Horticulturalist gives advice on maintaining gardens during water restrictions

Sutherland Shire horticulturalist Octavia Jones has provided tips for maintaining gardens during the drought and water restrictions.

Ms Jones, who works for major garden retailer Flower Power, said, while reducing water usage was important, there were still ways to maintain gardens.

Her advice includes:

  • Water efficiently: When watering with a bucket or watering can (before 10 am and after 4 pm) make sure you water direct to the root zone, at the stem of the plant. It's also important to water plants deeply, less often as it helps strengthen water uptake and teaches plants to expect less water.
  • Avoid watering foliage: Not only does it reduce evaporation of water, it also helps prevent pests and disease.
  • Add a health tonic for plants: Adding a seaweed solution to the watering can or bucket will help plants with water retention and remain hydrated for longer.
  • Water early: Watering plants earlier in the morning (before 7am) will reduce evaporation in the heat of the day and give plants the most benefit throughout the day.
  • Install drip irrigation: During level 2 water restrictions in Sydney, a drip line irrigation system can be used for a maximum of 15 mins a day before 10 am and after 4 pm.
  • Install a Timer Tap (smart watering system): Installing a timer tap to your drip irrigation will ensure efficient watering at designated times - meaning no wasted water (or money) and consistent watering for your healthy plants.
  • Keep water in the soil: Once you've got your soil nice and moist, the key is to keep that moisture in the root zone, where your plants need it. Water crystals expand to hundreds of times their size when in contact with water, forming a water-holding gel that will help your plants withstand dry periods. You could also use a drought shield which creates a flexible polymer film over foliage, preventing water transpiration and loss by up to 50% so you can water less often.
  • Lay down mulch: Mulching is an essential step for any garden - not only does it finish everything off visually, it's also vital for keeping your soil moist and cool. Mulch will help your garden get the most out of every drop of water, with natural wetting agents providing increased holding capacity.
  • Drought resistant plants: Talk to in-store horticulturists about plants which can thrive with limited water, for example the bottlebrush, frangipani and Iris. Here are some other drought-resistant plant options.

A Flower Power spokeswoman said there were good reasons for people to maintain their gardens.

"Plants not only reduce stress and purify the air, they are important during all climate conditions, especially during times of drought," she said.

"Plants are a crucial resource for the environment, playing a key role in stabilising the ecosystem.

"Not only do plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide they provide wildlife with habitats, create shade and play an important role in the water cycle."