Beginner’s Step By Step Guide To Starting A Garden (Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, Flowers & More)

Beginner's Step By Step Guide To Starting A Garden (Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, Flowers & More)

Beginning your first garden patch with flowers, vegetables, fruits, or a combination of plant life, can be an exciting time.

But, where do you start and what should you consider?

We’ve put together a beginner’s step by step guide to starting a garden that should give you a very solid outline to use.

 

1. Decide on your garden location and size

Common options for locations are:

  • Grow in your natural soil in a spot/patch in the backyard (having it in a spot that gets sun for at least 6 hours a day helps)
  • Grow in raised garden beds (made of a rot resistant wood like red cedar, black locust or redwood, and made to be 12 + inches deep as most vegetable and plant roots tend to be 6 to 12 inches deep)
  • Grow in pot plants or containers indoors or outdoors
  • Grow in a greenhouse or controlled growing environment

For the purposes of this guide, we will outline how to grow a regular outdoor garden patch.

In terms of size, the smaller the better when you first start as it’s far easier to manage, and the upkeep is far less.

A patch anywhere up to 5 or 10 feet squared is usually manageable for beginners, but you may also just choose a custom patch to fit one or a few types of vegetables, plants/flowers and so on.

 

2. Find out the type of soil you have (test it), and understand your local climate and seasons

You need to understand the soil you have, and soil tests can help with this:

  • Test your soil pH with a standard pH testing kit
  • Test your soil nutrients with a standard soil nutrients testing kit
  • Test your soil type with a squeeze test, or any other number of visual tests where you examine texture and appearance of the soil while it’s damp

Test in several different locations over your plot of land, because soil can differ from spot to spot even on one piece of land.

Read this guide about the different test you can do on soil.

Also, do an online search and find your local climate (temperature, average rainfall) and when the growing seasons start and finish. You may look at the plant hardiness zones for your area too, which can indicate which plants grow in what regions based on average minimum temperature.

 

3. Pick the types of plant life, and number of different types of plant life you want to grow

Research the flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, herbs and other plant life you want to grow.

Each type of plant, and even different varieties within one type of plant, will have different conditions they grow best under, and different growing requirements.

Some plants are very hardy and versatile and can grow in a range of climates, soil types and soil pH ranges.

Other plants need very specific conditions to grow, or have specific requirements such as being very water hungry.

Research the conditions specific flowers, vegetables or fruits need to grow, and pick those that will suit your local conditions.

For example, if you want to grow tomatoes, you might try searches like:

  • how to grow tomatoes
  • what tomatoes need to grow
  • temperature/climate tomatoes need to grow
  • soil pH for tomatoes
  • soil type for tomatoes
  • when to plant tomatoes (what season)
  • how much water tomato plants need
  • root depth of tomato plants
  • how many times tomatoes produce a year
  • how fast do tomatoes grow
  • do I plant tomato seeds or transplants
  • and so on …

Note that there is a difference in the way different plant life grows and produces as well. For example, traditional root vegetables might grow differently to a plant that is a climber/vine plant that needs lattice or support framing.

Visiting your local gardening centre/shop after you know your soil test results, growing area, and the types of plants you want to grow, and asking them for advice, is another way to get information on what you might be able to grow and not grow.

Anywhere from one to a few different types of plants is good to start with.

You can concentrate on getting your initial selections right before you move onto others.

 

4. Understand all the factors that impact plant growth

The main things that any plant life needs to grow are – Light (sunlight), the right temperature, enough water, the right humidity and the right type and amount of nutrients. However, this is a basic list.

The full list of direct and indirect factors that impact plant growth is more comprehensive.

You can read a guide about the factors that affect plant growth in this guide.

 

5. Decide whether you want to work with your existing soil, or import soil (or both)

Your existing soil might be fine to grow in – good soil is usually close to the neutral pH range, a loamy type of soil, drains well, is moist (holds water and nutrients well) and is easy to dig and work with without being too loose or too sticky or hard/compacted.

On the other hand, you might find your soil has issues and needs some level of amending or improvement.

In this instance, you might find it’s easier simply to import top soil or a fresh soil mix from the shop, and grow in raised garden beds instead (people with extremely clayey and sandy soils have done this in the past).

Read this guide about working with different types of soil that you might encounter on your land.

 

6. Prepare your soil

Initially, you’ll want to till or work the soil (dig it up, break it up, aerate it, and spread it out). You really only need to do this once.

Once that is done, you’ll want to add to the soil or amend it as required:

  • Adding some organic matter – organic compost or manure – will help feed the soil initially with nutrients, and introduce beneficial microorganisms.
  • This is also the time to start amending the soil with pH amendments and fertilizers, based on the soil test results you did earlier.
  • It’s also a good time to add other soil mixes if you want to change the soil texture or type

 

7. Create garden/plant beds, weed proof them, water and leave

Some people don’t create garden beds, but they are good practice for a number of reasons. The width and depth of the garden beds depends on what you are growing. Some people choose spacings of 18 to 24 inches apart for each plant, about ¼ to ½ inch deep burying of each plant, and three feet between rows (but this is just one guide).

In between the garden beds, some people choose to weed proof by laying newspaper or cardboard, wetting this layer, and then laying straw or hay on top.

Once the soil is prepared, give it a final watering, and leave the soil and garden beds for a few days to a week

Because the soil has been disturbed, weed seeds may germinate, so come back and pull any weeds that have established themselves.

 

8. Start planting

Now you should have an area of prepared soil to work with.

You’ll either be planting/sowing seeds directly into the soil, or be transplanting seedlings into the soil.

What option you go with depends on your climate, the plant you are planting and other factors.

You can always read the plant specific information you obtained earlier, or, read the instructions or label on the seed packet, or seedling batches you buy. Obtaining your own seeds and growing your own seedlings in egg carton containers are other options if you know what you’re doing.

Water the seeds or seedlings once planted.

Some people also choose to give the seeds/seedlings a starter fertilizer.

