Question 1. Why did my tree/shrub/tomato die?
Answer: Dunno. Old age, root rot, fungal disease, the wrong plant in the wrong place. Pull it out and plant something different. Even if yours died of drought or old age, it will have exhausted the nearby soil of the specific micronutrients that plants need.
Question 2. Why doesn't my tree/shrub/tomato look as good as next door's?
Answer: Your neighbours give their garden more watering, weeding, feeding and are up at 5am murdering snails. Ask Santa for an automatic drip-watering set and remember to scatter on slow-release fertiliser during the spring and mid-summer.
Question 3. How do I keep slugs out of my lettuce and snails from eating my melon seedlings?
Answer: Put a slug or snail fence around your vegie garden - a small metal barrier with the top bent over outwards, in rightly the shape of an upside-down tick. Slugs and snails can't climb up or over. Or every time you get a haircut/beard trim ask for the residue, not in case someone plans to voodoo attack you, but to scatter hair among your vegies. Snails and slugs hate the sharp ends irritating their undersides.
Question 4. Possums.
Answer: Forget trapping - trapped possums either trek tens of kilometres to get home, or die. Put possum-proof rings around pergola posts and tree trunks - metal or hard plastic rings too wide for them to climb over. Or grow possum tucker: one blue gum "coppiced", i.e. cut back regularly so it is only one metre high and only produces lots of bushy juvenile blue leaves. Possums love juvenile blue gum. Also plant a loquat tree. Possums prefer loquat residences even more than roof cavities. They eat young loquat leaves, blossoms and fruit - enough tucker to make possums too stuffed to bother with your roses. Or grow rambling roses up fruit trees - possums don't like climbing thickets.
Question 5. What do I feed ...
Answer: Every plant has slightly different nutrient needs: some need more phosphate or more nitrogen for a good crop, like corn, while potatoes on the same diet may give lots of leaves and few spuds. Head to the library and gain expertise.
Otherwise just give slow-release plant food in spring and mid summer, homemade compost if you've any to hand, or a mulch with a scatter of whatever plant food comes first to hand on top, and your garden will (probably) grow, fruit and or bloom gloriously.
Question 6. How do I have a stunning garden with no work?
Answer: Design a garden of sculptural glories that don't grow much but won't die of neglect either, and have paving instead of lawn. Or hire someone else to do the hard stuff, while you smell the roses and pluck the apricots.
Question 7. What about when I just don't have enough time?
Answer: Invest in self-watering pots and wicking gardens for times you can't water; use slow-release fertilisers; and mulch like you've shares in sugar cane slash.
You might also form a garden co-op. Every hour you spend tending someone else's patch gets you an hour's help when you need it in your garden.
Question 8. How can I garden? I don't have a garden.
Answer: Do you have a patio, or even sunny eaves where you can hang baskets, all at different levels so one window is enough to display 10 baskets of flowers, herbs or cherry tomatoes, silverbeet, cut-and-come-again lettuces, cucumbers et al?
Canberra also has fabulous community gardens, where you may also find those with every skill you'll need.
Question 9. Weeds ...
Answer: Make sure soil is weed-free before you plant by covering bare soil with clear (reusable) plastic or sheets of glass for a fortnight before planting so residual weed seeds germinate. Or trim weeds flat then put at least 30 centimetres of mulch on top of them.
Question 10. My thingummies just won't grow well.
Answer: Harden your heart ...
... and grow something else.
This week I am:
- Eating home grown cherries, more yellow than red, and stunningly incredibly delicious.
- Mourning the cherries I didn't pick on the tree nearest the house: the cherries were there one day, then gone the next when I arrived with the baskets. I hope the fruit bats had a lovely feast.
- Glad the fruit bats survived the drought and fires. Mostly.
- Also picking mulberries, strawberries, asparagus, salad greens and already far too many zucchini ...
- Buying more sweet corn seed to plant for February-May gluttony.
- Planting blueberry bushes in the hope that this time I will water them enough to keep them alive through droughts.
- Smelling the roses. Every fragrant rose has its own scent.