by Wally Richards


With some areas experiencing a lot of rain lately it is a good time to look at how to prevent damage and losses in your gardens.

There is a range of plants we call bog plants and they just love living in wet soil and even in water which makes many of them suitable to use in aquariums for your fish to enjoy.

But even in an aquarium, oxygen is needed so we place a air stone connected to an air pump to bubble away under water and aerate the water.

If we did not do this the oxygen in the water would be used up and then the fish would suffocate and likely even the plants would die as the water became stagnant.

By the way if you want to remove the chlorine from a bucket of chlorinated water simply put a air stone connected to a air pump and let it bubble away and within about 12 hours or less the water will be free of the poisonous chlorine.

Very wet soil loses the oxygen and that becomes deadly for the roots of plants.

Some plants are fairly hardy against wet feet where others soon have root rot happen and when enough roots are damaged the plant dies.

It does not matter if some of the roots are in very wet soil or water as long as there are more roots that are above the wet area.

I can give a good example of this as one place I lived in years ago would be a lake of water in the back section during wet winters.

Many attempts of growing ornamentals were hopeless so I planted a twisted willow in the corner which was the wettest area and it very quickly grew.

Then I also planted a couple of cabbage trees both of which took off and as these and the willow grew they helped greatly in taking up the surface water.

After a season I was able to plant a few other native plants that were able to survive as the area was less wet.

My citrus were a problem so I cut some 200 litre drums in half, drilled some large 4-5 cm [1.5 – 2 inch] holes in the sides about 10cm above the base.

This meant in dry times there would be a nice reservoir of water to keep the citrus happy.

I then dug a hole so the bottom third of the drum would be buried in the surrounding soil.

This made them stable in windy times when the citrus gained some height.

It also allowed the roots later on to venture out of the drum and into the surrounding soil.

The result of this was that in the middle of winter when the back yard was a a lake of water the citrus were ‘as happy as Larry’.

When I came to move to another place I lifted the drums (with a lot of effort) and was surprised at the large roots that had grown out of the holes on the sides.

As a good part of the root system was above water the citrus was not affected by wet feet.

The alternative to this would have been to make mounds about half a metre tall and plant citrus trees in these.

Years later after another move to where we are now in Marton the same citrus trees are happily living in the same drums sitting either on soil in the lawn or on concrete. Of course, every few years I need to take them out of the containers and root prune them.

That would not be needed if you had the roots venturing out into surrounding soil.

The very worst thing that you can have in wet winters is any type of mulch around any plants that don’t like wet feet.

Mulches are great in dry summers to conserve soil moisture but deadly in winter as the soil can not breathe and too much wetness is retained.

I remember a few years ago having a phone call from a lady who wanted to know why her very expensive ornamental trees were dying. She planted then in the spring and in summer she had a pile of old carpet after re-carpeting the home. So she put that on the soil under her precious ornamentals to suppress weeds and retain moisture. It worked a treat till the wet times came, the soil became saturated and the expensive plants started to die.

I told her that she had to quickly do two things which was firstly remove the carpets and then spray the foliage with Wallys PerKfection at the high rate 9 mils per litre of water and then at 4mils per litre a month later and repeat once a month till into spring making a total of 6, once a month sprays.

Perkfection assists in recovery from/or prevention of, the following problems, Black spot, Downy Mildew, Phytophthora Root rot, Canker, heart rot, damping off, crown rot, leaf blight, silver leaf, late blight, collar rot, pink rot, brown rot, Armillaria, and gummy stem rot.

It is magic on Buxus for the dreaded Buxus disease that kills the plants.

It has brought back Buxus from near dead to their formal glory and after which I would suggest a maintenance spray bi-monthly at 5 mils per litre of water.

Perkfection is systemic so you dont need full coverage of foliage just a good amount of it.

Another way of improving drainage is like we used to do in days gone by when gardeners would in winter dig their vegetable garden over, mounding up the clods as they went leaving a ditch around the garden about one and a half spade deep.

They would then sprinkle garden lime over the clods for the frosts to take in and break the clods down.

In spring when it was time to plant, the clods would break up into a fine tilth with little effort using a rake.

Now days we dont dig but the idea of a trench around the garden or around a citrus tree just about 12 cm [5 inches] out from the drip line is very practical.

This allows excess water to drain into the ditch were sunlight and wind will evaporate it quickly.

An interesting thing happens sometimes where a water sensitive plant like a citrus, years old suddenly one season shows signs of wet feet.

The reason is often a result of a change of direction with surface water flows which maybe caused by some construction or even a new concrete path or driveway.

The previous flow place is changed to where the citrus is growing and the soil is much wetter than previously.

Remember to frost protect sensitive plants with spray on frost protection, Vaporgard.

Problems ring me at 0800 466464
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