Check out the latest nursery and gardening news, trends and new products in the Australian Nursery and Gardening industry from experts, nurseries, garden centres, manufacturers and associations on Top4 News.
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How to control weeds without using toxic sprays

How to control weeds without using toxic sprays | Gardening |

WITHOUT doubt, the most effective means of controlling weeds — without using toxic sprays — is to use useful, more aggressive plants to suppress them. In an ornamental garden, these include most dense, ground-hugging perennials, shrubs, prostrate conifers or small trees. 


Some weeds develop extra-deep roots so are able to tolerate long, dry periods by tapping into moisture deep within the subsoil.

They are highly effective at stealing nutrients from the vegetables we try to grow, usually germinating well before the seeds we have sown and rapidly becoming established first.

In fact, many weeds produce substances that can restrict the growth of other adjoining plants.


Despite the vigour and persistence of weeds, it is still possible to gain good control without any need for disruptive herbicides. Best of all, we can use many common vegetables to keep weeds suppressed. My own methods are simple. Before sowing vegetable seeds I thoroughly cultivate the soil and after raking and levelling the surface give the bed a good soaking. Within a few days the first weed seedlings appear. I use a mechanical hoe or a light shuffle (Dutch-type) hoe to disturb, expose and destroy the tiny weeds.


After about 10 days, all weed seeds close to the surface will have germinated and been destroyed.

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Aussies go on global herbicide hunt

Aussies go on global herbicide hunt | Gardening |

A hand-picked team of some of Australia’s best and brightest young chemists is tackling a problem costing grain growers $3.27 billion a year.


They are in Frankfurt, Germany, to fight weeds causing havoc on WA farms under a partnership between German crop science giant Bayer and Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation. 


It has been dubbed Project Kangaroo in Germany but is formally known as the Herbicide Research Project, and Bayer are just as serious about achieving results as GRDC chairman Richard Clark.


 The 11 chemists selected by GRDC and Bayer from hundreds of applicants will join other Bayer researchers to seek a breakthrough for Australian growers. The results will be assessed in Bayer greenhouses and trials in WA and Victoria.


The latest GRDC data shows weed control costs Australian grain growers $2.56 billion a year. Uncontrolled weeds cost them $708 million in lost yield and quality. Weed resistance to glyphosate, or Roundup, is growing alarmingly.


Mr Condon said the best-case scenario was for the research to uncover a new way to attack weeds. Failing that, Bayer and GRDC hope a new molecule is discovered for use in herbicides.

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Weed sprayer calls on Victorian Government to admit chemical use was 'wrong'

Weed sprayer calls on Victorian Government to admit chemical use was 'wrong' | Gardening |

A former government worker calls on the State Government to acknowledge its practices around using chemical weed killers were inadequate.


From 1981 until the early '90s, John Hodges worked as a weed control sprayer for what was the Victorian department of crown lands and survey across Ballarat.


The chemicals Mr Hodges and other sprayers worked with, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, are no longer in use in Victoria by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Both substances, which were used freely between the 1960s and 1990s, contained high levels of dioxin.


When combined, the chemical formulation was known as Agent Orange and was used at high concentrations by the US Military to destroy forests and farmlands during the Vietnam War.


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Weed-exterminating robot to do away with labour-intensive control methods

Weed-exterminating robot to do away with labour-intensive control methods | Gardening |

A group of scientists in north Queensland has built a weed-killing robot to combat invasive plants.


The robot has been developed at James Cook University in Townsville and can identify and spray specific weeds thanks to eight cameras and an image processing system.


It works completely independently rather than being towed behind a vehicle. The image processing means the robot can discern different plants and pick out the one it is programmed to spray. It is currently being tested on lantana — a weed of national significance which takes over native vegetation and can poison stock.


Three rounds of testing have been carried out at Hidden Valley on the Paluma Range, north of Townsville, and so far test results have been positive. "We got some early returns that were favourable for us but there's still a bit of a way to go," Mr Olsen said. "We're happy with the image processing system, it's well developed. We get 90 per cent accuracy on lantana, but we need to get the motion up to scratch."

