The humble garden path is one of the most paradoxical parts of a garden, being both enchanting and practical at the same time.
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25 years of Landcare celebrated on Gardening Australia2014-12-09025 years of Landcare was celebrated with a feature by Costa Georgiadis on Gardening Australia this month. Whether straight, curved, paved or gravel, there's one to suit every space, says Louise McDaid. It provides a safe walking surface to get from point A to B, and leads the curious to idly wander along, as it beckons to what lies beyond.
It's nature's very own soil conditioner, recycling organic nutrients and encouraging earthworms and other valuable soil organisms.
It helps break up hard soil too, allowing for better drainage and root penetration in plants.
When added to sandy soil, compost acts like a sponge, holding in moisture and nutrients rather than letting them leach away. It pays to be making lots of it!Nature's RecyclersMaking compost relies on the natural process of decomposition.
Auxiliary paths, such as service paths or those linking areas, can be a little narrower, and are best without sharp angles, so turning a wheelbarrow, for example, isn't difficult. Here are some path ideas for home gardens.GravelGravel is an easy-to-install, inexpensive path material with a natural look. With a little moisture from rainfall, all of these organic materials are eventually broken down by worms, insects, bacteria and fungi, then returned to the soil. When you walk on it there's a lovely crunchy sound - great for security as you can hear footsteps. The same thing happens when we make compost, only we speed up the process by providing the best conditions for these valued workers. But the biggest benefits of gravel are that it allows water to percolate through into the soil, which is especially useful in areas with downpours, and it doesn't get slippery.
Getting StartedCompostable MaterialsComposting ingredients can generally be divided into two categories: brown and green.
This style is very adaptable as gravel is available in a wide range of particle sizes and colours (both single and mixed). Brown materials are dry, brown (as the name implies) and carbon rich, such as dry grass, newspaper, dead leaves, sawdust and woodchip. Green materials are nitrogen-rich and break down quickly: vegetable scraps, sappy prunings, fresh grass clippings and weeds, animal manures and organic fertilisers. This kind of path needs a rigid edge to contain the gravel and stop it spilling onto the surrounding lawn - brick, stone or timber edging does this well. Use a layer of geotextile fabric beneath the gravel to thwart weed growth; this also stops the gravel sinking into the ground while allowing water to seep through. Add a layer of compacted sand and then the gravel on top in a thick layer, usually about 10cm deep.One disadvantage of gravel is it can get caught in your shoes and will scratch indoor floors.
That will give your compost a wider range of nutrients to draw from.A Compost CornerChoose a site that's reasonably level, well-drained, shaded (preferably) and large enough to accommodate at least two bins, plus a space for storing materials that are ready to be composted. Compost Bins or BaysYou can make compost in an open pile, but containing the materials in a bin helps to keep your compost corner tidy.

