Gardening and Cleaning Headline Animator

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Composting - Common Mistakes

It's actually difficult to go wrong with composting. However, these tips might help make composting, or breaking down of organic components, go more quickly and smoothly.

1.      Water the pile. Keep your compost pile moist, as damp as a squeezed sponge. You might have to water regularly if you keep an uncovered pile, especially in the summer. Even lidded containers can be opened to water; just use the spray of a hose now and then but be careful that you don't overwater. The final mixture should be crumbly.

2.      Remember to add brown ingredients. Sure, the green is easy; you've got lots of grass clippings and plant debris. And all those kitchen scraps, even eggshells. But what about the brown? Shred dry leaves, twigs or hay for the fastest decomposition, and consider adding sawdust or untreated wood chips. You can also add tissue paper, shredded newspaper and cartons to bolster the brown, in moderation.

3.      Now mix it thoroughly if your set-up makes it difficult to re-pile,  or otherwise swirl around the ingredients if you are making use of a tumbler bin or similar setup, settle for a longer composting cycle. The pile will break down, it just takes longer.

4.      Avoid any bones, fat, meat, oil or cooked food. Also, don't place animal manure in the pile. It attracts rodents and affects the quality of the compost.

5.      If you have a composting bin move it to a convenient place in the yard, so that you can easily carry the kitchen scraps there. If you don’t make it easier for yourself, you may never actually get into the composting habit.

Now that you’ve followed these tips, your composting should be a lot easier. Happy gardening.

You can also visit our homepage to find out more about our garden maintenance service company.

Wednesday, 08 December 2010

Fertilizer - What is it and Why do plants need it

A plant needs a number of different chemical elements in order for it to grow and thrive. The most important are:

  • Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen - Available from air and water and therefore in plentiful supply
  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (a.k.a. potash) - The three macronutrients and the three elements you find in most packaged fertilizers
  • Sulfur, calcium, and magnesium - Secondary nutrients
  • Boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc - Micronutrients

The most important of these (the ones that are needed in the largest quantity by a plant) are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are important because they are necessary for the basic building blocks (things like amino acids, cell membranes and ATP). For example:

  • Every amino acid contains nitrogen.
  • Every molecule making up every cell's membrane contains phosphorous (the membrane molecules are called phospholipids), and so does every molecule of ATP (the main energy source of all cells).
  • Potassium makes up 1 percent to 2 percent of the weight of any plant and, as an ion in cells, is essential to metabolism.

Without nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the plant simply cannot grow because it cannot make the pieces it needs.

If any of the macronutrients are missing or hard to obtain from the soil, this will limit the growth rate for the plant. In nature, the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium often come from the decay of plants that have died. In the case of nitrogen, the recycling of nitrogen from dead to living plants is often the only source of nitrogen in the soil.

To help make plants grow faster, you need to supply the elements that the plants need in readily available forms, and fertilizer is the easiest way to do that. Most fertilizers supply just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium because the other chemicals are needed in much lower quantities and are generally available in most soils. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium availability is the big limit to growth. The numbers on a bag of fertilizer tell you the percentages of available nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium found in the bag. So 12-8-10 fertilizer has 12-percent nitrogen, 8-percent phosphorous and 10-percent potassium. Thus in a 100 kilogram bag, 12 kg is nitrogen, 8 kg is phosphorous and 10 kg is potassium. The other 70 kg has no real value to the plants and is known as ballast.

I use fertilizers quite often while providing garden maintenance services to my clients. In my professional opinion it is a vital part of ensuring that my clients gardens always look great. For more info you can visit A and F Complex Management.

Tuesday, 07 December 2010

Composting Containers - From Pile to Bin

There are several different containers in which to make your own compost. The main ones are listed here in order of increasing complexity and generally speaking, increasing cost too.

