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Hi, I am new to gardening in the ground and so far all my efforts in pots either turned up diseased, dead, or overrun by pests.

My husband's helped to allocate a new plot in our backyard in a U-shape and we will be putting in mushroom compost tomorrow so that it can settle over the next week or so. We have put a weed mat under a layer of normal soil which will be below the mushroom compost. I am getting the compost from Western Landscaping Supplies.

I really would like this to go well so I would love advice on how to make that possible.

I've read about companion planting and rotation planting so I am deciding to try planting spinach, lettuce and zucchini surrounded with marigold, rosemary and lemon balm in the cracks of the bricks surrounding the plot. I have a few questions:

1) I had originally wanted to try with cauliflower but I wasn't sure if rotation planting is ok if they are all in the same plot and there's no separation but they are quite far from each other (separate ends of the U). Can that work too?

2) Also, I normally get seedlings from Bunnings but I was wondering if there were other places that I could potentially go to (not on Sunday though) to get good plants. 

3) Can I plant within a week of putting the compost in or do I have to wait two weeks?

4) What can I do to ensure that these guys will be healthy and safe from birds and possums plus all the insect pests?

Even recently, my Pentas plant was almost chewed into non existence by 10 large caterpillars and it's struggling to survive now. So I don't think I have a very green thumb to begin with.

I appreciate any advice given. Thank you very much.

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I wouldn't worry about rotation. Just plant what you want to grow...and grow it. Rotation can come later once you have something to rotate.

i find that if you mix plant, rotation isn't an issue. You also get to experiment with companion planting although be warned that one gardeners companion plant may be another's no no.

I gather that Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte(LINK) may be your best resource and here on BLF there is a companion planting group.

Mushroom compost is a tad strong by itself (and a little salty) I gather so you perhaps should mix it with your own soil by turning the two over together. Rather than wait: plant straight into your new garden as the plant roots will help your soil microbe up.

Others here no doubt have had lots of experience with mushroom compost...Good discussion here about it(LINK).

Decide on what you want to plant but start with the easy ones like lettuces, herbs, Tommy Toe tomatoes -- depending on your culinary preference. The brassicas (like cauliflower) can be a challenge in some gardens (like mine).

The best way to get a great variety of seedlings is to grow your own from seed.Beans especially -- which can be planted direct in the garden. A simple seedling tray and some seed raising mix will get you going. As for seedlings, most mainstream suppliers seem to offer the same stock. But then you can shop for a wide variety with the one visit.

There are independent nursery suppliers but access depends on where you are and places like my haunt, the Caboolture Mkts -- are only open Sundays.

Buy up enough to fill your new garden bed and poly culture plant them together. Nurse them up and see what happens.You'll learn by doing. The broader the mix of plants, the greater is your chance of encouraging success.

It took me years to learn this simple fact: plant what you eat or want to eat. Start simple but with an eye to the seasons. Now is a great time to plant a huge range of vegetables.

Most folk also mulch their beds. I prefer to mulch first then plant through the mulch. There are any number of mulching options.

As for predators: Mixing up the plant species in the bed; growing healthy plants; bagging; netting; hand removal of bugs; spray with a water stream....

Depends on who visits.

But then the best principle i reckon is what you lose on the swings you gain on the slides.

Have you got earthworms in the bed? That's my marker of takeoff. Worms are a good indicator of satisfactory pH range.

Back in 1978 I was living in a Clifton Hill terrace, Melbourne. I'd work night duty and en route home in the AM, I'd go for a swim in the local indoor council swimming pool.

Happy days...

Lap swimming .

Then I'd work a bit in the veg garden the Italian descent landlord had offered as part of the domestic rental. Great soil.

Then bed.

One evening I was serving my house mate a dinner of home grown steamed broccoli (best I'd ever grown) when I noticed a wee green grub on board as he shoveled the treat into his mouth.

I could not bring myself to object ...and he had a great meal without being caught up in silly menu detail.

So bugs? Bring them on!

More protein.

No, and I haven't thought about earthworms either. I am still hoping to establish the bed first before I try my hand at composting etc. Should I put them direct into the ground after the compost settles or do them separately like a worm farm?

Thanks for the information! I did initially think about growing what I want to eat (and these selections are) once I started reading about companion planting and rotation, I thought that maybe this was also where I was going wrong. I am located on the westside of Bris city so Caboolture is a fair way away :) But really appreciate the information so much!

