Best gardening plants

Gardening is a very popular hobby in Australia, in fact for many it’s a lifelong passion that brings great rewards.

Like many pursuits, gardening is a lot easier when you have the right knowledge and tools.

Leaf and Stone offer our recommendations on the best gardening plants and tools so that you can make the most of your time in the garden. A wonderful website providing a vast amount of information provided by Timber Supplies Brisbane, which promoting organic and environmentally friendly ways of gardening.

Leaf and Stone have trees, shrubs, Australian natives, ornamentals and edibles.  We also stock a huge range of organic products such as potting mixes, mulches and fertilizers.

Which plants for your garden?

Exotic Plants

Your garden is a mix of different species of plants which may include groundcovers, shrubs and trees. This range of plant species determines what other creatures also live and breed in your garden. If you have plant species that are eaten by insects, then birds, butterflies, lizards and frogs are likely to visit or live in your yard.

When a garden is predominantly lawn and exotic plants, then there is usually a lack of insect life in the garden as the plant matter is not eaten by our native insects because they have not evolved to eat these exotic plants. Insects are very important in the garden because they convert leaf matter into protein (their bodies) which, in turn, provides food for birds, lizards and frogs. A garden that is predominantly lawn and/or filled with exotic plants means that there is little food for our native wildlife to eat and breed successfully.

Plants, insects, protein and baby birds

The relationship between plant type and insect life in the garden is critical when it comes to birds. Most bird species, including fruit/nectar/seed-eaters, need an abundance of insect life to feed their young. Baby birds need plenty of protein to grow their bodies quickly and produce feathers. This protein is usually supplied by insects. If there is a low insect population, it means that birds are considerably less successful in reproduction, which ultimately means their population numbers diminish.

And butterflies…

This also holds true for butterflies. If your garden is full of exotic plants, there is nowhere for most of our species of butterflies, and moths for that matter, to breed.

What to Plan?

Australia has a diverse range of climates and landscapes ranging from the tropical north through to the more alpine regions of the south. We also have parts of the country that are very wet and other parts that are quite dry. This means there is a large and diverse range of native plants that could potentially be used in a wildlife garden.

Native and indigenous plants
With this in mind, it helps to make a distinction between native and indigenous plants. The former is a very broad category representing plants that have evolved here on this continent, while the latter is a subset of the former – the native plants which naturally occur in a local area. For example, a snow gum is an Australian native plant, but it, not a plant indigenous to North Queensland’s tropical rainforest.

Native or indigenous?
There are debates about whether to plant out gardens with plants purely indigenous to a local area, or whether to take a broader approach and use any Australian native plant. The answer to this debate in relation to your garden is a personal one. In my garden, I have a mix of indigenous and native plants based on careful thought about each plant.

Choosing plant species checklist

Height of the plant
Selecting the right sized plant for a particular position is critical. There are places you can place tall trees and there are other places they would be unsuitable. For example, planting a 40m tree within a meter of your back deck would cause many problems in time.

Full sun, partial shade, full shade
Plants have growing conditions that they prefer. Some plants do well in full sun and poorly in full shade, while others burn up in the sun but thrive beneath the canopy of a tree. Placing a plant into a position that offers its preferred growing conditions will maximise the chances of the plant growing to maturity and looking attractive in your garden.

Soil drainage
Some plants like really dry conditions and do poorly or die when they are constantly in wet soil. Other plants thrive in boggy soils. 

Is the plant a potentially invasive weed?
Sweet pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) is an example of an invasive native species. It naturally occurs in wet forests in coastal areas between the Great Dividing Range and the sea from southern Victoria to southern Queensland. Its creamy white, sweetly-scented flowers and brightly coloured clusters of orange fleshy fruit are very attractive to birds! It has been promoted by the nursery industry and has now become a serious weed problem outside its natural range.

Check your plants out by doing a google search and finding out more about them.
Plant in layers
Plants live in communities with other plants. The more vertical layers there are in your garden, the more complex the vegetative structure and therefore the more habitat created for a wider array of insect, bird and animal life. So plan you garden to have at least a ground cover layer with leaf mulch and shrub layer. If you have a larger urban property, you could also consider some larger trees.

Shed in Garden

What is the best material for a garden shed?
There is no doubt it should be stainless steel. When you think of stainless steel, you are going to think of outstanding durability. Thus, it is going to last long there and it will definitely withstand outside factors. Since it is exposed to weather, you would need something that is solid. If it is soft, it may easily get blown away and you are right back where you started. Thus, better take time in deciding the material you will use.

Where should a garden shed be placed?
It should be placed a few meters from a water source. The things you must put there are gardening tools, cleaning equipment, and bikes. Tools that are used to fix stuff inside the house can also be placed there. The garden shed should not be placed near the house or an accident may occur.