  • Compost Pile. - The most basic method is an open heap or pile in a remote corner of the property. (Also much easier to make large quantities with this method)
  • Homemade Enclosure. - You can make your own out of stuff like chicken wire, wood, plywood, bricks, concrete blocks and so on. Make it no smaller than 1m by 1m by 1m. Make it no bigger than 5 times this volume.
  • Wire/Plastic Mesh Compost Pen. - Not really a bin at all, but more like a pen to enclose your open air heap. Cheap and easy to build. You turn the compost by hand.
  • Wooden Compost Pen. - Similar to the previous one, but normally made out of old pallets to form an open pen.
  • A Single Bin. - By far the most common setup.
  • Two Bins. - Two free-standing plastic bins with lids. Each one in turn is 'filled' and then left to compost. By the time the compost is ready to put on the garden, the other one is hopefully full.
  • Tumbler Bin. - Normally plastic, turned with a crank handle. Can be a bit heavy to operate, but makes the process of turning the compost a lot simpler
  • Worm Bins. - Only for household food scraps.
  • Rotating Orb Bin. - These are spherical or octagonal. You just roll them along the ground to turn the compost.
  • Indoor Compost Bins. - Some are computerized. Supposedly ideal for apartments. Also a way to recycle food waste instead of sending it to the landfill, even if you don't use the compost because you don't have a garden.

Having a lager garden myself, I make use of a compost pile, and always have compost spare to use in some of my clients gardens from my garden maintenance service.           

For more information visit A&F Complex Management.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Cleaning slate tiles

Slate tiles are often used for fireplaces and patios, but it is highly susceptible to stains from water and hard, calcified deposited stains under pots and other items. So how do you clean your slate if it is full of stains, do not worry. These white stains (sometimes brown or black) can be removed without too much time or trouble. You can even remove spilled paint and other residues using a natural process.

First you need to sweep the area clear. You are going to be scrubbing the stains, and if you have dirt or grime in the area it can become muddy and that will make it difficult to see if you are actually removing the stains.

Then you prepare your cleaning solution. Combine half a cup of vinegar, half a cup of lemon juice and half a cup of baking soda in a bowl. This forms a paste, you can add a little water or more baking soda to make the paste thick but manageable.

Now you layer a thick coating of the paste over the stains, then lay a damp, warm cloth over the entire treatment area. Leave it there for about 20 minutes.

Use a damp scrub brush and start scrubbing the stains in firm circular motions. Rinse the area regularly to see how effective your cleaning efforts are, since the paste can get in the way.

On tough spots you can use steel wool, remember to use gentle pressure and circular movements.

Once you are certain that the stains have been removed, rinse the area thoroughly. If there are plants around the slate, such as next to a patio, use a lot of water to rinse the area, so that the vinegar does not affect the plants.

Allow to dry, and the area should be stain free.

I own a professional cleaning services company, and I use this method regularly.

Lawn Weeds

With the garden service company that I own, I regularly have to deal with lawns that are infested with weeds. This is because weeds can be wind-borne, spread by lawnmowers, animals, birds or even on the soles of shoes. Weeds will become a problem where grass is poorly matted (this poor matting can be because the lawn was not planted or sown thick enough, not suitable for that specific area, or underfed). Weeds will germinate and grow in the gaps in grass.

Controlling of weeds can be done as follows:

Manually remove weeds, either one by one or in areas that are severely infested with weeds, the whole area can be dug out and replaced with new lawn sods. Just make sure the sods are weed free.

Alternatively, weeds can be controlled with a selective herbicide which is designed to control specific weeds in lawns. Because there are several types to choose from, make sure that you select the right one for the weeds in your lawn so that it will only eradicate the specific weeds in your lawn., otherwise it can be a costly mistake.

You can also attempt a controlled ‘spot’ treatment with a non-selective glysophate-based weed killer. But do remember that it will kill anything green. So apply it only to each specific weed. They are ideal herbicides for areas were persistent weed  growth defeat all attempts at eradication. Glysophate-based herbicides can be applied by spraying, painting it on or dabbing it with a sponge.

However, if the weed is not unsightly, just ignore it and mow it along with your grass.

