Time to get water-wise

HOME GARDENS

With the summer heat soaring and water getting precious, it is a challenge to maintain a beautiful garden. Watering is a must, but keeping some tips in mind will retain the charm of the garden. Ensuring proper watering is not so much of a problem if there are just a few pots to look after, but a bigger garden will make it daunting.

In apartment complexes, where lot of common space can fall under green cover and ensuring proper watering is no individual’s task, it is a greater challenge. So, how does one make sure that plants are not lost under the heat?

It makes great sense to create water-wise gardens. In developed nations it is a common practice to impose watering restrictions in the garden during peak summers to conserve water. For apartment complexes or other business and public spaces, it is even more critical to have a waterwise plant selection and a watering system in place.

There are some things anyone can follow before planning a garden and if the location of plants cannot be changed then some simple tips may come to your rescue.

If you have the opportunity to plan your garden ahead, divide the space water wise i.e based on the areas that will allow you to save water and the chore of watering to various degrees. A hardscaped area will not need to be watered. In the bordering areas, runoff from the driveway or patio etc will suffice.

Planting hardy plants in such areas may actually be very useful. Such plants can survive and thrive with a limited quantity of water that comes as runoff from various activities on the hardscape.

The ease of access to watering should decide the areas where you can put plants.
Before selecting the plants, think of how much watering you can commit to. If you have constraints, go with more water-wise plants i.e the ones which do not have high water requirement.

These are hardy plants that either require low quantities of water, or are resistant to drought. During selection, the plant features to look for are: grey silvery foliage, hairy leaves and leathery leaves. Don’t think only cactii like dry soil. Euphorbia sp., bougainvilleas, succulents, ornamental grasses, euoymus ep., ophipogon, crassula, hibiscus, teucrium sp. lantana and many more will do well without profuse watering.
Always remember to group plants based on the water requirement.

Do not end up mixing one high water requirement plant with a plant that prefers dry feet. Grass lawns have high maintenance demands and are the first ones to show the ugly impact of heat. It is wise to consider alternative ground covers. If possible, it will serve well to plant low growing perennials that will form dense covers. There is always the added attraction of flowers.

Organic-rich soil holds more water

Good gardening practices should not be underestimated when it comes to making available water work for the garden. Always ensure good soil health. Soil rich in organic matter will always hold water better for easy access to plant roots and also keep the roots ventilated. Nutritional balance will eliminate unnecessary stress on the plants.
Mulching is a highly underutilised practice.

Mulch is any suitable layering of sufficient thickness on top of the soil surface. It serves dual purposes: it discourages weed growth and conserves water from being lost from the soil due to exposure to sun and wind.

Mulch can be something as simple as dry garden leaves and grass clippings. Mutilayer planting is also one way to ensure the soil surface does not remain exposed and in addition it will give pleasing vegetation that will utilise every drop of water that goes into the soil. After all the planning and care, ultimately it will be time to water your plants. So a few tips will make your effort more successful.

To start with, if you can have an irrigation system installed, it will not only be easy to water the plants, but will also ensure that each drop gets utilised. However, it will involve cost and a certain degree of upkeep of the system like ensuring that sprinklers and drip points do not get clogged, the pump runs efficiently and the source does not dry out.

An alternative that is way simpler is your old hose which may have some holes and some you can create. Lay it across the bed, connect the water source and let it run.

For watering, it is a must that the water goes deep into the root zone; superficial spraying is a waste. Not only will that dislodge soil from the surface, but also encourages the sensors on root tips to move root growth upwards in search of water.

Ensure roots get water

In case of bigger plants/trees planted in above-ground structures, planter boxes or big pots, it is even more critical that the roots are drenched properly because roots, if not fed or watered properly, will try to break the pots in their quest for nutrition and moisture. Time of watering should be evening or early in the morning. It is not advisable to water in the sun unless the groundcover is so dense that it keeps the soil surface cool.

For large areas, a slow watering at night can also be considered, when the hose can run at optimum speed and good soil soaking can happen – that will be water working overtime.

Using recycled water is a green way to follow. Larger establishments can have treatment plants that will recycle household water and make it usable for garden and flush usage.

For smaller units, kitchen waste water that does not contain much oil and detergent can be safely used for watering plants. Water from washing veggies or grains can be perfectly utilised. Keep a separate bucket to collect miscellaneous non potable water and use it later for plants.

The last bucket of water used to wash clothes and which is expected to have only traces of detergent can also be utilised.

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