 

9. Have a plant maintenance routine, and a soil improvement/maintenance plan

With your plant life planted, you’ll want plant and soil maintenance plans/routines.

Plant maintenance usually involves trimming, watering, fertilizing (slow release fertilizer application in granule or spray form), and weeding.

Protection of the plants with fencing, netting, and some form of pest control (pesticides, or organic biological pest control/Integrated Pest Management – such as soap or garlic sprays) is also recommended.

The garden shop can tell you how often you need to do each, or you can read the individual product directions (e.g. the instructions on the fertilizer packaging). Also, know the specific requirements of each type of plant you’ve planted, and also your soil.

You might get some tips for a long term soil improvement and maintenance plan from these guides:

 

10. Observe how the plants are growing, and make any necessary adjustments to your gardening routine

Once the plants start growing and you are in maintenance mode, you’ll want to observe what is going on week to week.

You may implement new practices to adjust to what is going on.

Joining gardening facebook groups, forums and online communities, or going to gardening or agricultural meetups in your area are great ways to get local expertise and information.

 

11. Other notes on starting a garden

  • Sunlight – you need 6 hours of sunlight a day for some vegetables. Plant in a sunny spot if you can
  • Some plants produce year round, whilst others produce once a year
  • Understand the seasons each plant needs to be planted and grown in
  • Plant near a water source – it makes watering easier. Or, you can set up drip irrigation lines
  • You may need to put up fencing or protection to protect your plants and vegetables from wildlife
  • Consider netting for freestanding bushes, like blueberry bushes
  • Consider support framing and lattice work for climbing or vine plants
  • Plant warm season crops after harvesting cold season crops and vice versa

 

Sources

1. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/vegetable/vegetables/planning-your-first-vegetable-garden/

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJdLVua5z8E 

3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=43&v=lKIAoKHkss0 

4. https://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/how-to-grow-broccoli

How To Know What Grows Best In Your Geographic Area &/Or Climate Zone

How To Know What Grows Best In Your Geographic Area &/Or Climate Zone

We’ve already written a guide about how to know what might grow in your soil and garden.

But, this guide is about what might grow best in your geographic area &/or climate zone.

 

What Might Grow Well In Your Geographic Area &/Or Climate Zone

Geographic Area

Each area in the world has different soil, and has different topography.

If you have reasonably flat land to grow on you shouldn’t have to worry about too much in terms of topography. If you have sloped land, you will have to either plant things that can grow on sloped areas, or build in some stepped garden beds.

In terms of different soils in different geographic areas – read this guide that outlines how to identify the soil on your land. Note that soil can differ in different locations on one plot of land – so test in sample areas all over the land.

Once you’ve identified the soil, read this guide about what grows well in different soils and how to work with different soils.

 

Local/Regional Climate Zone

The climate i.e. the temperature (max and minimum temperatures, and temperature across the different seasons), average rainfall and wind patterns – can all differ from country, to state, to locality.

The climate can have a big impact on both the soil and plant life in an area.

Different soils react differently to different climates, and different types of plant life will have different climate and soil conditions they grow best in.

To find out what grows best in your local climate, you can look into the following things:

  • Visit your local gardening supply shop, or nursery – the people that work here are usually knowledgeable or experienced in the local climate and can help you out with information on what might have worked for them
  • Check out the plant hardiness zone you live in – via a site like https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/. The limitation to plant hardiness zones is that they usually only take into account average lowest temperature, and this isn’t the only factor that impacts plant growth
  • Check out a site like Gardenia.net – sites like this can make suggestions on the type of plant life that grows in your region based on different criteria, including climate
  • Do a search engine search – for ‘plants that grow in [insert your city]’, or [insert your city] fruit and vegetable planting calendar’. You should get suggestions for different plant life that grows in your area and the seasons to plant them in
  • Just grow plant life that grows anywhere and is versatile in different climates and conditions – some plant life is very versatile and hardy, whilst others need very specific climates. Picking hardy vegetable, fruits and plant life to grow gives you more flexibility.

 

*Note that the above just takes into consideration soil type and climate. There are many other factors that contribute to plant growth – soil pH and amount of water required by each plant being two examples. Read more in this guide about all the factors that impact plant growth.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-know-what-can-grow-in-your-garden-soil/ 

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/working-with-amending-improving-different-soil-types/

3. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ 

4. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones

5. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/australian-hardiness-zones

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/all-the-factors-that-affect-the-growth-of-plants/

How To Improve Soil Fertility, Quality, Health, Drainage & Structure

How To Improve Soil Fertility, Quality, Health, Drainage & Structure

We already wrote a guide with some of the best tips on working with, amending and improving your soil.

But, this guide specifically addresses improving your soil’s fertility, quality, health, drainage and structure.

*These are general principles that can help with improving soil. Actual and specific soil improvement plans will differ on each plot of land and in each region in the world

 

What Are The Differences Between Soil Fertility, Health & Quality?

Read more in this guide:

 

Where To Read More About Soil Fertility

In regards to soil fertility specifically, you can read more about that in this guide:

 

What About Soil Drainage & Soil Structure?

These two are interrelated. 

Soil structure is how the soil particles arrange or clump together to form pores, spaces and gaps in the soil as a whole. Soils like clay tend to clump together very tightly because of the small soil particle size, and soils like sand tend to be far more loose and have less structure due to the large particle size.

Good soils needs space for both water and air to move between the soil particles, but should also be able to retain some water and nutrients for the plant roots to absorb, and not allow them to completely wash away. Soils with good drainage can do this.

 

How To Improve Soil Fertility

The factors that impact soil fertility, and the ways to improve those aspects of soil fertility might be:

  • Nutrients (Macro, & Micro Nutrients)

Two of the easiest ways to get nutrients into the soil are through the break down of organic matter (mulch, compost, manure), and the addition of fertilizers (synthetic fertilizers, or organic manures).

  • pH of the Soil

You can test soil pH with a simple soil pH testing kit. Once you know soil pH, you can either pick plant life that grows in that natural pH range, or you can apply soil amendments to change the soil pH to a pH range of the plant life you want to grow.

