You’ve been cooped up inside for weeks and the backyard has been slowly beckoning to you but you have no idea where to start… Is this you?
Consider your first time outside like meeting a new friend for first time, says Trevallan’s Chelsea Van Rijn, who reports seeing a renewed interest in gardening since everyone has been forced to stay home more of late.
Here are some of her hot tips for those keen to venture our into the great outdoors of their own patch and create some magic…
Ask your garden questions
Where does the sun fall as it moves across your yard? Where are the sunny spots? Where does it get shade?
Is my soil hydrophobic… when I water does the water actually soak in?
All these questions will help decide what and where to plant. The options are boundless, from plants chosen purely for their good looks, their flowers or foliage, to those that offer food or shade.
A good place to start for the first time gardener is simply weeding and pulling out dead plants, trimming off dead flowers, emptying all pots of old potting mix … taking it slow and easy.
Sort your soil
Many of our gardens haven’t seen love for a long time, so your soil has probably become hydrophobic.
This is when water can’t penetrate past that first layer, no matter how much you water. Adding organic matter, like compost or a soil wetter will help. If soil can’t soak up water it also can’t soak up fertiliser. If soil can’t uptake fertiliser neither can your plants.
So our first job is making the soil healthy. Compost and soil wetter can be used in all garden beds even vegetable patches as you can buy certified organic soil activators and soil wetters.
Some shed talk
What fertilisers and sprays do you have?
If you don’t know/understand what you have, ask your local garden centre expert. If you have granular slow release fertiliser in your shed and it’s been longer than three months since you used it, use it. No point waiting for perfect moment. Now is that moment.
If you have liquid fertiliser, use that too. Granular slow release fertilisers can be used every three months, liquid fertilisers can be used every fortnight.
Mulch. If you think mulching is important in summer to help with water retention it’s just as important in winter to help keep ground temperature even and therefore your plants endure less cold stress.
Get some colour in there
So now you have cleaned, soil wetted, fertilised and mulched. It’s time to add some spots of colour.
Garden centres are still open. They are considered to be offering an essential service to our community as gardening is good for our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
Visit a garden centre in person or virtually. Have a look what’s in flower now, and fill your empty spots in your garden with things like camellias, azaleas, pansies, violas.
Opt for pots
Can’t dig in your garden? Fill those empty pots you’ve been meaning to use, with colour or edibles.
Now is your pots’ time to shine! Always use potting mix in pots and always buy the best possible potting mix.
It’s better for your plants, remember healthy soil, healthy plants. There are so many plants in flower right now. You can create an amazing flower display in the pots plus grow beautiful cut flowers and flowers that are perfect for pressing. Some edibles like herbs grow great in pots.
Herbs grow so much better when it’s cold. Did you know 100g of fresh basil can cost over $20 from the supermarket. For nearly the same amount you could buy a punnet of basil, a pot and the potting mix! You’ll be the basil pesto king/queen in no time!
The trick with successful gardening is there is no trick. It’s being outside every day, taking notice of the little things, being aware when something doesn’t look as healthy as it should, or noticing a caterpillar slowly munching on your leaves.
It’s about being outside and creating a space you want to be in. Everyone’s garden is different and has different uses.
The first step is just being outside and finding joy there.
Chelsea runs Trevallan Lifestyle Centre at Brassall with a large selection of hard-to-find plants in a beautiful garden setting, plus a well-stocked garden supplies and homewares centre. You can even buy online.