Get The Gardening Glow

 

With almost 67 per cent of Australians living in our capital cities, we’re one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world. Considering the day-to-day stresses or urban living, traffic, overcrowding and simply not enough time – this means up to 16 million of us could benefit from the physical and mental advantages provided by gardening.

Whether it’s a sprawling veggie patch in the backyard, a flowerbed in a small courtyard, a window box or even a community garden space, almost anyone can achieve a gardening glow. 

Gardening is a great workout, It not only works all those major muscle groups, it burns calories as well. Also, gardening improves the mood almost instantly, so it’s fantastic for the soul.

The Fitness Factor

Forget about working hard in the gym or building up a sweat on the treadmill, gardening is just as good as a workout, if not better. Prolonged light exercise such as gardening can burn more calories than a gym session, despite being much easier to do.

Stress Relief

Gardening can increase life satisfaction, reduce and promote recovery from stress, enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression and fatigue. Ask any gardener and almost all will insist that they feel better after getting their hands dirty in the soil. An activity like gardening gives you something to celebrate and care about. When you’ve tended and grown something it gives you a sense of purpose and pride, which in turn make you feel good about yourself.

Mood Enchasing

Having flowers in and around your home not only looks beautiful, they also have amazing health benefits, such as reducing stress and depression. Flowers increase positive energies and soothe and relax the soul. Plants in the home also increase energy levels and vitality. 

Immunity Boost

We often avoid getting our hands dirty but there are health benefits to be gained from exposure to soil. We need to be 100 per cent hygienic but we don’t need to be 100 per cent dirt or germ-free because our immune system needs something to spar with.

Air Quality

Plants have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. We have a vital need for constant connections with plants for cleaner air, so gardening time is vital. Spending just 15 to 20 minutes each day in the garden can also improve sleep quality because breathing fresh air stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system in the brain, which is responsible for relaxation.

 

Beginners Guide to Hedges

 

Hedges offer many solutions to a garden and home. They are great at providing privacy, colour, design, background, visual barriers, borders, luxuriance and screens.

Used correctly and with the right plants they are fantastic at portraying a sense of space and perspective, and increasing the design potential of your garden, after all the outdoor space is an extension of your home.

HEDGE STYLES

There are multiple styles from neatly clipped to more natural un-kept means.

Formal  Suitable as an alternative for a fence or wall. Meticulous clipping to keep a tight/dense hedge which suppresses flowers and fruit.

Semi-formal – Pruned occasionally but allowing seasonal flowering and fruiting.

Informal – Allowed to grow naturally, clipped infrequently t look tidy. Typically used to provide a screen or privacy.

Pleached  neatly clipped trained large shrubs or small trees by structural training and manipulating branches into a tree like hedge.

PRUNING YOUR HEDGES

  • For formal hedges the tip is to clip little (tip prune) and often and make sure you prune constantly when plants are young for a dense hedge. Plants with smaller leaves are great for the classic formal look. The aim should be to make the hedge dense and then allowing the height and width to increase.

  • Formal hedges require the extra effort and you can set up a string line just above the hedge as a guide. In comparison to a semi-formal hedge which is pruned only to keep its desired shape and size but allowing annual flowering, so best pruned after flowering or/and fruiting if they are ornamental.

  • Hedges should also be trimmed wider at the bottom with slightly slopping sides to allow light onto lower leaves to promote low level leaf growth and density.

  • Pleaching is also a great tall screen option (hedge on stilts), by creating tree like hedge without blocking light from coming into your garden and provides a neat, architectural and formal feature to any garden. This option requires patience and precision.

ESTABLISHING YOUR HEDGE

Preparation before planting will repay you long term and make sure investment in your garden rewards you with amazing hedges.

Make sure all weeds are remove and dig the area over by at least 300mm deep, adding in well-rotted organic matter throughout. Let the area rest two weeks prior to planting so yu can come back through and remove any weeds the pop up. Once plants are in the ground make sure you mulch to help keep the soil moist and prevent weeds.

Regular watering will be required until plants are established. Best time to plant is during autumn in warmer climates or late spring in cooler climates unless your susceptible to frost, then wait until mid-spring.

Smaller plants should be planted 30cm – 50cm apart, with larger growing shrubs and smaller tress ideally planted 1m or more apart.

Make sure you also feed your plants regularly to promote leaf growth and prevent deficiency’s and diseases.

