Archive of: Tips and Guides
Sustainable Gardening Tips You Should Know
Written by Michael
‘Sustainable’ – it’s the newest buzz word, but what does it mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines sustainable as ‘being able to be maintained at a certain rate or level’. When it comes to gardening, this relates to the methods that you choose to use in your garden. One of the key ideas that is encompassed in sustainable gardening is that the focus is on natural methods of production. Sustainability involves looking at the big picture, and employing forward thinking. It is about preserving natural resources and protecting them from any harm that may be caused by your choices and actions, either now, or in the future.
Keep Your Garden Chemically Clean
With the idea of preserving natural resources for the future in mind, the use of chemicals in your gardening would not be a sustainable practice, because chemicals alter the eco system dramatically, affecting it in all areas. Chemicals do not only kill the nasties, but they also destroy the goodies too, and are somewhat akin to napalm for your garden. Even if you used them in one particular area with a mind to ‘keeping them away from the vegetables’, there is a likelihood of possible contamination into all other areas.
Compost, Compost, Compost
Composting is one of the best practices you can use in terms of sustainable gardening, because it encompasses everything that sustainability is about. It both recycles your garden waste, and enriches the soil. Using it in your garden also means that it is not joining the tonnes of other stuff that contributes to landfill in your community, so in the long term you are benefitting your family as well. Composting techniques can include raking the dead leaves and using them on garden beds, to using a composting system or growing a worm farm. It reduces waste and produces strong, vibrant plants and vegetables.
Take Care of Business
The topic of using chemicals and compost leads us to the important topic of taking care of business in your garden. Many a person has had the exciting idea of growing their own vegetables and spent their money to create a garden, but then do not maintain it. Being in your garden and spending time watering, weeding, pruning, composting, turning the soil over and doing what needs to be done will not only maximise your garden’s productivity but it will be beneficial to you as well.
Choose Appropriate Plants
Another important tip for sustainable gardening is to choose native plants and plants that are appropriate for the climate that you are living in. Different plants need different conditions to survive and thrive. If you are living in a warm climate, choosing plants that like cold temperatures is not going to be a wise decision. For more information about plants that are suited to your local area, talk to one of our plant whisperers at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre.
What Makes Loam The Ideal Soil For Gardening And Agriculture?
Written by admin
Loam is your best soil for gardening and agriculture because of the different soils of which it is made. The different types of soil affect how the water behaves, which then affects how much water the plants are getting. Loam is the perfect combination of the different types of soil, so it allows for the right amount of water to stay with the plants; also, the water doesn’t hang around too long, or disappear too quickly.
Loam is made up of 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt and 20 percent clay. Following, is information regarding the different types of soil, as well as how each soil’s properties work harmoniously in loamy soil to produce excellent results for gardening and agriculture.
Sandy soil is made up of large particles that allows for good aeration, so the water drains well and enough air can get to the roots of the plant, which prevents it rotting from overexposure to moisture. On its own, sandy soil may become compacted, which would not allow air to circulate but in the combination with the other two types of soil, this is solved. The sand percentage also helps the loamy soil warm up in the spring for planting, which makes it a good choice for gardening.
Clay soil particles are really fine, so they hold the water and nutrients. Because of this, the clay in your loamy soil is what helps to stop the plants from drying out. Another important function that the clay element in loamy soil serves is that it is heavier than silty or sandy soils, so it does not erode as quickly if exposed to the elements.
Silty soil is what makes up this wonderful combination of soils, with qualities that complement both clay and sandy soil particles. Silty soil is one of the most fertile, and is of a smooth consistency and has a good combination of organic matter and minerals. It does not stick together easily but appears to have a somewhat slippery texture.
If you have questions about different soil types or would like to bring a sample from your garden to get some help with what your soil might need for it to become more loamy, come and talk to one of the staff at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre today.
