A Cottage Garden needs to be planned to provide many years of glorious garden backdrop without a great deal of work.
Your plants are the biggest feature of the garden , but the plan is what makes it all come together.
Once your architecture is laid out and and you know just where everything else is to go you can begin to add mulch, as a soil improver, which breaks down in a few months.
There is no screaming hurry to get everything built and constructed because it will take time to prepare the soil and then plant your precious seedlings or seeds.
Pacing yourself at this time is important.
Apply tea tree mulch over the garden beds to preserve moisture loss while the green mulch is breaking down.
A well structured Cottage Garden has a variety of environments from open full sun dry soil to partly shaded moist soil to wet and boggy.
All areas can be addressed, beautifully.
Usually the drier soils and therefore the dry loving plants are higher on the property but yours will always be unique.
You may need to add sand in the dry areas to maintain good drainage once you group the plants with similar requirements.
By it's very nature, Cottage Gardens reduce the amount of lawn that needs to be maintained and the inclusion of pebble or paved paths can drop that maintenance even further.
Watering can therefore be done weekly and be a pleasure to do rather than a chore.
As I mentioned previously, you can establish your garden while you are waiting to have the gazebo constructed, but always remember to allow access to the building site that does not include stomping all over your carefully planted seedlings.
Warm winters can disturb the hibernation of slugs and snails.
They will eat and breed throughout the winter months, creating an extra generation of molluscs that will continue your infestation.
Slugs are very benificial in the compost heap but unfortunately they may not stay there and the heat generated by the pile of decaying matter may just be enough to take their breeding cycle to a new high. Adult slugs can eat 40 times their own weight in a any one day.
So, from our perspective, you can have your plants and eat them too.
If your compost area has a border around it that is inhospitible to slugs and snails, they are unlikely to leave and declare war on your vege patch.
Coarse sand, harsh bark mulch or copper wire around the bin will help keep them in their place. In your garden they will always prefer fleshy foliage and stems and just about any seedling they can get their slimy mouths on.
Some popular methods of control that we have tried are:
1. Beer. They simply love a drop of the amber liquid and, like many Aussie's can smell it from 500 metres away. 1/3 of a glass placed near but not with the vegetables will encourage them in. Easy to get in but not quite so easy to get out.
2. Egg shells Now, we tried this with broken shells but found that it was a bit hit and miss. Then we washed and crushed the eggshells creating lots of sharp edges over a larger area and the perimeter worked much better.
3. Sand Sand does keep them away but you have to have a generous border that will not retain water as the water will simply create a skimming medium for them. Predators, like frogs can help a little but the most effective predators are the birds if they feel comfortable wandering through your patch.
4. Seaweed Collected seaweed (dry) can, strewn around the garden and not under the plants, help to disuade the molluscs and never needs to be removed as it breaks down eventually into usefull plant food in the garden.
5. Copper wire or tape A decent ring of copper around a plant stem will react with their natural moist skin and the current created will act a little like an electric fence.
6. Repelling plants Like pennyroyal, mint and may of the Alliums like chives will deter them a little but the unfortunate thing about these herbs is that they are only effective if they are bruised or crushed.Snails and slugs do not have a heavy footprint.
7. Diatomaceous earth can be very useful as well because it dries the mucous that the slug or snail use to create an easy path and will be very discourageing for them.
8. Ducks, Chooks and Geese are also extremely useful police but unfortunately not possible or practical for many urban or suburban gardeners.
9. Nocturnal Safari Armed with only a flashlight, bucket of salty water (or drinking water if you wish to transfer your catch to the compost bin) and two spoons to catch them in to avoid getting 'slimed', spend an hour each evening for a week collecting. You will have solved most of your problem for quite a while.
Chrysanthemum coronarium blooms help to filter out a host of toxins including ammonia and benzene, which is often found in plastics, detergents, and glue.
Known by many names such as chrysanthemum greens or edible chrysanthemum it is another essential salad vegetable.
In the kitchen, the green leaves and young shoots of Garland Chrysanthemum are wonderful when added, (at the last moment) to soups, omelettes and stir-fries.
Garland Chrysanthemum are easy to germinate and just as easy to grow.
You can plant the seed where you want them to grow or just as easily sow them into a punnet for later transplant.
Garland Chrysanthemum do quite well in pots and do create a great verandah, windowsill, balcony or courtyard decoration.
