How to start designing your garden yourself and why it doesn’t have to be too expensive

It’s a big deal to build a house, let alone buy a property. From raising finance for one build to a thousand and one decisions and choices… time and money add up quickly.

Did you take the garden into account?

Most of the time, your beautiful new home overlooks a patch of land that is now your “garden.”

So where do you start?

These gardeners believe that with good planning and patience, you can develop a good-looking garden without too much expense. Then within a few years you can have a thriving area with beautiful trees, vegetable patches and a cottage garden.

Consider these things before planting

South Australian garden designer Amy Vaughn opened her own garden design business two months ago in the suburb of Penola. She was kept busy.

The first step in planning a garden is to think about how you want to use it, says Amy.

She asks customers to tell her local garden about places and plants they like, considering whether they have kids or want to grow vegetables.

Amy Vaughn loves helping people plan and implement their new garden.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Starting from scratch can be overwhelming and expensive, as can deciding how to structure your garden and build “green spaces”. But Amy suggests taking on one project at a time.


Next, you need to consider the right support system you need to ensure long-term success.

“The first thing I usually ask with people is do you have a plumbing system in place? Do you want to use drippers?” says Amy.

“Water generally doubles your growth rate. So if you have the right water levels for a lot of your plants, you will get leaves very quickly.”

Planting is useless if they don’t get the right amount of water.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)


Find out what soil you are dealing with.

Tube Stock is an affordable way to buy plants. With the right amount of water, these guys can thrive. Patience is a virtue! (ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Sandier soils are likely to have less organic matter and need more correction than other, clayey soils.

According to Gardening Australia, loamy soil is an ideal mix of coarser and finer particles of sand and silt, with some clay and varying levels of organic matter.

New homeowners should keep in mind that most builders put some sandy loam over heavy loam to try to break up the soil. That doesn’t do much.

Adding gypsum or organic materials (like compost) is a good way to help the soil hold a little more moisture.

Amy Vaughn’s garden after five years of work in Penola, SA.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

When planting, dig holes in the soil at least twice the size of the pot to loosen the soil, then add some organic matter.

This is especially important near porches and patios where builders tend to use a lot of infill.

And don’t forget fertilizer.

“I know us [garden people] talk about it a lot. But fertilizer twice a year, autumn and spring. Always do it,” says Amy.

sun, shade and wind

Horticulturalist Patrick Gove of Mount Barker spends a lot of time helping people choose the right plants for the Adelaide Hills climate.

Patrick Gove grew up in Mount Barker, one of South Australia’s fastest growing residential areas.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Aspect (which way parts of your garden face) is an important factor to consider, considering where and when the sun hits.

Suppose you want to plant something more delicate, like a Japanese maple, on a north-facing block: “I would suggest planting it where it will receive the easterly sun,” says Patrick.

“And then using the house or a fence to block that out [harsh] western sun when the sun goes down.”

A Japanese maple tree.(Delivered: Unsplash via William Milliot)

For the same reason, planting a sturdy tree in the right spot can shade you in the heat of the afternoon sun. Energy and money efficient!

This is how your garden grows fast

If you want big trees, put them in the ground first. Ground cover grows quickly and can be added later.

When it comes to medium-sized trees, lipstick maples, crape myrtles, crab apples, magnolias, and flowering plums and cherries all grow fairly quickly. And pretty!

Patrick Gove at Mount Barker Nursery where he works.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

When it comes to evergreens, most native options like acacia and eucalyptus are also relatively quick.

But be careful when it comes to the really fast growing trees. Although it’s a tempting option, trees that grow quickly tend to get very tall.

“bare root transplant”

You can start growing some deciduous trees before planting them.

In “bare root transplant” trees are kept in a pot during the winter months while they are not actively growing.

“They need to get over the trauma they just suffered.”

Bare root deciduous trees in the nursery.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Make sure they get into a pot with some potting soil that day.

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