If you like walking barefoot, test out some different gravels without shoes on to find one that's not too sharp.PavingPaving gives a sturdy, durable and level path capable of carrying heavy loads. Choose from clay, concrete or stone, from creamy golden sandstone, limestone and granite, to slate and ironstone. Fill one, then start filling the second while the contents of the first are breaking down.You can also make your own bins or 'bays' from recycled materials such as hardwood timber, bricks and galvanised iron.
Pavers are ideal for main and service paths as you can choose different styles to suit your garden and taste. When adding bulky materials - such as branches, twigs and long sappy cuttings - shred or chop them up beforehand.AirAll organisms responsible for decomposing organic matter need air to thrive.
Prepping used pavers and removing old grout is time consuming, and not all will be useable.Pavers can be laid either on an impermeable concrete slab, or a flexible base of crushed rock and sand that allows some water movement through it. A slab is a solid, rigid base and creates a path with little movement, which is very functional.
When you do, these organisms proliferate and break down the materials quickly, which prevents the heap from becoming a stinking mass.
Pavers are mortared or glued onto the top of the concrete slab, then the gaps between the pavers are filled with grout.
A garden fork is a good tool for turning a compost heap, or if you have a plastic compost bin, buy a corkscrew-style aerator, which is screwed into the pile and lifted to add air. Tiles, which are thinner than pavers, need to be laid on a slab rather than a flexible base. Creating a paved path requires a higher skill level than a gravel one, but a flexible base style is easy to try yourself.
Whichever method you use, it's best to have a concrete or mortared haunch at the sides to hold the base and pavers in place.SteppersSteppers create charmingly simple paths, whether meandering through a garden bed or linking one area to another. There are a multitude of stepper materials to choose from.This style of walkway lends itself to an auxiliary path, rather than a main path, as the finished surface will often be uneven. A stepper path can be unobtrusive, or used as a feature, depending on the shape of the stepper. Pieces will be uniquely shaped, as are any type of stone or rock suitable to use, such as sandstone. Standard-shaped concrete squares and circles are easily obtained, or you can add a personal touch with mosaics or paint. With regular aeration, the heat is maintained and the compost is ready in about six weeks.Cold CompostingThis is perfect for dealing with daily household waste.
Or, get creative and make your own in concrete, imprinted with leaf shapes or little handprints.Secure steppers on a mortar bed to hold them in place, or, more simply, 'mud' them into place.
Just pop in your vegie scraps and cover with 'brown' material such as dry grass, straw or sawdust. Work out the spacing for a comfortable step, place the steppers, mark their positions, then remove. For this reason, it's best to avoid adding diseased material, weed seeds and perennial weed material such as kikuyu, couch and nutgrass, as well as oxalis and onion weed bulbs. Multi-bay AdvantageThe greatest advantage of a multi-bay compost system (three bays or more) is the ease of management when aerating the heaps.
Finish off with creeping herbs, or textural groundcovers such as gravel or mulch.BrickBricks give a garden a rustic appearance and can look either relaxed or formal depending on the path lines, pattern of brick laying and planting style.
The base comprises a 10-15cm compacted layer of crushed rock, topped with a 5cm-layer of compacted sand.

Mark out your path and dig out the area to the total depth of all the layers (this will depend on the thickness of the bricks that go on top of the base). Keep the contents of the heap just moist to the touch, and not saturated.What Exactly is Compost?Compost is a mix of organic materials at different stages of decomposition, ranging from coarse materials right down to fine organic particles (known as humus).
Take time to get the bottom of the dug-out part level - this will make adding the layers and creating a slight slope on the finished level for drainage much easier. As a guide, a fall of 1cm in 1m will allow water to naturally drain away, preferably onto a garden bed. How can I fix it?A: Compost gets smelly when it's anaerobic, normally due to a lack of air or a high concentration of kitchen scraps. Fill the gaps between the bricks with a mortar slurry or a 1:4 ratio mixture of cement and sand, which allows more water infiltration.
Popular brick patterns are 'herringbone' (generally used for heritage homes), 'basketweave' and 'stretcher bond' - these can be combined. Bricks can also create decorative path edging.Josh's Permeable Paths"Permeable paths allow water to pass through into the soil below.
They range from simple gravel or mulch paths to ones using more permanent products, such as solid porous paving, which is made from screened gravel and set in a binding agent. Rats may visit open bays in search of food scraps, so cover them well or bury food scraps deep in the pile.
Porous paving like this is available as segmented pavers, or it can be poured as a slurry to set, similar to poured concrete. This is an important aspect of a water-sensitive design, as it helps reduce the amount of water and nutrients that run off into drains and waterways. Should I get rid of them?A: Most insects found in compost are our friends, busy helping to break down the materials.
First we levelled and compacted the site soil, then we installed flexible edging to contain the gravel and keep it separated from the garden beds. Even white curl grubs perform a valuable role, but it's best to avoid transferring these to the garden where they can damage plant roots.
We laid a geotextile fabric over the sand (to prevent it mixing with the gravel), positioned the steppers and then added the gravel.
We also used gravel for the driveway, with a structural cell made from recycled plastic to make it suitable for vehicles.
Overall, I'm thrilled with the results."BoardwalkThis is a beautiful way to use timber in the garden with minimal impact on the ground. A decking boardwalk path requires little earthwork as the ground beneath doesn't need to be level. Tracking down used timber from salvage and recycle yards is a great alternative to using imported unsustainable timber. But, whether you use new or re-used timber, check out the Forest Stewardship Council Australia's list of certified local timbers and other useful information, so you can make an educated choice.Decomposed Granite This path style has an earthy softness, yet is a solid, durable surface. Commonly available types are granitic sand, crushed lime, and sandstone, as well as toppings.

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