Starting from nothing

 Grevillea Lemon Daze
Starting a new garden from scratch is an over whelming experience for most people. In times past I worked in a busy local retail nursery and the most frequent concerns where related to the people who had just built a brand new home on a bare block. Thrown into the deep end and faced with the next stage of what to do with this dirt ball or mud pit in front of them. If this is you then I can give you some tips and hints to help.
• 1. Reality check: it’s not backyard blitz and it won’t happen overnight.
• 2. It will cost money no matter how thrifty you are.
• 3. You will get immense pleasure from creating your own garden.
Make a plan, draw a mud map of your block with the buildings and tap locations on it. Draw up some basic ideas of structural things you want and plot them on it, your outdoor area, playground, shed, chook yard, and vegetable garden .Think about the seasons, what areas of your yard are going to get full sun and what will have shade in summer? Position is important for the herb garden or vegetable . Don’t place them too far away from the kitchen. You really need to be able to just duck out and grab what you need when in the moment of creating a meal. You might want childrens play areas somewhere visible from the room your in the most to keep an eye on kids. All this information on the mud map will help you identify the need for shelter in the form of either shade trees or screening, such as hedges. Now you have some orientation in your yard it’s time for individual gardens. Remember the garden is something which evolves and your ideas might change within the first 12 months of being in your space as you realise what you need and where it needs to be. Stand inside your house and look out the main windows like your family room and bedrooms. What do you want to see through them? Is it the kids playing so you can keep an eye on them? Is it the need for something pretty or greenery for something cool and refreshing? The view from your favourite chill out space may be the ideal spot for your feature garden to be located! Put pen to paper and plot these significant areas on your mud map to form the basis of your garden beds.
The next step is plant selection, buying plants needs preparation and good advice. Visit your local nursery and take your mud map with you. Divide your map up into zones and choose one zone at a time to conquer, this will reduce the over whelming feelings and give you a sense of accomplishment as you finish one zone at a time. Originally i said to place your outside taps on your mudmap because you may need to take this into consideration when planning your garden beds, ease of watering and setting up irrigation is essential for the survival of new plantings. New soils will be tuff on plants so prepare your garden beds before planting and mulch everything. Buy plants in small sizes where the foliage is in proportion to the root system to give plants the best chance of survival. If a plant dies, and they will, the loss will be minimal and easy to replace. Select plants that will suit the area, shade loving plants will not grow in full sun no matter how much you love it. Plant for our climate, you will need water wise and hardy. Don’t fight against what will naturally grow here. If you fight against nature and what culturally grows in your area you will be exhausted trying to keep things alive. Don’t be a slave to your garden. The goal is to create a space for enjoyment and relaxation. Good luck!


Time to plant Bulbs



A little bit of rain sure can get gardeners excited, it’s time to think about autumn approaching finely after the cruel heat of summer. March is time to harvest seed from the vegetable garden and prepare the soil for the next round of seasonal vegetables. The change over between the vegetable seasons is a normal routine for me and I see it as a necessary job that pays forward when I’m harvesting my own produce. March is the month that I indulge in some creativity and plant bulbs just for the pure pleasure of seeing a colourful floral display of sweet surprises.

Daffodils and Tulips are high on my list of favourites with so many variations of size and colour. Watering and fertilising existing bulbs in the ground is a good way to get them started as the cooler nights and days will trigger their movement. A good quality complete bulb food can be applied as a top dressing now and a dose of liquid fertiliser to bulbs in pots. Most bulbs will have enough nutrients stored in their various basal storage to begin growing but will appreciate the nutrients ready to go in the soil when they need a new boost to continue developing onto the flowering stage. At the end of the season when all is finished and we are tempted to cut of foliage after flowering it’s a good idea to let the plant yellow off and die down naturally as excess nutrients are taken up and left over nutrients are returned and stored in the bulb for the next year.

Some of the trouble shooting we have with Daffodils stems from planting them too deep in the ground. I use as a general rule, the bulb itself as an indicator “twice the height of the bulb should be the planting depth”. They prefer well composted soil with good drainage and plenty of that winter sun to warm the ground and flower happily.  If overcrowding occurs and you notice reduced flowers this is a sign it’s time to lift and separate them, then re-plant. There is huge diversity in daffodil size and colours with single and double flowers. My pick of the daffodils are Daffodil ‘ Tete a tete’, the giant King Alfred’s and I love the pink flowering varieties especially when all mixed up together growing in clumps, under deciduous trees like the Betula pendula, Silver birch.

Start purchasing your tulips now and place them in labelled bags in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator. Wait for it to get cooler before planting, the first few watering’s use some ice cold water from the fridge, it really gets them moving. I highly recommend a parrot tulip called Tulipa ‘Estella rijnveld’. This tulip is a bold red flower with a cut fringe and twisted with a streak of white. Interplant your tulips and daffodils with lower growing bulbs and plants such as Crocus and good old fashioned Forget me nots for a magnificent spring show!


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

Fantastic idea!

The Garden Smallholder

This will be my 4th year taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Identify and count the number of wild birds visiting your garden for just 1 hour during 25th – 26th January (pick a day that suits you), it’s so easy to do and gives you an hour of relaxation. What if I don’t have a garden? Don’t worry, you can still take part by doing the count in your local park or green space.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch poster

Register to take part before the event and apply for your free bird identification chart to help you with your count. Visit

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