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Bushfire recovery: Growing Australian plants and native gardens

Bushfire recovery: Growing Australian plants and native gardens

The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season (Black Summer) will go down as one of the worst in history. Throughout the summer, bushfires ravaged homes, businesses and habitats, as well as the spirits of many Australians.  

Thankfully fire-ravaged communities are beginning to rebuild and (with the help of lots of rain) resilient Australian native plants and grasses are bursting back to life. Just check out these amazing photos of bush regeneration that’s already taking place among burnt-out trees, forests and national parks.  

The importance of native gardens for bushfire recovery 

With bush regeneration and rebuilding well underway in fire-affected areas, the restoration of gardens is the last thing on people’s minds. But that shouldn’t be the case! Gardens play an important role in long-term bushfire recovery efforts for both individuals and communities alike. Gardens are places of healing, contemplation and remembrance.

Gardens not only help our landscapes heal, but they can also alleviate stress and restore mental and emotional health. These benefits increase tenfold when people plant native gardens, as native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife struggling after the bushfires.  

What should I do if my garden has been affected by bushfires?

Unfortunately, most Aussie gardens aren’t quite as resilient as native bushland. Very few backyards are made up of resilient undergrowth and mature forestry, so it may take a little longer to replant and regenerate after fire damage. To help you create a thriving native garden, here are some simple tips.  

Watch for signs of natural regeneration

Resist the temptation to prune away too many dead leaves and branches from native plants, as these actually protect new leaves and tissue from the harsh sunlight. Watch for signs of re-sprouting and let this guide your pruning and reshaping.  

If you have large, well-established native plants on your property, ensure a licenced arborist inspects any damaged trees to see if they pose safety issues. Organisations, such as Habi-Tec, specialise in preserving and creating valuable hollows in native timber to house native wildlife.  

Tend to fire-damaged soil

It’s important to remember that garden soils are living, breathing organisms and as such, they are extremely susceptible to fire damage. After a bushfire, your soil may suffer:  
• ash contamination
• reduced moisture content
• essential microorganism die off
• fire retardant residue

The most common soil issue is ash contamination. Ash is highly alkaline and is actually used as a liming agent in areas where soils are highly acidic. If your soil is naturally acidic, the ash may actually do your garden good, but if your local soil is alkaline, you’ll need to check if your pH levels (alkalinity) have increased. Good alkalinity remedies include compost, manure, leaf litter and mulch. Ash is also hydrophobic (meaning it repels water) so if you have a thick layer of visible ash, incorporate into the soil or remove the top layer of soil completely and give yourself a clean slate.  

Grow native plants for garden revival

Whether your garden has been directly or indirectly affected by bushfire, use the opportunity to redesign sections of your garden. Australian native plants and grasses are naturally hardy and tolerate fire-affected soils far better than their exotic counterparts.  

Select native plants with a low flammability rating for areas closest to your home. Some great fire resistant plants include: saltbush (Atriplex spp.), bluebush (Maireana spp.) pigsface (Carpobrotus glaucescens), fan-flowers (Scaevola spp.) and Creeping Boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium). 

Plant outwards from this low flammability centre, and build up your native garden with other Australian plants and grasses. Your next section can include other fire resistant varieties such as: wattle (Acacia spp.), flax-lily (Dianella spp.), lilly pilly (Syzigium spp.), native violet (Viola hederacea) and Queensland bottle trees (Brachychiton rupestris). As you move further away from the home you can introduce larger plants with slightly higher flammability ratings such as Grevillea, Banksia, Westringia and Leptospermum varieties.

Want to do your part for the bushfire recovery? Build your very own, fire resistant, native garden with our beautiful Australian native plant collection!