All the se­crets to hav­ing the per­fect drought-re­sis­tant gar­den are re­vealed by ex­pert:

Keep your gar­den healthy now and in the fu­ture

Stanthorpe Border Post - - FRONT PAGE - MORWENNA HARSLETT

WRIT­ING a gar­den­ing col­umn in the midst of a drought and with our cur­rent wa­ter re­stric­tions may seem a lit­tle ab­surd but with long-term fore­casts sug­gest­ing that in fu­ture we need to get used to greater weather ex­tremes, more ex­tremely hot days and longer dry pe­ri­ods, it is im­por­tant for gar­den­ers to start plan­ning their out­door spa­ces more care­fully and choos­ing plants that can cope with these con­di­tions.

Here are a few tips to help plants cur­rently in the gar­den that might be suf­fer­ing and to help con­serve wa­ter and com­ply with wa­ter re­stric­tions.

Use mulch

Ap­ply a gen­er­ous layer of mulch over any gar­den beds, vegie patches and pots. This will help to re­duce the amount of mois­ture that is lost from the soil or pot­ting mix.

Soil-wet­ting agents

Dur­ing ex­tended dry pe­ri­ods, a waxy, wa­ter-re­pel­lent layer can de­velop on the sur­face of the soil. Soil-wet­ting agents help to break this down, en­abling wa­ter to pen­e­trate and thereby mak­ing the most of any rain or ir­ri­ga­tion that does ar­rive.

Or­ganic mat­ter

Soil that con­tains a lot of or­ganic mat­ter can hold more mois­ture. Reg­u­larly mix con­cen­trated sources of or­ganic mat­ter into your soil, such as com­post, ma­nure, grass clip­pings and leaf de­bris.

Wa­ter early

It’s best to wa­ter in the cool of the early morn­ing, which helps hy­drate and pre­pare plants for the heat of the day when evap­o­ra­tion is low.

Don’t waste wa­ter

In­stead of let­ting the cool wa­ter from your shower run down the drain while you wait for it to get hot, try plac­ing a bucket un­der­neath the wa­ter stream to catch it. You can then re­use this wa­ter for your gar­den.

Use en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly de­ter­gents in your wash­ing and this wa­ter can also be saved and used out­side.

Tol­er­ant plants

Even with great care to con­serve wa­ter, in­evitably you will lose some plants in your gar­den dur­ing this dry, hot pe­riod and you will want to re­place these. Wait un­til cooler weather ar­rives (or, even bet­ter, good soak­ing rain) be­fore do­ing so.

By choos­ing drought-tol­er­ant plants you will en­sure your gar­den sur­vives when wa­ter is scarce in the fu­ture and there are plenty of beau­ti­ful va­ri­eties to choose from.

Here are a few com­mon at­tributes of plants that are hardier in ex­treme tem­per­a­tures and dry con­di­tions.

■ Fine lacy fo­liage, like that on conifers, laven­der and westringia, re­duces sur­face area, lead­ing to less wa­ter loss through the leaves.

■ Thick, fleshy, waxy leaves store mois­ture within them, as is the case with suc­cu­lents and cacti.

■ Hairy or fuzzy leaves, like lamb’s ears and gera­ni­ums, keep mois­ture on the sur­face of the leaf for longer to al­low ab­sorp­tion.

■ Sil­ver and grey leaves help to re­flect harsh rays, thus re­duc­ing wa­ter loss. Great ex­am­ples are san­tolina and senecio cineraria “Sil­ver Dust”.

■ Aus­tralian na­tive plants, par­tic­u­larly those en­demic to dry, hot ar­eas, are nat­u­rally adapted to cope with harsh con­di­tions. Ex­am­ples in this area are westringia, lep­tosper­mum and lo­man­dra.

■ Large trees pro­vide shel­ter from the heat for more ten­der plants and the shade cast by trees re­duces the soil tem­per­a­ture, mean­ing that plants in the un­der­story do not re­quire as much wa­ter.

■ Lawn is a great con­sumer of wa­ter. Think about re­struc­tur­ing gar­dens and land­scap­ing with gravel and rocks to re­duce wa­ter con­sump­tion.

■ Take note of any plants cur­rently thriv­ing in your gar­den and plant more of these.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

EF­FI­CIENT: Ex­am­ple of drought-hardy gar­dens.

Not all gar­dens need lawns.

Cer­tain plants need less wa­ter than oth­ers.

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