Setting Up A Waterwise Garden - Camellias, Australia
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Setting Up A Waterwise Garden - Camellias, Australia

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Setting Up A Waterwise Garden - Camellias, Australia

Setting Up A Waterwise Garden - Camellias, Australia

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Setting Up A Waterwise Garden - Camellias, Australia Setting Up A Waterwise Garden - Camellias, Australia Document Transcript

  • SETTING UP A WATERWISE GARDEN By Barry Johnson © GENESIS - First - Loose the dunny "Or is it a jungle Jim?"WHERE DOES IT ALL BEGIN?A bit like the Martin Luther King principle. You have a dream and that is of a greatgarden. Lets not turn the dream into a nightmare by heading down the wrong gardenpath in the first place.The first thing to consider is; Do you want to be a slave to the garden I create? Fair betthe answer will be not on your nelly.Common sense has a lot to do with our garden setup. Firstly, we live in hot, dry, Australiaand not the lush, verdant regions of Europe etc. Does this mean we better think aboutplanting cactus gardens? If you want one, go ahead but, definitely not for me.I believe that you can still grow all manner of exotic plants to integrate with your natives ifthats what you want. As a landscaper I contend that these plants can be harmoniouslyblended throughout the garden if they are tastefully and aspectually applied. Native & hardy plants The exotic gardenI
  • Dry climate-Mediterranean Hamburger with the lotI am still being called upon to create exotic gardens because,that is what many peoplestill want. Its just that a good landscapers interpretation of exotic and his adaptationtalents should have evolved to take into account the climatic times thrust upon us. At anyrate, the days of open slather gardens of excess are now behind us and our collectiveconsciousness in now towards waterwise, low maintenance approaches.START BY BUILDING THE ARKIn actual fact the real starting place is the foundation for the ark and in thecase of a waterwise garden, its the soil itself. With the right advice/helpyou need to carefully consider the soil structure and drainage of theintended garden. I believe that if you get this important infrastructuraldetail right, your garden should be right for life, with the right aftercare ofcourse. Firstly, lets deal with soil structure by asking yourself the question; “What type of soil to I currently have?” Light, medium or heavy ie. sandy, medium/loamy, clay, shale, acid alkaline etc. Correlate this question with; “How do I improve its structural and drainage capabilities?” Solutions like the incorporation of organic compost and quality soils; raising beds and applying gypsum /compost to clay soils etc. are factors to be considered. In flat, poorly drained sites and ones involving clay soils, drainage is vitally important. The implementation of agi/french and grate drains should be investigated and employed However, these should be installed by experts in the field and excess water should be diverted to the stormwater outlets and not into neighbouring properties or, out into the street. These Agi drain practices only sour neighbourhood relationships or, make you look like a water wally even if your not.
  • OOPS! I MISSED THAT BITWhat happens if youve got an established garden and havent got good soil structure?You may have inherited, created or, just have a tired, hungry, dry garden. Although it isdifficult to completely re-structure the existing soil when you have a fully planted out established garden, it is not impossible to greatly improve its lot over the longer term.. The first thing I have observed over the preceding 10 year drought is that, our soil have become quite hydrophobic ie.Waterproof. The liberal application of wetting agents such as Saturaid assist in reversing this phenomenon. This may require a number of applications to be affective and this is especially important on sloping blocks.Highly mounded or, domed garden beds are by design, highlyinefficient at retaining moisture and allowing water penetrationas, the water travels sideways as soon as it hits the ground. As isthe case with new garden beds, the incorporation of a blanket ofquality, water conserving mulch and its underlying breakdownprocess will, over time, improve the structure and micro-bioticactivity in your soil. Notice I didnt use the commonly used term,water-retaining mulches. Refer to mulches chapter for myqualification.OTHER ELEMENTS OF WATERWISE DESIGNSo youve set up the garden beds and youre standing back admiring all your hard workand thinking like Peggy Lee,”Is that all there is?” The short answer is NO. What aboutplantscaping and vital ingredient number one, the need for adequate watering. And dontforget the possibly hitherto great unknown, on-going maintenance issues. Im going topresume you are only going to consider highly efficient drip watering systems andpossibly supplementary rainwater tanks and grey water. As drip watering systems haveto be gridded out to water your existing plantscaping design, lets look at some designelements and then move on to watering requirements.THE FUN BITThe real fun and exciting bit is obviously going to the nursery and running around fillingup those trolleys with all manner of plants. Before you do this you need to have a basicplantscape plan to work with. Things to consider here are plants for sun, shade, size,shape, texture, flowers, foliage, evergreen, deciduous, seasonality, hardiness. One canonly presume you have designed you garden with plenty of curvy, sweeping garden bedsand a minimum of lawn.
  • Foliage contrasts Colours & textures Doesnt do it for meThis will not only give your garden beds/lawns a much more interesting shape but, willalso give you depths of planting so that, you can employ the full three levels ofplantscaping, upper, intermediate and lower. Todays lawn choices should be restrictedto drought-tolerant, self-repair cultivars such as buffalo, fine couch, native Microlena. Sunversus shade areas will further fine tune your lawn cultivar selection.I may be a heretic, but I still like to have some component of lawn for the cool, verdant,recreational elements they provide to the design. The demarcation between lawns andgarden beds also tends to accentuate the curves and flow of your garden design.Hopefully, the 50s-60s style of one metre wide garden a beds around the propertyboundary, with plants looking like little soldiers all in a row have long gone.A curvaceous design and its inherent changes of direction and depths of planting alsoprovides different climatic zones to allow you to grow a greater range of plants. Neither does this Well structured gardenIf the design of your home is modern and necessitates a more symmetrical approach todesign, still try to incorporate enough garden rooms to accommodate elements of thethree levels of planting.
