Monday, 20 August 2012

Renewing a garden bed

Sometimes a garden bed just needs a tweak here and there to make it look good and sometimes it needs a total makeover.
The garden bed along our side fence was long overdue for some major tweaking. I'm not sure whether the franginpani trees had depleted the soil or the mulch we used had caused nitrogen drawdown (or a combination of both) but the soil dirt in the bed was so poor that even any weeds that came up through the mulch were stunted.
Over summer, with the frangipanis in bloom it looked OK (but not great). At the moment with the frangipanis in dormant mode it looks terrible.

Some drastic action was called for. This was not a case of adding a plant or two. A major overhaul was needed. Some plants needed pruning, some were beyond saving and needed to be removed and most importantly, before any new plants were added, the soil needed to be brought back to life.

We bought a half cubic meter of mushroom compost and one eighth cubic meter of decomposed cow manure. The mulch was scraped off and about 6 cm (2-3 inches) of this mix spread over the entire garden. We then applied a dusting of blood and bone with added potash and trace elements before replacing the mulch layer and watering the area deeply. Watch out worms your dreams are about to come true.

Of course the supervisor was on hand to check that we were doing it right. Missy was in puppy heaven - the smell of cow manure AND blood and bone. She may be cute and fluffy but she's a real dog and gross smells are hard to resist.

Her nose was working overtime
The more we chased her from the garden bed, the more determined she was to sniff the "delightful" scents.

Obviously the frangipanis stayed and the murraya hedge, as did a pink flowering justica and a callistamon. At one end there is a ground cover of variegated jasmine which looks healthy. It can stay as well.

I trimmed the hedge and cut back the poinsettias, which are tough as nails and provide a show of colour during winter while the frangipanis are bare.
Everything else was removed.

This lot is destined for the shredder and compost bin and will become mulch elsewhere in the garden.


This callistomen will remain.

The mushroom compost and cow manure cost $38 for the trailer load, so I can probably afford to buy a few plants but first I had a look to see what I could use from my greenhouse. I want to stay with shades of pink/maroon/red, shades green and touches of white. There are a variety of cordylines, dracenas and crotons propagated from cuttings last summer. Some of them will go into this bed. A clump or two of red leafed canna would look nice as well I think.

I had bought a couple of musseandas in Autumn (when they are for sale in the nurseries) and because I have lost them previously during their first winter in the garden I kept them in the greenhouse this time. They are beginning to show signs of new growth so I'll cross my fingers and plant them out into this bed.
We recently divided some clumps of a variegated dietes (Dietes Vegata Variegata possibly).  A few clumps along the border might be nice.

So once all my free plants are in and settled it will be time to re-evaluate whether a visit to the nursery is called for. The bed is quite large and I would like it looking full so a few more plants will be needed I think. Any ideas? It faces North so is in full sun all year round.



  1. I have no ideas because your plants are all so foreign to me, but I'm sure the finished bed will be gorgeous! I love putting in new beds. It's exciting! I have a side bed that needs a major overhaul. I can hardly wait till fall to get started. Right now our soil is too dry.

  2. Missy, obviously your mum does not know who is really in charge...if you don't supervise her, how else is the work going to get done properly?
    I've been scouting around a large bag of dried cow manure here, but every time I get near, I am chased away....hurry up and spread it down already I say.
    Bye for now and take care Missy, I don't want my mum to find me at her computer.
    Love Brownie.

  3. It does all sound great. I have a similar, though much shorter stretch of garden along my back fence that needs a major overhaul on my return. I will take encouragement from your hard work.

  4. Oh, this post makes me feel so guilty for not getting out there and tweaking my beds and nourishing that soil. Your Missy is so cute. My new pup nearly drove me nuts when I was dividing up my amaryllis yesterday! Glad your frangipanis survived the rehaul!


I would love to know what you think and appreciate your comments.


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