  • Parent Rock/Soil Material

This is out of your control unless you pick a plot of land (prior to growing or setting up a gardening patch) that has parent material that helps produce the type of natural soil that you want.

  • Clay Content, & Cation Exchange Capacity

CEC is the soil’s ability to hold onto nutrients.

Soils with a certain level of clay content tend to hold onto nutrients better. Overall, CEC is determined by clay %, the type of clay, soil pH and amount of organic matter. 

So, make sure these factors are in the right balance so the soil can hold onto nutrients.

If we look at loam type soil for example, which is seen as a fertile soil for growing many types of vegetables and plants. a good loam composition might consist of 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay.

  • Bulk Density

Soil that is too compact is not fertile for a number of reasons, with poor water drainage and aeration being just two reasons.

Extreme clay soils and heavy soils tend to have a high level of bulk density, so, it’s important to have a soil that strikes that balance between having decent soil structure that clumps together well enough, but is also loose enough to allow air and water to pass through it.

  • Moisture & Water Content

Soil needs regular watering to ensure the moisture and water content of the soil is at the right leve.

  • Soil Structure

See below under the ‘how to improve soil structure’ section

  • Presence of Micro-Organisms & Beneficial Bacteria/Fungi In The Soil

You can add fungal spores and beneficial fungi like Mycorrhizal fungi to soil, but, if you regularly add organic matter to soil and keep the soil healthy, you’ll create a natural environment for micro organisms like fungi, bacteria, worms etc. to thrive in the soil and break down organic matter for nutrients in the soil.

  • Nutrient Release Capability Of Soil

Assuming the soil has a good supply of nutrients, having a well balanced soil texture (soil type), and the right amount of air and water in the soil impacts the release capability of the soil.

  • How Well Soil Retains, & Drains Water & Air

Discussed in other sections of this guide

  • Presence Of Groundwater

If there is groundwater close to the level of the soil you are growing in, make sure the groundwater isn’t saline – or it can cause salinity problems in your soil

  • Usable/Exploitable Depth Of Soil

The depth of the soil you are growing in has to be deep enough for the plant life you are growing to establish it’s roots properly in. So, it helps to know the depth the roots grow to, and make sure you have enough soil depth to accomodate.

  • Climate

An external factor that can impact soil fertility. For example, heat makes clay soils dry up and go solid or crack, and wet conditions can lead to wet clay soil that goes sticky and compact.

  • Topography

Sloping land vs flat land.

Sloping land can cause soil degradation issues as one example, especially with wind and water erosion.

 

How To Improve Soil Health

Soil health goes beyond soil fertility.

It considers some of the following factors:

  • Soil Structure

Discussed in the ‘how to improve soil structure’ section below

  • Biological Activity In The Soil

How well micro-organisms, beneficial bacteria and fungi, and other lifeforms like worms can thrive. Organic matter to break down, well aerated soil, and soil that retains and drains water contributes to biological activity in the soil.

Also, limiting synthetic or harmful chemicals like pesticides and herbicides can help preserve beneficial bacteria populations over time.

  • Preventing Soil Health Issues Like Soil Erosion, Acidification, Salinity etc.

Soil erosion can be minimised by protecting the soil from water and wind damage (cover crops, using flat soil, good soil drainage can all help with this).

Soil acidification can be minimised by controlling the amount of nutrients you add to the soil – mainly nitrogen based fertilizers. Acidification happens when there is an excess of hydrogen cations added to the soil, which lowers the pH.

Soil salinity mainly occurs due to saline groundwater reaching a high level just below the soil level.

 

How To Improve Soil Quality

Soil quality takes into consideration the needs and health of humans, animals, plants and the environment when using the soil.

Good soil fertility benefits humans because productivity will be high.

Healthy soil benefits micro-organisms and plants because they have an environment in which they can thrive.

Looking at the use of sustainable and organic growing practices (limiting synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, along with other practices like reduced tillage) can benefit the environment in the long term by limiting land degradation and other forms of environmental pollution. The leaching away from the soil of fertilizers and pesticides can lead to water pollution at other source points for example. Nitrogen based fertilizers can also lead to long term problems with air pollution as another example.

 

How To Improve Soil Drainage

Good soil structure contributes heavily to good soil drainage. 

Heavy soils and clay soils can have poor soil drainage due to their structure. Some people have had success adding sand (and sometimes silty soil) to clay soil to loosen it up.

But, for others like those at provident-living-today.com, they’ve found adding sandy soil to clay can in fact harden it up. They found that adding organic matter consistently over an extended period of time worked better.

Some soils may be unworkable, or may only be workable for experienced gardeners and growers. In this case, raised garden beds with imported soil, or growing plants suited for the soil you have may be the best options rather than trying to amend the soil too much (and risking wasting your time and money).

 

How To Improve Soil Structure

As discussed above, soil structure can be improved by firstly identifying the type and texture of soil you have.

Once you know that, you can work on adding other types of soil to the mix, and adding and mixing in organic matter.

Planting cover crops, minimising tillage and disturbance to the soil, and adding a thin mulch layer to the soil can also improve soil structure to differing extents.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/best-tips-for-managing-amending-improving-your-soil/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-factors-that-impact-soil-fertility/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/soil-fertility-soil-health-soil-quality/

4. http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html

Best Tips For Managing, Amending & Improving Your Soil

Best Tips For Managing, Amending & Improving Your Soil

This is a quick guide about managing, amending and improving your soil.

There’s information below about working with existing natural soil, or importing new soil.

*NOTE – Ultimately, each soil situation is different, and soil management plans will therefore differ in terms of what specifically needs to be done in each circumstance. But, below are some of the broad principles that can help, or provide a place to start.

 

1. Test Your Soil

This should be one of the first things you do. There’s a range of test you can do, with some of the main ones being:

  • a soil pH test
  • a soil nutrients test
  • test for soil type (clay, sandy, silt, loam etc.) and texture
  • test for soil contaminants and hazardous materials

Test in several different locations on your land as soil can vary even on one plot of land or in one growing area.