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How to Create a Garden in a Small Space

How to Create a Garden in a Small Space | Gardening |

Not everyone enjoys the luxury of gardening on country acres or in large city gardens. Those who live in apartments, however, can also garden, with all the joy this brings: colour, fragrance and the excitement of watching the seasons change.

Top4s insight:

The popular medium to plant in a small area is by using pots. There are various species of flowers and grass family you can use to fill in your garden.

Most gardeners tend to plant bamboo as the liner in the garden. Bamboos were popular in late Victorian or Edwardian gardens in Australia, but many species of bamboo are definitely not for planting in the suburban garden. So, it's better to do your homework first before deciding on certain plants for your garden.

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How to Create a More Colourful Garden and Harvest Tastier Fruits

How to Create a More Colourful Garden and Harvest Tastier Fruits | Gardening |

If you have admired the vibrant bougainvillea blooms but shied away from them due to their rampant habit, it is time to take another look. The latest range of dwarf and small shrub bougainvillea cultivars will really meet your needs for manageable hedges to genuine dwarf forms that are ideal container subjects. The colour ranges and variegation options are as wide as all the rampant climber forms. The bougainvillea cultivars are, of course, really foolproof plants in our climate too.

Top4s insight:

Tips to add colours to your garden:

Colourful foliage and shrub bougainvillea cultivars can be your choice to create a colourful garden. The colour ranges and they grow well in Australian climate too.

Tips for tasteful fruits:

Fruits develop a bitter taste if they are grown slowly. It's important to get water and nutrients ready as well as the sun. 

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Wanted: A Garden in Tune with its House

Wanted: A Garden in Tune with its House | Gardening |

A garden is often seen as an afterthought, something to look at after the foundations of a house are laid. But this approach can create a disjointed result with the architecture and landscape appearing independent from each other.

Top4s insight:

Australian landscape architect suggests to create the appropriate flow chart that allows the outdoor spaces to be used as much as those inside. So the home design has a match style with the garden style.

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Garden tips: curry-leaf tree; bamboo; shade trees; silver birch

Garden tips: curry-leaf tree; bamboo; shade trees; silver birch | Gardening |

Readers gardening problems solved. This week: How to eradicate bamboo, what to do with curry seeds, new shade trees, and how to encourage silver birch.

Curry-leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) is not the source of curry powder but the leaves are used to flavour various spicy dishes. The black, shiny berries are edible, sweet when ripe, but have an aroma some find unpleasant. Do not eat the poisonous seeds. In northern parts of Australia be sure to remove the berries as this tree has potential to be weedy. The seeds germinate easily and birds love them.

Silver birch (Betula pendula) generally doesn’t do well in Sydney. It likes a cool, mountainous climate and soil. Tropical or river birch (Betula nigra) is much better. It has a similar shape and graceful form; like silver birch it looks best in small groves. Rather than silvery branches, it has reddish-brown bark that exfoliates in papery curls.

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Gardening: Late summer tomato care

Gardening: Late summer tomato care | Gardening |

THE older tomato plants get, the more likely it is that they will start to suffer from foliar diseases such as leaf spots and blights. Left untreated, diseases can weaken plants and cause significant damage.

While plants are still laden with ripening fruit, diseases should be controlled to keep plants healthy and promote a good harvest. A copper fungicide is a handy, broad spectrum fungicide that will help control tomato diseases such as leaf spots and blights. For best disease control, spray both the upper and lower surfaces of leaves.

Whitefly are tiny tap sucking insects that congregate in large numbers underneath tomato foliage and fly up into a cloud when disturbed. Due to their large numbers, whitefly can quickly deplete tomato plants, reducing vigour and tomato yields.

An insecticidal soap is the key to effective whitefly control as well as a degree of stealth! Minimise disturbing the whiteflies before spraying and spray both sides of foliage every 5-7 days. Spraying underneath leaves is important, as that is where whiteflies predominantly hide.

