It might seem silly to think about drought proofing your garden with the steady bouts of rain we’ve been having and especially considering what it was like last summer. However drought conditions are really never as far away as you think. We had some record hot days in January!
There’s a common misconception that natives require less water, which can be true, but in the initial planting stages, before a native tree or shrub becomes established, it will need just as much water as anything else. By choosing natives from your local area though you’ll go a long way towards establishing a drought hardy garden.
The first step, like in any garden, is to draw up a plan and a list of trees and shrubs you’d like to consider. Grouping together plants with similar watering needs is a good way to manage things. Choose trees and shrubs that complement your house with their height and spread. Natives will certainly require less water once they have settled in but there’s also many plants from areas with a similar climate to our own such as the Mediterranean, Mexico and Africa that can add an exciting quality to a drought hardy garden.
I’d always start with a base of natives, mostly from your local area. Councils will usually have a list of trees and shrubs local to your area that you can start with. But in saying that, you can certainly inter-plant with things like dietes, euphorbia, bromeliads, phormium along with the agave and other succulents. The crepe myrtle is another tough customer (once established) but the key is to do your research as you compile your list to find out what’s best suited.
Once you’ve decided on the mix of plants the next step is to sort out the soil. Wetting agents can be a useful addition to stop beds from drying out. Mulch and compost will retain the moisture in your beds and remember that even natives can benefit from fertilising every now and then once they’re in.
Your ultimate goal could be environmental sustainability as well as low watering needs. Think about a grey water system and/or recycled rainwater via a tank to better manage your water requirements.
A drought hardy garden can look fantastic but remember it will still require some attention, especially in its infancy, so you can’t just plant and forget about it!