By GEOFF MIERS
After two fairly dry and extremely hot summers isn’t the rain wonderful! It might put an end to so many trees dying.
La Niña brought increased rain to the Centre. I’ve had two inches of rain in the last 24 hours and a couple of inches over October to mid December. It would appear there is more to come.
I have a rain gauge and record daily any rainwater that falls on my property. By recording how much falls it gives me a better idea of how much rain has really fallen on my property and I can gauge how deep it has penetrated and whether it has been of real immediate benefit for my garden.
With the Todd River flowing and slowly filling our town basin and hopefully other aquifers, and the slow rainfall penetrating deep into the sub-soil conditions should generally improve for the surrounding natural vegetation, our street trees and of course for our home gardens.
Reflect on how much water has fallen on your property and has it been used to its greatest effect? Rainwater falling from the sky onto your piece of land will bring many benefits to your garden however by introducing a few initiatives you may be able to make better use of this water.
By simply putting guttering on your house and directing the water into rainwater tanks you can have readily available water to both drink and use to irrigated especially container gardens and other special sections of the garden.
Water harvesting techniques can also be introduced to ensure all rainwater run-off is kept on the property to irrigate your garden rather than allowing it to flow out onto the roads and down the gutters.
With the good sometimes there is the bad side and with the moisture and following flush of growth on many plants can come in increase of common garden pests creating havoc in the home garden.
The snails and slugs have emerged and are breeding, all manner of different grubs and caterpillars will emerge and munch on any lush new growth, and, of course lawn grub activity is bound to increase dramatically.
Throw in an explosion of annoying bush flies, March flies that sting and flying ants that quickly fly inside the minute a door or window is open and we quickly realise there are a few potentially negative things that can occur following the rain.
Snails, slugs and slaters can all be managed by environmentally, animal friendly pellets that bowl over these three common garden pests with little effort or expense involved.
Grubs and caterpillars can be managed once the rain has gone by spraying the environmentally and biologically friendly Dipel that will cover the plant with dormant bacteria and fungi that immediately on being consumed will result in the caterpillar or grub stopping eating immediately and thus slowly dehydrating and dying.
Lawn grubs and lawn beetle are not so easily managed although the old timers used to use soap powder flakes broadcast over the lawn and watered in to rid their lawns of lawn grub.
However isn’t it exciting to see new plants emerging from seed after the rain and existing plants bursting into bloom in direct response to the rain.
As previously written the round-about in Lindsay Avenue generally produces scores of new desert peas after the rain along with the medium strip on the Stuart highway outside Peter Kittles.
As well another round-about outside the entrance to the airport produces scores of Ptilotus exaltatus or Mulla mulla in response to rain.
Both the round-abouts and the medium strip have ideal conditions where seed can sit protected until a decent fall of rain and quickly up they germinate and provide stunning displays three months later.
There are many other equally stunning but sometimes not so noticeable plants that directly respond to the rain. The Resurrection fern in the foothills appear to be crisp and dead one minute and the next they are lush and green and full of life.
Evolvulus-pilosus, Blue Eyes
The Orange Spade Flower Hybanthus aurantiacus is another plant often seemingly gone and with the rain quickly emerges and is flowering brightly with its vibrant orange blooms. Like the Resurrection fern this plant can also be found amongst the rocks on our foothills.
There are plants that will flower immediately after rain and others that will flower some weeks after the rain. The Common Mulga, Acacia aneura, is flowering now in response to the rain we experienced some weeks ago.
Two stunning plants that seem to flower within a day of rain are the shrubs Evolvulus pilosus and Leucophyllum frutescens.
The Evolvulus pilosus commonly called Blue Eyes is a small quick growing perennial low ground cover, is a well rounded foreground shrub suitable for the general garden or for the container garden. It flowers prolifically immediately after rain and flowers naturally responding to seasonal conditions over spring and early summer for extended periods.
The plant is covered with masses of blue flowers when in bloom. It will tolerate full sun, light shade and afternoon shade. It prefers a well draining, sandy soil and grows from 30cm to 50cm high and 60 to 90 cms wide.
Leucophyllum frutescens commonly called Lilac elegance and sometimes Texas sage is an attractive evergreen shrub with silvery foliage with stunning lilac flowers. It grows to a height of 1.5 to 2m high by 1.5 to 2m wide. This shrub is quite drought tolerant once established and can be pruned to shape and size.
Lilac elegance prefers a well draining soil and grows best in full sun through to light or part shade. Generally it flowers throughout summer however with approaching rain or high humidity the shrub can burst into seemingly instant bloom. Some examples can be found either side of the Stuart Highway next to the turn-off into Whittaker Street.
Generally however most endemic and introduced plants will respond well to rainwater particularly if the rain is accompanied by lightning and the rain is decent in quantity and over an extended period.
Lawns will quickly burst forth with rapid growth requiring the lawn mower to be brought out, leafy plants in the vegetable garden will thrive and by placing potted plants out in the rain for an hour will see them perk up.
Remember however to not leave your indoor plants outside when the sun emerges as they will quickly die.
While there are many plants that will germinate or put on a growth spurt after the rain there are many unwanted plants that will also germinate.
Buffel grass, couch and many broad leaf weeds will germinate within days and can become a real problem if left unattended.
Grasses and brad-leaf weeds if treated within days of emerging will quickly die and disappear. Leave them to grow and they will become unsightly, will be harder to kill and the dead remains will need to be removed. Kill them as they emerge and it will be cheaper and evolve much less work.
Steam or salt, vinegar & water are two methods to get rid of juvenile weeds. Smothering them also will remove the problem.
Where grasses are emerging in the garden generally in amongst other plants its difficult to use chemicals, steam, fire or use smothering techniques. It can be a knees and hand pull job, however there is a chemical on the market now that will only kill grasses and will leave all other plants completely and totally unaffected.
That is you can spray the couch for example that is growing amongst some ground cover plants and the couch will die but the other plants will be left unharmed.
In summary pounce on emerging weeds, be alert for pest outbreaks, repair any damage done by the rain, remulch garden beds if the mulch has drifted away and then sit back and enjoy the festive season that is upon us.