26 September 2006
With Level 2 water restrictions imminent this summer, SA Water and the Nursery and Garden Industry SA (NGISA) are encouraging all local green thumbs to practice water wise gardening.
NGISA’s Kim Syrus - a qualified horticulturalist and one of SA’s renowned rose experts - says most gardens do not need a lot of water to survive and thrive.
“We do over-water a lot in South Australia and in our climate we have to find ways to put an end to this practice,” Mr Syrus said.
“Happy, healthy plants require less pest and disease prevention and are also more heat and drought tolerant. Always grow plants that are well suited to your area and add plenty of mulch to provide them with adequately balanced nutrition.
“It’s important to ask your nursery about a plant’s watering requirements before you purchase.”
Mr Syrus said there were many things home gardeners could do to limit water use and save money on their water bills.
“For instance, when developing a water wise garden, always group together plants with similar watering requirements. This ensures water is delivered to where it’s needed most and not wasted on plants that don’t need it.”
SA Water Chief Operating Officer John Ringham said garden and outdoor watering accounted for about 40% of water use in the average South Australian home and much of the watering was not necessary.
“Some households use up to 400 litres of water each day on watering their garden and this can be cut down significantly – and easily,” Mr Ringham said.
To find out more about water wise gardening visit www.sawater.com.au or http://www.ngia.com.au/ – or visit the SA Water Mediterranean Garden at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide.
Some handy hints on how to conserve water in the garden.
EASY WATER WISE GARDENING TIPS
1. When developing a water wise garden, always group together plants with similar water requirements. You then only apply water specific to their requirements, providing the appropriate conditions to keep the plants happy, while helping you be more efficient in your water usage. For plants with higher watering needs, such as a vegetables, place these close together and soak them only on a needs basis.
2. Ensure that watering systems are turned off over the winter months. Pots that are under cover will require watering every few weeks. Feel the soil for moisture before watering.
3. Check the efficiency of your existing watering system. Make sure you check for leaks. Alternatively install a new one that is more waterwise. The onslaught of our long, hot and dry summer is about to hit so it’s reassuring to know that your watering system is in great shape. The most effective forms of garden irrigation are sub-surface and drip irrigation as these apply the water directly to roots of the plants where it is required. They also greatly reduce the loss of water through drift or evaporation.
4. Mulching prior to the warmer weather makes a huge difference to your garden. Apply a generous layer of organic mulch to all garden beds. Mulches not only suppress weeds and prevent weed seed germination, but they keep the roots of the plant cool and can reduce the need to water by over 50%. The cooler the root system, the happier the plant is and the more tolerant the plant is to heat and drought. Don’t forget to weed, weed, weed.
5. Limit lawn to areas where needed and choose varieties of lawn that are hardy, drought tolerant and have low to moderate water requirements. Couch, buffalo and kikuya lawns require a deep soaking watering no more than once every one to two weeks, and will always recover, even if allowed to dry out completely. Over-watering these hardy lawns will result in excessive growth, extra mowing and less pest and disease tolerance. Use organic based lawn fertilizers throughout the year to encourage deep root growth. It is better to water early in the morning – in line with the current water restrictions or permanent conservation measures - to prevent fungal disease in your lawn.
6. Roses thrive in our State but many gardeners over-water them, which results in increased fungal diseases and sick plants. Roses grow best with a deep soaking, less frequently, preferably once a week on normal to heavy soils and perhaps twice a week on lighter sandy soils. Feed regularly with organic based rose fertilizer, boosted with potash to ensure happy, healthy plants with increased tolerance of heat and drought.
7. Water early in the morning or at night rather than during the heat of the day. This will reduce evaporation and watering is more effective when the soil and plants have cooled down. Avoid watering in hot and windy conditions. Always abide by the water restrictions or permanent conservation measures in place.
8. If your garden has sandy or non-wetting soils, treat with liquid or granulated soil wetters to ensure that the water is getting into the soil effectively. These products help water to penetrate into the soil and get to the root zone of the plants. A natural alternative for soil improvement and a great way to reuse garden and vegetable waste is to compost. Mix this compost in with soil to improve its water efficiency and organic structure.
9. Use water storage crystals in pots to help increase the water storage capacity of the potting soil. Pot plants can look gorgeous in a garden but they are high maintenance. By adding water storage crystals to your premium potting mix you reduce the need to water as regularly, often by half. Also, mulch pot plants. Doing these two simple things will keep your pot plants healthier and looking great.
10. To see how effective your current watering program is dig down 30cm into the soil after watering to see how far the water has penetrated. Most people apply little amounts of water frequently - this does not give the water a chance to soak down into the soil so that plants are quickly stressed in periods of heat and drought. Giving plants a good deep soaking watering less frequently is far more effective than applying a little bit of water more frequently. This encourages a strong, deep root system which will be less stressed by heat.
11. Tap into a rainwater tank for your garden watering needs. Rainwater is a great source of nutrients – and it’s free!