Read more about testing your soil in this guide.

Testing your soil gives you are good idea of how to approach managing and improving your soil in the future.

For example, if you find you have heavy clay soil, your approach might be different than if you have loose sandy soil. Your approach will be different again if you find you have naturally fertile and workable loamy soil.

 

2. Get A Second Opinion On Your Soil & Land From A Knowledgeable Source

Once you’ve inspected and tested the soil yourself, an amateur gardener might visit a garden nursery, gardening shop or home and outdoors shop (with a soil and gardening section), and talk to a gardening professional about their results.

People with experience growing in the location you want to grow can offer first hand feedback and advice/recommendations on what might work and not work.

Another option for professionals or those looking for serious results might be to get a professional horticulture, gardening, or soil and plant life testing company in who can provide a soil amendment or management plan. This will indicate exactly what kind of improvement is necessary. A soil analysis will tell you whether the soil contains enough acid and nutrients. 

 

3. Decide Whether To Work With/Improve Your Natural Soil, Or Import Soil

Some people choose to work with and improve the existing natural soil in their ground. You can read more about amending and working with the different soil types in this guide.

Others choose to pursue an option like building raised garden beds, and importing fertile soil to grow and garden with instead.

There’s pros and cons to both – so weigh them up beforehand.

It’s also very feasible to start growing in above ground planter beds first (in a smaller area), and then move across to your natural soil once you’re ready. You can do both – you don’t always have to choose one or the other.

 

4. Consider Mixing Other Soil Types In With The Existing Soil Type

Each soil type has unique characteristics and properties that make them different from one another to grow with.

For example, clay soil tend to be sticky and compact when wet (and become waterlogged), and then dry out and become solid (and sometimes crack) when they dry. Sandy soils on the other hand are loose, and don’t retain nutrients or water well as they tend to wash straight through the sand structure.

Adding different soil types together can combine the best characteristics of the different soil types, along with improving the overall soil structure.

If we look at loam type soil for example, a good loam composition might consist of 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay.

It should be noted that adding soil types together isn’t always a quick fix – ProvidentLivingToday.com for example found that adding sand to existing clay soil only hardened it up (http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html)

 

5. Add A Diverse Range Of Organic Matter For Nutrients

Organic matter is needed for a range of reasons. 

Organic matter breaks down over time and supplies the soil with nutrients, but it also contributes to a healthy bacteria/fungi and micro organism population.

Organic matter can be supplied to soil via:

  • Manure (well rotted livestock manure can work well – but allow a few months between application and harvesting edible plant food)
  • Compost – greens and grass clippings tend to work well – apply around one-quarter inch per season. Find a good explanation on composting and compost application at https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/8-steps-to-make-better-garden-soil-zmaz07jjzsel
  • Mulch – straw, dried grass clippings and deciduous leaves
  • + other sources

Organic matter can take years, and even up to a decade or two, to start having a significant impact on your soil’s fertility, health and quality – so be patient, and add it consistently over time. It’s not just a quick fix.

Add it at least twice a year in a thin to moderate layer, and make sure you dig it in, spread it, and break it up.

Read more about adding organic and inorganic materials and fertilizers at http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html

 

6. Consider Fertilizer For Nutrients

Slow release fertilizers are good for topping up on nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

But, make sure you test the nutrient totals in your soil beforehand so you don’t over fertilize.

Ask a gardening professional what type of fertilizer to apply, and how often to apply it (and in what quantities).

 

7. Add Mulch For Water Retention & Soil Structure

A layer of mulch (roughly 75mm depth) on top of soil can help with water retention (it can help prevent water evaporation), but, over time will break down and can help with soil structure too.

As mentioned above, straw, dried grass clippings and deciduous leaves can well

 

8. Minimise Foot Traffic, Tilling & Disturbance Of The Soil

Tilling, walking on and disturbing the soil are all ways to break up the soil structure – which is not ideal for soil fertility and health long term.

Creating permanent gardening beds and growing patches, and having dedicated footpaths and walkways, are both ways to prevent this.

 

9. Consider Adjusting The pH Of The Soil

Soil can be acidic (pH 6.5 and below), alkaline (pH 7.5 and above), or neutral (pH 7).

Different plants and plant life are going to grow better in different pH ranges.

The easy approach once you’ve tested soil pH with a soil pH tester kit is to grow plant life that matches the pH range of your soil (it saves you time trying to change the soil pH yourself).

But, you can also adjust the pH range of the soil. Usually your local gardening shop or nursery can tell you what to add and how much to change soil pH.

In general, adding lime and dolomite raises its pH (and makes it more alkaline). Adding iron or aluminum sulfate or sulfur to soil can lower its pH (and make it more acidic). There’s other amendments you can add to change soil pH too.

 

10. Choose Plant Life That Grows Well In The Soil You Have

Relating to the above point – choose plant life that thrives in the local conditions you have, and the region you are growing in.

A really easy thing you can do is head to Google and type in ‘what to grow in [insert your city name]’, or ‘[insert your city name] gardening guide’. It should come up with guides that indicate native plant life and other plant life that can be planted commonly in your area, and the seasons in which they grow in.

Pick plant life that suits your climate, but also your soil – the soil type and soil pH.

So, do a Google search of the specific plant life you want to grow, like tomatoes for example, and find out the conditions they usually need to grow.

You could also go to a local gardening nursery and ask them for advice on what grows in the area.

Another option is to check out a site like Gardenia.net that lists plant life that grows in different regions and conditions (US and Australian examples listed):

  • https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones
  • https://www.gardenia.net/guide/australian-hardiness-zones

It can be easier to match the plant to your conditions than to try to change the soil for example.