How much does a garden shed cost?
The average cost of building garden sheds would be around $800 to $2000. Of course, that would depend on the size of the shed. The bigger it is, then the more expensive it will be. Thus, you must keep in mind the amount of tools you would want to put inside the shed. If it is not that much, then there is no reason to make it a big shed. If you think you are going to put a lot of equipment there, then it should be huge. One reason for that is having a swimming pool in your backyard.

Is it cheaper to build your own shed?
It is certainly cheaper to build your own shed. You would want that as a DIY person and you will be excited to put a lot of stuff inside the shed. However, it will certainly take a lot of your time so better dedicate at least a day to doing that. You will also buy a lot of materials that you will probably not need for a while. In fact, you may end up putting those things inside the shed in garden. If you don’t want to go through all the hassle of building a shed from any shed Builders, then buy one that is already built. They will just deliver it in your house and you can use it immediately. If the weather is hot, it won’t be advisable at all to build a shed. Don’t worry about building your own shed. If it looks great, you will forget about the hardships you experienced a few days later.

How long does a garden shed last?
The sheds in garden will last depending on the materials it is made out of. If it is wood, it would last around a decade. If it is steel, it will last twice as that. Of course, that is taking into consideration that you take care of the shed. If you notice any holes in it, you must have that repaired immediately. If you let that last, then the hole can become bigger. You must also have that investigated so you would prevent it from happening again in the future. There will always be outside factors so better take a look inside your garden shed to see if everything is alright whenever it rains. When a storm arrives, you can bet there were a few things that were damaged inside.

Are metal garden sheds any good?
They are pretty good for people who want shed that last a while. In fact, it is possible it will carry on to people who end up buying the house. There are a lot of things that you can put in metal garden sheds too. It will also give you some privacy if you want to do something private inside the shed. The first thing you need to do would be to make sure that the shed was installed properly. They should have used the right tools for the job. You would not want to do any additional installing to correct any mistake they did. They should have taken care of that so that you would have nothing to worry about. Metal sheds don’t smell bad too. In fact, they don’t smell anything as long as you use the right cleaning materials.

How to make a ‘no-dig’ garden

Here’s what you’ll need:

A border, for example; 3 sleepers, 2 half wine barrels, link aboard (see below), bricks, rocks, old tyres, an old concrete trough or anything floating around the backyard
Old newspapers
1 pea straw bale
3 bags organic manure (for example, sheep, cow or chicken)
1/2 m garden soil
1/2 m mushroom compost
1 sugarcane bale

Here’s what you do:

  • begin on any surface with a layer of newspaper
  • surround with a border that is approximately 20-25cm high
  • add a layer of pea straw then a layer of organic manure
  • repeat layers
  • add a mixture of garden soil, organic manures and mushroom compost
  • plant your seeds or seedlings
  • finish with a layer of sugarcane much, making sure you keep the mulch clear from the seedling stems
  • water regularly
  • enjoy homegrown herbs and vegetables in the coming months

Moisturing and improving soil quality

How do you make gardening easier? It is as simple as mulching the surface of the soil around your plants!

The most common mulches are shredded bark, woodchips, pea straw, old spoilt hay, seaweed, decaying leaves, sugarcane mulch and even sawdust. Common shredded barks include 10mm pine bark, Eucey Mulch, Soft play or colored mulch.

Mulch should always be left on the surface to decay. Never dig it in. The bacteria, moulds and fungus that cause the mulch to decay predominantly exist at the surface of the soil. Accordingly, the optimal position for the mulch is on top of that surface.

Digging the mulch in may also cause the soil to become imbalanced and nitrogen deficient. In this case, the soil will use its energy to try and break down the organic matter that has not yet decayed rather than providing a stable environment for plant growth.

Mulch can be spread over weeds without having to kill them with herbicides or having to dig them out. Obviously, avoiding the need for herbicides is friendlier on the environment. Mulch spread to a thick (10cm) pad rarely allows weeds to penetrate through to the surface. Even persistent weeds suck as docks, cats-ear, flat-weed and dandelions can be controlled with mulch. Simply fork up the matted mass of mulch and lay it back down over the weed. Two or three of these lifts will cause the weed to become weak. It will eventually be smothered by the mulch. However, if you prefer, you could give the weeds an application of Glyhosate to quickly rid your area of them.

Mulching reduces evaporation from the soil. It seals in moisture and reduces fluctuations in soil temperature during the day and at night. The plants achieve strong growth even with reduced watering. The best way to maintain optimal moisture levels in the mulched area is to water it (deeply) once per week.

Mulched areas are also more resistant to soil erosion, even in areas with unstable or steep soil. Mulch also prevents surfaces from developing a water repellant crust.

If you also want to improve the quality of your existing soil, you should condition it before you mulch. You can use products like home made or commercial composts such as mushroom mulch or animal manures. Improving the quality of your soil enables the soil to circulate water, nutrients and oxygen. This will also achieve strong growth.

After recent consistent rains, now is a great time to start mulching. Moisture levels in the soil are currently high and mulching now will retain a lot of this moisture for the warmer months to come.