Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH HE­LEN

LIKE many en­thu­si­as­tic gar­den­ers, when we moved to our present home we en­thu­si­as­ti­cally be­gan to ren­o­vate the ex­ist­ing garden and to plant many Aus­tralian plants.

Out came plants be­yond their use-by date, and in went banksias, gre­vil­leas and more.

Many of our new plants in one par­tic­u­lar garden bed were dead in less than a year. Leaves yel­lowed, and al­most overnight, some died. In other parts of our garden most plants thrived. The rea­son for the deaths in that one par­tic­u­lar garden bed lay in the his­tory of the soil.

We re­called that there had been roses that were re­planted in a friend’s garden.

We made an ed­u­cated guess as to what fer­tilis­ers had been ap­plied over the years. Mys­tery solved. Most fer­tilis­ers avail­able com­mer­cially con­tain a higher amount of phos­pho­rus than some Aus­tralian plants can man­age.

These par­tic­u­lar plants have evolved with spe­cialised root sys­tems which can ex­tract suf­fi­cient phos­pho­rus for the needs of the plant.

They orig­i­nate from ar­eas with poor soils which con­tain very low amounts of phos­pho­rus.

These spe­cialised roots (called pro­teoid roots) are found in plants such as banksias, gre­vil­leas and hakeas. This group of plants be­long to the Proteaceae fam­ily. They still re­quire small amounts of phos­pho­rus to grow well, they just don’t need too much.

Many Aus­tralian plants are not sus­cep­ti­ble to ex­ces­sive amounts of phos­pho­rus, but it’s wise to choose low phos­pho­rus slow-re­lease fer­tilis­ers.

Check the NPK anal­y­sis - the P level should be three per cent or less.

If you are es­tab­lish­ing a new Aus­tralian plants garden where there may have pre­vi­ously been plants that were reg­u­larly fer­tilised, it’s a good idea to se­lect plants that are not phos­pho­rus-sen­si­tive.

There is plenty of choice – a few sug­ges­tions are na­tive peas, daisies, brachy­chi­tons, kan­ga­roo paws, er­e­mophi­las, bot­tle­brushes, cor­reas, croweas, small eu­ca­lypts, wat­tles, tea trees, westringias.

CHECK YOUR SOIL: Many Aus­tralian plants are not sen­si­tive to phos­pho­rus.

DIS­TINC­TIVE PLANT: Use a low-phos­pho­rus fer­tiliser on banksias.

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