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firstnational.com.au greeningaustralia.org.au

This product is printed with the environment in mind on 100% recycled Cyclus stock from 100% post consumer waste. Please visit www.cpigroup.com.au for more information.

Australian

Native Plants for your backyard


sustainability I have been talking to people about the need to preserve this planet’s precious resources since my days at university. Whilst I am a coastal geomorphologist by training and you may know me for my many years presenting television weather, my greatest interest is my work as an active campaigner for our environment – educating and influencing businesses and communities to make our footsteps a little lighter. My role as President of Greening Australia, the country’s largest non government environmental restoration organisation, allows me to achieve that. I was also privileged to be the Environment Ambassador for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Most of us now are conscious of the natural resources we consume in the home – whether that means recycling our waste, turning off the lights or taking shorter showers. We also know that plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, that’s what makes them so important in our fight against climate change. So protecting, enhancing and restoring our unique Australian landscapes just makes good sense. Organisations such as Greening Australia are tackling the problem at a landscape scale, but you can make a difference in your own backyard. This booklet is full of handy tips and guidelines for doing just that – however big or small it is. From Fremantle to Frankston, or Brisbane to Burnie, I encourage you to incorporate Australian native plants into your own backyard. Yours faithfully

Rob Gell President, Greening Australia

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


g n i n e e gr t r a l i a g n i c u d intro

aus


Greening Australia is a solutions-driven organisation that is doing something practical about Australia’s environmental problems. We do much more than simply plant trees.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Greening Australia tackles critical issues like salinity, declining water quality, soil degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss through an innovative blend of practical experience, science, community engagement and commitment. With a network of over 400 staff in 80 locations across the continent and support of a further 1200 volunteers, Greening Australia lives and works with people from remote, regional and metropolitan communities. As Australia’s premier advisers on vegetation management, Greening Australia is passionate about protecting and restoring the health, diversity and productivity of our unique landscapes. Apolitical and not-for-profit, Greening Australia forms partnerships with business, government and community organisations to achieve outstanding environmental outcomes. Our vision A healthy, diverse and productive environment, treasured by the whole community. Our mission To engage the community in vegetation management to protect and restore the health, diversity and productivity of our unique Australian landscapes. Greening Australia was formed in 1982 to mark the International Year of the Tree. Respected and trusted by government and business alike, Greening Australia has achieved international acclaim with inclusion on the United Nations Global 500 Honour Roll for outstanding achievement in environmental protection. Greening Australia also received the Prime Minister’s award for our 25-year partnership with Alcoa of Australia. Your donations support this work – contact your state office or log on to www.greeningaustralia.org.au to find out how you can help.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Our offices AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 02 6253 3035 Kubura Place, Aranda NEW SOUTH WALES 02 9560 9144 142 Addison Road, Marrickville NORTHERN TERRITORY 08 8981 1344 26 Dinah Beach Road, STUART PARK QUEENSLAND 07 3902 4444 333 Bennetts Road, NORMAN PARK SOUTH AUSTRALIA 08 8372 0100 Natural Resource Centre 5 Fitzgerald Road, PASADENA TASMANIA 03 6223 6377 110 Hampden Road, BATTERY POINT VICTORIA 03 9450 5300 10 Buckingham Drive, HEIDELBERG WESTERN AUSTRALIA 08 9335 8933 10-12 The Terrace, FREMANTLE

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Carbon offsets Every aspect of our lives demands that we consume some form of energy. This means, directly or indirectly, every one of us is emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. To tackle climate change, we need to tackle carbon emissions as well. Greening Australia has a practical solution that we can all take part in, right now. The secret to reducing your carbon footprint starts with reducing carbon emissions where you can, and offsetting where you can’t. When you choose to offset, choose ‘Breathe Easy’, Greening Australia’s premium carbon offset product that provides an inspiring 3-in-1 solution to climate change. More effective than monoculture planting schemes, where only one species is planted, Breathe Easy focuses on large scale planting of a mix of species. The benefits are multiple: • Carbon Offsets - Trees naturally draw CO2 from the atmosphere. As they grow, trees convert atmospheric CO2 into oxygen and organic carbon (eg. wood, leaves, roots) in a process known as carbon sequestration. In effect, large-scale tree planting can significantly reduce the effect of CO2 emissions on the atmosphere. • Landscape Transformation - Large-scale planting in strategic areas helps our landscapes to recover. Trees can boost landscape resilience by stabilising and sheltering the soil, which works to reduce the effects of salinity and erosion while helping to improve water quality. • Nurtured Biodiversity – Improving the health of native habitats by planting the right mix of local plant species. A combination of grasses, shrubs and trees creates food and shelter for our unique and endangered wildlife. Through strategic planting, we link areas of native vegetation and ensure our wildlife has the best chance of survival.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Greening Australia is an Australian Government approved Greenhouse Friendly abatement provider. Backed by leading vegetation management specialists, our methodology to establish and maintain biodiverse forest sinks for in excess of 100 years has been approved as Greenhouse Friendly by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change. Offset your home or work carbon emissions now. Visit www.breatheeasynow.com.au

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


contents 16

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Foreword 1.

