If you’re struggling with that balcony garden, here are some handy tips on how to kickstart growth with Mat Pember from Little Veggie Patch Co. Being self-sufficient is a brilliant step in the right direction for sustainability and filling in all those extra hours in the day that we now have. But it is even hard for the most advanced gardener to achieve. Growing your own food is not as easy as throwing a few seeds into a pot and feasting in a fortnight. We spoke to Mat Pember, co-owner of the local, independent nursery Little Veggie Patch Co, about how to grow food anywhere, successfully, and in a calm and rational manner.
Infrastructure is the first big mistake people can make when they first start gardening
“People think that the more pots they have, the more food they can grow. This isn’t necessarily true. Pots can be too small for what people want to grow and it can lead to the plant dying too quickly, there is not enough nutrition in the soil, there is no room for the plant to move and it becomes pot bound and stunted.”
There is no such thing as a bargain with soil
“The quality of soil correlates to how you grow things. There is only one soil supplier who supplies all the nurseries in Melbourne. Even if you buy cheap soil, you will have to add nutrients to it which will end up costing you more in the long run if you are to successfully grow anything in it.”
It is important to know when to plant things
“Planting out of season is probably one of the biggest mistakes people can make. Some people start planting tomatoes in August, but you really can’t put them in the ground before November. If you’ve missed the window, I’d recommend going to a nursery and buying seedlings instead of pushing through. Knowing if you can directly plant into a patch versus propagating and transplanting into a garden is important as well. People can be derailed from the very beginning.”
Don’t forget to buy something you can water with
“People often forget about watering. I’d recommend something with a fan spray so it doesn’t blast your seedlings from the soil. You don’t always need a spade. If you’re going in a pot, use your hands. Then, you can afford a better quality potting mix (so you don’t need fertiliser or additives) and spend on the plants that you want. I’d also advise buying a net to keep away the cabbage moths and caterpillars.”
To get the most out of your plants, knowing when to harvest is key
“People usually wait for a full head of lettuce before they harvest, but it’s a super delicate situation. There is a very short time frame between it tasting like lettuce and overcooking, shooting a seed head and becoming really bitter. You can actually harvest it leaf by leaf and you’re letting the plant become more productive. Beans and peas should always be picked. This way, you free up energy on the plant and end up producing more. It’s amazing how much food is wasted by it going to seed or bolting.”
Grow high-yield and high-return food
“Leafy greens and herbs are the best value foods you can grow. They keep reproducing and you can always preserve, freeze or dry them if you have too much. Growing with some foresight helps, as you might have nothing when you put the seeds down, but all of a sudden, you can end up with too much.”
Saving your seeds to replant will give you better-performing plants each year
“Everyone has the ability to save heirloom seeds each year and build on how they perform in their own climate. Chillies, tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums will perform better next year in the same climate and spot. Fruiting vegetables are easy to extract the seeds from, leafy greens are a bit harder as you’ll have to let them cook, bolt and go to seed.”
When planting, more doesn’t necessarily mean more
“When putting things in the ground, it’s hard to picture the full plant. If you plant your seeds too close, it won’t allow enough space for the full plant when it grows. Start with very basic things that reproduce their harvest like leafy greens and herbs. As you pick them, they regenerate. Autumn is the best time to be planting these things. Buy a really good quality potting mix if you’re starting from scratch and make sure your vessel is at least 30 centimetres deep with a good surface area to allow your plants to grow.”
If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, Little Veggie Patch Co has developed a planting calendar specific to Australia that they bundle with heirloom seeds.
Generally when we Victorians turn back the clock by an hour to mark the end of daylight saving on Sunday 5 April, it’s a reminder to check your home smoke alarms are working. However, if you haven’t managed to get around to this yet, here is a gentle reminder. Victoria’s fire services are asking people to do this life-saving check after recent research showing that the number and location of functioning smoke alarms increase your family’s chances of escaping a fire. They are urging Victorians to use to check smoke alarms and carry out home maintenance like checking on fire risks such as damaged power cords or inspecting heating systems.
“Over the past 10 years, most fatal fires started in either someone’s loungeroom or bedroom,” says Gavin Freeman, Country Fire Authority deputy chief officer. “I urge Victorians to keep themselves safe as we head into winter, when heaters and electric blankets bring a greater risk of house fires.”