PLANTING SELECTION FOR HEDGES

There are many options for hedges with the following being some of my favourites. The most important and critical feature of a hedge is that it should be hardy and long-lived so you’re not needing to replace plants and gaps in between your hedge do not develop. Your climate and the soil type your working with also needs to be considered in the success of your hedge long term.

Photina x traseri – Red Robina

Mostly evergreen with feature new growth coloured pin to red. Produces small cream flowers with a slight perfume. Great for areas that require tall hedges/screens, can be pruned once a year with more formal hedges requiring pruning 2 – 3 times a year. Each prune produces a new flush of red leaves. Tolerates short drought but prefers fertile well drained soil with reliable moisture. Prefers full sun but can tolerate semi shade.

Rhaphiolepis spp – Indian Hawthorn

Dense leafy evergreen shrub, spring flowers of white to pink clusters. Used as a smaller hedge as it grows 2 – 3m tall. Grows in full sun to semi shade. Can tolerate salt and pollution so great near pools or busy roads. Tolerates short drought, slow growing and only needs to be pruned 2 – 3 times a year to maintain a formal hedge or shape.

Abelia x grandiflora – Glossy Abelia

Evergreen shrub and great if you’re looking for a bun shaped hedge. Flowers are white flushed with pink mostly produced in summer to autumn. Best grown in full sun and prefers fertile well drained soils. Once established they can tolerate periods of drought. Great background plant for a shrub border, low maintenance and reliable with neat foliage.

Buxus microphylla – Japanese Box

Evergreen shrub growing 2 – 3m tall. Bright green foliage maturing to lush mid green in colour. Small perfumed flowers in spring, requires full sun to semi shade. Tolerates frost, pollution and wind. Tolerate short drought and great for formal gardens, hedging and suitable for planter boxes. Will require clipping every 2 months to maintain neat formal hedge.

Viburnam odoratissimum – Sweet Vibrnum

Evergreen with thick trunk, and larger leaves compared to the other plants mentioned above. Foliage is dark green and leathery. Flowers appear in late spring to summer if hedge is not pruned. Requires fertile well drained soil with irrigation. Fast growing and establishes as a hedge quickly but will need regular pruning 3 – 4 times a year to keep the size restricted. The foliage is commonly seen in florists.

Murraya Pariculata – Murraya

Evergreen large shrub with glossy green foliage. Strongly perfumed white flowers produced in spring and late summer. Common hedge seen in Sydney both popular for residential and commercial landscapes. Prefers warm, humid and frost-free climate, Hedges will require bi-monthly pruning in warmer months but will tolerate a hard prune.

 

Growing Garlic At Home

 

There is no requirement at being a seasoned gardener or farmer to grow your very own garlic at home. It’s also very achievable and easy to harvest your own good quality garlic with a little patience due to its long growing time and by just following a few steps and keeping track of the seasons.

Soil Preparation

Garlic is luckily easily grown in almost types of soil with a preferred pH of 6-7, but to grow larger sized garlic bulbs it’s recommended that your soil is fertile and high in organic matter which can also be mixed in to the top layer of soil where you will be planting, also make sure you soil has good drainage or you will end up with rotted garlic.

Getting you Cloves

Sourcing your garlic is at the utmost importance as you don’t want failed garlic after nine months of looking after them, hence why you will need to be patient with garlic. Avoid using garlic heads bought from the supermarket unless you can source certified organic bulbs or some from your local organic farmers market. 

Once you have sourced heads your happy with, then start to break up your garlic head into cloves, as the cloves are what your will be planting. If everything goes well, every planted garlic clove will produce a lovely garlic head, fantastic!

Planting Garlic

Planting garlic is typically done in the autumn after the first frost sets in, so now is the perfect time to start preparing and selecting those garlic heads for planting in the next few weeks.

Just before planting and after you have separated your cloves soak the cloves in water for 10-12 hours, this makes sure you give your cloves the best start, try to also plan out planting area with a clove spaced every 10cm-15cm. 

Ensure you plant the cloves standing upright, so the tip facing upwards, this is where the sprout will shoot. Bury each clove about 6cm-10cm deep and give them a good soaking with a fish emulsion, seaweed fertiliser or homemade worm tea. In colder climates mulching is critical to keep the garlic from freezing and it’s also a great idea to keep those weeds at bay.

