Coastal gardening can be challenging, but a little research and advice from your local garden centre staff will go a long way in creating a successful garden. There are several factors that need to be considered before selecting your plants.
Coastal Soil Type
No matter where you live, knowing your soil type is a key ingredient to successful gardening.
Many coastal areas have sandy soils with little water holding capacity. In this case, improving the soil with composted organic matter and using products with water holding properties like water crystals will help your plants to grow and flourish.
On the other hand, some coastal areas have heavy clay soils. If you’re unsure, dig a hole somewhere in the garden – about the size of a bucket – fill it with water and see if it drains away within a reasonable time. If it doesn’t, you probably have a clay soil and will need to treat it with gypsum. The addition of composted organic matter, such as 5 IN 1 Organic Fertiliser, can also help in ‘opening up’ the soil and allowing for root penetration.
If your soil has rocky characteristics, you might need to find areas to plant amongst the rocks or consider building up the garden to provide your plants with sufficient soil for root growth. Where this is not possible, the use of a potted garden might be the answer.
No matter what your soil type, it’s always a good idea to have a pH test done. This will be a great help to determine remedial action if necessary and appropriate plant selection.
Know Your Coastal Climate
Many coastal areas are subjected to moderate to strong winds for a considerable proportion of the year. In this situation, the choice of plant is imperative. Best not to choose plants with large soft leaves which will be constantly torn by the wind. Look for plants with small, tough leaves and flowers that are not easily damaged by wind.
If you are very close to the sea, you may need to consider the effect of saltwater spray or even a salt-laden atmosphere and find plants not affected. Look for plants that grow naturally in seaside positions such as some banksias, pandanus and coastal grasses.
Search out sheltered spots for plants more susceptible to damage or create sheltered areas – courtyards, pergolas or fenced areas, or screen with suitable hedging plants, for your special treasured plants.
Know Your Plants
Not all plants will grow and flourish everywhere. Tropical plants are more suitable to the tropics and alpine plants more suitable to colder regions. Humidity and seasonal weather variations also affect many plants. Mediterranean plants grow naturally in areas of cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. If you plant these in areas of high summer rainfall and dry winters they are likely to suffer. Plants like lavender thrive in the sub-tropics during periods of low rainfall but when wet, humid summers return, they’ll suffer and possibly die. Trying to emulate a plant’s native habitat is one way of creating a happy, healthy garden. Be especially cautious with plants originating from different areas of Australia as our country has many different climatic zones. For example, you may experience difficulty trying to grow plants native to Western Australian on the northeastern seaboard. Some recent plant developments have led to the grafting of desirable species from other regions onto local rootstock to overcome this problem.
Wherever you live, be it coastal or inland, if you address these three aspects, you’re sure to have a garden that will give you endless pleasure.
Best coastal plants
Here are just a few suggestions for the basic levels of planting. You should check with your local garden centre about the suitability of any plant to your region.
Carpobrotus (Pig Face)
Mid level – Compact
Westringia (Coastal Rosemary)
Acmena ‘Allyns Magic’,
Michelia figo such as Michelia ‘Coco’