Gardening With Native Plants
The eastern suburbs of Sydney once supported a unique variety of native plants which, in turn, supported a variety of native animals. With the growth of the urban environment, large areas of this bushland have been lost along with many of the animals it once supported. Although this process cannot be reversed, private gardens can offer important habitat to many of the remaining native birds and animals. Following are some Handy Hints for Growing Local Native Plants
The key to long-term success with your native garden is thorough preparation. There is no substitute for good weed control. Carry out a number of weed control sessions allowing a few months in between each one to allow weeds to re-emerge before planting.
See How to plant your native tubestock
Weeds compete with your native plants, and can take over if left unchecked. Noxious weeds should be removed first, as they are known to cause problems, taking care not to leave large areas of soil exposed. The noxious weed lantana provides good habitat for small birds, and should only be removed when alternative habitat is available. If you keep your garden well mulched, weeding can be kept to a minimum, however weeds will always be transported by wind, water and bird droppings. It is a good idea to ‘de-head’ or remove any plant seeds or fruits and dispose of them, to stop them spreading.
Mulch will suppress the growth of weeds from seeds in the soil, and reduce the need for watering. A coarse organic mulch should be spread to a maximum depth of about 100mm. Grass lawn clippings do not make a good mulch as they form a thick matt that stops water and air from entering the soil. Use fallen leaves or branches from your garden as mulch, this is an excellent way of recycling your garden waste, improving your plants drought resistance and inhibiting weeds. It is important to make sure mulch does not build up against the plant stems or trunks as this can lead to fungal infection and insect attack.
Local native plants do not require fertilising as are adapted to low nutrient local soils. Decaying organic mulch and leaf litter will provide most of the required nutrients. Do not use regular garden fertilisers as they contain phosphorus levels that can damage native plants, and encourage the growth of exotic weed species.
Some native plant species, such as Coastal Rosemary respond to regular pruning. The rule of thumb is to prune only the green or current year’s growth to encourage branching and create a bushier specimen. Use your native plant prunings as organic garden mulch, or put in your compost bin.
All new plantings need additional water to become established, especially during the first six weeks. After that time, watering can be gradually reduced. A thorough soaking is better for plant establishment than regular light watering. Additional water, may be needed over the first three summers. The Eastern Sydney region often has water repellent sandy soils. You would have seen water beading and rolling along the surface of the soil. This occurs during long periods of dry weather when the sandy soil completely dries. To prevent this happening there are two options;
- Place organic mulch around the plants to boost the activity of micro-organisms in the soil and increase the soil’s water holding capacity and improve your plants drought resistance.
- Apply a wetting agent to the soil. Wetting agents are also known as surfactants and help water spread more easily through the soil surface. A good wetting agent will breakdown the water repellence of the soil, increase its water holding capacity and will remain active in the soil for up to a year. Be careful not to over water your newly planted seedlings. Over watering leads to the plant establishing a shallow root system. This reduces the plant’s ability to survive dry periods and as the plant grows older it will be susceptible to blowing over in windy conditions.
Top of Page