You can find out more about my services for gardening, cleaning and maintenance by visiting my homepage.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


One usually hope that the compost to be used will be filled with beneficial nutrients and bacteria. It makes no sense to spread it lightly over the surface of shrubberies or vegetable gardens and the expect it to make any difference to the quality of the soil. In that way you will only be wasting your time and money. For the best effect, it is recommended to apply compost to small areas one at a time.

1.       If you plan to replant a bed with annuals, perennials, bulbs, etc spread a layer of compost approximately 20cm thick, and dig it in with the final soil preparation before you start planting.

2.       If a new bed is planned for various plants, a layer of compost approximately 10cm thick will suffice, because there are no feeder roots in the bed yet. Also, each hole will receive additional compost when it is prepared for planting.

3.       In a bed with established plants compost will be used as mulch. Dig the area over lightly, apply the correct fertilizer and then spread a layer of compost of between 10 and 20cm. This usually does not need to be dug in.

4.       If you are planting new plants, the hole for the new plant should be at least twice as wide as the pot or plant bag, and approximately one and a half times as deep. You need to remove at least one third of the soil from the freshly removed soil, and replace it with compost. Mix the soil and compost well, also add the correct fertilizers at the same time. This mixture is then put back into the hole and the new plant is planted directly into the mixture.

5.       If you leave compost to lie around for an extended period you need to keep it moist, otherwise it will lose most of its nutritional value.

This will hopefully assist you in attaining the results that you desire for your garden.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Moss and Algae and the removal of it

Moss is the furry green growth found growing on shaded riverbanks, paving and south facing brick wall that are permanently damp. There will often be ferns growing with it. Lichen is a type of fungus, and algae is a micro organism.

1.       Moss on pots and paving can be cleaned off with a stiff brush

2.       Using dry swimming pool chlorine, moss can be dusted lightly, and then scrubbed off later

3.       By scattering coarse salt on paving, growth of moss and algae can be discouraged.

4.       Algae can be cleaned by using a diluted mixture of pool algaecide. Usually mixed in a ration of 1:5 with water.

5.       Lichen on trees and rocks does not harm the plants. It just gives you an indiscation that the area is moist and shaded.

Moss and algae can provide an ‘ageing’ effect on walkways which landscapers sometimes include in their landscaping plans. But the negative side of this is that it can make the walkway slippery. When it does become slippery it is best to remove it.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Three types of Fertilizer

Lets have a quick look at the three different basic fertilizers.


This type of fertilizer is obtained from plants and animal, or human waste (actually sewage sludge). It is a "balanced fertilizer" but it has a drawback in that it is slow-acting and it does not have a lot of kick. It usually has a formulation of 1-1-1. This slow action actually can be beneficial since you usually can't burn out the grass with too much nitrogen.

Prices of organic fertilizers are generally lower than the man-made materials, which can be an advantage if you have time for the slow organic reaction. Organics work best in warm weather; unfortunately, warm weather is not the time most lawns should be fertilized.


These fertilizers can be recognized by the label: "WIN," which stands for water insoluble nitrogen. They have a very high percentage of nitrogen-enough to burn grass. However, since the chemical is slowly released, it is really not a problem (if properly applied, of course) since the nitrogen doesn't release into the plant in one sudden surge.

The big advantage of slow release fertilizer is that you can cover your lawn with a large amount of the fertilizer at one time so you don't have to come back often for re-application. WIN, in spite of its high nitrogen content, does not green grass fast, because of its slow-release feature. So remember that we you go out and by fertilizer.


There is a lot to like about this type of fertilizer. But first lets look at the negative points: You will most probably have to apply the fertilizer more often because a normal lawn requires a certain amount of nitrogen annually so you have to spread more to meet requirements. Now the positives of this type of fertilizer is, if applied properly there is no fertilizer burn; if the fertilizer is overlapped when applied, there is danger of fertilizer burn. Make sure the lawn is dry during the application, and watered well after the application, otherwise there can be trouble with fertilizer burn.

Fortunately these fertilizers are not cost prohibitive-in fact, they are competitive among manufacturers. The fertilizers are predictable in that you know before you apply them what the results will be. They are easier to handle than other fertilizer types. They can be applied with a spreader or they can be sprayed on the turf grass.

