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Time to become a water-saving warrior with a flourishing garden full of happy plants.
- Group plants together according to their water requirements into 1-drop, 2-drop, 3-drop and no-drop zones – the latter including hard surfaces such as permeable paving and gravel, and plants that can survive only on rainwater once established.
- Plant a variety of endemic and hardy indigenous plants suitable to your climate as a lasting backbone taking up most of the available space. Plant those that need more water in smaller beds or in containers.
- In large gardens, plant huge swathes of drought-hardy groundcovers and spreading succulents like crassulas, cotelydons, vygies, gazanias, arctotis and osteospermums. Include some groupings of grasses and restios like Elegia tectorum.
- If you are partial to bright colour, plant annuals in pots and in the foreground of shrub beds. You can simply water them with a bucket instead of opening the sprinkler.
- Create more interest with hard landscaping elements like pathways, water elements, focal points and lots of pots to take up ground space.
How to spot a water wise plant
Plants which are not water guzzlers normally have certain characteristics in common. Look out for the following: small needle-like foliage, grey foliage colour, hairy leaves, fleshy leaves, a waxy leaf surface, leaves that close up in dry spells, and leaves with a lighter shade underneath as in droughts they will flip it upwards reflecting the heat of the sun away.
Hot tip: Even plant camels will need regular watering at a young stage to become established before withstanding periods of drought well. If you have planted a young tree or shrub, create a basin around the stem and see that this basin is filled up when watering with a hosepipe or bucket.
Some more tips
- Re-think your lawn area
Reduce lawn surfaces; reduce the watering sessions for your lawn; and mow regularly.
- Care for the soil
Add copious amounts of organic material, which will change the soil structure into a cultivatable loam full of good soil organisms, and with better drainage and water holding capacity.
Mulches like bark nuggets, pine needles, peach pips and other organic material placed over the soil keeps plant roots cool and moist between watering.
This is how you should water
- Irrigate in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Never water in windy conditions.
- Water less often, but deeper and for longer periods.
- Use soaker hoses to water at ground level rather than overhead sprinklers.
- Install a proper irrigation system controlled electronically, or fit a timing device to all taps to switch your hosepipe off in case you forget to do it.
Visit The Witness Garden Show from 23-25 September at the Royal Showgrounds, Pietermaritzburg for more ideas on how to save water.