Daffodils and water restrictions
Graeme Davis

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Water restrictions are a challenge to the gardener in Canberra. However, they represent a positive for the daffodil in Canberra.

Put simply the greatest problem for daffodils in Canberra is the watering of gardens in summer. The heat of summer in Canberra is sufficient to create problems with rot but these problems are magnified if the soil is wet.

Let me explain.In the last bulletin I highlighted the need for water through winter and spring in order to get high quality flowers. There is no doubt that water over this period is important. The trouble is for most daffodils in Canberra over summer water will kill them! The combination of warm soil and moisture results in rot.

This can be managed.

Management involves:

• keeping the soil around the bulb cool,• restricting moisture in the soil as it gets warm, and
• growing varieties that can cope with our climate

Keeping the soil cool
There are three options here:• mulching,
• planting the bulbs deep enough, and
• shading.

Putting a layer of mulch, say 5 cm deep, over the soil early in the summer can help a lot. Equally, planting the bulbs in holes at least 6 inches (15 cm deep) means the soil around the bulbs does not get too hot. Also, shade from western sun in summer can help reduce the soil temperature. Try all three for best results.

Restricting moisture

It is impossible to over estimate the benefits of keeping the soil from being too wet when it is warm. Looking around Canberra in spring it is clear that you see good daffodils in places where the water in summer does not get to. Water restrictions mean that we will not get the ground as wet!

Growing varieties that can cope with our climate

While most of the varieties sold in nurseries and other retail outlets are the traditional large flowered “King Alfred” type not many of these survive and prosper in Canberra gardens. If you have a garden that you water though summer and want to grow daffodils there are varieties that will cope much better. Tazettas and Jonquilla types will perform well in such an environment. Equally, cyclaminius hybrids will give a great display year after year in the garden.

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