On Going Care

The cloves should sprout within a month from planting and the wait begins. Keep the newly planted cloves well hydrated in the warmer autumn months, watering every few days; expect for days with rain. Soils that are sandy may have to be watered more regularly to compensate for the faster water loss.

Feed the garlic with liquid seaweed fertiliser every month, and in midwinter, as the bulbs begin to form, apply a fertiliser high in phosphorous to help them swell and grow into lovely large bulbs.

Harvesting

Garlic is typically harvested in summer, but that can certainly change depending on where you are at in the country and warmer spring conditions. Reduce regular water into allow the bulbs to mature in the ground, checking their progress by digging with your fingers along the stem. The key indicator to know when the garlic is ready to harvest is the colour of the leaves, which will turn yellow and tanned when ready.

To harvest, loosen the soil surrounding the garlic without damaging the garlic heads and gently pull on the foliage. You can always select one as a test and determine by looking at it if the head and inspecting for well-developed cloves.

Once harvested hang your garlic in a cool, dry place. This not only helps the garlic keep for many months but you will also have access to new cloves to be planted once again in autumn.

 

Considered Growing A Balcony Garden?

We’ve all come across bare balconies when driving through our cities, often reminding us of the baron one at our own apartment and then suddenly we spot that one with the lush green walls, planters and hanging baskets and almost instantly feel uplifted. However, if the thought of trying to grow fruit, herbs and decorative plants and getting them to thrive in what might seem harsh conditions bares to much stress to even fathom, you needn’t worry, there is hope in that lush balcony garden.

The trick to getting your balcony to look green is in understanding the conditions of your space and working out what plants will suit the environment. The main obstacles you will face are wind, rainfall and light levels (direct sun or no direct sun).

Establishing the microclimate of your space is rather easy and only requires observation and minor research of your neighbourhoods climate and past weather patterns. (a task you will only need to do once).

So after you have determined the average rainfall in your area, amount of days of extreme heat or cold, and average temperature, then all you need to do is step outside into your space and determine the aspect (sunlight and wind direction). This background and understanding of your environment will give you the information needed in selecting the right plants.

So let’s start with light level. If your balcony, patio or alfresco area faces or takes the brunt of the sun majority of the day then you’re only option is to select full sun loving plants, which are hardy and can withstand the hot direct sun in summer.

By selecting plants that work with your environment it will make gardening so much easier than trying to fight nature. The same concept applies to spaces that receive almost no light at all, which would require shade loving plants in order to make it work.

The best way to determine what plants to even consider is to think about a place or environment that could possibly match yours. e.g., hot and arid driven places such as Mexico, you instantly think of an Agave (used to make tequila). So you will then know that this species of plant will work in your space and is a possible option for your garden or balcony. By selecting the right plants, you will then only need to provide minor assistance in making sure they look green and lush.

So next time you come across a garden or area with a similar garden or balcony environment such as yours just take note of what plants they have growing and how well they’re doing. This will be your starting point at making sure that your balcony garden has the best chance of being a green oasis.

The other factor to consider in the success of your balcony garden is the additional wind the plants are going to bear the brunt of. Catering to a balcony with such an issue will require the need of additional watering due to the leaves drying out faster than those planted at ground level.

The best option is to group your plants and their containers once they have been selected, with the taller plants towards the back and the small ones being visible to the front. By grouping your plants the loss of water will be far less than if they were individually spaced and also reduce the impact the force of the wind.

Stop And Smell The Roses

 

Caring for roses takes very little effort once you have the routine down pat, with huge rewards of fragrant blooms through spring and summer and even into autumn.

1.SOIL PREPARATION & PLANTING

The first step to growing great roses at home begins with choosing an area in the garden where they are sure to thrive and selecting a rose to match your garden’s micorclimate and soil. Start by choosing a location to grow your roses even before you buy them, you will be on a better path towards rose growing success. 

Once you have selected your garden location, go about working up the soil. The soil can be built up by mixing in some well rotted compost prior to planting, if you have a pH kit on hand, the ideal pH is 6.5 for roses.

You may want them to climb a wall or a trellis, or fit into a nice rose bed or even be used as ground cover. Keep these points in mind when making your selection. Potted roses are also perfect for small areas, such as an apartment balcony, limited garden area or just for setting on a patio, with the added benefit of bringing your sweet smelling roses closer to the eyes and nose.

2.SUNLIGHT

Sunlight is very important for roses so selecting a spot that gets six hours of sun a day and has good drainage is best. Any-less sun than that and you’ll have fewer flowers, leggier plants, and more disease. Even roses labelled “easy care” need some tending to. 

