Coast KZN

03 Feb 2018

Waterwise gardening in Zululand

Mari Scott (Zululand Observer) Picture: Invest in a rainwater harvesting tank

Clever ways to make every drop count

There are two words an avid gardener does not like to hear: water restrictions. But, with a slight attitude adjustment, happy gardening is still possible in times of drought.

Your beautiful garden does not have to turn brown in times of little or no rain – all you need to do is be clever about the way you use water.


Plan your garden carefully 
• Plant thirsty plants on the south and east side of your house, where they’ll get less sun. Hardier, indigenous plants can be planted on the north and west sides of your home.
• Group plants with similar watering needs together.
• Opt for endemic, indigenous plants – they will need much less water (and attention) and attract more birds to your garden.
Odd shaped lawns are trickier to irrigate, which leads to water wastage
• Prior to planting, add compost to the soil – it will improve the health and water-retaining capacity of the soil. In sandy soil, this ensures that water is held around the roots instead of percolating downwards. In clay soil, compost increases the depth of the root growth.
• Dig troughs or basins around thirsty plants such as roses, as well as shrubs and trees. This way you won’t lose precious water due to ‘run-off’.
• Mulch the soil – it is an easy and cost-effective way of saving water. It reduces water
loss due to evaporation, so that less frequent watering is required. It prevents erosion and helps to prevent weed growth. Mulch also adds nutrients to the soil and attracts earthworms to the garden. Organic mulch includes compost, grass cuttings, pine needles, milled bark, straw, crushed mealie cobs or autumn leaves. Inorganic mulches may include plastic sheeting, gravel, pebbles and stones.


Do you really need a lawn? Why not replace it with extendedborders, paving stones, gravel or water wise ground covers? 


Make every drop count
• Before watering, check if the soil isn’t still moist. It is better to slightly under-water than to drench a garden.
• Make sure that your hosepipe and its fittings and nozzles don’t leak anywhere.
• The best time to water your plants is in the morning. Do not irrigate  on windy days when evaporation is at its highest.
• After good rains, do not water for a few days.
Make sure that your hose pipe and its fittings and nozzles don’t leak anywhere• Water deeply (about 20 minutes) twice a week. Deep watering encourages the development of deep, healthy roots and helps the plants to grow better and survive longer periods without water. Once water wise trees and shrubs are established, they do not need regular watering. Watch out for signs of stress during particularly hot or dry weather and then water deeply. Water stress indications are: die back of branches, lack of lustre in the leaves, yellowing or thinning foliage, leaf drop, scorched leaves and smaller-than-normal new leaves.
• Keep run-off water to a minimum: do not apply water faster than the plant can absorb it. Clay soil can be watered lightly, as the soil is more compact and absorbs at a slower rate. It retains more water, so less frequent watering is essential. Sandy soil absorbs water quickly, so water at a faster rate. A drip irrigation system is the most water efficient technique of watering.


Dig basins around trees to avoid water ‘run-off’


Lawn care
Your lawn is one of the biggest water gobblers in the garden. Here’s how to save water while keeping it green:
• Rethink your need for a lawn. Do you have children or pets that regularly play on the lawn, or is the grass simply decorative? Consider replacing it with extended borders, paving stones, gravel or water wise ground covers.
• Stick to a simple shape. Curvy or odd shaped lawns are trickier to irrigate, which leads to water wastage. • Choose the right grass. Two types of grasses are said to grow well in the Zululand area: Bermuda Grass (Cynodon Dactyloin) and Berea Grass (Dactyloctenium Australe).
• Water the lawn less frequently. Deep soaking encourages the roots to utilise moisture deep in the ground, as opposed to drying out quickly.
• Mow often – grass gets tougher the more often it gets mowed. To retain water, some experts recommend that you cut the lawn very short and then dress it with mulch.
Mulching is an easy and affordable way of saving water


Other ideas
• Opt for non-porous pots that retain water, like glazed terracotta pots and plastic containers.
• Always put drip trays or saucers underneath containers to collect surplus water. The plant will ‘drink’ it up as the soil dries out.
• Try adding moisture retaining granules to your pot plants’ soil.
• Invest in a water storage tank to harvest rainwater. Place it underneath a gutter or downpipe and before long you’ll have enough water to water the garden and even top up the swimming pool!