Introduction

7.

Before you begin

13.

Garden design and planning a. Choosing your plants b. Garden designs c. Plant types

26.

Creating your garden a. Preparing the area b. Soil quality c. Mulching d. Selecting healthy plants e. Planting procedure f. Timing your plantings

40.

Looking after your new garden a. Watering b. Fertilising c. Pruning d. Weeding e. Replacement planting / topping up mulch

44.

Where to get more help

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Australia is a vast country with an endless variety of Australian native plants, many of which can be used in the garden to create a stunning presentation of diverse colour and foliage all the year round. Australian native plants are easy to maintain, require less watering and will attract a variety of birds, insects and fauna, which add to interest in your garden. This booklet provides information and practical advice on how to grow and look after an Australian native garden as well as the principles of garden design. More people are choosing to reduce their footprint on the planet and trying to live more sustainably. There are many ways that people can adopt more sustainable practices in their lifestyle.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


• Compost bins are a great example of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.This has the added benefit of encouraging worms to provide a wonderful soil conditioner for the garden. • With the increased need for gardeners to be more water-conscious, people are opting to install water tanks to capture rainwater which can be used later on the garden. They’re also utilising grey water from washing machines to water lawns and gardens.

People are also choosing to grow their own vegetables which provides for healthier, home-grown foods.

• Mulching your garden beds is also a great way to save water as it can reduce consumption by up to 60%, and help keep weeds at bay. • People are also choosing to grow their own vegetables which provides for healthier, homegrown foods.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Using local native plants in your garden is just another way you can make your home and lifestyle a little bit more sustainable. You can still create a beautiful garden using a range of local native plants and this will generally require less work to maintain than a traditional garden.

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The difference between Indigenous (locally native) and Native plants All plants that naturally occur within Australia can be referred to as Australian native plants, but what do we mean when we talk about indigenous plants? Indigenous plants are sometimes called “locally native species� and are Australian native plants that are local to a particular area. Indigenous plants have evolved over many thousands of years to the local conditions of rainfall, soils, and climate so are therefore adapted to growing in those local conditions. They are literally the best suited plants for the area and as such require the least amount of maintenance and they can survive and flourish in the environment they are adapted to living in.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Environmental weeds Some native plants can become problems when they are planted outside of their naturally occurring range, in much the same way that many weeds thrive when introduced to new areas. Sweet Pittosporum, which is common along the south-east coast of Australia where it grows in forested communities, has been widely sold at nurseries and used as a street tree around Melbourne. It has invaded bushland areas around Melbourne and is now classified as a serious environmental weed. Cootamundra Wattle is another example of an Australian native plant that is classified as an environmental weed in many regions of Australia. Indigenous to the Cootamundra - Wagga Wagga region of NSW, it has been widely planted outside its natural range due to its showy foliage and has since invaded bushland areas. It is important when planning your garden that you choose to use locally native/ indigenous species to plant as they are already part of the local environment and are less likely to create problems in the local area. Fruits and seeds from plants are moved around by birds and other animals, so they can easily end up in nearby bushland areas and along watercourses.This is usually where remnant areas of native vegetation exist and where foreign species can have the biggest effect.

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There are many benefits to using locally native plants in your garden • Native plants are attractive: There is a huge diversity of attractive native plants with an impressive range of flowers and foliage in all different shapes and sizes. So you’re bound to find something suitable for your garden. • Native plants have the advantage: Locally native plants have evolved over thousands of years to suit the local climate, soil, rainfall and other environmental conditions. They naturally grow in the area so they are adapted to survive the conditions, and, once established, the natural rainfall is often all the water they will need to survive. • Native gardens attract wildlife: Native animals and birds rely on native plants for food and habitat, so planting a range of locally native plants in your garden will attract a range of birds, butterflies and other wildlife into your garden. If you live in a more rural area, this may contribute to wildlife corridors between larger bushland areas. • Native gardens are easy to maintain: Native gardens need less water and fertiliser than exotic gardens because they’ve evolved with the local rainfall and soil conditions. This makes them perfect for the so-called lazy gardener and useful for public landscaping works. • They present a lesser weed threat: Native plants are already part of the local environment, and present a lower risk of becoming a weed problem if they get into bushland areas. A large number of our serious weeds are non-local garden plants that have “escaped” into natural bushland areas from backyards.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