Top4s insight:

In caring for your tomato these things should be considered:

• A copper fungicide will help control tomato diseases such as leaf spots and blights.

• Using insecticidal soap is also effective in eliminating whiteflies.

• Keeping your soil moist is very important. Tomatoes are prone to the disease called blossom end rot which causes sunken and decaying area on the end of the fruit.

• Avoid the chances of tomato blossom end rot by applying some lime and dolomite in the soil to keep the soil moist while it is in growing season.

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Nature strip gardens a modest change

Nature strip gardens a modest change | Gardening |

The vehement opposition felt by some Canberrans to allowing vegetable gardens on nature strips is misplaced. It's not that verge gardens are an environmental panacea, nor even that they will have any significant impact on the scale of vegetable gardening, as Shane Rattenbury apparently hopes. It's simply that this move is modest and hardly likely to give rise to a frenzy of nature strip cultivation.

The people likely to plant out their nature strips are those who already do so, with or without permission, and perhaps their neighbours, inspired by the productivity next door.

For those who accuse the only Greens parliamentarian of imposing a radical agenda on the city, they might do well to reflect that the move is in reality a softening of the rules, a lessening of the nanny state tendency that so upsets a section of the community, with or without justification. At the moment, households cannot touch the nature strip without permission, submitting detailed plans for approval. The rule change proposed by Mr Rattenbury will allow what amounts to modest development without permission, and bigger developments including bollards and irrigation with permission.

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Gardening: Latitude 23 tropical glasshouses, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

Gardening: Latitude 23 tropical glasshouses, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney | Gardening |

A new attraction lets visitors marvel at incredible, theatrical plants from steamier climates.

The Tropic of Capricorn is the most southern circle of latitude where the sun can be directly overhead. Its northern equivalent is the Tropic of Cancer, and together they form the borders of the tropical world. The two tropics are  about latitude 23, which is why Latitude 23 is the name of the new tropical glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.

Latitude 23 is already drawing more visitors in a three-hour period than the Pyramid attracted in a week,  Dixon says. Those captured by the charms of tropical plants will also want to sign up for Dixon's tours of the secret other half of Latitude 23, where rare plants are displayed in a glasshouse  not open to the public. Oddities here include ant plants, which offer ants a safe home in the swollen, honeycombed base of the stem in return for the nutrients  in their droppings.

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7 Mad Gardening Skills

7 Mad Gardening Skills | Gardening |

To be an avid gardener means you need to have special skills. Here's a list of 7 abilities that will take you to the next level.

Are you observant and present while out in your garden? It’s easy to wander around just enjoying all the natural beauty, but as they say “the devil is in the details.” Catching something now will keep you from crying about it later. One droughty season a few years back, I noticed some of my plants’ leaves looked chewed on. I thought, “Oh, probably grasshoppers or some other bug.” The next day, I noticed even more gone, but I was still unsure. The third day I came out to discover a smallish groundhog in my garden. I chased him out through the hole he had come through, which is sadly how I figured out how he got in. Had I been smarter (or just more paranoid), I would have spotted the incursion site, patching it before Woody helped himself to my produce.

Can you easily forgive? The forgiving gardener is the successful gardener. You need to forgive others, especially woodland creatures and other pests. They get hungry just like we do. Our gardens are often the most delicious food source around. If they trespass into your space, know that is just nature’s way. Of course you may need to fence them out or remove them if they become too aggressive. All I’m saying is don’t hold a grudge - animals need love too.

Top4s insight:

Here are list of 7 mad gardening skills that will take you to the next level.

• Alertness

• Creativity

• Forgiveness

• Humility

• Patience

• Planning

• Sharing

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Potting mix: cheap doesn’t mean cheerful for plants and gardeners

Potting mix: cheap doesn’t mean cheerful for plants and gardeners | Gardening |

Im always campaigning about not using cheap potting mixes because plants cannot grow well in them.

Tim Pickles, owner of multi-award-winning Tim’s Garden Centre in Sydney, is on the case too. He runs simple trials by planting the same seedlings into bags of rival potting mixes. The differences can be outstanding (see above), with almost no plant growth in the bags from two supermarket and hardware chains compared with healthy plants in a premium quality mix.

