Watering your Plants
Even though Austraflora plants have been selected to handle Australia’s tough dry conditions it’s vital that regular water is applied during a plants establishment, most plants in the range once established will survive on what rainfall we do get, although any extra watering that could be provided through the summer months do help.
It’s important when watering your plants to make heavier applications of water less frequently. This allows the water to penetrate deep into the soil structure and therefore sending the root system down further, creating a better root structure deeper underground where soil conditions are cooler minimising moisture loss from the plant.
The same can be done for pot plants ensuring when you do water that you completely saturate the entire root system. Containerised plant soil temperatures can climb quite high during summer months so ensuring thorough watering when you do get the opportunity will give best results all round.
Less frequent but heavier watering also trains the plant to be less reliant on regular water applications therefore hardening your plants to our environment.
It is easy, with so much information readily available, to create and retain a lovely garden, knowing you have plants which will attract and assist our native fauna, and at the same time reducing the demand on that essence of life, water.
Mulching is Essential
You can greatly reduce the amount of watering required by containerized plants firstly by using a top quality potting mix, and secondly by mulching the surface of each pot with a 2cm layer of washed river sand. Heat bounces off this rather than being absorbed by the dark potting mix.
The effect is that less surface moisture is lost, there is less stress on surface roots because the soil temperature is lower, and less water is needed, all adding up to a saving of this precious commodity.
You can achieve the same effect for plants in garden beds, using a range of mulch materials.
Choose from light coloured gravels, sand, straw, shredded tree clippings or raked up dried & fallen leaves (do not use fresh grass, however), all of which will give excellent results when applied 10 to 15 cm thick ensuring you allow breathing space around the stem of the plant.
But what you do beneath the mulch is even more important.
Soil Preparation is Vital to Success
When you buy a plant from the nursery it will be sitting in pot perhaps 15-18cm (6-7”) deep. In this pot will be a top quality potting medium. The quality of the soil in the garden beds you will be planting into should be a macro version of the single pot.
That is, 15-18cm minimum of top quality material, but not just dumped on top of a clay base. It should be well blended through that base, with any clay lumps being broken up and thoroughly forked over, to allow plant roots access to the nutrients they seek. The inclusion of well composted humus applies also if you have sandy soils that are low in natural ‘body’. Sandy soils with low humus levels have a bad habit of repelling water on the surface.
Diligent gardeners may be deceived into thinking that if the surface is wet, then moisture is penetrating to the roots. The easy way to check after you finish watering is to just dig lightly into the soil. You will soon see how far it has penetrated. In some cases, wetting agents can solve this problem. But more humus may be the real answer to this problem. If you cannot justify the cost of a complete garden rebuild with potting medium, keep an eye out for old stable litter. Just be sure that it has weathered for at least three months so that most of the urea has leached out. Not only is such material great to condition soils (whether clay or sand), it is also an effective mulch.