The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Deal­ing with stress is dif­fi­cult at the best of times. Deal­ing with stressed plants is a lot eas­ier, but of­ten the re­sult doesn’t man­i­fest it­self un­til some time later. For in­stance, a large root about 250mm in di­am­e­ter sev­ered on a rather ma­ture mango tree so the neigh­bours could in­stall a con­crete drain be­tween prop­er­ties, took five years to show the re­sults of its stress. It sim­ply popped a cou­ple of very large branches (at least 6 me­tres long) bang on the ground.

Slowly it lost its bark and was at­tacked by longi­corn bee­tles that lay their eggs and the pu­pae take over and do the most dam­age. Even­tu­ally the tree had to go.

Stress from weather events like the dry we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and the tran­spi­ra­tion rate of a plant or tree that has di­min­ish­ing soil wa­ter, is breath­ing like a pant­ing dog af­ter a run on the beach. It sim­ply can­not cope with too much.

Then you de­cided to fer­tilise the poor thing. Do you eat when you are stressed? But gen­er­ally a plant does not need fer­til­is­ing when it looks poorly. Keep­ing up with wa­ter will do the trick.

In the mean time it will shed as many leaves it can as a de­fence mech­a­nism so it doesn’t have to deal with the usual canopy of leaves. Bam­boo is a clas­sic ex­am­ple at the mo­ment.

Lip­stick palms need plenty of wa­ter in the wither­ing hot and dry­ing soils. They are a swamp palm and don’t like be­ing planted high and dis­like ef­fi­cient drainage. Tree ferns are sim­i­tar, the trunk is the catch. The trunk is where the plant does a lot of its drink­ing. Mi­cro sprays up and down the trunk will keep them alive or a squirt a few times a day.

This is when you know you have a good soil if it con­tains good quan­ti­ties of hu­mus or com­posta­bles or or­ganic matter. It’s that matter that binds all the par­ti­cles and re­tains mois­ture and nu­tri­ent.

Where soil has dried right out and has be­come hy­dropho­bic (no wa­ter pen­e­trates), try a wet­ting agent in a wa­ter­ing can and drench the soil around the base of the plant or drip line around a tree.

You can buy these at hard­ware stores and nurs­eries. If all else fails, add a cou­ple of cap­fuls of dish­wash­ing liq­uid to the wa­ter. It will also re­move the sur­face ten­sion be­tween soil par­ti­cles.

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