myths common

about native plants

Indigenous plants are hard to look after Indigenous plants have evolved over thousands of years with the local conditions of soil, climate and rainfall and are therefore going to require less care than exotic plants as they have adapted to grow naturally in the area. Indigenous plants can only be used as a “bush garden� Although native plants look fantastic in their natural bush environment, there is no reason why they cannot be incorporated into a more formal structured garden. Natives have great foliage and colour and for every exotic plant there is bound to be a local alternative. Indigenous plants are not good horticultural plants Some native plants may look a bit wild, but with a little care and pruning can shape up quite nicely. Almost all plants respond to a bit of love and care. You can produce nice specimens with an abundance of colour.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

6


begin before you

things you need to be aware of

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Legislation Before you begin developing your indigenous garden, you need to consider local legislation that may affect your planning.

A tree overhanging your front fence may breach local Council laws

Where you have existing local indigenous vegetation in your own garden, or on a larger block, whether private or commercial, you need to be aware that there may be federal, state or local legislation protecting vegetation that prevents or restricts you from removing it. When planning a new home, home extension, garage, driveway or any other larger physical improvement to your property, it is important that you seek advice from your local council regarding these restrictions. You may not be allowed to remove vegetation or may require a permit to remove or prune vegetation. These levels of protection have been introduced to prevent loss of vital wildlife habitat and loss of rare or endangered flora or fauna. Most legislation works on a basic three staged approach of avoiding loss, minimising loss and various replacement or offset strategies. Many local councils also have their own set of laws regarding vegetation and this primarily relates to branches overhanging front fences. In this case, you should prune your trees or shrubs so they don’t overhang the front fence.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Planning The best outcome for your plants and, ultimately for you, will be to plan thoroughly to decide what you want from your garden and plantings. This will help to avoid basic problems and can be achieved with some forethought on what your garden may look like in a few years time. Easements and underground services When assessing which areas to develop, it is worth noting from plans if there are any easements that run along the edge or through your property. Easements are areas of land that can be used by councils or service providers to run pipes or cables underground through the property. It is worth knowing if there are easements, or where these areas are, so that you do not commence works above them that could be required to be removed at a later stage. If cables or pipes already run through your property, but you are unsure about their exact location, you should ring ‘Dial Before You Dig’ on 1100, which is a national free service. They will be able to send detailed plans of the location of services in a given area. Knowing where these services are may prevent you planting inappropriate species directly above them, causing problems or expensive remedial works in the future.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Building near or around native vegetation When planning new structures on your property, you should consider potential damage to nearby plants and their root systems. For example, a large tree that suffers root damage and dies will become a hazard and may cost several thousands of dollars to have safely removed. A common problem is when new fence lines, walls or driveways are very close to trees which can cause the decline of tree or plant health in the following ways. Example 1: If inadequate thought has been given when building a new garage and it is placed too near to an existing tree, the tree roots have the potential to be damaged during construction. This physical damage may affect the trees’ ability to feed itself and will almost always lead to a decline and eventual death of an older established tree. Example 2: If a new driveway is placed running alongside a tree, there is the likelihood that this will change the amount of water that is available to the tree or other vegetation around it. Any hard surface will prevent rainfall being able to enter the ground and being available for plants, once this normal routine is changed the plants begin to suffer. Example 3: Another potential problem to consider is the runoff of water from hard surfaces and where this water is directed. If it is allowed to flow unimpeded onto a garden or around the roots of plants, it can cause erosion and roots can become exposed to the air. Minimal erosion may not be a problem but continued erosion could expose roots that can lead to a decline in the health of the tree. You may consider a more permeable material for a driveway of perhaps stone toppings rather than a fixed hard surface, the toppings will allow some water and air to flow through and be available to plants.

