Waterwise gardeners do it every day! As we learn to live with water issues in South African becoming a water wise gardener is how we support our local community and have a beautiful garden at the same time.
How to garden with less water is something we all need to try do especially as we see temperatures rise as a result of global warming and continuing water issues in South Africa. An interesting discussion we had recently raised the question who teaches us how to water our gardens and more importantly do our staff or gardeners know?
We may water from experience but for some it’s a new concept and many gardeners have actually never been trained how to water wisely or why we need to conserve water.
Many people believe that only indigenous plants are water wise. That is simply not true. Even indigenous plants that are not grown in their endemic area need water and can drink a lot. Being water wise ties the type of plant, where you plant it and how you maintain it all together. Added to that it’s the way you think about water in and around the home that makes one a waterwise warrior.
It relates to a two main points. Planting plants in the right spot based on their water needs, called Hyrdozoning and then the use of mulch as a way to conserve as much moisture in the soil as possible.
Use water wisely
Group plants according to their water needs in Hydrozones or as we refer to it, gardening in 3D. By grouping your plants with similar water needs together you end up using less water as you don't give additional water to plants that don’t require it.
3D or three drop plants need regular watering. 2D or two drop plants are those that need a weekly watering, whilst 1D or one drop plants have low water needs. By keeping plants with similar water requirements together one won’t waste water on plants that don’t really need it.
1D Plants should make up most of your garden. Try to group them at the back of the garden and in areas which dry out easily due to wind exposure, or because they are north or west-facing. The 1-drop zone of your garden should be filled with waterwise plants that require very little watering once they are established. Examples of suitable plants include Vygies, Acacia, Agapanthus, Gazania, lavender, Felicia’s, Abelia and many of the Mediterranean herbs too.
2D Plants should take up about one third of your garden. This area of your garden should typically be filled with shrubs like roses, Cuphea, Durranta and Nandina. They will cope well with being watered once a week in summer, and less frequently in winter.
3D Plants should be placed where they are most prominent, such as entrance ways and along pathways, placed in such a way that they have the maximum effect. These plants will need to be watered 2-3 times per week in summer and about once a week in winter. Try planting these plants in containers - then it is easy to move them around and group them together for watering purposes.
Water wise rock stars
Drought and water restriction resistant Gazanias are the ultimate water wise Rockstar. Indigenous Gazanias will also attract butterflies and bees to the garden and thrive on a little neglect. Gazania plant care does not involve much of anything, other than watering. They have green or grey leathery leaves and too many flower colours to mention. Some varieties are clumping and others are spreading which means that there is a Gazania perfect for any garden or patio planter.
Gazanias do best in well drained soil. Soil that has high clay content holds to much water and they will die off quite quickly in the rainy season.
A light fertilising of BioRock at planting with a little compost will give them a good start. Water sparingly and in the rainy months try keep them as dry as possible. If you over water them they will die which is why they are the ultimate #WaterWise plant. Although they’re drought resistant, expect more and bigger blooms when you water.
The Spekboom is indigenous to South Africa and is one of the best Environmental warrior plants one can grow. They are the ultimate carbon busting plant in a world where CO2 emissions are part of the problem for global warming. By having one or more in your garden you will reduce your carbon foot print and if you have space for a hedge you could almost neutralise it almost completely.
They are a classic indigenous plant that can be a 1D or a 2D plant. Growing in naturally in very arid conditions they need very little water indeed. In a garden one prefers the leaves to look a bit plumper and with a bit more water they are awesome. The green varieties will even handle some shade but the golden yellow ones need at least a half day of hot sun to keep their colour.
Water Wise Tips for the gardener
- Mulch Mulch Mulch! Whether one uses Bark, Pebbles or bagged Mulch, gardens get enormous benefits from it. Mulching with leaves or compost will add the organic content you need to attract earthworms and improve soil texture but most importantly, Mulch of any description will help with moisture retention and stops soil washing away.
- Keep your containers from drying out by placing a layer of compost on them. This will help retain moisture and prevent wind from drying out the surface of the soil.
- Feed with an organic fertiliser such as BioGanic to help plants grow stronger cell walls which will help them be more resilient to the heat. Organic fertilisers don’t wash out the soil with regular watering so your plants get the best of both worlds.
- Watering at the end of the day as the sun sets will help cool the garden and less water is lost to evaporation. Water will also get deeper to the shrubs and more established plants and as the next morning starts the whole garden has water to get them ready for another hot day.
- Use a watering can to water your containers around the garden. You’ll be surprised as to how much water you will save not losing water to the paving as one moves from one pot to the next.
- Check your hose and tap connections that they are not dripping and loosing water. Replace the washers and o-rings to stop the drip and get the water where you need it most.
- Plant your bedding plants in the right position. Shade loving impatiens that get some sun will need more water than if they were in the shade. Become a water wise gardener and plant to limit the amount of water needed.