Alternative Gardening Ideas And Methods
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What exactly do we mean when we consider the term ‘alternative gardening’? An alternative to what? Largely, the idea of alternative gardening is about methods that are based around permaculture principles, and do not require or use chemicals. This will often encompass looking for alternative ways of doing things where conventional methods have failed, or are not the best course of action.
Alternative gardening methods have been around for centuries, and only replaced by chemical based gardening during the last century or two. There was once a time when everything was organic! Thankfully, the growth in the re-awareness and popularity of permaculture principles is an excellent move for our species, and it has inspired an abundance of creativity when it comes to doing things a bit differently.
At a time when we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, the eco awareness of the human race, combined with savvy new technology and innovative design, is gradually bringing balance back into our gardens.
Hydroponic and Aquaponic Gardening
One of the key principles of permaculture is that there is no such thing as waste. Which means using efficiency in the garden, even to the use of space. Hydroponic and aquaponic gardening do not use conventional garden beds with soil and produce very little waste. The plants are grown in pipes or bathtubs that are filled with large gravel, which allow the water to circulate, recycling nutrients in a symbiotic relationship.
Hydroponic systems use a system of pipes and can either be indoors, grown using lights, in a green house, or in the open sunshine. Aquaponic systems include a fish pool where fish are grown as well, which provides rich natural fertilisation for the plants that are grown in the bathtubs of gravel. Food that is grown in this way is usually robust, healthy and nutrient dense, especially the fish.
Straw Bale Gardening
Straw bale gardening is a really easy and cheap alternative gardening method because the straw bale becomes the garden itself, so there is no need for building anything. It is also handy if you do not have much space, or if you want to grow plants but do not have access to a patch of ground, as the straw bale can be placed anywhere.
The only downside to straw bale gardening is that once the straw bale is soggy, weedy and established it will not be easy to move, because of its weight, but by that time you’ll usually be ready to recycle it into something else in your permaculture friendly garden.
Come visit us at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre and we’ll talk you through other alternative gardening techniques including vertical gardens, pallet gardening and upcycled containers.
How to Treat Plants that are Infested with Pests
Written by admin
If you have an infestation of pests on your plants, there is a good chance that you are providing comfortable conditions for them to be there through some means unbeknownst to you. Perhaps there are areas of your garden that are in need of care that provide places for insects to live and breed, with your plants being the feasting grounds. This can be very annoying if you are hoping to grow food for yourself to eat. First step—secure the perimeter!
Clear the areas around where your plant is growing, and ensure that your garden is in good health. Remove anything that is dying or looks like it may be infected or housing insects. Your best defence against an insect invasion is a healthy garden zone. Use natural composting methods to keep your plants strong and vibrant.
What Attracts Pests?
Usually pests are attracted to a specific plant, so rotating and interplanting your crops will assist with keeping infected plants quarantined rather than it spreading to all of them. Moisture that lingers on plants can cause fungus and other pests to take hold, so it is best to water them in the morning when they have all day for the moisture to dry.
Invite Friendly Pests
One way to combat a pest infection is to invite friendly pests to your garden by planting things that they like to eat. These beneficial pests include ladybugs, brachonids, lacewings, hover-flies and praying mantises. Different insects will be companions for your crop, depending on what you are planting. It often pays to do your research and find out which insects are the good ones to have around for that crop and invite them to the party by planting some of the plants that will attract them to the garden. They will then eat any pests that are trying to eat your crop, before it’s all gone!
While there is an array of different chemical solutions available for you to spray on your plants to protect them from pests, there is also the question of how safe the food will be after using them. Back in the old days, before chemicals were made in factories, people came up with their own remedies for combatting pests, which used ingredients that were found in the pantry. These include canola oil, soap, garlic and cayenne pepper, just to name a few. Do some research online for finding the right treatment for your infestation, or come and talk to our expert gardeners at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre.
How to Improve the Quality of Your Soil for Healthier Plants
Written by admin
Having healthy soil is imperative to having healthy plants, so no amount of work that you do will assist your plants in being as healthy as they can be, unless your soil is healthy. There are a various types of soil, and each will need different things to improve it to the point where it will be able to give its best to your plants, and keep them as healthy as possible.
