Akemi Garden’s journal is here for you to keep updated with what to do in your garden season by season. It aims to share with you knowledge and information you need to maintain and grow your beautiful garden.
Whether you love to dabble in the garden, are an avid gardener or simply want to know what to do next in your garden, this blog is for you. We will also give you small updates with what is happening here at Akemi Gardens, so you too can share our journey in the world of landscape design.
Nowadays our gardens are getting smaller as we squeeze into our city spaces. The challenge now is how can we get the most from these courtyards or micro gardens without feeling like we live in a box?
There are a few tricks to using the small gardens to maxiumum efficiency, they can be using built in seating, walled gardens, vertical gardens, tall plantings, minimal furniture, light paving, wall colours and simple design.
When you are in your outdoor room, peace is what you should feel, you will want to forget your chaotic working week and recharge your batteries with friends, family, pets or just yourself. When you enter a crowded room do you feel relaxed? I’m guessing you said no, most people would, this applies to your courtyard garden too, too many pots, colours, furniture can make the space feel chaotic!
Bring it back to soothing colours, soft tall plantings, minimal textures, a simple feature pot or tree, soft mood lighting, one or two key pieces of furniture and a few plants used in multiple plantings. One last point to mention; consider shade, direction of the sun and placement of your BBq and entertaining space in relation to this. The last thing you want when you are relaxing is to have the sun blasting in your eyes as you slave over the hot stove (BBQ) or sitting in the HOT midday sun.
Looking for ideas?
- Mirrors- The best way to enlarge a “Poky” area.
- Secret Spaces – If you have the luxury of space you can easily create a few of these. Even if you don’t Hidden Gates can do the trick.
- Feature Lighting- Can transform an entrance, entertaining area, or pool area.
- Texture – The use of texture in plantings, hardscape and wall surfaces increase the Wow factor when done properly.
- Planting Layers-Colours and heights of plants when designed in a clever way can work wonders in your garden.
- Contrasting Surfaces- Less is more so don’t over do the different textures.
- Colour – Light or dark colours can enlarge or shrink a space
- Reflection- carefully placed can enlarge a space, or highlight a feaure.
- Functional Zones-Zone your spaces as per their function, ie Service Area, Entertaining Area, Chill Area.
- Create the illusion of Space – There are tricks of the trade which help create the illusion of space, mirrors are one.
- Screens- There are so many screen ideas out there which can be used for privacy, shelter, zoning and fencing. The most difficult part is chosing which one.
Located in Melbourne’s southeast suburb of Bentleigh this landscape design shows how a new modern home with can be transformed from a cleared block to a magnificent formal garden with Pool.
This garden grew from the clients ideas for a formal english garden, our challenge was to work with them to bring it to life with plants suitable for our Australian climate and the soil type in the Bentleigh East Area.
With issues such as privacy, deeply excavated block, drainage, aspect, and layerig we created a garden as individual as our clients, which can be enjoyed from every direction, being from the road, the driveway as guests walk to the entrance, or from the living and kitchen areas. Take a Look at the following pictures of this Landscape Design including pool landscaping, paving, retaining wall, waterfeature, hedging for this new Henley Home in Melbourne.
LANDSCAPING PLAN – What’s in it?
A good Landscape Plan requires a lot of thought and planning to make sure all aspects are covered. When plans go into the design phase clients have ideas in their head, images, lists, budget, colours, plants etc these all help considerably with the aesthetic beauty, function, choice of materials etc, however there are some fundamentals which are imperative to a good design and whether or not it will work. Some of the keys for success are situation, soil, sun movements, rain and water availabilities, drainage and ease of function.
The most important detail all designs must cover is drainage – each house and land site has it’s own specific site characteristics, fall and slope of the land can be the major key to whether the design works or not. When a designer is working on a design drainage is probably the most important discussion your Landscape Designer or Landscaper will have with you (apart from budget). If this is not planned properly there can be pooling of water in and around the house or in various parts of the garden which can be expensive to fix, can cause property damage and plant or lawn loss, and a general nightmare if not taken care of. In Australia there are standards to which a landscaper installing the drains, pipes and paving, needs to adhere to so to prevent these problems. If in doubt or need some advice, speak to a professional.
Each landscaping site has certain trees, plants, and borrowed landscape features which can add significant beauty to a garden, whether it is an old one getting a makover, an old site completely being demolished for a new house or simply a block of land or garden being landscaped from scratch. Before any removal of trees or plants is started it is important to talk to a Landscape Designer to get some advice as to which ones you should keep and which ones should go. There can also be beautiful rock formations or slopes or mounds of land which can cleverly be worked into the design to an advantage. Some trees may have significant beauty but could be located near a water main or sewer drain in which case they need to be removed so to prevent expensive excavation and drain repairs later on. The same goes with choosing trees, some varieties cause major problems in drains and sewers so they should be avoided altogether in suburban gardens.
