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Recommend some gardening books?

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#1 thespottedcat

Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:08 PM

Hi All

We are moving into our own house next week in Brisbane and I know the gardens need work as the property has been rented for last 6 years.

I'm trying to find some good garden reference books for someone that can often kill the unkillable plants. Need more than just words - pictures are a must for the novice!

I often prefer a tropical looking garden rather than Australian Natives but not adverse to them especially given climate.

Probably need something of a 'ready reckoner' type encyclopedia...I recall Readers Digest used to have the Complete Australian Gardener?? Just might need a more modern take on it. Peter Cundall from Gardening Australia has a book that might fit the bill. Anyone got it?

But then also probably need something with ideas for some redesign work of the front garden/steps/letterbox.

Its difficult to get to bookshops and you can't get a feel for a book over the web.

Any recommendations much appreciated.

#2 *LucyE*

Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:08 PM

Hmmm, I personally think magazines are better for a novice because they tailor their information to the season so you don't get overwhelmed.

I like Your Garden and Organic Gardening (? I think that's what it's called, it's just the organic version of the Gardening Australia mag).

I dislike the man with a beard who shall remain nameless, so I can't comment on his magazine.  I also had a subscription to Diggers Club but I'm ambivalent as to how helpful the membership is for a novice.

There's also heaps of information online.  Gardening Australia, Gardenate and there are a wealth of blogs and other commercial sites too.

My advice?  I would go out and take photos of gardens in your area that you like.  Go have a look at open gardens in your region for inspiration too (Open Garden's Australia).  Don't do anything too soon in your yard before you've had a chance to live in it and get to know the location and how you will use the space. Check out magazines for pretty pictures and inspiration (I've picked up heaps of back issues for a pittance at LifeLine and markets).  

Pull all those ideas together in a look book or similar.  Get a plain map of your property and make lots of copies.  Then start to draw/sketch some ideas down.  This will take some time to get right but it is much cheaper and less back breaking to change things on paper than in real life.

Once you work out your hard structures, you then build up your garden beds.  It is really important not to skimp on this step.  This is the basis for your plants' nutrition in the future and best to start right before you plant.  It doesn't even matter what sort of plants you are thinking about because all plants will do better in healthy soil than impoverished soil.  I am not a believer in carting away existing soil and replacing with purchased 'top soil'.  I prefer to 'make' my own top soil.  What makes top soil so valuable is how 'alive' it is with micro organisms and other living matter.  The 'soil' itself (sand/clay/loam) is just a medium to support all this other stuff.  

The cheapest (and I think best) way to build up soil, is to break up the clods if it is compacted, add lots of animal manure (I like cow and sheep) and lots of mulch (I like lucerne).  Allow this time to decompose and let nature do it's thing (it will take 6 or so months depending on climate).  Keep the weeds down during this period and then give it all a turn over and it should be ready.

The hardscaping like paths, walls, shade etc should ideally be done first so that it doesn't damage plants later.  It's not always convenient to do this so just allow for space and access if you plan on doing hardscaping later.

I'm a big fan of garden edging around lawns.  It just delineates between garden beds and lawn areas.  The climate in Brisbane means most lawns become very invasive very easily so a physical barrier helps with maintenance.  We use a mixture of paving, metal borders, plastic borders and concrete edging.  They all have their pros and cons.  It just depends on what look you are going for and the budget.

With your planting design plan, if you can get it right from the beginning, you'll save yourself a lot of time, money and energy.  Think about where you want shade or privacy and position trees in those areas.  Think about the growth rate of these trees and whether you need a short to medium term solution while the trees are growing.  I'm not a fan of those 'instant' gardens and think trees add a wonderful grace to the landscape.  They require a lot of patience unless you can afford a mature tree.  The problem with many fast growing trees is that they tend to keep growing and you'll have a maintenance nightmare in the future.

Do you have any special plants that you really want to grow?  Brisbane is great because it is possible to grow a wide variety of plants.  You just need to think about creating little micro climates to suit the plants you want.  I live in an area where people are surprised to see tropical fruit trees thriving.  I've just positioned them carefully in my yard so they have their needs met.

As for books?  Annette McFarlane has some good easy to follow ones.  The Diggers Club also has a good one for fruit and vegetables.  Peter Cundall is good.  So's Colin Campbell.  It's a question of what sort of information do you want?  I tend to buy gardening books more for pretty pictures and overall inspiration.  For quick factual info, I prefer online or magazines.  For example, Lebaycid (sp?) has been a popular pesticide for a long time and is frequently mentioned in books but I read that it has been pulled from the domestic market because of the unacceptably high residue levels that have been noted.

Sorry I didn't directly answer your question but hope that gave you some ideas.

#3 RynandStompy

Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:20 PM

I recommend checking out Peter Cundall's "Practical Australian Gardener" book. I've borrowed it twice from the library and keep meaning to get my own copy.

Useful for garden dabblers like myself because content is positioned by month, broken down into weeks. So the reader can simply go to that month to find out what they need to plan for and plant in the garden at any week of the year.

Better than many others I've read which appear to not realise that Australia has:
a) different climate in different parts of Australia; and
b) is nothing like England (thus does not need cloching instructions in detail but finds drought-resistant planting and watering advice more useful, which this book does well).

Useful descriptions on many plants commonly seen and available in Australia.

I'm in Vic, so can't recall how realistic it would be for Brisbane, but it did have the garden zones across all Australia covered. Maybe see if your local library has it?

ABC Shop link here

#4 thespottedcat

Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:38 PM

Wow LucyE, I suspect you have a pretty amazing garden. Don't suppose you are available to consult on garden redesign? original.gif Thanks so much for your detailed answer, it was a wealth of knowledge.

We are definitely going to hold off on any replanting until we've been in the house a little bit. There may even be some retouching/updating of exterior paint colours at the front so this would impact on any of the hardscaping we do re colours/material type. Anything must be better than the matching buried brick steps/plain concrete slabs.

I had already been thinking of buying some gardening mags for ideas not to mention getting ideas from local gardens but I hadn't even thought of websites funnily enough, was just thinking hard copy books. How silly now that you mention it. Will check out the mag selection in our local newsagent.

rynandstompy - re books being from overseas, that was another problem I was coming up with when searching online, they were all 'interpreted' or just plain old foreign rather than specifically for Australia. Will definitely check out Peter Cundalls books.

Sassy Girl - will also check out your suggestion too.

Thanks so much for all your replies ladies!

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