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Aussie Green Thumb – Top Gardening Tips For Everyday People

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All this and more;

  • 6 week ‘Build A Better Garden’ series;
  • Practical advice for beginners;
  • Product reviews;
  • Featured plants, mostly Australian native plants;
  • Specific monthly gardening tasks;
  • Simple explanation of common gardening terms.
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Landscaping your garden can be a great way to improve your outdoor space and add value to your home. If you’re not careful though, all the little things you want to do can pile up, and the cost of doing so can get away from you very quickly. Materials, plants, and tradesmen can turn that little weekend project into a massive hit to the wallet. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are some tips to help you landscape your backyard on a budget.

Figure out what you want, set a budget and prioritise jobs.

As it is in life, what you want, and what you need are two very different things when landscaping your backyard. Sure, that majestic marble water feature might look great, but if you can’t justify the price tag, then don’t do it.

You need to figure out the purpose of your landscaped area. What are you going to use it for? Home produce? Entertaining? A haven for the little ones? Each landscape style will call for certain purchases. When you know the purpose, you’ll know what you need. This then flows into the consideration of the theme of your garden. Theme will dictate what style of things you need to purchase. Lets go back to the majestic marble water feature, is that really going to fit in a minimalist eco-friendly home orchid? Nope, so then don’t waste your money on it, even if it is the best thing you’ve ever seen. Figuring out exactly what you want done in your backyard is the first step to saving money. When you know what you want done and where you want it, you can set your budget. This means you can do away with all the little addons and impulse buys that slowly chip away at the bank account.

When you know what you want, and your budget is set, it’s time to prioritise the jobs. Breaking the landscaping down into the little tasks is a great way to tackle the bigger picture. It’s important to think about the order things will be done first off. Hard landscaping is usually the first thing to be done. This involves paving, retaining walls, building beds, timber structures etc. These are the things that don’t have any plant life involved in their completion. The reason we do these first is so that all the heavy equipment and material needed doesn’t damage our new plants or turf. It’s pretty common sense stuff, but can save you a load of time and money by saving the hassle of having to re-do all your softscaping.

The next thing to consider when prirotising is what is most important to achieve your desires. These are the things that are must haves in your new backyard. Doing these things first means that if you go over budget, you don’t have to find more money down the track to get what you want. It also allows you to stagger the works over a period of time, so you can get the vitals done with the cash you have, and save the minor stuff to later down the track when you get a work bonus or a good tax return.

Get lots of quotes.

When it comes to landscaping your backyard, unless you’re a full blown DIY hero, you’re probably going to need help with the heavy lifting. There’s no shame in this, even us professionals sub-contract work out when we need help. There is shame however in not shopping around!

Call around to a bunch of different local tradesmen and ask them to come out for a quote. Landscapers will be your first port of call obviously, but don’t stop there. Builders, concreters, bricklayers and pavers may be able to do some of the jobs you need done that are specific to their trade. General maintenance gardeners may also even offer planting and turfing services. It may seem easier to have just the one jack of all trades on site doing it all, but we’re about saving money here, and this is a great way to start.

If you’ve got the time, then call around multiples of each trade type. You’ll probably find a general average price for the work you want done, and you can use this as negotiation with your favourite. Be careful though of anyone offering super cheap works. You definietly get what you pay for here.

Time of year
Landscaping does have busy periods like any other business. Spring and Summer (getting everything ready for the busy public holiday periods) are the boom times, with demand for tradesmen being really high. When everyone is asking for work, tradesmen can pick and choose jobs that are going to make them more money, and may even charge a little higher rate, because they know the demand is there. If you can, consider holding off on getting a quote until autum or winter. As the work slows and demand drops, tradesmen may take a cheaper project to keep the income flowing.

Do things yourself or with friends.
It may seem daunting, but there’s actually a lot of backyard landscaping jobs you can do youself, or with some friends. It’s a really rewarding activity, and it’s a great way to save money. Unless you know what you’re doing, I’d suggest steering clear of the hard landscaping, but things like digging holes or trenches, painting, mulching, planting plants and trees, or laying turf are relatively easy. Get some mates around and throw a BBQ for anyone that gives you a days work.

