulch. After all, the objective is to see which one I will use next time my entire garden needs mulching again.

I will let the photos do the talking …

[one_half]The trial gets underway … Rooibos vs BarkThe trial gets underway ... Rooibos vs Brak[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lets compare. Both look very niceLets compare. Both look very nice[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Close up of Rooibos MulchClose up of Rooibos Mulch[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Close up of the Bark MulchClose up of the Bark Mulch[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Lets compare them in a flower bedLets compare them in a flower bed[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Rooibos and Bark Mulch – Both are beautifulRooibos and Bark Mulch - Both are beautiful[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Before in the veggie planter …Before in the veggie planter ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]… and After with the Rooibos Mulch... and After with the Rooibos Mulch[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Lovely between pavers and dainty flowersLovely between pavers and dainty flowers[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Suberb around tender plants and bloomsSuberb around tender plants and blooms[/one_half_last]

[one_half]A newly mulched veggie containerA newly mulched veggie container[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Surrounding the Lemon GrassSurrounding the Lemon Grass[/one_half_last]

My “Wind Trial” shots

It was quite windy today. I only realised after I’d cut the bags open that it was gusty out. How would the wind affect the laying of the Rooibos mulch which is so much softer and lighter than the bark chips? Well lets see …

[one_half]Photo of the loose mulch taken at 16h18Photo of the loose mulch taken at 16h18[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And taken again at 17h15. Not much changeAnd taken again at 17h15. Not much change[/one_half_last]

Rooibos Mulch – What did I like?

  • It looks really fantastic! I love it! I think it looks better than the peach pips I used once and the bark mulch I currently use.
  • Compared to bark mulch, this was extremely gentle on the hands. I did not need to wear gloves to lay it! Wonderful!
  • It went down easily!! Much easier to put down than bark. Firstly, the bags are lighter and it is easy to control the flow of the mulch out of the bags as opposed to having to handle the bark to lay it. And it pours beautifully!
  • When laying bark I have to be careful around tender, soft little plants that I don’t damage them or even cover them completely if they are tiny. The Rooibos Mulch went over seedlings that are about 3cm tall without ease and without disturbing a single seedling. Fabulous!
  • Between pavers it is amazing! No mess, no fuss! Try laying those big bark pieces between a 3cm gap between pavers. Can’t be done if you want it to look nice. The Rooibos Mulch went into the gaps with ease, looks fabulous and I made hardly any mess (see Photo number 9 above – mulch laid, no cleaning afterwards).
  • You cannot easily “sprinkle” bark mulch around. Rooibos Mulch sprinkles easily so you can lay mulch even in hard to reach little places. It can be sprinkled over and around plants.
  • Its totally organic!
  • Snails dislike the slightly sharp stalk edges so its a good biological pest control. I have quite a snail problem so this is great news!
  • But … The VERY BEST Feature of Rooibos Mulch is the smell when you water it … OMG! It is absolutely wonderful to get the subtle smell of Rooibos when you water on and around this mulch. I’d buy it just for that!

What didn’t I like?

  • Not a single thing. Zero. Zip. Nudda.

My Verdict

I am very tempted NOT to tell you where to get it because I want to keep this little secret all to myself!  Just kidding, but Im going to be a upset if they can’t supply me when I order my next load of mulch in September because y’all have bought every last bit of Rooibos Mulch in the country! I fear that once this product becomes known there will be a shortage! Please leave me some then I’ll share my secret …

Contact details for Carmien Tea

To order the Real Rooibos Mulch, contact the farm directly on:
Telephone: +27 (0)22 921 3405/7 or via e-mail
The bags cost R6.00 per 3kg bag, excluding delivery. (Those are 3kg bags you see in my photos).
You can get the full details, all the features and benefits etc. from the website at: Carmien Tea – The Real Rooibos Mulch.

PS: This product is going to the very top of our “Recommended Products” list which you can see here: Recommended Products by The Gardening Blog.

Other Benefits of using Rooibos Mulch

  • Rooibos mulch forms a crusty layer on the soil after a few waterings. This layer reduces water loss through evaporation and is thus ideal for reducing stress on young transplants and contributes to considerable water saving in gardens and potplants.
  • A 10 – 15% better growth was observed on young plants when using the rooibos mulch.
  • The mulch is a natural organic product and will not harm the environment – it is attractive and will not blow away once watered thoroughly.
  • The tea reduces germination of weeds through formation of an insulating layer above the soil, thus facilitating cleaner seedbeds and potplants.
  • The leachate, which is low in tannins, is beneficial to plant and root development. Tea has been used by gardeners since Grandma´s days for maintaining healthy growth.
  • Mixed with potting soil, it provides an excellent growing medium – light and well drained.
  • PH is between 5 and 5.5 – ideal for plants requiring slightly acidic medium. Bonemeal or lime can be added to modify pH for plants requiring more alkaline conditions.
Barbie's garden Christine's garden Design Do it yourself Gardening Home page features Miscellaneous Products

The Gardening Journal in the News

It has been such a fun year getting our project  – The Gardening Journal  – from an idea to a published book! The layout and the designing! The printing and its own great website! It has been just as fun using it while planning our gardens month-by-month – watching what grows!

