Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Barbeque (Charcoal Vs Gas) (Part I)

Charcoal barbeques are a must for that smoky flavour, but gas barbeques offer ultimate convenience. It’s no wonder a trend is emerging for people to have both.

Charcoal grill
The biggest pro for the charcoal barbeque is that classic, smoky flavour it gives to meat.
“A charcoal barbeque is a real meat-lover’s barbeque and connoisseurs enjoy creating different flavours using meat smokers and smoking pellets,” says Matthew Lawton of Mitre 10, who believes American brand Weber is behind some of the best charcoal barbeques you can buy.

Charcoal barbeques are inexpensive – a high-end unit costs around $400 and a very basic unit, $59. A good mid-range unit will cost $200. If you spend a little more you will enjoy the additional features and size benefits. However, charcoal barbeques have some factors that some may consider downsides. For instance, a charcoal barbeque can take up to 30 minutes to reach cooking temperature. They can also be a little on the messy side – with ashes to get rid of and bags of coal to buy. For many that’s all part of the job and the satisfaction of ‘caveman cooking’.

When choosing a charcoal barbeque check that it is easy to light, clean and remove charcoal. Because you’re ‘playing with fire’ Roydon warns that charcoal barbeques need to be watched carefully as they can get away on you and burn food.

Features your charcoal grill should have:

  • Sturdy steel construction with a durable porcelain- enamel finish.
  • Heavy-gauge charcoal grate.
  • Large, easy-to-remove ash pan.
  • Adjustable-height chrome-plated aluminium cooking grate.
  • A locking lid for safety when transporting. 

Upgrade features: 

Shelves and warming racks, smoking ability, workspace, storage space, larger cooking grids, rustproof ash- catchers and porcelain-enamelled cooking grates. High- end grates are usually made of cast iron, porcelain-coated aluminium or even stainless steel.

Gas barbecues

Cooking doesn’t get much quicker than a gas grill, simply turn it on and it’s ready. These are ideal for people who have big families to feed or frequently entertain and want things to be quick and easy. The fact that gas barbeques are easy to clean is an additional bonus. Basic models will have a flat plate and a grill, but those wanting quality and style should seek out a stainless steel beast with a hood.

“If you fancy yourself an outdoor chef, a top-of-the-line gas barbeque such as the Gasmate Galaxy Quantum Pro or Stratos 4-Burner Gas Grill can literally become an outdoor kitchen. Look for features such as side-burners, rear burners, roasting dish, rotisserie and warming racks,” says Roydon.

“Gas barbeques start at around $600-$700 and can cost as much as $15,000,” explains Matthew Lawton, who says the top model stocked at Mitre 10 is around $5,000, but $1,500 will get you a great gas barbecue.

Features your gas grill should have:

  • Sturdy steel construction with a baked-on porcelain- enamel finish.
  • Heavy-gauge nickel or chrome-plated aluminium cooking grate.
  • Twoseparateburners,withtwoseparatecontrolknobs for greater heat control.

Look for a durable barbeque that has sturdy construction, metal work and corrosion-resistant paint and fittings. Mitre 10’s Matthew Lawton recommends checking the grade of stainless steel.

“Look for 304 grade stainless steel which is durable – especially if your barbeque will be near the beach, as sea air causes rust.”

Upgrade features:

Shelves and warming racks, flip-up workspace, enclosed storage space, large cooking areas with up to six burners, improved cooking grates (as above), side burners for cooking sauces, rotisseries and infrared cooking abilities, smoker boxes or drawers and stainless steel construction.

The barbeque is to summer as sand is to beaches. Whether you’re looking for portable model for camping or a stainless steel, state-of-the-art appliance, Mitre 10 offers a range of barbeques to meet your needs.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gardening. Right Plant, right place PART II

Formal vs. informal

Generally the type of design for a garden is split into two groups: formal and informal. You can of course have a mix of the two. For the novice gardener, the informal type of planting is especially useful, as it requires less upkeep and attention to detail.
With informal planting, the emphasis is on achieving a more natural design. We look for balance in design. This balance can come from colour, height or the quantity of plants you use.


Incorporating curves will add interest to your garden, but don’t overdo it. A collection of amoeba-shaped beds would be overkill, as would a curvy path that takes you far out of the way of your destination. Long, subtle curves are often best.


A landscaped garden needs movement to add life and interest. No garden is complete without some ornamental grasses to sway in the breeze. Add flowers and berries to attract birds and butterflies. A well-placed water feature can also help to provide movement.


