The biggest users of water in your household are your washing machine, dishwasher, toilets and gardens. If you’ve got a lush green lawn in the middle of summer, you know how much water you use to keep it that way. Water is a precious resource, more and more so in our world where average temperatures seem to be on the increase on a yearly basis. Just because water restrictions are looming or in place, it’s no reason why you still can’t have a beautiful garden. You may have to change your gardening philosophy somewhat but it is possible.
Some tips to ensure you have a water wise garden :
1. Increase the water holding capacity of your soil
You can do this by adding organic matter. This can be in the form of compost or animal manure. If your soil is packed with clay then adding gypsum will help to break it down to make it easier for you to dig in the organic matter. For garden beds that are established you may find it hard to dig in the organic matter without damaging plant or tree roots, I’d suggest just adding it to the surface (an inch is a good measure) and let the worms do the digging in for you.
Another way you can increase the water holding capacity of the soil is to add water saving crystals – these swell up and store moisture and release it slowly into the soil without allowing it to drain away too quickly. Can work out quite costly though so I tend to prefer using organic matter.
2. Add mulch around your plants
Organic matter above can act as mulch. Problem with some types of organic matter is that it can harbor weed seeds and you may find weeds popping up if you just add it to the surface. Wood chips, straw, hay, shredded newspapers, sawdust, sugar cane mulch all work well and will break down. Pebbles or gravel can be used too but I find that it makes it hard to do ‘top ups’ with organic matter to feed my soil if these are laid down – plus children find it terribly enticing to pick up pebbles and throw them about the lawn and my lawn mower blades come up second best as a result. There are inorganic mulches around like weed mats but I find that these usually need to be secured or they can blow away in wild weather and aesthetically they aren’t all that pleasing.
3. Get rid of lawn
Lawn is one of the biggest water guzzlers (next to vegetable gardens) in the garden. Consider if you really need a big expanse. Children prefer to play on hard surfaces with their bikes. Consider using ground covers instead.
4. Reduce evaporation and water loss when you do water
Drip irrigation is highly effective and delivers water straight to where it’s most needed. Sprinklers waste up to 50% of the water delivered.
5. Plan your garden
Group plants together so that you have plants with high water needs eg vegetables, soft stem plants in one spot so that you only water plants which need it more often and others less. Not only will you be increasing the efficiency of the water used, it will also make your gardening chores easier if all your ‘needy’ plants are in one section of the garden. Choose plants that suit your climate and native to your area. Native plants have adapted to the weather conditions in your local region so they are less likely to wilt when times are hard. Not only will you find it easier to keep them alive, some will positively thrive with little maintenance on your part.
6. Collect rainwater
Put in a rainwater tank in your garden. It’s free, it’s unchlorinated – what more can you ask for?
7. Keep your plants healthy
If your plants are infested with pests and suffocated by weeds, they are already stressed so easing off the watering would only stress them more and more than likely send them to plant heaven. Most plants need more watering when they are first planted and tend to need less as they establish themselves.
8. When you do water, water deeply
Don’t just sprinkle the surface of the soil. That will only encourage the plant to send surface roots. It’s better to water less often and deeply when you do than to water scantily daily. Occasional deep watering will encourage the plant to send roots deeper into the soil.