5 things to make your garden thrive this spring

One of my favourite scenes in the movie, The Secret Garden is when main character Mary Lennox sees her garden come to life in spring after the long, cold English winter. Whilst some parts of Australia are more seasonal than others, we definitely have all four seasons here in Canberra, and fewer are celebrated more than spring after our cold winters. Whilst sunshine and warmer days make spring a pleasant time to be out in the garden, it is also an important time to get some key jobs done in your garden to maximise it’s beauty and productivity over the warmer months. Here are some key jobs to tick off your list this season:  

1. Prune
Now is the time to prune back the growth of perennials from last season (if you haven’t already). If you live in a frost-prone area, there may be some frost-tender perennials that you want to hold back on pruning until after the risk of frost has passed, but everything else is fair game! My buddleia and salvia have all been given harsh haircuts to prepare them for new-season growth (and flowers!). I am also planning on pruning my peach tree this weekend, but because it is flowering I will only remove the lower growth, as well as branches and stems without flowers. I don’t want to jeopardise any potential fruit! 

Pink azalea in my garden

2. Mulch
A trip to your local garden centre to top up your mulch should be on the agenda this month. It is beneficial to alternate the types of mulch you use on your garden beds to ensure a diversity of beneficial bacteria in the soil for your plants. Different types of mulch include: straw, bark chip, and different types of compost, such as mushroom, laid thickly. For an extra kick, you could also add a layer of manure or compost under a heavier mulch, such a bark chip. The key is ensuring your mulch is down and watered in before the hot summer days arrive. 

Red azalea in my garden

3. Water
Most plants, including lawn will have gone through a low-growth period over winter, especially if you live in a cool climate. Give them the boost they need with a good deep soaking a couple of times a week to stimulate growth. We’re still experiencing a dry period in Canberra, so watering is going to be crucial for us this season if we want strong plant growth, and ultimately fruit and flowers.  

Flowering plum in my garden

4. Fertilise
Adding mulch and manure to your garden will give it a great kick-start to the season, but for hungry flowering plants, such as roses, additional fertiliser may be required. I like using a liquid fertiliser, such as Thrive – especially after rain or a good watering when plants are more receptive to absorb it. Slow-release and pelletised fertilisers are a low-maintenance option if you have a large garden or just want to ‘set-and-forget’ for a few weeks. Beware of fertilising native plants, as some are not tolerant of high levels of phosphorous found in many fertilisers (such as chicken manure). Use a specific native plant fertiliser or if in doubt stick with an organic fish or seaweed tonic. 

5. Get out and enjoy it
Watch the flowers grow this spring. No seriously! The more time you spend in your garden, the more motivated you’ll feel to look after it. If you, like me try to sit in the garden, but keep seeing jobs that need to be done, rather than mindfully enjoying the moment, remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve done. Tomorrow is another day. 

Make your life easier in the garden with some of these handy gardening tools

8 Easy Swaps to Make Your Meals Healthy

Can’t give up some bad habits? Do you love a sneaky soft drink or do you get the tub of ice-cream out for just two (six) scoops? Well, what if you could still enjoy them? You just have to be a little inventive and make some small changes.

Have you ever tried frozen banana in the blender? Well, it is a game changer, tastes exactly like ice-cream! You’re going to learn to make some simple changes that will have you eating healthy in no time.

1. Totally Tasty Pudding
Chocolate pudding is great for when you want something decadent and sweet for dessert. Usually, this milk-based chocolate treat can get you into some calorie trouble.

Try cutting out some of the calories by using an avocado base instead of cream. Yes, that’s right, you can make your pudding with avocados. You want to blend some cacao powder, non-dairy milk, avocado, and sweetener in your heavy-duty blender. Let the mixture chill in your fridge for a few hours. The result is creamy chocolate which is also really good for you.

Try using an avocado base (instead of cream) for your choc pudding

2. Make Your Own Chocolate Bars
If you find you a get a hankering for chocolate, try making it yourself. There is a huge difference between cocoa and cacao, so just by making the conscious decision to understand what is in your food, will significantly improve your health.

