Drought proofing your garden


We live in a tough climate of extremes - droughts and flooding rains. We may not be able to do anything about those rains at a very personal level, but we can combat the drought.

Growing a beautiful garden in drought conditions is always going to be challenging but it can be made easier with:

  • Healthy soil
  • Choosing the right plants
  • Water saving tips and tricks



Drought proofing your garden

A garden can be as fragile or robust as you choose. With the right plants, proper training and a few tips and tricks, you can create a beautiful garden that won’t wilt without water.


Healthy Soil

Drought proofing your garden starts with the soil.

  • Improve its structure by adding bulk quantities of organics like compost and aged manures.
  • Work the soil by forking or digging it over, to improve air and water penetration.
  • Mulch to a depth of 7-10cm with an organic mulch to minimise water loss and keep the soil cool.
  • More tips on creating a healthy soil.


The right plants

Some plants will cope better in a drought than others, but that doesn’t mean that you should only plant cacti!

  • Plant for your climate:

Plants that grow well in your climate will be the better performers in your garden. Those needing a lot of nurturing in order to survive will be the first to collapse under trying circumstances.

  • Look for drought tolerant or low water use plants:

Plants originating in the Mediterranean region have adapted to endure long periods without supplementary water. These include olives, geraniums and, yes, even roses.

For guidance on what will not only survive but thrive in your area, look at neighbours' gardens, browse your local garden centre or refer to a good Australian gardening book on the subject.

  • Use foliage colour and form for maximum impact. Grey and thick leaved plants are generally very water efficient and drought tolerant, so design a garden that makes the most of these plants. Look for foliage colour and texture to add interest and contrast in your garden throughout the year.
  • Buy quality, healthy plants
    The bargain corner of the nursery may seem ok, but you can be buying a cheap headache. Look for healthy plants that will be able to cope with having to survive in the garden, rather than struggling plants that need nurturing.


Water saving tips and tricks

There are many ways to save water and still keep your garden growing well.


Teach your plants to search for water

When you water the garden, do so for a longer period of time but less often - so water soaks deep down into the soil.

This encourages plants to develop extensive root systems which are more drought tolerant.

Short daily watering is an absolute 'no-no' if you want to teach your plants to be more self-sufficient and your garden to survive.

Group thirsty plants together

If you must have a couple of 'water guzzler' plants, try growing them in close proximity of one another so you only need to watch and frequently water that one small area, rather than the entire garden.

Remove weeds

Weeds need water too and they usually are far more efficient at getting it than most of your garden plants. Removing weeds reduces competition and makes sure the plants you want to keep are getting the water.

Mulch with an organic mulch

Reduce moisture loss from the soil (evaporation) and plants (transpiration) by adding an insulating mulch over the soil. It keeps the soil cooler and also reduces reflected heat from the soil surface, cooling the air around plants. Mulch also helps control weeds, so it's a win-win situation for your garden.

Water the roots, not the leaves

Plants take in water and nutrients from the soil through their roots. Make sure you water the soil around plants and apply enough to reach the entire root zone.

Watering the foliage may cool the plants down briefly after a hot day but it also encourages fungal problems to develop.

Water droplets on leaves may also cause burn spots - the heat of the sun is amplified through the water resulting in leaves being burned or scorched.

When water is scarce

Focus on the areas that need it most. These could be those nearest the house.

If choices must be made, think carefully about which plants to save.

Generally. they should be the most established and/or expensive. Usually, if the garden is well prepared, a deep water once every two weeks is enough to keep plants alive during a drought.

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