Helping plants cope with stress
August can be a stressful month for plants. First there are those ferocious August winds that desiccate tender new shoots as soon as they appear. Then, in colder areas, there are persistent frosts that cut back tentative new growth as it’s trying to unfold. Late winter rains often saturate the soil, which can sometimes cause roots to die from sheer, water-soaked misery. But you can take some steps that will help.
In cold areas, resist the temptation for now to trim off frost-blackened stems. These provide useful protection for the undamaged leaves below them. Apply Yates DroughtShield to any new growth to protect it from late frosts and wind damage. Spike wet sections of the lawn with a garden fork to improve aeration, then apply Yates Waterwise Soil Wetter. Curiously, this will assist water penetration and help drain the excess away from the soil surface.
If plants have died recently, try to work out what’s gone wrong. Has it been too cold for them? Have they suffered from wet feet? At the opposite end of the seasons, at the end of summer, do the same thing by checking which plants have suffered from the heat. Resolve to change conditions so that replacement plants will survive, or look for hardier plants that can cope with the harsh conditions.
Remember, too, to follow sensible practices such as building raised-up beds where drainage is poor, and incorporating Yates Gypsum into clay soils. Treat plants that have a reputation for suffering from root rot (e.g. daphne) with Yates Anti Rot at least twice a year. Plant out marginally cold-sensitive specimens in spring so that they can establish themselves as much as possible before the arrival of the next winter. Spray DroughtShield before periods of stress (i.e when frosts are expected or heat waves are imminent).
Yates Garden Guide has a handy chapter entitled Plants for Special Conditions. It contains lists and brief descriptions of plants that are suitable for a range of tricky situations. By using such guidelines and by choosing carefully, you can minimise the risk of plant loss. Here are some of its suggestions:
For Seaside Gardens
Shrubs such as coast banksia and the New Zealand coprosma have evolved in coastal conditions where they’ve learnt to handle stresses such as salt and wind.
For Shady Gardens
Foliage plants, like ferns, are the best to choose for shaded situations. Having said that, clivias bloom well in light shade, as do camellias, impatiens and many of the plectranthus species. Watch out for water-absorbing tree roots. Sometimes you’ll have more success with containerised plants under large trees.
For Wet/Boggy Soil
Clumping plants like sedges and rushes are happy in damp soil. It’s surprising, too, how many trees and shrubs have evolved in streamside positions and will cope with wet roots. Paperbarks (Melaleuca spp – pictured) are good examples, as are many of the bottlebrushes. There’s a shrubby swamp banksia (Banksia robur) that loves the damp. Its newly opened flower cones are tipped with lime green.
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