Growing demand and unpredictable rainfall mean South Africans need to garden for the future. Find out how with these top tips for water wise gardens.
We live in a dry country where water is an increasingly scarce resource. South Africa is faced with growing demand and an unpredictable rainfall, while prices rise and legislation discourages excessive use. Now more than ever, we need to garden for the future. Water wise gardens are beautiful and with so many indigenous options available, here are our top tips for cutting down water use:
1. Choose locally suitable water-wise plants
There are so many beautiful plants around that need very little or no watering once they’re established. Remember to plant in autumn after the first rains – to give plants a full winter to develop a strong root system before the next dry season.
2. Prepare the soil well and add compost
Compost helps soil retain water, adds nutrients and encourages earthworms which improve aeration and drainage. Remember to dig in plenty of compost at least once a year and consider making your own with organic home waste.
Making your own compost is an efficient way to dispense of organic waste around the home. A simple 1 metre by 1 metre slatted wooden framework will suffice to contain your compost. With a shovel, mix the rotted material to the centre of the bin every couple of weeks. Keep the compost material moist but not wet. Air must circulate through the pile or the compost material can turn to slime and be useless in the garden. Good compost is brown/black and crumbly with a sweet, woody smell.
3. Reconsider your lawn
Lawns are thirsty so think carefully about the lawn space you actually use and need.
Buffalo and Cynoden grasses need less water and less mowing, but remember not to cut grass to short as longer leaves shade the roots and reduce water evaporation.
4. Group plants according to their water needs
Water wise plants need less watering once they’re established. Remember to group plants according to their water needs so you don’t waste water on plants that don’t need it.
5. Use mulch between plants
Mulches like bark, compost and dried leaves help cool the soil and reduce evaporation. They also cut down on erosion and run-off, suppress weed growth, enrich and prevent compacting of soil
6. Water correctly and only when necessary
Most people over water their gardens. Remember to water deeply but less often when evaporation is at its lowest – early morning and early evening. A drip or underground irrigation also saves water and reduces weed growth.
7. Create shade and windbreaks
Half the water we use outside is wasted because of inefficient watering, evaporation and run off. Remember that wind and sun dry out plants, so plant fast-growing, wind-resistant, water wise trees and shrubs that grow in your area to provide shade and shelter.