Other “invisible aspects” which are considered by a Landscape or Garden Designer when planning a garden are angles, aspect, point of view, focal points, borrowed landscape, proportion, material clash, balance, flow and safety. All points considered affect the success of the plan in the long term. Condider: How will this plant affect this garden in ten years – 20 years time?
The last vital point to make as to whether a landscape plan will be successful or not is to seriously consider how can I maximise what I have within the amount of money I have to spend? Have you carefully talked about your budget? A good landscape or garden designer will work with your budget when considering your landscape design, by knowing your budget your designer can work with this and help you choose the appropriate materials, surfaces and plants so that you can get the garden you want within realistic budget parameters.
Each landscape plan Akemi Gardens is hired to do takes at least 30 hours of work over and above the client contact , meetings and brief. The design process itself involves a lot of thought, planning, and research into all the above details and more. If you are taking on the job yourself check that your landscape plan has all these aspects seriously considered and incorporated within, then all things taken into account can you go ahead with building it. If you are having a landscaper or designer do the plan for you, make sure you know how much time they are putting into the plan for your new garden.
There are a few tricks to growing great tomatoes. Ones that have amazing, intense flavour and just seem to disappear.
Peter Cundall is a very famous Australian garden guru and I was very fortunate to have one of his books given to me from another garden guru – my Granny. I rely heavily on this book and read it often. Each time I flick through the pages, I fondly think of my Granny, her vegetable garden and her gift for gardening which I proudly posess. So……. forgetting the sentimentality, my experience with tomatoes has been built from reading this book plus trial and error.
Ideal pH for tomato 5.8-7.0
Seeds or seedlings? Well, buying seeds gives a wider choice of variety but, obviously, it is quicker to plant seedlings.
For your first planting of tomatoes, choose seedlings and keep them in the hot house or in a warm spot on a window sill until the earth warms up in November (for cold and temperate regions). Choose seedlings which are short and sturdy (they will be stronger plants) and have roots coming out of the bottom of the pot. These plants will have more advanced root structures and will go into shock when planted, sending out of lots of flowers and as a result you will have more fruit! Some great varieties are “Beefstock” and “Black Russian”.
Peter Cundall suggest using only sulphate of potash as a fertiliser on these plants. Putting a “good pinch” all around the plants on top of the soil will firm up the leaves, encourage early flowering which will produce those tasty tomatoes we all long for.
For your second planting of tomatoes in December, you can plant the seedlings you have grown from seed in the greenhouse from September. The tips with seedlings is to snip off the lower leaves as the plant is growing to strengthen the stem.
Mulch your tomatoes only after the soil and temperatures have warmed up toward the end of November and early December. When you see your first fruit then start watering well every second day.
The next consideration is whether to tie the tomatoes up on stakes. I do, simply because it enables all the plant to get sunlight and therefore all of the fruit is drenched. I also find it helps support the branches when they are laden with fruit. These can become very heavy and bend, some branches can break right off.
Peter Cundall does not always stake up his tomatoes. I have had a tomato plant come up from my compost material, so I left it and watched it. It had a small yield of tomatoes and they were eaten by slugs because they were lying on the soil.
Good luck! It is a very rewarding fruit to grow and best of all you wont need to buy tomatoes all summer or into autumn because you have grown the most amazing ones right in your own backyard.
Long days and warm weather, means ideal growing conditions.
Plant any seedlings raised in the glasshouse now. Vegetables such as melons, corn, cantelopes, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, zucchinis, squash, pumpkins. Lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks and parsley seeds can also go in now for a later summer harvest. Keep sowing french beans and peas for freezing – scarlet runner beans are the best to freeze. Cucumbers need warm, summer conditions and rich well drained soil. I have grown my cucumbers up stakes to maximise space; with mulch and manure I was rewarded immensely with a bumper crop which we ate almost as fast as they grew, with a few to share with neighbours!
Zucchinis grow like mad so put them in a corner where you have plenty of room, two or three plants are enough for a family.
Carrots, beetroot and late potatoes, cabbage, silverbeet and other leafy vegetables can go in. Remember to successive plant and rotate crops from previous years to inhibit bug and pest invasion.
Plant first in Spring and early December then again in January/February for produce right through to autumn.
Early December is also the best time to mulch with pea straw after laying drip irrigation.
Compost is by far the best way to improve the soil in your garden. It adds vegetable matter and is a rich fertiliser, helps hold water and nutrients and brings worms into your patch.
It is surprising how much food waste comes out of our kitchens. On average, a domestic kitchen can fill a 3 litre container with food scraps every day. This, mixed with grass clippings, leaf debris, animal manure, vacuum bag dust, garden cuttings, makes the best compost and has the added benefit of reducing landfill. If most households saved their kitchen scraps for compost we could reduce landfill considerably.
Composting does need a recipe and the right technique for it to decompose quickly and evenly. So here is a great recipe for rich compost so get ready, get set and go!
