Gardens can be very water intensive. South Africa has a limited amount of water available due to our lower than global average annual rainfall and concerned consumers are looking for ways to contribute towards preserving our environment, as well as saving on high water bills. Our growing population leads to an increase in water consumption and many disadvantaged rural communities still do not have access to adequate clean water resources. This means that urban South Africans with regular access to water need to ensure that every drop is used to the maximum.
What should our family do?
This does not mean that urban families should abandon their ideal of a beautiful garden. The decision to plant and nurture a garden makes a significant contribution to improving the value of your home and also offers your family the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Providing your children with a safe space to play and discover nature is one reason to establish a family garden, while gardening itself is an excellent way to reduce your daily stress levels. The sense of accomplishment that is gained from watching your garden bloom can play a significant role in maintaining good mental health.
We have lost wide areas of trees and greenery due to the recent rapid rates of urban development and helping to replenish these lost trees and plants is critical in maintaining healthy air in our cities. Beautiful parks and public spaces play an important role in building a healthy society. A water wise garden requires less maintenance than normal gardens, while helping to contribute towards preserving the environment. By using water in intelligent and resourceful ways we will be able to save water while still enjoying its benefits.
Love your garden!
Conserving water in your garden. Some tips for planting
- Choose water wise plants - Generally the best suited plants are those indigenous to your area, as they seldom need additional watering. They are usually well suited to the average amount of water your garden will receive naturally.
- Group plants according to their water needs - In this way you can choose plants which might be very beautiful, but which might require more water. If you plant these in groups you can use some of the other tips below to minimize water loss.
- Maintain your garden - Spend time in your garden to ensure your plants are receiving the right amount of water. Remove unwanted plants as well as invader species which draw water away from other plants and damage boundary walls and soil quality. Remember to plant more perennials than summer annuals, as they have deeper root systems and so need less watering during the warmer months of the year.
- Improve your soil and add mulch -Your soil's water-holding capacity is improved by higher organic matter content. Mulching, which involves covering the soil with a thick layer of bark or compost keeps your soil much more moist.
- Plant new plants in the right season - For winter rainfall areas this is in autumn and early winter so the plants have a chance to develop their root systems before the dry season. In summer rainfall areas it is spring and early summer for the same reason. Lightly water the holes before you plant to provide the optimal conditions for the new shrub, plant or tree.
- Find out what type of soil you have - This will affect the amount of time you need to water to achieve optimal results. Test how long you can water, before you start to experience run-off. Watch out for clay soil which has a low water infiltration rate and will need to be watered in short bursts to allow the water to penetrate. Beds of plants can consume a large amount of water but mulching and adding water retention granules will substantially reduce your need to water.
Your garden can be ecologically friendly!
- Use edging to ensure the water stays where you use it - Edging around your beds also helps retain the mulching and creates a natural line between beds and the lawn areas.
- Choose shady areas in your garden to install your water features - This can help minimise daily rates of evaporation. The sound of running water has a soothing effect and also attracts birds and insects to your garden. By considering where to place your water features you can ensure that the water used to run these is not needlessly wasted.
- Pot plants - Placing woodchips around the base of outdoor pot plants will help the soil retain the water. Cast stone pots stay much cooler than plastic ones, absorbing less heat during the day and necessitating less watering.
- Plan your garden before you plant - Research how large each plant or tree is likely to grow and then take this into account when you plant. Many small complex gardens are filled with plants that have now grown too large and are either killing other plants or endangering boundary walls. Initially a new garden may appear a bit sparse, but as the plants grow they will naturally fill these spaces without taking over.
- What time of day should I water- The best times to water are early in the morning or in the early evening, but these rules do change based on the seasons. Watering in the evening in winter can put your plants at risk for frost damage. Avoid watering at midday, as the sun is at its height and thus evaporation levels are at their highest, meaning less water being used will actually reach the roots of your plants. Watering at night in summer can increase your garden's risk for contracting fungal diseases. This tip especially applies to lawns.
| Ensure each drop is used to nurture your garden!
- Healthy plants - A plant consists of between 75 to 90% water and adequate water is especially critical in the first few weeks after planting as the plant establishes its root systems.
- When do I start to water - In early spring most plants are "programmed" to start flourishing after the first spring rains. Take this time to water lightly and spend your time enriching your soil and applying top dressings. Take the wind into consideration as high winds will increase the evaporation of your water.
- Don't use water to clean your paving - A broom designed to sweep hard surfaces works better and reduces unnecessary outdoor water usage.
- Use the correct equipment - Use watering cans to water pot plants to avoid waste and drip trays are recommended for storing excess water where plants can use it at a later date. Don't use high powered jets to water fragile or delicate plants. You will flatten and break them and they may never recover from this damage.
- When there is a shortage of rain or during water restrictions- Cut down on high nitrogen based fertilizers, rather use fertilizers with high ratios of potassium (K) and phosphorus (P). This will encourage plant cell walls to thicken enabling them to cope better in drought conditions.
- When do I prune if there are water restrictions? - Light pruning helps plants cope during water restrictions because they lose less moisture through transpiration.
- Regularly inspect your irrigation system - If you have one, conduct regular inspections to detect leaks or problems early and avoid prolonged wastage as well as an unpleasant surprise when your water bill arrives. Constant observation will let you know if there are any potential problems early on, giving you enough time to find a solution, before it becomes critical.
- Adjust the run times on your irrigation controller according to season - The amount of water your garden needs will be affected by the prevailing weather conditions. If it is hot and windy you need extra water, if it is cool or humidity is high, you garden will need less water. Remember to reduce your run times during winter when most plants are dormant and don't need a lot of water. Increase your run times in spring and water the most during the heat of summer.
These are a few tips to help you with conserving water in your garden. By using these water wise hints you will be able to make a difference to the environment almost immediately.
For further ideas on ways to save a significant amount of your outdoor water consumption levels, consult our product guides and catalogues. We have ways to help you make an even greater contribution to saving the planet.
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