3.SPACE

Adequate space is imperative. Roses require excellent air circulation to prevent disease and to ensure you have enough room to tend to them. Each rose bush should have space to flourish and spread its roots and branches. If your roses are potted then your roses will thrive for roughly three years and then will need transplanting. Roses in pots tend to deplete the soil of its nutrients more rapidly than if they were in the ground. Often they can outgrow their containers and need a larger home. In this case one can provide the rose with a container one or two sizes up from the previous one.

4.WATER & FERTILIZATION

Roses also need one to two deep waterings a week during warm, dry weather. Drip irrigation is ideal and avoid overhead watering to help prevent disease and to protect blossoms. To keep them blooming, most varieties should be fed every four to six weeks with a with a specialist rose fertiliser or a organic liquid fertiliser to encourage micro-organisms in the soil.

5.PRUNING ROSES

Since most landscape roses are hardy, they don’t require winter protection. In the coldest areas, choose hardy varieties grown on their own root stock. These roses also don’t need intricate pruning. Simply cutting back plants by half to two-thirds in late winter and thinning crowded canes will keep them compact and under control and promote new growth in spring. A good rule of thumb when pruning roses is to leave no wood on the bush that is thinner than a pencil. Then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the colourful summer show.

Note: Roses are highly susceptible to diseases and pets, so spray the foliage with eco oil if necessary on a regular basis or on the first signs of destress. Its also important to deadhead your roses once they bloom to promote further growth and a spectacular array of roses, and if your roses are grown organically then these blooms can always be used to make some sweet tasting rose tea or jam.

Everyone can grow roses, no matter where they live. If you can grow grass, you can grow delightful roses for your own indulgence.

 

Appreciate Your Environment

Climate change has become increasingly identified as a challenge to mother earth and human kind.

Changes in seasonal patterns, weather events, temperature ranges, and other related phenomena have been reported and attributed to noticeable changes in our environment. Numerous experts in a wide range of scientific disciplines have warned that the negative impacts of climate change will become much more intense and frequent in the future particularly if environmentally destructive human activities continue.

Like all living members of the Earth’s surface, atmosphere and sea, medicinal and aromatic plants are not immune to the effects. Climate change is causing noticeable effects on the life cycles and distributions of the world’s vegetation, including wild plants. Some are even confined to geographic regions or ecosystems particularly vulnerable to change, which could put them at risk.

The life cycles of plants correspond to seasonal cues, so shifts in the timing of cycles provide evidence that climate change is affecting species and ecosystems. In some areas of the world, plants are experiencing not only earlier seasons but also warmer temperatures that are more typical of summer.

Changes in climate are also causing plants to migrate into new ranges, shifting towards the poles and/or to higher elevations in an effort to “reclaim” appropriate growing areas. Some slow-moving species may not be able to migrate quickly enough to keep pace with range shifts generated by climate change. Natural and human-made barriers to migration could also affect the survival of some species undergoing climate-induced range shifts.

And so it’s also expected that movement of cultivated plants would occur for the same reason, it is not entirely clear what type or degree of movement might take place. There is some indication that agricultural crops will be more adaptable to climate change than natural ecosystems, but some regions may become significantly less productive.

Extreme weather events such as storms, droughts, and floods have become more prevalent and intense across our planet in recent years. The frequency and severity of these events are expected to increase in the future as a result of continued warming, having negative effects on human health, infrastructure, and ecosystems. (It is important to note, however, that although trends in extreme weather events have been observed and projected, it is still difficult to attribute individual weather events directly to global warming.) Extreme weather events have been known to affect harvesters’ and cultivators’ abilities to grow and/or collect medicinal plant species, and such difficulties have certainly been reported in recent years.

Climate change may not currently represent the biggest threat to native plants, but it has the potential to become a much greater threat in future decades. Many of the world’s poorest people rely on medicinal plants not only as their primary healthcare option, but also as a significant source of income. The potential loss of medical and aromatic plant species from effects of climate change is likely to have major ramifications on the livelihoods of large numbers of vulnerable populations across the world. Further, the problems associated with climate change are likely to be much more difficult to combat than other threats to our botanical world.

The changing climate and its effects will certainly increase in the near future, although the extent to which they do so cannot presently be determined. The effects of climate change on medicinal plants, in particular, has not been well-studied and is not fully understood. As the situation unfolds, climate change may become a more pressing issue for the herbal community, potentially affecting users, harvesters, and manufacturers of medical and aromatic species.

