May. 28th, 2011

moonvoice: (temple - orange skeleton)
[personal profile] moonvoice
Hi everyone. Here are some basic tips about how to purchase native plants to give them the best chance of survival.

1. Tubestock grows best, if you can't get tubestock, go for the smallest size. - It looks nicer to get more advanced plants, I know, but in almost all circumstances, tubestock (i.e. very young plants in tubes) grow best. Rate of establishment is faster, and these plants develop hardier, better root systems that are more likely to withstand the many rigorous climate conditions of Australia.

2. Always select strong, self-supporting specimens - The trunk or main stem should always be in the middle of the rootball. The stem should be more thickly tapered at the base than anywhere else on the plant. Check that the apical bud (or the bud at the very top of the plant) is undamaged and intact, and make sure the canopy or foliage is evenly spaced.

3. There should be no signs of damage to foliage, bark or roots - If you want to view the roots, get someone to show you them. If your nursery won't tap out a plant for you to show you the soil and root condition (or allow you to do it yourself); it might be time to find a new nursery. If you absolutely can't, inspect the foliage and bark thoroughly.

4. Make sure the plant isn't root-bound/pot-bound - This is especially true for advanced specimens and all potted plants. Again, if you are not allowed to check whether the plant is root bound by direct inspection, there are ways to check from the outside. Firstly, palpate the pot itself; if this is very hard to do, you could be pressing into an unhealthily large root-ball. Secondly, look underneath the pot. If roots are protruding heavily from the drainage holes, put the plant back, it is likely root-bound. These plants often look like the biggest and healthiest in their pots at the nursery, but the reality is that these roots have developed unhealthy growing habits and by and large, many root-bound / pot-bound plants die after approximately a year or two. Remember; small and healthy is a bigger choice than large, healthy looking and root-bound.

5. Plant within 24-48 hours of purchase. - If this isn't possible, consider putting off your plant purchase to another time. The reason for this is that the roots keep growing during this time, and you want your plant to avoid any chances of root-binding or pot-binding as much as possible.

6. If you can't find healthy specimens, don't compromise on unhealthy specimens. Consider another species of plant that matches your region, or try again another day. - Remember to let your nursery know that you weren't satisfied with the stock they had. Often, frustratingly, you'll have to avoid sales at nurseries. Some nurseries drastically mark down stock that is root-bound, or likely to perform poorly; these plants can sometimes make it in the hands of a master gardener, but often aren't worth the savings for everyone else. This isn't always the case (the local Landsdale nursery for example has regular sales but sells so proficiently that almost none of its stock is root-bound that I know of), but with bigger nurseries like Waldecks, always check the roots of sales plants.

On mulch!

May. 28th, 2011 01:17 pm
moonvoice: (totem - wombat)
[personal profile] moonvoice
Mmm, delightful mulch! Australian natives do remarkably well when mulched with an appropriate mulch. For a relatively inexpensive outlay, mulch has long-term rewards and benefits for the plants, as long as you do your research and know what to look for.

Here's why mulch is awesome:

1. It slows evaporation, thus retaining precious water, especially in arid environments.

2. It keeps the roots cool, which prevents heat stress. Many Australian natives have grown used to a bed of leaf litter on their roots thanks to undergrowth and the heavy shedding habits of many eucalyptus and shrubs; mulch mimics this and keeps roots happy.

3. It either stops the establishment of weeds (or drastically slows it down). And prevents the growing of invasive grasses.

4. A good mulch breaks down over time, adding humus to the soil. This improves soil structure.

5. Reduces run-off and erosion during heavy rain. That speaks for itself really.

6. It makes a garden pretty. What's the point in having a garden if you can't enjoy it's beauty? Mulch, which comes in many colours, often dark and very flattering to the greens found in Australian native plants, is a unifying product that makes plants and soils healthier, while creating a greater sense of wholeness in the overall garden.

7. It improves water filtration by slowing water movement across the soil. This gives water time to soak in, especially in soils that might suffer from drainage problems.

8. Consider 'living mulches' - Australian native groundcovers. These have the added benefit of providing flowers. :) A good example is Hemiandra pungens. (This is also drought tolerant, full-sun and shade tolerant, and has the added benefit of being STUNNING):





However, with mulch, it's important to remember a few rules to make sure you're using it to its best effect:

What to know about mulch:

1. Don't apply to thinly or thickly. Too thick, and water will not be able to saturate adequately into the soil. Too thin, and you won't get adequate weed-preventing and soil-insulating benefits. A good rule of thumb is:
- Organic mulch: 7.5cm thick
- Non-organic (like scoria): 2cm thick.

The best way to test this is simply to apply the mulch, water the garden for ten minutes from above, and check how far down the water penetrated. It gives you a good idea how thick your mulch will need to be for your garden. :)

2. Only replace mulch when it has obviously decomposed into the soil. With an organic mulch type, this is usually about once every two years, and less, with subsequent applications. The reason for this is that otherwise you'll end up with layers that are too thick.

3. Avoid fine mulches of small, similarly sized particles. This means sawdust!!! Please, please don't mulch with products like sawdust, even if it's 'jarrah sawdust' and looks awesome. Sawdust can be great for pathways (it's pretty, if messy), but not really good as a mulch product. The reason being that over time, sawdust forms a thick, impenetrable mat around the plants, and literally won't allow water through without being manually broken up on a regular basis. The same applies to non-organic mulches like scoria and granitic sands. Basically, the chunkier and bigger the pieces of matter (or more variable the pieces), the more likely your mulch will happily let water through.

A pictorial example )

4. Mulches with a lot of leaf litter shed and repel water. Avoid these. Especially mulches made of eucalyptus litter. These mulches will only really be useful if they're left to compost for about a year, or if they have had their oils leached out or have been pre-composted. Basically, don't be tempted by the shire's offer of free mulch based on eucalyptus leaf litter from pruned branches. It looks like regular mulch, but it's not going to help at all. Also, eucalyptus oil is flammable...so...yeah.

5. Vary your mulch from time to time to encourage different nutrient uptake in the soils. Don't be too loyal to any one brand, basically.

6. Don't pile mulches against the trunks and bases of plants - this kills them. It promotes collar rot and fungal attacks, these weaken and can kill trees and plants. Besides, not piling up mulch around the bases of plants allows more water to penetrate near the stem.

7. Ensure that your mulch is dieback free. Die back is a fungal infection (Phytopthera cinnamomi) that kills a lot of banksias, eucalyptus and other Australian natives. Make sure you call around and look for a dieback-free mulch, your native garden will thank you for it. A lot of nurseries that specialise in selling native plants, will often specialise in providing dieback-free mulches.

8. Mulches designed for exotics usually aren't designed for natives. Yeah, this is very unfortunate. If you have a garden that is mixed exotics/natives, then you'll probably need to pick a mulch that won't be too nutrient heavy (i.e. something that is slow to break down, like bark chips).

Other notes. )

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Gardening with Australian Natives.

June 2011

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