Landscaping Tips: Being Wise With Water

Water is Life for Landscaping & Indigenous Gardens

If you have planted an indigenous garden, well then a BIG congratulations is in order!

Your indigenous garden is going to adequately survive the water restrictions. A few more weeks into water restrictions and you will look around and realise that indigenous plants are plants that genuinely can survive these extreme conditions because they have adapted to the water stressed conditions we experience from time to time here in sunny South Africa.

Remember, after all, that South Africa receives an annual rainfall that is nearly half the earth’s average annual rainfall, so we are classified as a water-stressed country. To complicate matters even more, scientists predict that with global warming, South Africa will experience much wetter wet seasons and much drier dry seasons, resulting in an increase in floods and droughts.

So before you pave your whole garden let me share some very practical steps you can use to take care of it during the floods and the droughts.

Managing Landscaping Droughts

Mulch, mulch, mulch your garden. Cover that soil as much as you can. Be creative about what you use, never throw a leaf away again. Pour them back into your garden beds like a blanket over the soil. It truly does reduce water evaporation and creates a lovely little dew trap for the groundcovers. I often think of mulch as the garden’s factor 50 Sun Block.

Make sure your plants are well fed by composting the soil and using organic fertilisers on a regular basis. You will be astounded how your indigenous garden can survive and be sustained if adequately fed. Being thirsty is bad enough but to be starved as well is unbearable and your plants will show it very quickly.

Garden Maintenance Tips

  • Harvest your rain water. Never before has there been a time like this where every drop of water needs to be conserved and recycled.
  • Maintain your landscape appropriately by either engaging the services of a professional or by taking good advice (e.g.) Make sure you do not mow your lawn too short during the drought periods as it will dry to a crisp.
  • Urgently remove noxious weeds as they guzzle ground water and will deprive your garden of its fair share.
  • Learn water wise watering habits.

Believe it or not, most landscapes are either over-watered, causing shallow roots and weaker plants, or under watered when water is applied improperly, running off the soil and down the drain before it has time to soak into the ground.

The most water wise manner in which to water your garden is via an automated irrigation system that has been designed around the hydro zones in your garden and that has an accurately set timer and professionally specified sprinkler heads and nozzles that throw the correct amount of water for each separate zone.

It is far more water efficient to irrigate a garden with a system as described in the point above than to hand water a garden. 

Plant trees to create shade that helps protect the undergrowth from the intense sun rays.

Apply the recommended water wise garden principles to your garden where plants with the same water requirements are grouped together and the sprayers are set to water the appropriate zones and at the right time

Garden Maintenance & Floods

Take water retention measures in areas where water tends to run off, mainly on banks and even gently inclines. These could be just simple soil berms or especially designed polymers or cloth that one installs in the garden before the planting is completed

  • Ensure good ground cover to reduce soil erosion in rain storms
  • Make sure your drains are clean and in working order to avoid further erosion due to water overflows
  • Preferable have gutters that firmly fit into the storm water system to avoid erosion close the home.
  • Each time it rains have a critical look around your home prompting possible flood areas should the water volumes increase.

Flood water is extremely strong and destructive to a garden, especially on banks. A trick to save banks is to dig a trench on the top of the bank that can catch water run-off and slows it down before it cascades down the bank.

Tree logs or cut wild banana stems can be installed on banks or problem water run-off areas to slow the water down and help reduce soil displacement:

So how about we all do a bit of Aussie rules - SLIP , SLAP and SLOP for our gardens.

  1. SLIP in a few trees
  2. SLAP on a generous layer of mulch and
  3. SLOP your rain water into a storage tank