GARDENING IN DRY CONDITIONS

Soils can be dry for any one of several reasons:

a/ The soil is sandy and doesn't retain water.

b/ Rainfall is minimal.

c/ Areas under the canopy of trees where rainwater doesn't penetrate to the ground underneath. This type of position often has two other problems ‑ these being shade and a dense mat of tree roots that penetrates the soil and competes with any plants you try to establish there.

d/ Water is not absorbed easily. This could be for a number of reasons such as poor soil structure (eg: hard packed clays), the presence of quantities of rock, or water repellant soils such as some fine sands.

e/ The soil is under the eaves of buildings.

OVERCOMING DRY SOILS

There are a variety of techniques that can be used to improve dry soils. These include:

1. Incorporating organic matter into the soil. This will improve the ability of sandy soils to retain moisture and help 'open up' clay soils (ie: improve its structure).

2. Mulching soils will help retain moisture near the soil surface, as well as help buffer sudden changes in soil temperatures, help control weed growth and help control loss of soil through erosion. Mulches can  be either inorganic materials such as rock or gravel, or organic materials such as pine bark, compost, rotted manures, grass clippings, etc. Organic manures have the advantages of providing nutrients and helping to improve soil structure, while inorganic mulches generally last longer (ie: don't decompose).

3. Soil ameliorants such as gypsum and lime can be used to 'open up' hard packed or poorly structured soils to improve penetration of water into the soil. Water repelling soils can be treated with wetting agents that help increase water penetration.

4. Sprinklers and trickle irrigation systems can be installed to increase the amount of water reaching the soil.

5. Use plants that will grow successfully in such conditions.

HINTS FOR DRY SANDY SOILS

A useful hint for planting in dry sandy areas is to dig the hole two or three times larger than the pot size that you have to plant. It is best to dig out half of the soil onto one side of the hole and one half onto the other. This gives you two piles of the sand from the hole, to one pile add well rotted compost, peatmoss ,well rotted animal manure or some loam. Mix all these together , pop some down the hole to bring it to the correct level then place your plant into the hole and backfill with the remaining soil. Tamp down the area around the plant and water in. Any left over soil can be used to form a lip around the plant to create a small basin to retain water. The idea with this system is to give the plants a good growing environment but at the same time allow them to become accustomed to the soil in which they are expected to grow in.

DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS

(Tolerates dry periods but grows best with some wet periods)

  • Acacia pendula
  • Acacia spectabilis
  • Acacia stenophylla
  • Allocasuarina (most)
  • Artemisia (Wormwood, Southernwoods, Mugwort etc).
  • Bauhinia
  • Buddleia
  • Callistemon (most varieties once established)
  • Callitris columellaris
  • Cassia (Most types)
  • Cortaderia selloana (Pampass Grass)
  • Dodonaea (most species)
  • Doryanthes excelsa
  • Eucalyptus calycogona
  • E. campespe
  • E. crucis
  • E. globulus
  • E. macrocarpa
  • E. radiata
  • E. stricklandii
  • E. tetraptera
  • Ficus (Common fig)
  • Grevillea aspera
  • Grevillea lavandulaceae
  • Grevillea steiglitziana
  • Grevillea wilsonii
  • Hakea elliptica
  • Hakea laurina
  • Hakea sericea
  • Indigofera australia
  • Melaleuca densa
  • Melaleuca decussata
  • Melaleuca elliptica
  • Melaleuca heugelii
  • Melaleuca lanceolata
  • Melia azederach
  • Nerium oleander
  • Prostanthera aspalathoides
  • Punica (Pomegranate)
  • Ricinus (Castor Oil Plant)
  • Scholtzia capitata
  • Solanum brownii
  • Spartium (Spanish broom)
  • Tamararix
  • Tecomaria capensis (Tecoma)

PLANTS FOR DRY PLACES

(Grow well in soils which are normally dry)

  • Acacia aneura (Mulga)
  • Atriplex (Saltbush)
  • Banksia (most West Aust. varieties)
  • Brachychiton populneus
  • Brachychiton rupestris
  • Cacti
  • Eucalyptus calycogona
  • E. eremphila
  • E. forrestiana
  • E. spathulata
  • E. tetraptera
  • E. torquata
  • E. viridis
  • Myoporum
  • Succulents (most)
  • Wormwood
  •  
  • PERENNIALS SUITED TO DRIER SOILS
  • Acanthus spinosus
  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Ajuga
  • Alstroemeria
  • Alchemilla mollis
  • Anaphalis sp.
  • Anemone japonica
  • Bergenia sp.
  • Brunnera macrophylla
  • Centaurea dealbata
  • Centranthus ruber
  • Dianthus sp.
  • Doronicum plantagineum
  • Echinops ritro
  • Epimedium sp.
  • Euphorbia sp.
  • Geranium sp.
  • Iris foetidissima
  • Kniphofia
  • Limonium
  • Liriope muscari
  • Nepeta mussinii
  • Oenothera sp. (Evening Primrose)
  • Papaver orientale
  • Physalis franchetii
  • Pelargonium
  • Polygonum
  • Potentilla
  • Pulmonaria sp.
  • Salvia superba
  • Sedum
  • Stachys
  • Tradescantia
  • Verbascum

 

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