Caring for your garden through the dry

Well, there’s still not much rain about, and it seems there’s not a lot forecast for the foreseeable future. 

It’s becoming increasingly worrying; especially as we move into the warmer months. At the nursery we have had many customers losing long term established trees and shrubs through last summer, this winter and right up to the present day, due mainly to the continuing drought conditions. 

The continued lack of rain for gardeners means that our soils become over-dry and hydrophobic, meaning that any water we spray onto the soil, simply runs off and doesn’t penetrate the plants root-ball where it is needed most.

The despair of watching your beloved garden suffer through drought, is a constant black cloud, but if you love gardening like we do; it’s certainly not a reason to give up on your favourite hobby. See, as gardeners we face lots of challenges. Uninvited guests like rabbits, wallabies and other hungry critters eating your prized plants, your plants looking sad and leggy, leaves yellowing, or simply a plant that refuses to thrive, these are all challenging obstacles, but most can be addressed with careful research and knowledge.

Although, when you really think about it, these issues may often be the reason why most of us get our hands dirty in the first place. Because with these problems, ideas bloom and then so do solutions, and as a gardener myself there is so much satisfaction from seeing a plant flourish under my care. 

Some Solutions

Some problems can be minimised by putting mesh around that plant to keep those rabbits out, or by moving the sad plant into a bit more light, or by feeding with a flower boosting solution of potash. Gardeners are by nature, optimists and experimenters. And whilst we may not be able to make it rain, there are solutions that we can implement at home to lessen the adverse effects on our plants. 

One of which we have found most effective is DEEP WATERING.
Deep watering is crucial for healthy plants. Fast, shallow watering encourages the plant to keep its roots higher up in the soil, causing stress to the plant by drying out more rapidly and more often. Instead of a light spray each day, deep water once a week and your plants health will shine through. 

Potted indoor plants will benefit from a once fortnightly soak rather than several weekly splashes too. Fill the laundry tub with water, add some seaweed and give each one a soak for 10 minutes and then drain.

Watering Tubes

However if you’re planting out a new landscape or you have a large area to cover, then installing watering tubes will be far more time effective. Fitting watering tubes can be done using drilled pvc pipe (90mm) or slotted AG line, with one end placed at the root ball in the soil and the other end protruding from the base of the plant,  above ground level, to allow hose access (as pictured). 

In short, we’ve compiled a list to help combat the dry and keep things growing:

Install watering tubes to all large shrubs and trees. This allows deep watering much faster. 

( use a crow bar to dig vertical holes)

Fill 4 litre water bottles with water, tie them to a stake and pierce two large holes in the bottom for a drip irrigation effect. Fill weekly in hot, windy or continued dry conditions.

Create an earth well at the base of new trees, this allows water to pond and soak in, rather than wash away.

Apply Wetta Soil to the ground around the plants- this helps hold moisture for longer. Apply on a yearly basis. Water saving crystals can be mixed with existing soil when planting out new plants. Apply yearly.

Spray existing plants in the garden with products like Yates Drought Shield. This product coats the leaf and lowers dehydration of the plant. Other products are Envy and Anti Stress. Spray fortnightly.

Add compost to your soils to help retain moisture; Mushroom compost, worm castings, horse and cow manure, or commercial bagged compost.

Keeping plants healthy with regular treatments of Seasol or liquid seaweed, helps to boost the immunity of your plants, which fight pests and diseases while the weather is harsh.

With fruit trees, it may help to remove some of their fruit, this allows the plant to redirect its energy and remain healthier.

Letting your garden hose dribble at the base of large established trees (Remember to set a timer) for 2-3 hours, will ensure that their root-ball remains moist. 

Recycle any wash and rinse water that you use in the house, keep a bucket in the shower to throw on your plants. Try not to use strong harsh chemicals like bleach though.

Mulch, mulch, mulch. This retains water and lowers ground temperatures through summer. Tea tree mulch, sugar cane mulch or composted tree clippings are all great. Steer clear of wood chip as it will deplete the nitrogen from your soil to help break itself down; stealing valuable nutrient from your plants.

Grow suitable plants for your climate and environment.

Australian Native plants, Mediterranean species, succulents and grey leaved plants do much better in a dry climate.

Reduce weeds, as they compete with your plants for water.

Never use high pressure nozzles to water. Use a shower head attachment or dram water breaker. These work under lower pressure and will allow more water-volume to reach your plants roots, whereas high pressure simply runs off.

Water early in the morning for better moisture retention.

Group thirsty plants together and closer to the water source. 

For any further advice, contact us at the nursery for tips on how to be water wise in the garden.

Tanya & Caitlin Sawyer

Wingham Nursery

655 34 570

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