Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's gotta be edible or useful.

I work at a garden centre. It is easy work for me, too easy, I find it boring, but it is permanent part-time, which is handy while I am at uni.
However, I'm less and less interested in selling people anything that isn't edible or native. Why plant an Azalea in that acid soil when you could grow delicious healthful blueberries? Plenty of native plants can grow in semi-shade areas (after all, there was an overstorey of tall Eucalypts or Banksia in most areas to give shade and protection to the plants below. In fact it works both ways, the little plants act as mulch and provide a sanctuary for soil microbes for the larger species to develop).
Flowers do have a place in a garden of course, but it's best if they are insect attracting ones, to encourage pollinators into your garden to help with fruit fertilisation. Beneficial insects rely on pollen to give them the energy to come and lay their eggs in your garden so their young can destroy the bad guys who damage leaves, buds and flowers.
There are plenty of ornamental looking edible species that can be integrated into gardens, so at least there is some edible yield coming out of it. Rainbow chard, lettuces of all kinds and colours, parsley and all the herbs are pretty. Peas can be grown in spots where deciduous vines are bare over winter.
Many fruit trees are also quite handsome too. Many dwarf varieties are available these days so even small gardens can have an orchard of sorts, even in tubs. Citrus are excellent for very sunny spots. Stonefruit love the climate here in Perth. There are effective controls for Mediterranean fruit fly and citrus leaf miner which are both prevalent; regular and dedicated resetting of traps and sprays are necessary for organic control.
Everybody needs to learn how to grow food so get out there and grow something to eat.