Tracey Cole

Tracey Cole

Water wise gardening in Western Cape.

With the recent drought in South Africa home owners have become more savvy with how they use
water around the garden. Water wise gardens cut down on water usage, but are still beautiful as
there are so many indigenous options to choose from to grow in the garden.

Choose locally suitable water wise plants and plant in Autumn, after the first rains. This gives plants
a full winter to develop a strong root system before facing the dry season.

Plenty of organic mulch is the best way to ensure the soil can retain water. It also helps block thirsty
weeds and ultimately reduces evaporation. The best formula for making mulch is by mixing
shredded leaves, straw, compost, shredded newspaper and untreated grass clippings. Compost is
the miracle ingredient for healthy, living plants in your garden and adding organic compost improves
the soils nutrient level and water holding capacity.

Watering your plants in the early morning or early evening in summer helps avoid water loss
through evaporation. Wind and sun dry out plants so plant fast-growing, wind resistant, water wise
trees and shrubs suited to your area to provide shade and shelter. Ground cover plants will soon
cover the soil helping to conserve water by reducing evaporation.

If you can afford it, irrigation systems are best for watering your garden. They use controlled
amounts of water far less than a hosepipe, and are super-simple to rely on for auto-watering. Drip
irrigation is an even better water saving tool since it allows a set amount of water to drip onto the
plant beds and straight into the root system, and can even make use of recycled rainwater. Use
barrels to collect overspill rainwater from downpipes. Plants can also be watered using shower,
bath, washing up and washing machine water, known as ‘grey’ water. Although it contains soap and
detergent the soil and potting composts are effective at filtering them out.

Not all indigenous plants are water wise so check that the plants you choose are locally occurring
and hardy, non-thirsty plants. Look for leaves that are oily, waxy, hairy, grey or needle like as these
retain water. Succulents are a fantastic water saving and trendy option!

Water wise gardens focus on plants that thrive with little water and have certain characteristics that
enable them to be water efficient. By knowing these characteristics you’ll be able to decide what you
should or shouldn’t plant! To help you turn your ‘thirsty’ garden into a water wise wildlife haven
here are a few indigenous plants that will get you started.

Succulents, Fynbos, Buchu, Lavender, Aloes, Clivia, South African daisy, Geranium, Agapanthus,
Sweet pea, Wild Olive tree, Jasmine, Milkwood, Cape honeysuckle, Strilitzia, Keurboom, Wild garlic,
Dymondia and Dietes.

The ultimate goal is to have a beautiful outdoor space that is environmentally friendly and makes
you feel good about conservation. If your space is attracting more bees, birds and butterflies then
you’ve definitely done something right!!

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