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Published by TOP4 Team
Keeping a garden adequately watered can be expensive -- and a chore. A water-efficient garden improves your property’s value and liberates you from the shackles of water dependency. In the drier months you can enjoy the garden rather than worry about it, and go on holidays without fear of losing expensive plants.
A truly water-efficient garden begins long before planting,and continues throughout the life of the garden. But even once established, there’s plenty to be done. Follow our step-by-step guide, to help your garden use less in time and money -- yet thrive in all conditions as it never has before.
Getting to know your garden
Stroll through your garden to get a feel for it. Ask yourself these questions for clues to achieve the same beauty with less water.
- Where are the hot, dry spots? Which areas are cool and moist?
- Which parts are within easy reach of the hose?
- What sort of soil do i have? Feel it: is it gritty (sandy), smooth (clay) or a combination (loam)? Does it change throughout the garden?
- What happens when it rains? Go out with an umbrella: how much rain actually sinks into the soil? How much runs off the block? What path does it take?
Forming a Strategy
With this information, formulate an appropriate design strategy for your garden, as follows:
- Group the toughest plants in hot, inaccessible spots where the soil is most sandy.
- Place plants with extra water needs -- such as vegetables and pots -- close to the house and within easy reach of the hose.
- Use trees or a vine-covered pergola close to the house to create a micro-climate for thirsty or delicate specimens, such as ferns and leafy plants.
- Plant hedges as windbreaks against strong, drying winds.
Improving Your Soil
Well-conditioned soil is the key to good gardening in every climate and location. Water-efficient soil draws water in and holds it like a sponge. Every type of soil, no matter how poor, can be improved.
- Increase the humus in the soil by adding large amounts of decomposed organic matter -- compost, worm casts, grass humus and manure, for example.
- Give areas with the thirstiest plants your greatest attention.
- Establish a compost heap and regularly top-up garden beds.
Choosing The Plants
As we said in the earlier section on drought-resistant plants, be guided by local experience. Plants must match the local conditions and thrive through good times and bad. Listed below are some more tips to help you find plants which give maximum pleasure for minimum water and fuss.
- Ask a qualified horticulturist at your local nursery for advice and recommendations.
- In established gardens, replace struggling plants with drought-resistant ones.
It’s not just what you plant, timing and technique are important, too.
- Plant at a time to suit your conditions. Autumn is best for dry or hot regions, as plants are established before summer’s onset.
- When planting natives, consider buying small pots. Plants in ‘tubes’ (small, rectangular pots) usually develop a better root system.
- Before planting, turn and loosen the soil and add compost and water-holding crystals. Then fill the hole with water and wait for it to drain away.
- Soak newly planted trees and shrubs deeply until established.
Mulching For Water Conservation
Mulch immediately after planting and throughout the year as the level of mulch diminishes.
- Aim for a constant ‘carpet’ of mulch 5-10 cm deep.
- Organic mulch (such as straw, leaf mulch, lucerne and pine bark) improves the soil as it breaks down
- Non-organic mulch (such as gravel and pebbles) needs topping up less frequently.
Maintaining Water Wisdom
A low water garden means you can relax, but just a little -- there are still things to do.
- Water new plants regularly, especially larger trees and shrubs. A deep soaking once a week is by far the best way.
remove weeds as they appear.
- In established garden, gradually reduce the frequency of watering.
- Learn to spot thirsty signs such as limp leaves and drooping flowers.
- Consider irrigation system if you have plants which need regular watering or a large number of potted plants.
- Start compost heap and spread the compost on your garden beds as soon as it’s ready.