Up until now, The Gardening Journal has been really only given to friends and family to use and recommend. Then we have had a few garden buddies as customers spreading the word. Christine and I were quite happy to just print The Gardening Journal for ourselves every year, but thought, after all,  that it would be nice to share this with our gardening blogger friends.

Well, we have now made it into the top gardening magazines in South Africa! In the December 2011 Issue! Yeay!

SA Garden Magazine

It says: “FAB FINDS” – Designed for green fingers, this month-by-month journal is not tied to any given year. There is space for what is growing and blooming, what to plant, gardening chores, notes, shopping lists, a page for drawings or photos and an overview at the end of each month. There is also a plant identification section. The journal is printed on eco-friendly paper. Available at nurseries and bookstores, or order online at

Follow them on Twitter – Sagarden

The Gardener Magazine

We are first in the list of “… a few of our favourites”……..It says: “The Gardening Journal – Erratic methods of journaling led Barbara and Christine of the to design a journal that can be used for writing notes on what is happening in the garden. To order visit or”

We are also very proud that we have now been able to stock the Stodels Nurseries with The Gardening Journal. So, get yourselves to your nearest Stodels Nursery (branches are in Bellville, Kenilworth, Milnerton) and buy your copy of The Gardening JournalNOW! Or if you already have a copy, it is a really great gift idea!

Gardening is such a rewarding pastime and can bring out the creative strengths in all of us! We wish to share ours with you!

Happy Gardening xxx

Barbie's garden Fertiliser Gardening Home page features Miscellaneous Products

Neutrog in my garden

I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Velosa from Neutrog. She came across our blog and we met for coffee, here in my village of Philadelphia, and she offered us product to try out in our gardens. Well, I was totally keen to do this, because I know that Neutrog is certified organic and I have been looking at what to add to my winter garden in preparing for my spring planting. She came just in the nick of time. I was blown away when a week later, as promised,  they delivered bags and bags of Bounce Back and Blade Runner.

Julie gave me an interesting introduction to the product and the company. Here is what she had to say…

“To give you a bit of background – all products in the Neutrog range are chicken-manure based (I’m sure as gardeners, we are well aware of the long-known benefits of chicken manure as a fertiliser!). The distinction with the Neutrog brand however is that the raw materials undergo a unique 8-10 week composting process and are subjected to steam treatment. These processes stabilise the nutrients, maximise nutrient availability and ensure the product is free of any parasites, pathogens and weed seeds, which you definitely don’t want to put into your garden.  Most importantly, the resulting product retains the microbiology necessary to provide a ‘living’ fertiliser, which feeds the soil slowly once applied. We believe fully in feeding the soil, as opposed to force-feeding the plant, which is often how chemical products work.

Neutrog is granted organic certification by ECOCERT for our organic range, which includes Bounce Back, Rapid Raiser and Blade Runner. Bounce Back is probably our most well-known general garden product and forms the base of the rest of the range. It is pelletised so it is easy to apply and releases nutrients slowly – this way they are not flushed away. We then have Blade Runner which comes in a crumble form, this is designed for lawns as the crumbles make it easier to spread on a large surface area. Rapid Raiser has added soft rock phosphate which helps with root development and is therefore perfect for planting and means you don’t need to add bone meal.  We are also releasing a new product in the next few months which we are hugely excited about, the product is called Seamungus and is has added fishmeal, seaweed extracts and humic acid – it’s a wonderful health tonic for your garden. It has been used in the commercial market and is due for release into the retail market towards the end of the year.”

Well, I have added all my bags to the front garden, the front lawn and my fruit trees in the back. I will keep you all posted with updates!

Thanks to Julie and Neutrog!

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Pretty gum boots

Oh Chris! Look what I found!!! I was at Pick ‘n Pay at TygerValley this week and I found these gorgeous gumboots in the clothing section!! I just fell in love with these – I LOVE Barbie Dolls, so it was a perfect match for me! I want to buy you a pair – they also had Hello Kitty and Tweety Bird!

