With the next reasonable rains not expected until April this year, we’re in for at least a few more long, dry months. Our resident gardening guru, Niall McKrill, shares his insights on drought-proofing your garden.
INDIGENIZE YOUR GARDEN
Choosing plants that naturally grow in our part of the world (and are therefore more used to water scarcity and hot weather) is the most obvious way to save on water and save your garden during a drought. Indigenous plants can eventually maintain themselves in poor soils, require less or little watering, and, are evergreen. They also attract birds and bees, and form an important habitat for natural fauna.
With different eco areas and soil types scattered around the Cape, different indigenous plants work better in different areas, but here is a general guideline. Most are water-wise and need little to no maintenance too…
Trees: Camphor bush, Milkwoods, Wild Olives and Kei apples.
Shrubs: Blue Salvia, Blue Felicia, Maybush, Wild Aster, Scabious, Malva and Rosemary. Most of these will attract bees and butterflies too. Tickberry, with yellow scented flowers grows quickly and is a great attractant for birds and butterflies.
Groundcovers: Scented bulbs such as Freesias, scented Agapanthus, night scented Gladioli, Jasmine, Honeysuckle, various Pelargoniums and Ericas.
KEEP THE MOISTURE IN
In this kind of weather, it’s important to make sure that there is plenty of mulch around your flowerbeds, to keep any moisture in the ground, retard weed growth, and slowly break down to enrich the soil.
DON’T STRESS TOO MUCH ABOUT YOUR GRASS
Grass is remarkably hardy and will bounce right back after a season of drought.
Although your lawn may look a tad messy at the moment, a bucket of water (collected from your daily shower) will suffice.
RETHINK YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE
We also need to get used to the reality that water is not here in unlimited quantities, so lavish gardens are less and less practical. Perhaps less lawn and more pathways could serve you better, or less Roses and more Rosemary.
RECYCLE YOUR GREY WATER
Shower with a baby bath or bucket in it to save what water you use. Get a tank and collect the water from your roof, you’ll be surprised as to how much just roars off down the drain! Use grey water where you can – the parts for setting a system up can be bought at most good nurseries and hardware shops.