I have been in the Garden Maintenance Service Industry for a couple of years and have worked with all these types of fertilizers. My advice is to consider what you need from the fertilizer before you go out and buy it.

You can also find more information about Garden, Cleaning and Maintenance Services on our homepage.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Fertilizer - Understanding the label

Summer is fast approaching and my garden service company is getting ready to fertilize the gardens of my clients. This short guide should help you to better understand which fertilizer to use.

Bags of fertilizer are labelled by the manufacturer and give a basic analysis of the contents. Below is a brief description so that you can easily understand what the bag contains.

 The formula will be in numbers such as 7:1:3 (21) The numbers stand for the ratio of chemicals in the content of the bag followed by the concentration given in percentage. The sequence always remains the same, thus the first number is nitrogen (N). The second is phosphate (P), and the third is always potassium (K). It never changes.

The purpose of nitrogen is that it makes the grass grow green and UP. The purpose of phosphate is that it makes the root system grow DOWN and healthy. And the purpose of potassium is that it makes the grass propagate or grow AROUND. You can apply it this way: If you want the grass to grow UP and green, you want a high first number. If you want to build a hearty root system, you want a high second DOWN number. If you want the grass especially newly established grass-to propagate, you want a high ALL AROUND third number. For example: 3-2-3. You will get some greening, but the roots and propagation will be higher. 3-2-1. will give you lots of greening, some roots, and a little propagation. Fertilizer with a high first number will give the grass a quick shot of green-up.

This type of fertilizer is called "balanced". (Balance refers to the ratio of chemicals in the fertilizer. For example if you look at your lawn, it needs three to five times more nitrogen as phosphorus and twice as much potassium as phosphorus. Thus a 7:1:3 would be ideal, as it would green the grass with a lot of upward growth, only build a little on the root system and a fair amount of sideways propagation.

All fertilizers are numbered in the same way. If you have houseplants, for example, the fertilizer for them will be ranked by number; 6-8-8 (for example)-high in phosphate and potash for roots and plant development; low in greening.

For more information about garden maintenance services, have a look at this page.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Cleaning out non council rubbish from complexes

As part of the services I provide to Sectional Title Developments, Body Corporates, Home Owners Associations, etc. I do quite a lot of inspections on a weekly basis.

What I find in the dustbin area of most complexes, is that there are constantly a build-up of rubbish (non-council). This non-council rubbish is not removed by the local municipality and at the end of the day, it is up to the Body Corporates, etc to have these areas cleaned out.

The quantity of rubbish will influence the final decision on how to have the rubbish removed (also factors such as if the rubbish include building rubble). I often haul small loads away for my clients using a light delivery vehicle, but the larger the quantity, the more expensive this option becomes. That is when hiring a skip becomes an option.

Now you've probably seen skips on a building site or at a commercial property and have never considered it for your own use. Of course if you never generate any significant amounts of waste then it's reasonable to assume that this wouldn't cross your mind. However, when you reside in a complex, the little bit of waste that each resident build up, can become quite a significant quantity when added together.
Furthermore, the Body Corporate, etc. might decide to do some renovations and maintenance, or improve the gardens of the complex, this will also generate quite a bit of waste for which a skip once again becomes a viable option.
Now you need to consider the quantity of waste that needs to be removed and order a skip to fullfill this need. Most of the companies in South Africa that hires out skips, have to different sizes. And there are limitations on what can be dumped in some of them.

The smaller skip is a 3 cubic yard skip. This would be used for smaller quantities, and is usually limited to general waste, thus no building rubble allowed. So how big is this skip? It is about 2 meters by 1,7 meters. This can take just a little more than three loads of a light delivery vehicle or approximately 35 black refuse bags.

The other option would be the 6 cubic yard skip. In this you can dump general waste, building rubble, etc. This skip is about 3,1 meters by 1.9 meters. This can take about 7 loads of a light delivery vehicle, or approximately 7- black refuse bags.

