If you are gardening on sandy soils, the key to a lush green garden and lawn is to nurture healthy soil, and right now is the perfect time to start turning your sand into soil. Improving your soil is easily done by adding soil conditioners, clay, soil wetter, and protecting the surface with a layer of mulch. Using these Bay OK gardening principles, your garden will flourish, be a haven for local wildlife, and look fabulous all year round.
Soil conditioners are organic products and include compost, seaweed and fish solutions, and composted animal manures. Adding organic matter to your soil coats the sand particles in an organic humus which holds water and nutrients where it is available for plants to use.
If you are putting in new plants, add soil conditioner to your existing soil in a wheelbarrow and mix through. Add the mix to the planting hole with your new plants to ensure they get the best start possible. If your garden is already established, sprinkle the product onto the soil surface and rake it in. Sandy soils that already have soil conditioner applied will need constant attention as the organic matter breaks down and is used by plants, so it is recommended that organic matter is applied regularly.
The soils of the Geographe catchment are hydrophobic, meaning that they repel water. Soil wetter breaks down the waxy coating on sand particles so water can be absorbed into the soil profile rather than sitting on top of the soil or running away. Soil wetter works well on dead lawn areas and can be applied towards the end of winter to prepare for spring growth. Sprinkle it on with some organic matter, such as mature compost, or apply it to garden beds around the root zone to help with water retention.
Adding clay to the organic matter will help transform sand into soil. Clay particles hold onto water and nutrients very well. Use the wheelbarrow or direct sprinkle method as described above, or agitate the clay and water in a watering can and pour it on sandy areas. Always follow the instructions on the label and never use more than recommended, as clay usually only needs to be applied once. It remains in the soil profile and continues to aid in water retention over the years.
After turning your sand into soil, it is vital to protect it by covering it with mulch. Apply a layer around 7cm deep. This will shelter any precious soil microbes vital to plant health, ensure moisture is retained, and help protect the root zone in summer. Coarse, chunky mulch made from organic matter is the best as it will also feed your soil and plants as it breaks down. Depending on the garden design, stone and green mulches can also be used.
Bay OK project officer Lisa Massey explains the importance of turning sand into soil. “Bay OK gardening has a positive impact on the environment by helping to conserve water and protect the local waterways and Geographe Bay’s marine environment. The Bay OK garden project has shown that simple actions can not only improve your garden, but also help to reduce fertiliser runoff and keep nutrients where they belong: in the garden”, said Lisa.
If your garden needs extra help during the growing season, apply a slow-release fertiliser. Choosing a fertiliser that will release nutrients slowly ensures that your lawn and garden beds absorb it over the next few months. Products that promise fast results will most likely end up in our waterways, so it is best to spend your money on a product that will stay in your garden instead of being washed away.
The final piece of the puzzle in becoming a Bay OK gardener is to plant Australian native plants. Choosing plants specific to your area and soil type will ensure they survive and thrive. For advice on plants that will work in your area, visit the GeoCatch website or drop into the Geographe Community Landcare Nursery and tap into their local knowledge.
Using these simple Bay OK gardening tips, you will have a functional and fabulous garden while protecting Geographe Bay. For further information on Bay OK gardening, visit the GeoCatch website geocatch.asn.au.