I always use my gum boots and the black ones are just not fun and far too functional – and just not feminine. This will definitely brighten up my winter days when I work in the garden with these bright and colourful and girly boots!! Especially with all this rain, I’ll need to keep my feet dry!

The price is good and the quality is great!  Next time I see you I’ll be bearing a gumboot gift!!  xxx

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Composting confessions and a solution

Composting … I know it’s the “right thing to do”. I know it saves money. I know it would be great for my plants … bla bla bla.

So I ordered a compost bin. When it arrived it was one of those that needs to be ‘planted’ in the garden and couldn’t just be put in the space I’d specifically allocated for it, being in a concrete alley way down the side of the house where the trash bin lives (and a few other things). I didn’t want to ‘plant’ a plastic green container in my garden. Sorry, but it doesn’t fit in with my gardening plan. I don’t consider an upside down plastic green thingy-amy-bin an appropriate garden feature. And I have no hidden places in the garden – with my penchant for impulse buying of plants, every nook and cranny in my garden is reserved for something pretty … so out with the unused green plastic monstrosity!

But I am still “into” the idea of composting. We have been collecting the leaves and debris from gutters etc (branches and twigs from the trees are used as kindling for our indoor fireplaces so there is never any surplus of those) but we now have 8 11 large green bags in the alley way full of leaves in various stages of ‘mulchiness’. But still no real compost solution here at Number 13! Egg shells and greens from the kitchen are still going to waste here. Not good …

What I wanted is an easy solution for adding and mixing compost. I did lots of research and came to the conclusion that a free standing bin or box is not a good idea for me – I honestly don’t have the time, inclination or strength to mix compost myself on a regular basis and the result would be a neglected compost heap and resultant mess! I like working with dirt in the garden – my hands can take it, but climbing into a pile of it and turning it with a fork on a regular basis … well I just know thats not going to happen. Compost mixers (with handles that you crank) looked like a solution but I’ve never found one here. Until I discovered the Compost Mixer by Keter online.

So I bought one on Saturday! It was darn pricey, a whole lot more than I ever intended to pay for such a thing but it looks great and ticks all my requirements. It is well constructed, very sturdy and offers a number of other benefits and I believe that given the quality of this compost mixer it will last a very long time. I can stand it in the alley way – in fact, it is a requirement that it stands on a sturdy, level surface in the sun – and I have the perfect full sun position for it right in the alley. I really think this is the right composting solution for me.

[one_half]The mounting bags of leavesLeaf mulch[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Vacant spot perfect for my new compost mixerThe Perfect spot![/one_half_last]

[one_half]Its a VERY large box!A big box![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Complete with instuctions etc.The Compost Mixer[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Compost Mixer by Keter (photo © Keter)Keter Composter[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Compost Mixer by Keter (photo © Keter)Keter Composter[/one_half_last]

Some of the features & benefits of it are:

  • Innovative gear allows effortless tumbling even with a full load
  • Extra large mixing fins for faster decomposition (increases compost cycles per season)
  • Controlled ventilation improves composting
  • Positive locking latch secures door closed
  • You can collect compost tea via the drippy thingy
  • You get a load of compost about every 8 – 12 weeks (depending on the season and what you put in there of course).
  • It holds 230 litres or 60 gallons at a time

Right now I’m sitting with the instruction book and it looks rather intimidating to me – I think I need some help with it. There are scary warnings that say “incorrect use can lead to death …” Yikes! Hows that for a warning? I will take photographs of the whole process and do a post on the set up of my new composter and show it in action over the next few months. Hopefully it does exactly what it promises. Then I will finally be able to do a post entiled “Admissions of an ardent composter”, or something similar 🙂 🙂

Please note that this is not a product endorsement or some sort of paid review. In fact, when I enquired via their website about where to purchase one of these in South Africa, I received such a curt response that I almost didn’t want to purchase it. In this instance the actual product sold me, certainly not their PR! #Just so you know!

Easy-go gardening cartNext on my “wish list”:

Can you believe I don’t have a wheel barrow? Seriously … I lug everything around by hand. And its very tedious. So this is a little hint for my family that may or may not read this! For my next birthday I would LOVE one of these – its also by Keter, its call an Easy Go gardening cart and it looks perfect for me! I would be so, so happy to get one of these!

Features include that it is a lightweight, heavy-duty work wagon that allows you to load and move heavy loads “with the greatest of ease”, its multipurpose use is ideal for garage, basement, recycling, and yard maintenance and it won’t rust, dent, stain, or peel which is great, so I can leave it outside overnight – which I often do with gardening tools and things when I don’t feel like packing up after gardening! I’d also love one of these … its called a “Planteo“, it’s like a little green house! Maybe one day … Right now I first have to get the composter out the box and set up before I start thinking about more things!

