Water wise ways with ‘Life is a garden’

by | Sep 5, 2016 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Creating a water wise garden is easy and fun. Not only will you save money and time, you will make a valuable contribution to your environment. Find out how you can make your garden more water wise.

Verbena

Being a water wise gardener does not mean your garden will be dull and boring. A water wise garden can have all the colour and vibrancy of any other garden, with the added benefit that it will save you money on your water bill. All it takes is a new approach to gardening that is easy to adopt.

Wherever possible, use plants that grow naturally in your region and locally, and create different water-use zones by grouping plants with similar water needs. You can still have exotic plants, but try and choose those that need minimal water. Plants with hairy leaves (lamb’s ear), grey leaves (lavender) and needle-like leaves (rosemary) are able to withstand wind, salt spray and drought.

When you next visit a participating Garden Centre Association retail nursery, look out for plants demarcated as suitable for the different watering zones of your garden, namely, the one-drop zone, two-drop zone and three-drop zone. ‘One Drop’ plants are those with low water needs, ‘Two Drop’ plants are those with medium water needs and ‘Three Drop’ plants have higher water needs.

Suitable one-drop zone plants include abelia, agapanthus, arctotis, false olive (Buddleja saligna), big num-num (Carissa macrocarpa), clivia, euryops daisies, blue marguerite (Felicia amelloides), gaura, gazania, ivy-leafed pelargonium, lavender, statice, marigold, wild olive, osteospermum, rosemary, karee, star jasmine, wild garlic and vygie.

Abelia

Euryops pectinatus

Gaura lindheimeri

Soil

Retain moisture by mixing in generous quantities of compost and well-rotted manure. A blanket of mulch spread 10cm thick around plants, keeping away from the stem, will keep soil cool and moist, smother weeds that compete with plants for water and nutrients, and insulate plants from temperature extremes. Organic mulches can consist of coarse compost, shredded bark, cocoa husks, nutshells or pine needles. Bark chips or nuggets are also suitable and are decorative and long lasting.

A shredder is a good investment, as it reduces the amount of garden refuse to a small amount that can be used as mulch or added to the compost heap.

Lawns

While lawns can have their place in a garden, particularly as a play area for children and animals, try to reduce this area and replace with ground covers, gravel or paving. Bear in mind that hard landscaping means that water cannot soak into the ground, while gravel allows water to be absorbed into the soil. Before spreading gravel, level the area and lay down a weed-suppressing membrane.

Paving can be softened if occasional spaces are left for hardy, water wise plants, such as arctotis, bulbine, festuca, gazania, lavender, rosemary, stachys, strelitzia, succulents and verbena.

The new look border

The traditional border can be adapted in a way that reduces watering. In this new look border with its relaxed approach to planting, tidying and deadheading, hardy plants are the answer.

Arrange plants in an informal way, with form and texture of flowers, foliage and seed heads as important as colour. Hardy, ornamental grasses with strong vertical or graceful arching forms, and plants with grass-like leaves, play as an important part in this border as do flowers.

Gazania

Use water wisely

Life is a garden which is watered thoroughly once or twice a week instead of with daily sprinklings, so that water penetrates and encourages deep rooting. In small gardens, watering by hand is the most efficient way of making sure each plant receives the correct amount of water. It also allows the gardener to check the condition of plants.

In large gardens it is not always possible to water by hand and an irrigation system is often used. The best system is a seepage hose. Those that spray overhead only work efficiently where plants of similar height are grown together. Where there is variation in plant height, ‘shadow’ areas created by taller plants can prevent water from reaching lower growing companions.

Grow plants that like moisture on the south and east side of buildings, and drought tolerant plants on north and west facing areas. Group plants that need the most water near the house and in containers on the patio for easy access. Invest in a water tank for collecting rainwater off roofs for use in dry periods.

In the vegetable garden, plant closely and in broad rows, so that there will be less evaporation. If a shallow basin is made around newly planted trees and shrubs, and around vegetables such as tomatoes and squash, water will collect and slowly filter down to the roots.

Visit www.lifeisagarden.co.za to read more.

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