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Living Lightly column

Summer Plant Survival

By Charlie Robinson, Beechworth

Keeping plants alive throughout the hot Summer months can be a challenge for most people, particularly if they live on larger properties.  But it shouldn’t be if you follow these tried and proven steps.  We live on ten acres and we ensure that every plant receives adequate water , even at the extremities of our land.

First off, you need a plan to ensure that all trees receive enough water. This can be as fundamental as installing adequate water storage before you plant out a new garden. During heat waves, we run garden hoses from our water tanks to those trees within range.  The hose is moved every half hour.

To water those plants which are out of range of your hoses you need another strategy. Begin by buying a heap of plastic buckets.

When we first turn on the shower we capture the cold water in yellow buckets.  In winter this water goes into a large kettle on top of the wood heater. Once the shower is running hot, we place a blue bucket in the shower while we wash ourselves.  We finish showering once the blue bucket is full so this acts as a timer as well.  For one person we can capture at least fourteen litres per shower, enough for a small tree.

Our washing machine is a top-loading model and uses sixty litres per cycle, that is sixty litres per wash and sixty litres per rinse.  We run the pipe from the washing machine into 80 litre garbage bins and we decant the washing water from the bins into our numerous buckets.  These buckets are plain old black ones and can be purchased for as little as a dollar each.  We fill eight buckets from each wash cycle and these go to our trees.

During dry times I keep track of the plants that have been watered and those that will be watered the next time.   When our fruit trees are between one and three years old they usually receive around two buckets of water each about every fortnight.  After that the frequency is extended but, during really dry spells, they might get four buckets each.

In over ten years, we haven’t lost a tree because of lack of water.