Drought Proof Gardening

You may be a bit worried about how your gardens are going to cope with the hot dry weather this summer, given that it’s been dry for ages already and now we have water restrictions here in the Hunter.

You can either battle on, hosing as often as you can and racking up massive water bills, or you can adapt your gardens to the conditions. How do you do that you may well ask?

The key is to help water to go into your garden soil and then to make sure that your soil can hold onto a useful percentage of that water; remembering that good drainage is also very important.

There are solutions you can use to help many existing gardens to take in water and hold onto the right amount of it. One of those solutions is to fortify your soil with regular applications of organic material, like cow manure and compost and then to apply a good application of an appropriate organic mulch, to stop water from evaporating too quickly. The mulch I use most of the time is aged tree loppers mulch. It has all kinds of names at various suppliers. All of these measures feed those very important microbes in your garden soil and encourages worms. The worms then do their job of further breaking up the soil and adding their worm castings as they go.

If you have clay based soil, this can be improved with an application of lime in the form of gypsum. Depending on your garden, it’s ideal if this can be cultivated in. And remember, it takes a long time to work. Clay soil can also be improved by digging in a soil conditioning mix from the landscape suppliers. They are basically a mix of coarse sand and compost. The great part about clay is that it does hold water, so don’t despise it. Soils which don’t have any clay won’t retain water.

Getting that water in is made easier if rain water naturally flows into and out of your garden; slowly enough so it can percolate down. That’s not possible with all gardens but it’s the ideal situation to have and should be considered for all new gardens. I have some gardens at my place which were remediated by all of the above measures. They haven’t had to be watered now since April 2018. So This stuff does work.

The next thing to consider is whether to incorporate drip irrigation. When water restrictions came in here, those with micro spray irrigation suddenly found out they can’t legally use their watering system at all during the drought. But you can use drip irrigation. If you use a roll of 13mm plastic drip line with drippers built in, you basically roll it out as required. Water goes in one end and you stop it coming out from the other end. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that but not much more. In the interest of keeping this article simple, I won’t go into all of the aspects of installing drip irrigation.

The last but most basic consideration, the elephant in the room, is to choose plants which are able to tolerate dryness. In my drought proof garden, I have Lipriopes, Kangaroo Paws, Brachyscome, Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale), Gaura, Gazanias and Lomandra Tanika. This garden, in full sun all day long, has flowers all year long and I don’t water it. Ofcourse, you don’t always have a chance to plant a new garden. But if I had a water inefficient garden now, I’d think seriously about a garden makeover; ripping it out and changing the plants to suit the conditions of where you live.

That’s all I have to say on the matter for now. If you live in Newcastle or Lake Macquarie and need a gardener who can help you with this, or any other garden service for your gardens, I know a really good one!