Did you know?
… A swimming pool cover can cut evaporation by as much as 90%, reducing the need for top-ups in the dry summer season.
To check for swimming pool leaks … Use a pencil to mark the water level at the skimmer. Check the mark 24 hours later to see if it’s gone down.
In the garden
For smart use of water … Plant native or drought-tolerant trees, shrubs, ground covers, and grasses. Get advice from your garden centre about the best types.
Pull weeds regularly – they compete with your plants for water!
Check your garden hose regularly for leaks. Store it on a reel to prevent kinking and damage.
Use a trigger nozzle on your hose to reduce water loss. Repair or replace the nozzle if it leaks. It should shut off completely when you let go of the trigger.
For a water-wise garden …
- Favour native plantings and those requiring less water.
- Group any plants that need more watering together – for easy watering.
- For open areas, go for ground cover rather than lawn.
- Set windbreaks to protect delicate plants and reduce water needs.
- If you are planting a lawn, use drought-resistant varieties such as Fescues and Bluegrass.
- Rely on your local garden centre for good advice.
When buying potting soil, look for bags that include water-storage crystals in the mix. This will help cut down on the need for watering.
Soil-wetting granules help the soil hold water and will reduce the need for garden watering. So will water-storage crystals used in pots and on the lawn and garden. Good garden centres stock a range of products and can give advice on what’s best in your setting.
Tips for efficient garden watering
Water sparingly – every four or five days – to encourage roots to grow deeper. Aim for a total of about 25 mm of water per week.
- Water on calm days so it hits the target!
- Keep the water to lawn and garden areas. Don’t water paths and driveways!
- Check soil moisture after rains and only water when necessary. Plants benefit most from a thorough watering when the soil has dried out.
When watering trees and large shrubs, soak as far out as the drip-line – not just around the trunk. This will get water to the root ends.
When using a sprinkler, fit a tap timer to make sure you don’t water too much. If you don’t have a tap timer, put on the oven timer to remind you when to shut off the sprinkler. Leave the water running too long and it can waste as much as 1,000 litres an hour.
When watering sloping areas, sandy soil, or in the shade, sprinkle lightly and more frequently. The sandier the soil, the more freely the water runs through – so a sandy garden needs to be watered more often.
A good watering system delivers water to the plant roots in the proper amounts. Tap timers, trigger nozzles, soaker hoses, and micro-irrigation systems can all be used to deliver water efficiently. Look for advice from your local garden centre or irrigation professional.
When planting a new lawn choose drought tolerant grasses, such as Fescues or Bluegrass. Don’t apply too much fertilise as this only increase the need for water.
Mow your lawn as little as possible. When you do, don’t cut it too short. Four to five cm is a good length. This length will help the grass grow longer roots, keep sun off the soil, and help reduce weed growth and retain moisture.
Don’t worry about the lawn drying out over the summer. Grass goes dormant during periods of drought but rejuvenates naturally with cooler and wetter weather.
Lawn watering tips
If you water in the summer, aim for no more than 25 mm a week.
Water no more than twice a week, and only when needed.
Apply the ‘step test’ – if grass springs back after you walk on it, it doesn’t need watering.
Compost improves soil quality in the garden. It helps sandy soils hold moisture and clay soils stay moist in the summer and drain better in winter. It improves plant growth and means the garden needs less water and fertilizer. For best results … mix it into the soil to a depth of about 12 cm.
Build a compost heap at home with lawn clippings, leaves and trimmings, and fruit and vegetable peels, ends, and leftovers from the kitchen. When the mixture breaks down, apply the compost back to your garden to promote healthier plant growth.
Singing the praises of home-made compost, one garden expert says, “It can transform even poor soil into a nutrient-rich, moisture-holding marvel”.
The marvels of mulch
- It discourages weed growth, prevents soil erosion, and helps reduce variation in soil temperature.
- It cuts the need for herbicides, pesticides, and fertilisers.
- It gives a nice clean look to the garden.
- It reduces evaporation by as much as 70 percent!
To get the most out of mulch … Cover gardens with a generous layer – at least 10 cm. Use coarse mulch such as bark chips, coconut fibre, pine needles, and fallen leaves. Add more as the mulch breaks down over time. Check with your garden centre for good supplies.
The definition of water-smart irrigation: The right amount of water to the right place at the right time.
Drip irrigation for shrubs and large plants is proof that “low flow is the way to go”. By slowly dripping water into the soil at the base of plants, water is released where it is needed and at a rate that’s easy to absorb. A properly designed and operated drip irrigation system can reduce water use by as much 70 percent.
Benefits of drip irrigation
- Suits all soil and plant types.
- Great for everything from plants on slopes to vegetable gardens.
- Causes less erosion and compacting of soil.
- Loses the least amount of water from wind, evaporation, and run-off.
- Doesn’t waste water on weeds!
Water only when it’s needed
For automatic irrigation systems, including a rain sensor or soil moisture sensor will ensure water is used efficiently. These devices act as an ‘override’ to stop the system from going on when there is enough moisture in the soil.
Rainwater collection works
Anyone who relies on rain for their sole source of water knows how well a collection system works. Every 10 square meters of roof area capturing 25 mm of rain yields about 300 litres of water – certainly enough to keep a garden in fine form.
Rainwater harvesting tips …
- Repair all leaks in gutters and downspouts to maximise water capture.
- Keep gutters clear of debris.
- Include a tight-fitting cover on the tank. This prevents evaporation and keeps debris out of the tank.
- If possible, use gravity rather than a pump to get the water around.
Three cheers for using rainwater …
- It reduces demand on the Council water supply.
- It cuts the use of chemicals and energy needed for treating and pumping water.
- It lessens run-off and erosion during heavy rains by providing temporary storage.
Use a bucket to wash the car. Rinse with the hose before and after. If you can, wash the car on a lawn to soak up the run-off water.
Check taps, pipes, and connections regularly for possible leaks.
If you water the garden, do it in the evening or in the early morning to reduce evaporation.
Keep the water to lawn and garden areas. Don’t water paths and driveways!
Put a trigger nozzle on the garden hose to shut off the water when you don't need it - a hose left running can waste up to 15 litres a minute
If you are doing any clean-up around the home that will require a lot of water - like water blasting - avoid the peak summer season.
When you empty the paddling pool, put the water on the garden.