Maintaining a garden in the upper Blue Mountains is all about the right irrigation, mulching, composting and plant choice. But that’s just where the maintenance starts.
It’s easy to assume that maintaining a garden involves keeping it looking the same all year round. This is impossible. But some people believe that if they go out and water their garden for 15 minutes every day, it’ll all be good. The truth is a brief 15-minute water every day could be killing it.
During the water restrictions last year, we had clients who were doing the 15-minute water every day believing that kept gardens alive. I would tell them to only do it for one hour, once a week. That’s because we want the water to go deep. If the water sits on top of the soil for 15 minutes, all that means is the roots for the plants stay on top as well. Less frequent waters, for a longer period of time, is better than little waters often. When the water goes deep so do the plant roots. And that equals a stronger and healthier plant.
Gardening in a drought
Although we are splashing about in puddles in the moment due to La Niña, gardening in a drought will always be particularly pertinent in our corner of the world. Drought is a reality in Australia, but the solution isn’t to over-water or only have a native garden. You still need to water your garden, to mulch it, and to compost. You need to prune plants to reduce the growth of them so that they’re not struggling to keep the full size alive.
Legislation may restrict water usage, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what the current rules are. And the solution to those restrictions often comes down to the foundations of the garden. That involves having a watering system installed. You should have the correct soil. And choosing the right plants and mulching all help drought-proof your garden.
Plant choice when maintaining a garden
A big factor in maintaining your garden is plant choice. You can plant a garden that isn’t drought-tolerant. But then you have to pay for it to be maintained until such a time as the plants are established.
There is a mistaken belief that a native garden is more tolerant of our climate than one featuring introduced species. But that isn’t the case. Many introduced species are robustly drought tolerant just as many native plants curl up their toes in a drought. For a fully drought-resistant garden, you’d need a yard that looked like a scrub. And few people want their front yard to look like that.
But hypothetically, if you do plant, say, a grevillea, it’s going to be dead in seven years anyway. Many of the grevillea you see in the bush are dead already due to its natural life cycle. But if you plant (or inherit in your garden) a rhododendron, that will live for decades, and just keep growing.
We can do a very nice native garden but these definitely are not necessarily lower maintenance and they still need water. And a native that looks beautiful in the bush is not necessarily going to last in a small courtyard where you want everything to look pristine. The trick is suitable plant choice for your location, micro climate and maintenance needs.
Finding the balance
You have to approach maintenance issues around your garden in a practical manner. Droughts happen. Plants die, and depending on the plant, may take longer than your lifetime to regrow. But the correct combination of irrigation, mulching, composting and planting will keep it as an asset for as long as possible.
Don’t abandon it just because of drought. Your garden is as much an asset as your house is. For a lot of the clients in this part of the Blue Mountains, part of what they’ve paid for is the age and the feel of their garden. Maintaining that garden, then, is as important as the upkeep on your home.