Gardening on a small scale

Mark Bryson - Tuesday, July 25, 2017

As land prices increase, gardens are getting smaller. For the busy family, that means less to do in the weekend. Many new home buyers choose to add landscaping to a new home build so ongoing maintenance is minimal. The days of huge vegetable gardens and home orchards are gone, and with good reason. Not only do vegetable gardens take up a lot of backyard in modern homes, but buying fruit and vegetables is easy and often cost effective. But some people still enjoy gardening as a hobby and worry that building a new house means no more indulging outside in the weekend. 

Some fruit and vegetables will always be expensive to buy, or difficult to find, and these can easily be added to a small backyard. Lemons and limes are not cheap to buy and they are perfect for growing in pots. There is a range of dwarf citrus varieties on the market which are especially bred for pots. Mandarins and cumquats also work well in pots and can be very decorative when fruiting in winter. Potted citrus needs full sun, good drainage and watering 2-3 times a week, possibly daily in hot weather. Citrus should be fed with special slow-release citrus food monthly from spring to autumn.

Choose plastic over terracotta pots as it’s better for water retention and easier to move. Buy a good quality potting mixture with water retention crystals in it. If you love a good home-grown tomato, they are also easy to grow in pots. Chillies and peppers prefer the warmer temperatures of a pot and can fruit for more than one season. Blueberries, strawberries and even raspberries will successfully fruit in a pot.

A new home may not have many borders but even narrow strips beside the boundary fences can support fruiting vines. Passionfruit is a very difficult fruit to grow commercially, which is why they are sold for one dollar each. Imagine having your own vine dripping with passionfruit? Grapes and climbing berries, such as blackberry and boysenberry, can be trained along fences to take advantage of the full sun. Even fruit trees can be espaliered on a fence if you want to have an unusual variety of apple or pear which is not commercially grown.

If you don’t have a green enough thumb to grow fruit and vegetables, but enjoy cooking, make sure you have a few pots of herbs in the garden. For about the same price as herbs from the supermarket, you can buy a plant, and some varieties like sage and oregano, are perennial and live for years. All they need is water and a little bit of slow release fertiliser in the growing season.