Tips

Below are some tips to help you in the garden. Click on the headings to expand the tips. If you have any question please feel free to SEND US A QUESTION using our Contact form below.

Avoid Compaction

Clay soil is particularly susceptible to compaction. Compaction will lead to poor drainage and soil clumping which makes it more difficult to work. In order to avoid compacting the soil, never work the soil while it is wet. Until your clay soil is corrected, avoid overworking your soil and try to avoid walking on the soil whenever possible.

Add Organic Material

Adding organic material to your clay soil will go a long way towards improving it. Stick to compost that break down quickly. Materials that compost quickly include well-rotted manure (see our Organic Cow Compost), leaf mold and green plants. Because clay soil can become compacted easily, place about 7-10 cm of your chosen compost on the soil and work it gently down into the soil about 10-15 cm. In the first season or two after adding organic material to the soil, you will want to take care when watering. The heavy, slower draining soil surrounding your flower or vegetable bed will act like a bowl and water could build up in the bed.

Cover with Organic Material

Cover areas of clay soil with slower composting materials such as bark, sawdust or ground wood chips (See our range of Mulches and Mushroom Compost). Use these organic materials for mulch and as they break down, they will work themselves into the soil below. Working these larger and slower composting materials into the soil yourself can cause harm to the plants you plan to grow in that space. You are better off just letting them work in naturally over a long period of time.

Why it is important to know your soil’s pH level

The pH level is a measure of acidity that is represented by a value between 0 and 14. Acidic soil has a pH value below 7.0 and alkaline soil has a value above 7.0. Different plants thrive in different soil conditions, and because soil provides many of the nutrients and minerals that plants need, getting the right pH level is important. The wrong pH level will mean that your plants may become nutrient deficient and struggle to grow.

When to test your soil

It’s a good idea to test the pH level of your soil before designing or planting a new garden, creating a vegetable plot or planting varieties of fruit. You should also test when you are disappointed in the growth of your garden or some foliage is starting to show evidence of yellowing. You may even want to consider testing your soil in a few different parts of your garden. You’d be surprised how much the pH levels can vary. Another thing to note is that if you’ve already added lime, fertiliser or organic matter to your soil recently, you’ll need to wait three months before you get an accurate reading.

How to test for soil pH

Manutec pH test KitTo test your soil pH level, a simple and effective way is to use a home testing kit. A good tip when taking soil samples from your soil is to get a sample from just below the surface for an accurate reading.

PottIdeas for using potting mix available at The Yard Landscape and Garden Centre, Doonaned plants need well aerated soil to deliver oxygen to the roots, but they can’t rely on nature’s aerators, like worms and other underground burrowers, to create air tunnels for them. 

Potted plants can survive an occasional overwatering, but if you repeatedly give them too much water and there is no way for oxygen to get into the soil, to be absorbed by the roots.

Existing Potted Plants

Loosening up your plant’s soil before watering  allows better and more even distribution of moisture.

  • Step 1: Find a chopstick
  • Step 2: Gently poke a few holes through the top of the soil (you may strike a root or two, don’t worry)
  • Step 3: Give your plant a thorough watering around the base towards the center, allow all the water to drain through the bottom of the nursery pot.

Potting a new Plant

If you are just putting your new plant or cutting into a pot, there are ways to do it that ensure your plant has a healthy start.

Use Good Soil

Using a good potting soil tailored to the type of plant you are growing, like our Platinum Potting Mix should provide a balance of drainage, aeration, moisture retention and nutrient content.

Soil Additives

Additives like Perlite, Vermiculite, Peat or Sphagnum  (available next door at the Doonan Valley Garden Centre) or coarse sand, help to aerate soil in potted plants while maintaining moisture.

Mulching is a good way of conserving soil moisture, especially in summer and for discouraging weeds from growing.

It helps to absorbs the impact of rain stopping it washing away and allows the soil to absorb a higher percentage of water and to a greater depth. By absorbing the sun’s heat, it also helps maintain a more even soil temperature.

Many types of mulch add nutrients to the soil when broken down and improve soil structure. They allow worms, fungi and other organisms to break down the mulch into humus.  The movement of these organisms through the soil also allows air to reach lower layers of soil.

Which mulch to use

The best mulches are loose materials that allow most rain or irrigation water to run through to the soil. They must also allow free access of air to soil and roots. Things to consider when choosing a mulch:

  • Coarser mulches (100% of particles bigger than 5mm) allow more water through. The chunkier the mulch, the thicker it can be applied, up to 60-75 mm in depth.
  • Barks and chip mulches break down more slowly but use nitrogen from the soil as they do so. You may need to use a nitrogen-containing fertilizer on the ground before spreading your mulch.
  • Organic mulches add nutrients to the soil, but the rate and extent of addition varies according to their composition and particle size. Our Platinum Mega Mulch is a finer mulch that includes organic cow compost, coir and composted organic fines.
  • For sloped or sand areas choose a mulch with a mixture of sizes or that binds together such a Curly Hoop or for a less expensive option Double Ground Mulch.

How thick to apply mulch

The depth of the mulch should vary with its coarseness, from shallow for the finest to thicker for coarse mulches (2–6 cm).

  • The chunkier the mulch, the thicker it can be applied. Chunky mulches (100% of particles bigger than 5mm) can be used up to 60–75 mm in depth.
  • Fine mulches keep to less than 20mm. Apply fine mulch too thickly will reduce air flow and will hold water that would be better used by your plants.

When to use stones instead of mulch in your garden

  1. If you have drainage issues on your property, rock is a great mulch choice, allowing water to drain quickly.
  2. If you have open bed areas without plants, rock is an easy, no maintenance option.
  3. Rocks are great for high-traffic areas, where pedestrians tend to take short cuts.
  4. If your landscape has trees that drop a lot of leaves and debris, rock mulch might not be your best choice, as it accumulates and sticks in the rocks.

Unlike mulch, once installed stones don’t need to be replaced. While the upfront cost will be high, the long-term savings compared to the annual purchase of mulch is very significant. Rocks are great at suffocating weeds and show a better success rate at weed-prevention than mulch.

Stone cover is perfect for low-water gardens and landscapes. However, stones aren’t the perfect solution for gardens that may get a lot of sun because they can hold more heat than mulch. This will dry out the soil underneath. Also, growing plants and trees can be more challenging, as the stones don’t add any nutrients to the soil and can make soil alkaline.

Stones aren’t totally without maintenance as you will have to potentially rake/turn the rocks and hose them down once in a while because dust and soil carried by the wind can settle in the spaces between the stones and in turn, host weeds.

How much and how often you water plants depends on the type of soil in your garden, what plants you grow, your general climate and the time of the year. Other factors, such as slope and sun or wind exposure also affect loss of water from plants and soil.

  • Sandy soils generally need more frequent watering than clay soils, but less water should be applied each time.
  • Give plants a good soaking to encourage deep rooting and so that the soil stays moist for a long time. Light watering, no matter how often you do it, encourages roots to stay at the surface.
  • Early morning is the best time for watering when evaporation rates are likely to be lower and it is less likely to be windy.
  • When it is humid avoid watering in the evening as this can encourage fungal diseases.
  • Don’t over water your plants and lawn in winter when growth rate is reduced. If a plant is not growing actively, little or no water is needed.