New Zealand is a lucky land of green and plenty because most of the time there is plenty of water. However, as people in Christchurch know, things can conspire to mean that water supply is restricted. The Christchurch earthquakes mean that bore wells must be upgraded and residents are being urged to save water by reducing water use in the garden. There are ways to use less water in the garden and keep your lawn green and your plants healthy. Whether you are in Christchurch or any other part of New Zealand it would be a good thing if we all saved water so that any droughts have less effect on us or the garden should they happen.
- Plan - Choose plants that are tolerant of dry conditions. And plant moisture needing plants together so that you only have to water a small area more heavily; the plants will prefer it anyway.
- Plant tight – Avoid planting plants far apart as this exposes soils to sun and wind. Instead, plant so that the plants protect each other from wind and they shade the soil below. This reduces water loss and weed growth. And add Kiwicare Gro-Sure Planting Magic to the soil when planting; the water retention granules and organic material help hold water around the roots of the plants.
- Check whether you need to water - Most water is used in the garden to provide moisture to the lawn and plants. Don’t water if the soil doesn’t need it. Test the soil moisture level by using a moisture meter or digging down 10 cm. If the soil is moist at that depth you don’t need to water today.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch – Use organic matter to cover the soil surface and hold moisture in the soil and stop it evaporating off. It will also help suppress weeds and fertilise the soil.
- Dig in organic matter – Soils with a good level of organic matter hold onto water more efficiently; sandy soils let water drain away and clay soils make water run off the surface.
- Timing – Water pot plants late in the day and avoid watering the foliage. Water the lawn and garden in the morning so that the water evaporates off foliage quickly reducing risk of disease. It is also when the air is still and cool so there is less evaporation.
- Collect water – Wherever you can collect water that you would normally pour down the drain this can be used in the garden. Install a rain collection tank, use cooking water, put a bucket in the shower and water your vegetables with the water collected, etc.
- Water deep – Give your garden a thorough water once a week instead of a short water every day. A deep watering gets water down deep in the soil where it is protected from evaporation and the roots will grow down deep to get it, making them more drought-tolerant. Watering shallow and often just lets the water evaporate and it encourages roots to grow at the surface where they are more susceptible to drought.
- Avoid overwatering – Don’t leave the sprinkler on and forget about it. Use a timer on the tap or set your phone to remind you to switch the tap off.
- Be ruthless – Don’t waste water on plants that are sick and not likely to recover.
Follow these tips and you will maintain a healthy green, verdant, garden and save water so that we can avoid restrictions in times of drought; or when the bore wells need to be upgraded.