Whether it’s a simple get-together with friends, or a joyous banquet with the whole family, it’s time to start thinking about summer and outdoor entertaining.
These smart and easy gardening ideas will help your garden produce edible and decorative props to be enjoyed over the coming months.
1. Potted mint
Growing mint by seed can be painfully tricky so head to your local nursery for inexpensive seedlings. Once it’s under way, and with regular water and a little shade, mint will grow vigorously, so pots are the best option – and will ensure that surrounding plants aren’t overtaken or destroyed.
With just a little TLC you will have flourishing mint all summer long to garnish your classic lemonades, iced teas, watermelon salads or to shred through jugs of mojitos.
2. Grow rocket yourself - at home
Baby rocket is ideal to have on hand in your garden for summer salads, to add crunch to sandwiches and as a great side dish. Baby rocket is sweet and nutty as opposed to grown rocket which is often quite spicy. The advantage of growing rocket at home is that it grows extremely quickly, and is also easy to grow from seed.
Simply sprinkle the seeds on soil, lightly cover with seed-raising mix and water gently for a moist start to some healthy salad greens.
Summer can’t go wrong with a light rocket, watermelon and pine nut salad as a tantalising entrée.
3. Plant tomatoes in the sunshine
Red and juicy tomatoes are always a crowd pleaser, particularly when it comes to fresh salads, pasta sauce or just a healthy summer snack. And home grown tomatoes that have soaked up plenty of sunshine are always so much more full of flavor than store bought tomatoes that have often been stored in cool rooms.
Lots of strong and direct sunlight will also help make tomatoes nice and stocky. Planted now you will be harvesting a good haul of garden fresh tomatoes before Christmas.
Enjoy weekend brunches of bruschetta – using your diced red tomatoes, mixed with olive oil and placed on top of toasted crunchy break, then garnish with a bit of basil (also from your garden!) to be transported to the hills of Tuscany….
4. Use versatile lilly pillies for festive gardening
While lilly pillies are hardy and generally easy to maintain they can be prone to pests and diseases, especially psyllids, so check for any deformed new growth, little lumps or spots before you buy, and check regularly once you have your plant at home. A quick wipe or spray with White Oil insecticide will cure most issues for lillypillies. Syzygium leuhmanii is completely psyllid resistant.
Lilly pilly hedging and topiary are perfect for low maintenance and quick growing ornamental decoration in gardens with lilly pillies providing anything from a vibrant pink to creamy white flowers and red, purple or white berries for an added festive feel to garden settings, ensuring lilly pillies are an ideal addition to all outdoor entertaining areas. They also grow well in pots as well as garden beds, adding to their versatility.
5. Grow your own Christmas tree
Wollemi Pines are a great option for an authentic and very merry Christmas vibe around the house and garden. By having your own native Christmas tree, not only will you not need to buy another one next year, but you will also be helping conserve a unique endangered species as the Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest trees and was discovered in Australia.
The look and shape of the Wollemi Pine is perfect for a decorated Christmas tree, or for something less traditional try another Australian native - the bottle brush decorated with garlands wound through the branches, already festooned with festive red bottle brush flowers, or prune a lillypilly into a cone Christmas tree shape.
For a softer fuller looking Christmas native, try Adenanthos sericeus which is native to Western Australia. It looks a bit like a pine tree but is as cuddly as a teddy bear.