At last the first drops have fallen and the change in our gardens have been instant. Let’s hope we get another shower soon to keep the momentum in our gardens going. However, we are still not out of the woods in regards to water shortages and the shortsightedness of our municipalities and water departments. One could rant on for hours about the above but I feel that it is better that we rather focus on the water aspects over which we have actual control. This waterwise guide will allow you to still enjoy your garden to the fullest without having to worry about outside factors.
Start with your soil
- Improving the quality of your soil is key to enhancing its water retention properties. Compost and mulch are your best aids in this regard.
- You can easily cut down your current watering by half by using mulch effectively, learn more here.
- Studies and experience have shown that tilling the soil can even be detrimental to the health of the soil. Tilling disrupts the beneficial microbes in the top layer of your soil. Therefore it is best to practise no-till gardening and to keep on adding organic material from the top.
- Mulching and employing no-till gardening also helps to prevent that hard crust from forming on top of the soil.
- With bigger plants, it is best to mound up the soil around the base, creating a basin that one can fill with water and have it soak through to the roots.
- Plant waterwise and indigenous plants where possible. They will require less water once established, as well as proving a haven for wildlife.
- Rather plant leafy veggies such as lettuce in semi-shade areas. This will enable you to water less often and prevent them from bolting.
- Think of hydro-zoning your garden. This means grouping plants with similar water needs together. For more information on hydro-zoning, follow this link.
- Consider planting very thirsty plants in containers. This will allow you to move them out of the harsh sun.
When and how to water
- Water if the soil in the root zone is dry and crumbly.
- Water less frequently but with more water at a time; thus allowing the soil to dry out in between watering.
- Water before 10:00 and after 16:00 to prevent evaporation.
- Automatic watering systems should be adjusted according to the season.
- Generally, the bigger and softer the leaf of a plant,the more water the plant will need.
- Flowers and vegetables need a short frequent watering, whilst shrubs and trees need deeper but less frequent watering.
- Wilting can be caused by overwatering, so always first feel whether the soil around the suspect plant is actually dry before watering.
Raincell rainwater harvesting tanks are available at Heckers
I know some of the advice doesn’t necessarily fit in with the current water restrictions we are facing. To me, the conversation should rather be around responsible water use in all spheres and not just the singling out of gardeners as wasters of water. I personally believe that gardeners are more conscious of the value of water and its importance than the general public. Let’s use our common sense when it comes to water usage and try and save as much as we can while we are at it. In the end, we need to keep ourselves and authorities accountable.