Tips and Tricks

Here are some brief tips of things that everyone with a garden should be aware of.

Feel free to click on the tip to find more detailed articles or browse for those articles in our services.


LAWN CARE
  • Mowing so that you cut the grass at the correct height.
  • Knowing when to water your lawn and how much water it needs.
  • Weeding & Feeding in the right balance to get your lawn looking its best!

Correct Mowing Techniques


When mowing your lawn:

  • Always make sure your mower blades are sharp, so you cut the lawn and you're not tearing it.
  • Always mow your lawn in different directions, left to right, up and down and diagonally.
  • Never think that cutting your lawn lower will mean that it will grow back more slowly.
  • Never, take more than 1/3 off per cut. Scalping your lawn (cutting it too close to the root system) will encourage weed growth and expose bare spots on your lawns.

Watering and Drought Protection


In Australia, a little planning for inevitable dry spells can save you a whole lot of money, time and heartache later.

  • Water less often and to a greater depth. When doing so, this will promote a healthier lawn.
  • Watering is best done early morning or in the evening, not in the middle of the day.
  • Only water your lawn when it needs it, not every day.
  • How do you tell if your grass needs watering? Grass that needs watering will not spring back when walked over. Simple!

The Right Grass for the Right Reason


When planning the right choice of grass variety think about:

  • The climate in which it will be laid.
  • How much time you have to maintain it. Some grasses require more attention than others.
  • Shade tolerance in those areas that don't get too much sun.
  • Wear resistance for high traffic or areas or areas that have a lot of family activity.

New Lawns and Renovations


When you want to turn that bare patch of ground into a nice lush lawn you need to be prepared to:

  • Think about why the last lawn didn't thrive and address those issues first.
  • Ensure that all old lawns and weeds are removed before you lay the new lawn.
  • Ensure that you address issues of having enough soil and correct drainage.
  • Select the best lawn for the job. Often lawns won't grow in areas you would like it too, so you and your lawn expert might have to devise a mixed planting strategy.



FERTILISING

What Is Fertilising?


When mowing your lawn:

  • Fertilisers are products extracted from minerals. They release nutrients to make up for any nutritional deficiencies in the natural soil.
  • Fertilisers are specifically designed to add nutrients and to make those nutrients more available to the plants. They increase plant growth and overall plant health.
  • Each type of plant requires a different balance of nutrients at different stages throughout its growth cycle.

Plant Nutrients


  • Plants need food just like people to grow & thrive, so plant nutrition is not something that you can ignore.
  • Watch where you're planting as lack of water and sun, or too much water and sun, as well as the wrong soil type can limit plant growth.
  • The main nutrients that plants require are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (the pros refer to the measurement of these nutrients as "NPK"). But small quantities of other trace elements can make a huge difference to your plant health too.

Lawn Nutrients


  • Lawns that are discoloured or slow growing or have invading weeds or other pest problems might be that way because they lack certain nutrients.
  • Fertilise your lawn when the grass is actively growing in early spring - mid summer and autumn.
  • Autumn fertilising helps the lawn keep its colour for longer as the year progresses into winter.

Soil Conditioning


  • The type and texture of soil you have can affect the nutrient availability and water retention capacity of plants.
  • What is bad soil for one type of plant might be great soil for another type. Consider alternative planting rather than soil conditioning as one possible garden design strategy.
  • Check the pH level of your soil to determine its acidity and alkaline levels as different varieties of grass have preferential pH requirements.
  • Find out about the deficiencies, excesses and Soil pH with a soil test so you can determine what corrective fertiliser you might need.

Organic Fertilisers


  • Are derived from animal, vegetable and plant matter.
  • Proper feeding of soils and plants creates an optimal food source for earthworms and microorganisms that, in turn, keep the soil in a healthy, balanced condition.
  • Consider using kelp as a natural growth enhancer.
  • Consider using kelp as a natural growth enhancer.
  • Use compost to improve soil structure, loosen clay and help sandy soils retain water.



GARDEN CARE

Drought Protection


When mowing your lawn:

  • Consider using drought tolerant plants or Australian natives that need little water.
  • Wetting agents and drought shields can be sprayed onto plants to protect against heat. These can be especially useful in times of unusually dry and hot conditions.
  • There are soil-treatments available to help soil retain moisture.

Irrigation


  • Drip Irrigation is about 20% more water-efficient than sprinklers.
  • Have sprinklers on late in the afternoon or in early morning to prevent evaporation, which only wastes water.
  • Use Poly Pipe in areas where the ground freezes more than a few inches deep.

