Sunday, February 6, 2011

Garden vs Time

I'm curled up in bed at 1am writing a post about not having enough time to garden. I've been working in multiple jobs around the clock for the last couple of weeks and the poor garden is a bit neglected. The seedlings that I've raised from seed are way too big for their pots and need planting out, the weeds are crawling up where they can, and the grass is so long that my dog disappears from view when she walks across the lawn.

However, over the last year I've developed some great 'time insurance' systems, which means that the universe doesn't implode if I'm absent for a couple of weeks.  Here are a some of my faves:

1. The watering system.

Sounds complex, but in reality it's only hard for the procrastinator.

I buy the 'starter kits', simply because they're usually cheaper (mitre 10 often does '2 for $15' sales, for instance).  Oh and if you buy the kits, you don't have to look like a fool digging though the buckets of miniscule parts for which you have no idea of their purpose.  Just lay the pipe out in the garden, cutting at bends or t-junctions, and then stick in the upright spray bits (I'm not into technical terms).  Just a word of warning on the fitting of the upright spray bits.  There are little nozzle bits about 5mm in size that have to be fitted to each of the 'rigid risers'. Do NOT attempt to do this in the vegie garden. You will cry. Instead, sit inside one night with a mug of boiling water in front of the telly and a large bar of chocolate and/or wine, softening the risers in the boiling water and squeezing the bastard bits into the impossibly narrow pipes. Your hands will hurt, but that's okay because you're on the pretty path to sanctioned laziness.

The kit will tell you to measure the garden, to draw complex plans etc etc. which, if you're anything like me, will terrify you and result in the kit being abandoned in the corner of the laundry, gathering dust for 3 months. The manufacturer will also direct you to a website where you can develop your complex system, however, you have to have a conformist PC. In retrospect, I'm glad I have a mac and never got the opportunity to be overwhelmed by their program, because it's bloody easy just to go with it.  And luckily the system is fool-proof. If you make a mistake, cut the hose, buy a connector or wrap it in gaffer tape and HUZZAH you've a very snazzy-sounding 'watering system'.

If you want to make it even fancier, you can buy a computerised water timer, but a) that requires a lot more money that I can comprehend spending, and b) it means that you have to work out how many litres/hour your garden needs and I'm not really into that shiz. I have manual timers on each of my 3 taps, which means I just use my own judgement as to when the garden needs watering.  You can buy them for around $10.

Dial and walk away. Happy times

2. Mulch.

Until 18 months ago, I thought mulch was just the pine bark peeps put down to give their gardens a certain 'Aussie suburban' aesthetic.  Yes, I'm a fool. 

Mulch is sugar cane mulch, straw, pea straw on the vegie garden; wood chips around the natives; pine bark under the play equipment; gravel around the standard roses (again, I'm thinking of a specific aesthetic with this last example).  Mulch is great for the time poor gardener not only because it helps retain moisture in the soil and keep the plants at an even temp, but if you chuck on enough, it helps prevent a lot of weeds from sprouting.  Those that do sprout seem to come out more easily too, perhaps because they've grown tall at the expense of strength?

Oh and the sugar cane mulch gives the vegie garden quite a 'professional' look if you want to impress the neighbours.

3. Weed matting

I've just bagged out pine bark, and now I'm waxing lyrical about weed matting. Yep, I'm somewhat hypocritical.

Weed matting looks ugly, but if you want a semi-temporary solution to a lot of weeds re-sprouting, as I need in my post-weed seeding backyard, it's like black gold. Hmmm... maybe I should turn down the hyperbole a little.

After valiantly resisting the roll out (ha) of matting in my backyard, I finally decided that to keep weeding the same naked patches around the fruit trees over and over until I came up with my 'grand plan' for the area, was a false economy.  So I surrounded the area with weed matting over Christmas, and I've never looked back since. It's not going to be there forever, but I love not lying awake at night worrying about the evils that will sprout overnight.

4. The ability to go with it and not freak out about bok choi going to seed, grass overgrowing, or a couple of plants dying.

I will now try and sleep on my last point of advice.


  1. I used cardboard instead of weed matting, old beer boxes, etc etc. The added benefit of using cardboard was that the worms loved it as well.

  2. I use cardboard under mulch in small areas, however the area I've covered in weed matting is quite large, and I want the heat of the matting to kill the millions of weed seeds underneath. The problem with newspaper and carboard under mulch too is that the birds love to scratch it up, rendering it useless (and also burying the seedlings nearby). I have a mega blackbird problem in my garden.