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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Adding more green to our green... (Our step-by-step guide to making a vertical garden)

 After laying down our lovely lush, green grass, we decided to put up a vertical garden. We have been wanting to do something like this for awhile, even before we bought the house. I have seen many ways to make a vertical garden and read a few very quickly but not in much detail. But we chose to go the gutter route. It wasn't super expensive. All in all everything, including all the flowers and herbs and soil, it came to about R533.00. Okay, maybe it was a little more expensive than we thought it would be, but it turned out really well and we love it and can't wait for the flowers and herbs to grow. 
What We Used...

• 6m piece of u-shaped gutter cut into 3 x 2m pieces. • 9 x mounting brackets 
• 6 x end stoppers to match your gutter. • 18 x screws with wall plugs
• 18 x small washers. • drill. • hammer. • screw driver. • craft knife.
• 4mm drill bit (it is important to match the drill bit to the diameter of your wall plug.
• 1 x bag of compost/potting soil. 
• flowers and herbs of your choice (don't forget to get the right type of flowers for the area you will be putting them in.) All the flowers we got were ‘full sun’ as the wall we put our vertical garden on, gets the full morning and midday sun.

A note before you continue reading: This step-by-step guide of how we did our vertical garden was written by the muscle behind all our D.I.Y. Not only is he charming and wonderful and very able and capable but he can write too :)
Take it away Stu . . .

Step: 1

Start by using your 8mm drill bit to drill holes along the bottom of your gutter pieces. This is to drain water so the plants don't drown. I drilled my holes about 20cm apart, but remember that the more holes you have, the better the drainage. Drill your holes according to the type of plants you will be planting and the amount of sun the area gets.
So if you plant succulents and cacti drilling more holes is better because they need less water (but to be honest I'm no horticulturist so best to use your discretion)

Step: 2

Next it's time to put the end stops in. The nice thing about PVC gutters is that they just clip together. When looking at your gutter, the lip with the largest diameter is the side that faces away from the wall, all the fastening mechanisms hinge on this lip. So for the end stops, place the circle side of the stop in the large lip and rotate back to close off the end, then force the smaller side of the end stop under the smaller gutter lip till it clips into place. Its as easy as that.
Step: 3

Next, use the gutter to figure the hight of your three "levels". Space them evenly down the wall and make sure that the gutters are level. Mark along the top edge at ether end and in the middle of your gutter using your pen or pencil. This will dictate the position of the mounting brackets.

*Remember: 1. Plants need space to grow so don't place the gutters right on top of each other. 2. You're going to want to access the highest gutter (to plant and water) so don't put the top gutter too high up the wall. Its a good idea to start with the highest gutter and work your way down.

Step: 4

Once your happy with the spacing of the gutters its time to mount the brackets.
On the lines you have marked, place the brackets so you can see the line through the screw holes. Use your pen to mark their position on the horizontal line. Next use a masonary drill bit that matches your wall plug diameter and with your drill set to "hammer" start to drill.

*Remember: • When you drill it is important to be aware of the wall you are drilling into. You don't want to drill through any power cables or water pipes, so it's a good idea to use a "stud detecter" to find any potentially horrible booby traps. A stud detecter is like a mini metal detector (similar to the type used to find buried treasure on the beach). Fortunately the wall I was drilling into had no utilities running in it. 
 Also you don't want too drill to deep or too shallow. Most modern drills come with a depth gauge that can be set to your required depth. However if you don't have a depth gauge you can stick a piece of insulation tape or masking tape around your bit at the depth you need. The depth is dictated by the length of your wall plug.


Once you have drilled you holes place the wall plugs in the holes the assemble your brackets with the washers and the screws. 

Step 6:

Place the screw in the holes. (I used screws with a tapered thread so they can be driven in with a hammer). I personally don't use the hammer to drive them in all the way as this some times damages the wall plug. So I give them a little tap just to get them started then use a screw driver to finish the job.

