Image & article sourced from Hello Hello

In Melbourne almost 70% of plants will die due to wet feet.  Plants get wet feet when water is unable to drain away from the plants roots.  The organic matter will start to decompose sucking all oxygen and starving the plant.  Plants most at risk include Azaleas, Citrus, English Box, Fruit Trees, Gardenias, Japanese Maples, Myrtus Luma, Pittosporums, Proteas, Rhododendrons, Roses, Silver Bush and Silver Birch.

How to avoid wet feet before you plant

It is easy to test an area before you plan to check for wet feet.  Simply dig the hole where you plan to plant your new tree, shrub or bush.  Fill a bucket of water to the top and pour it into the hole, then leave the hole for at least 20 minutes, fill again and leave for another 20 minutes.  If you return and your hole is still full or partially full of water, it means that you are likely to have a drainage issue, leading to potential wet feet down the track.

If you have a plant already in the ground

It can be a little more difficult to determine if your plant has wet feet once it is already in the ground.  The best way to do this is generally a combination of approaches.  First is that your plant may be looking a unwell, the second is that you may be able to smell a septic or anaerobic smell, and finally, if you dig a little hole using a small trowel about 15-45 centimetres (depending on the size of your plant) from the stump of your plant you will find the soil damp, the smell may be stronger and discoloured or dying plant roots may be visible.

What causes wet feet?

There are several causes of wet feet, but they all stem from an inability for water to drain away from the roots of the plants.  The most common reasons are below:

  • Concrete enclosures, paths or driveways prevent water run off
  • Heavy clay acts as a bucket around the plant roots
  • Excessive watering
  • Planting in 3 way, 4 way or organic soil mixes, or throwing away the original or parent soil, and
  • Planting trees or shrubs too close to laying instant turf, because you need to water the turf more to get it to take, than what you need to water the plant.

How to prevent wet feet

There are many myths such as sloping ground, digging bigger holes, not watering plants etc that are believed to prevent wet feet.  They do not work, the only thing that will save your plants is to use hardy plants in poor drainage areas or make a drainage solution for your plants.

There are three main drainage solutions that you can apply.  For more information on these, see the information sheet at at Hello Hello, from which this article has been sourced.

You can purchase soil and sand from the DIY Bargain Bin Soil, Rocks, Stones, Fill, Bark section and your plants from the DIY Bargain Bin Turf, Grass, Plants, Seeds, Bulbs, Trees, Pots & Planters section.

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