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This tree is going to need to be pruned to keep it away from the overhead wires

Planting considerations Before you purchase any plants, you need to consider where you want to plant and the size that mature plants will reach. Many people buy a shrub or tree simply because they have seen it on TV or in a magazine, or in someone else’s garden, however, you need to buy the right plant for the right place. Special care should be taken when planting near or under powerlines/cables. These could be located on a nature strip or going across your block from the street to your house, consisting of either power cables or telephone/internet cabling. Planting a tall shrub or a tree under cables can result in problems in the future that could be avoided with some forethough. So, consider not only the size of an area you want to fill with plants, and the width of the plants you wish to select, but also the eventual height and the location of the planting. Trees under powerlines that get too big may need to be pruned and forced to grow around the wires which may affect the structural integrity of the tree.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Also, avoid planting large plants too close to fences as they may overhang neighbours yards and footpaths which could be in breach of a local council law. Another consideration, especially when planting new trees into your garden, is to avoid planting them close to an existing wall where root growth may cause the lifting or cracking of the wall at a later date. Shrubs should not be a problem but do try to plant trees a minimum of five metres away from a wall.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

Street trees commonly need radical pruning to avoid overhead powerlines

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garden

design and planning

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Before you rush out, buy your plants and start digging holes, you need to have a good idea about what sort of garden you desire and what will work within the space available. So, developing a plan is an important first step in developing your new garden, or remodelling your existing one. Planning The first part of the design process is deciding what sort of garden you want- this may seem quite logical and simple, but it is important in deciding the overall feel of the garden. Let your imagination run wild and have a clear picture of what you are setting out to achieve:

There are no set rules to what type of garden you design. You may choose a formal looking garden with straight lines and symmetry or opt for a more informal, unstructured look, much like the bush itself.

• Do you want a garden that will attract native animals and provide food and habitat for them? • Do you want to create a garden that will display different wildflowers year round? • Do you want to display some of the plants of your local area? • Do you want to use indigenous plants as hedges and in landscaping as opposed to non-natives? • Do you want to allow for outdoor living or utility areas

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Assessing what you have to work with Whatever the reason for wanting to use indigenous plants in your garden, it is important to then identify the various factors that might affect what plants can grow where. This includes looking at the environmental conditions of your block, as well as existing features, including the following: • Sunny / shady areas of your garden: establish which direction your garden faces and think about how this might affect what you plant in different areas. Sun and shade areas in your garden change between summer and winter, so you need to be aware of this. • Existing vegetation: assess what trees are already on your land, or in your neighbour’s land, which provide shade over your garden. Have a look at different times of the day and try to work out which areas of the garden are shaded and when. • Wet / dry areas: think about when it rains on your yard; where does the water drain to and are there areas that stay wetter for longer? The slope of the land is probably the most obvious explanation, but the soil type will also affect drainage; for example sandy soils will drain better than clay soils. • Paths / driveway: mark in the location of any existing paths in your backyard and your driveway. These are existing features of your block that will need to be worked around • New paths / recreational areas: if you are thinking of creating a new path in your backyard or an area for a picnic table, include these on your sketch. Think about what might border the path: rocks with some rockery plants, or maybe a more formal hedge. • Location of powerlines / easements: be aware and mark the location of overhead powerlines and underground services such as gas and water and any easements on your sketch. • High use areas: are there existing high use areas in your backyard that you want to keep or are there areas you want to create for children, pets, or family gatherings? Include these also.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

16


Now you should have a pretty good idea of what you’ve got to work with, and your sketch of your land should include the features listed previously.

a) Choosing your plants

Always remember, planting the right plant in the right place will maximise the chance of it establishing and flourishing.

The next step is to get creative and think about how you want your new garden to look in terms of colour, shape and the size of the plants. Check with your local council and try to get your hands on a local plant guide which should show the indigenous plants of your area and the features they possess, including: the size at maturity, conditions best suited for the plant, flower colour and foliage type. Each plant species will have particular requirements for growth, so it is important to select plants according to the conditions present on your land which you’ve identified in your sketch. By now you should be getting a good feel of what your entire garden will look like - the plan should capture the experience and knowledge you have and makes it easier for you to demonstrate to others, like nursery staff, what you are trying to achieve. Specific plant forms are described in the next chapter.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


