Written by Catherine Clulow
So you’ve all heard it before, water is scarce…, gardens are thirsty… So what do you do? Today we remind you of some handy ideas and tips to be wise with water in your garden.
Water is a scarce and precious commodity globally, and especially in South Africa with unpredictable rainfall and an ever increasing demand. We need to think of the future, garden for the future and encourage that waterwise indigenous gardens should be the norm. Don’t be fooled by a common misconception that waterwise means something dull and dreary, perhaps an image that pops to mind is that of rockeries and cacti…
Think of beauties like these, not to mention the diverse variety of fynbos gems out there:
The succulent Kerky Bush requires little water (Crassula ovata)
The wind and drought tolerant camphor bush (Tarchonanthus littoralis)
The wind resistant and fast-growing Keurboom (Virgilia divaricata)
The highly adaptable and bee loved Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)
The deep, strong rooted Plumgabo with its delicate soft flowers (Plumbago auriculata)
There are many ways to use water wisely and plant for the future- here are some ideas and tips from The Botanical Society of SA
6 simple water-wise garden tips and ideas
1. Prepare the soil well and add compost
Dig in plenty of compost, it keeps the microbes and earthworms happy and is great for water retention, as well as adding nutrients.
2. Reconsider your lawn
Think about the lawn space you need and use and perhaps you’ll consider alternates. Buffalo and Cynodon grass require less water and less mowing- double win there. Remember not to cut your grass too short as longer blades shade the roots and reduce water evaporation.
3. Choose locally suitable water-wise plants
There are numerous beautiful plants that require minimal to no watering once established. Plant before the rains to facilitate plants development of strong root systems before facing the dry season. Find out about the best indigenous plant options for your soil type and climate.
4. Group plants with similar water needs together to optimise watering regimes. Be wise with watering correctly and only when necessary
Water thoroughly, less often and when evaporation is low (early mornings and evenings). Drip or underground irrigation also saves water and reduces weed growth.
5. Use mulch between plants
Mulch prevents water evaporation and keeps the soil cool. It also reduces run-off and erosion, suppresses weed growth, enriches the soil and prevents soil from compacting. There are a variety of options: Be creative (bark, compost, newspaper, straw, dried leaves).
6. Create shade and windbreaks
Plant fast-growing wind-resistant waterwise trees and shrubs suited to your area to shelter your garden from drying out.
SANBI gardens also have water-wise demonstration gardens for your guidance, education and inspiration and many nurseries can advise on suitable local indigenous plant options.
Visit PlantZAfrica to find out all you need to know about indigenous plant options for your area.