Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Recently I had a discussion around the use of ‘crystal rain’. This product is often used when putting in new plants. The tiny crystals swell with water and it is this water that becomes available to the plants. For establishing plants in situations where perhaps there will be no one to look after them it is a good idea. I was arguing for the case in my garden where I have never used this product. My reasoning is if the plants need the crystal rain then perhaps they shouldn’t be there. My real point was though, my citrus trees, for example, have had little watering particularly last summer. The summer before I did give them the benefit of the occasional deep watering, last summer they got very little, yet they look better than they ever have. What I think has happened is the small trees have now been forced to put their roots down deeper t than they might otherwise have and so in this way have become more tolerant of drought. Had I used crystal rain with these plants, the roots would not have travelled so far down into the soil in search of moisture. Other shrubs to get the same treatment include hibiscus and gardenia all looking fine now. I have to say though they have taken a while to establish, but once they have I think they will stand a far better chance of survival than if I had fussed over them.
I do have another occasion where it has now occurred to me in which the use of the crystal rain would be handy and this in the bog garden, where in summer the moisture levels are often not enough to sustain the plants which revel with their feet in the wet.
Certainly after Sunday’s downpour wet feet might present a rather different problem for many! Good drainage is important for most plants to grow and do well, Citrus and Hibiscus not least of all. Both require ample water, at least good long deep soaking every now and then while establishing them. But more importantly they need for the excess water to drain away. Growing In a steep slope as I and many of us do, drainage is not such and issue. As I said my citrus are now looking great. They will get a bit of food in about a month when the temperatures have warmed up some. I prefer to wait until the weather is a little warmer as the roots are more likely to take up the minerals they require when the soil temperature is higher.
The other thing the citrus will be benefiting from now is increased light as a friend and I pruned the pride of Bolivia tree, Tipuana tipu. This tree gets an annual prune, on account of the fact that each year it sends of three metre long water shoots. All of these come off and the canopy is kept in check. Not only do the citrus trees benefit from more light but the rest of the garden in the vicinity does as well.



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