Can you have a pretty garden, using water sparingly and responsibly?

Some basic principles of responsible water use

Consider the water needs of a plant, and only supplement what it does not get from rain. Anything more than that is wasted, because the plant does not need it, and if you water too much, the plants cannot even use the excess. Also, the energy used to pump the water, is wasted (aka “Money down the drain!”). As a rule of thumb, use ½ the water in spring and autumn of the amount you would have applied in summer and ¼ of the water in winter (that is: in a summer-rainfall area).

Even if you have your own borehole, the water does not belong to you! You only have stewardship over the water. The water from the borehole comes from an underground aquifer, from which all the boreholes in the area also get their water. If anyone uses too much water, they actually take the water from the other boreholes. Ideally a borehole has to be monitored so that one does not use more than it can supply. (Yes, it is possible over time to dry up a borehole if it is pumped excessively).

What has God created into plants to help them handle dry periods?

Storing water: e.g. bulbs and corms - big or small

thick roots

thick leaves

deep roots

small leaves and leaves that close, limit water loss through transpiration

hair or a waxy layer on leaves

plants that sleep in winter, like dormant bulbs and deciduous trees. Because deciduous trees drop their leaves, they do not loose valuable moisture in the dry season - by transpiration - and the fallen leaves create a layer of mulch for the tree.

What can you do to have a pretty garden without wasting water ?

Store rainwater for later use.

Re-use grey water (e.g. bathwater)

Choose plants that need little water and/or store water

Create shade to limit evaporation

Water deep and less often, rather than a little (or a lot) frequently. Only cuttings, newly planted seed and tiny seedlings need water every day; the rest of the garden would be better off with at least 2 or 3 dry days between waterings.

Add good compost to the soil.

Reduce lawn area and use a drought resistant grass.

Use drip irrigation as far as possible.

Arrange the plants in the garden according to water-needs, e.g.:

- plants from winter rain area

- high water need (e.g. veggie garden)

- medium water need

- low water need

- no water

If plants with high water needs are next to paved area, they get the run off from the paving.

Do not disturb the top layer of the soil by frequent digging and raking - rather put down a layer of *mulch, such as:

- several layers of newspaper

- bark chips

- nut shells

- straw or grass

- old discarded carpeting

- autumn leaves (swept from paving or lawn; the leaves under a tree in a garden bed must stay there as a natural mulch)

*Mulch is simply a layer of material on top of the soil to suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and help to minimise evaporation from the soil; thus helping you to use less water - and do less weeding. The “unnatural” things in the list, such as paper and carpeting, might have to be covered with something less ugly, like bark chips or pebbles.

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