Cacao powder is packed with nutrients and tastes just as yummy as cocoa. We love making our own truffles, it only takes a few simple ingredients such as coconut oil, cacao powder and sea salt.

3. Can’t Give Up Mac and Cheese?
Processed pasta is not a good thing to eat on a regular basis. Get rid of boxed mac and cheese and make some at home. You can make a velvety cheese-based sauce with added butternut squash. This sweet taste on mac and cheese is sure to be satisfying.

Take it a step further and replace your high carb noodles with a plant-based pasta made out of chickpeas or legumes. The texture may be a little grainier than regular pasta but it tastes almost the same.  

4. Get Your Snacks in Order!
Processed snacks might be convenient but you need to think outside the wrapper! With a little planning and prep, you can have all the snacks you need. Looking for something sweet? Create little packs of dates, almonds and coconut shavings. Like your savoury snacks try making your own bacon jerky or sundried tomato, feta & green onion muffins.

5. Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese
Whether it is salty, creamy, stinky or sharp we all have our favourite cheese. A pastime we couldn’t dream of giving up!

Have you ever made a cake and thought twice about having a third piece when you remember the two cups of sugar in it as well as the stick of butter! Well what if you could make your own cheese, then you will know how milk, cream and salt your consuming!

Start off with something easy like ricotta, all need is some milk, salt and a cheese bag (can’t find one, just make you own). You will be eating a delicious combination like blueberries and ricotta on sourdough or spinach and ricotta ravioli in no time!

Make your own delicious cheese

6. Homemade Muesli
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so start it off the right way.

Instead of kicking off the day with a bowl full of commercial cereal, which is sure to be filled with processed sugars and other preservatives, try having a bowl of homemade muesli as a healthy alternative!

Treat your body and taste buds the right way, by adding in your favourite fruits into your healthy homemade bowl of muesli!

Make your own muesli to reduce processed sugar

7. Use Steam Instead
Cooking veggies and fish by steaming them is a super healthy alternative. You retain all of their natural yummy flavours, whilst cooking them to perfection. By steaming your food, you’re adding no extra calories to your meal, making your favourite (usually unhealthy) meals, much healthier. You can top fish with flavourings like lemon and chilli and use the steam to infuse the flavours into your food.

8. DIY Pizza
You have two good options when it comes to pizza. You can make a pizza bread crust with cauliflower, but if is the classic pizza dough is that you crave? Then why not make it from scratch and just switch out what’s on top of the pizza?

So how do you get started? Have your homemade pizza dough ready – spread it out on a baking pan that has been properly floured – brush the pizza dough with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on your veggies as well as a moderate amount of your favourite cheese. (If you’re feeling a little fancy, feel free to mix some black pepper, garlic powder and some of your favourite spices in with your veggies beforehand!)

9. Healthy Fried Rice, That Still Tastes like Rice
Rice can be good in moderation, however, if you find that when you cook it there is enough for the whole village (and you managed it eat it all) it might be time to find an alternative.

All you need to do is roughly chop your cauliflower and throw in a food processor for a minute. You will find that the texture is very similar to rice. Use this ‘faux’ rice can be used in any dish where you would have normally used white rice and it tastes just the same. One of our favourites is cauliflower fried rice, the family didn’t even blink an eyelid when I served this one up!

Educating yourself is crucial when it comes to eating well. Rather than denying yourself or overindulging just a few tweaks here and there won’t have you missing out on anything. Turn these ideas and behaviours into habits to ensure you lead the healthiest lifestyle possible (while still enjoying it)!

Brittnay Sharman has a BA in Health Science and her passion lies in creating a healthy lifestyle for her family

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How to build a successful website tip #16: Focus on your customer

The number one thing to remember when preparing to design your company’s website is this: Your opinions don’t matter, only what the customer feels and experiences.