You can save yourself loads of money in labour time, and get large jobs done quickly.

Get things for free or cheap.

Plants, pots, sculpures and materials can be really expensive to buy new, but there’s a few ways you can cut the costs associated with these and even get them for free.

For plants, you can get cuttings or divided clumps from friends or family gardens. These can be transplanted into your new garden for virtually nothing. Most plants can be propagated by cuttings, but you may need to use some root hormone gel that you can pick up from any nursery or warehouse store. Also have a look around at local markets, or council give aways for cheap or free plants. Local independent nurseries are another great options. Lots of these places will do some pretty sweet deals on bulk purchases to keep afloat. Wholesale nurseries will also be considerably cheaper to buy from. It might mean taking a bit of a drive out of town, but cut out the middleman and save some money!

Pots and sculptures can be found at second hand stores, on online classified websites, and even on the side of the road. Don’t be afraid to recycle someone elses unwanted stuff if it saves you money!

Materials are a bit tougher to find cheap, but you can save some cash if you can source what you need. Try some local tree loppers, or council arborists and see if they sell their chip mulch cheap (some even give it away!). Be wary of what they’ve chipped though, it may contain weed species seeds, or nasty nutirent absorbing species like camphour laurel, that will destroy your soil.
You can also save some coin by using cheap clean fill to bulk up garden beds, or as a turf underaly, as opposed to expenisve humus or sand/soil blends. Even rocks around your old yard can be used as features, or if you’ve got enough, make a nice rock wall.

Old recycled timber is another great option to save some money. You can use old timber like railway sleepers, recyled decking timber, offcuts, or tree branches for things like garden beds, decks, or features in your garden.

Think outside the box.

Feature objects in a landscaped backyard are a must. They draw the eye of the visitor to a point in the garden, allowing you to control their view and experiences. Correct landscape design will focus the best aspects of the garden around these feature objects, or on the route to them. Whether it be a smell, a noise, or leading the visitor around a corner to a surprise garden full of flowering blossoms. Essentially it makes the feature object, not the feature at all.
So obviously, these are pretty darn important to a great landscaped backyard, but how can you do such magic on a tight budget? Get creative, that’s how! Think about using junk as a feature.

An unexpected garden object can be just as enticing as an amazing sculpture or water feature. A collection of old glass wine bottles in a spray painted plastic pot with a simple little fish tank filter can be used to make a cute little water feature. Big rocks in a flat garden stand out like a sore thumb. A hidden table and chair setting under a tree, or an old broken tyre swing. Filling things like wheel barrows, old urns or vases with cascading flowers, or even an old pair of work boots with some veggies growing out of them. Anything that catches the eye will work. Use these options and save money on buying items.

Hopefully, by following all these tips and tricks, when it comes time to landscaping your backyard you’ll get an amazing, rewarding, and practical outcome, without breaking the bank.

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Tree Lopping – Why Call The Professionals?

Tree lopping

With the advent of YouTube and other video sharing sites, many people are more confident in turning to ‘How To’ videos online and carrying out fixes and jobs around the home themselves. However there are some instances where a professional is simply the best person for the job – one of those is tree removal and tree lopping.

Tree lopping and tree removal are services which carry risks to those carrying out the works as well as any structures around it, including homes, sheds, fencing and swimming pools. In general, home insurance policies will not cover any damage to property caused during tree removal. This is regardless of whether the homeowner or someone acting on their behalf is carrying out the work. Now you may think there is no point hiring a professional as your insurance still won’t pay out if they cause damage, however the risk of damage when using a professional is mitigated compared to an untrained individual taking on the job.

Professional arborists also use high-quality, serviced equipment to carry out their works. Taking on a tree removal without the proper tools is like trying to cut a steak with a spoon, it’s just not going to work. Professional tree loppers will have access to the right equipment and machinery such as cherry pickers and wood chipping machines to clear all the debris.

If you do decide to attempt a tree stump removal or complete tree removal yourself, what happens when you get the tree or stump out of the ground? Chopping it into manageable chunks of wood could take ages, especially without the right tools. Hire a professional though and any trees removed will be chipped and removed from the property with no debris left behind.

