Invading roots

31 05 2017

Guarding the entrance to our house are two massive strelitzias (Strelitzia nicolai). They have the most enormous flowers, and are just beautiful. But they have a dark secret — a root system that’s pretty invasive.

Magnificent white flowers of the Strelitzia nicolai

Magnificent white flowers of the Strelitzia nicolai

I’d suspected them of causing some driveway problems — cracking the asphalt, splitting the kerbing — but internet searches weren’t conclusive. One camp said these things had invasive roots and not to have them in your garden; the other camp said they were fine and no problem.

Over time I’ve noticed more cracks in the driveway near these plants and more recently, raised bumps and split kerbing (where there’d only been a hairline crack before). I also read a gardening article in our state’s main newspaper where someone had Strelitzia nicolai plants excavated (!) and was concerned about the roots and whether they’d sprout or if they needed to be dug out too. The gardener’s response was that no, they wouldn’t sprout, they didn’t need to be dug out, and she could plant something else in the hole.

I spoke to my garden guy and he suggested the cheapest solution for me as a first step was to prune the huge old branches, leaving the newer branches intact. He said that would likely stop the roots from invading any further, at least until the newer branches got as big as the old ones. The more expensive option was to get them cut out entirely and the roots ground out, ready for another plant species to take their place. I decided to go with the less drastic measure as a first step, and see if that solves the problem for the next few years. If I get no further cracking of paving or kerbing, I’ll take that as success, and make sure the older branches get pruned every few years.

During pruning - look at the height of that plant!

During pruning – look at the height of that plant!




Before pruning

Before pruning


After pruning – we can see the house over the road now, but have lost the magnificence of these big plants


Ratty McRatface

31 05 2017

Rats! Yes, real rats. In our shed. One of the ‘advantages’ of living in a semi-rural location.

I’d seen evidence of them in the shed before, and had put down RatSack. Some time later there was a god-awful smell that could only have been a decomposing rat somewhere in the shed. We couldn’t find it, but eventually the smell went away (it’s a BIG shed — 6 x 12 m).

I was in there a few weeks ago and vacuumed up more rat scat, but when I went in there a week or two ago there was a whole heap of rat scat, particularly in one place. Ewwww! I swept it up (I wasn’t using the vac for that!), then discovered more in the shelves above. These shelves house my gardening supplies and chemicals. Most of the stuff is in lidded plastic tubs, but some taller items are in small open tubs. And these tubs had lots of rat scat. The worst was the tub that had two packets of green snail pellets.

And then I discovered that the dirty rat had eaten a big hole in the snail pellet packet and had left his (I don’t know if it’s a male or female, but use ‘his’ here) scat INSIDE the packet. That explained why some of the scat was dark green… He’d started to attack the other packet, but no doubt was still feasting on the first one. He’d also eaten part of the foam handle of a gardening tool — there were teeth marks and tiny little claw marks where he’d held it! Little bugger.

Teeth marks at the top of the handle, and claw marks in the foam grip

Teeth marks at the top of the handle, and claw marks in the foam grip

Teeth marks at the top of the handle, and claw marks in the foam grip

Teeth marks at the top of the handle, and claw marks in the foam grip


I cleaned everything up and tossed out the snail pellets (how they didn’t kill him, I don’t know — obviously he found them very tasty!). I also put down more RatSack.

Two days later I went back into the shed. The RatSack packets I’d tossed onto the floor were gone! The little sod had taken them somewhere, so I put down three more packets. The next day they were all gone too. I didn’t put down more. I figured that 5 packets of RatSack should be more than enough.

What I did notice when I went back into the shed after putting down the first lot of RatSack was that instead of rat scat, there was a small pile of white stuff below the benches where the tub was that had held the snail pellets. It wasn’t rat poop, and then I saw that it looked like white plastic. I looked a little closer and at the shelves and saw that this rat had chewed through an entire corner of a hard-plastic tub and had started work on another one! Unbelievable! I thought storing stuff in tubs would prevent vermin getting in, but not so. This was one determined rat — and possibly one crazed rat from the RatSack it’d eaten.

