Australia is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts the country has ever seen. According to The Bureau of Meteorology's most recent drought report, it was the driest July across the nation since 2002. Parts of New South Wales and Queensland have been battling the effects of drought for the past seven years. In fact, 98 per cent of New South Wales and around two-thirds of Queensland is in drought or is drought-affected.
On top of that, the weather is already starting to warm up in parts of Australia, and summer will soon be well on the way. It pays to be prepared and know how to care for your little green patch of heaven when water is scarce and sunshine is plentiful.
Check if your soil is absorbing water
Sometimes a waxy layer that repels water can develop on top of soil and potting mix. Other times, soil becomes hydrophobic when it’s dry for extended periods of time, resulting in a water-repellant soil. Test your soil by putting a handful of dry soil and in a dish. Make a well in the top and then pour on some water. If the soil is hydrophobic, the water will pool on top. If it absorbs quickly then you’re good to go. Use a wetting agent for soil that’s dry, as a wetting agent will make the most of any rain or watering by allowing water to penetrate the soil effectively.
Mulch will reduce the amount of moisture that is lost from soil or potting mix by evaporation on hot or windy days, so throw down a generous layer over your garden beds, pots and vegie patches.
Water in the morning
The best time of the day to water your garden when temperatures are high and the weather is dry is in the morning. It helps hydrate and prepare plants for the weather, and is the time of the day when the least evaporation will occur.
Stop fertilising your garden
If you apply fertilizers (organic or synthetic), it's helpful to stop at the onset of a drought. Fertilizers encourage plant growth; the more a plant grows, the more moisture it needs. If fertiliser salts build up in your soil because they're not naturally leaching out with rain or irrigation, they can build up and burn plant roots, causing further damage.
Thoroughly weed your garden
If your garden is experiencing especially dry conditions the very first thing you should do is remove every single weed growing in your garden, as they sap valuable moisture from the soil.
If you live in a part of Australia that frequently experiences dry conditions, try planting varieties that will thrive in those conditions, rather than babysitting less robust plants throughout the dry spell.
- Herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano.
- Natives like banksias, tea tree, kangaroo paw, westringia and bottlebrush.
- Succulents like mother-in-law's tongue, yucca, aloes, sedum and agave.
- Flowering plants like lavender, many salvias, rhaphiolepis, proteas and bougainvillea.
- Grey foliage plants like lamb's ear, santolina and Senecio 'Silver Dust'.
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