In South Africa there’s been a real push in recent years towards maximising garden space in all walks of life; as both home ownership increases and as part of a concerted government drive to alleviate food insecurity by encouraging people to become more agricultural in the home (particularly in urban areas) as a means to become more self-sufficient. So with the role of the garden increasing to the point where to many it’s more akin to an outside room or workspace, then it only seems fitting to treat its design with the same care and attention to detail that you’d use in any other room in your house.
It may seem daunting, but with a little foundational work and a solid work ethic you can transform your garden into a self-sufficient agricultural hotbed with a thriving eco-system that looks absolutely gorgeous to boot. How, you might ask? Well, we wanted to know too, and that’s why we got in contact with 7 of the most notable gardening experts on the web and asked them one simple question:
What are your favourite tips & tricks to help bring a garden to life?
Here’s what they told us:
Trish Taylor - Life Retreat
1) Lawn care always revives our lawns. Every spring I hire a roller with spikes, and aerate the lawn (this can be done by digging in with a garden fork). I purchase a lawn fertiliser, and spread it everywhere. I cut back any trees that are preventing sunlight, from shining onto the lawn. I mow the lawn to a healthy height of about 2 1/2 cm. And, year after year, we are guaranteed of a beautiful, lush, green grass.
2) Herb gardens not only bring our gardens back to life, but they but they help us to live a healthy life. We have had an assortment of herb gardens over the years. At the moment we have little pots in the garden with herbs growing in them. The most important thing for me, apart from nurturing them, is ensuring that they are labelled. This way we instantly have access to a variety of herbs for cooking, healing and cosmetics. Twice a year I sow seeds for herbs we don't have.
3) The sound of water soothes our souls. If you are fortunate enough to live by the sea, or a river you will be blessed, with the ongoing sounds of nature. If not, a water feature is a good option. I love the sound of rain, and there is nothing more relaxing, than lying in bed during a thunder storm. Not only is rain the most beautiful sound, but it guarantees us a living garden. Water is essential for our gardens, in the right quantities of course. I have a timer on my irrigation system, which ensures that the garden is always watered. On hot summer days, our plants often cry out for more water, and it is so relaxing to stand with a hosepipe, and water the plants. This is the best way to ensure that we have a dose of Vitamin d, every day
There is not much I do to bring a garden to life - because it all depends on the rain that falls. No rain - no veggie garden. I don't have flower beds because all our available water must go towards providing for us, rather than being wasted on keeping "cosmetic" items alive.
Naturally, using winter to feed and prepare your veggie beds is critical. We are blessed with 7 X 5 000lt tanks which collect the rainwater which falls on our roof. Apart from water in streams / rivers (which we don’t have access to), rain water is the best way to water plants which you're growing for food.
Being fortunate in having a worm farm, and alpaca's, who provide me with the very important nutrients with which to feed my beds I do not even have to consider using chemical fertilizers. I wouldn't in any case. Why add chemicals to you foods if you're trying to grow wholesome food to benefit your body?
Mulch is also of critical importance. Water is too precious to waste - the mulch helps to retain the moisture for the plant's benefit, and prevent it from evaporating due to high temperatures / excessive wind.
Similarly, any pests which arrive are dealt with in as eco-friendly a way as possible. Chickens to eat the crawling, flying insects, and companion planting to keep other pests at bay. My blog also details an eco-friendly recipe for spraying which I was given by a manager at a Starke Ayres Garden Centre in Cape Town.
Ethnee Hepburn- Ethnee's Blog
Here's my three tips for bringing your garden to life:
1. Use lots of compost to attract earthworms so that your soil remains well fertilized.
2. Try and focus on cultivating plants that attract bees and birds as this will save you a lot of time and energy on pollination, weed control and spreading seeds around the garden. It also helps keep pests at bay!
3. Invest as much time into your garden as you want to get out of it. Make sure you know your routine like clockwork- when to water the plants, when to pull out weeds, when to harvest your veg etc and just get on with it with a bit of old fashioned hard-work
Catherine Hughes- Growing Family
My tip is to choose plants that stimulate as many senses as possible; this makes your garden work on many different levels which really adds interest. We tend to automatically think of choosing beautiful flowers and colours to delight the eyes, but it’s also worth considering texture, sound and smell when choosing and positioning your plants.
Ornamental grasses are a fabulous way to bring a garden to life; they move in the wind which creates wonderful sounds and gives a point of interest for the eye, they are also very tactile so you can enjoy running your hands through them if you plant them within easy reach. And for scent my top pick would be lavender; it smells fabulous and it’s also fantastic for pollinating insects and looks wonderful.
My top tip on garden design is to approach it differently if you live in town than you would if you were living in the country. In town, you need think about the garden as you view it from the house - what will you see out of the windows, for example? Then think about what the house will look like when you look back at it from the other end of the garden. Whereas if you have a country garden with views, then you need to start thinking about how they will work with your garden design. You don't have to choose a garden design that matches your architecture or your view - just remember that either factor will affect the atmosphere of your garden in a major way.
At this time of year with fading light and falling leaves, the garden can start to look a little stark. An easy way to brighten it up a bit is with some strategically placed spotlights. Place beneath a tree or another tall structural plant and as the sun disappears the lights will bring new life to your garden, creating interesting and illuminating displays that allow you to see your plants in a new way.
Eddie DeJong - Vita Gardens
I'm always astonished at the way the earth works, and how many of life's living and lifestyle issues can be solved simply by nature. Take composting for instance. Nature has made a way to not only help reduce our consumable waste by 1/2 but it also does something much better - and that's convert that waste into the richest soil imaginable. It's not a new thing, as it's been around since the beginning of time. Also throughout the spring and fall, I try to save my yard waste to use in my gardens for future compost. I used to bag everything up and leave it for the city to dispose of. Now I keep it for myself - and it's a simple way to reduce our household waste and replenish our gardens.