Know Your Soil
Knowing what your soil in order to be at its best, means getting to know your soil; therefore, don’t be afraid to get your hands into it. Grab a big handful and really get the feel for it. There are four basic types of soil that you will find in your garden. These are sandy, loamy, silty and clay. They each have attributes that could benefit from adding specific ingredients to the mix.
Feed Your Soil
Sandy soil doesn’t hold on to its nutrients very well, so adding lots of organic matter to it, especially before sowing your seeds will get it in good shape for your plants to grow. Silty and loamy soil are the best in which to grow plants, so they do not need much work, except for some fertiliser. Clay soil is not very aerated so it will need lots of organic matter that has already broken down. If you have clay soil it is best to add the well broken down organic matter at least a month or two before you want to use the soil. If you aren’t sure about what sort of soil you have, feel free to bring a handful into Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre and one of our experts can assist you in getting the balance you need.
Check pH Levels
Depending on what you are choosing to plant, the pH levels of the soil can be an important aspect to consider. Neutral soil will be best for most plants, but some prefer it to be slightly acidic, or alkaline. You can test your soil by using a pH testing kit, which is available at any garden centre. Once you know the pH levels of your soil you can adjust it accordingly to suit whatever plant you are growing in it. Ground lime will make your soil more alkaline and adding sulphur will make it more acidic.
How Much Do You Expect to Pay for a Professional Gardener?
Written by admin
Often when we first design and put in a garden the enthusiasm is there in bucket loads, but for some of us either it begins to wane over time, or we just don’t have enough hours in the day to maintain it. If you are finding that you can no longer keep up with your garden, it might be time to look at getting in some professional help to keep it in good shape for you. One of the most frequently heard questions that we are asked at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre is what will a professional gardener do and how much would you expect to pay.
Services Offered by Gardeners
Depending on what level of gardening you want, there are many different services offered by gardeners that can include designing, landscaping and maintaining the whole garden for you. This can also include installing retaining walls, pavers and water sprinkler systems. If you simply want a gardener to come in on a regular basis and maintain the existing garden with weeding and clearing away refuse, that service is also available. Getting clear about exactly what you are seeking beforehand and what work needs to be done, will give you an idea about what you are going to be asking for.
Cost of Gardeners
Depending on what work you need done, prices can vary around $30 per hour for basic, semi-skilled labourers to do mowing, weeding, clearing and mulching. For professional garden services that are hired on a contract basis, usually the cost can be anywhere from $60 to $80 per hour. Often if there is a specific job that needs doing such as removing trees or installing a retaining wall, this will often be quoted as a flat rate, on a job by job basis. Talk to the staff at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre for information about local gardeners’ referrals or information relating to what you might expect to pay for particular jobs.
What to Look for When Hiring a Gardener
Remember that when you hire a gardener you are essentially inviting them to come into your personal space, so you will want to choose someone who is trustworthy. If a gardener turns up for a job late, without the required safety gear, lacking in tools or generally causing you to question their work ethics, it might be a good idea to look somewhere else. There are some pertinent questions you can ask while you are on the phone booking them to ascertain whether they are the appropriate person before you give them the address. What services do you provide? Do you have insurance? How long will the job take? Can you provide a written quote? Do you have any references?
Organic Gardening as a Business
Written by admin
With what we understand today about many of the practices of mainstream farming, we are aware that there are often several chemicals used in the production and growing of many of the fruits and vegetables we buy. It is for this reason that a growing number of people are changing to choosing organic produce in an effort to reduce the amount of toxins that we absorb into our bodies. This means that even the smallest organic growers now have the opportunity to sell their produce, whether in large amounts, or simply at smaller markets, or to neighbours and friends.
