Local Leaders | Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens

Lyn Collingridge

Lyn Collingridge

Every garden needs water, including a botanic garden.

The Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens wants to become water independent.

We can do this when we drill our bore and with the purchase of 20million litres of water (from someone in the Sydney Basin Nepean Groundwater Source who has a water allocation that exceeds their needs and who is prepared to sell that excess to the garden).

As a not-for-profit organisation we are not in a position to pay top commercial rates for water, but are happy to pay a fair price to develop a garden the community will be proud of.

In the meantime, the soil on the site of the garden has naturally good moisture holding capacity so we try to have minimal impact on it when planting.

We make extensive and heavy use of mulch, allowing infiltration of moisture when it rains and reducing loss of water through evaporation. Mulch also reduces fluctuation in soil temperature, which is particularly beneficial to surface roots whose main job is absorbing water. And those pesky weeds are reduced by mulch and very easy to remove as they are rooted in the mulch rather than the soil.

We also use the strategy of no-till planting so the soil structure remains intact, thus improving moisture holding capacity of the soil. The combination of no-till and mulching provides a good environment for worms, whose activities are beneficial for root growth and soil aeration. 

The enormous growth of our birch grove in just four years (from spindly saplings to tall trees) shows how effective our water-sensitive gardening can be.

The birch grove when it was freshly planted in September 2013.

The birch grove when it was freshly planted in September 2013.

The birch grove as it looks today.

The birch grove as it looks today.

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