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Don’t ‘Doh!’

Isn’t it wonderful to be able to get out in the garden with the cooler weather. Most gardeners are busy pulling any weeds that have survived the summer….and pulling out the fatalities that didn’t. It is an ideal time to take stock and set in train a few changes.

Firstly, don’t just replace the dead plants with more of the same. They will probably die next summer. I call this Homer Simpson gardening. If you are going to replace a dead plant with the same plant you need to work out why it died. Wrong plant in the wrong spot? Does it require a watering system? Did you plant it too late for it to establish a good root system before things dried off? Was it weakened by disease or bugs? Sort out the problem so you don’t go ‘Doh!’ if it dies next summer.


We are so used to controlling the things in our lives. It is a big mistake to force your will on your garden. Just because you like a plant and want it in your garden, it doesn’t mean it will grow there. For example, I have been trying to grow some tea camelias in my garden with no success (ie. they die). My garden is just too dry and hot over summer and the soil is probably a little alkaline and needing more organic matter. I would like to try again, perhaps in pots, but I have accepted that camelias just won’t survive in my garden, even in shade.

In Rushworth we make the mistake of planting in the spring. If you leave it until spring, the plant will not be well established before the summer hits them. It may be better to plant things now. There will be enough warmth in the soil and enough daylight for them to make a start before the cold weather and they will be ready to race away in the spring. It is easier to give them the odd watering until the rains start than it is to keep newly planted plants watered over the long summer.

Many gardens have a ‘death spot’ where nothing seems to grow. Everything you plant there either fails to thrive or dies. Don’t just keep replanting. Take a soil sample to a nursery and get it pH tested. Something as simple as using a cement mixer can cause the area around it to become highly alkaline. Add a heap of compost and if that doesn’t neutralize the pH, use powdered iron sulphate (one handful per square metre). Try planting plants that can tolerate high pH soil. Look these up in the most comprehensive gardening manual (Google). If your soil is acidic (low pH) add some lime.

It is a good time to assess how your watering system has worked. Did it adequately water all the plants? Do some of the sprays or drips need replacing or repositioning? My Garden Guru does not use the polythene piping on our watering systems. She uses garden hoses. They are flexible, easily repositioned and are easily connected to a tap. The sprays and drips are installed as per the polythene pipe version.

Accept that a fraction of new plants will die for whatever reason, but remember that if you replace them, only a fraction of those replacements will die. Eventually your garden will be full of plants….but only if you don’t do a ‘Homer Simpson’.

The Zen Gardener