Want to start gardening but I have no experience!

ShnookumsApril 4, 2014

Hi :)
I've just begun working as a live-in nanny in Australia.
My new family has a herb garden but the soil looks dry and the herbs don't look very healthy. (I saw curly parsley, strawberries, sour grass, marigolds, some sort of leafy plant like rocket maybe? and a few other things)
I wanted to start doing organic gardening as a hobby and use their garden but I haven't really ever done gardening!
There is space to plant more and I have seeds for basil, parsley, capsicum, eggplant, roma tomatoes, tarragon, etc but I have no idea what to do or where to start, should I get fertiliser? or soil? I know all herbs and veggies have different needs for planting and sunlight etc but I would really appreciate a few tips or pointers :)
By the way in australia April is the second month of Autumn and I've heard its not good to plant herbs around the colder months but it doesn't get very cold here, the days get down to a minimum or around 15 degrees celcius which is about 60 degrees f.
Thanks for your help :) x

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I think some reading is in order for you. Spend an hour each on the soil, vegetable, tomato and herb forums just reading the FAQs and then pages of posts.
With that background, you can ask better questions and understand answers.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Great suggestion from lucille.
And don't worry, you can certainly grow in the short day months, you'll just have slower growth because of less sunlight.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 7:58PM
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bman123(7b/8a DFW TX)

Because winter is just starting, I would loosen up the existing area of soil, add compost and manure, and maybe buy some cover crop seeds. The purpose of cover crops is to replenish the soil with nutrients. Then, in the spring, you can use the dead cover crops as mulch for your new tomato/pepper/eggplant plants.
As for the herbs, post us some pictures if you can. Depending on how cold you winters are, you may be able to restore their health, or you may just want to rip them up and amend the soil for future plantings.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 8:35PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I do most of my herbs in pots, just because it's easier for me. But they don't require much. They don't need great soil (except maybe basil, which also freezes)
Most of mine, after a very cold spell (for us) of 2 weeks below freezing, are coming back like gangbusters!
Your basil, eggplant and tomatoes are going to be for the warmer weather.
Maybe go over the the soil/compost/mulch forum to get some tips on getting your soil in order for your spring. You have time to do that!
As Lucile says...read up! Happy gardening! Nancy

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 8:58PM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

I am always amazed at how people respond. No clue.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 9:57PM
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Shnookums, find a couple of local people with really nice gardens. Ask them how they do it. Find some sources of information about gardening in your local area. Otherwise, you are going to waste a lot of time. Your local area may have problems and challenges that none of us can even guess. Gardening looks really easy, but it's not. The factors that limit success are very different from one place to another. One thing you shouldn't do is ask questions at garden centers and nurseries. They'll sell you everything on the shelf.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 10:15PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

It's hard for any of us here in the U.S. to really give much advice because the climates are so different. And it's near impossible for us to say if you need to fertilize. That's something you'll either need a soil to tell you or you'll need to judge fertility based on plant growth (any nutrient deficiencies should be obvious).

That being said, adding compost to the soil never hurts. And cool season plants should grow okay, although as Elisa said they'll take longer to mature. Things like brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, cualiflower, brussels sprouts, kale, etc.), other leafy greens, maybe onions and beets. Parsley should be okay as will other herbs like chives and cilantro (coriander). The tomatoes, peppers (capsicums), eggplants, and basil are all warm season plants and won't grow well at this time.

You might have more in common climate-wise with the folks over on the Florida Gardening Forum (linked below). A search on fall and/or winter gardening on that forum should pull up some useful information.


Here is a link that might be useful: Florida Gardening Forum

This post was edited by theforgottenone1013 on Fri, Apr 4, 14 at 23:56

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 11:34PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Gardenweb also has a Gardenweb Australia section which has a newly started Herb section.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardening in Oz

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 9:57AM
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Hi everyone :)
Thanks so much for your help!
I've attached a photo of one of the raised garden beds (I think that's what it's called) and there are three more similar ones.
I completely understand where you're all coming from in terms of the area I live in and certain problems it may pose.
I'll look for some community gardens etc. for some info it's just that I don't have a car and I'm not close to town so I was hoping to try and learn online/with books but I'm sure there will be some forums for this area :)
I found some potting mix and dynamic lifter in the shed, How do you all normally start your seeds off? I was thinking in an egg carton filled with soil? Does that work with everything?
Thanks again for all your feedback :) x

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:09PM
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Also to give you an idea of the climate, it's halfway through autumn now . The sun rises at around 6am and sets around 6pm and lately most days have been around 27/28 degrees celsius which is roughly 80-83 fahreinheit⦠pretty standard for weather here :) x

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:49PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I am always amazed at how people respond. No clue.

So what does that mean??????? Nancy

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:26PM
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I think it's great that you can garden in the ground. I also am a caregiver but I garden only in containers. The plots look wonderful to me ! Reading is the best place to start, and you'll learn a lot as you experiment for yourself. Brush off failures and celebrate successes !

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:50PM
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What part of Australia? If you have mild winters, now is the best time to plant parsley and tarragon. Do you have irrigation?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 12:51PM
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Your weather sounds similar to mine. In winter, I have a cool garden with lots of lettuce, arugula, collards, chard, beets, carrots. Peas and favas.
For winter herbs I have cilantro,dill and parsley. Then,I always have oregano, rosemary and mint if it survives the summer. I sometimes grow mint as an annual, replanting each fall.
You can also start an asparagus bed and artichokes right now. Cardoons, if you like them. Strawberries, since your summers are likely quite hot.
In the spring your warm stuff like eggplants, peppers,tomatoes,corn,okra and amaranth and melons can be planted.
You may be able to find a vegetable planting calendar for your area by searching google. That is the most helpful resource for Arizona that I've found. If your summers get up to 115F like mine do you may be able to use an Arizona calendar for Maricopa county and just reverse the months for down under.
For instructions on each type of plant, just google. Most extension agencies in the US have information papers online that you can read. I always do this when trying a new veggie. I just googled " planting corn" a week ago to refresh my memory.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:12AM
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I forgot to mention. If you don't have any freezing weather, or only a few light frosts, you might be able to keep your peppers and eggplants going through the winter once you've established them in the spring. I've done this and some of my older plants look like trees. Production just keeps getting better and better. I prune the eggplants way down when they start looking tattered and they always return with huge flushes of leaves and flowers.
Tomatoes will sometimes survive but they often get diseases in the heat of summer and seem to freeze easier,too. I've even had a couple of okra plants and basil last through mild winters.
Artichokes and asparagus should do very well for you. Rosemary and lavender act almost like natives here in Arizona so those are great choices,too.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:17AM
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Thanks so much Tracydr and everyone else.
I planted the seeds about a week ago in egg cartons and have been watering them once in the morning and once in the afternoon, none have sprouted yet but I'm sure they'll take some time.
Cross your fingers for me! :) x

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 6:12AM
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Crossing my fingers! If any of your seeds are for peppers you may want to put them in a warm spot so that the soil is about 75-80 degrees. Tomatoes, too. Move them off the warm place when you see them pop up.
Celery ,parsley and cilantro (coriander) also do well in fall. Arugula is very easy, just sprinkle seed on the ground and keep it damp for several days.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 10:14AM
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