Smart gardens are water wise
Global warming is bringing about climate change that will have a huge impact on how we conserve and use water. A smart garden is one that incorporates water wise gardening techniques and clever landscaping.
DRAW A ROUGH PLAN
In order to design and layout a smart garden you will need to take some time to observe the garden at different times of day. That way you will be able to see where the shady spots are located, and which are the sun-drenched hot spots. If you are looking to make your garden water wise, this is also a good time to decide whether or not you need to remove or move any plants.
Draw a rough outline of your garden on a piece of paper, adding existing features such as large trees, a swimming pool, pond or water features, as well as outdoor taps, pathways and benches. You can use this sketch to plan how you can direct the flow of grey water from bathroom outlets using gravity, or determine if you will need a pump. The sketch will also come in handy in deciding the best spot for installing rainwater collection tanks and where to place irrigation for watering the garden.
DECIDE ON ZONES
Each and every garden has zones. These are areas within the garden that are for a specific use and include areas such as an entertainment area, a play zone for children or pets, or a herb or vegetable garden. On the rough plan you can also indicate the shady and hot zones, so that these can be planted with plants for that particular location.
To establish a water wise garden, particular attention is given to large areas of lawn, as these can use a lot of water. If you have a large area of lawn for children and animals to play on, consider reducing the size and planting low-maintenance grasses, as shallow-rooted grasses need regular watering to look good.
It wasn't that long ago that artificial turf was only found on putting greens and sports fields, but artificial turf has grown in popularity as an alternative to the conventional thirsty, small patch of lawn, lawn planted in shady area, or as a durable play area for children and pets.
Very low maintenance and easy to install, artificial turf can be installed in areas that have deep-shade, around swimming pools, around and in-between pavers and stone paths. The drainage holes in the backing make it easy to keep clean by simply hosing down.
In my own garden, Belgotex Dura Turf was installed 10 years ago. The reasons for installing artificial lawn was due to several large, overhanging trees that cast a fair amount of shade over the garden, and the fact that my two dogs left yellow spots all over the lawn. After 10 years I can honestly say that this was a great investment. Not only have I saved water, but the lawn stays green during the winter months and I haven't had to worry about water restrictions to maintain a green garden.
WATER WISE PLANTING
There is a misconception that water wise gardens are bland and only planted with indigenous plants. But you are not limited to aloes, cacti and succulents - of which there are many colourful and interesting varieties. Similarly, planting a water wise garden doesn't mean that you have to cancel out plants that require regular watering; simply plant these in a specific zone where drip irrigation or similar watering method is or can be installed.
Xeriscaping is the buzz word when designing a smart, water wise garden. In xeriscaping, plants are chosen for their suitability to our local climate and the garden is designed to avoid losing water to evaporation and run-off.
When re-designing a garden to be water wise, take into consideration the existing planting, buildings, your lifestyle, what you want to use different areas of your garden for. Use your sketch to determine what plants should go where based on soil type, wind, sun direction in the morning and afternoon, and shade.
Another advantage of a garden designed around the xeriscaping method is that it is low maintenance as well as water wise. Make use of pebbles, cut stone and gravel to control weeds and to keep maintenance at a minimum and place a thick layer of mulch over the beds to help keep soil moist and keep weeds to a minimum. Adding plenty of compost will improve the soil’s ability to retain moisture and feed your plants.
Pavers and slabs are an easy way to create an entertainment area or install pathways around your house, and they can be used to reduce the lawn area. After sealed, pavers are low maintenance and the surrounding area can be filled with small stones or gravel, or planted with drought-resistant, low-growing grasses or artificial turf.
ADD SPLASHES OF COLOUR
Every garden needs a pop of colour - even a water wise garden. Using the rough sketch that denotes the zones in your garden, you can plant colourful annuals and perennials in groups for easy watering. Alternatively, fill containers with seasonal favourites. When planted correctly, container gardens can be water wise and be placed at various locations around the garden, or on a deck or patio, to provide glorious colour year round. And containers and pots of different shapes and sizes will add texture and an interesting feature to your garden, plus you can move them around to change the design of your garden.
There are many varieties of hardy ground cover that can also add colour and interest to any garden. Evergreen ground cover such as gazania, aptenia (heartleaf), dymondia (carpet daisy), delosperma (trailing ice plant/pink carpet) and Plectranthus neochilus (smelly spur flower), and other drought-resistant ground covers, are good alternatives to planting small areas of lawn.
WATER WISE IRRIGATION
Tied in with your zoning plan, a carefully planned irrigation system - preferably fitted with a controller, soil moisture sensor and rain sensor - will save water. A system such as this ensures that plants will only get water when they need it, rather than according to a rigid timed schedule. You will find a selection of garden irrigation systems at your local Builders Warehouse, as well as all the materials and supplies for a water wise garden.