Get ready to grow - 5 tips for starting your spring garden
For both beginner and experienced green finger gardeners alike, Spring is one of the most exciting times of the year. With an opportunity to start afresh and watch the literal fruits of your labour blossom as the season progresses, the sense of reward and working in conjunction with mother nature is a hard feeling to beat. From tasty edible herbs and fruits, to flowers producing eye watering coloured explosions, you have the freedom to get creative. However, as with most things, your yield and outcome is dependent on the work you put in, which should be founded on preparation and planning as the season approaches. And if you are renting your property in Malta or Gozo, growing a garden is one of the most rewarding ways to embellish your home.
There is so much to think about, but below we have outlined the five tips we believe will help transform your garden as the seasons look to change.
Fertilising and building soil
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Jimenez from UnSplash
A lot of people believe that you can simply transplant from pot to garden, and miraculously things will look after themselves. Unfortunately this is not the case, especially in a place like the Maltese Islands, where our base soil is made up of varying types of clay, limestone, rock and sediment.
Plants require certain nutrients, combined with oxygen and water in order to survive. Whilst making your own compost is a great option, this can be time consuming and requires a certain element of space. The simplest option is to visit a garden centre such as Jardinland or Piscopo Gardens. Not all fertilisers are created equal, and by letting them know the type of plants you want to grow, they will be able to offer guidance on volumes and types that would work best for you. Which brings us to our next tip…
Plan your plot
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With so many options for mini food crops or simply pretty pollinators, it's easy to get overwhelmed. To ensure the most success, preparation is key. Consider the size of the garden or land that you are working with. Have a think about what you want to grow, and how much care and maintenance this will take, as well as how much space it will take. Olive trees are fairly low maintenance for example and grow slowly when compared to pomegranates which take up a bit more space.
Photo courtesy of Alcaan Houtzaager
Is your garden close to the coast or more inland? Which way does it face and how much sun/shade does it get. All of these questions need to be considered to ensure that you are giving your garden the best chance to survive and blossom by choosing the right plants for the space you have. If space is an issue, consider rooftop gardens and plant cushions such as the ones we showed off in our Zanzi Homes blog.
Get the right tools for the job
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As nice as it is to feel the earth covering your fingers, using your hands will only get you so far. Now we aren't saying head down to Big Mat or Homemate and empty their shelves of every type of shovel, rake and overalls you can lay your hands on, but think about what will make things practically easier for you. We suggest starting with a few small hand items such as a trowel and small fork, enabling you to dig holes and aerate the soil as you need. Another wise investment is a watering can if you don’t have access to a hose. Also think of things like support trestles and wire if you plan on growing creeper crops like beans or tomatoes. And of course, a good set of gloves and a small mat for your knees as you move around. Trust us, this will save you a load of back ache in the future!
Build for the bees
Photo by Jenna Lee on Unsplash
The most successful gardens are those that look for a unilateral approach, and include varying species that can work together for mutual benefit. Herbs can be shaded and sheltered by larger flowers for example, and give a much nicer aesthetic to a garden than simply rows of the same plants.
And a significant link in this complex circle of life are the bees and the work they do. Without them, a lot of species would not be able to pollinate and either grow poorly or perish altogether. Laying out a colourful map of various plants both edible and flowering will help to entice these buzzing buddies and help in maintaining the fragile mini ecosystem that you have created. It will also increase the natural biodiversity and over time include other small animals and birds for you to enjoy.
Whilst you want to attract the birds and the bees, you will inevitably have some less desirable guests wanting to take advantage of all of your hard work. Aphids, slugs and snails and other insects will all make short work of your garden if left unattended. Given that there is potential for you to possibly be eating some of your crop at a later stage, it is best to look at more natural and organic pest control methods.
Garlic and Chilli for example is a great deterrent if mixed with dishwashing liquid and water, and left overnight to soak before being sprayed on your plants. Alternatively, look to encourage natural predators, and plant things like mint, fennel and sunflowers which will attract ladybirds and mantis which will eat any unwanted pests.
Gardening is one of the most rewarding past times and there is a wealth of knowledge to be found online, in books, and even just speaking to friends and family. Who knows, maybe we could look to turn the Maltese islands into a springtime wonderland for everyone to enjoy. So go on and get your hands dirty.
Main blog photo by Filip Urban from UnSplash