 

11. Consider Other Options To Improve Soil Fertility, Quality & Health Long Term

  • Make sure areas you grow in are watered regularly
  • Make sure areas you grow in drain well, but retain moisture
  • Consider planting deep root plants like stinging nettles and comfrey that can ‘mine’ minerals from deep in the ground (read more at motherearthnews.com)
  • Consider applying a rock powder when you first start gardening to correct mineral deficiencies in the soil (read more at motherearthnews.com). Soils can benefit from minerals like iron, manganese, sulfur and calcium
  • Allowing chickens to roam the soil – they scratch/break up organic matter, eat insects and bugs, and their droppings provide nutrients
  • Consider adding beneficial fungi like Mycorrhiza (also known as fungal spores) in instances when you can’t water or feed your soil regularly enough
  • Consider adding biological pest control/an integrated pest management plan, or organic/alternative pesticides, instead of spraying synthetic pesticides – this helps with minimising environmental pollution and also helps minimising the killing off of beneficial soil bacteria and organisms (one or a few pesticide applications doesn’t usually hurt – but, continued application over a longer period can) 
  • Use cover crops like legumes, grasses and clovers (read more at motherearthnews.com)
  • Use other sustainable or organic gardening practices that minimise synthetic chemical input

 

Sources

1. https://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/in-the-garden/gardening-tips-books-techniques-and-tools/soil-type-test/ 

2. http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html

3. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones

4. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/australian-hardiness-zones 

5. https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/8-steps-to-make-better-garden-soil-zmaz07jjzsel

6. https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/know-your-garden-soil-how-to-make-the-most-of-your-soil-type/ 

7. https://www.dummies.com/home-garden/gardening/urban-farming-how-to-determine-your-soil-type/ 

8. https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/find-out-your-soil-type/ 

9. http://www.blooms4all.com/TOPICpgs/peat_and_acid_loving_plants.htm

Working With, Amending & Improving Different Soil Types

Working With, Amending & Improving Different Soil Types

Different soil types have different characteristics and properties.

With this being the case, it takes a slightly different approach to amend or improve different soil types for growing and gardening.

 

Summary – How To Amend & Improve Different Soil Types

We’ve put together guides on the different soil types, how to work with them and amend them, and what might grow well in each of them:

 

How To Test The Soil You Have

There are many tests you can do on soil with soil testing kits, getting professionals in to test your garden and give you a soil amendment plan, and even test the soil with your eyes and hands.

Once you have inspected and tested the soil yourself, you can always go to a local gardening nursery or shop and show them photos of the soil, along with describing your experience of doing different tests, for a second opinion on the soil.

 

Sometimes, It May Be Better To Import New Soil Than Amend Existing Soil …

Read more about problem soils for growing and gardening in this guide.

Importing new soil and working outside of the natural soil in raised garden beds for example may be a better option for some plots of land and gardens. But, it always depends on the specific conditions.

 

Sources

1. Linked soil guides in the post above

I Can’t Grow Anything In My Soil – What Do I Do?

I Can't Grow Anything In My Soil - What Do I Do?

There’s lots of advice out there on what to do when growing in different types of soil.

If you find that you can’t grow anything in your soil – give this guide a quick read.

 

Summary – What To Do If You Can’t Grow Anything In Your Soil

There’s two ways to answer this question …

1. Consider the other factors that contribute to growing plant life

Soil is not the only factor that contributes to plant growth.

The plant itself, and climate other some of the other main factors.

You might for example live in a colder climate and be trying to grow plants that need warm temperatures and lots of sunlight.

So, consider the full list of factors that contribute to plant growth before you determine that your soil is the problem.

 

2. Consider that the effort and time you have to spend amending your natural soil might not be worth it

It’s absolutely possible to amend and improve soil. There’s several ways to do this including but not limited to:

  • Adding organic matter (compost, manure etc.) to improve nutrient supply
  • Adding fertilizer to improve supply of nitrogen and other nutrients
  • Adding other soil types to the existing soil to improve soil texture, structure and drainage
  • Adding mulch surface layers to improve water retention and structure
  • Adding various materials and soil amendments to increase or decrease the soil pH
  • + much more

However, there are instances where, due to having an extreme soil type (such as heavy clay), lacking gardening knowledge, or another factor – you are going to spend a tremendous amount of time and money trying to improve your soil for minimal results.

Some people have found that adding sand to clay has hardened the clay up – just as one example. And, if you go the route of adding organic matter for better soil structure – this still takes time to see results.

Read more about two different people’s experiences growing in extreme clay soils here:

  • http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html
  • https://empressofdirt.net/best-vegetables-clay-soils/

In instances where you believe that your soil is unworkable, or you don’t want to risk money and time trying to amend it (or you want to start growing straight away) – you may look at the option of raised garden beds with imported soil instead.

 

How To Test Your Soil

You can very easily go to a local gardening shop/nursery and ask professionals about the local area and their opinion on what is the best plant life to be growing in what conditions.

But, short of that – there are many tests you can do on soil with soil testing kits, getting professionals in to test your garden and give you a soil amendment plan, and even test the soil with your eyes and hands.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-know-what-can-grow-in-your-garden-soil/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/all-the-factors-that-affect-the-growth-of-plants/ 

3. http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html

4. https://empressofdirt.net/best-vegetables-clay-soils/ 

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-test-soil-for-type-ph-moisture-nutrients-more/

How To Know What Can Grow In Your Garden & Soil

How To Know What Can Grow In Your Garden & Soil

This is a guide that outlines how you can figure out in a quick and simple way what to grow in your garden and soil.

We outline key considerations to be aware of in coming up with a growing plan.

*NOTE – this is just a guide on figuring out what you might be able to grow. It’s not a comprehensive step by step gardening plan that includes planting and maintenance information

 

Summary – How To Know What Can Grow In Your Garden & Soil

There’s 3 main things you might consider that will give you a good base going forward in knowing what you can grow in your garden and soil:

If you are unsure about anything, you can always go to a local gardening nursery or gardening professionals shop in your area once you are aware of the characteristics of your gardening plot of land, and ask them for their advice on what you might do and what has worked for them.

Furthermore, you can read a more comprehensive list here of all the factors that contribute to the growth of plants.

 

Assessing The Existing Natural Soil 

Each state within a country has soil that might be local or representative to that state, but soil type can also differ from location to location on a single plot of land.

