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How to create a drought tolerant garden

Thursday, 15 January 2015 2:24:30 pm Australia/Sydney

With ongoing water restrictions and scarcity of water, it's never been more important to plan your garden with plants to create a drought tolerant garden. This easy to use guide describes the types of plants and methods to achieve spectacular results with minimal water use.

Step 1: Planning


As with any garden, the planning process is possibly the most important thing you will do. Take time to make a list of features you would like including edible gardens, lawn areas, flower beds, screening plants, children's play areas and outdoor entertaining areas.


It is really important to understand the aspect of your garden. Investigate where the sun rises and sets, which areas receive the most amount of sun, which areas are shaded for periods of the day and which areas are subject to strong winds. All of these elements will help to determine the best plants for certain areas.

Understanding where the sun rises and sets is a really important piece of knowledge to retain. Morning sun tends to be less harsh than afternoon sun and therefore plants can be chosen accordingly. The sun is also higher in the summer than it is in the winter. This creates different shaded areas and will mean some areas of your garden will be in the sun in the summer and not in the winter. When investigating your garden’s aspect, it is important to consider the season, as what you see today will be a little different in three months time and a little different again in six months time.

Step 2: Preparation


Soil Improvement

Soil improvement is one of the major steps to creating a successful waterwise garden regardless of the style or the plant choices. Local native species can be started without additions to the natural soils. When planting out exotic species, adding a composted soil improver into the planting hole will greatly benefit the establishment and growth of the plant.

It is important to use a premium-quality soil improver and the Australian Standards 5-tick red standard mark identifies the premium-quality blend. Where the soil is heavy and composed mainly of clay, it is a good idea to mound up the planting area or raise the level of garden beds. In sandy, free-draining soils, aim to build up a ridge of soil around the planting area to encourage water to drain into the centre.

The open free-draining nature of the soil improver mixed at a 50/50 ratio with the garden soil type will encourage rapid establishment of a deeper root system using less water.


Watering Systems

It’s important a watering system is designed to deliver water in the required volumes for specific needs. Technology continually improves in the development of direct delivery irrigation systems, and such systems are now readily available, cost effective and easy to install.

It’s important a watering system is designed to deliver water in the required volumes for specific needs. Technology continually improves in the development of direct delivery irrigation systems, and such systems are now readily available, cost effective and easy to install.

If you are to use pop-up sprinklers in your lawn area, strongly consider using stream-thrown, low-volume sprinklers. Two main types are readily available: gear-driven irrigators, which send out a single stream up to 6m long and streaming sprinklers, which work by directing fingers of water that rotate in unison and cover a 2m to 9m radius. As a result of throwing water in streams rather than fine droplets, these are less likely to be affected by windy conditions.

The most effective garden bed watering applicators are dribblers, drippers and sub-surface inline watering systems. These soak the soil in a teardrop pattern which encourages roots to follow the water down deeply into the soil, reducing the chances of the plant becoming water stressed when the top soil dries on the hotter days. Such systems are easily adapted to both new and existing gardens.



Mulching will take place after planting but is worth considering at this point. A 100mm to 150mm thick layer of mulch should be placed evenly all over your garden beds after planting. Mulch should be kept away from the plant’s stems, which encourages a bowling effect encouraging water to flow towards the plant, not away from it.

There are many different types of mulches available. Within densely planted garden beds, it is better to use a composted organic product.

Step 3: Plant Choice

Choosing Plants

You have drawn up a plan, prepared the soil, updated your irrigation system and considered for mulch. It is now time for the really fun stuff- choosing plants! Selecting a garden style when planning can deliver conformity and structure in its final visual effect. Many home gardens are a hybrid of different styles. Once again, the most important thing is to group plants together according to the drop rating. There are numerous garden styles such as native, mediterranean, cottage, tropical or modern minimalist gardens. Types of plants are included in our Mitreplan.

Copyright Mitre 10 Australia Pty Ltd. Reproduction prohibited other than for personal use. This guide has been produced to provide basic information and our experienced staff are available to answer any questions you may have. However, this information is provided for use on the understanding that Mitre 10 is not liable for any claim, cost, expense, loss or damage which is suffered or incurred (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss), for any personal injury or damage to property suffered or sustained as a result of or arising out of or in any way connected with using the information contained in this guide. Mitre 10 advises you to call in a qualified trades person, such as an electrician or plumber, where expert services are required, and to independently assess any safety precautions that will need to be followed prior to using the information in this guide.