  • One dimensional modern Modern with depths of planting Good small garden designWhen preparing to select your plants, have a look over your own fence at the general areaand ask “Is it predominately native or exotic?” Do you want to be simpatico with yoursurroundings or, disparate. If you have to have a more exotic garden still try to have aclever blend of exotic and native plants to integrate it into your local environment.Remember, a garden without native plants is a garden without soul.There are many misconceptions and myths about many exotic plants being droughttender and high water users. Of course, this criteria needs to be investigated and appliedto plants considered but, in many cases, the initial setup of of your water wise garden isthe key. Plants like roses and camellias have come through the 10 year drought withflying colours.All young plants, exotic and native need some T.L.C. to get them started. All living thingsdie quickly without water.With domestic gardens getting smaller, native plant options are being beautifullyaccommodated by the introduction of improved, dwarf, versions of otherwise largercultivars. However, when you consider plantscaping, always remember seasonality.You dont want your garden spectacular to peak at the one time eg.only flowering inspring. You should be able to walk around your garden any time of the year enjoyingmany points of interest. This doesnt have to be restricted to flowers, consider juxtaposingfoliage colours, textures and of course group plantings for impact. Acacia Cognata Green Mist Dwarf Eucalyptus Summer Red
  • STAYIN ALIVE So youve planted out the garden, think youve got it pretty right and youve shown it off to the neighbours. What do you reckon comes next? Yes, thats right. How do I keep it alive and stop it from getting the BeeGees? Here, you have four options if you count rain, Maybe, after the current 10 year drought, that should be three. Firstly, lets consider the one you constantly pay for; mains supply. Water is getting costly and prices are constantly beingratcheted up to deter you from using it. The days of gay abandon, throw water oneverything and everywhere spray systems are over. They are totally inefficient, affectedby wind, run-off and evaporation. I recommend that you install a self-containedinternalised drip watering system, gridded out to your plantscaping. These are designedto sit just under the mulch layer, which protects the drip lines from U.V. degradation.Existing spray systems usually can be retro-fitted with drip watering. Remember, someplants may need more drip runs than others. Other water sources to seriously consider are installation of rainwater tanks and grey water systems. These are many-faceted elements that need to be professionally addressed. As a general guide, first consider the following:- ● A small tank is only good for a cup of tea. (try thinking at least 4000 litres plus). ● Have you got a big enough roof catchment area to efficiently fill the tank (one millimetre of rain falling on one square metre of roof area provides about one litre of water). This also needs to be co-related to availability of delivery downpipes and a nearby stormwater drain for overflow dispersal. ● Can you get enough access to get the tank/s to the the site without having to hire a helicopter. Smalled tanks can be banked (interconnected) to give you larger overall storage capacity and easier tank access. ● Availability of mains power to facilitate the connection of a pressure pump to disperse the collected water (with a usable pressure flow) to the garden. Pushing water uphill will also necessitate a more powerful pump. ● Aesthetics of tank apropos garden visuals. Tanks can be horticulturaly screening.Greywater also has the following points to consider:- ● Is the disposition of the garden practical for the installation of greywater. ● Do you do enough washing to justify its purchase cost and use? eg. Big/small family. Top loaders use a lot more water than front loaders, therefore, more usable greywater. ● Is the laundry/bathroom accessible to pumping the grey to the garden? Remember, some greywater units rely on the washing machines internal pump to initially get the water to the temporary storage unit. Therefore, only short pumping distances are feasible.
  • ● Similar to rainwater tanks, Practicalities of disbursing and distributing greywater to garden. ● Use of correct greywater-friendly and ultimately garden-friendly detergents.In addition to the above, a twice annual application of a wetting agent to your gardenduring the warmer months with also maximise the benefits of any type of waterapplication.MULCHESI do not like to use the very fine grade mulches for the following reasons: ● Fine grade mulches can absorb moisture into their own structure hence, absorb and hold passing shower rain. ● Fine grade mulches can also act similar to blotting paper and pull moisture out of soil. ● Fine grade mulches can pack down, become less porous and therefore re-direct water off the garden. This is especially so on sloping garden beds. ● Fine grade mulches can harbour and promulgate destructive fungal spores. ● A mulch should also have good weed suppression qualities (remember low maintenance). Fine grade mulches actually provide a growing medium for weed seeds.So what do I recommend?For large area applications I would recommend 5-10 mm pine bark mulch because; ● They are from a non-native, farmed, renewable source. ● They are quite porous and do not hold too much moisture in their own right. ● They have a reasonably inert and neutral affect on the garden. ● They look evenly aesthetic ● They provide good weed suppression.This mulch still requires the addition of occasional organic fertilisers and a seasonaldressing of nitrogenous food such as blood and bone to replace some of the nitrogen lostin their breakdown process. Good gardeners should always fertilise their gardens, Imsure you dont perform very well without a feed either. Medium grade pine bark mulch Lucerne mulch
  • For smaller gardens, lucerne is a great mulch because; ● It actually provides between 18-25% of nitrogen in its breakdown process. ● It breathes well so, is very good for veggie, bulb and herbaceous plant areas. ● It doesnt last anywhere as long as pine bark but, does breakdown quicker and beautifully into the sub-soil. ● It too is a non-native, re-newable man-made resource. ●There are many other worthwhile, variations on the theme of mulches available so justcheck with your supplier or nursery but, dont let price be your only purchase criteria.Remember, if you cant do it yourself, engagethe services of an experienced professionallandscaperSimilarly, going from ground zero to having agarden will require ongoing maintenance byyou or, a garden maintenance professional.Dont forget to factor in future timeouts by you toappreciate and explore your private Idaho withyour family. Time for the hammock If you can get it