b) Garden Designs. What’s your style? Any garden style can be adapted to use locally native plants depending on your style. Here are a few examples: Bush garden A bush garden has a natural feel so it incorporates a range a different plant forms and species to create a more natural, unstructured appearance. A bush garden will attract wildlife to your garden and creates a haven for animals, providing food, shelter and water. Try to plant a variety of plants, especially ones with flowers, seeds and fruits for nectar feeding birds. Prickly shrubs can provide great nesting locations. The ground layer should be like the bush, with branches and hollow logs as well as some rocks left on the ground to provide habitat for insects and lizards. Dishes of water can also be distributed for the animals. Cottage garden A cottage garden shows off a wide range of colourful flowers and foliage as a showcase to visitors. Cottage gardens have typically been filled with roses and other exotic plants, but there is no reason why you can’t create a similiar environment using locally native plants. Choose plants based on flowering properties including colour, duration and seasonality. Through careful selection of plants, you can have something in flower all year round. Regular pruning will promote vigorous growth as well as prolific flowering in shrubs and a bird bath can act as both a central feature of the garden and as an important source of water.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Formal garden The formal garden approach may utilise straight lines as well as shapes and mirroring to create a sense of symmetry and structure. Edges of paths can be formalised by pruning indigenous shrubs into hedges. Tussock forming species are also fantastic for this purpose with their almost identical appearance. Mass plantings of individual species in patterns and layered heights in each garden bed introduce perspective to the garden-foreground, middle ground and background. Large decorative specimen trees can serve as a feature of a formal garden, as do statues, sculptures, water features and bird baths.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Your garden may be designed based on what function you need it to perform, rather than just looks.

Rain garden Rain gardens are garden beds that are positioned to receive rainwater runoff from hard surfaces including roofs, paved areas or road surfaces.The vegetation soaks up the valuable rainfall, which would otherwise be washed away as stormwater. In the bed, the water gradually works its way through the profile and, if not used by the plants, is then returned to the stormwater system minus the pollutants which are absorbed by the plants and soil. Plant selection is critical, because the system relies on natural rainfall so the garden will have to survive periods of drought and also periods of temporary inundation. Low water (xeriscape) garden The term xeriscape describes landscapes and gardens designed to conserve water, by using drought tolerant plants that are tough and hardy. By using drought tolerant plants you will not have to water your garden as often, translating to lower maintenance for you. The plants will generally have small leaves that are thick and glossy and a silvery-grey colour, which are all characteristics that help the plant conserve water. Their silvery-grey foliage can be quite striking when contrasted against gravel or rock mulch.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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c) Plant types As you are well aware, plants come in a range of shapes and sizes and can also perform a range of functions in your garden. The plants you choose should reflect the function you want the plant to perform:

Some native grasses can also be used as a substitute lawn species due to their lower need for water and ability to tolerate walking upon and regular mowing. Weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides) can be a great substitute lawn in Melbourne

• Do you want tall shrubs to use as screening plants? • Do you want prickly shrubs to provide habitat for birds? • Do you want colourful flowers to attract butterflies and provide colour? • Do you want a small tree to shade your backyard? • Do you want a native grass lawn for lower maintenance? • Do you want small shrubs to form a hedge along a garden path? • Do you want a large shrub/small tree to provide a feature in the garden? The following is a list of different plant forms you may choose to use in your garden. By using a range of forms you can introduce structure and perspective to your garden Ground covers Ground covers are the plants that creep along the ground, providing a splash of colour to an otherwise mulched garden bed. They can weave around the base of shrubs to give your garden a more natural bush feel.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Herbs Herbs are typically about 5-20cm tall and are where a lot of the colour in your garden can come from. Be careful in your layout and design as you’d want these closest to paths so their colourful flowers are easily viewed.

Climbers Indigenous climbers can give your garden a great bush feel, but can also look superb growing along a fence or pergola. These plants can easily be trained to go wherever you want them to go.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Tussock forming plants Many indigenous tussock forming plants are ideal to use as border plants in your garden due to their almost identical appearance. Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Lilies have a range of foliage types and colours to suit your desired appearance and can appear quite impressive when mass planted along paths.

Tussocks planted close together to give a natural appearance in a bush garden

Mass plantings of tussocks along paths can create a great border Tussocks can also provide great habitat when clumped together, which is how they would naturally appear in a more informal bush garden.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Small hedge forming shrubs Many indigenous shrubs will respond well to pruning and can therefore form hedges or work well as border plants.Through careful pruning you will promote denser looking plants with more flowers

Small Shrubs Small shrubs, less than about 1m, can provide important structure to your garden and provide a range of foliage in a relatively small area. Similarly, they can be pruned and shaped as you wish.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Larger shrubs Larger shrubs will also provide much needed structure to your garden, providing a range of layers of vegetation.They can look great planted along a wall or fence to soften the appearance and through careful selection, they can also provide important habitat for birds.

Small Trees Planting large trees is not advisable unless you have a large backyard. A smaller tree can still be a fantastic addition to your garden and can be ideal as a feature, while at the same time providing shade.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


creating your

garden


If you have moved onto a new block of land, or live in the bush where there are already a number of indigenous plants growing, you may decide to wait a while and allow the plants to regenerate naturally. Seeds from local plants that are already in your soil will regenerate when the time is right, often in surprisingly high numbers.

