Because gardens are often so water-intensive, it is important to look at the principles of water-wise gardening. Water-wise gardens are also lower maintenance than normal gardens.
The following tips are taken from Water-wise gardening (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and National Botanical Institute, 1998).
• Grow water-wise plants – generally the best suited plants are those indigenous to the area, as they seldom need additional watering.
• Group plants according to their water needs – this avoids wasting water on plants that don’t need it.
• Consider the quality and type of your lawn. Lawns guzzle water, so consider reducing your lawn area. At least use tougher, low-water lawn types such as Buffalo (coastal areas) or Kweek (inland) rather than Kikuyu.
• Maintain your garden – remove unwanted plants, plant more perennials than summer annuals, as they have deeper root systems and so need less watering.
• Improve the soil and mulch. Soil water-holding capacity is improved by higher organic matter content. Mulching (covering the soil with a thick layer of bark, compost, straw etc) keeps the soil much more moist.
• Plant in the right season – For winter rainfall areas this is in autumn and early winter so the plants have a chance to develop their root systems before the dry season. In summer rainfall areas it is spring and early summer for the same reason.
• Water correctly – avoid watering during the heat of the day or in windy conditions.
• The best irrigation system is drip irrigation – it uses 25% of water used by normal irrigation systems with the same effect, and can even be placed under lawns.