I've written for The Echo for more than seven years - funny, it doesn't seem that long. All good things come to an end, however, and this will be my last column for the paper.
I hope I've encouraged at least some non-gardeners to take their first steps into what can be a very rewarding hobby, while also being at least occasionally interesting for more experienced gardeners. Plants and the natural world are endlessly fascinating topics, and give so much to anyone who takes a little interest and gives growing a go.
Here are some things I wish I'd done from the first moment I began gardening in the sub-tropics: built waist-high vegetable beds to begin with; planted fewer rainforest trees so near the house; been more willing to prune hard every year; tried fewer plants from Mediterranean or true tropical climates; accepted fewer gift plants of the 'oh, it grows so well here' kind (actually, it's a bit of a garden thug!).
I wish I'd built effective possum-proof cages around my fruit trees; topped up anti-weed mulches more often; bought all mulches and soil improvers in bulk; and planted a lot more of the tough old-fashioned shrubs and bulbs that are so easy-care. I hope you take at least some of this to heart if you are just setting out on the road to sub-tropical gardening.
There are many keen gardeners out there who would love to share their enthusiasm and knowledge with both beginner gardeners and experts alike - your local garden club will put you in touch, or you might find a like-minded community online. Whether you like sociable gardening or prefer to make your own way, I hope you will garden on happily in the knowledge that you are keeping your body and mind healthy and strong, and making the planet a better place, one lettuce at a time.
Ed's note - A big thank you from The Echo for all of your gardening tips over the years. I hope you find more time to spend in the garden now.
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