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The December holidays are creeping ever closer and the Summer rains are finally finding their afternoon storm routine. This is an ideal time to get stuck into your garden and re-evaluate just how water-wise your garden really is. Here are four redesign ideas to make sure your garden is both beautiful and water-wise.
Small or needle-like leaves: These minimise the chance of evaporation by having a smaller surface area e.g. acacias, rosemary, origanum and thyme.
Grey leaves: Lighter leaves reflect the sun, keeping plants cooler and reducing water loss e.g. lavender, artemesia and giant honey flower.
Hairy or waxy leaves: Hairs help reduce water loss while a waxy coating helps to prevent moisture loss e.g. helichrysum, beach salvia and indian hawthorn.
Succulent leaves: Thick, fleshy leaves store water for when it is needed e.g. aloes, echevarias and vygies.
Group plants with similar water requirements in one area. This allows you to strategically water your garden according to the plants needs rather than watering everything all the time.
Place high water use plants, such as annuals, in shaded areas under trees or in containers to reduce water use. Plant hardy ground cover under shrubs and use it to cover up open space that is prone to evaporation. Have the majority of your garden be a low or no water use zone using indigenous plants, shrubbery and trees that can survive on rainwater and limited watering.
Natural lawn is a major contributing factor to water wastage. Installing artificial lawn or permeable paving saves water and time on maintenance. It doesn’t require watering or mowing while staying beautiful and lush all year round.
Another benefit to artificial lawn and paving is being able to redirect run off water into areas of your garden that need it the most, using otherwise wasted water to your advantage. A combination of the two creates beautiful, neatly edged feature areas that are perfect for seating areas and courtyards.
As South Africa is a water scarce country it is also important to consider ways of reusing household water instead of clean, potable water in your garden. A simple solution is greywater, which is water collected from hand basins, showers, baths, washing machines and kitchen sinks. Plants such as rosemary and drought-tolerant plants such as agapanthus, aloe and strelitzia tend to deal better with the use of greywater thanks to its added nutrients and pest repellent qualities, depending on source.
Before using any household water, particularly laundry and kitchen sink water, it is important to ensure there are no hazardous substances present. This includes non-biodegradable detergents, grease, blood, pesticides or oils which are unsafe for you, your garden and your pets.
The best source of greywater comes from your hand basin, shower and bath as it is considered to be the least contaminated. Using environmentally friendly soaps, detergents and cleaning products will improve the quality of your greywater, making it better for your garden.
The most cost effective way to collect and irrigate with greywater is through a bucket system, such as placing a bucket in your shower to collect excess and used water. A stocking can be placed over the bucket to filter out any lint, hair or particles that you do not want in your garden.
An array of commercial systems are also available that collect the water directly from external plumbing and pump it into a hosepipe irrigation system, ready for distribution in your garden.
Storing greywater for more than 24 hours is discouraged as it is likely to lead to unhealthy microorganism growth. It is also recommended that you flush your garden with rainwater or municipal water once a month to remove any greywater residue.
Find out how to collect and use rainwater in your garden here.