Top 8 Tips for a Happy Garden

I love the visual boost to the senses that plants give me. I love their different shapes, astounding array of colours, the smell of (some of) them and their captivating flowers. I also love their versatility and resilience – it’s amazing how they can grow in a crack in the footpath and even sideways off a rock. And their seeds do amazing things – some stick to animal fur (or your socks) or are light enough to be blown by the wind and hence catch a free ride to distant suburbs or the next street to set up home in new place.

Plants are reassuring – there’s life and it’s continuing!

Our backyard is rimmed with lovely greenery of different shapes and sizes, with no big thanks to me. Daddyken loves nothing more than planting, watering and tending to the plant’s needs, which works really well for us.

He doesn’t even mind touching worms and grubs, and he’s kindly passed that endearing trait on to the Cherubs. In theory I don’t have a problem with this, as long as they wash their hands twice with soap immediately after. However, my little darling Cherubs like to share every one of their grub findings with me. Look what I’ve got mum! A baby caterpillar! Look at the long fat worm! This grub is blue and white!

But after a few episodes of Er, maybe we’ll move that worm away from the pot of spaghetti Or Ohh that’s great! … but best take that lizard away from the frypan in case… Or Ah! AHHHH! Take it away! Take it away! AHHHHH! we now have an unspoken understanding that they will call from the back door and wait for me to come to them.

Our vegie patch is a thin strip of land along the side of our fence where it basks in the northern sun all year round. We won’t ever  be able to live off our little patch of land, but it does supply us with seasonal vegies like spinach, bok choy, beans, snow peas, lettuce, beetroot, coriander and parsley, along with the year round rosemary and chives.

We don’t use chemicals on the plants, so it’s a bit of extra work for Daddyken to look after them. And it’s not fool proof, but we’re happy with being able to harvest without worrying about pesticide residue and not too fussed about a few pre-eaten leaves. We’ve only had this vegie patch for a few years, but we’ve learnt a few things along the way which helps make life a little easier for us, the plants and the insects.

This is our (yes, I’m involved, albeit indirectly!) list of the Top 8 things we do to help our garden grow and thrive:

1. Keep eggshells: We crumble them up and scatter in the garden bed because slugs and snails don’t like the sharp edges of the egg shells. If you can, leave the eggs to dry in a bowl for a day or two first – it makes it easier to crumble up and won’t stick to your hand.

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2. Sow seeds at different times: Daddyken staggers his seed sowing so we can harvest the crop throughout the season. That way, we avoid getting a glut of them for a week and then nothing for the rest of the time.

3. Mix it up: Daddyken sows his seeds in random places and plants a variety of vegies. This helps to confuse the bugs if there’s an assortment of leaves, sizes and colours. Orderly rows of the same plant would help the bugs to remember where our juicy sweet peas are and it’ll be party season for them night after night.

4. Let the plants go to flower and seed: Firstly, we’re helping the bees with their pollen collection and it looks pretty. Secondly, we let the flowers go to seed so we don’t need to sow the following year – the seeds will just germinate when the weather’s right. We always get lots of tomato seedlings each spring without doing anything at all.

5. Keep a few weeds in winter: Leave them to grow and flower because sometimes it’s all the bees have access to in the colder months, and bees aren’t too fussy about whose pollen it is.

6. Keep pruned bits: after Daddyken prunes our hedge or other large plants, he cuts them up and uses them as mulch in the garden.

7.  Grow bottoms! When I buy coriander, leeks or chives, they come with their roots, which I cut off and Daddyken puts them into the dirt. More often than not, they’ll grow from those roots and we get free plants. If they don’t, they’ll just rot and feed the soil. If I have to buy basil or other herbs, I’m never able to use the whole bunch, which I then forget about and find them black and slimy in the fridge a few weeks later. I now put the left overs into water and leave them in a sunny spot. They’ll then usually grow roots for Daddyken to plant in the garden.

8. Worm farm: we have an agreement with our worms – we give them our food scraps and they give us worm juice (aka worm wee), which is a fantastic fertilizer for our plants – it does have a slightly fishy smell, but luckily it doesn’t linger. We also have less rubbish in the bin as a result.

At the moment, we have bees buzzing, spinach thriving, coriander everywhere, beans pushing their shoots out and the occasional grub which adores our bok choy (but everyone has to eat don’t they?). We also have cute little lizards sunning themselves on the low brick wall ready for the Cherubs to catch. Eeek.

img_2619Notes:

Thanks to S from down the road and Cousin M for introducing Daddyken to gardening based on the Permaculture model (Permanent Agriculture and Permanent Culture). The intention of this type of gardening is for sustainability and self-sufficiency.

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