What you can do to assess existing soil is two things:

1. Look up the soil that is representative of your state

  • If you live in the US for example, check out https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/edu/?cid=stelprdb1236841
  • If you live in Australia for example, check out https://www.soilscienceaustralia.org.au/about/about-soil/state-soil/

These guides might indicate the soil you might have on your land, but it isn’t a guarantee (they are just representative soils).

 

2. Take photos of the soil on your plot of land, and do several squeeze tests in different locations to find out the texture and type

Next familiarise yourself with the different types of soils worldwide and their characteristics.

Generally, soils are going to be a majority of one, or mix of, clay, sand and silt. Each has different characteristics and properties for growing.

Soils may also be acidic, neutral or alkaline.

To test the soil type, you can get several slightly dug up soil samples, make the soil damp with water, and squeeze it in your hand. Clay soil tends to be sticky and compact (and crackly or solid when it dries out), sand soil tends to be gritty and loose, whilst silty soil tends to be somewhere in between.

To test soil pH, you can get a simple soil pH testing kit from the gardening shop or from online and find out if the soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline (a pH range from 0 to 14, with below 7 being acidic, and above 7 being alkaline).

There’s also other tests you can do on your soil for things such as soil nutrient level, or you can can a professional soil testing company in if you really want to (although this is generally not required unless you are a professional or a farmer)

You can show photos of the soil (dug up just beneath the topsoil) to your local gardening shop and they might be able to identify it for you from the appearance.

 

A note about soil types is that sometimes amending soils is going to be far harder and more time consuming than bringing in new soil in raised garden beds.

This is especially true sometimes of extreme clay soils which can be hard to grow in, and can take a long time to mix the right amount of other soils like sand, and organic matter into, to change the composition of the original clay soil. Some people even find that adding sand to extreme clay soils can make it even harder to grow in.

Read more about two different people’s experiences growing in clay soils here:

  • http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html
  • https://empressofdirt.net/best-vegetables-clay-soils/

 

Finding Out The Climate Or Growing Region You Live In

Next, each state or region of a country is going to have different local climates and belong to a different growing region.

To check this, you might look at the plant Hardiness Zones (that take into consideration average minimum temperature in a zone in the country)

You can view each here:

  • https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
  • https://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/research/hort.research/zones.html

These maps can be imperfect though because there can be other climatic and non climatic factors other than low temperature that improve or restrict plant growth.

So, beyond these maps, observe the temperature, average rainfall and wind patterns in your area.

This bring us to the last point…

 

Consider The Soil Conditions & Climate A Plant Needs To Grow

Perhaps the most important factor – picking a flower/vegetable/fruit/tree that suits the soil and climate you are growing in.

Some plants are very hardy and versatile and can grow in a range of soils and climates. Others need specific soil types, soil pH, specific temperatures and climates, a specific amount of water etc.

Pick a plant to suit your soil type and climate, or pick a versatile plant that grows under a range of conditions … it will save you a lot of effort and time.

Research the plant life (a flower, a fruit, a vegetable, a tree – or whatever it is you want to grow), and see what it needs exactly in terms of conditions and resources to grow.

Something you might do is check out a website like Gardenia which can give you information on the types of plant life that might grow in a specific area:

  • https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones
  • https://www.gardenia.net/plant-combinations/regions/australia

Other things you might do are look at what the people around you are successfully growing in their gardens, or, ask the local gardening shop (or someone with knowledge) what tends to grow well in the area.

 

Can You Just Make Raised Garden Beds & Import Quality Topsoil, Or Grow Plants Outside Of Your Natural Soil?

This is an option some people pursue – growing outside of their natural soil in raised garden beds, growing inside a greenhouse, growing inside their homes in planter containers or pots – or some type of similar options with imported soil.

It’s up to the individual gardener if they want to pursue these individual options and use imported soils – they have their own pros and cons.

 

Sources

1. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/edu/?cid=stelprdb1236841 

2. https://www.soilscienceaustralia.org.au/about/about-soil/state-soil/ 

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-ways-to-classify-soil-types-by-order-texture-characteristics-particle-size-colors-regions-more/ 

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-test-soil-for-type-ph-moisture-nutrients-more/

5. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

6. https://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/research/hort.research/zones.html

7. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones

8. https://www.gardenia.net/plant-combinations/regions/australia

How Commercial Topsoil Is Made (& Differences To Natural Topsoil)

How Commercial Topsoil Is Made (& Differences To Natural Topsoil)

There’s a big difference between topsoil that is formed naturally, and commercial topsoil that can be purchased from the gardening or home/outdoors shop.

In this guide we outline the differences between the two, and summarise how commercial topsoil is made.  

 

How Natural Topsoil Is Made/Formed

We wrote about what soil is made of, how natural soil is formed, and how soil develops in this guide.

Natural topsoil is formed from natural processes involving the breakdown of organic matter, and take a VERY LONG time to form on its own:

  •  … it takes time for topsoil to develop from the break down of organic matter (500 to 1000 years for 1-2 cms in some places). 

Natural topsoil is also not a renewable resource.

We also see that natural topsoil is being degraded and eroded faster than it is being replenished in many locations around the world.

 

How Is Commercial Topsoil Made?

Commercial topsoil can be purchased from the garden or home/outdoors shop, and is widely available to individuals. It can even be used on the industrial scale.

There’s many different types and quality of topsoil available.

For example, there might be a difference between an economy, and a premium topsoil mix. There might also be a difference in topsoils intended for landscaping vs gardening vs farming applications.

Different topsoils might also contain different mixes of soil types – such as sand, silt and clay. They might also contain different balances of macro nutrients and micro nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are some of the most important macro nutrients).

Some soil is mined from one site with controlled or specific conditions, where as others might have soil sourced from several different sites with varying conditions.

Depending on the brand and product of topsoil, it can be made in different ways.

