In this article

  • A local waterwise landscaper shares his tricks of the trade
  • The five steps you can't skip if you want to garden like an expert
  • How to create a garden that will thrive in Perth's climate

Darren Seinor, Waterwise Landscaper and Waterwise Irrigation Specialist shares his expert knowledge on how to create a beautiful, waterwise, low maintenance garden that will thrive in Perth’s climate. It’s the ultimate checklist for gardening like a pro.

Take a tailored approach

Perth’s climate poses some unique challenges when it comes to gardening, but they can be overcome if you follow a few simple steps to create a garden that is well suited to our climate.

Darren Seinor has almost 20 years’ experience in the Perth garden industry and has created hundreds of beautiful waterwise gardens across the city. Darren’s top five tips for setting your garden up for success cover everything from the soil up.

Darren Seinor, Waterwise Landscaper from Garden Solutions smiling holding a potted kangaroo paw.

Tip # 1 - Start from the bottom with soil improver

Good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden, not just a low maintenance garden, so it makes sense to start here. Whether you’re starting from scratch or working with what you’ve got, there’s always a chance to improve your soil’s water and nutrient holding capacity.

How to fix sandy soil

If you have sandy, water repellent soil (you will notice water pooling on top of the surface around plants, rather than sinking in), then you most likely need to incorporate clay and organic compost into the top layer of soil when you’re digging or installing new plants. This will help the soil better absorb and hold onto water. For established lawns, a similar mix will work as a dressing sprinkled over the area of concern, as it will work its way through to the root zone over time.

How to fix soil with too much clay

If you have soils that have a little too much clay you will notice areas becoming waterlogged in winter due to a lack of drainage. It is recommended to add organic matter and gypsum (available at most garden stores) to open up the soil structure and improve drainage and oxygen levels. This will also make nutrients more available to plants. Be sure to work this into the top layer of soil before you plant though.

If you’re not too sure what your soil needs, Darren recommends getting in touch with a Waterwise Landscaper or a Waterwise Garden Centre for some tailored advice.

Related article | Improving your soil

Tip # 2 - Get in the zone

Whether you’re planning a garden makeover or adding to what you already have, consider grouping plants with similar water needs. This is called ‘hydrozoning’ and will allow you to set up your irrigation stations to deliver the right amount of water to the right plants and avoid overwatering areas where it’s not needed.

Tip # 3 - Choose waterwise plants

The term ‘waterwise garden’ may conjure up images of cactus and not much else. However, there is actually a huge range of both native and exotic plants that are perfectly suited to our climate - so you can get as creative as you like. By choosing waterwise plants, you will find they require a lot less water and maintenance than other plants. Why not keep it local and explore WA’s own range of beautiful plants that will love where you live.

Related article | A-Z guide to WA native plants

Coral Pea plant
Coral Pea

Tip # 4 - Water smarter, not harder

While water is an essential part to keeping your garden healthy, overdoing it can do more harm than good. Excess amounts of water can leach vital nutrients from your soil. In Perth, gardens and lawns only need 10mm of water, twice a week in summer to sustain your garden and keep it healthy.

10mm will reach the underground level where most of your plant's feeding and drinking roots are found, and anything beyond that is unnecessary. Find out how long you should run your irrigation for based on your sprinkler type.

Related article | How long should I run my sprinklers for?

Tip # 5 - Lock it all in with mulch

We all know sunscreen is important in our sunny city, and that goes for your garden too. Applying mulch to your garden will not only reduce evaporation but also add nutrients to the soil and reduce weed growth. When you’re selecting a mulch, always go for the chunkiest looking option as this will take longer to break down and help with drainage too. Lastly, the key when applying mulch is to spread an even layer of about 10cm.

Related article | How to choose mulch for your garden

Gloved hand holding woodchip mulch