10 Ways to Help Your Garden Survive Drought

How to be prepared for El Niño in your garden

As gardeners, word of warmer temperatures and reduced rainfall can have us feeling motivated to consider our water-saving options. With continual changes to the seasonal patterns expected, we feel passionate about ensuring that our gardens are watered wisely. By conserving water, we can continue to enjoy the bounty of the garden, even in the drier months.

With a diverse range of climates due to its vast size and geographical features, we experience a variety of climatic zones. Ranging from tropical in the north to temperate in the south, and arid or semi-arid inland. Australia’s climate can be influenced by various factors, including ocean temperatures and currents, prevailing winds, and topography. These are all important factors for home gardeners and farmers alike to consider when it comes to growing.

Right now, we’re in the transition to El Niño, which refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The influence of El Niño is primarily felt in eastern Australia, resulting in warmer-than-usual temperatures and reduced rainfall.

Here’s Food2Soil’s top tips to water wisely in the dry Summer months ahead and water-saving at home:

Be Prepared

Try and implement the below strategies before your garden is struggling and you will have a much easier time. Your garden will thank you with abundance! 👩🏻‍🌾

Add Organic Matter

Incorporate organic matter into your soils, to naturally help store and retain moisture levels. Organic matter such as compost, straw, manure, rice hulls, used livestock bedding, weeds (minus seed heads), lawn clippings, garden trimmings, or aged wood chips work perfectly. 🪵

Stick to a Schedule

Establish a regular watering schedule to ensure consistent moisture for your plants. Water early in the morning or late in the evening to minimize evaporation. Don’t forget to feed your plants with a fortnightly to monthly 1:10 mix of Food2Soil to support plant growth, root development, water uptake and encourage microbial life in the soil.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch.

We can’t stress it enough. Mulch is key to supporting moisture retention and soil temperatures, protecting plants, soils and microorganisms working away in your soils. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch around your plants. We at Food2Soil like to get creative with our mulch, and depending on the availability source of brown tree leaves, cardboard or newspaper, and our neighbour’s grass clippings. Alternatively, purchase locally grown straw bales and matured woodchips. 🪵

Install Drip Irrigation

A great water-saving tip is to consider installing a drip irrigation system, which delivers water directly to the plant roots. This method is efficient and reduces water loss through evaporation. To save money and reduce plastic consumption, keep an eye out for second-hand drip irrigation supplies that become available online occasionally. 💦
Master Watering Techniques

Water the base of the plants rather than the foliage to minimize water waste. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. Erin from Tasmania has been trialling a regular Food2Soil application to prevent hydrophobic (water-repelling) soil conditions in dry areas of her garden. You can follow Erin and see her results here. 🌱

Group Plants Together

Grouping plants with similar water requirements together can help you efficiently water your garden. This way, you can avoid overwatering some plants while underwatering others, as well as keeping your soil covered to retain moisture. Flowers, herbs and leafy greens work well and look beautiful. 🌻

Collect Rainwater

If your climate is still experiencing periods of rainfall coming into Summer, collect rainwater in barrels or containers and store it to water your garden during dry spells. This is an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to keep your garden hydrated. 🌧

Use Drip Bottle and Underground Urns (Ollas)

Here’s a creative idea. Put small holes in the lid of a large bottle and fill it with water. Next, up turn it next to your tree or large plant to deliver gradual water. This is particularly useful for larger plants, like fruit trees, natives, ornamentals and shrubs. Ensure the area is well-mulched. Similarly, Ollas are essentially underground urns that seep out water through their porous surface. Check out this awesome article from Gardening Australia, on how to make your own! ⚱️

Observe Plants & Soils
Always consider the specific needs of your plants and adjust your watering practices accordingly. Monitor moisture levels in your soil by placing your finger about an inch into the soil, and observe for signs of dehydration. This will help you determine when and how much to water. 👀

We hope these water-saving tips have helped you get on your way to help your garden in the dry months ahead!

We hope these water-saving tips have helped you get on your way to help your garden in the dry months ahead!