Many business owners design their website to suit their tastes and preferences. Your website is not for you, it’s for your audience. You need to design with your audience in mind, not yourself.

If you build from the customer experience standpoint, you’re far more likely to see success.

Sacha Brant is a business owner who works with peers to help build their businesses from startup to stardom. Sacha knows the importance of starting your business off right and surrounding yourself with the right people. With over 10 years of corporate experience, she’s worked with many entrepreneurs and brands to establish credibility and boost sales. Sacha is into her 3rd year running Sassy Lasses and has recently begun the Empowerment Pride – an online entrepreneurial empowerment group. She looks forward to keeping entrepreneurs and business owners moving forward for years to come. Connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Deathbysassy

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How to build a successful website tip #15: Focus on your forms

If you want to increase conversions and improve the usability of your website, ensure all forms are present at the top of your landing pages and feature a clear, concise call to action. Not only is a short form more likely to be filled out by web visitors, but a clear call to action doesn’t confuse visitors. They know what they are supposed to do, whether it’s filling out the form, calling your business, or clicking on a button to make a purchase. 

This tip was kindly shared with us by Keri Lindenmuth from KDG, a leading provider of web design, custom software development for businesses, and small business IT support for over 17 years. Connect on Twitter: @kyledavidgroup or on Facebook

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Why you need to start your Christmas shopping now

The older I get, the more I love Christmas. It does help that I have two young children who look forward to this magical time of the year as much as their birthdays – the anticipation of Christmas is unavoidable in our house. I have also worked in retail for many years, where Christmas planning starts months in advance and perhaps it is this planning that kicks my excited anticipation of Christmas into overdrive. On the flip-side, I am fully aware of how stressful Christmas can be – financially and emotionally. Just thinking about how many presents need to be bought, what food needs to be purchased and prepared (and how much money this all costs) can send anyone into a state of overwhelm. Not to mention spending precious holiday time with challenging relatives. The only solution is to plan early. By getting all the boring (and expensive) stuff out of the way, you free yourself up to enjoy the fun festivities of Christmas, like parties, carols, etc. 

Do these five things NOW to make your life easier in December:

1. Plan what you need to buy for who
Think of at least a couple of options for your recipients so you have a back-up plan if your first gift isn’t available, or ends up being out of budget. 

2. Set a budget (for gifts, food and decorations) and spread out the cost over the next couple of months. Don’t leave all your purchasing until December (unless you think some of your purchases will go on special), or your credit card bill will be insurmountable in January. Once you’ve worked out your budget, this will also motivate you to stop spending money on things you don’t need until after Christmas (or add them to your Christmas Wish List!)

3. Get overseas gifts in the post by beginning of December
Posting a parcel to the UK usually takes 6 working days to arrive, but over the busier Christmas period delivery time will increase. The best bet is to get your parcels away at the beginning of December, when hopefully the queue in the post office is also shorter. This means that the sooner you start shopping for gifts for family and friends overseas, the better chance you have of meeting this deadline. 
Use Australia Post’s Delivery Calculator to work out delivery times for overseas and in Australia.  https://auspost.com.au/parcels-mail/calculate-postage-delivery-times/#/

4. Shop around and save
There’s nothing worse than running around, fighting the crowds trying to purchase gifts days out from Christmas. This is when the risk of impulse buying is at its highest. The earlier you start your shopping, the more time you have to browse shops (local and online) to get the best prices for the gifts on your list, and maintain your budget. 

5. Don’t limit your shopping to gifts
Stock up now on other Christmas purchases, such as food, booze, gift wrapping, cards and decorations – even your outfit for the Christmas party. 

The more you can purchase now, the more free time you’ll enjoy in December so you can actually make the most of the Christmas festivities by being able to relax, socialise and stay away from the shops. 

