Down in the Garden: (Almost) No-Fail Plants

There are some of us gardening folk who spend every spare minute in our botanical paradises, tending each leaf and nursing every bud to blossom.

On the other far side are others who genuinely desire a garden but simply lack the time or the experience. Perhaps you are a little of both or there may be places and pockets in your gardening life that would be better filled with more independent species.

So, I have explored the world of the tough, the adaptable and most of all, the hardy for you and your home this week.


It seems everyone is loving houseplants these days and with more and more exotic and finicky species becoming available to the general public, let’s take a few steps back to the old tried and true, easy to care for champions of the indoor plant world.

Air Plants (Tillandsia spp.) These alien-looking wonders, as their name suggests, don’t even need soil.

The leaves have adapted to absorb all they need from the air but submerging them in water weekly in the warmer months and fortnightly during the rest of the year will keep them far happier.

Aloe (Aloe vera) Just give the handy Aloe a sunny spot and don’t over-water and you will be rewarded with a lovely plant that can also provide medicinal aid. Squeeze out the juice of a leaf to sooth and heal burns directly.

Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) Not just this lovely, but most cactus are ‘set and forget’ plants – sunlight, warmth and don’t let them get wet feet.

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) True story, they get their name from the fact they are as tough as cast iron. It takes a very special kind of gardener to kill this plant!

Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) This tropical-looking vine will trail anywhere you desire it to.

Drying out of the soil can actually be a good thing and it can grow in most light conditions.

Jade (Crassula ovata) Leaves that store water for those times you forget to take care of it or go away without a plant-sitter makes this a brown-thumb favourite, not to mention the luck it supposedly will bring you if plant it at your front door.

Monstera (Monstera deliciosa) A houseplant collection staple, it will tolerate nearly all light levels and don’t need much in the way of attention.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) With a preference for low light and drier soil, you can almost leave this one to its own devices as well – a really solid beginner houseplant.


Most culinary plants are not completely ‘set and forget’ but these are some of the more independent and easy-care types.

Start with a well-prepared plot that contains added compost, well-rotted manure and is improved to become free draining if needed.

This can be achieved by adding additional compost and keep your watering needs down by mulching well. These are just a few suggestions of relatively easy to grow and care for vegetable garden plants.

Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) You will always find that growing any type of bean is better when sown as a seed.

The plant will be stronger, and growth will be much better.

Easiest and most forgiving are the climbing varieties – give them a support to climb upon and look forward to continuous cropping. Plant mid spring through to late summer.

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) As long as you water consistently, you should have juicy lovely, formed beets without much fuss in about 8 weeks.

The leaves can be harvested gently along the way and are delicious in salads.

Plant anytime throughout the year on the Coast.

Cherry Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) Give these beauties about 6 hours of sun every day and harvest regularly and this plant will reward you with delicious little toms for months.

Feed each week with a liquid fertilizer once plants establish.

Plant from early spring through until early autumn.

Garlic (Allium sativum) Pop individual bulbs into the earth and, well that’s about it!

Once the foliage dies you simply pull them up, dry out in the sun and then use or store in a cool, dry spot.

You may like to keep a few bulbs to plant for your next crop.

Herbs Planting times will depending on the actual herb but once established, most will need only the simplest of care.

Water well while young to help roots develop and then you can rely on local rain unless the weather is excessively hot/dry. Feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month. Harvesting will promote new growth as well as a tasty condiment. Ensure that you snip the entire stem from the base to promote a denser growth.

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) As long as you don’t let your garden bed dry out then loose-leaved lettuce varieties are pretty independent.

Plant lettuce such as butter, oak-leaf and so on once your garden is frost-free and then every fortnight through until mid to late autumn.

Some areas of the Coast will find that certain varieties will grow year-round, but I personally have much success with Cos Lettuce.

Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) Best grown in contained beds as they can become invasive to the rest of your garden, but they are ever so easy as long as they are watered consistently.

Best planted late winter through until mid-spring and you can harvest once foliage dies back.

Radish (Raphanus sativus) Although you will find that if you water irregularly, your radish bulbs will split, this is a very quick and easy vegetable to grow.

Radishes are ready to eat about 3 weeks after sowing and to ensure a continuous supply, sow the first crop in early spring and then every 2 weeks until mid-autumn.

Snow Peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) Find a trellis of some sort for this lovely vegetable climber to grow upon and you are just about done.

They love growing through the winter months so start your planting early autumn and continue through to about mid to late winter.

Spring Onions (Allium fistulosum) Grow them here, there and everywhere.

I have had the same plot of spring onions in my garden for five years now.

Although they can tolerate semi-shade, they do better in full sun.

Personally, I don’t do a thing to them except ensure they are watered in dry spells and harvest a little most weeks.


Many of these flowering plants can be grown in pots or garden beds, check with individual species for exact details. These are just a tiny few of the strong, the bold and the very beautiful that are generally fairly easy to grow here on the Coast.

Agapanthus (Agapanthus spp.) So incredibly easy to grow and will tolerate part shade though to full sun.

Look for a seedless variety to stop the spread of this plant as it can become invasive especially to our waterways but on the bright side they are very drought tolerant and fire proof so make excellent boarder plants.

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp.) With long-lasting flowers and a hardiness to pest and disease these are the plants that keep giving – grow in full sun and deadhead after flowering to promote re-blooming.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) These bouncy blossoms like to be treated mean – poor soil, dry conditions and being left alone is how they thrive.

Pansy (Viola tricolor var. hortensis) Like most of the viola family, all you need to remember is to give them a semi shade to full sun position and to provide good drainage in either containers or garden beds.

Keeping watering consistent will ensure good growth.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) Give these cuties full sun and a rich soil and you will be easily rewarded with their happy faces.

Deadhead to encourage repeat flowering.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) Grow from seed in a wind-sheltered, full sun position and give each a stake for support if you are growing the giant varieties.

All plants need water, food and sunshine and, as long as you plan your planting with this in mind, gardening does become a lot easier down the road.

You are not going to get away with not making time for watering but perhaps you could install a ‘wicking bed’, (a garden bed that is built on its own water supply), or you could install irrigation but other simple methods include planting within the suggested seasons for each type, grouping plants with similar water needs together and mulching to save water.

Begin with a compost and fertiliser-rich soil and your plants will have a head-start, grow stronger and have less need for intervention for pest and disease control.

In general, feed most garden plants again every fortnight once plants have matured with a liquid or pellet-form feed.

Before I go you may be wondering why I have not included natives.

These by their very nature will be easy to grow because that do not need to adapt to new conditions.

You can find lists and more information about natives to suit your garden at, your local council or having a chat with any of the team at one of our wonderful local garden centres.


San Remo Community Garden is looking for plants to build a living wall. Staghorns, Elkhorns, plants that do not need soil to grow. If you can help out, go and see Andy at the garden: 3 McCrea Blvd, 9- 12 Thursdays.

SWAMP – Sustainable Wetlands Agricultural Makers Project – Central Coast is looking for pavers to complete their garden edges. Can collect and if you can help out email:

Permaculture Central Coast Inc. has developed a new Facebook group and as always provides lots of helpful resources for the permaculture-curious. Find them via their website:


Beetroot, cape gooseberries, capsicum, carrots, chilli, cucumber, eggplant, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, okra, olive, pumpkin, radish, rosella, salsify, silverbeet, spring onion, turnip, burdock, chives, parsley, parsnip, lemongrass, mint, rosemary, amaranth, azaleas, boronia, camellias, grevilleas, jacaranda, strelitzia.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘The Gardening Gang’ 8 – 9am every Saturday on Coast FM.

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