Although some green thumbs would have you thinking otherwise, there’s certainly an element of chance when it comes to successful gardening. Sometimes, it seems like mother nature is constantly working against you with prolonged droughts followed by flooding rains. Not to mention the possibility of waking one morning to find a possum or insect has annihilated your veggie patch.
Out-of-your-hands variables aside, there’s still plenty of ways your gardening aspirations can go pear-shaped, especially if you’ve recently been thrown in the deep end as a new homeowner.
Not getting to know your soil
Testing your soil gives you an insight into what your garden needs. Your garden soil is a living and breathing organism and much like the human body, it can develop nutritional deficiencies which need to be ‘medicated’. An easy soil test can reveal nutrient deficiencies, high or low pH levels, and other information about drainage and structure which can help in moisture management. The catch is, you can’t work on correcting these issues until you know what they are.
Your local garden centre or landscape supply yard should offer a free soil testing service which can help you get started.
Forgetting to mulch
Mulching may sound like a lot of work, but it will actually save you a heap of time and trouble in the long run. Mulching your garden bed performs a number of key functions including suppressing weeds, moisture retention, breaking down and feeding the soil, preventing compaction and boosting microorganism activity, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The bottom line is, a well-mulched garden is far more healthy than an un-mulched one, so put the extra effort and finish off your beds.
Standing out with a hose a few times a week giving your garden beds a superficial water is most likely doing more harm than good. Water really needs to soak into the ground at the roots to be beneficial to plants, and you’ll actually save water by watering more intensively but less frequently. Light watering every day will lead to shorter root systems and water loss through evaporation not to mention the threat of fungal disease caused by constantly wet leaves. On the other hand, deep watering of up to 25mm of water less frequently encourages the formation of deep roots, making for stronger and healthier plants.
Pruning at the end of summer or autumn
Many people think that autumn is the best time to trim back plants when the growing season is over and the plants new growth is abundant. The act of pruning actually stimulates new growth and doing it in the autumn when plants are slowing their growth and preparing for the dormant winter actually takes a lot of energy. The very best time to cut your plant back is during spring, just after the plants finish flowering.
Forgetting to plant to the conditions
Planting the wrong plants in the wrong beds can be a constant cause of grief to the avid gardener. How many expensive plants have you lost due to ‘unknown’ reasons? Different plants have different soil, moisture, sunlight and care requirements and not giving enough regard to your planting decisions means you’ll always be behind the 8-ball. Take a look around your neighbourhood to see what grows well in the conditions near you and speak to your local nurseryman for advice before making big purchase decisions. Garden beds thrown in shade on the southern side of your home will need to be treated differently to beds facing the north-east or north-west.