Garden basics

Garden basics
Photo of a pile of potatoes
Simple tips and tricks to get your garden started, from mulching, organic pest and weed control, managing soil, and small space gardening. Garden basics Simple tips and tricks to get your garden started, from mulching, organic pest and weed control, managing soil, and small space gardening.  
Photo of a pile of potatoes

​ 

Simple tips and tricks to get your garden started, from mulching, organic pest and weed control, managing soil, and small space gardening.

Mulching

Mulch is a layer of material spread over your garden beds and around plants to protect plants and improve soil quality.  

Mulching your garden will:

  • Supress weed growth, limiting the need for chemical sprays;
  • Reduce water loss – meaning you will spend less time watering;
  • Control soil erosion;
  • Increase soil quality;
  • Increase biological activity in the soil- especially worms and good microbes; and 
  • Give your garden a quick and easy facelift with a natural appearance. 

The best mulches are organic and can be made from a range of materials. Inorganic materials such as gravel, stones and other groundcovers will also supress weeds and save water but will not add nutrients to the soil.

More information

For more information on mulching your garden, go to the Office of Environment and Heritage website. 

For more information on Council's  'Wheelie Good® Compost' and 'Wheelie Good® Mulch' products, go to our Wheelie Good®​ webpage.

​Organic pest and weed control

Herbicides and pesticides contain chemicals that will affect your health, and the health of the living things in your backyard.
There are non-toxic ways to control pests and diseases in your garden, including:

  • Using organic fertilisers such as compost, worm farm products, fish and seaweed emulsion instead of chemical fertilisers;
  • Looking for natural products such as sticky traps as an alternative to chemical pest control;
  • Investigating and learn about companion planting; and 
  • Hand removing weeds or diseased plant material.

There are a large variety of solutions to all gardening problems without the use of harmful chemicals. 

More information

For more information, our libraries have some great books on organic gardening. You can also go to the Organic Gardener​ website.

Managing soil

When it comes to gardening, your soil is your most important asset. The soil in your garden will control what plants succeed and what fail. Poor soils can be improved through adding compost, organic matter and mulching.

Knowing your soil type is essential in making it work for you. You can perform the following simple soil test:

  1. Take a handful of moist soil and squeeze in your palm to form a ribbon(worm) shape; and​
  2. Squeeze the ribbon until it gets longer and longer and protrudes out the hole near your thumb. 

If you cannot make a ribbon at all, your soil is sandy and will drain easily. If you can make a ribbon but it breaks off before it protrudes from your hand by 2.5 centimetres, your soil is a loam (halfway between sand and clay). If your ribbon protrudes more than 2.5 centimetres from the hole near your thumb, your soil is clay and will hold onto water and not drain freely.

​It's sometimes important to know the potential of Hydrogen (pH) level of your soil, as this will determine how effectively your plants take up nutrients. You can purchase a simple soil pH test kit from most nurseries. Most native plants grow in soils that are slightly acidic, generally you will not need to test the soil where natives grow unless the plant is struggling to survive.

​Small space gardening

Just because you have limited space does not mean gardening or growing your own vegetables are out of your reach. Across our area there are a number of community gardens where you can either work with other members of the community or tend your own plot.  If you prefer to keep it closer to home container gardening can be the solution for you. Dwarf fruit trees, leafy greens and herbs can all thrive in containers.

When choosing the plants and containers consider the following factors of your space:

  • Sunlight
    The amount of light and heat a plant receives is important to its growth. Soft-leafed plants may burn in the summer sun and hardier succulents or plants with smaller leaves may be more suited. Similarly, plants require sunlight to grow so you will not get full productivity if your space is in shade. Plants with large green leaves are better suited as they will make the most of what sunlight is available.

  • The weight of the container
    It's important to take into account the weight of the pot, the soil, the plant and the water when selecting a container for a small space. Large ceramic pots with well-watered plants can easily weigh hundreds of kilograms and, when placed on verandas, they can pose safety risks. Also, remember to consider whether you will have to move the container once it's full. Many products are available to reduce the weight of containers. Look for Fibreglass or lightweight pots over traditional ceramics. Other products such as vermiculite can be added to potting mix to reduce the weight of the soil. For ​more information visit your local garden centre. 

  • Wind
    Consider the wind in your space when selecting the shape of the plants and containers you use. Winds are able to blow containers over, in the case of apartment balconies this could be dangerous for the people below.

Cont​act

For more information, call Council's Customer Service Centre on 9707 9000. ​​​​​