Mulching and Re-mulching


  • Layering mulch up to 30 to 50mm thick helps soil to retain moisture and also suppresses weeds.
  • Fertilise your lawn when the grass is actively growing in early spring - mid summer and autumn.
  • Autumn fertilising helps the lawn keep its colour for longer as the year progresses into winter.

Pruning


  • Remove dead, damaged & diseased stems as soon as you see them and clean your pruners with alcohol after each cut to sterilise the blades and prevent any possibility of infection.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs back once they have finished blooming.
  • The more you prune the more compact and dense the shrub will become.
  • Always deadhead your flowers.
  • Trim branches by cutting them on an angle about a centimetre above a new bud.

Tree Removal


  • Never cut trees while standing on a ladder. It's easy for the ladder to kick-out from under you, leading to a serious fall.
  • Stump grinding is a beneficial process where the tree stump is ground down to the point where the ground is even and free of tripping hazards.
  • In some cases, depending on the height and type of the tree, or preservation orders, you might need council permission before you can cut down a tree.
  • Depending on the type of root system a tree has it might be easier to grind the stump down instead of ripping out the roots.



MAINTENANCE

Gutter Cleaning


  • Safety first! Secure your ladder to the roof with safety guards.
  • Use a plastic gutter-scooping tool purchased from your local hardware store.
  • Installing and using a gutter guard can eliminate the need for cleaning out gutters.
  • Look to clean your gutters a couple of times a year at least.

Drain Cleaning


  • Keeping outside drains well maintained is one of the most neglected jobs of all.
  • It's important to keep the are clear of debris at the point at which the drain enters the ground.
  • Dripping taps are a major contributor to frozen and blocked pipes.
  • Pipes should be insulated properly with the proper pipe lagging and heat tape.
  • Regularly pour hot water down pipes to loosen and unclog built up fat & oil.

High Pressure Cleaning


  • Pay attention to the surfaces that you're working on as high-pressure cleaning can strip paint off old surfaces.
  • Compared to a repaint, or a renovation, high-pressure cleaning might be a faster and a more affordable option.
  • House washing prevents cosmetic damage to your house's exterior paintwork or woodwork.
  • Use a cleaning chemical with the high-pressure water if the surface has heavy dirt, grime or mould.

Rubbish Removal


  • Recycle old timbers and pots as much as possible.
  • Place clippings, leaves and green waste in a compost bin.
  • Calculate the amount of waste accumulated so you know how much rubbish you will need to dispose of.
  • Contact your local council for waste collection pickup times.

Clean Ups


  • Rake up old plant material as it can contain fungal spores that can disease your plants.
  • Cut back all perennials once they finish blooming.
  • Prune away dead and damaged branches
  • Remove existing mulch in preparation for re-mulching.

House and Window Cleaning


  • Wash down all surfaces with water before cleaning to remove loose debris.
  • Wash windows at least twice a year.
  • Only use pressure washers on certain home exteriors otherwise it could cause damage.
  • Don't clean windows in direct sunlight as heat dries the glass too quickly, upping your chance of water spots and smears.
  • Don't use chemicals on your windows as they can attract dust.

Small Repairs


  • Fixing or replacing garden edging is a great way to improve the appearance of your garden.
  • Aerating the lawn and planting new turf in warn-out areas is essential to keep things looking neat and fresh.
  • Replacing broken pavers in driveways and paths is a quick way to get things looking almost as good as new.

Handyman Jobs


There are lots of simple jobs that don't require much skill but that can really keep your garden looking good.

  • Construct a compost heap that you can use to fertilise your garden.
  • Add an attractive metal, paver or stone border to your gardens to prevent weeds taking root.
  • Create vegetable patch. There's nothing like the taste of homegrown food.
  • Create planter boxes out of old crates or timber and save money.



WEED CONTROL

Lawn Weeds


  • Weeds in the lawn can spread quickly, so the best prevention is early detection.
  • Make sure your grass gets at least one slow-release feed a year to keep healthy. Healthy grass finds it easier to out-compete weeds.
  • Create a grass barrier between the weed seeds and the soil.
  • Replace damaged or dying grass to stop weeds growing opportunistically.
  • Keeping the height in check also means you're clipping off weed seed heads before they can mature and seed your lawn.

Bindi


  • This weed has small feathery leaves that look like parsley. When the plant dries it has seeds covered in tiny sharp needles that are painful to bare feet.
  • The best time to remove or treat Bindiis in late winter or early spring before the plants germinate.
  • Bindis love compacted ground so aerate the soil to reduce their presence.
  • One option is to spray with a herbicide that targets broad-leaved plants but not grasses. You can also remove the bindis by hand if there aren't too many of them.