Despite the above variables and factors that make each commercial topsoil product different, they generally follow the same process in being made:

  • Soil Is Sourced – different types of soil are sourced from one, or several soil sites. Different sites might have different conditions for the soil
  • Clearing & Grubbing – soils are cleared of vegetation, and roots below the surface are removed
  • Grading – the soil is pushed into manageable piles
  • Pre Mixing Of Other Soils – the right quantities of sand, silt and clay can be mixed together to get the right topsoil texture. Adding more sand can help the soil drain better
  • Pre Mixing Of Organic Matter – organic matter such as compost is mixed with soil. Organic matter is used to add nutrients to the soil mix.
  • Screening – the soil is put into a topsoil screening plant which screens out materials bigger than a certain size – for example, stones, rocks, pieces of wood and plastic, metal or other types of manufactured waste. (note, not all topsoils are screened)
  • Tumbling – the same plant tumbles the soil. This helps the soil become more uniform and gives it a better consistency
  • Bagging & Delivery – the soil is now ready to be bagged and delivered to a shop, or straight to the customer

Topsoil should meet quality standards in your country. 

Companies should also list on their website or packaging how they source and make their topsoil, and what it’s best for (different topsoil blends and products might be suitable for different applications).

So, research the topsoil you need, and also what you are buying, before you buy it.

 

Sources

1. https://www.wa-rock.com/organic-topsoil-orting/

2. https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/sourcing-importing-and-manufacturing-topsoil

3. https://www.boughton.co.uk/products/topsoils/

4. https://www.boughton.co.uk/products/topsoils/topsoil/

5. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_shocking_truth_about_topsoil

6. https://www.boughton.co.uk/products/topsoils/topsoil/ 

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-soil-is-formed-how-it-develops-what-its-made-of/

Factors That Affect How & Where Crops Grow (Agricultural Productivity & Distribution Worldwide)

Factors That Affect How & Where Crops Grow (Agricultural Productivity & Distribution)

We’ve already written a guide about factors that affect plant growth.

This guide is about the factors that specifically affect how and where crops grow, and the distribution of agricultural crops worldwide.

 

Factors That Affect Regular Plant Growth Can Also Be Applied To Crop Growth

Many of those plant growth factors apply to crop growth for commercial and industrial agriculture. For example:

  • The type of crop – one examples is that different crops have different growing season lengths like wheat for example which is 90 days. Another example is that a crop like cotton needs a lot more water than some crops 
  • Animals – moths, weevil, locusts, aphids etc. are pests that can damage crops. On the other hand, there are beneficial animal like certain types of insects that can control pests or contribute to soil health
  • Secondary plant life – other crops, trees, weeds
  • Soil microbes
  • The local climate – average rainfall, temperature, and wind
  • Soil type and amount of fertile topsoil – soil differs from state to state, and topsoil depth and quality isn’t the same everywhere
  • Geographic location – different locations have different topography, and other factors like altitude and slopes that make them unique with their own local growing conditions 
  • Other environmental factors – sunlight, humidity and so on. Natural land degradation (wind and water erosion of topsoil being examples) can be a negative environmental factor to consider.
  • Human activities, inputs and factors – inputs like irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, water etc. Activities that help with land/soil maintenance, or activities that cause land degradation like too much intensive tilling. Crop care practices. Other factors like depth of sowing, seed size, row spacing, seedbed preparation can all play a role.

 

Factors That Affect Agricultural Growth/Productivity, & Distribution Specifically

On top of those factors, there are agricultural factors that also play a part, such as:

  • Land tenure – farmers who own their land (mostly in the developed world) have far more incentive to be productive and efficient, and also have more control how they farm, compared to farmers who are leasing or renting the land, or selling their labor to work on someone else’s land (like in developing countries and poorer areas)
  • Market – there must be a demand for a specific crop. Cultural, religious and economic factors can all play a role in the demand of different crops and foods.
  • Transport – the cost of transport, technology of transport such as refrigerated and cold food storage systems, and how farm away farms are from market all play a role in what can be grown in a specific location. For example, some developing parts of the world can’t grow perishable crops because they lack access to cold storage of food on transport trucks. 
  • Capital – money and finances to invest in farming and different crops. Developed countries are going to have more capital to use or borrow. More money also means more risk can be taken with certain crops, and new crop practices.
  • Technology – better technology contributes to higher yields, better efficiency, cost savings and so on. Industrial and heavily commercialised farming usually involves heavy machinery and intense application of technology.
  • Government – government policy, regulation and action has a significant impact on the agricultural sector in a variety of ways – even indirectly through policy on resources used like water for irrigation.

 

Sources

1. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/techniques/environmental-factors-affecting-plant-growth 

2. https://garden.lovetoknow.com/garden-basics/plant-growth-factors 

3. https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/barley/factors-affecting-grain-crop-field-establishment

4. https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/barley/factors-affecting-grain-crop-field-establishment

5. https://www.s-cool.co.uk/a-level/geography/agriculture/revise-it/factors-that-affect-the-distribution-of-agriculture

6. https://revisionworld.com/gcse-revision/geography/agriculture/factors-affecting-farming

7. https://www.cropsreview.com/climatic-factors.html

8. https://www.cropsreview.com/abiotic-factors.html

9. https://www.cropsreview.com/biotic-factors.html

10. https://www.s-cool.co.uk/gcse/biology/environment/revise-it/abiotic-and-biotic-factors

Factors That Affect The Growth Of Plants

Factors That Affect The Growth Of Plants

There are many direct and indirect factors that can affect how plants grow.

These factors tend to be either biotic (living), or abiotic (non living).

In this guide, we outline each of those factors. 

 

Summary – Factors That Affect How Plants Grow

It is often said there are 5 main factors that directly affect plant growth and a plant’s hormones (positively and negatively) – Light (sunlight), temperature, water, humidity and nutrients.

But, this is a simplistic view, and in reality there are more direct and indirect factors to consider.

Factors can be divided into biotic and abiotic factors.

Biotic

Living things like plants, animals and fungi. They include:

  • The plants themselves
  • Animals that affect the plants, soil, water etc.
  • Secondary plant life that affects the soil and the primary plant (like other types of plants, trees, pest plant species etc.)
  • Soil microbes (bacteria, fungi etc.)

