Archive Monthly Archives: June 2010

Top Ten Tips for Growing Herbs

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Growing herbs is such a wonderful hobby – these extraordinary plants can spice up our food, beautify our garden, scent our homes, and some can even deter pests and have healing power. Want to start your own herb gardening right away? You may find the following tips helpful.

1. Sun. Almost all herbs love a sunny location, and some prefer full sun. Therefore, when choosing a home for your herbs, be it outdoors or indoors, please make sure that there will be at least six hours of good sunlight.
2. Water. Similar to most plants, herbs thrive on water, but not too much! Over-watering will lead to root decay, a “death sentence” to the herb. Having said that, please note that when growing herbs in pots it is necessary to water more regularly to compensate the loss of water from evaporation.
3. Soil. Herbs prefer light, well-drained soil for the healthy growth of their roots. For potted plants, you may want to mix two-parts of potting soil with one-part of sand, with gravels placed at the bottom of the container to ensure good drainage. For herb gardening outdoors, simply mix in some compost if you find the soil in your garden too heavy or compact.
4. Fertilizers. You may be surprised that herbs need little fertilizer. In fact, too much fertilizer will weaken the plants. For example, if basil is given too much nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, its leaves will become less flavorful… the last thing you want do do!
5. Sowing. Just a quick tip: If the herb seeds are small, you can mix in some sand to help sowing the seeds evenly.
6. Check for Pests. While the strong flavor and scent of the herbs serve as natural repellent against many insects, some herbs do succumb to particular pests, notably Dill, Fennel and Caraway to Aphids; and Mint to Rust. For any herb gardening, the best way to contain the damage is to remove all infected leaves and stems immediately.
7. Harvest Regularly. You may know that regular pruning encourages a plant’s growth. Similarly, periodic “pruning” i.e. harvesting will actually make your herbs grow stronger and healthier.
8. Replanting. Annual plants such as Basil and Cilantro cannot survive the frost. Therefore, growing herbs in pots has to be the solution during winter, but they can be replanted outside next spring.
9. Companion Plants. Check out the best friends for your favourite herbs! Did you know that certain plants help each other grow healthier? They are called companion plants. Classic examples include Garlic and Rose; and Basil and Tomato.
10. And last but not least… Plan Ahead. Growing herbs has never been easier in a well-planned herb garden: it is not only beautiful, but also functional with little maintenance. A bit of organization goes a long way. Have fun!

Megan Saurus is a dedicated herb gardener and author, and someone who is passionate about quality cooking, health and life. Besides growing herbs, she enjoys cooking, making potpourri gift bags for family and friends, and reading with her children. To learn how Megan enjoys herb gardening, please visit her website at

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At Hot Pot, we stock a wide range of garden tools and equipment to make your life easier when planning your garden. From wheel barrows to spades, watering cans to digging forks, we can help. We now also stock the Webco range which carry a lifetime guarantee. Perfect for the avid gardener who wants the best tools for the job, and at great Hot Pot Prices Too.

Solar Powered Geysers

A Basic Solar Heating System uses a hot water tank and then solar panels to
heat the water. The water moves between collectors whilst the warming sunshine
heats it, and then it goes to be stored in an insulated tank.

Most systems are fitted with a back up electrical heating element and the temperature
is controlled with a thermostat in case the heat from the sun in insufficient.

You often find temperatures will be around the 50degrees mark, which is plenty
warm enough for bathing, washing and general demands for hot water in your home.

Solar geysers tend to be much larger than a conventional geyser because they need to
warm all the water you will consume over a 18-24 hour period, where as an electrical
geyser will heat what you need as you need it in many cases, which means it can be
much smaller capacity.

A typical family of 4+ will require a 300 gallon tank. You can get away with a 200 litre
but you would need to be very careful on the water you use, and better to take showers
rather than the whole family using the bath.

The great thing about a solar geyser is the fact that you can see instant reductions in
your monthly electricity bill. Power for heating water can be anything from 30-50% of
your monthly electric spend, so it is not uncommon for a family of four to save around
R300-R500 per month.

