Fisher says beat ash with water

AFTER this week's bushfires many North Rockhampton people will be asking what to do now with their garden.

Yesterday, The Morning Bulletin's gardening columnist, Neil Fisher, who himself was not left unscathed by the fires, gave his advice.

“The most important thing is to water your garden extensively,” Neil said.

“The fire burnt very hot across most of the Berserker wilderness area, depositing large quantities of ash. Ash, due to its small particle size, and smoke have a large number of volatile components that act as a barrier to rain and any other irrigation from permeating the soil.

“Known as hydrophobicity, this water-repellent characteristic of ash, coupled with the existing hydrophobic nature of the soil could reduce plant regrowth.

“You will need to rehydrate your soil with a product like Eco-hydrate; it works to allow water to penetrate your soil.”

Neil recommended running sprinklers for hours each day to bring the soil back to life and give the roots of affected lawn and plants a chance to regrow.

“At this time it's good to treat damaged lawns, trees and shrubs with a liquid fertiliser like Charlie Carp or Seasol as these fertilisers will encourage both root and microbial growth,” he said.

“As soon as the first green growth is visible on lawns, trees or shrubs treat them with products like Eco-aminogro and Eco-cweed.

“These products will increase root development and reduce plant stress.”

He said those rebuilding a burnt-out garden should carefully remove as much ash as possible then add gypsum and organic matter through the first 15cm of soil.

“Saturate with water before adding a fertiliser like Aquasol and Blood and Bone before mulching.

“I would allow for a week before planting so as to be satisfied the gardens are fully moist.”

Neil said many trees such as melaleucas or paperbarks, and shrubs such as bougainvilleas, could look horribly burnt, but would rise from the ashes.

“I would recommend that if the tree trunks are not structurally damaged holding back on cutting down some of these trees,” he said.

“The best way to tell if your tree or shrub is dead is to cut a fragment of bark from the trunk.

“If it looks brown rather than green underneath the bark, the plant will be dead.

“Many native trees and shrubs will almost immediately start producing epicormic buds under scorched bark or lignotubers at the base of the tree.

“As the saying goes nature will always find a way to survive after even the worst environmental disasters.”

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