By 2014, our basic knowledge of soil and plants had improved and we understood the importance of wind direction and sun orientation. Given what we needed and wanted to achieve, the decision to plant South Australian coastal bushes, grasses and ground covers, was a no brainer.
We started by clearing most of the existing low-level vegetation. This was done on weekends and over several months during autumn and winter. The rain made digging easier and the extra exercise was an energy-efficient way to stay warm during the cold winter months. I’m not kidding you. We managed to use our heater only once over the whole winter.
Once we finished clearing, we ordered a truckload of mulch from Graeme, our local tree cutter. We spent a whole morning shovelling and spreading half the amount in the front garden and another morning spreading the other half at the back.
Once the paths were in place, we sought advice from staff at the State Flora Nursery. They provided us with a free, printed list of native plants best suited to our climate, rainfall and soil. We chose our plants and transplanted them in the garden. I picked up a kit of twelve native plants from Holdfast Bay council and more cuttings from friends and neighbours. We also planted two advanced deciduous trees to provide summer shade to the western side of the house, and lined the exposed south-west boundary with wind-hardy, native bushes.
Most of the new plants are small tube stock which need wind protection. During their first summer, they will also need regular watering. We didn’t install an irrigation system because, once established, our plan is to hand water with recycled grey water if and when the plants look stressed. We know the local native garden at the Brighton Civic Centre and library has no irrigation system in place and survives on our region’s current annual rainfall of about 500mm.
By late winter we were done. Magpies were checking out the new garden and blossoms were full of bees. Although the process was simple, it did take time and hard work. The total cost was under $300, including $180 for two advanced trees. The best decision we made was to pace ourselves and complete this latest project over several months. Since we were not working to a design, this gave us time to reflect before making key decisions. When we look back on the garden’s evolution over the last 15 years, we know it was worth our time and effort.