This is the third post on our Garden Makeover.
In Dubai (and for that matter, most of the Arabian peninsula), grass is a luxury. Infact, growing plants is not as easy as in some other parts of the world. The weather is harsh for a good 6-7 months ~ The area is covered with predominantly with shifting sands. Hence the soil is not really suitable for grass and a lot of effort has to be made to make it possible for the grass to find nutrition from the soil, strength, support and some shelter from the summer heat.
Having a balcony garden comes with its own advantages. A large variety of plants manage to grow in shelter. Money-plants creeping on a trellis, potted plants which can be protected from the scorching sun ~ and a single corner or edge to water, makes balcony gardens ideal.
If your a newbie trying to activate your green thumb, I suggest a quick visit to Dubai Garden Center would be a good idea, for some sound advice and a large variety of plant collection ~ however you could also visit Al Warsaan Nurseries area ( located on the Dubai-Hatta road ) for more competitive rates.
There are two types of grasses “planted” in Dubai :-
1) The carpet system. Where rolls and rolls of grass are got and planted on a mixture of compost and soil. It is rather expensive but the results are more quick and it sustains well.
2) Plug in : The second way is where, small patches of grass are plugged into a large and thick layer of compost. Over a period of 50 – 60 days the small patches of grass spread across and fill the area like a carpet.
There are various types/qualities of grasses too like the American and sharji grass ~ but don’t get too overwhelmed by these names, sharji grass is equally good ~ it all boils down to how well you look after the grass.
The upkeep of grass is rather expensive and high maintenance. Apart from the regular mowing and weed collection ~ in Dubai, we have to water the grass twice a day in the summers !! Like I said ~ it is high maintenance.
The Electric & Water rates in Dubai are monstrously high so we decided to have a tube well dug. Sadly, even at 45 feet below ~ we could not find any sweet water but salty water was in abundance. That was literally money-gone-down-the-well !!
For as long as I can remember, We’ve loved having a lawn in our home but since we stayed right infront of the community garden at the Ranches, we opted for paving our backyard so that the boys could be “boys” and have fun cycling etc in the courtyard.
Fortunately Al Warqa house has presented us with the added advantage of not one but four large yard spaces. Sam and I were both keen on having the grass laid right away but we managed to wait till October
If your garden space is small, you might want to consider looking after it yourself, however, if your garden is very large, hiring a gardener may be a good idea.
A few key pointers about gardeners in Dubai in general :-
- Having gardeners to tend to your garden is really great but don’t “assume” and here is why :-
- “Labor” rates in Dubai are relatively low in comparison to some of the other western countries.
- But you rarely get skilled and knowledgeable gardeners here.
- Most gardeners belong to small scale gardening firms who source “common labor” from Asia ~ with barely ANY knowledge in gardening.
- Assuming that they will be able to tend to all your precious greens could cost you dearly so be involved( not interfering though)
- Most of them are taught to water and that’s that !!
- The wiser ones learn by trial and error ( unfortunately its comes at the price of having damaged scores of plants )
- While you notice the first signs of a plant withering ~ ask your gardener to keep a careful eye on it ( keep it in the intensive care area )~ Different plants have different reasons for withering, excess of water, potassium level in the soil, need for fertilizer, direct sunlight etc. are just some reasons.
- If you don’t ask, you’ll never know ! So know when he is going to use MPK as well.
- Have them clean fallen dead leaves. (Don’t take it for granted ~ They wont do it if you don’t ask them to )
- Most gardeners are not aware of the difference between weed – grass – plants. Be patient and show them the difference.
- Most gardeners are not aware of the different bugs that effect plants. eg mealy bugs or caterpillar and how to treat them.
- Ask the supervisor to visit once a month ~ without fail !!
- One of my early observations about gardeners was that, in most cases, they are not aware of which plants need partial sunlight and less amount of water !! So if your going to bring new plants ~ its best to do some research on your own, rather than relying on the gardener.
- It is human nature to always take the easy route ~ gardeners are no exception to the rule. Given the chance they will be happy to throw in some water in a jiffy and rush out of the villa. So in short, as much as having a gardening help is a blessing in Dubai ~ you have to be active, keep an eye on your plants and regularly check their progress.
One of the benefits of having a lawn in your home is that it holds back the sand from entering the house. Since we had already made-up our minds on having the grass placed in two areas of the house (the picture will help you understand better ) ~ we opted for the second way of planting the grass ~ we negotiated a good deal with our gardener who then got a couple of fellows and had the job done. Naturally, we were going to have to feed the grass municipality water ($$$) and that really had me worried initially.
Al Warqa house is surrounded by a huge plot of sandy land and some pavement on all sides. We decided to lay out the grass on two of the largest “front” areas. There is one sand pit for the cats to enjoy, at the back of the house. Two large 6 ft x 6 ft sheds sit on the back side as well. These, we’ve carried from our previous home.
The backyard also houses my kitchen garden. ( about that in my next post)
This is what I had in mind when we started the garden project. And I’m happy to report that progress has been slow but fulfilling.
- Some trees that thrive really well in Dubai are Palm trees, Damask trees, Neem trees, Frangi pani, and some other wild trees.
- Some of the plants that survive the typical temperate climate are Bouganvillea, Desert rose, Zenia, zaater, lemon grass, fig, lemon, Aloe vera, cactus and a few more.
- My kitchen garden hosted batches of green chillies, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, brinjal, strawberries, cabbage, curry leaves, tulsi, basel, coriander, fig, onion and lemon.
- Between November to March, all seasonal flowers bring a spring-like feel to Dubai.
Oh Yes, What a strange joy to simply pop over into the kitchen garden and pull out a couple of tomatoes, green chillies, onions and fix a quick Spanish omelet for the hubby 🙂
Emaar properties had issued a circular to the residents at Arabian Ranches, about the damage caused by Damask trees. They are a very resilient breed but their roots tend to spread across large areas of land underneath the property and weekens the foundation of the house as well as the fence. Hence we have kept ours in a large pot since many years. However, I decided to rehome some of my trees who had made their homes in large giant size pots, to the grass area.
This is Garden 2.
This is garden 1
You can see one of the shed popping out in back side.
All these potted plants below have been with me for the last 8 years at the Arabian Ranches.
Phase 1 :- Bags of potting soil arrived.
- A very large part of the top soil/sand is removed/dumped and the patch is “prepared” for the compost.
- For nearly a 4 – 7 days, a bed is prepared by watering the soil.
- The compost is purely cow dung. Hence the stench is really unbearable for the first 2 days !!
And then bits of grass is plugged into the soil/compost mix.
Potting soil is best used for plants in pots rather than the grass.
Finally, the ground starts showing some green !!
It will take nearly a month or so, before the grass roots begin to get a firm grip on the soil.
These trees are planted in the ground in garden 1
The view from the other end of garden 1 looking towards the gate of the house.
So that’s that ~~ And then we waited patiently for nearly 1 1/2 month for the grass to spread and grow ~ and it did.
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I’m sharing the grass story with the following linking parties HERE
I hope this post benefits you in some way and perhaps, you might be inspired to kick start your own little garden. 🙂
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Have a beautiful week !