Organic gardening tips and tricks for big and small gardens | Organic methods | Gardening Australia

Costa visits the magnificent Retford Park estate and head gardener, Rick Shepherd, shows how to garden on a grand scale and still keep it organic.

Set on 34 hectares, the Italianate mansion has 10 ha of landscaped garden.

The house was built by Samuel Hordern, whose family established what was once the largest department store in the world and after whom the Sydney Hordern pavilion is named. In 1964 James Fairfax bought the property and gifted it to the National Trust in 2016.

The estate is managed along organic principles, which can easily be adapted to smaller gardens.

A lot of green material used to go to a burn pile when Rick Shepherd first started working there. He thought this was a waste so started looking for other options; now more is composted, some is chipped or used directly as mulch, some goes to the chickens. They also stopped using chemicals.
Now no fertiliser is used, only home-made compost and some blood and bone.

For weed control, Rick uses a different approach for each area. The lawns near the house are mostly hand-weeded. Further out, weeds aren’t controlled so intensely. On the gravel paths, Rick uses a flame weeder, which is very effective and kills off any seeds as well. Leaf mulch from the mower is used directly on the garden beds around the house. Different mulch is used in other areas: large branches and twigs and gathered up at the base of feature trees. Rick creates what he calls ‘tree necklaces’ around some trees, weaving branches and prunings for form a wide circle under the drip zone. The branches and prunings also create great habitat for fungi and microorganisms in the soil.

An infestation of two-spotted mite was dealt with using predatory mites, which can be bought in; this is done about three times a year now.

Location: Gundungurra & Dharawal Country in Bowral, NSW

Climate Zone: Cool temperate

Garden established: dates back to 1887, with many modifications

Style: Italianate elements, arboretum

Key Features: Interesting topiary, formal features, historic trees

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