Step: 7

Securing the gutters is as easy as installing the motor in my VW Kombi.... Just kidding. It's as easy placing the end stops in. First place the gutter at an angle in the brackets with the far lip lower than the big round lip. Rotate the gutter towards you till the far lip stops against the bracket lip. Now clip the big round lip over the knob at the end of the bracket. 

Once all your gutters are up. its time to get dirty... with potting soil. 
Place a small stone over each hole in the bottom of your gutter (this insures that the hole stays open and drains properly).
Next being careful not to disturb the stones, add your potting soil.
Next, go nuts with plants (I am aloud to say nuts aren't I?)

And finally sit back and admire your lovely vertical garden.
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Time to get started on stripping out our bathroom . . .  Until next time . . .

Monday, 23 January 2012

A little bit of green...

Our lawn is finally done. We got our grass from a nursery/grass depot called Inglewood Grass and Nursery in Chakas Rock, Ballito. Check out their website here. The type of grass we got is called Berea Grass (Dactyloctenium austral). It is a lush, soft looking grass with a slightly broad leaf and a pointed tip. 

It is amazing how much of a difference a little bit of grass makes. Not only does it cool down our back yard by at least 2 or 3 degrees, and look really great, it is also very good for the soul. The dogs also seem to quite enjoy it but here's a little side note for you:
*After you have spent all morning laying down your lovely lush green grass, don't go out and leave a Labrador and Jack Russel puppy alone. They WILL lift up a section of your brand new grass and dig a huge crater!* Luckily the damage wasn't too bad and we managed to put it all back down again.

The first thing we did when we arrived home with the back of the kombi FULL of rolled up grass, was put down some top soil and fertilizer. We used 3 bags of top soil and 3 bags of fertilizer for 13m2 and mixed it into the sand/soil we already had, about 150mm deep. 
After it was mixed in, we just leveled it out with a rubber rake. 

We then began rolling out the grass. It was much like rolling out pieces of carpet. We just layed them edge to edge with a slight overlap. The whole process only took about an hour and wasn't nearly as labour intensive as last weekend when we lifted all the bricks.

We trimmed it around the edges and used the smaller off cuts to fill in any other odd spaces that were left. We thought we could just cut the pieces off with a spade but found it didn't really work too well, so we just used some shearing scissors and it worked perfectly.

After all the grass was down, we watered it and compressed it. To compress it the suppliers recommend rolling the grass with a heavy roller for larger areas but our area wasn't very big and we didn't have a roller, so we just put down a plank of wood and stomped it down.
Lastly, we added some nice little stepping 'stones' to finish off our lawn. We have actually lifted them up for the moment and want to wait for a few weeks before putting them down so the grass has a chance to take and put down roots.
Now all thats left to do is water it everyday for two to three weeks, and hope and pray it takes root.
Relaxing after a hard days work. 

On Sunday we decided to put up a vertical garden, I must say it turned out really well and wasn't all that difficult. A walk in the park actually, compared to last weekends brick lifting.
We can't wait to show you some pics of how it turned out. Watch this space for pics and our first attempt at a step-by-step: 'How to build your own vertical garden'.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Painting our lounge and adding a feature wall...

Painting the lounge took us three days to do. The longest part of it was scrubbing down all the walls with sugar soap and water to get the dirt off. We cannot tell you how a wall that is behind curtains that reach from the floor to the ceiling can get so filthy! It looked like someone had rubbed coal along certain parts of the wall behind the curtains, and the plant you can see in the below right side photo had obviously grown up the wall. We couldn't figure out what the marks were from when we were cleaning but now as I look back at the photos from the day we went to sign the offer to purchase, I see what made those marks. The only good thing about that awful plant, was the nice BIG pot it was in. 
It took ages to try and pry the ugly plant out of the pot. But now the ugly plant is gone and I some nice plants in it growing outside where plants should be.