Before you start, it is a good idea to put some thought into what produce you would like to grow. This will mean working out what is sustainable for the amount of land that you have, as well as the climate where the plants will be growing. You may also want to take into account the other local growers in your area. Investigate whether you can fill a niche that they are not fulfilling with their own produce. It is also important to factor in how much time you are prepared to put into your growing business. Some crops will require more from you, while others such as squash, sunflowers and corn will practically take care of themselves as long as you keep the weeds down.
How to Grow
Organic farming is all about reducing the amount of chemicals used in the soil, by using natural ways of keeping weeds down, reducing pests and cultivating crops. Choosing your growing method for organic produce means doing some research and working out how you want to go about doing it. There are different methods involved for keeping pests at bay. One such method involves growing specific companion plants that invite good pests in to eat the ones that will destroy your crops. Do as much research as possible to find out what will work for you, as well as how to go about achieving success. Different plants will need different nutrients so ensure that the crop you are growing is getting everything it needs for optimal health of the plant and the best yield possible.
Where to Sell
If you live in rural areas, the honesty box outside your house is still a popular choice for selling organic produce, as well as farmers’ markets. Many cities and suburban areas now have organic farmers’ markets on weekends, which provide a perfect opportunity to sell all your tasty, chemical free produce to happy customers who will keep coming back.
When to Plant
Research the plants that you are thinking of growing, and the season that you want to grow them in, to ensure that the conditions will be the best for them. The moon planting guide is an excellent resource for knowing what to plant and when, so pick up a chart and follow it as a guide for the best times of the year for particular produce. Don’t forget to talk with other organic farmers whom you will find are an invaluable source of information, and stop by the Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre to talk to us about what we know about organic gardening practices.
Design Your Own Garden With the Right Gardening Tools
Written by admin
There was once a time when we did everything ourselves because that was the only way things would get done. Then, over time, as we got busy it became common place to always get a professional in to do work around our home that we need done. We believed that this was the only way to get the job done, but with some things this not always the case. If we have the right tools, we are able to do just as fantastic a job without the hefty price tag that accompanies getting someone else to do it and with the added joy of having done it ourselves.
Computer Garden Design Programs
The DIY movement has made it a lot easier for people to design and landscape their own gardens without needing to get a professional in to do the work. One tool that will be invaluable for the owner who wants a hands-on approach is a design program that you can use on your computer to plan your ideas and work out exactly what you want. It can take you through the whole process, step by step, allowing you to design and build your perfect garden.
Let’s face it, if you’ve got money to burn, there are a lot of different tools you can buy for working on your garden, and if you have space to keep all your gadgets safe and the money to purchase them, go ahead and do it. But often a lot of the things that are advertised are not needed, and will be more likely to be used once and left to collect dust in your shed. But before you go out and spend your cash buying the latest gadgets let’s have a look at some of the tools that you really need, starting with a wheelbarrow. A wheelbarrow will be invaluable for you in moving things around your garden, so make sure you have one of these.
Spade and Hoe
A spade is another tool that you cannot live without if designing and building your garden. It can be used not only to shovel dirt, but is great for churning up the garden beds and turning them over. A hoe is another important tool that will assist you with breaking up hard dirt and allowing air into the soil.
Without water, your garden will not survive, so ensure that you have a good long hose with an adjustable nozzle, to ensure that you can get water to those hard to reach places. Having some sort of hanging storage device for keeping your hosepipe in order, will help to keep it out of the sun when you are not using it, and also prevent it from getting tangled.
At Bacchus Marsh and Redgum Garden Centre, we know all about designing gardens, and what tools you will need, so if you have any questions about tools, plants or design ideas, stop by and have a chat with one of our experienced staff.
Pros And Cons Of Maintaining Real Grass In Your Garden
Written by admin
Have you ever looked at yards that have concrete throughout, or pebbles, instead of real grass and wondered why? Whether knowingly, or just as a fluke, these people have avoided the maintenance issues that come with real grass, but it is not for everyone.
