Drought was widespread in NSW this summer.

Although we’ve had storms and plenty of rain in Sydney recently, Level 2 water restrictions kicked in last December and are still in place for Sydney, so adding glamour to a garden area is not easy.

Sydney Water says despite dam levels rising, Level 2 water restrictions will be in place until at least 1 March 2020. After this, we are likely to see Level 1 restrictions for some time.

Whenever our clients ask us how to get their home ready for sale in summer, we tell them to emphasise the outdoor living component. Everyone loves being outdoors in summer, and it’s a time the upper north shore comes to life with beautiful pool areas and alfresco entertaining.

If you are looking to keep your garden green when times are dry, we have some tips on what you can do with your garden.

Equipment:

It’s much easier to keep your garden in great shape if you have the right equipment. Here are some tools that will help:
● A hose with a trigger nozzle to ensure that no drop of water goes to waste (that’s if you’re allowed to use it – check water restrictions)
● Stage 2 water restrictions mean residents can only water a garden with a watering can or bucket (before 10am or after 4pm).
● Smart and drip irrigation systems. These can be used for 15 minutes a day before 10am and 4pm, make sure yours is installed and working properly.
● If you have the space, install a rainwater tank. You will have more luck keeping your garden green if you have an extra supply of water on hand.

Soil Focus:

● Many potting mixes become water repellant when they get dry, as do soils. Use a soil wetting agent to break down the waxy layer that is preventing your soil from absorbing water. This will ensure that water from rain or irrigation will penetrate the soil effectively.
● Use organic matter. Soil that contains organic matter can hold more moisture than other soil. Try purchasing compost or organic soil improvers and mix them into your existing soil. Better still – make your own compost using food and garden waste.
● Add a layer of mulch to the top of the soil. This will insulate the soil underneath and keep it cool. It will also reduce heat reflection from the soil’s surface and cool the air around the plants.

If you have an established garden:

● Start with removing weeds. Weeding is important in any case but weeds are usually more efficient at obtaining water than your other garden plants. By removing weeds there is less competition for water.
● Water your plants early in the morning. Current level 2 restrictions do not allow you to water your plants between 10am and 4pm. It’s best to do watering in the morning as this will hydrate plants and prepare them for the heat of the day.
● If there are sensitive plants in your gardens apply a polymer film to the leaves, as this will reduce moisture loss.
● Do not cut the lawn too short, if you have a 2-3cm cover will keep the soil moist and protect the roots.

If you are adding plants:

● Look for native Australian plants to replace exotics, these are more resistant to a harsher climate and will grow better in the long run. Think banksias, kangaroo paws and bottlebrushes.
● Take time to organise your garden and group plants together according to their water needs. ‘Thirsty’ plants should be avoided, but if your heart is set on them make sure they are placed next to other ‘thirsty’ plants so that you are allocating water wisely.

If you are starting from scratch:

● This is not a time to put down new lawn. Try use mulch, pebbles or gravel to create a welcoming outdoor area without adding pressure on limited water resources. If you are putting down new lawn special watering conditions apply that let you water for up to four weeks from the delivery date.
● Rather than relying on water hungry plants use foliage to add texture to the garden.
● Succulents are an obvious choice of greenery for this climate, just watch out as some can get quite weedy. Some Australian succulents include: pigface, moonflower, portulacas, parakeelyas, flame trees and boabs.
● Some herbs love dry heat and add a great scent to your garden: add thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano to entice foodies as well as gardening lovers.

Better Homes and Gardens have recommended some drought tolerant plants. They include:

● Agapanthus
● Thyme
● Acacia
● Gazania
● Lavender
● Cordyline
● Grevillea
● Crepe Myrtle
● Gold dust wattle
● Banksia rose
● Hibiscus
● Cut-leaf daisy
● Catmint

Other tips:

● Style your outdoor living space with furniture. A buyer needs to see how they can enjoy the garden without stretching their imagination.
● Spend time in your house to identify the best time of day for inspections. The house and outdoors will need to look light and bright but feel cool.
● If you have a new or existing pool be aware that water restrictions mean you may need a permit to fill it and there are limits on topping them up.
● Try and re-use or recycle grey water from rinse cycles on washing machines or basins, baths and showers.

Find out more at Sydney Water.

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