Top tips for water-wise gardening

With level 4B water restrictions in full force and winter almost over with little relief in sight, gardeners across the Cape are having to rethink the way they grow.

We spoke to Nick Stodel, MD of Stodels Nurseries for his top tips for maintaining and improving your garden during water restrictions.

When you’re planting, he says, choose less thirsty, indigenous plants; use more containers and pots; and make sure you are watering correctly with no wastage.

“Over the past few years we have looked to Australia for guidance,” Stodel says. “They have had a seven-year drought and have implemented some excellent strategies, which we starting to use locally.”

Get water to your plants

Use a watering can to get directly to the roots of the plant, and choose a rose attachment to prevent damaging the flowers or a fine nozzle for seedlings. Wherever possible, fill your watering cans with grey water.

Water less frequently, but more deeply. This will encourage your plants to develop deeper root systems, which are more drought resistant.

And before you water, stick your finger a few centimetres into the soil to check the moisture content. Sometimes soil looks dry on top, but it's moist a few centimetres below.

Retain water

Once your plants have been watered, retain the moisture for as long as possible by mulching and composting. Mulch retains soil moisture and prevents soil erosion plus it suppresses weed germination and growth. Work plenty of compost into your garden beds as this too holds moisture in the soil and provides nutrients for plant growth.

“Moisture absorbing granules are also a great way to reduce water usage,” says Stodel. “Mix the granules into the soil to absorb and store water when the soil is wet and then they will slowly release it back into the soil.

“They drastically reduce the amount of water you need to give container plants while ensuring the roots don’t get soggy and rot.”

Avoid watering on windy days, as wind accelerates evaporation. It’s also best to water before 9am in the morning or after 5pm in the evening, rather than during the heat of the day.

Design your garden for survival

You can use pots and containers in a number of creative ways. Colourful potted plants are an easy way to brighten up the garden, and you can use pots for your herb and vegetable gardening.

Use bordering like cobbles, edging or wood around your beds. Not only does this give your garden some additional aesthetic appeal, it also creates pockets for water to collect.

Use low growing, hardy groundcovers. You can effectively create a barrier between the sunlight and the soil surface, decreasing soil temperature and minimising soil surface evaporation.

Choose indigenous plants and succulents. Group or mass the same succulent, or combine contrasting succulents to add an interesting feature to your garden.

And when in doubt, ask, says Stodel.

“All our horticulturists have been given additional training around gardening in drought conditions,” says Stodel.

“They are geared up to assist customers, advising on everything from water-wise and non-thirsty plants through to unusual ways of getting water to the right part of the plant and water retention products.”

For more water-saving gardening tips go to www.stodels.com.

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