Before carrying out any work to trees in your garden, make sure you check with your local council regarding any rules and regulations about tree removals. Most councils have strict restrictions on what can and can’t be removed, even if it is on your property and not council land. Fines for illegally removing trees in Western Australia can be up to $200,000.

All arborists at Dickie’s Trees are fully trained and Western Power qualified, ensuring you get the best service when it comes to tree lopping in Perth. Contact Dickie’s today for a free quote and make your next garden tidy-up a breeze.

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A lush, healthy lawn is visually appealing, welcoming, and can add to the value of a home or business. But while grass is the most common choice, it’s not necessarily the best. Whether you’re tired of mowing the lawn constantly or simply want a different look and feel to your outdoor space, grass alternatives may be the perfect option for you. Explore the factors you need to consider before choosing a lawn type and why traditional grass may not be ideal.

Why the Grass Isn’t Always Greener

All grass is created equal, right? Wrong; there are multiple types of grass, each with its own benefits and disadvantages. Property owners typically report the following issues with traditional grass:

  • Requires consistent maintenance. Grass needs to be mowed monthly (at least) and requires the additional expense of a lawn mower and fuel.
  • Requires the addition of chemicals for pest control. Pests love grass. To keep them at bay and protect your loved one outdoors, you need to perform routine pest control treatments.
  • Requires supplemental irrigation. Particularly in dry areas, grass is prone to die during times of drought. Keeping a lush lawn intact during dry seasons will require frequent watering and maybe even an irrigation system.

If you’re looking for easier ideas to create a beautiful landscape, you’re in luck. Alternatives to traditional grass lawns are convenient, stunning, and naturally inviting.

Choosing the best lawn for your property requires an evaluation of its purpose, location, and environmental risks. Will the lawn remain relatively undisturbed by traffic, or will it be an area where people play, work, or drive? Consider your unique needs before selecting a grass alternative.

Eco Lawns

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A new way to achieve a beautiful lawn, reduce water consumption, and cut your workload in half all at once, eco lawns are derived from grass species. Benefits of planting this alternative include its ability to thrive in both shaded and sunny areas, slow growth, and resistance to drought conditions.

Blue Star Creeper

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From use as a decorative landscape accent or complete ground covering, Blue Star Creeper grows in light shade or full sun and features charming blooms in hues of blue. Ideal for areas of heavy traffic, this grass alternative grows quickly and makes a bold statement in any landscape.

Oregano Grass

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A type of ground cover, oregano grass comes in multiple forms, though Greek or golden oregano grass is preferred. Unlike traditional grass, this form requires little watering and has plenty of texture, making it an ideal accent for a detailed landscape or ground covering for open field.

Elfin Thyme

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Studded with vivid lavender and pink flowers when in bloom, Elfin thyme is resistant to drought damage and has multiple uses, such as a full ground cover or stepping stone accent. Because this grass alternative needs adequate drainage, it’s ideal for dry slopes.

Rock

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Whether you plan to cover a large portion of your lawn or simply want to accent a landscape’s focal points, rock is a cost-effective solution requiring virtually no maintenance. Choose strategic locations in which to feature rock groupings, like those where irrigation or maintenance is not ideal.

Lawn Chamomile

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An aromatic alternative to grass, chamomile serves as a soft, lush ground cover perfect for sunny areas. Best suited for remote pieces of land with light foot traffic, chamomile lawns are low maintenance and feature small white and yellow flowers resembling daisies.

Viola Hederacea

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Recognized by its small violet and white flowers, viola hederacea (or Australian Violet) is a stunning grass alternative for open areas exposed to plenty of sun. Ideal for slopes, this ground cover blooms in summer, is very hardy, and provides the added benefit of edible flowers.

Kidney Weed

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Also called dichondra repens seeds, Kidney Weed seeds can be used instead of grass to achieve a soft buffer between stepping stones and requires little mowing. Resistant to many diseases, Kidney Weed is low maintenance, hardy, and feels luxurious underfoot.

Green Carpet Rupturewort

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Its low stature led the herniaria glabra plant to be called “green carpet,” which is acts as a ground cover compatible with nearly any soil. Able to grow in gravel and withstand heavy traffic, green carpet rupturewort turns red in the winter months, effectively transforming the visual interest of your landscape.

