Maybe you’ve moved to a new home with a bigger garden, maybe you have more of a brown thumb than a green one or maybe you’re just looking to get your hands dirty. Whatever the reason, we’ve got all your gardening and landscaping questions answered here!
Emilio Tristan, owner of Gardener’s Touch, shares his wealth of experience on everything from soil and water-saving techniques to ancient gardens.
We’ve just included our favourite questions and answers below, but if you’d like to check out our entire chat with Emilio, we have the video at the end of this blog post.
Tell us about yourself and the services Gardener’s Touch offer?
We’ve been in gardening for nearly 25 years in Australia and overseas. I studied overseas and then moved to Australia for love! I started Gardener’s Touch here with great success, probably because of my knowledge of the Australian industry and plants mixed with the European industry.
And you’ve got a degree in architecture as well?
I have a Masters of Architecture and after that, I did two years of landscaping because it was an extension of the architecture degree. It was more specific for landscaping and gardening, so I could be sure I had the right knowledge to start my own business, which is what I did after working for an international company for around six or seven years. I started my business in Spain and then I moved to Australia and started again here.
I love sitting in beautiful gardens, but I must admit, I’m reluctant gardener. What do you think makes a low maintenance garden?
A low maintenance garden really doesn’t exist at all. Every single garden needs a little bit of maintenance. But to have a lower maintenance garden, you need to do thorough preparation before you start planting. This includes having a very good soil selection, setting up with mulch so everything will grow, selecting the plants you want to put in and where you’re going to plant them, so all gardens have a little bit of work to do.
As a real estate agent, I know gardens make important first impressions. They’re like clothes on a person – people see it first. But most people feel overwhelmed with the work that needs to be done in their garden when getting ready to sell the home and a lot of people don’t have the time. What are the most important aspect of the garden for people to attend to straight away?
When people decide to sell their home, the first thing they do is obviously contact the real estate agent, the next point is to check out the painting of the home, then doors and gates, the kitchen and cleaning inside, but most people forget the garden!
I suggest that when people call the real estate agent, they check out their lawn. A good lawn needs about four to six weeks – initially you need to dress the lawn, fertilise the lawn, replace the lawn if it’s too bad. Then you need to keep doing maintenance on the lawn until sale. If you mow every 10 days or two weeks, the lawn will be perfect.
Once the lawn is clean and tidy, then you need to trim the bushes, remove any dead plants, put down fresh mulch, plant some colourful flowers or add pot plants to the entrance. Along the way, we’ve also found renting a pressure machine and cleaning all the pavings and driveway is extremely important and can make a real difference.
What are the gardening options for landlords?
When you’re renting a property, the garden needs to be neat and tidy for the new tenants and when the tenants leave the property, the garden needs to be tidy for the owner. If you keep up the routine of the garden being good for the tenants and when the tenants leave, it being good for the owner, the garden will always look good!
What are some of the seasonal tips you can provide, especially for gardening and landscaping this time of year?
Leading up to Winter, it’s important to tidy the garden, clean all the leaves and make sure to keep all hedges boxed before Winter, otherwise it will be too late. But don’t touch the roses yet! You also need to dress the garden bed and fertilise the lawns to ensure the roots grow healthy.
So, constant fertilisation is essential for a healthy garden?
Most people forget that plants need food and nutrients like we do. The best way to do this is through a scheduled plan, so you remember to fertilise every six weeks with SeaSol, liquid fertiliser or organic fertiliser. Then every three months, you need to remember to put down slow-release fertiliser, manure or whatever other type of organic fertiliser you want to add to your garden.
Being in Bayside, the soil is very sandy and we lose a lot of the nutrients through the sand, tell us about how water crystals and SeaSol can help?
If you mix SeaSol with water crystals, let the water crystals expand with the SeaSol and then add it in with the soil when you’re planting new plants – it’ll help improve the growth of your garden. When you’re digging a hole to put a plant in or in a pot or a garden bed, just add a bit of this SeaSol and water crystal mixture. It will be there for much longer and any time it’s raining or you’re watering the garden, the SeaSol and water crystal will do their job to retain the bubble of water under the root system. In Summer when it’s dry, you’ll still have that bubble of water under the soil so the plants don’t notice the dryness.
You were telling me that you studied ancient gardens and how some of these old techniques can still be used today.
In ancient times, when Romans were building a new house, the slaves would have to put a metal coin under each tree they planted. This is because they thought that coin would bring health and wealth. The rusty metal under the root system also produces iron, which is one of the most important elements to grow green plants.
Now we use that old technology in a new way. You go to your shed and you’ve got all these screws, knives, bolts and other old metal pieces you never use. Put all of these rusty things in a jar, fill it with water until it’s about three quarters full, then leave it for two to three weeks. After that, shake the jar a bit and you can see the orange rust coming from the metal, which is pure iron. You can put this rusty water across all plants including cactus, natives, English box hedges and magnolias.
If you work on your garden every two weeks, put the rusty water on the plants, then refill the jar with more rusty items, leave for two weeks and then next time you’re working in the garden, put the rusty water over the plants again. This will produce a nice organic fertiliser and you will see the leaves become very green, shiny and healthy.
To experiment, pick two plants from the nursery, add the rusty water to one and leave the other one with normal water and you will be able to see the difference within two weeks!
Melbourne’s climate affects the gardening decisions people make. What are the variations, for example, people living by the sea or in clay soil? Is there a lot of difference for how people should approach their gardens?
Preparation is the key in every single area – close to the sea, close to the mountains, on slops, everywhere. The first thing to do is to check out your local nursery – see what they have. The nurseries close to the sea will have different plants to those close to the mountains. On the Internet, you’ve got a heap of information and chat to local gardeners for their ideas – check two or three different companies.
What are some of the best and easiest water-saving techniques people can use?
Water crystals help a lot, good soil preparation, drip systems for water beds, sprinklers for lawns, micro rain for specific plants, adding water saving agents to the soil, weather checker apps. If you go away, don’t forget to put plates under any pots you have to keep that water there. If you plan a good water system in your garden, you can save thousands of dollars a year on your water bill!
And finally, what is your number one gardening and landscaping tip?
The best advice I can give is to have a schedule. Make sure you prepare your garden from the beginning – for the dryness, water system, soil, plant selection. All of these things together will save you time, as well as thousands of dollars and you will have a fantastic garden that will enhance the value of your home!
If you have a green thumb, you might be interested in making your home more energy efficient.