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How to build a successful website tip #14: Simplicity + Optimise

1. Simplicity is key

“There’s a popular saying that true creativity is making the complex simple – this is a saying that you should live by when you’re building a website. User experience is key when it comes to designing a website, if a user finds your website too stressful or complicated to use, they won’t stay around for long, they will leave, and look for something to satisfy their needs elsewhere. Keep your website simple, make it easy to navigate and easy for the user to find what they need.”

2. Optimise it for SEO

“A website is useless if nobody can find or access it. You need to ensure that your website appears on the search results pages of Google when people search for things relevant to your site. Optimise your site for the right keywords, and make sure it is technically sound to ensure that people are able to find it. It may take time before you get it to rank highly, but it is important that people are able to find it, so invest some resources in SEO when building a new site.”

Steve Pritchard is Digital Marketing Consultant at Cuuver.com, a health insurance comparison site. Connect with Cuuver’s on twitter @cuuver

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How to build a successful website tip #13: Keep it simple!

The best way to build a great website is to keep one overriding factor in mind: simplicity. 

Everything about your website should make life easier for your visitors. The design should be simple so they don’t get overwhelmed. The navigation should be simple so they don’t get lost. Even your offerings should be simple to make their decision-making process easier. If simplicity is your guiding factor, you’ll make a great website.

Dann Albright is a freelance content strategist and creator specializing in generating demand and leads for B2B SaaS organizations. Learn more about Dann at www.killercopy.pro

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How to build a successful website tip #12: Tyler Hanna’s Top 5 Essentials for every website

Here are the top five things that Tyler Hanna from creative agency, 8-bit Rex recommends every website have on its home page:

1. There needs to be an offer “Above-The-Fold”. Meaning the website needs to offer something of value to the viewer immediately upon the viewer landing on the home page of the website.

2. There needs to be an obvious CTA (Call To Action). A website viewer needs to know immediately how they can purchase your product/service. For example, “Buy Now” or “Schedule A Free Consult”.

3. There needs to be images of success or testimonies. Social proof is the most powerful marketing tactic that you can leverage. There needs to be someone else besides you to tout your business’ offer.

4. There needs to be a bite-size breakdown of your revenue streams. Further down your home page, customers need to know all the services/products that they can purchase from you. This makes your product/service offerings explicitly clear.

5. There needs to be very few words. Don’t confuse or force customers to read a ton of unnecessary text. Simply let customers know 1. What you offer 2. How it will make their lives better and 3. What they need to do to purchase it.

8-bit Rex is a creative agency in Minneapolis, MN that specializes in digital marketing, branding, and strategy. Combined, the two founders have approximately 15 years of digital marketing, branding, and strategy experience. Connect with 8-bit Rex on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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How to build a successful website tip #11: Guide visitors around your site and maximise Call to Actions

It’s all about driving visitors to your next piece of helpful content on your site, and guide them towards lead capture. You want your visitors to feel they are obtaining useful information, to a point where they are motivated to speak with you. Several subtle, yet easily accessible Call To Actions on every page are vitally important to encourage them to reach out.

Tim’s company, ISL, recently launched their website, which Tim personally built out all of the content (not design). 

Tim Bailey is a passionate Sports Business Development executive utilizing ISL‘s services in order to market the sports and brands we all love. Connect with Tim here

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How to build a successful website tip #10: HTTPS, Hosting, SEO and Design

Keep your customers happy and personal data secure.

2. Host 
Think carefully about a web platform e.g. shopify, wix or squarespace. It’s much easier to create something stunning yourself for under $300.00 AUD a year instead of paying an agency $6000 just for a build.

3. SEO
Focus on developing great content, keyword rich pages and building authority and links in your space. These signals all put you in the Google good books. In time, you’ll receive more organic traffic to your site.

4. Design UX (user experience)
Focus on the customer journey, make it easy for them to learn about your brand, purchase products, contact and link out to other relevant branding areas e.g. socials. When you’re building a page actually think – what value is in this for the customer?

Josh is the Director for STLTDFX, a unique collection of limited pieces of art and series streetwear garments, inspired by automotive influences and design. Connect on Instagram @stltdfx. 

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