Sustainability in the home extends to the outdoors – and it’s not just about planting more trees. Why not turn your #iso calendar into an urban renewal project, starting in your own backyard?
Clive Larkman from Larkman Nursery in Victoria shares his tips for sustainable gardening practices that will help you achieve the best garden on the block.
1. Native plants are great, but not vital
As native plants are likely to thrive in our environment and they cut down the need for maintenance.
Having said that, Clive believes the perfect garden has a mix of both natives and exotics.
This gorgeous banksia is a native coastal plant. Picture: Getty
“If you want a set-and-forget approach, natives and indigenous plants will suit your needs – but this takes all the joy out of gardening,” he says.
“Some of the fun is in planting things that are a bit more of a challenge, such as roses or lavender.”
2. Don’t overwater
Overwatering is the main issue when it comes to water use, Clive says. It helps to do your research and figure out how much water your plants actually need.
Some plants don’t require a lot of water. Do your research to know if you’re wasting water on them. Picture: Unsplash
“For instance, if you have a lavender or rosemary plant in Melbourne, once it’s established you’re basically done with watering,” he says.
If you’re still muddled, Clive’s rule of thumb is give every garden four litres per square metre, per week in the middle of summer.
3. Start composting
Starting a compost bin is relatively easy and it will reduce your landfill waste. The first thing to consider is the type of compost bin you need. Remember, the bigger your garden, the more compost you’ll need.
Also, not all ‘natural’ waste can go in to your compost. For instance, meat and dairy are big no-nos.
Be sure what you can put in your compost bin. Picture: Getty
The next most important thing to remember is to turn the compost frequently to ensure it aerates and breaks down properly.
After a certain period of time – anywhere between a few weeks to a year – it will be ready to go on to your garden as fertiliser.
4. Reduce chemical-heavy products
Clive says many products have reduced their use of nasty chemicals. But, there are also plenty of home remedies or organic brands you could seek out.
When it comes to home remedies, try bi-carb for a fungicide or canola oil for a pesticide.
One common garden chemical is weed killer, but a bit of preparation and manual care can help you avoid resorting to the toxic stuff.
“If you’re in the suburbs and surrounded by houses, once you get your weeds down to nil, the incoming weeds are very low,” he begins. “If you’re in the Yarra Valley like we are, weeding is a constant battle because birds bring them in or they blow in with the wind.
“However, if you have well-prepared soil, mulch it and keep it clean and neat, weeding will become really easy. It will become a 10-minute job, once a month.”
5. Mulch your garden
Using mulch helps on a number of fronts: it prevents weeds, it helps absorb water, and it prevents soil erosion caused by the elements.
Mulch is a protective layer of organic matter that helps absorb water and prevent weeds. Picture: Unsplash
The question is, what mulch should you use?
Any organic matter is great – whether it be manure, hay, wood chips or coffee grounds. However, Clive warns against non-organic horse manure as it may contain traces of herbicides.
6. Start a vegetable or herb garden
Your very own vegetable garden is an incredible resource, especially when you’re restricted going to the supermarket.
First stop should be the local nursery, where the experts can help you understand the precise soil and climate conditions of your area.
Is your area tropical, sub-tropical, arid or cold? Defining your local climate will help you adjust what you want to grow by what you can grow.
Herbs are a great gardening venture. Picture: Unsplash
He also recommends asking yourself what is worth growing, compared to what is simply easier and cheaper to buy.
“Herbs are well worth growing. However, do your research before planting. For instance, you can plant your parsley and oregano together but you can’t mix it with mint because mint likes the wet, whereas the others like it dry.”
Remember to think seasonally when planning a layout. You may wish to replace your summer veggies or fruits (such as tomatoes) with winter ones (such as broad beans) during the change of seasons.