Clover


  • Is easily recognised with its tri-lobed leaves and clusters of tiny white flowers.
  • Can be sprayed with a herbicide that targets broad-leaved weeds.
  • The presence of clover can be a sign of low nitrogen in the soil as clover is one of the few plants that produce its own nitrates.

Dandelion


  • Are one of the most easily recognised weeds. Their bright yellow, flat flowers mature into white puffballs that contain seeds that spread in the wind.
  • Their taproots can penetrate to up to a meter deep into the soil, so you need to dig out the root entirely or else the plant will continue to grow back.
  • Most easily eradicated with a sprat herbicide that targets broad-leaved weeds.

Garden Weeds


  • Weeds thrive on lots of sunlight and bad soil, so soil improvement and maintenance is your best line of defence.
  • Dig the soil only when you need to and immediately salve the disturbed spot with plants or mulch to stop weeds from growing.
  • Use groundcovers, trees, and shrubs to shade the ground so weeds will not grow beneath them.
  • Weeds tend to grow deep into the soil and have a host of different ways of propagating. Getting rid of weeds means completely removing all weed roots and tubers from the ground.
  • Weeding is easier when the ground is wet so weed after watering or rainfall.

Blackberry


  • Is regarded one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness and potential to spread uncontrollably.
  • There are at least 14 different species of blackberry shrubs with prickly stems that form thickets up to several metres high with red-black berries.
  • With big infestations spray with a herbicide during flowering and fruiting season. Alternatively slash regularly or dig out root system by hand.
  • Keep uninfested areas clear and remove isolated plants before they can seed.

Onion Grass


  • Onion grass is a perennial with pink, pointed flowers and grass-like leaves. It germinates in late autumn from a brown bulb or seeds.
  • Onion grass might be a sign of poor lawn health, so keep your lawn healthy and growing quickly to avoid onion grass.
  • Slash or mow the foliage to ground level and deprive plant from water and sun and the bulb will weaken & die.
  • Never remove onion grass by hand as any leftover roots can release tiny bulbs that will multiply your problem.

Nut Grass


  • Nutgrass is an invasive weed that grows rapidly throughout the warmer months and well into autumn.
  • The leaves are shiny, green and the flower head is brown to purple in colour.
  • Best controlled with spraying with a herbicide in spring and summer.



PEST CONTROL

Organic Pest Control


  • Don't spray plants in hot sunny weather as it may burn the leaves.
  • Don't grow plants that are known to have a vulnerability to certain bugs or diseases unless you're prepared to manage these problems if they show up.
  • Don't buy diseased plants even if they're "on special" in the hopes that you'll be able to cure them.
  • Pests are bullies and they tend to exploit unhealthy, malnourished plants that can't defend themselves. Keep your soil healthy and fertilised with compost and mulch to encourage healthy plants and pests will not flock to feed on them.
  • Sometimes a good option is to create a physical barrier such as netting or to spray plants with natural vegetable soaps or detergents.

Army Worm


  • Army worm isn't a worm but is actually the caterpillar-stage of a moth (Spodoptera). It has rapid lifecycle throughout the warmer months of year. Repeat infestations are common.
  • The parent moth can lay up to 500 eggs in a single laying and can repeat this feat as soon as the next day.
  • Army Worms feed at night. Check your damaged lawn closely at night looking for caterpillar infestation.
  • Treat your lawn with lawn insecticide and repair it afterward with fertilisers.

Grubs


  • Grubs are a common name for the larval stage of many beetles.
  • They are most active during mid-spring to mid summer, and can cause severe damage to lawns, gardens and potted plants.
  • Till the soil regularly and eradicate any grubs that come to the surface.
  • Apply lawn & garden insecticides in case of severe infestation.
  • If affected lawns grass will turn yellow and brown and die, you will then be able to lift and roll turf back like a carpet. At this point your best option is to treat the soil and re-lay new lawn.

Nematodes (Root Knot)


  • Nematodes are colourless, microscopic animals that look like thin worms. There are many nematode species that are beneficial although others are parasitic.
  • They are common summer pests that attack plant roots resulting in plants yellowing, wilting and dying.
  • Some plants and vegetables are more susceptible to the pest than others.
  • Combat root knot by creating a rich organic soil.



