January and February can be so incredibly harsh on the garden. The heat and lack of rainfall often force Australia into water restrictions, and this has a knock-on effect on our gardens. There are various ways to lessen the blow of the heat and reduced water usage and all of them are easy and achievable.
- Improve your soil
The first step is to improve your soil by adding in some Richgro compost as this helps the soil to hold on to water and nutrients. Compost is excellent for binding sandy soils together and it helps break up clay soils by bringing in worms. Adding manures such as Richgro Cow Manure or even Mushroom Compost are a great way to boost sandy soils as it only increases the water and nutrient holding capacity.
- Use a soil wetter
Ensuring your soil gets a dose of Richgro EZI-WET guarantees absorption of water even if your soil does not exhibit signs of hydrophobia. An application is a good way to make sure water moves effectively through the soil, wetting a larger area and therefore drying out slower.
Richgro Pine Bark Mulch is the king of the drought tolerant garden as it slows water into the ground, insulates the soil, helps lock moisture into the soil profile, and it makes the garden look tidier too. I apply Richgro Pine Bark Mulch to a depth of 75mm as this organic mulch slowly breaks down which helps to improve the soil as well. The depth is important as any thicker, the water struggles to get into the soil and any less, evaporation is increased dramatically.
- Water correctly at the right time
When it comes to watering, I find that in late afternoon or evening watering sessions are best as it means that less water is lost to evaporation during the day. The downside of this style of watering is that it can lead to fungal problems. Therefore, I recommend to aim the flow of water at the ground and try not to wet the leaves of the plants. I also work on drought proofing my garden throughout the year by watering less often, but with larger quantities of water. This forces the plant’s roots to grow deep into the soil where it is cooler and more insulated. When water restrictions come in, your plants are used to the routine of staggered watering and stress out much less.
- Feed your plants
I also feed my plants with Richgro Black Marvel Liquid throughout the year so that they have all the nutrients they need to be vigorous and strong, as a healthy plant is much more drought tolerant than one that is searching for food. It is not ideal to feed your plants if they are heat stressed as the nutrients signal growth to occur rather than focus on water uptake. Therefore, only feed when your plants are not dropping or withered.
- Don’t forget your potted plants
For my potted plants, I bring them all together in a shaded spot, grouping them so that it creates a mini micro-climate that holds humidity and I place them on drip trays to hold a bit of extra water. When I water, I fill up the drip trays as well, ensuring that I empty the tray once a week to prevent any mosquitoes from hatching.
Innovative hints and tips to use less water
- Wicking garden beds
Last year, I changed the way I grew my vegetables into wicking garden beds. Those have a reservoir beneath, that the plants can access. It draws water up through the soil in a wicking manner. I improved the soil with Richgro compost to aid water retention and mulched again with Richgro Pine Bark Mulch.
- Watering app
I sometimes fear technology in the garden as I feel it takes away the romanticism of getting to know your garden however, there is an App that works with your watering system that reviews various other weather apps and decides how much water your garden requires – perfect in times of drought or concerns of using too much water.
- Slow-release watering bottles
If technology is too much for you it’s easy to make up some slow-release watering bottles. Simply recycle old plastic bottles or empty wine bottles from the festive period by filling them with water and making a small hole in the cap or cork. Turn them upside down and thrust them into the soil to slowly drip the contents out – perfect for between longer soaks if your plants get desperate.