Its hot in Africa. Everyone knows that. Even if you still wrongly assume that Lions roam the streets, pretty much everyone knows it gets hot here. Well its summer and not only is it hot but it is dry in South Africa. Sadly for us we are now in a drought cycle. Our dams are very very low and water restrictions are very strict. In Cape Town we’re on level 3 water restrictions. For those of us with gardens – That means you are allowed to water your garden 3 days a week by hand. That means with buckets or watering cans ONLY – no irigation systems, hosepipes, sprinklers or any other devise that doesnt involve some seriously heavy lifting, and of course you get penalised with very high bills should your water consumption be above a certain amount of kilolitres.
what it has done, which can only be a positive thing, (and i guess we need to learn the lessons and see the positives in what adversities throw at us) is that it has conscientised us to how much water we “waste” on a daily basis and how we can better utilise our resources and maximise them. For a while now I have thought about the idea of replumbing so that bath, shower, washing machine water can be collected and used to irrigate plants and lawn. Suddenly its a necessity and so going forward it will become the norm – drought or no drought. Whole industries have sprung up to cater for this reality / necessity. What it also necessitates is changing the products that we use so that they are eco friendly and plant friendly. Harsh detergents are going to be a bit of a no no on the roses right? Nothing wrong with that tweak either. And so nature guides us to rethink and to green up – she’s a clever lady!
We also need to look at water wise planting as an alternative to the English country garden and look to the wonderous indigenous plants on offer locally that are spectacular. Lawn is a real undisputed standard in south african gardens but the point is it was brought by the British who have year round rain in abundance whereas we have well less than half their rainfall and its seasonal. Grass is great for kids and animals to play on but its worth considering smaller, more highly structured areas of lawn perhaps that becomes a strong design feature. Keith Kirsten suggests replacing areas of lawn with meadow type gardens.
Another important consideration is the use of waterwise plants such as grey leafed plants. Plants with hairs on leaves and stems, waxy cuticles, bulbs and tubers, dormancy at certain times of the year, smaller leaves. reduced plant size, plants with fleshy leaves like aloes, ground covers and plants with very volatile oils (like lavender). The choices here are immense and actually very exciting.
There is so much that can aid in water retention in a garden. Mulching, the process of covering soil and roots of plants with broken down bark and garden trimmings in order to protect from excessive evaporation, is a great way to protect gardens from harsh environments. Feeding with manure is another excellent way of giving plants the boost they need to strengthen in tough conditions. just remember that if you fertilise your lawn you will need to water it deeply immediately or it will burn.
Adversity strengthens us, teaches us, makes us more resilient ultimately and so it is for our gardens. Drought is not fun but perhaps we can make the lessons it teaches us and the obstacles we have to overcome fun and exciting by being open to new ideas and new ways of thinking about our green spaces.
We would LOVE to hear what you have done to make your garden more efficient and any great tips you have and plants you’d recommend. We would love it if you would send this on to any friends that you think would enjoy the article and could benefit from it.
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All the Best
The Shoot My House Team