Author: Kevin Burness Date Posted:20 October 2021
It is that time of year that heavy rain and storms are more common in some parts of Australia, so water capture, conservation and saving techniques are must learn for gardeners and lawnies!
The heat has definitely hit and while we are feeling it, you can be certain your plants and lawns are as well. In South East Queensland, it’s already over thirty degrees during the day combined with dry winds and crisp nights, it’s a challenging environment!
The rain we have experienced has been in short extreme bursts and damaging storms that aren’t ideal for soaking the soil and tend to run off lawns, particularly if they are sloped, before offering any benefits.
This blog provides some insights into watering, water capture, conservation and saving techniques. This information is great for those who don’t have town water and rely on tanks or want to start being more frugal when it comes to water usage.
Building soil up to absorb the rain
When it rains, we want our soil to absorb as much as possible. So, you need to build your soil up with organic matter, carbon and humus, this way it will act like a sponge, taking in and holding more water. To do this, compost, manures, Humic Acid as well as other sorts of organic garden matter can be used to improve the soil.
Finer matter is suitable for most people and for the average backyard, purchasing some compost and then adding to it overtime offers a great kickstart. You can top it off using Plant Doctor’s fertilisers and amendments, as they are packed with a variety of natural based ingredients that give plants a boost and help build and feed the soil. VolcaMin Zeolite in particular, is highly beneficial and is an excellent addition to potting blends and improving new planting areas.
Water capture, infiltration and storage
If you have a sloped block, like me, water capture is an important part of gardening. Try terraforming and shaping the garden beds to slow down any running water. I try to work with u-shaped or dog leg shaped gardens, where the open side is facing uphill to catch the water before gently overflowing. Sometimes I will stagger a few garden beds like this, so they spill from one to another down the hill.
In flat areas, I train water into areas and use plants that like a lot of water to keep as much moisture in my garden. Having hard clay and shale soil, it’s important to let the water in, so it penetrates the outer crust and reaches the soil. When digging in new plants, dig an extra-large hole, shape it into a bowl and then add organic matter. This will help improve the quality of the soil and encourage soil life that will burrow and make microscopic pathways to create that sponge effect and enable water to infiltrate and penetrate effectively.
If you have sandy soil, the same process applies, but it’s more about slowing the water down with thick organic matter so it doesn’t pass through the sand too fast. On lawn areas, new gardens or after rejuvenating an old garden bed, Nature’s Soil Wetter will break the surface tension of the soil and penetrate and improve hydrophobic soils.
Hydrophobic prone soils include sand, poor quality soil, areas under trees that leech tannins or oils and compacted and baron soils. If hydrophobic soil is the problem, water will quickly roll off the soil leaving it dry or passing down cracks or pathways and leaving most of the soil dry. A good spray, drenching or soil wetter is a good start to breaking up the surface tension and oils.
Adding a layer of mulch will help keep the soil where it’s meant to be, especially in heavy rain and it will also act as a blanket, preventing soil from being cooking in the sun and keeping the moisture in. Bottom line is, don’t underestimate mulch! Living green mulches or cover crops are great to build soil life and biodiversity. For lawns, cut your lawn higher, rather than close to the ground, leaving more leaf coverage to protect the soil.
Mulches such as hay, straw and grass are great for soil improvement as they break down fast and improve the soil structure and microbiome. These are ideal for using in veggie and herb gardens, which can be a bit greedy on the soil nutrients, it’s also easier to work these finer mulches around delicate plants.
For larger native and tropical gardens, use chunky wood or bark mulches. A good chunky uneven mulch leaves plenty of gaps and pockets for water to penetrate through quickly and it doesn’t mat up too easily. Some wood chips that are very uniformed and a bit finer, tend to bind together and form a matted surface, preventing water from passing through to the soil. A good deep layer of chunky mulch will still prevent weeds and insulate the soil from extreme conditions but should also let water and fine nutrient particles through to the soil level quickly.
Watering and cultural practices.
If and when we do have to water, we want to try our best to use it efficiently and not waste any. Deep infrequent watering is great and training plants to grow deep roots and withstand challenges in between watering is ideal. It’s preferable to water in the morning and through the day in the shadier parts of the garden and avoid watering in direct heat or windy conditions so as not to waste water. Avoid watering late afternoon or evening in humid regions, as the wet leaves and soil can increase disease issues.
There’s no ideal length of time for the amount of water, but it will depend on your local factors, including soil quality, weather conditions and plant selection. Depending on the plants, look for clues that they may need water. Different plants show different signs but curling leaves or wilting is a giveaway. Check the soil moisture in pots and gardens by scraping back a bit of mulch. It’s also a good habit to check the soil in new areas, this way you can learn how the soil holds up in different conditions.
There are always nuances and caveats to these basic rules though.
New plants have mostly had it easy, as they have been living it up in a nursey with luxury water and shade and soft potting mix to grow in, but this does mean new plants are not sun hardened and a little more delicate. Most will need a good establishment time with more frequent watering after a stressful planting out. Plant Doctor’s Seaweed Secrets will help these plants develop into their new surroundings, but most will still require regular watering in the beginning and then you can taper off as they become stronger and their roots find the soil and moisture.
Remember different plants have different needs!
Tropical plants like some humidity however, during spring, many will struggle as the days are hot, but the humidity hasn’t increased yet. A light mist and spray in between deep watering will help freshen up the leaves and cool things down on hotter days.
Plant selection is also a factor of saving water, this is where cacti, succulents or hardy native species are great. These plants are ideal for places that are drier than the rest of the garden or further from the tap.
Ultimately, we want our gardens to thrive with the least amount of water possible. It’s my opinion that good gardeners should try to work with nature and the environment as much as possible and use water effectively.
I'm just an experienced and awesome gardener sharing my own personal opinions. These are all my personal approaches and processes I use in my gardens. I’d like to help guide others to better gardening practices through my experience and encourage more successful gardening in our communities.
First time owning lawn. Gave the team at plant doctor a ring and they supplied me with a wealth of information. Products turned up quickly.
Will definitely be getting more 8 weeks difference been using stimulizer, activ8mate, soil wetter, seaweed secrets and champion fertiliser. Was super fast delivery.
Amazing products!! The results are excellent and the prices are even better! Postage was only 2 days as well. Highly recommended!
Only have great things to say about Plant Doctor. Organic products and a competitive price, fast shipping and easy to contact with questions. Have had great results with the special mix for lawns, and my plants (indoor and outdoor) love the seaweed secrets. I am excited to test out some of the animal products soon!