3 Nov 2011

Waterwise Gardening

Posted by bcsands

In Australia we’re constantly under threat of drought so we’ve learnt a few things about minimising water use while still ensuring that our gardens look good. Here are a few tips that will help you to keep your garden green while saving on water – or to drought proof it.

Add organic matter to your soil

All soil is not created equal. If your soil is sandy then water will drain away quickly. If you have a clay soil, then it can take a long time for water to penetrate.

The solution to both of these problems is to add organic matter, such as compost or manure. Add at least an inch of compost to your soil every year to improve its texture and water holding capacity.

Deliver water where it’s needed most

In other words, get the water to the roots of your plants. Drip irrigation ensures that 90 per cent of the water you apply to your garden actually goes to your plants – sprinklers only get about 40-50% of the water where it’s needed. Drip irrigation also minimises evaporation and keeps the areas between plants dry – discouraging weeds.

Mulch, mulch, mulch!

A good layer of organic mulch – about 100mm – can reduce your water needs by half by smothering weeds and reducing evaporation. Mulch also retains water, increasing humidity around your plants. But when you do water, be sure to water well so that the water gets through the mulch to the soil.

An alternative is decorative pebbles.  They won’t feed the soil like mulch, but the cover it provides will shade it, reduce evaporation and keep it cool. They also look great!

Make the most of the rain!

Rainwater is free water – and it’s also not chlorinated which is better for your plants. Catch the maximum amount of rainwater with a rainwater tank attached to the downpipes leading down from your roof. 111m2 of roof space will produce 2375 litres of water after 25mm of rain – filling almost half of an average water tank of 5000 litres.

You could also consider adding a soil wetting agent to your soil – to help water penetrate and be absorbed more easily. If you have an automated irrigation system, save water by turning it off during periods of rain!

Less lawn means less water

Turf is both water and labour-intensive. Choose a drought-resistant turf such as Sir Walter and never mow it too short in summer. You could also introduce some paved areas and/or low maintenance ground cover to reduce the amount of turf you have.

Plan your planting

Review your garden and note down the characteristics of each part of your site, such as shady areas, sunny areas, exposed areas etc. Choose plants that will suit the conditions in each area, grouping plants with similar water needs together. Bear in mind how you will get water to them.

If you live in an arid area, native plants will be easier to grow. They will be adapted to your soil and will need less water.

Good plant care reduces water needs

Healthy plants need less water! Weeds compete with plants for water, so keep them under control as much as you can. Prune, thin and monitor pests and you will have happy plants that don’t need so much watering.

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