New gardeners are buying these cheap mixes then blaming themselves when the plants die,” he says. “We will lose these people from gardening.”

So pay the extra for top-quality potting mix.

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Vertical gardening gets stylish

Vertical gardening gets stylish | Gardening |

The WABE planter from Melbourne’s Oblica transforms any vertical space into a living, sculptural plant display.


Oblica teamed up with Glasshaus Nursery on the design of the planter. Each unit is composed of galvanised steel and is available in a number of colours and finishes, including powder-coated black, raw steel and white.


The modular system allows you to fill large feature walls with many units or to accent a smaller area, such as a balcony or courtyard, with just one or two. This flexibility also means you can change your installation according to season, style or mood.


 The WABE’s unique hexagonal shape and clever use of shadow, texture and negative space are perfect to fill with your favourite plants and other decor to create a green installation for any wall, indoor or outdoor.

Small Garden Ideas's curator insight, July 30, 2016 8:30 AM
Amazing wall garden
Small Garden Ideas's curator insight, March 15, 2016 9:06 PM
Amazing decor idea
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Love Your Garden

Love Your Garden | Gardening |
Who doesn’t want a low-maintenance garden? Even the keenest gardeners want some areas that require little work. They could have areas that are hard to get to or out of sight.

Plant selection can make the difference between success and failure if you’re chasing a low-maintenance garden routine. Don’t choose plants that are needy. That means they might require constant watering, pruning and feeding or they might be susceptible to diseases.


I always take inspiration from the worst gardens in my neighbourhood. You know the ones; they have long grass and the house needs painting. If there are any plants in gardens like that, they have probably survived on nothing but rainwater since the day they were planted. They would never have been pruned or fed and they’d be competing with weeds and lawn for any nutrients. And yet, they are still around.


Don’t waste time and money on difficult plants that are needy when there are ones that will look as good. They will reward you for choosing them.


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Farmers urged to mix up weed control as herbicide resistant weeds spread across the country

Farmers urged to mix up weed control as herbicide resistant weeds spread across the country | Gardening |

Herbicide resistance is a growing problem for Australia's croplands, and the only way to halt its spread is to adopt a wider range of weed control measures, an expert says.


Years of continuous cropping, with a heavy reliance on just a few types of herbicide have seen common weeds like ryegrass and wild radish become immune to its mode of action, and difficult to control.


Western Australia's wheatbelt was one of the first regions to report major herbicide resistance problems.


But the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative's Peter Newman said as cultural practises of WA farmers change, they're become more successful at lowering the total amount of weed seeds in the crop.


"A number of surveys, conducted over time are showing as herbicide use increases with more continuous cropping, resistance is getting worse," he said.

Mr Newman recommended 'stacking' five different control methods in order to tackle the weed seed bank.

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How to solve plant problems stemming from soil disorders

How to solve plant problems stemming from soil disorders | Gardening |

RECENTLY I was contacted by a frantic gardener, desperately seeking advice about what she called a disastrous disease killing every plant in her garden

The leaves on all of her plants, inc­luding roses and even fruit trees, had started to shrivel and she was at her wit’s end trying to find the cause.

When every plant starts to shrivel and die it is a disorder — usually in the soil. In this case, during a long per­iod of drought, the garden had been finally watered using the last, concentrated dregs from an almost empty farm dam.

The only solution was to find ­another source of clean water to flush away the toxic concentrates.

Many people confuse soil disorders with pests or diseases.

Fresh poultry manure can be more damaging because it contains no org­anic matter to act as a buffer. 

This is why all fresh manures must always be either composted before being applied, or at least be piled up to rot down slowly — preferably mixed with organic materials such as straw, leaves or lawn clippings.

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Convert Your Pool to Enhance Your Garden

Convert Your Pool to Enhance Your Garden | Gardening |

Has anyone used your pool this summer? There comes a point when the kids grow up and you’re left with what was once an essential part of your family life turning into a money-pit taking up valuable space. So what do you do?

