It’s summertime and although the living is easy, the water is scarce. Living in the fairest Cape, we’re not as impacted by water shortages as the rest of the country, but all South Africans have been urged to save as much water as we can. So with no further ado, here are our top tips to make sure your garden stays green and your conscience stays clean.
1. Deliver water to the root-zone
In comparison to sprinklers that only get 40–50% of the water to the root zone, drip irrigation and soaker hoses ensure a staggering 90% efficiency. Apart from minimizing evaporation loss, they also serve to keep the areas between plants dry, helping to limit weed growth too.
2. Mulch away
As well as reducing run-off and evaporation (by up to 70%), a good quality mulch will also provide nutrients to the plants and restrict weed growth. Organic mulches retain some water themselves and increase the humidity level around plants. Avoid fine mulches that tend to clump and become water-repellent. Instead, use a coarser mulch which allows water/rain to move down through to the soil. A depth of 3-5cm in a pot (depending on the size) and even deeper (8-10cm) in a garden bed is ideal. Apply mulch onto moist soil and water in well.
3. Recycle where you can
It’s not always necessary to turn on the tap in order to water your garden. Rainwater is the best choice for your plants. It’s clear, unchlorinated and free. If possible, use rain barrels or a cistern to collect water from your downspouts. A medium-sized roof can yield over 2000 litres of water from a few centimeters of rain. Save your cooking water too – if you steam or boil vegetables, rather than tipping this nutrient-rich water down the sink, fertilize your plants with it. The same goes with fish tank water – the nitrogen and phosphorous-rich water will do wonders in your flowerbeds.
4. Choose plants carefully
Select varieties that are indigenous to your area (or a region with a similar climate). These plants will have adapted to your climate and soils and require far less watering.
5. Ensure taps, fittings and hoses are not leaking
One leaking tap can waste more than 2,000 litres a month. To check your home for leaks, turn off every tap and appliance that uses water, then read your water meter. Wait 4 hours and read again. If the meter has ticked over, something’s leaking.
6. Water at the right times
If your lawn springs back after stepping on it, it doesn’t require watering. When you do water, a good soaking will encourage deeper roots, giving you more drought resistant lawn. This is far better for your lawn than more frequent, light irrigation. Watering your garden in the early morning or evening and when it’s not too windy will further reduce water loss through evaporation.