With summer around the corner, it is the perfect time to start focusing on your garden routine. And what is one of the most important aspects of a summer garden? Watering. A lush garden is rooted (literally) in healthy hydration. We rounded up some water saving tips to help your plants — and your pocket.
Get the ‘in’ on a winning watering routine
Creating the best garden you can, while being conservative with water, is possible. Though it takes some planning, you can reap the rewards in the long run. Our guide to gardening and water-saving tips builds upon our series of guides, from the basics of watering to waterwise techniques and trends. We love talking about watering because it can truly make a difference in your garden’s health. But more than anything, achieving a water conscious approach is better – both environmentally and economically. Water waste is a costly oversight that you don’t want to make.
Selecting your plants
The first step in creating your water savvy garden is to identify the climate of your area, the rainfall it receives, and the plants indigenous to your area. Choosing indigenous South African flowers and plants is a real treat as we have such a diverse range of colourful options available. You can’t go wrong with iconic favourites like strelitzia and fynbos, and drought-tolerant perennials which include low-maintenance grasses.
Choose plants with low water requirements — look for silver, spiny or succulent plants with thick, water-storing flesh. Succulents’ unique charm bring clever water-saving qualities and beauty to any garden.
Once you have identified the plants that will work best in your garden’s climate, assess your space and start planning accordingly. Consider spatial aspects like if you have a stretch of lawn, more decking or patio than land, or if you are wanting to achieve a more landscaped look. If you are working with plants in containers, opt for water saving designs like glazed terracotta to retain water.
Group plants with the same water requirements together, using hydrozoning. Determine your plants’ watering needs and organise them by high, medium, low or no water use at all. Additionally, placing your plants tightly together suppresses weed growth and makes for a denser groundcover, reducing water evaporation from the soil. Take note of spacing between plants, as they still need the recommended amount of growing space in order not to be crowded.
If you are aiming to harvest crops, plant seedlings in blocks instead of long rows. This helps compact your watering area, instead of needing to cover long stretches of land.
For a completely water-wise approach, consider xeriscaping. This is the practice of designing your landscape to reduce or even eliminate the need to water your garden. Xeriscaping includes practices like replacing grassy lawns with soil, rocks and mulch and drought-tolerant indigenous species. Mulching is a great way to retain soil moisture, slow evaporation and acts as a further step for weed prevention. We advise adding a layer of mulch around plants, about five to seven centimetres deep.
Also, using natural wastes like coffee grounds, eggshells, or fruit and vegetable scraps creates compost. Applying compost assists in retaining moisture in sandy soils, as well as improving drainage in clay soils.
If you’ve chosen to reduce your landscaping, there are great solutions to include in your garden makeover. Leaving spaces between pavers to plant grasses allows water to permeate to the ground below. Utilising porous hardscaping like pebbles and gravel also assists with water drainage. While this removes your garden’s greenery, it reduces your watering efforts dramatically.
If you live on a slope, place thirstier plants in the dips of your garden where water will naturally flow. Then, place sun loving plants at the peaks of your garden. And when watering your slopes, water more often but in shorter sessions. This allows the ground to absorb the water instead of running off. To cleverly redirect water to your plants, create a rain garden in the dips of your garden or where your water runs off, both filtering and retaining groundwater.
Top water saving tips and your new routine
Once you’ve established your plants and garden layout, you can determine your new watering routine.
Seasonal watering and tool inspection
Adjust your watering schedule to the seasons. In the summer, water deeply in the early morning to avoid leaf burn. You can water in the afternoon, but there are chances you may be inviting fungal diseases to creep in overnight. In the winter, early morning watering also helps defrost icy plants.
Inspect water hoses for leaks and cracked washers. Hose damage is typical when you live in an area with hard water, or if you store your hose in a cold shed. If there is damage, determine if it’s time for a repair or if you need a replacement hose.
When you mow your lawn, adjust your settings (and grass length standards). This ultimately leads to creating a lawn that doesn’t require as much watering, as you condition it to absorb more water. By increasing your mowing height (aim for seven centimetres high), your grass root system grows deeper, sourcing groundwater and surviving longer without consistent watering.
Keep your mowing blades sharp. Instead of slicing cleanly through blades of grass, blunt blades pull at the grass. This makes your lawn appear raggedy as it yellows and browns, and you’ll want to water it more! Sharpen your blades about every eight mowings. Wash blades after each mow session and then dry them completely to avoid rusting. After you mow, remove only a third of the grass clippings from your lawn. This helps to return nutrients to the soil to feed your grass.
After applying all of these water saving tips to your garden, you can consider installing innovative water harvesting solutions. Rain water storage tanks save time and costs in the long run. Your water bill will thank us.
Use an adjustable sprinkler or better yet, a watering can, to directly water the base of the plant. Water sprinklers, while convenient, do not entirely reach the ground and lose much water to evaporation. Another permanent set-up — water drip irrigation systems. These are great solutions which feed water directly along the soil line to soak through to the targeted roots.
For a simplified routine, watch the weather and plan your watering schedule around Mother Nature. Use a rain gauge and stand to monitor how much rainfall your garden receives and when you need to do a top-up.
For those who love gadgets, a water timer assists with measuring water moisture levels. Gardena’s Multi-Control Water Computer kit allows you to program your watering system for an automatic, efficient and time-saving irrigation system.
Be a savvy water saver
All the best in applying these water saving tips to your routine. For more information specifically on watering or other solutions for your garden, contact us.