We all know that during the hot summer months, such as we are currently experiencing, our gardens get thirstier and thirstier.
For those not in drought-hit areas and who are lucky enough to be able to drag out the hosepipe to provide some relief to their wilting plants, the water bill creeps ever upwards. Many people in our area rely on boreholes and JoJo tanks, and are always mindful about water conservation and when the next rainy period will arrive.
The gardening team at Granny Mouse Country House offered some tips on looking after your garden while also saving precious water.
*Help pot plants stay cool
If you have plastic or terra cotta pots with plants in them, these plants are vulnerable to overheating. If they are placed in saucers and the saucers are filled with water, this can lead to root rot and even encourage mosquito breeding.
Instead, fill the saucers with sand and keep the sand moist. The roots will stay cool and your plants will thank you for it!
*Water at the right time of day
When watering your garden, be sure to water your plants at the right time of day. Watering during the heat of the day means that the water you provide is often wasted as it quickly evaporates. That’s why it’s best to water plants when it’s slightly cooler – either early in the morning or in the late afternoon before dusk.
But, if you are watering in the late afternoon, still allow some time to give foliage time to dry out before sunset, to prevent mildew and other fungi growing and attacking your leaves.
Check your hoses
Check your hoses and irrigation systems for holes and damage. If your hose is getting a little old and springing leaks, it’s best to buy a new one. When you’re finished using your hoses for the day, store them neatly away from direct sunlight to prevent the plastic from degrading and springing new leaks.
Use the right soil
Be sure to check on your soil and add nutrients if you need to. Your soil needs to have rich, organic compost added to it which will help trap moisture and encourage healthy growth of your plants.
This means then that you shouldn’t have to water your plants as much, or as often. Add mulch to your gardens to reduce evaporation from the surface of the soil, while also stopping weeds from taking over your garden beds and stealing the precious water and moisture from the other plants.
Choose heat tolerant vegetables/plants
If you want to continue growing vegetables during the hot months, be sure to choose veggies and plants that are both heat and drought tolerant. There are many different vegetables and plants such as lavender, sage, thyme, rosemary, and asparagus (once established) that can tolerate hot climates and will still grow very well.
Save household water for your garden
Install water tanks close to house downpipes. This is a perfect way to water outdoor plants and vegetables and to both conserve water and save on your municipal bills. You can also re-direct the run-off when you backwash your pool into thirsty flower beds.
Water that runs down the drain in bathrooms while you wait for the water to warm up can be collected and used to water pot plants.
Provide water to fauna
Although this may not sound like a water saving idea, it can actually in the long run help your garden to need less water over time. Provide water to birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects by leaving some out for them in the hot months. You can install a birdbath in your yard if you have room.
Not only will you be helping the birds to stay cool and hydrated, but you’ll enjoy the lovely sight of birds in your yard. These birds will help keep your garden healthy and happy and aid pollination.
Water features can also create microclimates, which aid in helping the area stay cool, provide moisture and help plants and veggies to cope with the heat.
Plan your planting
If you’re planting vegetables and plants, it’s a good idea to group those with similar watering requirements together. Create feature gardens using indigenous plants such as aloes, which are fine-tuned to cope with hot summers and dry spells. Exotic plants that are used to far wetter climates are not always suited to SA, no matter how pretty they are.
Instead of planting veggies in rows, another idea is to plant them together in almost-square sections. Keep vegetables that require lots of water together in one section, and those which demand less watering in another section. That way you can focus your watering schedule on those that need it, without worrying about over-watering plants that require less water.
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