27

Whether you are starting a new garden or improving an existing garden, there are several things to consider when working with soils and plants. Areas will normally need to be prepared in some way. This may be as simple as removing old, dead or weedy plants and replacing them with new plants through to engaging landscaping professionals to completely redesign a large area.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


a) Preparing the Area When starting a garden from scratch, the first thing you will need to do is control weeds in the area you wish to make your new or extended garden. Weeds compete with your plants for space, nutrients, water and light. They’re usually fast growing, competitive, and will cause problems if they aren’t controlled properly from the outset. Depending on the scale and size of the area and the type of weeds present, there are many ways to remove weeds, some of which are more environmentally friendly than others. • You could hand pull or dig them out, if there are not too many individual plants, making sure to get the whole plant including the roots • You could place moist newspaper over a grassy or old lawn area, which should be laid around 5-7 sheets thick. Ensure the edges overlap - the idea is to stop light from reaching the weeds, causing them to die. • You can spray the weeds with herbicide • If the weeds are woody shrubs, you’ll need to try and remove them fully including as much root material as you can The next step will depend on the type of soil you have or how compacted it is. Compacted soils can be broken up by using a mattock to loosen the first 15-20cm of the soil surface. This allows for water penetration and root growth. Normally, most plant roots will be able to penetrate soils themselves, especially if you follow the planting steps provided below.This will give them the best start and promote strong root growth. You can improve the water holding capacity of the soil by incorporating organic material into your soil. This is normally done in the form of compost, either home produced or bought from a garden supplier. Soil wetters can also help make the water penetrate rather than pool on the surface of the soil. Once an area is clear of weeds, you can begin to plant your garden using the plant selection and planting tips given below.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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b) Soil Quality Depending on your location and needs, you may decide to bring in new soil to raise the fertility or to raise the height of a planting area. Be aware that you may unintentionally be introducing new weeds to your garden if there are weed seeds in the soil. You should check with the nursery to confirm their soils are free of contaminants and weed seeds. Caring for your soil Improving the condition and fertility of a soil is achieved by introducing fertilisers, manures or compost. Fertilising A general fertiliser and plant food is normally available in a liquid form from nurseries. It can be diluted and watered into a garden and over plants. Often, this form of application is required only once a year and is normally applied in the wetter seasons. Manure Manures are stronger and need to be dug into your soil.You should seek advice when choosing manures for your garden as plants react very strongly to the nutrients, pathogens and minerals found in them.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Compost Compost is another soil improver. These days many people have their own compost bin or worm farm.These produce compost from left-over food scraps and plant material, such as lawn clippings and small prunings, which can then be spread on the garden to feed your plants. You can also buy compost from garden centres, either in bags or in bulk. pH of soils Soils have a natural pH level - pH is a measure of how acid or alkaline the soil is. Plants can only tolerate a narrow pH range. Simple pH kits, available from nurseries, can be used to test your soil, which can be adjusted based on the requirements of your plants.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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c) Mulching Mulch is a layer of, usually organic, material that is laid on the soil surface. There are many benefits to your plants and soil from using mulch, plus it assists in weed control. Probably the most important reason to mulch is for water conservation. Mulch slows evaporation from the top layer of soil and keeps soil moist longer, reducing watering needs by up to 60%. Mulching also helps suppress weed germination and growth – weeds compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients. It will also help keep the soil temperature constant, reduce water runoff and the erosion or movement of soil from garden beds. Both organic and inorganic mulches are normally available in bulk or can often be purchased in bags if a large quantity is not required.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Mulch types When considering using mulch there is a choice between organic, or in-organic - your choice will depend on availability, garden design and your personal preference. Organic mulch Organic mulches are ‘natural’ products from plant materials that break down, adding organic matter to soil, improving structure and drainage, and encouraging earthworm and microbial activity. Organic mulches are available as varying materials including: • • • • • • • •

Wood Bark (graded from thicker to finer grades) Tree Cuttings (whole trees or limbs including the woody and leaf material) Wood shavings or milled (normally made from pine wood) Sawdust Peastraw Lucerne hay Cane or bean mulch Recycled mulch (made from green rubbish collections from your local council)

Some of the organic mulches available for your garden depending on your preference

The depth to which the mulch should be applied depends primarily on the type of mulch being used. For coarse mulches like wood bark, cuttings or shavings, a layer of around five to eight centimetres is ideal. Cane, lucerne hay and pea straw mulches can be applied thicker as they breakdown quicker than coarser mulch materials.