He says many fatal fires start at night and the smell of smoke won’t wake people up. The CFA recommends smoke alarms with a 10-year lithium battery, installed on the ceiling at least 30 centimetres from the wall and interconnected so when one alarm sounds, all the others do the same. MFB’s deputy chief officer David Bruce says having a working smoke alarm is “your first line of defence in the event of a fire”. “If you’re doing the right thing and staying home it will only take a few minutes to clean and then test your smoke alarm by pushing the button,” he says. “Regardless of the type of smoke alarm you have, all smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years.”
With a big increase in people working from home offices, the fire services say it’s also important to check that you’re not overloading power-boards, which can also be a fire risk. Now is also a good time to check heating and cooling systems, and ensure home fire extinguishers or fire blankets aren’t out of date. The fire services also recommend drawing up a family fire plan, similar to the plans you would have in an office, ensuring all family members know the quickest two ways out of each room and how to call triple zero. The CFA says research shows that less than half of all properties attended by fire services had smoke alarms and, of those that did have alarms, one third didn’t work. It recommends maintaining your smoke alarms by:
Testing it monthly by pushing the test button to make sure it beeps.
Dusting the alarm with a vacuum cleaner brush.
Changing the battery at least once a year.
If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, changing your alarm to a new unit with a 10-year lithium battery.
RACV’s head of home insurance Zoe Malempre says people working from home must take extra care when charging phones, laptops and tablets, as charging devices on soft surfaces like a couch or bed can be a fire danger. “Soft surfaces don’t allow enough air to circulate around the charging device so hard surfaces are best when charging.”
For our Renters, please contact us if you are concerned about the operation of your property smoke alarm/s. Owners, we have teamed up with Smoke Alarms Australia to provide an economical annual “health check” for all smoke detectors.. Contact us to find out more….
As quickly as day turns to night in the colder season, winter creeps up on us and we find ourselves cranking up the heat, wrapped up in electric blankets and thick, woolly jumpers. So, what can you do to prepare for the drop in temperature? Here are our tips for keeping your home comfortable in winter without upping your energy bill.
1.Use heavy curtains on your windows
Did you know up to 40% of the heat escaping your home in cooler temperatures is purely from not covering your windows? The most significant air leaks tend to occur around windows. By investing in heavy drapes or curtains, you can ensure your windows will have extra insulation, keeping the warmth from escaping your home.
2.Change your ceiling fan settings
Many people assume ceiling fans are only for cooling in warm months, but they can be your best friend in winter too. During the summer months, your ceiling fan blades turn in a counter clockwise motion and use what’s known as the wind chill factor to keep you cooler. However, in winter, you’ll want to find the reverse switch on your fan to change things up. As warm air generated by your heating system naturally rises to the ceiling, and cooler air sinks, your ceiling fan will push the warm air back down to a comfortable level. To locate your reverse switch, look on your fan above or below the blades, or check the manual from your fan manufacturer.
3. Seal cracks and gaps
Unsealed cracks can account for approximately 15-25% of heat loss in your home throughout winter. These let unwanted cool air enter your home, and any attempts to warm it up will essentially ‘slip through the cracks’. By sealing gaps in your windows and door frames, you’ll keep nasty drafts at bay and seal in the warmth – making your home nice and cosy!
David says, My older style house has polished floor boards with many large gaps that would let the breeze through. The under floor insulation has sealed all the gaps and keeps my house significantly warmer in winter.
Read more… A well-insulated house can use as much as 45% less energy for heating and cooling. If you have raised timber floors, install Optimo Underfloor Insulation by Bradford, which provides a barrier to reduce heat loss and cold draughts entering through your flooring. As a bonus, it reduces the noise of floorboards and can even lessen noise transfer from different rooms. Additionally, you could invest in a higher grade insulation in your ceiling, which also acts as a barrier to the heat flow of your home. Not only will these products seal in warmth in the winter, when summer rolls around they will keep your home nice and cool too! If you have existing glasswool insulation, you can even top up.
5. Cover your walls
Your walls can be big contributors to losing heat in the winter, but there’s a simple trick to lock in some of that heat. You can significantly reduce energy loss by covering your walls with picture frames, a mirror or even a large book shelf. By adding an extra layer of thermal mass to insulate, you can raise internal surface temperatures by around 1°C.
6. Re-position your furniture
Understanding how heat moves and investigating the thermal properties of your house will help you brave the cold this winter. You will feel warmer if you position yourself and your furniture near warmer areas of the home, including closer to the inside of the house and away from cooler external walls. Try to place your furniture next to an internal wall or a spot that gets a lot of natural light and heat from the sun.