We need to appreciate our environment for what it gives us, and we can’t take for granted what we currently have available to us, as one day we might just be without the wild medical herbs and plants that we obtain so many benefits from as well as the chemical understanding we gain from experimenting with mother earth and nature.

Garden Motivation

 

Do you have a small urban garden?

Do you want to transform it into a exciting, contempoary space?

As a city dweller I know all to well the premium paid for a property with a garden, so I can access to my very own ‘garden’ or ‘retreat’. And if your like me your have every intention in making sure it always looks great, lush and neat so you can enjoy the space.

Unfortunately those great intensions soon become disillusioned with the notion of it being “to hard”, “it’s to much work” and “i don’t have time”, and just like that your space is neglected.

I see it all the time, balconies and both front and back yards that have been forgotten with the sighn of every intention to start with a few grouped plants still sitting in their nursery plastic container, left to one side. What a waste of space and money and those poor plants…..left just about abandoned.

Any outdoor space is an urban environment, an invaluable place to create an outdoor extension to your home, and creating a lovely garden (edible or not) does not need or required a horticulturalist or a landscape designer, just the occasional plant inspection, monthly feed and depending on your climate the weekly water which can be done with your morning latte in hand.

And you never know you might just have a natural green thumb or it can lease to a new passionate interest that can become so much more and even change the way you eat with home grown edibles at your door step.

 

Starting a Meditation Garden

 

Everything in the garden offers some form of nurturing, whether it’s food or something visual.

For years we’ve been seeking to create a sanctuary in our built environment that reflects the need for relaxation, contemplation and escape from stress. A garden, balcony or an indoor urban jungle does just that.

People are starving for more nature and serenity in their lives, the great thing about a meditation or a zen garden is that you don’t even have to know anything about meditation to create one.

It doesn’t take years of study under a zen master, though, to feel the calming effects of spending time in a garden or in nature—if only to enjoy refuge from the constant sensory bombardment of urban life. Just being outdoors elicits more awareness of what the world is truly made of.

There is no right or wrong way to make a meditation garden; the whole goal is to make a garden that both calms and inspires you, and when you open your eyes, inspires you even more.

No one knows exactly why gardens have such healing and stress-reducing properties; it seems to be at least partially a primordial reaction wired into our central nervous system. Researchers have found that the more a garden engages the senses, the stronger its ability to distract us from the stressful whirlwind of our thoughts.

The gardens that work best are places that facilitate awe and fascination, bringing you in touch with yourself and your surroundings at the same time. The best way to establish this is to try to see your garden space as an “outdoor room”. It’s a place where you’ll go to relax, rest, and recline, so it will need to have features in it that you find comfortable, uplifting, and secure.

It could also be a place to incorporate your daily yoga routine, or where you spend time with family, either gardening or just enjoying your morning cup of coffee.

If you are going to share this garden with family or others, get their ideas and input too. And always remember that this is your garden; it’s your intent that counts when creating a meditation garden.

You might find really good inspiration in traditional gardens from other parts of the world. While there is no need to follow a theme, having one can instill a sense of calmness through orderliness and focus.

Start a plan. Incorporate all the positive attributes of your existing area and being aware of the size, sound levels, terrain and views of your existing garden (for example, you might already have a pleasant quiet area or a fish pond that you can work around). Begin planning for the desired features that you haven’t yet got. Draw an outline of how you perceive your garden, including the features you intend to add. This plan can be updated and changed as you proceed, but it’s a good idea to begin with a basic idea to work from and incorporate plants in the plan to make sure they work in harmony with each other and the environment.

Use eco-friendly garden solutions and products. A meditation garden is a place to be at one with nature and the Earth; it wouldn’t make sense to drown it in chemicals such as pesticides (insecticides), fungicides, anti-microbials and rodenticides. If you are practicing a philosophy of non-harm, using such toxins can affect the quality of the garden and plants as your well-being. Instead, look for the eco-friendly options to keep weeds and other pests under control within your garden, as well as using eco-friendly plant nutrient options, such are incorporating a worm farm and a compost bin.

Keep updating and changing your garden to suit your needs. As with meditation itself, you to grow and change over time, so your garden should not be stuck in time. Replenish and refurbish your garden as your own needs and wants evolve, just like you would any other space in your home.