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Remember, when watering you need to ensure you are not just wetting the mulch - the water must reach the soil underneath

Some things to be aware of when using organic mulches • Organic mulches break down and need to be topped up - how regularly will depend on the type and thickness of mulch used. • Organic mulches that have not been properly prepared may contain weed seed which has the potential to introduce new weeds to your garden. • Organic mulches will also absorb water so they should be applied over a wet garden, after rain or watering.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Some things to be aware of when using in-organic mulch In-organic mulch Inorganic mulches are also natural products, but they are not plant based and don’t break down over time. In-organic mulches include: • • • •

Scoria Gravel Stones River Pebbles

There is a range of in-organic mulches available depending on the look you desire for your garden These are sometimes popular as perceived low maintenance mulch and there are a variety of these inorganic mulches available from garden suppliers. These mulches are often used to provide a desired look to a more formal garden.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

• Inorganic mulches don’t break down and therefore have none of the soil improving qualities to your garden that organic mulch does. • They absorb and reflect a lot of heat from the sun, which can actually put your plants and garden under more stress than they may otherwise need to be - both from the heat of the soil and the reflected heat onto the plant.

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d) Selecting healthy plants from a nursery Whatever your choice of garden style and plant choices may be, you will almost certainly source at least some of your plants from a nursery. The following checklist outlines things to be aware of when choosing plants: • Check first on the plant’s health and appearance. Always choose first a plant that looks strong and healthy, with no obvious damage or disease appearing on stems or leaves. • Check that the plant is firm in the pot and does not sway easily as this may indicate a poor or damaged root system. • Many plants are selected to provide flowers and colour to a garden, but you should try and select plants that are not in flower as they will be put under less stress when planted. • The health of the root system is as important as the flowers and leaves of the plant. Check under the pot, and if you see a large number of roots growing out of the bottom or old woody roots present, then this plant should be avoided. This is a sign that the root system is over developed and the plant has been is the pot for too long – it could experience trouble establishing. • What you ideally should find when you look underneath the pot are fresh strong white roots beginning to appear, indicating the plant is ready to go in the ground.

What to look for when selecting plants from a nursery 1. Overdeveloped plant: Strong roots protruding from the pot indicates it’s been in there too long 2. Underdeveloped plant: Small plant and the roots may not be strong enough to hold the soil together when removed from the pot 3. Ready for Planting: Fresh new roots are starting to protrude from the pot indicating it is ready to go in the ground

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


When purchasing your local plants, you could consider buying them from a local indigenous nursery. A big advantage of using these suppliers is that the plants have actually been grown by them, from seed or cuttings, and the nursery has nurtured them to the point when they’re ready for sale. Indigenous plants can come in a range of pot sizes and one of most common sizes available at nurseries is usually a small pot called a tube. Purchasing plants in tubes will give you the best value for money and planting them at this small size will ensure they have a reduced chance of having deformed root systems from being in the pot for too long

If you are starting a garden from scratch or changing a large area of your garden, remember to purchase your plants after the ground has been prepared and you’re ready to plant.

Some of the different sized pots indigenous plants can come in, including tube pots By following these tips you will purchase healthy and strong plants that will not be stressed. They’ll bring you pleasure for years to come.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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e) Planting Procedure Once you have selected the plants for your garden, follow these simple steps to give your plant the best chance of success: 1. Dig a hole that is wider and deeper than the container you are taking the plant out of. This will enable you to backfill around your plant with broken soil which will help the plant to put out some establishing roots. 2. Water the hole thoroughly and allow the water to seep into the ground. This will help to provide a well moistened soil that will not evaporate too quickly. If you are planning to use water saving crystals, this is the time to put them into the hole. 3. Replace some of the soil to fill the bottom of the hole so that when you place your new plant onto the soil, it sits just at or below the normal ground level - mix the water crystals with this soil. 4. Place your plant into the hole and, while holding it upright, backfill the soil around the plant and tap down to ensure that there is good contact between the roots and the soil and to remove any air pockets from the soil. 5. Once the plant is firmly planted, water again and continue to water at least once a day for the first week to help the plant establish and suffer less transplant shock. 6. Cover the area with mulch, but be careful not to push mulch up against the stem of the plant.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


If you follow these simple steps your plants will have been given the best chance to establish themselves and to flourish.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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You may well be surprised just how much water crystals will expand once they have absorbed water. If you place crystals in the hole but do not wet them prior, you may find that as the crystals swell up they push the plants out of the ground, causing them to dry out and die. Follow the directions on the packet for best results.