Happy Gardening

Barbie's garden Design Miscellaneous Products

Mulch mania!

Wow – Chris! I am so impressed with your garden and how the apricot kernel mulch can instantly brighten the garden and neaten up corners and small patches! I was just as enthusiastic as you in getting it into my garden yesterday! I thought I would have to work all afternoon to add 20 bags to the edging around the veggie patch!! I am so thrilled with the result and the hardest thing was to carry the bags – but I managed to do 20 square metres all by myself  in 1 hour!! They were lightweight and easy to lay down!

[one_half]Bags of Pips20 bags of Appricot kernel / pips[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Before PictureThe before picture[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Apricot mulchApricot kernel mulch[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Apricot pips pathwayApricot pip pathway[/one_half_last]


I think it looks great!!


Happy gardening xxxx

Christine's garden Fertiliser Gardening Home page features Miscellaneous Products

Thank you very Mulch

Hi Barbie – I wanted to thank you again for the ten bags of apricot kernel / pip shell mulch you brought for me and thought you might like to see the results. I decided to tackle the two front beds first as I am waiting for the tree fellers to come on 6 June before I create the walkway at the back (which is what the apricot pip shells were actually intended for).

But you know me … I couldn’t wait to experiment so the two front beds got “mulched”. I used up two bags doing the Rose Bed and one in the Gardenia Bed so I might need to get hold of your contact to get a few more as I would like to do this everywhere … if you think it looks nice?

Here are a few photographs I took of the new “Rose Bed” which I did this morning. I took a few “before” and “after” photos so you can see the results.

[one_half]Close up of beforeBefore mulching close up[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Close up of afterAfter mulching close up[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Large view beforeBefore[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Large view afterAfter[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Another close up viewCloser view[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And another closer lookCloser view[/one_half_last]

So what do you think? I really like it …

Happy Gardening


Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Products Reviews

Groovey gardening gloves

I like nicely manicured hands, who doesn’t? As a kid, I can remember getting into trouble for a lot of things relating to “hand grooming or un-grooming” practices. As a tot the incessant thumb-sucking drove my parents nuts, later on biting my nails caused plenty of reprimands and finally in my teens, unkempt hands would cause my Dad to raise his eyebrows in a way that I knew it would be much better to keep my hands hidden behind my back! You would think that at my current age I would no longer worry about parental approval, but for some reason I still do (those raised eyebrows … hoo boy!).

I’ve tried all sorts of gloves for gardening over the last few months. Ordinary rubber gloves were probably the most useless so I started buying so-called “gardening gloves”. I’d start the gardening day most enthusiastically with hands neatly covered in a new pair, only to throw them off 5 minutes later because they are just simply not comfortable or do not allow for normal hand operation in the garden. The result has been some seriously ungroomed, unkempt hands after months of “bare-hand” gardening. Seriously, its not been pretty!With a visit from my Dad coming up soon (he lives in the USA and will be visiting us in August), I’ve been having visions of having to keep my dirty fingernails hidden for two weeks in woollen gloves, pretending some sort of affliction that requires full hand bandages or standing like a child with hands hidden behind my back for the duration of his visit. Or, the alternative – dealing with those “raised eyebrows”!

In a last ditch effort to find a solution I spent about an hour perusing all the options at the local nursery. All sorts of gloves available … some I’ve tried before, others felt cumbersome and one last type I had not tried. Enter my “groovey gardening gloves”.

[one_half]Groovey gardening gloves!Groovey gardening gloves[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Still perfect after washingGroovey gardening gloves a few times[/one_half_last]

Yay! They are super comfortable! Double Yay! They let my hands breathe! Triple Yay! I can potter around in the garden for hours wearing these beauties WITHOUT wanting to rip them off my hands in disgust. And when I remove them? Clean Hands! I’ve been using them for three weeks now and no holes or breaks in them … meaning they might last long enough to warrant the expense of R62.95 per pair. Its looking positive and I will be able to show Dad my lovely garden without hiding my hands behind my back or having to deal with eyebrows that get raised.

These gloves are by With Garden™. The blurb on the pack says “Advanced Technology with Grip Excellence – Ultimate technology promises unparalleled grip performance”. They are machine washable, have a breathable back area, waterproof palm area, offer UV protection and the rubbery front part offers a great grip on whatever you are working with. They fit perfectly so they are very easy to work with.

What gardening gloves do you use? Would love to hear!