Hobby Gardening Courses
Gardening is one of the most popular leisure pursuits for all ages, across the U.K., Europe, Australasia and North America. Adult education courses in gardening can be a great way to not only develop gardening skills, but also meed others with shared interest.
How to Control the Maintenance Demands of a Home Garden
Some gardens simply get out of hand faster and easier than others, particularly in spring. Now is the time to have a close look at your garden and work out ways in which you can make your garden less maintenance intensive. Start off with a spring clean, get rid of the weeds, clean out those neglected corners, and think about which plants are making your garden hard work.
Your easy-care garden won’t happen instantly – all garden makeovers require a reasonable amount of effort to start with, but once the changes are in place you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the results.
Reducing your need to weed
Most gardeners would agree that weeding is the most tedious of garden chores. Have a look at where the most serious weed problems are in your garden – are they infesting garden beds, growing in paths or taking over neglected areas of the garden?
Covering the soil with mulch, weed mat or a combination of weed mat covered by mulch, will help prevent weeds growing in garden beds. Also use ground covering plants wherever possible to cover the soil. Some of the mat forming ground covers, such as pratia, cotula, dichondra, thyme, ajuga, scleranthus and native violets, have a dense carpet-like growth which is very effective at suppressing weeds. Trailing plants (eg. hardenbergias, hibbertias and kennedias) and spreading woody shrubs such as the prostrate grevilleas, cotoneasters and junipers are good for covering large areas.
If weeds growing in gravel paths are a problem, perhaps you could change the paths to pavers, concrete or asphalt. Spraying a herbicide with soil sterilant properties (sometimes called “once a year weedicides”) is also effective at stopping weeds growing in paths.
In neglected weedy corners of the garden you could plant a miniature ‘woodland’, using small-medium deciduous trees (eg. silver birch). In summer the trees will provide too much shade for weeds to grow and in autumn/winter the leaves will carpet the ground. The native Allocasuarinas are also excellent for planting, as the fine needle-like leaves provide a year-round weed-suppressing mulch.
Lawn needs mowing too often
If you spend too much time mowing, consider reducing the amount of lawn you have - perhaps some areas could be replaced with paving or mulched garden beds. In particular, small ‘islands’ of lawn are probably best eliminated as they can be difficult to mow and water.
Concrete mowing strips around garden beds will reduce the need for constant edge trimming and prevent grass growing into garden beds. You can hire a contractor to create curbed edges specifically for your garden – they use a machine which extrudes the concrete to the shape of your lawn and garden beds. Another advantage of this system is that coloured dyes, such as terracotta or sandstone, can be added to the cement mix, so you needn’t be limited to dull grey concrete edges.
Using lower growing grass varieties can also reduce the frequency of mowing. For example, couch needs mowing less often than the taller-growing fescues.
Too much pruning/hedge trimming
The best way to avoid pruning is to choose your plants carefully in the first place. Plant slow-growing plants and avoid growing big plants in small places.
Irish Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), Camellia japonica, Croton (Codiaeum), Daphne, Dogwood (Cornus florida), Ixora, Magnolia stellata, Magnolia x soulangiana, Crabapple (Malus x floribunda), Gingko, Pieris, Rhapis excelsa, Rhododendron, Viburnum.
If you do spend a lot of time pruning, you may need to change some of your plantings. Many plants, such as conifers, stay neat and shapely without ever needing to be cut back; others need pruning every few weeks during the growing season such as Murraya paniculata.
If you like formal clipped hedges, but don’t want to be bothered with constant trimming, use slower growing hedging plants, for example English box (Buxus) grows much more slowly than Lonicera nitida.
Plants that don’t need pruning
Ardisia, Azalea, Banksia spp, Camellia japonica, Callitris, Cedrus deodara, Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata), Daphne, Chamaecyparis spp., Indian Hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica), Nandina domistica, Michellia figo, Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae).
Too much raking/sweeping/tidying up
Some plants are notoriously messy, dropping leaves, bark, sticks, fruit and seed pods throughout the year. Plants best avoided are the eucalypts with ribbon bark (eg. Eucalyptus viminalis), and the larger deciduous trees such as the Liquidamber and London Plane.
If you have a pool, or large areas of paving, avoid plants which drop large messy leaves, eg. Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta), or fruits (eg. lilly pillies).
Too much spraying
One of the best ways to reduce spraying is by making your garden more attractive to insect-eating birds, lizards and spiders. Placing water bowls and birdbaths in the garden, growing a wide variety of shrubs and trees for birds to perch and nest in, and deterring cats from your property, will make your garden a haven for wildlife.
Have a look at which plants need frequent spraying, notably roses, azaleas, citrus, hibiscus, stone fruits, apples and pears, and vegetables. Perhaps you could replace the pest susceptible plants with hardier plants. Also think about whether your plants really do need to be sprayed – often pests will only attack a plant for a day or two before moving on. The plant might be knocked around a little, but will soon recover. If you spray at the first sign of pests you will not allow the population of predatory insects and other animals to establish in the garden – these are however needed to make your garden lower maintenance.
Another strategy, which is particularly effective for reducing pests in the vegetable garden, is companion planting, for example, chives and garlic will repel aphids, while marigolds planted next to tomatoes are said to deter whiteflies and soil nematodes.
Spending too much time watering your gardens or pot plants. Watering is another time-consuming activity but there are ways in which you can change the garden to make more effective use of water:
- Most importantly, mulch garden beds and individual plants.
- Replace water hungry plants with ones that need less. Plants which originate from arid areas are much better adapted to survive dry periods.
- Install an irrigation system – the initial cost and time involved will be readily offset in the time saved in hand watering. Adding timers will also save you time.
- Adding wetting agents to your garden beds, pot plants and lawns will improve water penetration into the soil (less water wasted as run-off), and the raise water holding capacity in soils and potting mixes.
- Potted plants that dry out quickly can be re-potted into potting mixes that have a higher water holding capacity.
- Water-holding crystals can also be added to potting mixes to boost water holding capacity.
- Place pot plants in the ground semi-permanently to reduce water loss due to exposure of the pots to the hot sun, and from wind.
Plants that don’t need much water include:
Agapanthus, Agave attenuata, Banksia ericifolia, Cactus and Succulents, Calothamnus quadridus, Clivea, Cupressus sempervirens, Eriostemon myoporiodes, Gazanias, Geraniums, Grevillea spp., Hakea spp., Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), Juniperus spp., Kunzea ambigua, Lavender, Mesembryanthemum, Oleander, Rosemary, Sea Holly (Eryngium bourgatii), Thyme, Yucca.
ACS Garden (www.acsgarden.com ) provides free articles as week as course information, including a range of home gardening courses through ACS Distance Education.
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