7.Let the sun in during the day
When sunlight enters your home, it is mostly ultraviolet radiation, which transfers easily through glass. Once it hits an object the sunlight becomes radiant heat. To capitalise on all this free energy and gain extra warmth, open your blinds and curtains during the day and let that natural heat wash over you. Don’t forget to shut your winter-weight curtains when the sun sets to keep that warmth in.
There are so many little ways you can save on energy costs and keep warm this winter. Don’t forget simple things like investing in warm socks and using extra bedding at night. There’s nothing nicer than making a cup of tea and getting toasty on the couch!
It looks like winter has come early, especially for those who have been hit hard by the sudden cold snap.
There are plenty of things that come to mind when the seasons change and if you’re thinking about how to give your home a refresh for the cooler months, you’re not alone.
As the days get shorter and the temperature drops we’re all thinking about how to bring more warmth in, which can be seen in the colours that are trending for winter 2020.
Alex Roberts, Product Development Manager and Chief Tint Officer of direct-to-consumer paint brand Tint, explains why we’ll be seeing more warm tones and how to nail the look at home.
“This year in general, warm colours are stepping up and pushing us away from those cooler tones we have been used to. Cool, blue-based greys are being swapped out for greiges and beiges; greens have more yellow and warmth to them and rich, deep colour palettes are finally making a comeback,” she explained.
When it comes to embracing these colours in homes across the country, Alex believes we will see a lot of monochrome and tonal spaces.
“By layering different tones of a similar hue you can tie a space together and create a calming, welcoming environment. Think about this when introducing new colours to your space, work with the colour in multiple shapes and forms — explore the colours though paint, hardware, fabrics, art and more,” she explained.
Before enlisting a property manager, you need to weigh up whether it is the best option for you. According to the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), property self-management is not uncommon. Despite 54.3% of occupied rented properties in Australia being managed by real estate agents, 22.7% are self-managed by landlords.
REIA’s research officer Evgeniya Hawthorne said, “Although investors who choose to self-manage their properties avoid paying management fees, the amount of work involved should not be underestimated.
“There is a cost to managing your own property. Investors have to keep themselves up to date with relevant legislation and regulations – something a professional property manager does under their continuing professional development.”
The value of a truly qualified property manager cannot be overemphasised, especially as we navigate the quickly evolving issues affecting our community. Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (some already in play ahead of full changes originally scheduled for 1 July 2020 but deferring to 1 January 2021 in response to the termporary COVID-19 legislation), the cladding “crisis”, the growing impact of domestic violence and, the critical state of emergency currently occurring as a result of COVID-19 are only a few reasons to consider putting the care of your property investment into qualified hands.
Now more than ever we will evaluate what is really important to us. Amongst the chaos and uncertainty, how can we work towards a secure future? What is the right secure future for us?
There is something very secure about a good old fashioned brick and mortar investment.
During difficult times it is comforting to return to a home you own. A safe place where you can cultivate your lifestyle and personality in the way that you choose. Hang those precious memories, paint or wallpaper the walls – or not, it doesn’t matter, you can create your own style, your own sanctuary, your own safe haven. Owning your own home fulfils fundamental needs as outlined in Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and for many, their home is a status symbol or a financial vehicle in which to grow wealth and success.
Driven by these fundamental human needs it is vital that we have a practical and financially viable plan to obtain these goals.
How do I know I’m making the right decision to go from renter to owner?
Research, then apply practical financially viable solutions. If you can afford to pay rent, chances are you can afford to pay a mortgage. Run the numbers. Get good financial advice, speak to a financial planner, an accountant, a bank manager and make a plan for the future. Know what your commitment will cost not just mortgage payments but include stamp duty, rates, insurance and body corporate fees.
The Reserve Bank Australia (RBA) predicts a shortfall in housing (Financial Review, 2019). With record low-interest rates, record first home buyers, population growth, high immigration* (COVID-19 restrictions will not last forever) and increased renters the data indicates that if you have a secure income that you should consider the following tips and purchase once this immediate unsettling time has passed. Yes, we are experiencing a pandemic with a recession looming but our economy is cyclic.
Buying a medium to long term investment
Over the past 30 years, Australian housing prices have increased on average by 7.25 % per year (RBA, 2015). Statistics historically tell us that provided you are buying a property as a medium or long term investment where you can choose your time to sell you will not lose. If you are buying a short term prospect you need to do more to ensure a return on investment, such as the following;
* Australia’s population continues to grow and 231,937 people migrated from overseas in 2019 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019).All these people need homes. Head to our website to read more and see the tips we recommend when buying;
Ipswich couple Vicky and Siamak Mohajerin have lived in their family home, west of Brisbane, for 12 years.