The key to success in gardening is having a healthy soil. If you're starting with bag mixes then you will need to add microbes and worms. Buying some compost for starters (until yours is ready to use) and some worm castings too will help to get the microbes into your soil.

At the moment, don't trouble with any of the cabbage-family (eg Cauliflower) they take a long time to mature. Just do the quick and simple plants like Lettuce, Spring Onions, Silverbeet (and any variation on that). It's a good time for Tomatoes but remember they like lots of minerals and microbes and a good beginning with Toms is to use some Organic Xtra to boost the soil.

Zucchini and any of the Cucumber family (eg Cukes, Pumpkins) love the heat and don't do so well over winter.

Beans and especially Peas do well in the cool and Sugar Snap and Snow Peas will thrive this season but not when it warms again. If you have the trellis space, plant climbing varieties. They take up less garden space and will give you a crop over a longer period.

Look over the BLF posts and find any to do with using microbes, it's a new area for many of us yet one with the most potential to be easy to do and cheap yet very effective. Go to your local Library and borrow some books on organic vegetable gardening. There is much to learn and each book offers you something different and useful.

Best way to learn is to just start planting.

Here in Brisbane with our heat some things are better grown in winter - brassicas, caulis, beans, peas. Coming into the peak veg growing season so have some fun. Less pests to deal with during the cool too.

Where to buy seedlings depends on where you live. You are in the western suburbs so do some asking and search online for good farmers markets in your area and see what they have. Bunnings seedlings can be quite good...and sometimes quite bad (old, not correct for the current season). They're only plants, give it a go. No huge loss if they die.

Start reading some of the members blogs here - there is a lot of information about how to deal with various situations. Unfortunately people often forget to add Tags so using our search tool (top right) won't always bring up the good info but give it a go anyway.

Plant health and ability to fend off disease and pests depends on your soil quality. Elaine has given good advice. I would agree with Dave - don't worry about rotation. Mix the plants up in your bed/s. It helps confuse the pests.

Enriching the soil with natural composted material is a good way to start. It takes some time to create good soil.

Why the weed mat? Do you have lots of nut grass? Use thick newspaper to smother weeds and put your compost or mulch directly on top. It all eventually breaks down and feeds your beds, unlike weed mat.

 I like edges to my gardens personally. Creates a good barrier between the lawn and the beds.

Yup, we do have nut grass here unfortunately and so the weed mat left by the previous owner really saved us. We just had to roll them out. But I've only used half of the garden bed to start off so we don't want these guys to come up again which is why we put the weed mat back. I didn't think about cupboard as another way of adding onto the soil! Thanks for that tip. It's interesting to hear that zucchinis might not do well in this season as I was reading the local planting guide and zucchinis came up! I might give it a go though and see. 

Find the warmest spot for the Zucchs - all the curcurbit family love the heat and don't do well in the cool.

Nutgrass: either douse it with herbicide (and repeat as each nut sprouts) or dig it by hand. I did the latter, it took some time but I did eliminate it from my yard. You have to dig deep to get each nut - they are on a 'string' like a necklace.

Cardboard and newspaper add carbon to the soil.

In my experience, Mushroom compost is good to increase the water holding capacity of your soil if it's mixed in, but it is not like your own home made compost, it doesn't contain much in the way of nutrients. I would recommend that you also mix in some type of N/P/K rich organic fertiliser such as Organic Extra or Blood and Bone, etc. Caulis are difficult to grow well unless you have good soil and need lots of nutrition. Cabbages are a better bet, or Broccoli. They don't take forever to come to maturity, unlike Caulis. Rotation is only needed, when you have been growing for a while, so that you don't continually grow the same family of plants in the same beds over and over. I try to keep records so that I don't grow plants from the same family in the same place until 3 to 4 years later.

Veges I am planting out now are, Carrots, Broccoli, Cabbage, Leeks, Garlic, Madagascar Beans, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Passionfruit, Capsicum. Be carful that you plant varieties that do well in our warmer climate, e.g. unless you get frosts in your area don't bother with Brussel Sprouts, or even Broad Beans. Lots of people grow Broad Beans but I have tried over a number of years and the return has been very poor. Stick to fail safe types as your first efforts and get some success before you venture away to less likely types.

Good luck, and keep us informed  on how you went.  

Chemical Residues may be in Mushroom compost they use some nasty sprays.

I have heard this but have never known any details. What sprays Jeff and used for what purpose?

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