Abiotic

All the non-living factors that affect living organisms (like plants) and ecosystems (like soil ecosystems). They include:

  • Climate – average rainfall, temperature, and wind patterns. 
  • Soil type, soil fertility and other soil variables (like soil health, and soil quality)
  • Geographic location – US plant zones, different soil conditions in each location, landscape
  • Other Environmental Factors – Light, temperature, water, humidity, and nutrition, Seasons – summer, autumn, winter, spring
  • Human Activities, Inputs & Factors – adding water, adding fertilizer, adding pesticides and herbicides, adding other soil mixes, soil and plant maintenance etc.

 

– Biotic Factors That Affect How Plants Grow

The Plants Themselves

All plants are different in the conditions they grow best in and what they need to grow over a certain period of time.

Different plants might:

  • Need different climates and environmental conditions to others – for example, some plants might be better in colder climates and the shade, whilst others might need warmer climates and need more direct sunlight
  • Need different types of soil – for example, root vegetables need softer/looser soil that allows them to establish a root structure
  • Need different pH soil – some plants grow better in slightly acidic soil, some in neutral soil, and some in alkaline soil
  • Need different amounts of water – for example, cotton is a water hungry crop that needs much more water than plants that can grow in the desert (such as the Gao tree that grows in Niger)
  • Need different growing season lengths, and grow in different seasons – for example, wheat has a 90 day growing season. Some plants may also grow better in Fall/Autumn compared to Spring
  • Live longer than others – some plants are perennials (live longer than 2 years) and others might be annuals or biennials
  • + other plant specific factors and considerations

Learn as much as you can about what it is you are growing and what they need to grow before you grow it.

 

Animals

Animals can help or hinder how the plant grows.

Wild animals or destructive animals might walk on and damage the soil, or walk on or eat the plant directly.

Some wild animals on the other hand like bees are beneficial to pollinating flowers and helping with growth, and worms can help with breaking up organic matter in the soil.

 

Secondary Plant Life

Same thing with secondary plant life – they can help or hinder how plants grow.

Weeds and pest plant species may restrict the plant you are trying to grow. A plant like hemp can constrict the growth of other plants out in the wild.

But, trees and other plants can actually add nutrients to the soil and make it more fertile. Adding secondary plant life can also contribute to better biodiversity. Companion plants are plants that grow well with each other. Incompatible plants don’t grow well together.

 

Soil Microbes

Beneficial soil microbes (beneficial bacteria and fungi) help with soil health, and also breaking down organic matter into soil nutrients.

Microbes can die off if the soil health declines, or if chemicals like pesticides are used that kill off the beneficial soil microbes.

Beneficial soil microbes tend to thrive in healthy soil with plenty of organic matter.

 

– Abiotic Factors That Affect How Plants Grow

Climate

Climate usually involves average rainfall, temperature, and wind patterns.

Rainfall helps with water supply to the plant, temperature affects many factors (the expansion and constriction of soil being one of them, and obviously on the plant itself), and wind patterns are important for things like wind soil erosion.

Different plants grow better in different climates – the USDA produces a plant hardiness zone map that takes into account average lowest temperature in a location (they have zones 1 through to 12). Australia does something similar (zones 1 through 7).

You can view each here:

  • https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
  • https://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/research/hort.research/zones.html

You can also view plants that might grow in these regions at:

  • https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones
  • https://www.gardenia.net/plant-combinations/regions/australia

 

The Soil

Soil factors usually involve:

  • Soil Type
  • Soil Fertility (nutrient supply in the soil, pH of the soil, parent material under the soil, clay content in the soil, bulk density of the soil, moisture and water content in the soil, and other direct and external factors)
  • Soil Health
  • Soil Quality

 

Geographic Location

Land, air and water conditions and factors vary within states, from state to state, from country to country, and worldwide.

Climate, topography (how sloped or flat the land is), altitude, and soil (parent material and natural rockscapes) are some of the factors that vary between geographic locations.

For example, growing in arid parts of Australia is going to be different to the more tropical parts, and growing in each state in the US means different climates and different state representative soils you are dealing with.

If we take a location like Niger – Gao trees can grow well there in some parts because they suit local conditions. So, local conditions and factors play a big part.

 

Other Environmental Factors

Such as:

  • Wind and water erosion (and other land degradation issues)
  • Light
  • Humidity
  • Natural organic matter
  • Seasons – summer, autumn, winter, spring
  • + other environmental factors

 

Human Activities, Inputs & Factors

Factors such as:

  • How often humans till or turn the soil
  • How often humans spray with pesticides or herbicides
  • How often humans fertilize with synthetic or organic fertilizer
  • How often human irrigate the plants and soil
  • Whether humans add soil to the natural soil mix
  • Whether humans adjust or modify the growing conditions such as growing in a raised flower bed or greenhouse compared to in an open space or open field on the natural ground
  • + Other practices that improve or destroy plant life and the conditions they live in

With agricultural and commercial plant growth, there’s many human activities like irrigation, crop rotation, tilling, harvesting and more that can impact plant growth.

 

Sources

1. https://study.com/academy/lesson/major-climate-regions-biotic-abiotic-characteristics.html

2. https://biology.tutorvista.com/ecology/abiotic-factors.html 

3. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/About.aspx 

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardiness_zone 

5. https://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/research/hort.research/zones.html 

6. https://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Which_Soil_Is_Best_for_Plant_Growth

7. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/techniques/environmental-factors-affecting-plant-growth

8. https://garden.lovetoknow.com/garden-basics/plant-growth-factors

9. https://www.cropsreview.com/climatic-factors.html

10. https://www.s-cool.co.uk/gcse/biology/environment/revise-it/abiotic-and-biotic-factors 

11. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-factors-that-impact-soil-fertility/ 

12. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-ways-to-classify-soil-types-by-order-texture-characteristics-particle-size-colors-regions-more/ 

13. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/united-states-hardiness-zones

14. https://www.gardenia.net/plant-combinations/regions/australia