Summer water saving tips for gardens
With all the talk of this year being a real drought year, we thought it would be a great idea to share some tips on what you can do to reduce the need for watering your garden this summer.
One of the best ways to save water is to apply a heavy layer of carbon rich mulch to the soil surface (straw, bark, leaves and woodchip work great). This serves to reduce evaporation from the soil’s surface, drastically reduces the amount of water you need to use and has the added benefits of suppressing weed growth and building the soil passively. Don’t be shy with your mulch either, pack it on – we find a good layer up to 5cm or more thick, can really transform a garden environment.
When looking at plants for your garden this summer, there is a great choice of plants available to us in South Africa. From a watering perspective, it’s always better to choose indigenous plants that aren’t water hungry, be sure to look out for ground covering indigenous creepers too, they’ll act as a living mulch layer, protecting the moisture in your soil from evaporation. There are some great ground covers in the Lampranthus and Delasperma genera – our favourite at the moment – Delasperma cooperi!
Water in the early morning or late evening so the garden can absorb the maximum amount of water possible. We find it’s better to water less frequently but for longer, giving the soil a really good soak. Food gardens tend to need more water than perennial borders and windbreaks. A good way of knowing whether you have it right is to get tactile, have a feel of the soil below your mulch – if its damp then you don’t need to water.
Keep planted areas dense and consolidated, and group plants according to their water requirements. Plant your vegetable garden in clumps rather than rows and use perennials to create micro-climates for shade to reduce evaporation.
If you don’t have natural shade plant up water wise borders that are sun and wind tolerant (don’t forget wind too can significantly contribute to evaporation), you can even use shade cloth and existing structures in your garden like pergolas or screens. Grapevine’s growing on vertical structures provide great seasonal shade for the leafy green vegetables and living areas like patios too. Get clever with how you place climbers like beans or peas – you can really create great shade areas like this.
Rainwater harvesting is becoming more and more popular and even if you don’t have the space for large tanks using buckets or redirecting water from your roof to your garden using hoses is a great way of minimizing water use. It is also possible to direct your grey water from the kitchen and bathrooms to reuse in the garden but just be careful what cleaning products you’re putting down the sink as some can kill plants.
We find drip irrigation systems are a great way to minimize water use as they deliver water into the subsoil and directly to the roots of plants. This minimizes evaporation and ultimately saves loads of water.
Those are just some of the many ways you can save water this summer, if you have any more ideas on what works well for you or you’d like any advice on anything mentioned above, get hold of us on our blog or drop us a line on Facebook! Good luck and best wishes this summer, The OG team!