There is a lot to think about when starting out with gardening, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are many things to learn, like knowing when to water or how to prepare your garden bed for new plants. Don’t worry, everyone has been there. Take your time with gardening, even if you make mistakes along the way, nature is pretty hardy and forgiving. If you’re just starting out, and need a few garden maintenance tips, we’ve got you covered.
1. Get to know your area
If you’ve just moved somewhere new, chances are not all the same plants will grow as easily, or at all in your area. It’s a good idea to know what will grow in your region. Australia is a diverse place with different climates. Perhaps you’re in a tropical climate like Queensland, then you’d need to center your garden around tropical plants such as kangaroo paw, lilly pillies or ferns. For more temperate climate areas, typically around coastal NSW, you’d be able to grow things like rosemary, bottlebrush, grevillea, and lemon myrtle. It doesn’t matter where you’re located in Australia, you will be able to have a beautiful garden. If you’re unsure about your specific climate, your local plant nursery or garden center will be able to help.
2. If you’re planting, always prepare the soil
Whilst Australian plants are hardy and used to growing in dense and dry soils, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prep the soil for planting. Plants in the wild grow to survive, and sometimes, unfortunately, die, due to hard environmental conditions. You don’t want your plants to just survive, you want them to thrive.
This garden maintenance tip will tell you how to do a soil test to determine whether it’s loam, clay or sandy. Firstly, you’ll need to dig a hole in the ground around 10cm deep and grab a handful of the dirt. Try to make a ball out of it. If it sticks together in a clump, and is quite hard to pry open, you have clay. If it pours out of your hand, then it’s sand. For a loam soil, it’s a mix of both, you should be able to make a ball that doesn’t fall apart, but isn’t tough or sticky.
Sandy: Sandy soils are pretty common in Australia, especially around the coastal regions. Sandy soil doesn’t hold much nutrients or water. You’ll probably need to use a wetting agent, mixed with some organic matter and/or animal manure to place in the soil patch where you want to plant.
Clay: Clay is a very resistant substance, literally the opposite of sand, and can hold a lot of water, causing waterlogging and bad drainage. To allow for good drainage you’ll need to break the soil and mix it with some gypsum. Once that’s done, add organic matter, manure, and compost to give soil nutrients for the plants to feed on.
Loam: With loamy soil, it’s the best of both worlds, and you’ll have an easier job gardening. You should still break up the soil and add organic matter, manure and compost, to ensure your plants thrive.
3. Fertilise your garden
You won’t need to over-fertilise, especially with a lot of native Australian plants in your garden, but you should still do a little fertilising. Make sure you get organic-based ones, without any chemicals. Typically they’ll be blood and bone, or manure. Follow the instructions on the fertiliser you purchase and make sure you don’t over fertilise, as you can introduce pests, weeds, and even diseases. Talking to your local plant nursery or garden center will help you gain more information.
4. Keep a watering schedule
Plants need water to survive, and so does your lawn for that matter. How much water your plants need really depends on what you have planted. Plants that usually grow in dry areas will probably be fine with just the rain, but if there is no rain for an awfully long time, make sure to water them. Despite Australia’s naturally dry climate, not all Australian plants are good at surviving through droughts. Keep to around one or two waterings a week, early in the morning or late in the evening. Try to target everything, including your lawn.
5. Get stuck into weeding
It’ll come, it always does, even with the best weed killers. It’s a good idea to keep on top of weeding, because before you know it your garden will be overrun with them, and potentially kill the plants you worked so hard on. You’ll need to stick your well-used gardening gloves on, and pull them out. Make sure to grip them around the base and pull in a linear matter, as you’ll want to get the whole plant out, roots and all.
6. Get rid of those pesky pests
There are chemicals you can use to kill pests, like snails, weevils, aphids, and all those plants damaging creepy crawlies. The issue is though, that you can actually kill beneficial insects in your garden such as bees, butterflies and ladybirds with pesticides. There are natural ways to remove pests, like watering in the morning or late evening, controlling weeds, and even adding life to your garden such as birds. You can encourage birds into your garden, by setting up bird boxes and seed trays, they’ll enjoy the snacks, and with more birds, others will scratch around picking at any of the little bugs around the garden.
7. Get to mulching
Mulch is a great way to insulate your soil and keep the weeds at bay. You’ll typically want around 50-75mm of mulch on top of your soil, and keep some room around the base of your plants. Australian plants usually like wood chip mulch the best, but you can go with lawn clippings, as long as it’s dry. Try not to be too generous with mulch, as it can suffocate the plant.
8. Prune and trim
Pruning is a great way to stimulate new growth for a lot of plants. Plus, it keeps the size down, if they’re getting uncomfortably large. Most plants will only need to be pruned once a year, depending on their ideal pruning season. Usually, flowering plants need to be pruned around late winter or early spring. Shrubs should be pruned in late summer or early autumn. Hedge plants though will need routine pruning, as that’s how they grow and survive. You shouldn’t need to do it more than twice a month for hedges.
9. Remove fall and winter leaves
Once winter is done, it’s a good idea to remove all the flowers and debris leftover from the winter months. This will allow for new growth and avoid suffocation when plants are entering spring. Also, it keeps your garden neat and tidy for spring.
10. Install an irrigation system
So, watering can be a pain, but it is essential for any garden to survive and thrive. By installing an irrigation system, you’ll give yourself time to breathe and step away from the garden. With a properly set up one, you can keep on top of schedules and ensure your garden doesn’t get over or underwatered. You can get your local landscaping company to install it for you if you want to ensure it is set up properly.
A final suggestion
We have one more garden maintenance tip for you, perhaps you have a large empty space that you think would be perfect for a social gathering. A great way to make a social area in your garden, or perhaps a beautiful pathway through your own personal backyard getaway, is with garden pavers. Now is the perfect time to install them, so they can be ready for the coming spring.
Need some landscaping done?
If you need some garden paving done, or any landscaping work, get in contact with us at Waddell Landscape Design. We have a team of dedicated experts who will not only make sure your landscaping work is done to the highest of standards, but will also cater to your needs and wants. We have a range of services from backyard and front yard landscaping, to installing lighting and water features in your outdoor spaces. Reach out, so we can begin working on your next landscaping project, and make your garden beautiful all year round.