Waterwise Gardening in South Africa

South Africa’s water consumption is increasing despite the fact that we live in country that is predominantly semi-arid with regions that experience regular drought periods. As a country our average annual rainfall is just 450mm per annum compared to the world average of 850mm. Waterwise gardening has therefore now become an essential facet of responsible water management that all home owners and garden lovers must actively consider and try to practice in their garden.

indigenous gardening

Aloes require very little water and attract bees and birds

Waterwise gardening is an approach to designing and maintaining your garden that will minimise the amount of water it needs in order to stay healthy and full of life. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to dig up your lawn and replace it with a variety of hardy cacti – not at all, it’s just sensible gardening that with a little forethought, planning and consideration can make a big difference to your garden’s thirst for water.

Below are some tips and ideas on how you can employ waterwise gardening practices in your garden. 

  • Regulate your watering times. Irrigation systems are becoming far more sophisticated and commonplace in South African gardens. Make sure that you only water your garden very early in the morning or in the early evening; this will help to prevent evaporation and allow for moisture to be taken in by the soil. You should of course not use your irrigation system when you do get rain – make sure that you override your automatic system if you have one or purchase a moisture sensor to attach to it.
  • Water once or twice a week. Rather than watering your garden a little everyday thoroughly soak it just once or twice a week – this will allow deeper soil penetration and encourage deeper root growth which in turns promotes a plant’s ability to survive during periods of drought.
  • Plan your irrigation carefully. Take your time to do this if installing new irrigation and check the efficiency of existing systems – if you find that your garden is incorrectly fitted then spend some time redesigning it. You should make sure that the areas of your garden that need the most water get it. Set sprinklers so that they don’t waste water by spilling onto pathways and try to reduce the amount of unnecessary crossover between sprinklers. You should also use sprinklers that create large water droplets rather than a mist – larger drops are less likely to evaporate and get blown by the wind to the wrong place.
  • Be indigenous. Indigenous plants need far less water than their foreign counterparts. A garden full of indigenous plants also has the added benefit of attracting a huge variety of beautiful birds.
  • Group plants with similar water needs together in the same beds. This will ensure that you don’t over water drought resistant plants and under water thirsty plants. Consider using drip irrigation systems on beds with plants that need little watering
  • Use your lawn efficiently. A well maintained green lawn is without doubt a beautiful feature of any garden but it is also by far the biggest water consumer. Consider reducing your lawn size by cutting out any small unnecessary sections or replacing section with beds for drought resistant plants. You should also; keep your lawn well fertilised, spiked (forking the lawn to create holes for the water to get to the root systems) and never cut the grass too short – the shorter your grass is the more water can evaporate from the soil.
  • Mulching. Covering bare soil with a blanket of organic material will help to conserve soil moisture. This will also help to keep root systems cool and prevent weed growth. Mulching should be done during Spring and Autumn months and take care not to pile it up against the plants as this encourages rot.

If you are not sure how these tips relate to your garden and your plants or you need more advice on how to practice waterwise gardening then consult an expert at your local garden centre.  For an example of waterwise gardening in practice you can also visit one of the many National Botanical Gardens  in the country like Kirstenbosch or Walter Sisulu (I can highly recommend the Lowveld Botanical Gardens in Nelspruit).

Source: Harmonious Living

Planting an indigenous, drought-resistant garden really makes sense in water scarce South Africa.  We advise all the new country estates and eco estates to encourage homeowners to incorporate waterwise garden designs on their stands as part of holistic estate water management (see rain garden design tips).  Exotic plants are not necessarily bad; many beautiful Lowveld gardens have a mix of indigenous and exotic drought-tolerant plants.  Rainwater can be collected and stored in water tanks for household use and garden irrigation (rainwater has a very good effect on plants when compared to chlorinated municipal water).  Grey water garden irrigation is another way of reusing water that would normally be flushed away and wasted.  Greywater contains many nutrients that plants need and can save on your fertilizer costs. Apart from gray water irrigation, there are numerous other reasons why everyone should recycle graywater. Rainwater tanks and water tanks come in numerous guises; we can help you choose the right water tank for your circumstances. Water Rhapsody is an authorised South African JoJo Tank dealer so we often use JoJo water tanks in conjunction with our water systems.  Water conservation and sustainable energy go hand in hand towards sustainable development in South Africa so consider solar water heating too!  We have merged with Yes Solar Mpumalanga so we can provide you with high quality solar geysers, solar panels and solar power heating systems- all installed by  Eskom-accredited installers (so you can claim the substantial Eskom rebate!).  Contact us for a free quote!

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