Late in June I attended a Waterwise Gardening Workshop in Caroline Springs. Helen, our presenter was very energetic, despite having a cold and shared so much valuable information. These are some of the notes I took
Because the Melton area has mainly a clay based soil, it should be declared a ‘no shovel zone’, because shovels compact the soil, preventing water, air and bugs from moving around creating a healthy soil. Instead invest in a garden fork and fork often! Growing plants in the appropriate spot, with the right soil pH, water, light and soil preparation can also give you a head start in creating a beautiful garden.
Soil Preparation (trifle recipe)
Sprinkle with gypsum – as thickly as you would a cake
Add a layer of compost
Cover with pea straw mulch about 5cm to 6cm deep
When the straw breaks down (in about 3 months) repeat the process
Plant out (best in Spring)
Water Saving Crystals
Not recommended as they have been known to contain the same chemicals as Agent Orange (a herbicide used during the Vietnam War). If you must use them try SaturAid or Munns Weta Lawn & Garden or look for products that are certified by the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) or The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA)
Wood chips can be used as a mulch in the garden but check they have not been produced from old growth forests and do not contain any harmful chemicals. They will break down – eventually.
Other alternatives that break down faster to help improve the soil structure and add nutrients include Lucern, pea, rice or barley straw (although barley straw can be rather weedy). All can be purchased from your local garden center or contact farmers in your area to enquire about bulk purchases. If you have the space, consider growing your own ‘mulch plot’.
Do not use fresh pine or eucalyptus (like I did when I had some trees pruned!) because they contain too much oil and will burn the plants and soil.
Keep mulch away from the base of plants to prevent collar rot. To make a guide to help with this, place an empty toilet roll (or similar) around small plants or for larger plants, cut a plastic pot down one side and place it around the plant. Apply mulch and remove the pot or toilet roll.
Consider living mulch such as Fanflower (scaevola species – pic right) for full sun or Native Violet (Viola species – pic left) for shade areas.
Mix 1 part white vinegar with 10 parts water and spray on to weeds. Use a funnel on the end of the spray bottle to prevent spray drift if required.
My mission in life at the moment is to get rid of the Clover (Oxitalis) from my garden beds. This plant starts life as a kind of bulb so manually pulling it out actually speeds the bulbs (don’t I know it!). Helen suggested cutting the weed down to ground level, repeatedly which will eventually exhaust the bulb so it will die. I did this for the first time a few weeks ago, so watch this space!
Check the NPK rating on the box. If anything is over 10% don’t buy it because it’s like giving your plants steroids! They will look fantastic for a short period of time and then die. Best to use fish or seaweed fertilizers in liquid form.
Plants take water up through their roots, not leaves, stems or trunks (despite what my Mum says!). Roots will grow towards the water so water the roots all around your plants so they have an even distribution to hold them solidly in the ground. Drip Irrigation Systems release water slowly (2, 4 or 8L of water per hour) and work well for larger plants, fruit trees, and shrubs. Adding a basic tap timer can avoid wastage from forgetting to turn the system off, or a more advanced system, including a rain sensor can water your garden at a regular times, when needed.
Even though water restrictions have been eased back in some areas of Melbourne, this Spring and Summer , I will not be using scheme water on my garden (in fact I haven’t for many years!) Instead I will rely on tank and greywater and follow the Stage 3a Water restriction guidelines:
Manually water plants between 6am and 8am.
Use automatic dripper systems between 12am and 2am
What steps will you take to save water in the garden?
By planting Australian natives, especially those native to your area, they are used to the conditions they will encounter and are more likely to survive. Australian natives are pretty resistant to insect attack and attract attract birds, who feed on the bugs. If you plant mainly Australian Native plants, and regularly fork, compost and mulch there probably won’t be a need to fertilize. Gray/silver leafed plants such as Emu Bush (Eremophila Nivea on left) and Snow in Summer (Cerastium Tomentosum) are usually very drought tolerant. The blue/purple flowers of Emu Bush will also attract butterflies. Or try planting Blue Chalk Sticks with some Kangaroo Paws for an interesting Spring/Summer display.
After you’ve spent time in the garden, call me to book your massage to help ease those aching muscles!