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Protecting gardens from drought or flooding in Australia

But as many Australians know, we prepare for all varying weather events which may eventuate during out four seasons. Here are some tips to flood or drought proof your garden.

 

Start with improving the soil

Garden plants will tolerate extreme fluctuations in weather better if the soil is healthy and full of rich composted nutrients with a free draining, open structure. Improve the soil at the beginning of Summer with good quality organic matter, such as 5 IN 1 Organic Fertiliser. This will improve any soil type, helping to condition it and increase water holding capacity but allowing free drainage. It is easier to improve the soil before planting, but soil can also be improved on established gardens by applying a layer of fertiliser over the soil under mulch.

During long dry spells of hot weather, soils can become hard and compacted making the needed water from Summer rain either pool on the surface of the soil or run off immediately, both not allowing the water to penetrate into the soil and to the roots. This is called Dry-out. A good test to see if your soil is repelling water is to give it a good watering and then dig into the soil to a depth of about 3–5cm. If the soil at that depth is still dry and has not become damp, an application of Searles Penetraide would be beneficial. Searles Advanced Penetraide Re-Wetting Granules improves water penetration by letting the water soak into the soil greatly increasing water holding capacity and maximising the amount of water that can be held in the soil.

Once Searles Penetraide has been applied, its benefits will last for up to 12 months. Every time you water, the water will soak straight into the soil, reducing runoff and wastage. By allowing the water to penetrate deep into the soil, plants will be able to utilise the water that is stored and protected in the soil, thus enhancing plant growth with less water. The benefits of Searles Penetraide are improved plant growth with far less water.

A cover up

Mulching is essential in our hot climate, especially from Spring through to Autumn, but it is also important to protect the soil structure in times of flooding. Mulch greatly reduces water loss from evaporation, keeping the water in the soil longer. As well as this, mulch helps to insulate the soil, keeping the soil cooler where the plant roots are. This helps to improve plant growth and reduce stress to the plants. Top up your Summer gardens with a fresh layer of mulch. Be careful not to apply too thickly as the water won’t be able to penetrate the mulch layer.

Watering in dry weather

The basic photosynthesis principle applies, the hotter and drier the weather the more your plant will lose water in evaporation and the more moisture uptake from your roots. So on very dry, hot days water more often and deeply. If the forecast is for a deluge of rain, turn off your auto irrigation system.

Some golden rules of watering:

1. When watering, give long, deep, thorough soaking on an occasional basis in preference to regular, light watering. By watering deeply, the water penetrates deeper into the soil, where it is more protected from the heat of the sun and from evaporation from the soil surface. This will also encourage plant roots to grow deeper into the soil which will help protect the roots from drying out too quickly, protect them from extremes of temperature and also help anchor the plant more effectively.

2. Water very early in the morning or at night. Avoid watering during the day. By watering when the sun is down, the water has the best chance to soak into the soil before it is lost to evaporation. Avoid using a sprinkler; try to apply water directly onto the soil around the plants if possible. The use of micro-irrigation and dripper systems will dramatically reduce water usage and deliver it right where it is needed.

If you follow these easy steps to wise water management, you will find that you can successfully create a living oasis in dry times with minimal effort.

Protect your garden from stormy weather

Summer brings many sun-filled days of outdoor activities in the garden and it also brings stormy afternoon weather. Here are some simple tips to help protect your garden plants from the stormy weather.

Let it drain Check your plants’ soil has adequate drainage. Heavy rain can waterlog pot plants causing them to drown if their drainage is poor. Ensure excess water can drain away from garden beds.

Protect from winds Summer storms bring gusty winds. Secure taller potted plants or vulnerable trees and shrubs by tying them to a strong support such as stakes or posts.

Protect from hail If your plants are mobile move them to a sheltered area to protect them from hail and strong winds. Stems can be bruised and many leaves lost from the impact of hail. To aid recovery, fertilise promptly after hail event with Searles Seamax Fish & Kelp to provide plants with rich nutrients and a plant tonic to stimulate their recovery.

How to aid garden recovery after a flood

As the floodwaters recede what do gardeners do to bring their beloved garden plants back to their old flourishing self?

Flooding tends to leach out nutrients from the soil. After the rains subside, wait until the soil completely dries out and the water has drained. Then it is a wait-and-see what plants naturally bounce back. Some plants may even revel in all the water. After the water has drained, the soil will benefit from a layer of well-composted manure or compost to bring back the nutrients leached out. Searles 5 IN 1 Fertiliser is an excellent composted fertiliser, complete with a balanced nutrient ratio to replenish the soil and help plants flourish again.

What about my lawns

Keep lawn grass height a little taller in Summer. This will provide many benefits for the Summer weather conditions.

Research shows constant mowing at a low setting over a long period of time will weaken the grass stem and root structure. Shorter grass stems will correspondingly result in shorter roots that are living closer to the soil surface and more vulnerable to the temperature conditions. Keeping your grass stems longer will also choke the weeds out and shade the roots to protect from the harsh summer rays providing a protective umbrella. It will also keep the soil cooler, locking in some of the moisture from the topsoil after watering. During times of flooding thick, healthy grass will help prevent soil wash out.

Keep the lawn height higher and you will have fewer weeds, deeper grassroots and a stronger more robust lawn.

Protecting pot plants

Well designed potting mix rich in composted nutrients and water holding properties will allow the water to drain properly from the mix in the rainy period and hold moisture for longer on dry, hot days. Choose a potting mix containing plenty of well composted nutrients and fertiliser and Penetraide, coir and water crystals for excellent water holding capacity. Searles Platinum Potting Mix is an excellent potting mix containing all of these ingredients including an 18 month fertiliser.

Remember to move pot plants during Summer to a more protected location in extremely hot weather or approaching thunderstorms and heavy winds.

 

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