For some of us, the opportunity to lie down and relax on our own piece of fresh, green, living grass makes the maintenance issues worth all the while. If you still haven’t made up your mind about which works best for you, read on for some of the pros and cons of maintaining real grass in your garden.
Maintaining Green Grass is Not Exactly a Green Choice
When you add up the environmental impact of maintaining a live lawn, the cost to the environment is actually a lot more than one might imagine. The amount of water that a hungry living lawn consumes, especially in dry weather, is huge. Lawns don’t stay green if they are not watered, so expect to be watering yours at least every few days, otherwise you might come home and find it dead.
On top of the cost of watering it, the amount of trimming, mowing and blowing that is done, often with fuel guzzling machinery really puts a dent in your personal carbon footprint. Additionally, if you choose to use chemicals to combat the dreaded bindis, clover or other ‘grass pests’, you will most likely be poisoning the groundwater for many years to come.
Conversely, Living Lawns Look and Feel Great
Have you ever spotted a lush piece of grass that inspires you to take off your shoes and walk on it? This is the upside of having a living lawn, which you will never be able to appreciate with the alternatives, such as fake grass or concrete. There are ways around the environmental impacts that we have already discussed. Firstly, instead of using tap water to water your lawn, you could use recycled or bore water, which is actually a clever way of utilising the grey water that you have.
In terms of fertilising and keeping your lawn looking its best, there are organic methods for combating lawn pests such as bindis and clover, although they will not work as effectively as the chemicals at the hardware store. If you are set on having a lovely living lawn to walk on, there are ways of making it lower maintenance, so do your research and if all else fails come and talk to one of our friendly team at Bacchus Marsh & Redgum Garden Centre.
Rising to the Challenge of Gardening in a Dry Climate
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Keeping a garden beautiful and thriving in our part of the world has always been a challenge. Even though we have devastating floods and periods of prolonged wet weather that periodically fill our reservoir systems, our droughts when they arrive are long and punishing. As a result, water conservation is always a priority.
Inexpensive Ways to have a Beautiful Garden in a Dry Climate
In times of extremely dry weather, preserving lawns and gardens are at the end of a long list of public water needs. Extended water restrictions mean that only drought-tolerant plants, or gardens established using water-saving principles, will survive. Rainwater tanks and grey-water recycling systems are excellent resources that conserve millions of litres of water nationally every year, but there are also other, less expensive ways to have a lovely garden in a dry climate.
We have a range of landscaping and other materials that will help water-wise gardeners plan and establish a backyard environment they can be proud of. From a variety of soils to decorative rocks and mulches, Bacchus Marsh Redgum and Garden Centre has products and experienced staff to assist you to create a garden that will thrive in all conditions.
Green Lawns are High Maintenance – Keep them Small
Reducing the size of existing or planned lawn areas will give immediate results in terms of water conservation. An area of plants uses less water than the same area of lawn. We suggest replacing some lawn with hard surfaces like concrete or pavers, which can be made to look attractive with some imaginative use of coloured pebbles. Adding drought-tolerant plants will also provide additional colour.
Group Like Plants Together to Save Water
You will save water if you split your garden into watering zones, grouping plants with the same watering requirements together. This ensures that water is not wasted on drought-tolerant plants that have been located in the same beds as those needing regular watering.
Drip Watering for Efficiency and Water Savings
We also recommend the use of drip-watering systems. They are the most effective way to deliver moisture directly to the root systems and the least wasteful. Other systems throw water into the air where wind-drift can carry droplets away from the target area. Also, there is little or no wastage through run-off with drip-watering.
Mulch for Weed and Water Control
The effective use of mulch reduces evaporation and sees that the scarce and valuable water you put into your garden remains there to nurture your plants. The thicker the mulch the less water that is lost to evaporation. Mulch also reduces weed growth which is important as weeds also use water.
There are other methods that involve expensive equipment for large gardens, but for a small suburban space, these techniques are effective and go a long way to conserving our most precious resource.