Plant a tree or two to help cool down the urban environment!
Imagine if every homeowner planted one extra tree in their garden, courtyard or in a large pot before the end of the year. It would go a long way to cooling urban areas in the future. The urban heat island effect in many metropolitan areas is significant. This is particularly evident at night when the evening temperatures in built up areas are warmer than the surrounding regional areas.
Even one tree (doesn’t have to be a large one) will make a huge difference to the warming of hard surfaces in urban areas by creating shade through the day. There are many small trees that will grow successfully in the tiniest of spaces and as the weather warms up there is no better reminder of the benefits of a strategically placed tree for the planet.
Garden centres have a fantastic range of trees in stock at the moment and by planting now they will grow prolifically throughout the warmer months, creating shade before you know it.
How to design a foliage garden?
As gardeners I think we get hung up on flowers and tend to forget the incredible range of foliage forms and colours of plants. Creating a garden that focuses on foliage will ensure the garden looks brilliant all year round.
Top tips to creating a foliage focused garden:
- Select a range of plants so that there is an outstanding display all year round. Some species will look stunning in spring while others are at their best in summer.
- Repeat the varieties around the garden area. Less variety planted in blocks creates a more dramatic effect than a single plant on its own.
- Border the garden beds in the same area with the same variety of plant. This result in many of the same variety being planted and will give a sense of flow to the garden area.
- Keep the same tones together in the same area, e.g. a range of burgundy plants in blocks creates a stunning effect.
- Be selective with any annual colour planted in the garden and select a colour theme to be repeated throughout the garden area.
- Use flowers as highlights in the garden rather than the sole focus.
- When you think about foliage no two species of plants are the same. Shapes and shades are very different.
Best Burgundy Foliage
Agonis After Dark, Agonis Southern Wonder, Phormium, Berberis, Royena (brilliant new growth), Photinia Red Robin, Coprosma cv., Lophomyrtus, Nandina domestica nana, Metrosideros Fiji Fire, Brenyia nivosa.
Best Silver Foliage
Convolvulus cneroum, Leucophyta brownii, Cineraria, Leptospermum sericea, Adenanthos sericea, Lavandula, Darwinia citriodora, Succulent sp and Dichondra Silver Falls, Cerastium Snow in Summer and Lambs Ears.
TIP: When planting, apply 30mL Seasol concentrate per 9 litres of water (standard watering can) to give them a great kick-start to life. Seasol helps overcome transplant shock, stimulate a strong root system and promotes healthy leaf growth.
Gardening with salty water
Most of the worlds water sources are salty and due declining rainfall and drought conditions in many areas of Australia water quality has deteriorated. If your water source is anything other than town supply, it is worth monitoring quality at different times of the year. Testing for salt content is important as many ornamental plants show up salt damage quickly. It’s a good idea to test water now (November) and again in March every year. November is when winter rains have consolidated and flushed salts through the water system (in a non-drought affected area) and March testing will give the worst-case scenario. Depending on the area you live, and water availability will depend how much this reading will vary.
There are two main tests for salt content, either TDS (total dissolved solids) or EC (electrical conductivity. Both tests are totally acceptable for testing water quality for irrigation purposes.
The most common symptom of salt damage is burning around the margins of leaves.
In bad cases the plants will look like they have been severely sun burnt. The extent of this damage will also depend upon soil type, how much water from another source can be applied and the general health of the soil.
Successful growing with saline water
- Avoid overhead irrigation when water is salty and water by dripper system or inline drippers.
- If fresh water sources are available water with non-salty water every month or so to flush salts through soil.
- Select salt tolerant species rather than persevering with delicate species. Look for Cosmic White or Pink Rhaphiolepis indica, Little Jess™ Dianella caerulea, Blue Gem™ Westringia hybrid or Lomandra confertifolia
- Roses are a good indicator plant and will show up salt damage in a garden almost immediately.
- The simple ‘taste’ test is not accurate – what tastes salty to you may not be salty to others and vice versa.
Gardening Under Gum Trees
Root competition between large gum trees and small plants is a dilemma many gardeners face when trying to revamp or replant garden areas. The small plants usually come out second best.
Eucalyptus trees adapt readily to dry conditions and form fine feeder roots at the soil surface, with any sigh of moisture or fertiliser these fine roots are straight into it. This is one of the ways they cope with extended dry periods.
When these fine feeder roots get into the fresh new soil, where young plants have been placed, they draw the moisture and fertiliser from the soil. This soil soon becomes water repellent and young plants are either stunted or die.
When establishing a garden under or around established trees it is so important to improve the soil before anything is planted. Holes need to be extra-large (it will feel like overkill) to ensure plants establish themselves before the fine roots of the Eucalypts draw all the moisture and nutrients away from the new plantings.
To give your soil a healthy boost, apply Seasol Liquid Compost, it’s your no dig option. It helps to revitalise all soils, as it contains liquid compost to improve the soil structure and soil moisture retention. Boosted with seaweed, fish and nutrients it simulates root growth to protect and improve soils. Simply mix 50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water (standard watering can) or use the hose-on pack.