The sites were all out in the open, all had the same amount of rain but such different outcomes. So why would that soil still be dry?
In sandy soils the water may drain through the soil profile so quickly that it could be dry after a very short time but sandy soils are not normal around this neck of the woods and for this reason I know it was not a case of the water draining away but rather one where the water didn’t sink in in the first place.
There are several reasons why water may not sink into soil. If the rain is very heavy it may simply run off before it has time to sink in. But our rain last week was gentle and steady so there has to be another reason. In my paddock there are two other reasons. The first is that in places there has been vehicle traffic and/or horse traffic. Any sort of repeated traffic over an area can compact soil very quickly. The previous owners of my property had a horse and the horse quite clearly had very specific routes he took round the paddock. After five years without a horse in residence those pathways are still as clear as day and that is because the ground has been compacted leaving no air spaces between the soil particles making it hard for water to sink in and therefore hard for plants to grow. The second reason I don’t get water running into the soil is that in places the soil in the paddock is dusty and hydrophobic. Hydrophobic soil (soil which repels rather than soaks up water) is caused by excessive hot dry weather of which we had plenty over summer and/or the coating of soil particles with waxy organic compounds from the breakdown of waxy leaves such as Eucalyptus leaves. There is a very clear and informative article in the ABC Organic Gardener magazine if you are needing some help to fix a problem like mine.
Finally another problem you may have which stops moisture entering the soil in your garden is the compaction of mulch which you will have added to the soil surface in good faith to help retain moisture. Again this can happen for two reasons. Frequent foot traffic over a garden bed will compact your mulch regardless of its particle size but a mulch with a fine particle size will compact easily no matter how careful you are not to tramp over it. A good chunky mulch (mulch made up of particles over 5 mm in size) with no more than 5% fine material is vital to help prevent compaction issues. Chunky mulches allow water to freely flow through to the ground below and at the same time reduces evaporation form the soil to the air. Mulches with fine particles (particles of less than 5 mm in size) capture water before it gets to the soil so the soil remains dry and they also then allow that water to evaporate into the air.
So if your plants continue not to grow despite a wonderful four days of rain I suggest you pop out and have a little dig around your plants and check if the water has actually soaked in.
I am not trying to taunt those of you who have been house bound but I have been out and about in this glorious autumn weather. Yesterday I was savouring the brilliant reds and yellows and oranges of the deciduous trees as I drove to a garden consultation appointment in Canberra and a plant delivery in Hall. In Canberra my client had noticed an increase in native birds as the native plants we had planted in the last couple of years start to get bigger and flower. The visit was to advise on some infill ideas for this delightful courtyard garden. The delivery of plants to Hall was to another native plant lover who is trying to get rid of ivy and periwinkle without poisonous sprays and replace with natives to attract native fauna. Its so special that we have a growing number of people who value what is uniquely Australian and want to do it justice. I couldn’t help singing at the top of my voice to the radio for the pure joy of it.
Earlier in the week I drove to Yass to visit a clients garden. Gorgeous rows of white standard roses lined the brick path to the front door underplanted with fabulously intricate ballerina flowers of Fuchsia in pinks and purples. Simply exquisite. She wanted to plant a large area in native plants to ‘bring back the birds’ but at the same time could enjoy the beauty of the exotic plantings of the previous owner.
And a couple of weeks ago I visited a clients garden in Canberra where the natives have been planted to blend seamlessly with the reserve right across the front of the house. The native birds flitted in and out, bright splashes of colour, while I collected cuttings and found treasures I hadn’t seen before.
This week I am out and about again. I am off to Bango to have a look at a garden. Oh gosh I love it all. If there is anything I love as much as propagating plants it is to be invited into your domain to enjoy the diverse way in which each of you puts together our plants to created something special.
I know that many of you are out in the garden busy planting. I know this because you have come to our nursery and bought plants and I know that you know that Autumn is the best time to plant so you will be out there getting them in the ground. For those of you who have not yet heard, Autumn is THE best time to plant new plants in the garden in this region, followed by spring, followed by…..well just anytime if you are me. But yes I have been exhausting myself filling in spaces in the garden this Autumn and now because it is raining I am inside doing what I should have been doing this last fortnight and that is housework, updating the website and talking to you.
I don’t feel like I have a lot to say but I wanted to let you know that at the nursery Iris and I are already planning for plant sales in spring AND we still have some plants for sale right now. As there are no markets open to sell our plants through at the moment we have opened the nursery to customers by arrangement and/or we are happy to put an order of plants together for you. You pay online and we leave at the nursery gate for pick up, or if you are in Yass or Murrumbateman we can deliver plants to you after payment is received and if you live in Canberra we can arrange to meet you at the border in Hall for a flat fee of $10. And the other good news is our sale prices still apply. All 70mm and 90mm pots remain at $6 each (except for PBR registered plants). Until I have completed updating the website I cannot guarantee that all the plants listed are available but please feel free to email or text us (details on website) to enquire.
So, business out the way and the rain coming down heavier than ever, here are some pictures of some of the plants which are flowering in my garden right now.
Aren’t we all so relieved now the weather has cooled, we have had some rain and the bush fires are all out? Long may our relief last!!
There was a period in the last couple of months when I thought there would be nothing left of my 4 year old native garden. Most of it looked so stricken in the heat and dry I thought it was the end of 'life as we know it'. But to my surprise most of my garden did survive and with the rain the bounce back has been extraordinary. It’s almost like it didn’t happen at all.
Many of you have told me that you will be looking for very hardy plants to replace plants which didn’t survive in your own gardens and have requested a list to help you along. So here is a list of the plants which survived this year in my garden. Im not saying they were not given any water but they were given very little. Neither am I saying that they all looked fabulous (though some didn’t miss a beat) but they have all perked up now that the weather is cooler and we have had some rain and most of them are now putting on decent growth again which is very exciting. Long live Aussie native plants I say!!
Grasses and Clumping plants