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f) Timing your plantings You need to be aware of the optimum time for planting. Attempt to work when above average rainfall is anticipated and temperatures are not at their peak. Your local nursery and council will be able to inform you of the best times for planting in your area. Planting at the optimum time will minimise stress for each plant and lowering the need for post transplant maintenance and watering. Books or magazines may suggest planting something in a particular month or season, but this varies across Australia so check with your local nursery for local advice.

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


looking after your

new garden


Locally native plants can be wonderful to have in your garden, but you shouldn’t just plant them and forget about them. They may require less maintenance than non-natives because they are adapted to local growing conditions, but they are not maintenance free and your plants will thrive and flourish with a little extra care. It is also important to note that any garden is a dynamic system that continually evolves and changes over time.

a) Watering Plants should be well watered during the planting stage. Water needs to be kept up to the plant initially, but after it is established it is better to water the plant infrequently, for a longer period of time, (“deep watering”) than frequently for a shorter period. This is because “deep watering”, where the water soaks deeper into the soil, encourages the roots of the plant to grow deeper to access the water, and as a result, plants develop stronger root systems. Frequent light watering can lead to plants developing shallow root systems which can quickly dry out and die during drought conditions as soil moisture dries up. Once plants are established they may be able to survive on natural rainfall alone.

b) Fertilising Locally native plants are adapted to the generally low nutrient value of Australian soils and, as a result, generally don’t require much, if any, artificial fertilising. If you do want to fertilise to assist establishment it is recommended to use a low-phosphorus, slow release fertiliser specifically designed for native plants.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


c) Pruning Native plants can easily be pruned and pruning actually mimics the grazing of the plants in the bush by wallabies, kangaroos and possums etc. Tip pruning, which is removing the growing tips with your fingers, forces a plant to become thick and bushy because every time a growing shoot is pinched off the plant, it produces several new shoots back along the branch. And more branches potentially results in more flowers. Tip pruning is a common and easy technique used to shape plants, and should be done regularly from an early age, particularly for hedging and feature plants. There are many benefits to pruning your native plants in your gardens, including: • promoting new growth and flowering • promoting denser habit and prevent plants getting “leggy” • promoting more vigorous growth • prolonging the life of some short-lived plants If your plant is fully grown, it is often difficult to change its shape which is why regular tip-pruning is recommended. Some plants respond to being cut back to the hard wood with secateurs/loppers but others may not cope and you may end up killing them. If you must hard-prune it is recommended to be done in the growing season.

Different plants respond differently to pruning so check with your nursery when buying your plants, or your local plant guide about which plants can be safely pruned and shaped.

1. To make your plant denser and produce more flowers 2. Cut behind spent flowers 3. Which will promote fresh new growth, and

1

2

3

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

4

4. Each new branch can produce more flowers and make your plant denser

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d) Weeding Weeding your garden is an easy job if you keep on top of it and pull weeds as soon as you see them. If you undertake weed control early on, most of the weeds that return will be easy to remove by hand - take care to pull out the roots as well. It is important to remove weeds before they flower and produce seed - which will create future weed problems. Weeds compete with your new plants for water, light, nutrients and space. Most are fast growing, flower and set seed rapidly. Choosing to densely plant ground covers or herbs and grasses will reduce the occurrence of weeds because there is less space for weeds to establish themselves.

Be vigilant and keep on top of weeds and be sure to remove the roots as well

e) Replacement plantings, topping up mulch The garden is a dynamic system that is continuously evolving and plants are going to die from time to time. When a plant dies, any seeds in the soil will have a chance to germinate and grow because of the space created - be aware that there will also be weed seeds in the soil. So, to prevent them germinating, dead plants should be replaced with more local plants. If you are using organic mulch in your garden, this will break down over time and should be replaced every couple years depending on how quickly it breaks down. As the mulch breaks down it essentially feeds the soil with all the nutrients locked up in the mulch.

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard


Where to get more help Organisations to contact: Your local council Your local catchment management authority in your state or territory Local indigenous nurseries

Websites: • Greening Australia website www.greeningaustralia.org.au • Sustainable Gardening Australia website www.sgaonline.org.au • Australian Native Plant Society (Australia) http://asgap.org.au • Growing Native Plants - Australian National Botanic Gardens www.anbg.gov.au/gnp • Bird Observers and Conservation Australia www.birdobservers.org.au

Acknowledgments Images and drawings by Greening Australia with the exception of those supplied by Bruce Champion on page 21. Drawings by Vera Hemkes and text compiled by Mark Williams, Greening Australia (Vic). © Greening Australia 2009

Australian Native Plants for your Backyard

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Australian Native Plants for your Backyard  

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