Tips for a greener garden without using more water

Got a water-waster on your street who overwaters his lawn (and driveway)? Thinking about busting up your concrete driveway for something a little more eco-friendly? Here are some tips for turning a manicured lawn into a more natural place.


Go easy on the water
Conventional gardens often require a steady supply of water because many of the plants aren’t indigenous to the climate. It’s better to landscape with indigenous plants. Part of the reason to grow indigenous plants is that they’re already adapted to the climate conditions, and if you’re using indigenous plants, you’ll use less water.

Under cover
Trees have many benefits other than providing shade. The value of having trees is tremendous because they provide so many benefits. Deciduous trees provide a cool, shady spot in the summer and in the winter the branches allow sunlight to come through. They can be a windbreak or provide privacy between you and your neighbour, and they clean the air.

Sensible design
If you have an established garden, the thought of tearing out large portions of it and replanting can overwhelm you. One way to start with indigenous plants is to work in small areas of your garden.

Soften hardscapes
While you probably need a place to park your car, you don’t necessarily need an entire driveway covered in concrete. Removing it or just leaving a paved area for car tires can also change the feel of your property. If you must have a hardscape, choose materials that allow for water drainage. Construct a driveway out of paving, which has a surface that allows water to infiltrate it or use pavers that have a hole in the middle for drainage.

Discover indigenous
South Africa has a range of climates and to garden successfully with indigenous plants, you need to choose plants that can thrive in your particular climate, and in the microclimate of your garden. Know where, by season, the sun sets and rises. During the day, figure out where it’s shady and where it’s sunny. Know the direction the wind comes from and what the soil is like. Once you know how your site functions, choose plants that will grow well there. What grows well in the coastal regions will not do as well up in the Highveld, and vice-versa.

Bring back wildlife
Tired of searching the sky for a hummingbird in search of your feeder? Plant a red-flowering currant and watch your feeder become a hummingbird magnet! It has gorgeous flowers, and hummingbirds love it. I sit in my garden and watch the hummingbirds come and go. It’s an example of how you can design a garden to mimic what happens in nature.

Natural designscape
If you like the look of indigenous plants, but don’t want your garden looking overgrown, you can design your garden to look indigenous yet orderly. Choose plants that are more shrubby, or grasses with a wide spread. Also, plant things that are already about the size you want them to be. You know it will be happy in its place, and something that is more compact is easier to keep tidy, which is usually what people want near the entrance to their house.

The grass is always greener
“I’m not a big fan of lawns, but not everybody can take out their lawn and turn it into a garden. If you have kids or a dog, you need some lawn, but what you should do is minimise it as much as possible because a lawn requires a lot of water and chemicals to maintain. If you need to have a lawn or open space, use plants that will function as a lawn, but don’t require the same care.

Bathing beauties
When you’re planning your garden design, you should examine how water flows through the property and figure out ways to capture it for your own use. Runoff water from houses goes into storm drains, gets polluted and then runs into our rivers and streams. But you can take that same water from our gardens and downspouts and get the water back into the earth simply by diverting water into drums or containers for use in the garden.

[via new plant nursery]