Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Living with less Lawn

Lawn as it was

This is the second part of a retrospective series of garden projects from the last six months.

Inspired by my attack on the Drive Bed it was time to do something about the front lawn. Lawn is the first thing you can't water when water restrictions are introduced. So living with less lawn seems a good starting point for a drought prosperous garden.

Lawn bed with soaker hose

The job : take a big bite out of the front lawn. The first step was to work out the beds shape with the garden hose and then mark it with flouro spray paint. Next we seperated soil from turf used a couple of old milk crates. The holes in the bottom of the crates were large enough to catch the grass tufts and pass the soil, making an ideal filter. Then we added a layer of new compost enriched soil and set up the soaker hose. Soaker hose would be great if it wasn't so fond of curling up. In the end I played to it's strength and let it curl, which looked kind of interesting, before covering it with mulch.

New bed with plants

To get the bed going we planted 2 Callistemons (Bottle Brush), a Hebe, a Banksia and two Correa's. The Callistemon's should grow to roof height and make the house's entrance more private. The larger of the two is Callistemon pallidus which has a lemon flower (will post the first flowers when they arrive). We had a red Callistemon in our last house. It hung over the path to the front door which looked great. But the flowers played havoc in the gutters. Both of these are planted well clear of the house and so shouldn't be a problem.

My partners father had spent many years trying to grow Banksia's (a couple of blocks from our current address) without much success and she has been reminding me of this since I planted this one. It was off to a great start until the temperature hit 41° a couple of weeks ago. It now has an equal number of green and brown leaves; I'm waiting for a sign that it's will survive.

lawn bed layout

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Drive

The Drive bed 21st October 2006

For the last few years I kaven't had much time gardening. But late last year I felt there was an empty space (metaphorically : certainly not in the garden because it was full of weeds). I was looking for a project to fill that space and the small bed beside the driveway seemed a good place to begin.

It was probably the most neglected bed on the block. It was the bed at the furtherest point of the watering system and hence had the poorest water pressure (back when we could water). The bed can't be seen from any point inside the house and was therefore easily forgotten. It had no edging and attracted every piece of scrap paper in the street. We had never really done anything with this bed and so it was filled with seaside daisies. When we moved in there were seaside daisies everywhere.

Now don't get me wrong. Seaside daisies are alright. They are almost impossible to kill and can look great with regular watering and a trim. They are also ideal for catching scrap paper go a very unattractive brown/burgundy color when they don't get enough water; not an ideal plant in a drought.

The Drive Bed : design

So what we decided to do was to edge the bed with sleepers, remove all the seaside daisy, mulch and re-plant. It's a small bed so there wasn't room for many plants. Looking around at what was working in the front garden we decided to go for Correa's. Correa's seem to thrive when they have a support like a wall or fence to grow against. This made them an ideal choice for this bed. We chose:

  • Correa Glabra x Decumbens

  • Correa Reflexa Dwarf

  • Correa Decumbens.

Correa Glabra 17 01 2007

Each has very different and distinctive leaves. The Correa Glabra has been particularly successful and has had a constant showing of flowers since early November. To finish off each end of the bed we planted Grevillea Curviloba as a groundcover.

I was inspired by this beds transformation and this has spurred me on to tackle the rest of the front yard. But that will need to wait for another post.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why do we Garden?

I posted this as a comment over at "As the Garden Grows" but I wanted to preserve it here as well.

Gardening enriches our lives and enriches the world. It is a creative activity. So often we are involved in activities that don't create anything (i.e watching TV). They don't add anything to the richness of life. But when we garden we enrich the world. Creating something gives us a sense of achievement. This is particularly true with gardens. We have a constant reminder of our efforts everytime we walk in the garden or look out of the window. I think it is more rewarding than may other creative activities because it is an ongoing process. A painter works on a painting for a period of time and then he moves onto another painting. It is a record of his perspective at a specific point in time. But gardening is an ongoing process that is evidence of a changing perspective and also of a consistent approach to the world. The longer we garden the more rewarding it is.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Big Picture about our Little Garden

Photo : Side Garden

I want to put my grand gardening plans into perspective. In my experience when people talk seriously about their Gardens they are usually talking about at least an acre. Even when you look at a "Small Garden" book they seem to be talking about something much bigger than the typical suburban block. But all we have is a typical suburban block. So my goal is to have the best garden possible with the limited space available.

A central theme of this garden will be drought. We are currently living through one of the biggests droughts in Australia's history. In December last year our region moved to Stage 4 water restrictions. What that means for us is no watering. This morning there has been some spots of rain. This is the only rain we've seen in the last month. Therefore the only water going onto the garden is greywater captured from showers and laundry. A lot of people are installing greywater tanks to capture this run off. But that's not currently an option on our budget. Which means that washing time is bucket time. But there is only so much that can be done with greywater. Currently this water is going to plants with a serious droop or with leaves that are shrivelled from the heat. But there's still not enough greywater to cover all of those plants. Consequently I'm starting to consider what plants I'm willing to lose.

Drought is one of the ground rules for our new garden. This is a dry region in a dry country. Plants need to be chosen because they are drought hardy (as opposed to drought tolerant). I want the garden to look green and propsperous without needing to water. Consequently we took stock of what was working and there were two plants we'd planted when we first moved here that provided our guide; an acacia and a correa. Both looked great and both were rarely watered. In fact the Correa (Baeuerlenii) seems to have doubled in size since we stopped watering it (we were drowning the poor thing). Planting Australian natives is hardly a revelation and we've always had them as part of the mix. But before it was a choice where now it seems an imperative. Don't get me wrong we won't be restricting ourselves to natives. But whatever we choose must be drought hardy. Next time there is a drought I won't be making life and death decisions from the pointy end of a greywater bucket.

Monday, January 15, 2007

When is a garden not a Garden

Tiger Lillies

I'm not a great gardener. In fact I'm pretty lazy when it comes to gardening. But I love looking at peoples gardens and I wish I had one.

I don't want to give the wrong impression. We have plants around the house and mostly they aren't weeds. But there is, I believe, a point where a collection of plants becomes a garden. The Oxford Dictionary seems rather generous to me when it defines a garden as "a piece of ground adjoining a private residence used for growing flowers etc". Perhaps I should be making a distinction between a garden and a Garden (a distinction that the Oxford is unwilling to make). Perhaps I already have a garden and what I wish I had is a Garden.

The purpose of this blog is to chart the transformation of my garden into a Garden. The process began a few months ago in October, 2006. At that time I thought about a garden blog. But I wasn't really sure about blogging and I held off. Blogging takes committment in the same way that having a Garden takes committment. Like a garden a blog requires regular attention. An empty archive acting as a call to action in the same way as an over grown garden does. Perhaps it can work both ways. A neglected blog may encourage gardening and a neglected garden may encourage blogging. I guess we'll.

I want to warn you in advance; I plan to do some retrospective blogging. I want a full account of the work already done.