Well the year is just about over.
I thought I would avoid talking about the weather, but it always seems to have a big influence on plant growth. We are now having strong, drying winds and long dry spells with occasional downpours. Often bigger trees miss out on lighter rains, as the top part of the tree sheds the water, missing the root zone. Likewise, if you have a sprinkler system, the water can miss the roots. It is better to use a dripper irrigation system, which slowly allows water to soak into the roots. Also you can add water retention agents like Crystal Rain to your plants.
The best way to check your plant is to dig around the soil, and see if it is dry. If you have applied fertilisers, you also need to make sure the soil around the roots is moist, otherwise you can get root damage. If we had been having very wet weather, and the plant roots had been sitting in water, then symptoms of leaf drop or yellowing would be more serious, as the lack of air around the roots can kill the roots and eventually plants. They literally “drown” in the water. The good news is that if your plant has recently suffered due to dryness, it can usually be revived with regular soaking. Trees will naturally shed their leaves when under stress, so if you want good healthy growth, maintain adequate watering.
Regular watering is critical after planting, as it helps to settle the plant roots into the ground. When you have planted your plant, give it a good soak around the roots. This beds the soil to the roots and removes any air pockets. The first 3-4 weeks are critical for newly planted trees and shrubs. This is especially the case if we are having 100km/hr winds. The northerly winds dry the plants and soils out, and can damage the plant, especially if it hasn’t been hardened off properly to cope with the conditions. For this reason, try to select plants that aren’t too soft and lush if planting in exposed sites. Also make sure they have strong root growth. You can check if roots are coming out of the bottom of the bag or pot. Another advantage of regular watering is that it helps to settle in the soil, compost and mulch around your plants. If it gets too dry, these materials, especially the mulch, are likely to blow away.
If you have recently put a lawn down, make sure it has regular soakings, but be aware if there are water restrictions in your area.
I always suggest automated irrigation for vegetable gardens and ornamentals like roses as the difference in growth is very pronounced. For all my new gardens I give a 3-month warranty on plants if hand watered, and a 1-year warranty if you have an automated irrigation system.
Sometimes spring can be the most challenging month, with the stronger winds. New growth and flowers get a battering, and it easy to get disheartened. I find autumn to be a better season, as it is still moist and warm, but we don’t get those horrendous gales.
So the moral of this story is to apply adequate water around your plants and lawns at this time.
Here is a Poor Knights lily which is flowering now. These native plants like dry conditions, and so ideally grow them in tubs or in very free draining soils as they grow on rocky outcrops on the Poor Knights islands. They usually take 6-8 years to flower, but you might try some salt water or fish fertiliser to move them along.