Landscaping Gold Coast Style
The Secret to a beautiful garden revealed!
This article is for particularly for those of you who own and manage a garden or are planning on landscaping Gold Coast Style properties. It is, however relevant for all gardeners across the planet, as we all face the same challenge – A less than perfect soil foundation.
Hello, my name is Sue Bampton and I have been designing, building and landscaping Gold Coast properties for over 25 years. I wanted to write this article to help you understand and overcome a common challenge that I along with my team of horticulturists and landscaping contractors have experienced on most properties through this period of time.
What is a lifeless, less than perfect soil foundation?
Did you know the secret to achieving a strong, healthy and beautiful garden is the soil foundation. On the Gold Coast we have a variety of soil conditions from coastal sandy (near the beach), canal silty (most of the man-made waterfront areas), shale and clay (lower hinterland areas) and clay (new suburbs where landscaping topsoil has been stripped).
These are all very different soil conditions and they all require slightly different methods of improvement. If you don’t improve what you have, then you will never enjoy that low maintenance, healthy and visually beautiful garden. One thing I can tell you with all confidence is that most problems with plants (even pests) leads back to the condition of the soil.
So, how do you overcome that?
Landscaping Gold Coast style properties has been a challenge at times BUT when you know the basics to achieving a live and healthy soil, any kind of garden is possible!
It is the very basic understanding of garden creation and care that most garden owners never really learn. Hopefully, this article will help you to understand how you can develop a beautiful, healthy garden!
What are the Basics to consider when landscaping Gold Coast property?
Approximately 75-80% of all problems with plants relates back to the soil in some way. It doesn’t matter how poor your soil or how established your garden, the soil can be improved and treated in many ways to create healthy, sustainable conditions.
The material commonly regarded as ‘soil’ is a residue of rock minerals and only ONE component of a healthy soil. Healthy topsoil is composed of weathered rock minerals, air, water and living things such as plant roots, micro-organisms, insects, worms and the organic materials they produce.
It is through the reinstatement of the missing components that new topsoil is formed.
Garden soil blends purchased from landscape suppliers may look rich and friable, but these soil mixes have characteristics like that of potting mixes and are often made up of similar components. The main drawback with these mixes is that the organic part decomposes quickly and it lacks soil life.
Imported mixes lack micro-organisms like worms and insect larvae and other species of beneficial mycorrhizal. When importing garden blends, as is the case with most newly established gardens, it is important to compensate for this lack of soil life by regularly adding liquid or granular compost and natural nutrients to satisfy and multiply their numbers.
Soil Microbes and tiny soil animals, almost too small to see, form the base of the pyramid of life. Vibrant soils give rise to a diverse, flourishing ecosystem. Lifeless soils give rise to……. nothing much at all. By carefully observing what happens around us, we can tell how things are going in the engine room.
Did you know that a spoonful of healthy soil may contain more than 6 billion micro-organisms, a number equal to the human population of the Earth. The earthworms in a single acre of soil can move and aerate 100 tons of soil annually and may dig up to 800,000 tunnels which carry nutrients and rainwater into and through the soil.
All those organisms in the soil moving, eating, digesting, excreting and dying, enhances the soil structure, stability, porosity, infiltration and aeration.
This means that the soil’s biological community improves the condition of the soil. The bottom line is that they make the soil a better place to live, which translates into stronger, healthier plants and a more stable and attractive environment for humans and wildlife.
If you have an existing garden, take a close look at your garden soil and consider the following:
- When you dig into the soil does it look dark and crumbly with a slightly sticky feel; can you see anything moving? or is it dry, sandy and lifeless?
- Look at the mulch, is it piled up against plant stems?
- When you water the garden does the soil remain dry below the surface?
- Are the leaves on plants green and healthy looking or are they yellow and discoloured?
- Are there any signs of pests and disease?
If your garden is showing visible signs of distress then early Spring and Autumn is the perfect time to improve the quality of your soil and the health of your plants.
How can you improve your soil?
If you are a busy person then it is advisable to seek out the advice of a knowledgeable horticulturist or garden care company to help you decide the most effective way of dealing with your own unique set of circumstances.
If you have the time and energy and enjoy working in the garden consider incorporating the following suggestions into your gardening routine:
- Soil Improvers – Purchase a quality bagged compost or liquid concentrate that you can apply all over your gardens, it is far more effective if you can get some soil contact especially around your plants. The compost will introduce micro-organisms and improve the soil structure and water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil.
- Fertilize – A good quality, slow release fertilizer applied at least 3 times a year is best. Avoid the high nitrogen chemical fertilizers as they can cause all sorts of issues long-term to your plants, lawn and soil. A foliar fertilizer is also a very helpful instant boost for plants and can be used in addition to granular fertilizers.
- Water Retention – Most sandy soils and mulches experience a water repellency issue which means the water doesn’t penetrate evenly or deeply through the soil and around plant roots. Purchase a quality long-lasting granular or liquid product.
- Pest Control – To encourage micro-organisms in your soil, it is a good idea to stay away from harmful chemicals. There are many good Eco brands available now which are very effective and will support a safe environment for family and pets to circulate in.
- Weeds – Get on top of this now because it will only get worse!! Zero or Round-Up is the quickest most practical way of dealing with weeds but they do have a residual action in the soil, which means do not plant anything where you’ve used these products for at least 30 days. To be safe, use a paint brush and apply the product directly to the weeds (not the soil), keep it away from valued plants as it can kill them too. A very effective a natural way to kill weeds, especially in an established garden, is to layer 5-6 sheets of newspaper over the top of weeds and then mulch over the paper to weight it down. Another method is to use a weed-mat; make sure you buy the lighter material that allows air and water to freely flow through its fibers, otherwise you could create all sorts of other problems for your soil to deal with.
- Mulch – One of the biggest mistakes people make is to pile the mulch onto the garden too thick and directly up to the stems. Scrape the mulch back from plant stems and create a bowl so that water can penetrate and the plant can breathe. The courser mulches are better than the fines as they do not compact down and create water and air absorption problems. Approx 75mm thick layer is best!! A good quality mulch will help to keep soil temperatures cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter, reduce weed infestations and retain moisture for longer periods.
- New Plants – If your garden is looking tired and in need of a makeover consider removing plants that are not correctly placed or past their use by date.
If you are just replacing a few plants here and there have a look around your neighbourhood at what is looking good or visit your local nursery and ask staff for advice and recommendations. If you are thinking about a makeover that involves sections of your garden, consider employing the services of a company with a good knowledge of plants suitable for Gold Coast landscaping conditions in your area.
To achieve a beautiful healthy garden requires time and effort initially andby considering the above steps or employing the services of a professional company you will be well on your way to achieving a strong, healthy and beautiful garden.
If you are planning on landscaping Gold Coast style property in an area where the soil is poor (most areas). Be sure to employ the services of an experienced landscaping team with horticultural qualifications who have an understanding of local soil conditions and how to improve them. That does not mean importing new soil in from the local soil suppliers and layering this new stuff over what is their. It means considering the sub-surface (existing) soil layer to begin with and whether it needs loosening up or turning over to aerate and drain adequately before the new stuff arrives. From there follow the guide above and in time you too can achieve a beautiful healthy garden!
I hope you have gained a bit of knowledge on Landscaping Gold Coast style property.
Check out our other articles on our blog to learn more about how to manage your garden,