Like many busy Australians, they had only ever exchanged the odd wave or nod to their neighbour out the back — mother-of-six Teressa Leedie — until the coronavirus pandemic began to spread.
“We were at home self-isolating and we realised we don’t know a lot of our neighbours,” Ms Mohajerin said.
“We thought they might be in need, so we put gloves on, got a pen and pad, and took a walk on Sunday afternoon, and gave our neighbours our contact details.
“[We] just told them if they need anything at all, or needed us to go get something for them, we would go do that.” Mr Mohajerin said the couple had “never met or spoken to Teressa”.
“We got a really nice response,” he said.
Ms Leedie said it was “really uncommon for people to reach out this way”.
“Usually people stick to themselves,” Ms Leedie said.
“It was really overwhelming and heartwarming to know you’ve got neighbours, strangers, in your street who are willing to support us in this time of need.” Mr Mohajerin recommended other people to reach out to others — whether online or over the fence — saying it had given him and Ms Mohajerin something to look forward to.
“I’m so glad we did it,” he said.
“One household suggested we have a street party when this is all over, so we can’t wait — it’s going to be huge.”
Nouné Harutyunyan is a licenced real estate agent, business owner, and Justice of the Peace.
Nouné has been a key part of the Silver Service Real Estate fabric for many years now, she has a rich heritage and culture originally from Armenia.
Nouné is a no-nonsense and straight talking real estate agent, and is fluent in both Armenian and Russian as well as English (pronounced “eeeeenglish” by her). Do not be fooled by her seemingly hard shell though. Nouné works tirelessly and passionately, not just to maximize the value of the property entrusted to her. Her commitment is to also nurture and retain quality, long-term relationships with valued tenants. Her leadership of the agency Trust Account is something that she also takes very seriously, understanding the immense “trust” that comes with the position.
Nouné began her real estate career in 1995 as a sales cadet, gaining early experience in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne, across Glen Waverley, and east to Templestowe. Her passion for real estate has elevated her quickly through the buyer, manager and executive ranks to become an Executive/Senior Property Manager and co-Sales Agent with Silver Service Real Estate. Always happy to provide advice, appraisals and guidance she can be contacted on;
Popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar is not common these days. In fact, research shows less than half of Australians actually know their neighbour by name. Relationships Australia national executive officer Nick Tebbey said coronavirus was changing that, with the pandemic prompting neighbours to reach out to one another for support as social-distancing measures increased.
“It’s part of the Australian psyche and we see it in times of crisis like the bushfires and the droughts,” Mr Tebbey said.
“Neighbours and communities want to make sure the most vulnerable people are looked after.
“The difference now is we’re all vulnerable with this pandemic.
“I think there’s great cause for optimism to see all these amazing stories of neighbours doing things that are really about building connections with those around them.
“Every day we’re seeing examples of that all over the country.”
Mr Tebbey said “online neighbourhoods” were also expanding in response to the virus, connecting those in distant suburbs, interstate or even overseas.
“We’re seeing a huge uptake of people setting up WhatsApp and Facebook chats to communicate with their immediate neighbours,” he said.
“Technology is the great connector we need right now.”
Melbourne’s property market is set for a rapid recovery once COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, with vendors already preparing to list once the dust settles.
Popular family neighbourhoods, blue-chip suburbs and Victoria’s up-and-coming regional towns are tipped to bounce back the fastest from the unexpected property downturn.
Propertyology director Simon Pressley said strong market conditions before the pandemic would help the city recover in as little as six months. “We’ve got the lowest interest rates in most Australians’ lifetimes and we’ve only got to cast our minds back about six weeks ago to see clearance rates going through the roof and double-digit price growth,” Mr Pressley said.
“The same reason it was happening then is why it will happen again once we come out of our cocoons.”
He said three years of strong median house price growth after Australia’s recession in the 1990s and the Global Financial Crisis suggested the market would rapidly rise again once shutdown restrictions ended.
Propertyology research also showed booming towns including Bendigo, Warrnambool and Mildura would remain fairly bulletproof during the crisis, with low rent supply and high job growth.
Narre Warren North, Box Hill and Blackburn were among suburbs that had the largest price gains between the GFC and coronavirus, according to realestate.com.au.
Chief economist Nerida Conisbee said they would be some of the areas that recovered fastest due to their owner-occupier appeal.
“Melbourne’s middle ring will do quite well … especially if you’ve got a house in a location that’s connected to good schools, public transport and not too expensive,” Ms Conisbee said.