We had already moved all our furniture into the lounge when we moved into the house, so the first thing was to move it all out again. We then started with taking down the curtain rails that were butted up against the ceiling, and taking off the very old, very rusted blinds. We found out that those blinds were still there from the previous, previous owners. Instead of them being taken off, they were just covered by the curtains. Another very strange thing we discovered was that the door (shown below) was clearly never used because the air-con power cord came straight out the wall at the bottom and ran along the wall, over the doorway and along the other wall to a plug on the other side of the room. 
It wasn't even nailed down near the door, it was just loose, making tripping very likely if you were to come in that door. When we did get the front door open we realized we wouldn't be able to use it just yet because you can't open the door from the inside because of the gate on the outside.
You would have to go all the way around the house and first unlock the gate from the outside and then open the door. AND having the door open when its a windy day isn't a particularly good idea because you can't hook the door to the wall to stop it blowing closed because the gate is in the way. Not very well thought out at all. In the next few months, our plan is to get a Trellidor or some kind of similar sliding gate and have the gate inside the door, so we can have the door open while still having the gate closed and actually use it as our front door.

This is the other side of the room. Believe it or not the side door isn't really terribly functional either, it was put on so badly that it scraps against the floor when you open it so you need a slight dose of determination and muscle power to get it open. I can rarely open the door though with out being irritated afterwards. Opening side door = instant bad mood. 

Next to the door you can see where the three not-so-lovely mirrors were. Again there was so much dirt and so many grubby marks around these mirrors. They were obviously used for rubbing up against as well as looking into. I was SO glad when they came off. I even for a short while preferred the way it looked with the old mirror tape and dirty marks, rather than those gross mirrors. 

Just next to the mirrors, the intercom had a wire that randomly ran down the wall. I don't know what it's purpose was because we removed it and the intercom still works. Replacing the intercom phone is on our ever-growing list of things to do. It is so yellowed and even after scrubbing it, it still looks grubby but enough about the intercom and mirrors, let's move on..
Look what colour this place was painted before - PURPLE!!
It took us a whole day and a half, nearly two days to clean walls and fill holes. While this was happening we cleaned and painted the ceiling with two coats of Dulux Luxurious Silk Brilliant White.
Finally after all the prep work, it was time to paint. The paint we used for the walls was also Dulux Luxurious Silk and the colour was Chalky Downs 4. This colour is the shade that is in between the colours we used to paint the stripes in our bedroom. It is only a shade lighter than the darkest colour in our room but it just looks so much lighter. We had to do two coats to cover properly, we thought we might need to do three coats but when it had all dried, it looked perfect so we are keeping the extra paint to do the dining room. 
Before we started revamping the lounge we had decided we wanted to make one of the walls a feature wall to liven the place up. The thing I was most worried about was our decision to paint it.... RED. After much deliberation in the paint aisle and a few heated arguments, we eventually agreed on the colour for the feature wall... Burnt Autumn

The pic below shows the first coat of red going on. We thought we would only need 1litre of red paint because we could only get it in a 1 litre or a 5 litre tin and we really didnt think we would need 5 litres of red paint. 1 litre was scary enough! After one coat, the 1 litre paint tin was half empty. Red seems to be one of those colours that needs way more coats than you would initially think. 

After not one but two more litres of red, we did another two coats of red (after having to go to at least three different stores on new years eve because no one had the base colour available in 1 litre). 

So in total we did 3 coats. We could have done another coat, making it four in total - just to make sure it covered absolutely perfectly but by that stage we figured the wall was going to be covered in our handmade wooden frames and we just wanted to get it over and done with so we left it as three coats. 
The funny thing is we probably could have saved a couple of trips and the extra running around trying to get paint if we had originally gone with the 5 litre tin.
We really liked the ceiling rose we put with our light fitting in our bedroom so much that we decided to put one in the lounge too. This one is a bit more flashy than the one in our room but with the light fitting and everything painted, we think it looks really cool. We picked it up from this dodgy building supply place in south coast road, near the Bluff. We used the same adhesive to put it up as we used to put up the cornicing in our bedroom. 
This is with the first coat of red, two coats of Chalky Downs 4 on the other three walls and the ceiling rose up. Ready for the light fitting.
The light fitting we chose is also kind of similar to the one in our bedroom. It was the only other one we liked at the light shop we went to. That and the fact it was 50% off. Every deal when you trying to get a house renovated on a normal-working-person budget, is a good deal!
I got some really nice lined white curtains from Mr Price. The really brighten up the room. I still need to get some nice tie backs and hooks for the curtains as well as some curtain netting so when the curtains are open, you cant see right in. I also just prefer the way curtain netting looks. You still get light in but it's not so bright and jarring on the eyes. Originally I wanted the curtain poles to be dark brown. But our lovely neighbour, (and aunt) already had some white ones that were exactly the sizes we needed so we made use of them. Eventually we will get darker ones.
Trying to put up the frames was such a mission. It had to be random but still look good.
 It took a good couple of hours to get it figured out and to get them up.

