Gar­den­ing in drought-stricken ar­eas

While Syd­ney may have had plenty of rain re­cently, it’s still tough go­ing for re­gional gar­den­ers

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - ADVICE - Words Robyn Wil­lis More bathurst­gar­den­

Open gar­dens

The cen­tral western town is host­ing the Bathurst Spring Spec­tac­u­lar this week­end, open­ing 10 of the most beau­ti­ful pri­vate gar­dens in the re­gion. Peter says gar­dens range from those on small blocks to acreage. En­try is $20 with money go­ing to lo­cal char­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice.

The spring gar­dens will in­clude ev­ery­thing from irises and aza­leas to rhodo­den­drons. Peter says help­ing gar­dens to thrive in re­cent years has been dif­fi­cult in the con­di­tions.

“Last year we had a dry win­ter and se­vere frosts at mi­nus six and mi­nus seven de­grees,” he says. “Frost dries the ground out. “We’ve lost a lot of shrubs and trees be­cause of that and this year isn’t much bet­ter.”

For those try­ing to main­tain their trees and shrubs in the dry, Peter says drip wa­ter­ing over an ex­tended pe­riod is the way to go.

“The only thing to do is to put a hose next to the tree and have it on a fast drip and leave it for six to seven hours,” he says.

“The water goes in way deep rather than hand-wa­ter­ing a cou­ple of times a week.

“It’s much bet­ter to give it a very good soak once a week.”

Given the weather con­di­tions don’t look like im­prov­ing any­time soon, it may be worth in­stalling an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem set on timers to main­tain a wa­ter­ing sched­ule.

Cot­tage in­dus­try

While many of us as­so­ciate coun­try gar­dens with cot­tage plants like daisies, fox­gloves and roses, Peter says they’re not the best choices when there’s so lit­tle rain. “They take a lot of water and they need it every day to keep look­ing good,” he says. “In­stead, go for shrubs and trees with var­i­ous te tex­tures. If you’re keen to add colou colour, choose flow­er­ing va­ri­eties suc such as plum and cherry bl blos­som trees, or de­cid­u­ous v va­ri­eties where the leaves change colour in au­tumn. While na­tive species lo­cal to the area are a great choice, exotic trees such as conifers of­ten cope well with the dry. And don’t for­get per­fume in the gar­den. “Per­fumed plants are great be­cause it’s good for the mind,” he says.

They’re also pop­u­lar with bees, which are look­ing for re­li­able food sources right now.

Mulch is a key weapon in Peter’s de­fence against water loss, although he says you should choose care­fully. “I like wood­chip,” he says. “You have to be care­ful with su­gar cane mulch be­cause it’s very fine. When you put it down, you have to water the ground first, then put the su­gar cane down and water it again be­cause it can blow away eas­ily. Wood­chips are coarse and they al­low the water to run straight through.”

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