Every drop counts
In our semi-arid country every drop of water counts, and not just in times of drought. There are so many things that you can do in your garden to use water more responsibly
Gauging that rain
A simple rain gauge can save you from unnecessarily watering your garden, and it’s very cheap to install. If you have more than 10mm of rain it’s generally not necessary to water the garden for a few days. Don’t let puddles give you a false sense of security.
Grey water in the garden
Grey water is water that has already been used in the house, in washing machines, baths and showers. Instead of this water being wasted down the drain, it is diverted to the garden. Grey water harvesting kits are available that direct the water to parts of the garden that need it.
Know when to water
Knowing when to water is as important as how much to water. Watering in the morning is best, but if that isn’t possible then water as soon as you get home from work. Leave time for leaves to dry out before nightfall to avoid fungal diseases.
The knuckle test
Test the soil by pushing your knuckle into it. If the first 2-5cm feels dry then water your plants. If the soil is damp, leave it for the next day.
Mulch can be very effective in retaining moisture in soil and keeping roots cool. Spread an organic mulch like bark chips, nut shells, peach pips, pebbles, rooibos mulch, straw or dry grass cuttings or an inorganic mulch like newspaper between plants and around their roots.
Don’t let all that beautiful rain disappear down your gutters and into the stormwater drain. Installing a rainwater harvesting system isn’t expensive, and you will be amazed at how much water a single storm supplies
Get watering right
Different plants have different watering requirements. As master food gardener Di-Di Hoffman explains, “Newly germinated seedlings have very different water needs to established vegetables. His advice is to water by hand, using a hose or watering can fitted with a fine rose that won’t wash away plants or compact the soil. It is important to observe your garden, visiting it every day to see if plants need water, and only watering when they do. Water by hand so that each plant gets the water it needs, without waste. There are other options though:
• Sprinklers make watering easy, but deliver the same amount of water to all plants. They also waste water by watering paths and other places where water isn’t needed.
• A flood hose can be made by tying a rag around the end of the hose so that there is a 30-50cm piece of free-flowing cloth blocking the opening. This will disperse the water flow.
• Drip irrigation can be useful,as it doesn’t wet the leaves and is an inexpensive option for large gardens. Use a good fillter and lay the lines on top of the soil to avoid blockages. Inexpensive drip lines can be found at co-ops.