Some thoughtful plantings can soften the edges of your home and help it blend with the surroundings. Try not to cover your home in an overgrown jungle, but look to the best architectural feature of your home and accent that with your planting.
Adding the plants to your garden is the finishing touch. For most of us, we purchase our plants a few at a time, gradually building up our garden beds. Experience will also be a factor in your choice of plants. For the inexperienced gardener, there are many cheap and cheerful plants that do well in most conditions.
Plant in groups to harmonise colour, texture and foliage. Aim for the plants to compliment each other – tall plants at the back, medium in the centre and ground cover at the front. When planting any trees or shrubs, visualize how they will look after a few years of growth. Try to get a sense of the likely height and width of the plant when it is fully mature.

For all of your plantings, you need to consider the requirements of the plant, soil conditions, sun or shade and the effect that the plant will create.

Tricks of the trade
• Plant in uneven groups as this will more closely follow a naturally occurring planting.
• Less is more when it comes to statues or other garden features.
• Curved borders will give the appearance of length and a greater scale.
• Keep your border curves simple and easy.
• If you have borders on each side of the garden, don’t make the edges match. Stick to irregularity, but get a
balance between the two corresponding edges.
• A garden hose is a very useful aid when forming informal curves. Lay the hose out in the shape you want and cut the edge following the hose along. Before you start, let the sun warm the hose – this makes it more pliable.
• Some plants are naturally bigger targets for pests and disease. Be aware of this when choosing your plants – think about their requirements and susceptibility to attack. For example, roses require a lot of maintenance to keep them free of pests and disease.
• If time and money run short, there is nothing wrong with leaving areas in lawn to be developed later.
Finally, keep in mind that you needn’t have a five-figure budget to achieve an exceptional landscape. Whether your landscape venture is a two-month project, or a Saturday trip to the nursery at Mitre 10, the key is to select your plants purposefully and place them thoughtfully. The result is sure to bring you years of enjoyment.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gardening. Right Plant, right place

Right Plant, right place

By Sandy Johnson

There is no denying the importance of outdoor living to all the people in the world (especially New Zealanders) – it is an integral part of Kiwi culture. Our homes benefit from the luxury of space and this leads us to value ready access to our gardens.

Landscaping the garden is just like furnishing a room. While there are a few extra considerations, the basic principles are very similar. Start by looking through magazines and books for design elements you like. Remember this is your garden – it should reflect you and your family’s lifestyle.
There is one important question you need to ask yourself before you start planning a new garden or revamping an old one – how much time do you have to spend on the garden?
Knowing how much time you have will determine the type of garden you can work towards.
Time and finances are variable factors, but they should be considered early on.

Getting started

When faced with the bare open spaces of a new garden or a developed garden that you want to change, it is tempting to rush in and try to change everything at once. The best advice is to take the time now to think and plan your strategy, as this will save you time and money in the long run.
Start by drawing up a plan of your garden. Sketch the property boundaries, then draw all the permanent features on the plan. This will allow you to visualize a framework that you can work around. Include the following permanent structures on your plan:

• Garage
• House
• Decks
• Shed
• Paths
• Fences
• Pool
• Driveway

Remember to include in your plan any large trees that will be staying. Mark them showing the approximate spread of the shade thrown by them.

Start a scrapbook or garden diary and list the things you like about your garden and features you would like to get rid of. Then add a wish list of the features you would like to have. Get to know your garden and how it functions. Know which part of the garden gets the morning sun and which areas lose out in the winter. It is also very important to know where the prevailing wind comes from as planting for wind protection is wise.

Walk through your garden and see how easily it flows from the back to the front, or from the deck to the lawn. Understand which parts of your garden get boggy in the winter or dry out in the summer.
With this knowledge you can make the following decisions:

• Which views you wish to screen out for privacy.
• Which views you want to enhance.
• Thebestplaceforyourutilityarea,includingtheshed, compost bin and clothesline.
• Whether the garden needs more paths to get from one area to the next.
• If a playground is needed, where it will go.
• Where your entertaining space will be.
• The best place for a vegetable garden.
• Whether you need to mark out boundaries.

Plan for equipment access
At some point in the life of your home, you will be faced with a project or repair that requires getting machinery into your backyard. Even if it is just the mower on a weekly basis, plan for it in advance – tearing out your plantings is very upsetting.

Focal points

A focal point is something that directs you visually and makes you feel surprised, moved or engaged. Typically a specimen tree or a statue can be a focal point, though there are many other possibilities. It could be an architectural feature of your house or even a borrowed view.
The trick is to make features stand out, yet not stick out. It should be somehow connected to the rest of the landscape. Scale is also important.
For example, if you are lucky enough to have several acres with broad views, then a large oak tree would be fitting. Alternatively, an ornate garden bench or small statue will work for smaller gardens.