You can keep running the filter, adding chlorine or salt and cleaning it to maintain a nice appearance. Or, you could turn off the filter and let Mother Nature take over.

Top4s insight:

Here are the benefits of converting a pool to a pond in your garden:

  • You still can use it to swim.
  • It can be used as an open-air water tank for the garden.
  • You will save over a $1000 a year on running the average pool.
  • You can turn it back into a pool anytime.
  • You save time on cleaning.
  • And it’s a great way to improve biodiversity in your garden.

The most concerns relate to mosquitos and the pond smelling, but these aren't really the issues. The mosquitos thrive in shallow water like pots and buckets, they don't do it in a deep, broad swimming pool.

You can add a new pond to your garden by using your old swimming pool. This doesn't require a major renovation which can cost you a lot of money. Just a slight makeover and you can have a new look on your garden.

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Care Tips for Crepe Myrtles

Care Tips for Crepe Myrtles | Gardening |

Crepe myrtles are street trees in my neighbourhood and now our streets look dressed for a five-year-old's birthday party. The flowers are as frilly as a tulle tutu and come in a complete collection of princess pinks. That they manage to wear this exuberant frou-frou and still look elegant is one reason crepe myrtles are Sydney's favourite small flowering tree. There are other reasons: in autumn they colour up nicely, bare branches in winter let the sunshine in; and the sinewy trunks develop fabulous silver, copper and bronze tones as they mature.

Top4s insight:

The tree may grow very fast and can look out-grown and won't seem quite pleasant to see anymore.

If the tree has been grown on a single trunk, clear off any dry and thin branches under the canopy. Make all these cuts flush with another branch or the main stem, so the tree won't seem too bulky anymore.

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Medinillas: A joy to grow, and they'll take the humidity

Medinillas: A joy to grow, and they'll take the humidity | Gardening |

An absolutely spectacular shrub, medinillas are grown for their stunning cascading clusters of pink flowers. In a warm position, they will flower for most of the year. They are not very well known, and not widely propagated. I'm not sure why this is, because they are an absolute joy to grow.

In their natural habitat, medinillas grow in the rainforests from southern Africa and Madagascar, through southern Asia and across to the Pacific. So far as I know, they do not occur naturally in Australia, but they grow really well in the tropical and sub-tropical areas. Some species are epiphytes, like orchids and bromeliads, that grow in the forks of large trees.

The genus medinilla contains hundreds of species, but only a handful are commercially available. They prefer a bright, partly shaded position in moist, well-drained soil. They are absolutely brilliant in pots and hanging baskets. Or try planting one at the top of a garden wall. I think an elevated position really sets off those pendulous blooms, and also helps to ensure that the position is free-draining.

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Putting your vegies to bed

Putting your vegies to bed | Gardening |

The urge to grow some of our fresh food at home continues to be strong, and its a great idea for so many reasons. Its healthy, it gets our hands and hearts in contact with the earth, it cuts down food miles, teaches children valuable skills, and its such a darn pleasure eating what you grew and harvested yourself.

Vegetables can be demanding little things. They need optimum conditions to grow quickly, stay healthy and deliver a good crop. The two main requirements for success are a sunny spot and rich, well-drained soil. But most of us don’t have a spare bit of garden like this, which is where raised vegie beds prove their worth.

Whether it’s a prefabricated kit or one you build yourself, you can install a raised bed anywhere sunny, even if it’s on concrete, lawn or rocky soil. Because you fill it with rich new soil, good drainage is assured and there’s no root competition from existing plants. Raised beds tend to receive more sun and the soil stays warmer too. So the plants have ideal growing conditions.

For gardeners, the height makes working in the beds easier. Raised beds are harder for boisterous dogs to jump into and they can be covered to protect against weather, insects, and thieving birds and possums.

Top4s insight:

Raised beds for vegies are harder for dogs to jump into and they can be covered to protect against weather,insects,birds and other things that may harm the vegies.