*Side Note: I think the red wall looks really good in this pic.
Finally got our furniture in. There are still so many things to do and add but those will come in time and as money comes in. We have some really awesome old street posters advertising art shows that came from France that we found in under the house at our parents place in Greytown. We need to make some rad frames for them first, but they will go on this blank wall. 

We also have a T.V we have been promised (we don't own one, by choice), but I think it will look really good mounted on this wall with our two posters on either side. I am also on the look out for one or two nice tall old looking lamps and some tall bookshelves.
The frames will eventually have photos in. I have chosen the pics and sent them to be printed so when we get those back, I'll get some glass cut and then we will put those up. This wall is open to new frames though and maybe even some nice laser cut wooden words or something.
Look what my husband found and resurrected. A very cool old school record player.
I always knew I had married a very handy, clever, lovely, amazing... (the list goes on) man but after our short two and half months of moving / renovating / painting etc etc. 
I am convinced that he can do / make / fix ANYTHING.
We will post more of the lounge when the T.V and other posters and photos are up.
 I also want to try and finish painting our bedroom cupboards. It seems we are always finding other things to do besides getting those cupboards done. I cannot wait for Saturday when we pick up our grass. I will update on Monday so you can all see how lovely it looks..

Monday, 16 January 2012

Making a garden in a sea of bricks...

In an effort to make our paved, brick back yard a little more pleasing to the eye, we decided to put down some grass. We have already tried to make it a little more home like by adding some nice pot plants and herbs. Here are some pics of some of my herbs and flowers...



How hard can it be to pull up a few bricks? We started pulling up bricks on Saturday evening when the blistering hot sun had disappeared and carried on till about 8pm. When it got too dark to work we called it a day. We were up and working by 6.15am the next day. It was supposed to rain and be a little cooler but when its 6.45am and you are already red in the face and dripping with sweat, you know its going to be a long, hot day.
We had to use an angle grinder to cut around the edges of the paving so that when we lifted the other bricks, they didn't crack the ones we wanted to keep. We then just used a crowbar and hammer to smash and lift the bricks. Some of them came out without a problem but others we just had to hit with a hammer until they broke and then we pulled the pieces out. We managed to save quite a few bricks but had to do two trips to the dump to dispose of the other rubble. We had about 7 or 8 big black dustbins full of rubble.

After all the bricks were finally up, we had to mix cement (which neither of us had done before). We wanted to put a cement 'lip' on the edges of where we had lifted bricks just to give the remaining bricks a bit of support so they didn't all collapse inward. It came out a bit watery but because it was so hot it dried very quickly. After we had put cement all around the area, I went around and just smoothed it out a little with my hands. I really should have worn gloves and probably used some kind of tool to smooth it but the grass we plant there will most likely cover it and it actually ended up looking ok.
The sand under the bricks is just beach sand for about a meter down so we bought 6 bags of compost and after we let the cement dry, we mixed it all in just to give the sand some nutrients before we put down grass. It looks like we may need a little more compost so that is the next job and then on Saturday we pick up some roll out grass and put that down. We found a nursery out in Chakas Rock that sells grass because we don't want to have to plant seeds and wait for them to grow, or not. We can't wait to see what it is going to look like with some nice green grass. Keep checking back next week for some pics of our new 'lawn' if all goes according to plan.