We featured Ernst van Jaarsveld’s Waterwise Gardening book a while back, as it is the perfect guide for those of us with indigenous gardens. It offers helpful advice on the subject of saving water and outlines the various plants that are conducive to saving water in a South African climate. HL caught up with Ernst to find out what tips we should bear in mind when trying to save water in our gardens…
1. Reduce your lawn
Lawns require lots of watering and fertilisers to keep them in a good condition, so it’s best to reduce the size of your lawn and rather replace it with ground covers. Some indigenous grass species, such as Cynodon dactylon and Buffalo (Stenotaphrum secundatum) and some cultivars of Cynodon dactylon are more drought tolerant than others.
2. Make use of drought tolerant ground covers
Not only do they require less attention, but they’re also more natural. Othonna capensis, Gazania rigens & Plectranthus neochilus with succulent leaves are excellent examples. Under trees, make use of Hen & Chickens (Chlorophytum comosum), Clivia miniata, Asparagus or spotted onion (Drimiopsis maculata).
3. Make use of an organic or inorganic top dressing
This will protect your soil with all its living organisms from drying out. It will also reduce weed growth, which requires disturbed soil and sun to germinate. Thus with this simple action, you would solve two problems.
4. Plant more succulents
Succulents are nature’s solution to a dry environment. Think Cotyledons, Aloes, Mesembs etc. These plants conserve moisture in their leaves and are therefore very drought tolerant. Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is another amazing, versatile plant that can be used as a fence or topiary. It can even be grown into a small tree. There are many succulent trees such as Aloe barberae, Euphorbia triangularis and more that also don’t require ample water.
5. Select plants with grey or silver hairy foliage
This is also a sign of drought tolerance. Their beautiful leaf colour and texture will also add beauty to your garden. Many of the cycads with blue to grey foliage are extremely drought tolerant. Everlastings (Helichrysum) are good examples too.
6. Plant bulbs or plants with tuberous roots
Again, these are a great option for an area that gets little water. Asparagus ground covers have fleshy roots, and always appear to be in great condition, even under very dry conditions. Asparagus densiflorus and its cultivars are also options that will work.
7. Grey water
Bath tub water can also effectively be used to water your trees. Some plants are more sensitive, but most drought tolerant plants such as succulents are very tolerant to slight pollution. So go ahead and use recycled water to keep your plants moist.
8. Water during the late afternoon or night
This is when evaporation is at its least. You thus allow the plants and soil to take full advantage of absorbing the water with less transpiration. Another thing to remember is that drip irrigation for your trees is beneficial during the night.
9. Make use of your rooftop to collect and store water
This is a valuable source of water. Your garden can benefit from this much-needed water if you purchase a large storage tank and place it next to your roof.
10. Avoid inorganic fertilisers
Unfortunately, inorganic fertilisers speed up plant growth and their water requirements also go up. So it is best to use compost or other slow release organic fertilisers. They are also more natural and thus beneficial to the plants and environment.
For more insights check out Ernst’s Waterwise Gardening guide from Random House Struik (R308).