The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah receives SESL treatment

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is always breathtaking, attracting over 250,000 local and international visitors annually. It is also the only botanic garden located in a World Heritage Area, and is Australia’s highest botanic garden sitting at 1,000 metres above sea level.

The Garden is managed by Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands who works to protect and conserve these areas of environmental significance. To better understand the natural soil landscape of the Mount Tomah area and receive guidance on the management of this spectacular Garden, the Garden engaged soil scientists from SESL Australia.

Characterising soil behaviours advises a better approach to sustainable management and amelioration (amendments). The SESL soil scientists conducted their investigation with the aim to evaluate physical characteristics of the soils (texture, structure, colour and water holding ability).

During the soil chemistry analysis, it is essential to understand the fertilisation requirements to prevent the plants from the risk of toxicity or deficiency and potential loss of species.

The typical soil in the area is stony, well-drained Ferrosols (Kraznozems). However, occurrences of Rudosols (structured loams) and Lithosols on crests and localised steep slopes were present. In fact, the soils found at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah show a spectrum of change from inherently natural undisturbed or minimally disturbed condition in the unaltered forest areas to a highly altered hortic anthroposol condition in the raised display beds.

Findings from SESL’s investigation captured each of these different attributes, and based on our observations and laboratory analysis, provided an  improved management strategy to overcome soil and plant issues such as compaction, waterlogging, pest infestations, nutritional deficiencies and inverted profiles.

Happily, the majority of the soils found at the Garden were in good condition and were representative of the natural Mount Tomah landscape with only minor modification needed to suit the planting types.

An annual soil testing program is essential to understanding the requirements of each individual landscape. It is important to understand the fertilization requirements to prevent the plants from risk of toxicity or deficiency and potential loss of species. SESL identified cost-savings on the fertiliser program by only feeding the plants that actually need feeding rather than those that that were previously assumed to need it.

Plant and soil testing reduces time spent on troubleshooting plant issues by having data that efficiently addresses any deficiencies or imbalances. The outcome will be a more resilient, stronger and healthier plant species and reduced loss and replacement of plants for this significant Garden.

Image courtesy Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah