Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The journey of my front garden

I bought a house with my boyfriend just over a year ago now. It was a brand new house and very little attention had been paid to the landscaping side of things - even down to the fact that the builder's had put bitumen stones around the house as 'paving'.

I have always had a love of gardening. I think my Dad instilled this in me as a child when we used to 'help' him with the gardening to give my Mum some relaxation time. I remember our fern walk and feeding our staghorns bananas. So when I moved into my new home I wanted to make the garden my own. My lovely boyfriend is not a keen gardener but he is more than happy to help me with my adventures.

I thought the best place to start my first foray into gardening at my own home was my front garden. Here is a bit of a picture of what I faced.

The builder had put a smaller triangular garden in the corner of the front yard. I decided to expand this garden across the entire front yard so I used a hose to map out the curve that I wanted and then my Dad and Uncle helped me dig out the lawn.

I wanted curves because I wanted something natural looking and not so hard edged hence the use of the hose to mimic curves (curves are also a good idea to hide any imperfections - straight lines tend to accentuate them). I added manure and cultivated the soil with a garden fork. Lucky for me the soil looked neither too sandy or clay-like so I didn't need to bring in any additional soil.

My initial thought was to have an English style cottage garden to attract bees and birds however I soon learnt that my front garden gets very very hot and dry. It faces north and I was undertaking my planting scheme in the middle of Summer (not the best time to start a new garden but it worked out in the end). This meant that I needed to think of something else.

Luckily for me I learnt that our local council offered free plants to those people with brand new homes. They offered 24 free plants if your home was less than 12 months old. They also offer 8 free plants each year. So I was entitled to 32 free plants. This was fantastic!

Please check with your local council to see if they provide this free plant program. Even if they don't, most council nurseries are very reasonably priced and stock plants that are native to your region and do well in your climate conditions. Here is a link to my local council's offering (

If you cannot source free plants, another great place to look is at your local markets. I have been lucky to source some fantastic plants from my local markets. In addition, your friends and family can be a great untapped resource. Most plants will grow from cuttings or can be divided so do some research, talk with your friends and family and take some plants from their garden. I have found this very rewarding - it is like a living family heirloom. I have taken cuttings from my parents and I have them growing in my garden. This means that when I have children I can hopefully pass a cutting onto them.

So back to my garden - here is what it looked like after I planted my 32 free plants (along with some freebies from the family).

I mulched with sugar cane and made sure to keep the water up to them regularly whilst their roots established (during the summer this was pretty much every day). They were so cute and small. Tube stock is great if you are not in a hurry for a garden. They are usually cheaper and do grow well if looked after.

Now here is what my garden looks like now.

I did not loose a single plant which I am ecstatic about. Now don't get me wrong, some looked quite sad for a long time but I enjoyed looked after them and seeing them flourish.

Lots of people can be simply too scared to start something but with gardening you can never really do any wrong. Just give it a go. If something does not work out you can simply try again with something different. My garden worked so well because I chose plants that suited my area (this is mostly an Australian native garden). I also made sure not to overwater my plants (overwatering is a killer). I used my finger to test moisture levels and I made sure to top up the mulch when it looked a bit flat and drab.

But perhaps the best thing I have found for my garden is the Urban Composter ( Any type of food can go into this compositor bucket (cooked, uncooked, bread, dairy meat, leaves...anything) and you simply spray the scraps when you put them in with a compost accelerator. The Urban Composter has a tap which gives you the best liquid fertiliser that goes such a long way and the plants seem to absolutely adore it (they thrive on the stuff). Once your bucket is full you just mix the scraps into the soil and 6-8 weeks later you have brilliant natural manure for your gardens. It is a fantastic way to cut down on your rubbish and get added benefits from it (but the juice is a wee bit stinky).

Gardening is a great way to relax (I always spend just 20 minutes in my garden when I get home from work to wind down), learn and try new things and meet the bugs, bees and birds. My style of garden may not be for you but find what you like and give it a red hot go.


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