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Don’s tips

Knowing a few tricks of the trade will make all the difference around your house and garden. Here are some of Don’s best tips on lawns, plants, pets and tool care.

Mowing lawn

It is important not to cut the lawn too short. Don’s tip is to use a 50c coin as a gauge. When you stand the coin on edge on the ground, it should be within the grass. You shouldn’t mow your lawn any closer than the height of a 50c coin.

Urn-shaped pots

Once you put a tree or shrub into an urn-shaped pot, the rootball grows and expands to fit the wide bottom of the pot. When it is time to repot the plant, you’ll find it impossible to get the rootball out through the narrow pot mouth. Your only option will be to smash the pot. Urn-shaped pots are fine for growing temporary plants, such as annuals or herbs, but never use them for trees or shrubs.

Chocking up garden

If your garden is chock-a-block with plants, there won’t be any room for weeds to grow! This is one of Don’s best low maintenance gardening tips. Use ground covers, mass plantings or mixtures of plants to fill up the garden and act as living mulch. Grassy plants such as mingo (Themeda australis var. Mingo) and lomandra (Lomandra longifolia) are ideal for chocking up the garden. You’ll save time and money, because you won’t have to weed the garden or buy mulch.


Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual to 50cm high. In Australia we tend to grow coriander for the leaves, whereas in Asia it is grown mostly for the seed. However, most of the varieties sold in Australia are seed varieties, which grow quickly and bolt to seed. When you go to the nursery to buy coriander, look for a ‘slow bolt’ variety. Don’s tip is to sow during the cooler months, from about May through to September or October. Coriander grown in the cooler months takes longer to go to seed and produces lots of leaves.

Lawn edges

A good, crisp lawn edge makes a wonderful impression in the backyard. Even if your lawn is awful, if the edges are clean and straight or nicely curved, the garden will look good. Pay attention to your edges.

Brown spots on lawn

If your bitch is urinating on the lawn and leaving brown spots, you are possibly feeding her too much dry food. Switch to tinned food or add more vegetable to the diet.

Leaky tap

Turning off a tap too tightly results in a deformity in the washer. The tap starts leaking and then has to be turned off even harder to stem the leak. Be gentle with your taps, then you won’t have to keep replacing washers.

Builder’s barrow

The Burke’s Backyard wheelbarrow roadtest showed that builder’s wheelbarrows carry more, they’re easier to wheel, they’re well balanced and they suit people of all ages. Don prefers models with plastic tops, which won’t rust. He also likes the ones with wide wheels because they’re easier to manage over uneven ground and they don’t damage the lawn as much when you’re carrying a heavy load.

Tool care

If you buy the best quality tools you can afford and look after them, they will perform well for years. Don’t leave them out in the rain! Look after timber handles with regular oiling (50% turps and 50% linseed oil is best), or tape with 50mm duct tape to prevent splinters and cracks. To keep blades and the edges of spades and shovels sharp, use a bench grinder or a sharpening stone. Squirt some oil on saw blades and anything else that might rust, then rub the oil in with an old cloth. Oiling tool handles and blades is a great job for a rainy day.


At this time of year you might notice the bright green, ferny leaves of young bindii plants in your lawn. These plants will soon flower and set seed (prickles). If you want to walk on your lawn in summer with bare feet, bindii should be controlled now. Bindii (Soliva pterosperma) thrives in compacted soil, so aerate compacted areas of the lawn with a garden fork or hire an aerator. It’s also a good idea to raise the height of the mower