HEDGEING AND TOPIARY

The Right Hedge


When selecting a hedge think about:

  • What purpose will the hedge perform? Is it for privacy screening or is it purely ornamental?
  • What type of tree best suits your needs?
  • Root systems
  • Common diseases particular to each plant..
  • The growth pattern of hedge and the maintenance required in order to keep it looking how you want it to look.
  • Rate of growth. How patient you are prepared to be for your hedge to reach your desired size and level of density?
  • The size of your plants and how easy they will be to establish.

Planning the Hedge


  • Consider the proposed location of the hedge and the amount of sunlight in the area.
  • Plant shrubs closer together to form a faster and thicker growing hedge.
  • Prepare the ground and soil for your type of hedge.
  • Consider the ultimate desired height of the hedge and the growth rate of the species.
  • Map out the location of your plants based upon the amount of space you have available.
  • Consider other plantings in your garden and how the hedge will compliment them.

Pros and Cons of Hedging


  • Planting a hedge that fails to grow is a costly exercise; so plan well.
  • Depending of the type of plant, hedges can take a long time to establish.
  • Evergreen hedges can look fantastic alongside your garden design and many garden owners consider them well worth the time and trouble.
  • There's considerable labour involved in planting a new hedge - whether you do it yourself or use a contractor. Think about how much work you personally want to do or if you want the contractor to do it all for you.

Frequencies


  • Low hedges should be have the plant tops trimmed regularly so the hedge will fill out
  • Avoid trimming in the peak of summer.
  • Cut evergreens regularly to achieve a dense base.
  • Prune regularly to avoid cutting into thick stems resulting in the appearance of woody ends in the hedge.

The History of Topiary


  • European topiary can be dated back to Ancient Rome with forms such as animals and letters created for ornamental purposes. Topiary has always been associated with wealth and prestige.
  • Formal Gardens spread throughout England with topiary taking over from stone carvings and becoming living sculpture galleries in their own right.
  • Japanese Zen gardens honoured nature by recreating the natural form through "cloud pruning" and the development of miniature bonsai trees.
  • Topiary is one of the most ancient garden crafts used throughout all ages and cultures as a form of artistic expression.



LANDSCAPING

Design


  • Before even attempting a design, measure your garden site and draw a plan of your current garden indicating light, shade, elevations, ground slope and any other pre-existing conditions.
  • Work out your budget and how much you are prepared to spend.
  • Decide what you need in a garden from a practical point-of-view first and then the design the feature you would like to incorporate.

Plant Selection


Selecting the right plants for your garden will always be based on the following broad principles:

  • The theme and style of your garden.
  • The climate and location of the plants within the gardens microclimates - like whether the plants will be in direct sun or shade or with more light in the morning than in the afternoon.
  • How much maintenance, watering and general care is required, or how much you're willing to put in.
  • Contrasting colours and textures of plants.
  • Your budget.

Retaining Walls


  • Consider the height of your retaining wall. The higher the wall needs to be, the more complex and expensive it will be.
  • Building permits may be required if the wall is above a certain height.
  • Consider the purpose of the wall. Is it purely structural, or decorative, or both?
  • The type of soil you have might require additional reinforcement or drainage.
  • Choose the style of wall you want to have and ensure the materials you use are suited to that style.

Bed Planning


Consider:

  • The surrounding structure of the beds and what material you can use.
  • The height of the garden beds.
  • The size each plant will grow to and whether you have the space for it - vertically and horizontally.
  • Creating different levels by using ground cover, smaller plants and larger shrubs.
  • Drawing a map of the flower bed and where each plant with be.

Drainage


  • Observe the gradient of the land to determine where drainage problems might occur.
  • Before digging check where your underground cables and piping are located.
  • Do a soil drainage test to check how well your soil drains water.
  • Determine whether surface or subsurface drainage is best suited to your garden needs.
  • Consider if normal cultivation methods might be all you need to improve drainage.

Irrigation Planning


  • Deciding what areas of the garden you want the watering system to cover.
  • Space your sprays about 1 metre apart for good coverage.
  • Complete a flow test to see how much volume of water is available during a particular interval of time.
  • Choose a variety of different spray headers to avoid water wastage and to target specific areas.
  • Draw a map of the laid pipes or remember their location well so that in the future you don't accidentally cut the pipes when next digging in your garden.

Hard Surfaces


  • Determine the best placement for walkways and paths to create destination zones.
  • In many gardens curves are more interesting than straight lines.
  • Go for hard, durable materials in high traffic areas.
  • Base your style around the activities you want to accommodate.
  • Choose materials that compliment both your home's exterior and interior too.
  • Consider the maintenance requirements of the materials you use.



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