El Nino for Gardeners in Australia - STG Community

El Nino for Gardeners in Australia

May 18, 2015

The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM)sENSO Tracker status has moved from ALERT to EL NINO, signalling the official declaration by the Bureau of Meteorology of El Niño 2015.

Source: www.theconversation.com http://bit.ly/1F4kzzv

El Niño is often associated with drought in Australia. It may be cold comfort for those toughing out the current dry in parts of eastern Australia, but while El Niño certainly raises the risk of drought, it doesn’t guarantee it. Of the 26 El Niño events since 1900, 17 have resulted in widespread Australian drought. More

The most obvious effects of El Niño in Australia are:

  • Drier than average winter-spring
  • Increased daytime temperatures in southern Australia from winter onwards
  • Increased risk of frosts in winter due to dry soils and less cloud
  • Reduced snow cover and shorter season
  • Early and more extreme fire season
  • Reduced chance of widespread flooding

Is Australia the only place affected by El Niño?

While an El Niño event influences the whole world, the main effect is on the Pacific area, especially Australia, Indonesia and south-west America.

During El Niño droughts generally occur in western Pacific counties, like Indonesia and Australia.

However, other places such as Ecuador and Peru (which are normally dry areas) suddenly get a lot of rain. In the US, California is likely to experience flooding during El Niño events.

How long does it last?

In Australia, an El Niño typically develops around May/June, strengthens through September/October and November to peak over December/January, then starts to decay in late February with weather conditions returning to normal around March. More

What can Gardeners do?

Gardeners need not fear end to their hobby or passion. In fact, this provides a tremendous opportunity to increase your horticultural knowledge and to grow plants more suited to your local conditions. Even plant collectors should be able to keep their specimens thriving by addressing simple cultural practices.

  • If selecting new garden plants, use a database system like the Waterwise Plant Selector.
  • Select plants based on their suitability to your climate, soil and water availability – sometimes it may be a local indigenous species, sometimes it may be a non-native plant.
  • Read books and magazine related to your local region.
  • Listen to radio gardening programs where presenters are local to your region.
  • Watch television programs where presenters are local to your region.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch – this helps conserve water in the soil and minimises soil evaporation. If too deep it may prevent rainfall from reaching the soil and roots.
  • Use water retention products in your soil to help conserve water and reduce usage – look for products based on ‘coal-humus’, coir fibre, peat, compost, etc.
  • Position plants based on water need – high water use plants should be placed in one location so it’s easier to look after them; locate low water plants further away from the house as they need less care.
  • Look at the contour of your property – in low lying areas plant your water loving plants; in high areas or slopes plant your low-water loving plants.
  • If irrigating your lawns, remember to water deeply but less frequently to encourage roots deep into the soil where they can tap into moisture.
  • Provide a shading structure (e.g. shadecloth) over high-water usage plant so that transporation is reduced which in turn reduces water need.
  • Provide wind breaks to reduce transporation and evaporation. Grow hedging plants or erect structures.

These are some of the more popular techniques used to reduce water consumption in the garden. There are many others.

[Compiled by Paul Plant, Editor subTropical Gardening magazine]

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