Clover Seed

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Requiring little maintenance and mowing, clover seed ground cover replaces traditional grass while resisting the damaging effects of drought conditions. Clover remains relatively short at 4-8” and features gorgeous flowers in white and light pink. An added benefit, clover ground cover does not need regular pesticide treatments.

What’s Better than a Breathtaking Landscape?

A gorgeous lawn that didn’t take take hours per week to maintain, treat, and groom. Choosing a grass alternative enriches the life of your lawn without spending time and money in the process. Most importantly, you’re rewarded with chemical-free surroundings safe for children and pets.

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High density living is here to stay. Housing it going upwards, and outdoor spaces are becoming smaller and smaller. But there’s still hope, even on the 23rd floor! Here’s some tips for having a productive apartment garden. [click to continue…]

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5 Reasons To Get Outdoor Blinds This Summer

5 Reasons To Get Outdoor Blinds This Summer image

Note from Jim: special thanks to Bozzy Blinds who are back on the blog again this week sharing some info on adding blinds to your outdoor living spaces this summer.

Getting new outdoor blinds installed may have been on your list of things to do around the house, but with summer fast approaching, now is the time to do it! And with these great reasons to get outdoor blinds, there are no more excuses to delay getting a protective outdoor shade system.

[click to continue…]

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Australians love a good lawn, but overtime they can become worn out and tired. One of the easiest and quickest ways to fix this is by hitting the reset button and re-turfing the whole thing. This might sound drastic and expensive, but it can actually be one of the cheapest solutions to a turf nightmare.

By following this step by step guide, you can save yourself even more money by doing the job yourself. But don’t get caught cutting corners, or you’ll just be back where you started in no time. [click to continue…]

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The humble herb is more than just the pot of parsley lost in the corner of your backyard, or the old woody lavender that’s been long forgotten. For many though, this is the extent of their use in home gardens. Herbs can be so much more though! They’re a great way of creating interest in a garden design and can be one of the most rewarding plants to grow. You can grow herbs for food, for flowers, for foliage, as well as for their glorious fragrances, and sometimes for all those reason! So to help you get the most out of herbs in your garden, the first and most important thing you need to consider  is this simple question – What do you want them for?

Here’s a few tips to help you get the most of some common herbs in your home garden.

Herbs for food

These are the herbs you’re growing purely for food. Place herbs you’re going to harvest in an easy to access area, where it won’t matter if they’ve been cut down and harvested and look a bit shabby.

Herbs like basil, mint and chives are obvious choices here and can be for a range of cooking dishes. They really enjoy a good cut back for harvesting and won’t mind too much if you go a bit hard.

Putting them in pots or raised garden beds can make access a breeze, and save you bending your back.

 

Photo ‘2008 herb crop on the patio’ Thomas Kriese, Flickr.

Herbs for show

You may want some herbs to plant for their flowers or colourful foliage and these should be planted in viewing distance from the high traffic areas of your garden, or from windows and doors so that you get the most out of their beauty. Lining your walkways and paths with clumps of different flowering herbs, and using pockets of colour in amongst your other plants is a great way to create an eye catching feature.

It’s best to use waves, clumps and pockets of plantings, rather than straight lines. These are easier to maintain, and add a sense of unstructured order to gardens. Echinacea, nasturtiums, lavender, society garlic, and salvia are herbs with some amazing showy flowers.

If it is structure and order you’re after, you can achieve the famous french parterre style garden design by using more sturdy herbs like rosemary, bay or wormwood and turning them into formal hedges.

* Echinacea

Photo ‘Echinacea’ by velodenz, Flickr.

Herbs for smells

Placing herbs with strong and lovely fragrances in beds, planters or hanging baskets in front of windows or upwind from entrances and doorways is the best way to go to ensure these aromas don’t go to waste.

Lemongrass, rosemary, and oregano can fill a breeze with some amazing smells.

Planting some tough ground covering herbs like chamoile and thyme in walkways can be another great way to get some extra scents floating about. Each step will lightly crush some leaves and release their aromatic oils.

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Photo: Thyme

By keeping your desired purpose in mind when you’re next planting up some herbs in your garden you can get the most of your hard work and make some herbs a real feature in your home garden.

 

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