Best Gardening Tips

I love my garden. It is a place where I feel alive, where I find my peace and where I grow strong, healthy organic food. It is also a place I like to play in. Where I find that inner child and where there are no rules. Where I can be creative. I love to share my garden with others too, and I love to share ideas with others. So I have put together some of my top tips to enjoy gardening.

A sign warns visitors that ours is an organic garden.

Number 1

I like to work with nature, not against her. So we try to manage our weeds, and have a motto; “A bucket a day.”. It is easily achievable and is a time when one can be quiet and contemplative. I often say, if you find a garden without any weeds, know that they spray chemicals. Nature exists in balance. Weeds are hardy and tenacious, but they also serve a purpose. They will quickly cover an area that has no plantings, and work as a living mulch to conserve moisture in the soil.

Number 2

Grow your Own Soil! Well, not exactly soil but it becomes living soil to grow your veggies in. Compost, compost, compost. This is usually my number one piece of advice for beginners. Healthy soil = healthy food = healthy people. I believe ALL new home builds should include a rain water tank and a compost bin built in. Our bin is a three bin system, which works well as you have a bin nearly ready to use, a bin that is “sleeping” and a bin that you are currently adding to. It is a great waste management system which takes all your garden and kitchen waste scraps. Turns it into “GreenGold” fertiliser!!

Note the tree jewellery…..necklace and defunct wrist watch.

Number 3

Play. Some people get real serious about their garden. I say : “Codswallop to that!” Have fun. Try new things out. I have some tree jewellery ….old bits of decorations that were destined for the bin or the Opp shop (second hand store) give me joy outdoors. Make your garden a place you love to spend time in.

Number 4

Create an outdoor art gallery, where you hang things that are pretty or quirky. This old clay dragon was given to us by friends, he is dying a slow organic death, slowly he will go back to the earth, from whence he came.

I have several pretty plates hanging on my fence……some I chipped and didn’t want to use inside anymore but were too good to throw away, others I bought for 50c from an Opp Shop. Each has it’s pride of place. A while back I found two different rubber kids jandals (sandals) on the roadside……they have been given an extended life and look great hanging side by side on my fence. Quirky and cute. One pink. One blue. Think outside the square.

Number 5

Create a space to sit and reflect or eat in the Big Outdoors. Where you can feel part of your garden without having to actually be working in it. A place to simply relax and smell the roses (or sweet peas which are currently blooming).

Number 6

Install a rain water tank. It can be as big or as small as you like. Water is life. Heaven forbid we ever experience a drought (a real climate threat in many parts of the world right now), I would hate to see my precious plants dying from thirst. With a rain water tank, I could limp through a short drought. I have a big tank near the house, and a smaller one near my garden shed which I often use for watering seedlings and small plants (no chlorine).

A small water tank near the shed provide all my small plants with water.

Number 7

Grow unusual plants like this Zucchini Rampicant. It makes harvesting and cooking so much more exciting when using “exotic” looking foods. This zucchini grows long fruit up to one metre! One can give you several meals worth of food! Again, keep that sense of play. Why grow a white cauliflower when you can buy that in a supermarket? Grow a green or purple variety. There are many old varieties to play with.

Number 8

Keep lawns down to a minimum. Lawns require lots of time and energy to keep them neat and tidy. We have a relatively small area of lawn, simply because it is a great activator in the compost bin. It generates a lot of heat and compost breaks down quite quickly with layers of grass clippings added.

Our Buddha Head bath serves to water the cat and several birds.

Number 9

Attract birds to the garden by installing bird baths. These can be as cheap or as expensive as you’d like them to be. The only rule is to keep them topped up with water, especially in the warmer months as birds come to rely on this source of water and we see so many different birds dropping in to refresh themselves with a drink or bath. We also have various feeding stations for birds….seeds for the sparrows and ring-necked doves, fruit spikes for the white eyes and tuis. We have also planted kowhai and kaka beak to attract tuis to the garden. It works beautifully.

Number 10

If you have space for only one tree, I’d encourage you to grow a lemon tree. What a wonderful tree that provides us with (almost) year round fruit and we use them for salad dressings, to dribble over curries and stews, to make organic cleaners (see blog called Citrus C) and to alkaline the body.

Number 11

The greatest energy saver one can have is an outdoor clothes line. Simply allowing nature to dry your clothes rather than bunging them into the clothes drier and gobbling up power. In fact, I have blogged before about my great love for my pre-loved clothes line. It was just about the only thing in our garden when we bought our section. I often think of it as a temporary art installation…….like a huge bunting slowly turning itself in the gently breeze.

Passion fruit clinging to the garden shed.

Number 12

Use vertical space to increase your growing space. Even our back wall of the garden shed is a growing space for passionfruit. Much of our fence is also used to support vines like grapes, passion fruit and choko (a type of Spanish squash). A brilliant way to increase your capacity to grow food.

Our Growing Bench has an encouraging sign for our plant …”Try”.

Number 13

Have a bench or table where you can pot up your plants, root cuttings and seedlings, and also allow them to grow until it is time to plant them out in the garden. This bench (above) is great as it allows for a shady spot and a sunny spot. New plants are set out in the shade until a bit hardier, then they are moved into the full sun aspect.

Number 14

Plant flowers that attract the pollinators….bees, bumble bees and other beneficial insects. I love the native hebes that come in all sizes and colours, calendula (plant once, and never again as they will reseed themselves), allysum (bee candy) and geraniums (pelargoniums actually) which are so easy to propagate from cuttings and also come in a variety of colours and of course, the scented ones (rose, peppermint and lemon).

Much of my garden’s flowers come from cuttings shared so generously by other gardeners.

Number 15

Find ways to be resourceful, so that gardening doesn’t cost the earth!! These bamboo stakes were offered free on our town’s facebook page when someone was clearing their bamboo patch. I collected enough for a year or two’s supply. I reuse old irrigation pipe to make planting cloches and almost everything is upcycled or reused in some way or other.

Bamboo stakes form an archway to walk under and collect beans.

Number 16

Be inspired and be inspiring in your garden! I have a painted sign outside our front door, so every day we step outside we are greeted with some simple reminders to keep ourselves grounded (‘scuse the pun). Lots of visitors to the garden have taken a photo of our sign (which started life as discarded offcuts from a shutter factory).

Some positive life reminders……

Number 17

Use tree mulch (from the trimmed branches) as a ground cover to suppress weeds and conserve water. We have a small DIY garden mulcher which does a great job of turning unwanted pruned branches into shredded mulch. From the earth, back to the earth. We don’t have to pay for someone to collect our garden waste, as the compost bin and mulcher makes use of everything grown and “discarded”.

Number 18

Grow nutrient dense, chemical free produce. To deter white cabbage butterflies around this time of year, we have butterfly decoys, and I cover our cabbages with a leaf of rhubarb to deter the little flitty pests. Food that you grow healthy and strong, is food that will help you grow…….healthy and strong.

White flowers are chamomile….makes a good relaxing tea.

These are all just little provocations or top tips to maybe inspire you to try one new thing in your garden or simply to start your gardening journey, after all, the Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with the first step. Take that step, and then the next and the next……and enjoy the journey.

PS. A good pair of gumboots and gardening gloves might be a great Christmas gift to inspire someone to head out into their garden……

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