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Waterwise planting design at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Know your Garden

– Posted in: Sustainable Gardening

Water wise gardening 2

Happy plants in the right place

Within your garden, you are likely to have a range of microclimates. A south facing wall will collect the wettest weather and is more protected from the warmer drying winds and sun from the north. If you have any plants that are not drought tolerant and prefer a bit of shade, this is where they could be best cared for.

In Melbourne, most of the weather comes from the west, including warm north westerlies and cool south westerlies. Places in the garden facing east suit many plants that enjoy the milder morning sun but resent the afternoon heat during summer. The thing to be aware of with easterly aspects though, is that because most of our weather comes from the west, the east side can miss out on getting wet.

Healthy Soil = Healthy Garden

At least half of your plants exist underground. This is where the plants’ roots are getting hold of water, oxygen and minerals, so it’s crucial that the soil is in a good, healthy state.

One of the factors of a healthy soil is its structure. If it is very coarse and sandy, it’s great for drainage but water can go through it too quickly. Clay soil on the other hand, is better at holding on to water but this can also be excessive and lead to poor drainage. Also in drought conditions the soil becomes like solid brick.

An ideal soil is a soft crumbly loam that gets the water holding/draining balance right. The best way to achieve that is with the inclusion of organic matter. This can be in the form of compost or manures and can be worked into the soil. This not only provides better access for water bust encourages more soil organisms which in turn improves the soil’s health.

Mulching is also an important method of keeping moisture in the soil and keeping it healthy. A 10cm layer of material like wood and bark chips or stones and pebbles let water through and reduce soil evaporation. Organic mulches also encourage those good soil bugs again. Plastic sheeting is not as good as it reduces access of water and organisms.

And don’t forget some sensible irrigation. Setting up some drip irrigation hose around the garden which is placed under the mulch layer will bring water directly to your plants with minimal water use or waste. It’s also an easy time efficient way of watering the garden.

Once you’ve got the right plants in the right spots, you’re paying attention to the soil and making watering easy and effective; summer garden devastation should be a very unusual event.

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