It is wise to discuss the requirements with the skip hire company, because they would be able to advise you on exactly what would be needed. At A&F Complex Management I also advice my clients on what they would need to remove the quantity of waste they do have.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Tip for cleaning a red wine spill

I tried and tested this simple trick to clean and remove spilt red wine from your carpet. The biggest mistake most people make when trying to remove a spill from their carpet is rubbing on the spot with a rag or paper towel. The only thing this will do is to push it further into the carpet, and it may penetrate the fibers down into the dye site. This is a problem, because the majority of carpets used in residential homes are made of nylon.

The problem with red wine, which makes it even trickier is that it contains dye naturally. Blotting the spill (which is what you should usually do on any spill) does not always remove all the red wine. Now what I found as a good way to remove red wine, is to cover the spill with corn starch (which you’ll find at your local supermarket). You need to push the corn starch down into the carpet, all the way to the bottom of the carpet, using your hands or feet.

Now you need to leave it like this for at least 24 hours. During this period, the corn starch will absorb all the red wine. After 24 hours, vacuum the carpet to clean up the corn starch. Most of the time, there will be no permanent stain on your carpet. 

It is important to remember that you need to do this before the spill dries out on your carpet to obtain the best possible result. This trick also works with other types of spills.

Friday, 06 August 2010

Why Wildlife Gardening? « Get in the Garden

I found this interesting blog about wildlife in your garden. By planning before you plant, you can attract animals, birds and insects to your garden.

Why Wildlife Gardening? « Get in the Garden

Monday, 26 July 2010

Reasons for using a proffesional cleaning service

There are various reasons why a Proffesional Cleaning Services Company should be used to keep the common properties areas of your complex clean.

  • Using a cleaning company reduces the Body Corporates liability in regards to labour issues
  • A company would have more knowledge about proper cleaning techniques, chemicals, etc. 
  • With everything in its allocated place, walkways and floors will be clean and won't cause people to trip or have accidents. 
  • Hygiene will be maintained at all times
  • A clean complex will be aestetically pleasing, and will help maintain the property value of all the owners in the complex.
For more information about cleaning services, you can visit our website by following this link. A&F Complex Management - Cleaning 

Thursday, 01 July 2010

Preparing your lawn for summer

I'm sure that we all enjoy seeing a luscious green lawn. But how do you manage to get that deep green colour.

This is how my garden maintenance service teams does it:
  1. In August/September (beginning of Spring) we start with scarifying the lawn but cutting it very short (almost down to the roots)
  2. This is followed by aeration, which is done with a spike roller.
  3. After this either topsoil or lawn dressing is applied. Topsoil is usually applied if the lawn area is uneven.
  4. The lawn should now be watered regularly, with a deep watering every time.
  5. After a couple of weeks, the lawn will be a be a lovely deep green colour.
  6. In October/November and also in April the lawn area should be fertilized with a fertilizer specifically designed for lawns. 
  7. At the beginning of the next spring, the process starts again.
A&F Complex Management - Garden, Cleaning, Maintenance and Pool Service

    Wednesday, 30 June 2010

    Rose Pruning

    Here is South Africa, It is almost time to prune your roses.

    The general recommendation is to do it after the 21st of July. Part of the reason for this is that it is unlikely to have heavy frost after this date.

    The way I have my garden maintenance service teams prune is as follows:
    1. First you cut off the top growth, this gives you a better view of the framework of the bush.
    2. Then you remove dead, diseased, old and misshapen stems.
    3. You remove older stems which are usually a grey-brown colour, and keep the newer stems (a paler green or sometimes with a reddish tinge
    4. Then you select three to five stems from the bottom of the bush, these stems should form a cup shape, with enough spacing between the stems. The selected stems should be cut of at about knee height. Remove all the other stems. 
    5. After cleaning up, spray the bush with lime sulphur mixed according to the specifications on the container. Usually a ratio of 8:1. After two weeks you can spray the bushes again, but at half strength. (Remember that you need to use fresh lime sulphur every year, as it does go off)
    TIP: If you keep cutting of the dead rose flowers, your rose bush will flower for a longer period.

    A&F Complex Management - Garden, Cleaning, Maintenance Service