Gardening Australia Factsheet

Gardening Australia Factsheet

Drought Proofing your Garden Factsheet - Gardening Australia - ABC

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Drought Proofing your Garden

Presenter: Sophie Thomson [17/09/2005]

Sophie visits a “drought proof” garden in the Adelaide Hills.

This Mount Osmond Garden in the Adelaide Hills is actually “drought proof”. Last year it survived only on rainfall, and received no summer watering despite the heat. It's a garden designed with the environment and water restrictions in mind. It is evidence of a new garden style emerging in Australia - a style that combines environmental sustainability with colour, interest, texture and form.

The most important principle of sustainable, drought proof, gardening is to know your climate and choose appropriate plants. This garden at Mount Osmond uses plants to suit South Australia's Mediterranean climate. These plants thrive in cool, wet winters, long, hot dry summers and a short intermediate spring and autumn.

Although many indigenous plants need little or no water, there are also exotic species that thrive under the same conditions. They are plants that come from areas such as the Mediterranean, California, Mexico and the Western Cape Province of South Africa - places with a climate comparable to ours. By choosing plants from these regions you know you will be drought proofing your garden.

Some to include are: Yucca elephantipes from Central America, Euphorbia wulfenii, a gorgeous plant from the Mediterranean, and Buxus sempervirens, the common hedging box, also from the Mediterranean. Other favourites are: Echium fastuosum, called Pride of Madeira, from the Canary Islands, and Helichrysum petiolare 'Moonlight', from South Africa.

Finally for architectural value in the garden, or in a pot, try Agave Americana, from Mexico. It has stunning foliage, but watch its treacherous spikes.

Once suitable plants are selected those with similar water requirements should be grouped together in the garden. Try for a plan where a quarter of the garden needs watering, half the garden needs minimal watering and a quarter can survive on rainfall. This means there is no over watering plants which do not need as much water as their neighbours.

The garden we filmed contains many succulents which look stunning, both in pots and in the ground. They add a wonderful architectural element to an already stunning garden.

As well as being drought proof, the garden is also well designed. It has good framework, evergreen features, vertical accents, sculpture, mosaics, and plenty of places to sit and rest.

Another step towards drought proofing a garden is to feed plants regularly to keep them strong and healthy. Adding organic fertiliser and compost to the soil improves soil structure and also helps its water holding capacity.

The last step to drought proofing your garden is to apply a generous layer of mulch. Mulch suppresses weeds and weed seed germination but most importantly stops the soil drying out. It can cut down watering by about 50 percent because it keeps the soil moist. Try organic based mulch, such as pea straw, because as it breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil. But gravel or pebbles are also effective mulches.

Drought proof gardening means thinking about where we live, choosing appropriate plants and designing gardens that are sensitive to the environment. The results are drought tolerant plants that beat the heat and water restrictions, and a garden that looks fantastic.


© 2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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