• When choosing materials for your vegie beds you can choose any shape or size & materials that include corrugated steel ,food-grade plastic, natural timbers, and composite products using recycled materials.You can add accessories like netting systems,trellis systems, irrigation kits and clip-on working bench.

• When filling your raised bed use quality potting mix or highly organic improved soil then blend your top mix with washed sand.Then you can use just sand or add some rocks if you want to fill up space.

• When using specialised soil add some mermiculite or perlite which make the mix the lighter and more open it also improve water and nutrient-holding capacity.

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Winter weather unlikely to kill spring flowers that bloom too early, says garden centre owner

Winter weather unlikely to kill spring flowers that bloom too early, says garden centre owner | Gardening |

Some people have reported seeing spring flowers already poking out of the ground, but one local garden centre owner says that's OK.

It's still winter, but some people in Waterloo Region have reported seeing little pops of colour in their gardens as early spring plants have started to sprout.

While it might seem like the time to panic with temperatures going well below zero this weekend, gardening expert Charles Schachinger said the plants are likely going to be OK.

"If your crocuses come out and flower now, they come out and flower. The kinds of things that happen with most plants, you won't be aware of them happening until you see the results, which is crocuses in a warm spot getting a lot of heat, prematurely blooming," he said in an interview with CBC News.

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The secret tricks every gardener should know

The secret tricks every gardener should know | Gardening |

Compost unfortunately is not something you can buy. It’s something that is made. Crafted, if you like, by combining garden refuse and kitchen scraps. It is the transformation of rubbish into natures probiotic vitamin booster.

Making it depends how small the green matter is (so if you can mulch it first or at the very least run the mower over it), how warm the weather and how regularly you turn it. If you have a tumbler, this is an easy and effective method of turning out your “black gold” in about a month.

A deep soak once a week should get your garden by as too much of a good thing is always bad … your plants’ roots might have difficulty breathing simply because they are waterlogged.

Water can also be great at helping to control pests. Many small insects thrive in dusty conditions, and areas of the house that are in rain shadows. Simply hosing down foliage or misting leaves can be a cure all.

Top4s insight:

Here are the tricks every gardeners should know

•The biggest gift is compost.

•Water is everything.

•The more you take, the more you get.

•Don’t put up with weeds.

•Keep out unwanted visitors.

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Nine tips for beginner gardeners

Nine tips for beginner gardeners | Gardening |

Discover your inner green thumb with these expert tips for gardens and indoor plants.

For beginner (and potentially impatient) gardeners, it’s so rewarding to be able to start picking produce within a matter of weeks

Follow organic gardening methods, which basically means you don’t use chemical sprays or fertilisers in your garden and instead choose organic fertilisers and garden products.

Apply a good layer of mulch to bedded areas in spring and autumn as it stops soil drying out, keeps it moist and can dramatically reduce watering.

Some outdoor pots such as terracotta styles are also susceptible to overheating during the warmer weather. To avoid this issue, it’s recommend to water plants both morning and evening to prevent them from drying out.

Small Garden Ideas's curator insight, February 3, 2016 8:09 PM
Worth bookmarking great tips for big enter gardeners
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The seven deadly sins of gardening

The seven deadly sins of gardening | Gardening |

THE seven deadly sins are not commonly associated with gardening, but pondering a recent bout of vegetable patch envy, I had to admit that I could probably tick off all seven. At dinner with friends, we had admired the bowl of bush beans fresh from the garden, garnished with purslane, which grows like a weed and is a rich source of vitamin C.

Lust, in the form of covetous desire, took hold during a visit to a magnificent garden just before Christmas. I developed a fierce longing for a parterre as large as our entire backyard, for the space and resources to create numerous garden “rooms” of the kind I admired there (when this particular gardener wanted to expand, she simply bought the house next door and knocked it over), and the hired help to maintain it.

Pottering about in the garden is essentially a peaceful and happy pursuit for me. Wrath rarely overtakes me — unless you count shouted profanities when I hit my thumb with a mash hammer, which invariably happens when I’m banging in stakes. And I do get cross when possums and/or rats spoil our fruit.

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