Whitehorse City Council

Garden Design & Maintenance

Man diggingImplementing good garden design can help save water and reduce time spent in the garden. By taking into account the location and conditions of your garden you can greatly improve its condition.

To achieve a sustainable garden the following may need to be considered.


Mulching your garden and pots helps to retain water, add nutrients, reduce weeds and pests, and protect your plants:

  • Mulch with a good layer of organic material – up to 50mm thick
  • Mulch in winter or spring following rain so moisture is retained
  • Avoid mulches that are derived from a finite resource like washed river pebbles
  • Use good quality mulch with a mix of large and small sized materials 


Effective maintenance of lawns will ensure you get the most out of them:  

  • Mow your lawns on a high setting (80-100mm). Left at higher lengths, the grass grows slower, needs less mowing, will recover quicker and will be more weed resistant
  • Let the grass clippings fall back onto the lawn. This helps put nitrogen back into the soil and retain water
  • Grow warm season turf grasses such as Couch and Buffalo
  • Brown grass does not equal dead grass. Most lawns will naturally recover
  • Consider using alternatives to petrol powered mowing equipment, such as battery powered or even the old-fashioned push mowers that do a great job and give you a workout at the same time
  • Current water restrictions ban the watering of lawns 


Plants make a garden. Use the natural seasons to manage your garden to get the best results. To get the most enjoyment out of plants, think about these easy maintenance tips:  

  • Prune plants in winter to reinvigorate them and to reduce pests and diseases
  • Recycle all green waste from plants such as leaves and prunings to use back on your garden or in compost, not landfill
  • Eliminate artificial watering once plants are established. This encourages plant roots to seek their own water supply
  • Infrequent and slow deep watering during establishment is best
  • Replace dead plants with drought tolerant native or indigenous ones
  • Use water-storing granules around the root zones of new plants to help retain water where it is most needed
  • Grow your own produce, such as fruit, vegetables and herbs. Your taste buds will love it. It does not have to look perfect; often, chemicals are used to make supermarket produce look good 


Most weeds are seasonal, and different weeds will appear for short periods at different times of the year. It is easy to keep them under control with frequent attention and an integrated approach:  

  • Remove weeds by hand before they go to seed to break their life cycle
  • Rather than placing weeds in your bin and sending them to landfill, remove any seed heads and use the sun to kill them then add them to your compost
  • Alternatively, drown weeds in water using an old garbage bin then place dead weeds your compost bin and use the liquid as a fertilizer
  • Mulch will assist to keep weed germination and growth to a minimum
  • Use plants to dominate the weeds by taking their space, light and nutrients
  • For more stubborn and persistent weeds, use vinegar or boiling water as an alternative to chemicals
  • Remove any garden escapees or weeds as soon as possible to reduce the plant reseeding 

Fertilisers and Pesticides  

How do you know if you have created a sustainable garden? If you maintain regular mulching and composting you should not need fertilisers. If you do need to fertilise your garden:

  • Use organic fertilisers such as home compost, liquid seaweed, or manures
  • Do not over-fertilise, only use as much as the plant will need

Whenever possible avoid using pesticides altogether; instead focus on good maintenance through pruning and mulching. Diseases are usually a symptom of poor plant health. Find out what the problem is before applying chemical control.

Try these tips instead of chemicals:

  • Encourage native birds into the garden by planting berry and nectar producing plants to help control pest levels
  • Control pest outbreaks the old fashioned way. Remove them by hand
  • Not all insects are bad. For example, spiders and ladybirds eat other insects and assist to keep the right balance in your garden
  • There are a large variety of companion plants that assist in controlling pests and diseases. Try planting garlic or nasturtiums in between fruit trees and vegetables to deter fungal diseases and insect pests


Sustainable Garden Products

When it's time to start work, think about where the product comes from. If you are not sure, ask. Choose recycled or environmentally-friendly products where possible:    

  • Plastic sleepers
  • Second-hand 'clinker' bricks for paving
  • Organic soil mixes
  • Recycled plastic garden stakes
  • Recycled timbers for decking