Jeff's Tips


Planning and Designing Australian gardens

Planning and Designing Australian Gardens – A few ideas to get you started.

Mounds/raised beds to provide improved drainage needed for good plant growth, create more interest in a flat garden and to screen out by raising plant height.

Create ponds/hollows for wildlife, to control water runoff, for water and bog plants and to allow rainwater to soak into the soil.

Using the space: Add seats to enjoy your garden. Make a sandpit and/or a cubbyhouse for children. Think of the wildlife by adding/making rocks, nesting boxes, above ground runways, access holes in fences. Add/install a compost bin for recycling green waste, a rainwater tank or two and a watering system to save water. Ensure open areas are covered with mulch or porous paving that allows rain to soak in. Make a solid edge to lawns that adjoin bushland to prevent lawn grasses invading the bush.

Use mulch: as it reduces evaporation from soil, helps to maintain constant soil temperature, keeps weeds to a minimum, reduces runoff and erosion, allows roots to better use the upper and richest layer of soil. There are two types of mulches: inorganic mulch which reduces humidity, increases light for plants requiring these conditions and organic mulch that naturally recycles leaves and twigs.

Keep what’s there: Retain any rocks and creeks and remaining bush plants. Trees - especially those that are framing any distant views you have. Dead trees providing they are not dangerous, as they are any ideal habitat for wildlife.

Bushland protection: If you live near bushland, avoid overhanging trees near house and planting flammable trees and shrubs near your house. Avoid plants with high oil content as they burn easily. Clean up dead growth and shrubby plants near your house. Use hard surfaces or inorganic mulch near and around your house.

Choosing plants: Plants provide cool shade, protect plants and houses from heat and cold, make our suburbs beautiful, provide oxygen, reduce glare, makes windbreaks, filter dust and pollutants from air and screen undesirable views, to name a few.

Choose plants with a purpose: Reduce fertiliser use by choosing plants whose roots are adapted to poor soils. Good examples are species of Banksia, Grevillea, Acacia, Baeckea, Bossiaea, Brachysema, Chorizema, Hypocalymma, Jacksonia, Lechenaultia, Pultenaea to name a few. Or add fertiliser (nitrogen) to soil naturally by choosing Acacia, Cassia, Casuarina, Pea flowers and other Australian legumes.

Save Water: Plants will need frequent watering for a few months after planting until they are established so best to plant new plants, in late winter/early spring or in autumn. Give established plants a deep soaking occasionally or not at all when very dry (the plant will give you visual clues if it needs water). Water plants in the evening to avoid loss by evaporation. Try to group plants together according to their water needs. Use an efficient watering system/soaker hoses rather than a hand held hose.

Encourage nature's exterminators by protect snail-eating Blue Tongue Lizards by not using chemical snail bait and providing logs, rock piles and other cover for retreat. Encourage insect-eating birds, frogs, spiders, lizards, bats and marsupials. Avoiding use of insecticides as that will protect ladybirds, lacewings, hover-flies, bugs, praying mantis and wasps which prey on insect pests; protect butterflies, dragonflies and bees.

Jeff Howes

© 05/09/2012

Adapted from a draft, Australian Plans Society NSW fact sheet titled ‘Planning suburban gardens for all of us’ dated Jan 2003.