When the weather turns hot and dry it can sometimes make gardening difficult, but did you know that with a few simple tricks, you can easily create a flourishing garden in dry times.

All too often I hear people say that they cannot garden in dry weather, and although it is more difficult than in wet times, with the right know–how you can easily create a living oasis in dry conditions.

There are a few steps that must be taken to achieve this, starting with attention to the soil.

Improve the soil with good quality organic matter, such as 5 IN 1®. This will improve any soil, helping to condition it and increase water holding capacity. It is easier to improve the soil before planting, but soil can also be improved on established gardens. For new gardens, apply 5 IN 1® to the soil at about 2-3cm deep and turn into existing soil to a depth of 10-15cm.

For established gardens, apply a layer of 5 IN 1® over the soil, but keep it away from plant stems or trunks. If possible, carefully chip or hoe the soil into the top of the existing soil without damaging any plant roots. The trick to applying 5 IN 1® to established gardens is in applying Searles Penetraide® and a mulch layer over the top. See section on Searles Penetraide® and Mulching for more information.
Not only will 5 IN 1® greatly enrich the soil, but it will activate beneficial microbial activity, condition the soil, increase water holding capacity and overall give better plant growth with less water.
Wherever you plant in the garden, dig into the soil some Searles® Water Crystals before planting. Give the soil a good watering as soon as you finish planting. Searles® Water Crystals are small granules that soak up and store an enormous quantity of water. As the roots of the plant grow, they actually penetrate the individual water crystals and absorb the water that has been held there in storage. The next time the plants are watered, the water crystals absorb and store more water ready for the plant to use when needed. This process continues time after time, whenever you water.

Water crystals can absorb up to 400 times their own weight in water, which means they greatly increase the water-holding capacity of the soil.

The next step is crucial in water conservation and eliminating water wastage from runoff:

Sprinkle Searles Penetraide® Re-Wetting Granules over all garden beds, lawns and pot plants – you only need to apply 70g to every square metre. For pot plants, the packet has detailed application rates for various size pots and hanging baskets.

When many soils become severely dried out, they begin to repel water and this becomes a major problem during and after dry conditions. When this happens, water does not soak into the soil after being applied; it either pools on the surface of the soil and runs off, or it runs through the soil without being absorbed and is lost. Searles Penetraide® Re-Wetting Granules improve soil water holding capacity greatly, maximising the amount of water that can be held in the soil. A good test to see if your soil is repelling water is to give it a good watering, and then dig into the soil to a depth of about 3–5cm. If the soil at that depth is still dry and has not become damp, an application of Searles Penetraide® would be necessary.

Once Searles Penetraide® has been applied, its benefits will last for up to 8 months. Every time you water, the water will soak straight into the soil, reducing runoff and wastage. By allowing the water to penetrate deep into the soil, plants will be able to utilise the water that is stored and protected in the soil, thus enhancing plant growth with less water. The benefits of Searles Penetraide® are improved plant growth with far less water.
Mulching is essential in our hot climate, especially from spring through to autumn. After adding the Searles 5 IN 1® and Water Crystals to the soil, always add a final layer of mulch. Mulch greatly reduces water loss from evaporation, keeping the water in the soil longer. As well as this, mulch helps to insulate the soil, keeping the soil cooler where the plant roots are. This helps to improve plant growth and reduce stress to the plants.
Always use a good quality mulch such as Searles® Premium Garden Mulch. Searles® Premium Garden Mulch contains added fertilisers, gypsum, plus a double strength addition of Searles Penetraide®, which makes it a mulch and fertiliser all in one application. After applying mulch, it will decompose into the soil over time, helping to add valuable organic matter which will further improve the soil. As this happens, continue to add more mulch to the soil surface at least twice a year.

Of course, how we water the garden is very important in water conservation and making the most of our water. By applying water wisely, we can grow flourishing gardens with very little water.

Some golden rules of watering:
1. When watering, give long, deep, thorough soakings on an occasional basis in preference to regular, light watering. By watering deeply, the water penetrates deeper into the soil, where it is more protected from the heat of the sun and from evaporation from the soil surface. This will also encourage plant roots to grow deeper into the soil which will help protect the roots from drying out too quickly, protect them from extremes of temperature and also help anchor the plant more effectively.

2. Water very early in the morning or at night. Avoid watering during the day. By watering when the sun is down, the water has the best chance to soak into the soil before it is lost to evaporation. Avoid using a sprinkler; try to apply water directly onto the soil around the plants if possible. The use of micro-irrigation and dripper systems will dramatically reduce water usage and deliver it right where it is needed.

If you follow these easy steps to wise water management, you will find that you can successfully create a living oasis in dry times with minimal effort.

Happy Gardening with Searles from the Searle family.

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