5 ways you can future-proof your garden

Make your patch more resilient to the impacts of climate change with these experts’ simple tips to futureproof your garden.

Our land may abound in nature’s gifts, but with droughts, floods and bushfires often ravaging landscapes, our back yards and gardens need to evolve to ensure they can withstand changing weather patterns.

Research shows spending two hours a week outdoors in nature is linked to better health and wellbeing, so getting savvy about the types of plants you put in your garden and adopting new practices will not only boost your health but give your own patch of land the best chance at surviving climate change.

Newer gardening concepts, such as rooftop gardens, will continue to gain in popularity as a refuge for threatened species and to green urban landscapes.

How small sustainable gardening changes make a difference

Horticulturalist and former Gardening Australia presenter Angus Stewart and daughter Emma Stewart have recently written a book, Futureproof Your Garden, about sustainable gardening.

They advocate making small changes to how you tend your garden to reap the rewards.

“By recycling, reusing and making the most of free local resources, such as animal manure from stables, grass clippings, coffee grounds and the like, we can grow a lot more with a lot less money and environmental impact,” Angus says.

“Worm farming can turn all our kitchen scraps into a free, perfectly balanced organic fertiliser, for instance.

“We can not only adapt to climate change but have our gardens thrive on a local level.”

Here are some ways to help your garden flourish in the future.

Angus and Emma Stewart

1. Choose water-efficient varieties

While perusing the nursery aisles, get selective about your choices and opt for plants that don’t need daily watering.

“We consider water-efficient plants to be those that can adapt to either a scarcity or too much water in the soil (or in some cases both),” Angus says.

“But these need to be selected with the particular gardener’s climate, soil type and needs in mind.”

Two of Australia’s most popular water-efficient choices are bottlebrushes and paperbarks.

“They are plants that survive either drought or flood while creating habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as bees,” Angus says.

Native succulent pigface is also a popular pick, providing drought-tolerant groundcover that doesn’t burn easily in bushfires.

2. Collect or reuse water

Consider installing a water tank to collect rainwater you can then use to water your garden.

This will help cut your water bill, too.

You could also use greywater from your shower, bath, hand basins and laundry for watering.

However, it is vital that we do so in a way that minimises any risk of transmitting human pathogens,” Angus notes.

Collection methods range from buckets to more complex pumped systems.

Check your local council for greywater regulations.

3. Get new plants off to a good start

Ever bought a healthy plant at the nursery only to get it home and for it to look forlorn in a matter of weeks?

“Nursery-grown plants have usually been grown with an abundance of water and nutrients,” Angus says.

It is important to acclimatise a new plant to your garden by gradually reducing the amount of water it receives — allowing the plant to slow its growth and become accustomed to more infrequent watering.

Deep planting can also ensure your garden’s longevity.

Bury stems at planting time “to encourage a much deeper root system that allows the plant to access more subsoil moisture and helps create sturdy plants that withstand wind storms better”, Angus says.

4. Improve your soil

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and get familiar with loamy soil.

“Most of the species in the average garden will thrive best in a loamy soil: a combination of sand, silt and clay that creates a soil mix that has a crumbly texture,” Angus explains.

A simple way to improve soil condition is to mix some biochar 50/50 with homemade organic fertilisers such as worm castings.

“This mix is dug into the soil to improve both water and nutrient capacity as well as raising essential nutrient levels at the same time,” Angus says.

5. Take a holistic approach

With Australia’s changing weather patterns it is important that gardens can cope with torrential rain or searing heat.

“Improving your soil on a permanent basis, acclimatising your plants before they go in the ground, as well as more efficient irrigation and drainage systems, are all aspects that every gardener can adapt at home, both in city or larger country gardens,” Angus says.

Written by Erin Miller.

Futureproof Your Garden by Angus Stewart and Emma Stewart, published by Murdoch Books, RRP $45. Photography: Brent Wilson, Kathrin Seels and Angus Stewart.