The best spot for a compost bin is directly on soil, next to a path, out of the way and out of the direct sunlight. The bin does need to get some warmth, but not all day in blistering sun. If the soil at the base is heavy clay then you will need to dig down into the soil, remove about a spade depth of the clay and dig in sand, or gravel to improve the drainage, because you will need to add water into your bin.
This depends on what resources you have available. You can use old materials lying around to build a bin: wooden pallets, corrugated iron, planks, wire, old fencing etc. Or you can use a specially made bin. Having one bin for active use and a second bin or spot next to it for garden clippings, straw, leaf litter and old vegetation ready to be put in is very helpful.
The mix usually consists of 75% or more of vegetable matter, plus an activator and a neutralizer. They need to be mixed thoroughly and water added if too dry. Regular mixing is the secret, get a compost hook and mix it thoroughly once a fortnight.
1/4 Fresh chicken manure (or fresh horse/cow manure)
1/2 Vegetable matter
1/4 Kitchen Scraps
A handful of lime per wheelbarrow load to neutralise it as the mix can be acidic.
Also pour in half a bucket of water once a week to keep the mix moist (if you have a closed compost bin this will not be required).
Another very efficient way to break down the compost is to add composting worms. Providing your bins openly contact the ground, the worms will move freely between the bin which has finished composting to the new compost bin.
Vegetable scraps (NO onion skins or citrus skins)
Dinner scraps (AVOID meat and bones)
Feather and feather waste
Dust and waste from vacuum bags
Finely shredded paper (soaked in water and mixed thoroughly)
AVOID Ivy and noxious weeds.
How do I know when my Compost is ready?
Smell is the simple answer. When the bin still has fresh kitchen scraps it will smell sour and be clumpy in texture and have variations of colour. Compost when ready is dark brown, finely textured and actually smells sweet when you open the bin.
Uses: Dig the compost into the vegetable patch prior to planting if you have plenty to spare. If not, then when planting dig a pot full of well aged compost into the hole, mix it with the soil and then plant normally.
Spring is definitely the most exciting time of the year in the garden! Not only is the weather warming up in the southern states of Australia, but we start to see the rewarding results of our hard work in the garden. Akemi Gardens is based in Melbourne, so here and also in Tasmania we are seeing incredible seasonal colour changes in the garden – as the trees blossom, bulbs burst, flowers start to bloom and the leaves return to our deciduous garden dwellers. All our advice will be for gardens in the TEMPERATE zones of Australia, mostly the southern half of our continent and New Zealand. If you live in a cold region prone to frosts then wait a few extra weeks.
In the Veggie Patch:
- Don’t forget to rotate your crops from last season to assist pest control and improve the numbers of soil organisms.
- If you are just starting out: test the soil and add a little lime if the soil is too acidic or some sulphur if it is too alkaline. The optimum pH for veggies to gain the maximum amount of nutrients from the soil is in the range of pH 6-7 . There are some exceptions – potato, sweet potato and watermelon (pH 5.0-5.5), pineapple prefers medium acid soil (pH 5.5-6.0)
- Dig in compost and aged animal manure now if you haven’t already done so.
- Plant seedlings of beans dwarf and climbing, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, cape gooseberry, capsicum, carrots, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, choko, cress, cucumbers, eggplants, endive, herbs, leeks, lettuces, marrows, melons, mustard, okra, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, rhubarb, silver beet, squashes, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes, zucchinis.
- Tomatoes get a special mention:
Tomatoes have a three month growing season and they need to be in a frost free area. Aim to have two crop plantings, Mid October and January and you will be provided with tomatoes for five months of the year! Phosphorus is the most important nutrient for tomatoes, lack of it (especially in the seedling stage) will reduce yields of fruit. Stake them with 2m stakes, prune to two leaders (or main stems), break off laterals (or side stems) when small. Tie them up gently. Best Varieties: Grosse Lisse, sweetie, summer taste, roma, tiny tom. If you are in a cooler area, by all means get your seedlings now or start seeds off in the greenhouse, and keep them there until mid October then plant them out into your well prepared garden beds. Enjoy!
Everyone loves a lush green, weed free lawn! Spring is the time when we look at it and contemplate what to do about the weeds! Well there are a few things you can do to spruce up the lawn:
- Mow it to begin.
- Trim the edges (now you’re motivated…)
- Aerate the ground. This involves using the pitch fork and inserting it about 4 inches into the soil, gently put weight down onto the handle on an angle and push . The turf should lift a little, this also creates holes for the fertiliser and water to flow. Lawns can become compacted and lose their grass. This gets things started again.
- Use a weed and feed product on the lawn and spread it as per the instructions on the packet. Don’t be alarmed if you see the weeds going black, this is good.
- Fertilise with a bit of extra blood and bone, and water this in. The water will carry the fertiliser dust particles down to the roots.
NOW WATCH IT GROW!