Blue Mountains News
Blue Mountain Gardening Tips for an El Nino Summer
Glenbrook Native Plant Nursery and Reserve volunteers share their advice on how to help native plants thrive and, in turn, cool down your home environment.
What to plant in summer
Choose native plants that are going to be the hardiest and most drought resistant.
A good hint is to walk around your area, including the local bush, and see what plants appear happy and not under stress. Suggested plants include:
- Paper daisies
- Kunzea ambigua
- Callistemon (bottlebrush)
If you are planting in summer, it’s a good idea to soak the plant first in a bucket of tonic e.g. well-diluted seaweed solution. Do this for at least 10 minutes until all the bubbles have come out of the plant pot. After digging the hole for the plant, pour the bucket of water into the hole and let it soak down.
When planting, create a little saucer shape/indentation around the stem, rather than having the soil level. This will help keep the water from flowing away. After planting, water it again and sprinkle a bit of slow-release native fertiliser. Put mulch on top, but keep it away from the stem of the plant.
Positioning and shade
A northerly aspect is ideal. Try to avoid planting in spots that receive the full force of the westerly sun which is incredibly harsh. If you have no option and that’s the way your garden is oriented, shade the new plant. You can use an old umbrella or, if you’re trimming a shrub, poke the trimmings into the ground next to the plant so it’s getting some shade. You can also net with a bit of shade cloth, over and around the plant. You don’t have to buy expensive things; just use anything you’ve got at home, including fallen tree branches.
Even natives may need regular watering in summer. Once a week is a good idea until the plants are established, because watering more often would result in the plant developing shallow roots. Deep root systems are better able to withstand drought conditions and watering less often makes the plant send down roots looking for water. Choose cooler parts of the day to water e.g. early morning or late afternoon, to avoid evaporation.
For new plants and those under stress, a slow soak is best. Put the hose on a tiny trickle and leave it under the plant. If you see the water running off, you’ve got the hose on too hard. Another option is to set up a drip irrigation system that minimises water waste and evaporation.
Soil wetters and mulch
If your garden is very dry, using a ‘soil wetter’ can help the soil absorb and retain water. A natural non-chemical option is agar agar, a thickening agent, as recommended by conservationist and horticulturist Jerry Coleby-Williams on ABC’s Gardening Australia.
Mulch also helps support the soil, reduces evaporation, and allows the water to slowly seep down. It breaks down in the long term, providing nutrients. Don’t pile the mulch up around the stem or trunk because it can cause it to rot; leave a bit of space.
You can get more tips on helping your garden thrive over summer at here
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