Drought-proofing outdoor areas this spring

by | Sep 19, 2023

In preparation for what is forecast to be a strong El Niño and difficult drought this spring and summer, this exclusive report shares important tips on how to help your customers prepare their gardens and lawns for the predicted extreme weather ahead.

Even though El Niño has not yet been officially declared, now is the time to prepare for the season ahead. During what could be the worst fire season since the 2019-2020 Black Summer, residents of New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and South East Queensland have also been warned to be prepared for spring bushfires.

Healthy soil, the right plants, and water-saving tips can make it easier to grow a healthy garden in drought conditions. Maintaining a green buffer around the home can also help keep homes cooler.

Healthy soil

Drought-proofing the garden begins where it gains most of its nutrients – the soil. Improving the structure by adding nutrient-rich and water-retaining organics, including compost and aged manures will ensure plants have a healthy soil to grow in.

Mulch prevents moisture from evaporating from the soil, reducing water loss by roughly 60 per cent. It also keeps the soil temperature constant and prevents weed seeds from germinating. Adding a mulch to a depth of seven to 10 centimetres will minimise water loss, keeping the soil cool and reducing the need to water as frequently.

Lupin mulch is high in nitrogen, it improves the soil as it breaks down and will not blow away with regular exposure to wind. It is ideal for all garden beds including Australian natives and should be applied twice a year for optimal benefits.

Bark-based mulches are organic and come in various grades from fine to coarse. Helping customers understand which is best for them is important in protecting their gardens during drought. Medium to coarse-grade bark mulches are best for dry areas as they do not absorb any moisture and allow all rainfall and irrigation to penetrate through to the soil where it is needed, but also prevent additional evaporation.

Fine-grade mulches tend to soak up the moisture like a sponge and can help prevent over-saturation of the soil underneath during wet weather. Bark mulches break down very slowly and last a long time, making them a great option to recommend to any gardening customers.

To help save water, switching from fertilisers that require to be mixed with water to ready-to-apply fertilisers is another great way of ensuring plants are getting all the essentials needed for surviving drought conditions.

Drought friendly plants

Some plants cope better than others in extreme heat and drier conditions. The desert-happy cacti are the obvious plant that first to comes to mind. Yet many other species of plant do just as well in drought conditions, including Australian natives which are already accustomed to Australia’s extreme weather conditions. Drought-tolerant plants such as Banksia, Lavender and Lilly Pilly, are particularly good at withstanding long hot summers.

Helping customers to understand which plants best suit their climate will ensure better performance in their gardens. Plants that need more nurturing and attention will be among the first to suffer under trying circumstances. Educating customers on the selection of drought-tolerant and low-water-use plants will prepare them for success in their gardens.

This can be as simple as understanding the telltale characteristics of drought-tolerant plants. Grey leaves are a sign that the plant is typically more resistant to drier weather as well as high levels of sunlight. Plants with rubber-like or coarse foliage, such as succulents and Australian wattle species are also typical indicators of heat and drought tolerance.

Setting up a drought-tolerant garden section in-store will ensure customers find all plant options suitable for the predicted El Niño. Seek an understanding of how customers are watering their gardens or plan to keep their lawns healthy during a hot, dry summer and advise them on the options available to make this task more efficient and effective.

For customers with an already established garden, encouraging them to trim branches that have grown close to their home and use a leaf blower to clear dry debris from guttering are more ways to ensure their outdoor areas are well-maintained on top of reducing the risk of damage from bushfires.

Water saving tips

Installing water tanks is a great way for customers to save rain collected in their guttering that can then be used to drink and water the garden later on. There are a wide range of tank sizes, shapes and styles to accommodate any home’s layout and available space, making it easier than ever to save fresh water at home.

Setting up a drip irrigation system is another efficient way for customers to water their plants and lawns without evaporation or waste. Fitting garden hoses with a trigger nozzle, and manually watering smaller areas is another way customers can avoid wasting water while also keeping their garden and lawn happy.

Home gardening. Irrigation plants. Man is installing an automatic drip irrigation system. Drippers in flower pot with rose plants

Recycling water where possible is an even better option. Recycling grey water dramatically reduces water usage, water bills, and helps the environment. Products like Yates Grey Water Fertiliser have been specially formulated to add missing nutrients to laundry, bath and shower greywater so that it can be used effectively on home garden plants and lawns.

Soil-wetting agents can significantly improve how plants take up water, by helping to break down waxy, water-repellent layers that often form on soil. These wetting agents can help gardens make the most of any rain or irrigation by enabling water to penetrate the soil evenly and effectively.

Yates WaterWise Water Storage Crystals are an alternative long-term solution to improve the drought tolerance of plants. These biodegradable crystals absorb up to 400 times their weight in water, which is stored at the plant’s roots and released back to the plants over time, as and when they need it. They are ideal for longer periods of dry weather and infrequent watering, making them perfect for areas that are likely to experience intense drought this summer.