In hot climates the seed is best planted in Winter, Spring or early Summer as late planting can result in the plant ‘bolting’ into flower before the leaves have been used.
Always referred to as a healing plant Aloe vera will sit comfortably on any windowsill. Not only is it handy indoors to soothe any kitchen or sunburns, this succulent will purify the air of formaldehyde and benzene, found in varnishes, floor finishes, and detergents.
They last for years and years and ‘pup’ regularly so that you will be able to naturally grow as many as you need to.
There’s more to composting than just tossing bits of unwanted food in a bin every now and again.
Yes, it is eco-friendly, yes, it is natural and yes, it can help your garden enormously, but only if you remember a few things.
When you start don’t be pressured into investing in a whole composting system that looks great but is totally unnecessary.
Firstly, think about the nature of rain forest and remember that the luxuriant growth of the South American rain forests exists on only 600mm of constantly composting material with practically no soil to speak of.
In Australia we are faced with some of the shallowest topsoil on the planet so it can work here too.
There are a few different methods of composting that can be applied to every type of home.
Whether it’s a plastic bin with a few holes in the side, a ‘pile’ in a corner of the backyard, a serious timber or wire box made from old wooden palets and chickenwire, or a very serious set of adjoining boxes with removeable slat walls, the principles are still the same.
1. Ensure that wherever to locate your compost heap there will be sun for more than 4 hours a day. (compost is heat activated)
2. The ground should be reasonably level to help with drainage. If you have no drainage in your bin, drill holes in the side and make sure they are always free.
3. Remember that you must be able to turn or mix things up in there.
4. You need to balance the amount of green and dry materials in your heap. (50/50 is good. Green adds nitrogen and Dry adds carbon)
G. Fruit and veggie scraps, green leaves and spent flowers, grass clippings, Coffee grounds and tealeaves.
D. Shredded paper (including newsprint, excluding magazines and mail-outs), lint from the dryer or vacuum cleaner (do not use this lint if it is predominantly synthetic) and sawdust.
5. Never add any animal materials such as meat scraps or bones, animal fats and definitely no dog or cat poo. (this is not manure, this is poo!)
6. If you add dry leaves in Autumn, well and good, but, if you do not turn the mixture often they will never break down and can stop the whole process of composting for years.
7. Turn or mix your bin, heap, pile at least once a week, as this creates oxygen exchange, moisture equalization, and encourages decomposition.
8. Water your compost at least once a week. Dry compost is a contradiction in terms. Once it dries out it takes ages to get the rotting happening again.
9. Give it time to become ‘soil’. Don’t be impatient, it it rot away at it’s own pace. Some plants like Yarrow will speed the decomposition up a little but generally be patient.
10. It can help to occasionally spread a layer of dirt or potting mix on top (not too thick) to add texture and volume to your compost.
Once your bin or whatever is full, simply carry on with the above activities in a second spot.
You will know when it is ready to use by the sight and smell. It actually looks like good soil and smells a kind of ‘earthy sweet’ that is quite comforting.
The volume of your bin will about 15% of it’s initial volume. It really takes that much in compression and conversion.
Hopefully, after your first bin was full you found it necessary and imperative to start another one while you waited.
The success of ‘making dirt’ in your first one will encourage you to keep going further.
Now, as I mentioned, there are hundreds of composting products available and, if you feel the need to spend money on the project, all and well.
But, if you want to take the roll of waste management fundamentally, then I would suggest obtaining (for free ideally) five timber product pallets that are usually only made for one use and then discarded.
Four sides and the base of your compost bin is done! A few self tapping screws to hold it together will give you a very ‘airy’ box.
A 10m roll of chicken wire wrapped around the sides and the bottom and your bin is complete.
Fill and wait.
Usually the timber used in pallets is low grade and generally untreated with chemical.
This means that, naturally, the same organisms that compost your waste are going to have a go at your bin as well.
Personally, I don’t see a problem with that as the bin was never intended to be an archetectural addition to the garden.
Your bin will probably be a one metre cube which is pretty well an ideal size to use for an average family and garden waste disposal and it’s not too large to turn.
The bigger the bin, the more effort is required to layer and to turn it so keep it real. I know from experience that leaning over a large compost bin and tumbling in is no party.
Remember that your compost bin is ‘supposed’ to be full of life. Worms, snails, slugs beetles and other weird looking creatures can live out their whole lives in your compost bin and the circle of life is so complete that it’s just magic.