A Garden’s Winter Welcome
When we bought our home last year, it came with a wonderful and spacious garden- much more space than any of the other places we had viewed before (which were mostly townhouses). We didn’t move in until three months later in June, which down here in Australia, was the start of winter. Or course, being winter, not much was happening in the garden but all that changed when it began to spring into life later in the year.
There were new buds and flowers popping up, shrubs and plants we didn’t know the names of, and so many rose bushes everywhere. Mrs F. W. likes roses a lot (she bought a small rose bush in our apartment in the city a few months prior, hoping it would survive until we could have our own small garden one day), so what a happy outcome that she now has dozens of mature rose bushes at home.
Growing fruit and veg
The garden also came with a couple of seemingly disused objects which we have now since fully employed to do their jobs. One is a raised vegetable patch and the second is a compost bin which we’ll talk about after.
We want to grow the things we like to eat and use a lot for cooking, some of which are more expensive to buy in the shops, as well as some smaller items like herbs.
For the vegetable patch we added in various herbs, and some tomatoes. The tomato plant ended up doing so well that we had to pull it out as it was taking over the entire patch, although not before we took a good few harvests with plenty of tomatoes to last us the summer. Knowing how quick and easy they were to grow when it has the opportunity, we will be making a dedicated space for them in the near future (in fact we already have – see the upcoming Tiny Garden project at the end).
We had already decided we wanted our own fruit trees too. We get through a lot of lemons, so that was the first thing we bought as a dwarf species. My own folks were also very generous and by surprise, also bought a few fruit trees which turned up on our doorstep one evening: a dwarf lemon and lime, and a normal kumquat and orange. The dwarfs ended up in large garden terracotta pots and the trees in the ground.
Finally we would still really like an avocado tree as we get through a lot of those when they are in season. These are supposed to take 10-15 yrs to bear fruit though, and the two plants we raised from supermarket fruit seeds have no guarantee of bearing any fruit at all. The big one we had didn’t appear to like being in the ground, as it has basically died off. There is one more we will keep in its pot for now, but we plan to buy a proper baby tree at the start of next season.
The compost bin was full of mostly dried grass cuttings when we moved in, but after a couple of months we set about activating it. We got rid of most of the hay, added compost from Bunnings, and started dropping in the left over bits of vegetables from cooking and fruit cores etc. More recently we added half a box of worms to help with the decomposition.
One corner of the garden is reached through a gap in the hedge. It was fairly empty when we moved in but was nevertheless quite spacious, so we plan to turn this into a little semi covered area, one day with an ivy or plant covered pergola, some decking and a little bench and small table – somewhere to enjoy an afternoon tea perhaps.
So far we have installed a little archway only and started training one of the nearby rose bushes to climb up it, although this is more temporary until we do something more serious like just mentioned.
We also wanted some kind of nut tree. Our preference was for walnut but were unsure whether what was available was suitable or not, so we went with our second favourite of almond instead. This has grown twice as fast as we were expecting, we bought it with the tip waist high (~1m,) but has more than doubled its height to maybe 2.5m in the eight months since we planted it. Maybe this is normal?
This corner is where Mrs F. W. also planted her Blue Moon rose we bought while we were living in the apartment, and am pleased to say it is doing very well. As are some Dahlias we planted. That area definitely has some good soil.
Butterflies, birds and… where are the bees?
We get a lot of butterflies where we are, which I always remember as a sign the air is good. They are mostly small white coloured ones, but just the other day there was a large colourful one which alas, we were not able to capture on camera in time, but may have been a Common Tiger Butterfly.
I’m not overly familiar with bird types either, but after googling, they may be doves, painted honeyeaters, green lorikeets and common mynas. Occasionally there are much bigger birds flying overhead. Not sure where they came from or where they are going to, but they make quite a racket doing so.
Bees are visitors we are missing but would like to encourage. We have a lot of lavender to the side and expected to see a lot more than we do see. We installed an insect hotel but that hasn’t helped unfortunately…
So that is a brief introduction to our garden. What do we think of all the work it entails?
Gardening work – unwinding and relaxing.
To be honest we felt quite overwhelmed when we first moved in and faced what we knew was coming. Garden maintenance is something that years ago I would have yawned at the very thought of, but to our surprise and satisfaction, we have found that we really enjoy doing the gardening work- even things like pulling out weeds and mowing the lawn. It is quite a release when you spend your whole sitting down in front of the computer for work. It clears the mind and comes with plenty of fresh air as standard. Definitely relaxing and you get some exercise too, light or strenuous depending on the particular task at hand.
Watering all the plants was quite time consuming over the summer however. While there is an irrigation system, it is only part hooked up and functioning, so this is another project I would like to get fixed and even extended before next summer for sure.
Tiny Garden Project
A new project which we began only very recently is to landscape up the old ‘junk’ area of the garden. When we moved in it was an area behind the shed paved and bricked up with just the unused compost bin. Our idea is to turn it into a tiny garden of sorts with a little pathway, some raised planting beds for more fruit & veg, and a tiny area of decking and lawn. We want to reuse as much as possible the existing materials, but some parts will need to be bought new. I will do a dedicated post for this on completion, but for now- here is the progress: