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Tips for helping your garden survive the dry spell

We’re now entering our driest time of the year, coming out of a warmer-than-average winter. So it’s time to take some measures to improve water retention in our gardens. There are a few simple things we can do to ensure that our plants get the maximum benefit from every drop of water that they get.

Because we rely solely on rain water at our place, I’m a real miser when it comes to water use. I always plant with water crystals, except when planting out short-term things in the vege garden. So all perennial herbs, shrubs, trees, and grasses – anything that is going to be in the ground for longer than a few months – gets a liberal dose of water crystals, soaked in seaweed solution to promote root development, at planting time.

Put the water crystals in a bucket and fill with water, including seaweed solution at half the normal dilution rate. Within half an hour or so, the crystals will have absorbed much of the water and be ready to use. Dig your hole a bit larger than normal, and throw a few handfuls of these jelly chunks in the bottom. Mix them into the soil at the bottom of the hole, then plant as normal.

Another of my favourite water saving products is Eco-Hydrate. It contains a blend of organic humectants (water attractants) and soil wetting agents, with added seaweed extract and plant growth stimulants. Eco-hydrate reduces water use (on average by 50%) and plant stress. It’s great for establishing seedlings, new plants and turf, as well as for potted plants.

We use Eco-hydrate in the nursery, soaking potted plants in the solution to protect them from water stress. It makes a big difference. I use it at home when planting, and repeate every few weeks in the vege garden during dry times.

I’ve started using a range of products which are based on 100% natural rock minerals, from a Queensland-based company called Earthlife. They contain over 60 mineral elements, more than 30 beneficial microbe and fungi strains, and are infused with enzymes, humates and organic acid complexes to improve soil. Garden Mate is 100% rock minerals, and Garden Delight is blend of Garden Mate with added composted humus. These products loosen clay soils and provide better moisture penetration, softer soil, improved nutrient availability and reduce the effects of waterlogging. When used in sandy soils, the products bind sand particles together which reduces nutrient leaching and improves moisture availability.

If you are establishing new plants in clay or sandy soil, it’s a really good idea to add a few handfuls of Garden Mate in the bottom of each hole to give your plants the best possible start.

Mulching is the other great water saver. Every garden bed and every pot should be protected with a layer of mulch. Organic sugar cane and lucerne are great for the vege garden, and tea tree is excellent for general garden mulching. I recommend that you feed the garden with an organic fertiliser before you mulch, water that in, then spread the mulch and water again.

Do your plants a favour, and help them to survive these dry times. You’ll be amazed at how much you can improve the water efficiency of your garden just be using a few simple techniques.

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