Hard white plastic bits on the floor below the shelves

Hard white plastic bits on the floor below the shelves


How on earth did he eat this? It's hard plastic and it's three shelves up from the floor, and there's nothing he could stand on to reach it. Unless he ate it from inside, but that would've been a feat to get his teeth into that rounded corner.

How on earth did he eat this? It’s hard plastic and it’s three shelves up from the floor, and there’s nothing he could stand on to reach it. Unless he ate it from inside, but that would’ve been a feat to get his teeth into that rounded corner.

He started chewing on another tub, also 3 shelves up and nothing to stand on. It's clear he's attacking it from outside, not inside the tub.

He started chewing on another tub, also 3 shelves up and nothing to stand on. It’s clear he’s attacking it from outside, not inside the tub.

I left everything for a week, then ventured into the shed again. This time there was a faint odour of decomposing flesh, which I can only assume was the rat. A couple of days later the smell was stronger, but we couldn’t find the rat’s body. Oh well, it will eventually decay, dry out, get eaten by ants, whatever.

I think we got it. And I’m not going back into the shed until the smell has gone 🙂 Fortunately, it’s not summer, when the pong would be unbearable.

Update 25 June 2017:

Operation Rat – over? Since I wrote the blog post above more have ‘passed away’ with the help of RatSack packs. Then on Friday my wonderful handyman discovered where they were getting in (not where I thought) and has now concreted those openings and another set of openings where I thought they might be getting in. I thought it was over…

But this morning (Sunday) I went into the shed to get some gardening tools and noticed 2 packs of RatSack (which were there earlier in the week) were gone, and there was more dead rat smell. My DH used his nose to hunt the dead rat and found it inside a big empty box – with a live rat!!!! After much to-ing and fro-ing, the live rat is now a dead rat, is buried with the other dead rat and a dead baby in the no-man’s land behind the shed, and the box (which stunk of dead rat and was likely their nest) has now been burned.

I think the rat problem is no more, but just to be sure, I’ve put down another 3 packs of RatSack… Stay tuned…


New soakwell

31 05 2017

When our house was built, there was a ‘secret gutter’ in the roof, which caused no end of problems because the builders didn’t put in a downpipe to redirect the flow off the roof to a soakwell. Instead, the water gushed into the end of a normal gutter and had to find its way to the other end before going down a downpipe. It was a real problem when we had heavy rains, because the water would spill over the end of the gutter and fascia board and get under the eaves, thus causing mould on the eaves and a very wet fascia board. The mould was how we knew there was a real problem with the roof design. And I learned there was a such a thing as a ‘secret gutter’!

Our wonderful handyman was able to identify the issue a few years ago, and he and his roof plumber mate fixed the secret gutter flashing and added a downpipe so the water had somewhere to go. However, water from the downpipe just spilled onto the concrete, not into a soakwell. This caused some further issues, with water pooling on the concrete and algae forming over time (in the scheme of things, these were just minor issues). I added a spoon drain at the end of the downpipe as as a temporary measure to redirect the flow further out onto the concrete pad, but I knew at some point we’d have to get the water redirected into a soakwell.

Twelve months ago, my handyman cut open the concrete pad and installed a drain into the garden for another issue (a small dip in the concrete pad where water accumulated), so I asked if he could do something similar at the end of the downpipe, and install a soakwell. Yep, anything is possible for this guy (he’s an absolute keeper!).

He and his helper spent half a day cutting into concrete, digging a graveyard-size hole in the lawn (fortunately missing the retic pipes!), digging a trench under the concrete, installing a drain pipe and drain cover, and installing a ‘open weave’ heavy-duty plastic soakwell (after wrapping it in several layers of geotextile fabric). They then packed the dirt back in, put the lawn back, and went on their way.

It works a treat! The water from the downpipe now goes into the drain and into the soakwell, so no more trip hazards with spoon drains and algae!


Community Quilt 327

31 05 2017

Another scrappy quilt, with lots of patterns and colours competing for attention. I decided to quilt it with an all over ‘squared off’ open-headband motif, in a blue/teal coloured thread.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Threads used:

  • Top: Robison-Anton ‘Wonder Blue’ (40 wt, rayon, colour 2577)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (lead gray)