So far January has been a trying time for Mountains residents. We have not only been dealing with bushfires and the accompanying smoke, but also drought conditions which resulted in Level 2 water restrictions coming into place in December. Let's hope we get some decent rain over the next few months to help us all. Here are some tips to help your beloved gardens during this difficult time.
There are many ways that you can help your plants survive the reduced water usage in your garden, using mulches, adding lots of moisture-holding organic matter into the soil, watering your garden in the cool of the day, applying specialised sprays over leaves to reduce water loss and using soil wetting agents to assist water penetration down into the soil where it's needed. Speak to your local friendly nursery who can help you with the differing options available.
This is also a good time to be thinking about using plants in your garden that are more tolerant of dry conditions so you can still have a great looking garden even during times of drought and water restrictions. Drought tolerant plants will still need an occasional good deep drink and it is also important to water any new plants regularly until they're established. Always check the plant's label which will usually indicate whether the plant will cope with dry conditions, and if you visit your local nursery (who usually are a wealth of local knowledge), they can advise you on what plants work well in your area. Here is a list of some drought tolerant plants to help get you started.
Natives such as acacia (wattles), banksia, bottlebrush, dianella, lomandra, grevillea, correa, eucalyptus, and lilly pillies are great choices. Ornamentals such as geranium, lavender, gazania, nandina, salvia, liriope, protea and euphorbia can thrive in drought conditions. Succulents and cacti are always a great choice as they are ideally suited to dry conditions, having developed clever ways to store water and minimise moisture loss. There is a huge variety of colourful succulents and cacti that are tough and hardy. There are annuals that also cope well with the hot and dry weather with plants such as portulaca and vinca's holding their own whilst giving a colourful display.
There are still jobs that need doing in the January garden. If your roses are looking a bit leggy and sparse it's a sign that your roses need a prune. January pruning of roses refreshes and reinvigorates the plants and they will respond in a matter of weeks by putting on new growth and give you another flush of flowers. Rose pruning is easy, just trim off about one-third of the bush and also remove any dead or thin stems. After pruning, bin all of the leaves and stems which helps to reduce the spread of disease, then apply a complete rose food or a mix of three parts blood and bone and one part potash around each plant. Roses are heavy feeders so this is important to encourage more flowers. Then spread a layer of mulch such as sugar cane or pea straw around the root zone. This helps keep the soil moist and protects the top soil from the baking sun. Feed hungry hibiscus, passionfruit, dipladenia and tomatoes with a fertiliser high in potassium and feed palms, ferns and salad greens with seaweed, worm juice or fish emulsion.
- Column supplied by Glenbrook Village Nursery