With the Eskom Rebate scheme, the time to buy is now. It will also help you protect
from the ongoing price hikes we are seeing year on year.

You can read more on Eskom’s web site:

Shop around when considering Solar Heating. Take a look at local houses near to you and
drop in and ask who they purchased from, is it working, are they happy with the service
provided etc. Check out promotions on TV and Radio, and even contact Eskom for a local
list of suppliers that they support and give rebates on.

If you would like a standard water geyser, then give Hot Pot Paint a call for more information
on Geysers we can supply you with, either for your own home or for bulk trade accounts.

We have many deals for bulk contract purchases, and always have bargains in store
for our domestic customers. Have a coffee whilst you are in store, and feel free to ask
for our advice if you need it. We are here to make your life easier.

Solar Energy – Passive Heating

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Passive solar heating is one of the most efficient ways to heat any building. Usually the amount of solar power reaching your building is greater than the energy being used inside, which means that you have the potential to use this energy effectively.

The building itself acts as the solar collector, unlike a mechanical system, which is a completely separate system. In this way, the passive solar heating system actually adds little to the initial cost of the construction. The home or office increases in value, the system requires very little maintenance, and is generally trouble free. For a minimum of extra work, passive solar heat can help reduce your energy costs. Yet you sacrifice nothing in terms of comfort and convenience.

An alternate heating source is still necessary, but you will notice a dramatic decrease in your heating bills. Because the structure is the solar panel, as well as the distribution system, it is extremely efficient. During the daytime, the windows allow the heat to be absorbed by the walls and floors, or other heat sinks. Then, during the cool of the night, the heat is released into the living area.

Requirements for passive solar heating

Engineers and builders have learned the best way to orient the house to the sun, which angle of the roof is most advantageous, etc. You need to have a clear, unobstructed exposure to the sun, which in the Northern Hemisphere is obviously the south. Even partial shade can drastically reduce the efficiency of the system.

Another important prerequisite is that the construction materials must be able to absorb the heat of the sun and later release it. The building can be the collector, or you can use other structures to absorb the sunlight.

Designing a passive solar heating system

You must consider the climate where you live, and the lay of the land where your building sits. It makes no difference if a certain type of system works in Arizona if you live in Maine!

Gaining heat directly

Direct gain is the simplest type of passive solar heating. The heat of the sun is soaked up by the building, right to the core of the structure. Later, this heat is naturally released into the living area. You should be able to heat your home for several days this way, provided you do not have much heat loss from windows, poor insulation, etc.

Gaining heat indirectly

This is one step above the direct gain system. You place structures or objects between the sun and your living area. These absorb the heat of the sun and use a natural convection system to distribute the heat throughout the house. These areas are closed off and can reach very high temperatures. The airs flows naturally from top to bottom because of the temperature difference at the floor and ceiling.

During the night the air vents can be sealed off the stop heat loss. By closing the vents the convection process is not allow to reverse and steal your precious heat by taking it back to the area with the collectors. The heated wall also radiates warmth into the living area, much like a heated fireplace wall.

Gaining heat by isolation

Isolated gain of solar heat means that an external solar panel is used to collect heat. Natural convection causes the fluids in the solar panel to flow into a storage area. Later, the heat is transferred from the storage to the living area. It is necessary that the solar panel is lower than the storage area, and the storage area must be below the living area. If not, there will be not natural convection and a pump will be required. You would then not have a true passive solar heating system.

In conclusion, with some thoughtful planning during the construction stage, a passive solar heating system can be a highly effective method of heating any building.

Randy Hough, Jon Arnett and company have been involved with energy saving programs for many years in such places as Alaska, Wisconsin, Norway and Croatia. Recently they constructed a passive and active solar heated villa in Croatia, which is beautiful and efficient at the same time (plus it is right on the Adriadic Sea). Check out their website: to help you in your quest for reducing your energy dependence. Find out how you can save money, save energy, and save the earth!

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