Water – the essence of life
No living thing on earth could survive without water – even air plants. We certainly could not create gardens without it and water management is a critical part of any garden design. As we head into summer with all signs pointing to a Godzilla El Nino (according to the Bureau of Meteorology) it’s a good time to be thinking about how we can reduce our water usage in the garden.
We are on tank water where we live so our water supply is precious to us all year round. We are lucky to receive a good amount of rainfall but there has definitely been less this year, just when I am really getting stuck into creating my food garden – grrr.
There are some no brainer things to do to ease your garden’s thirst that will save you money and time as well.
Know your garden
Your soil type, average rainfall, temperature range and growing days. When buying plants, buy plants that suit your growing conditions and choose less thirsty plants if you can. You will have much happier plants, save money on your water bill and have time to enjoy your green patch.
Install a rain gauge to know exactly how much rainfall you’ve had, the more you know about your climate, the better gardener you will be. Knowledge is power!
Keep your soil happy
I don’t think we can possibly bang on enough about how important it is to make sure your soil is happy. It kinda reminds me of that old addage ‘Happy wife, happy life’. Same thing here, ‘Happy soil, happy plants’, and no I could not think of a rhymey one, but if you do, let us know in comments.
Organic matter is key here, compost, worm farm juice and castings, mulch etc all help your soil to be happy. If your soil is happy, your plants are well fed which means stronger, disease and pest resistant plants, more flowers and tastier food. More nutrients in your soil = more nutrients in your food = tastier veg, fruit and herbs.
Be an equal opportunity planter
Say what now? Group your plants based on their watering needs to give them all an equal opportunity of survival. There is no point in putting together plants that like dry conditions with ones that like wet conditions. You are pre-destining them for an unhappy short-lived painful death. Birds of a feather should stick together in this case so you don’t waste water on plants that really don’t want it.
Sidebar – you should also make sure they like the same lighting or same thing applies – grizzly thought I know.
Mulch, mulch, mulch
Mulch is multipurpose, it keeps your soil moist, at a more even temperature, reduces evaporation and feeds your soil. It can also deter slugs and snails, they don’t like slinking over things like sugarcane mulch. It also inhibits weed growth – woo hoo for mulch! When choosing mulch, make sure you know where it has come from, that it is weed free and preferably organic. Don’t choose mulches that leach nutrients from your soil or create a barrier to watering. Do your research and speak to your local nursery for what will work best in your garden. Better yet, create your own if you can.
Always mulch your outdoor pots too for exactly the same reasons.
I love sugarcane mulch on my vegies and herbs as it is a by-product of farming and great for your soil. I use tea tree mulch around my natives and ornamentals. It looks fabulous and smells amazing as well as doing all the good things. I’m going to start mixing it up though after reading Jerry Coleby-Williams’ article (see below). I usually mulch to a depth of 50 -100mm on my beds. Any less and it’s not as effective.
Install a drip system
I think that this is the best sytem you can install for reducing your watering in the garden. It’s a do-it-yourselfer, it goes directly to the root system, is easily hidden under mulch and easy to maintain. If I can install them, anyone can! They are available pretty much anywhere you can buy gardening stuff and if you install a timer and moisture monitoring system as well, you’ll only water when your garden really needs it.
There are different types of fittings for drip systems so you can choose one that suits you.
Check your soils moisture level before watering
There’s no point in watering if your soil is already lovely and moist because of all your wonderful mulching or you think you’ve had some decent rain but want to check anyway. I picked up a nifty gadget that measures moisture, ph and light that I carry around with me when I am watering. It’s great because I also get an idea of how much to water my plants. I don’t have my drip system in yet so I am hand watering. It goes into all the pots as well and is one of my favourite gadgets.
You can get them at most garden centres.
Don’t use commercial wetting agents
Many garden shows advocate soil wetting agents, I don’t. They are mainly alcohol or petrochemical deriviatives and do not belong in your soil! The best way to get your soil to retain moisture is to make sure it it is full of organic matter. If you find your soil is hydrophobic (water repellant but I wanted to use a big word) there are organic wetting agents available or you can make your own. For more detailed info on this, see the link at the end.
I think that about covers it. We’d love to hear about any nifty water saving measures you have implented in your garden so get bragging.