With less rainfall predicted and temperatures to rise exponentially in the coming years, saving on water has become a top priority as we look to a sustainable future. Low water gardens, or often referred to as water-wise and drought-resistant gardens, is a concept that allows us to achieve low water usage whilst maintaining an elegant and beautiful garden without sacrificing too much. With careful planning and using a technique called xeriscape, which means tailoring a landscape around limited water. Using this method, here are some simple and practical steps to achieve a low water garden.
One of the most effective tactics in achieving a low water garden is using drought-resistant plants. Fortunately, Australia has an abundance of native fauna that have adapted to the harsh Australian heat over time, making them an excellent choice for a low water garden. Creating a balance between high and low water usage plants, the following garden plan effectively utilises the strengths from each zone to complement each other:
• High water zones will usually consist of lawns, most vegetables, fruit trees, exotic shrubs and different types of bulbs.
• Medium water zones are where you would put all your hardy vegetables and fruit trees which can include pumpkins, potatoes, nut trees, vines and grapes. Exotic shrubs, roses and daisies are also excellent choices.
• Low water zones are where all the stunning Australian natives will be planted. This can include banksias, eucalypts, succulents, and olive trees.
Trees complement the entire garden by creating natural shade, provide windbreaks and reduce evaporation in the soil. Place your high-water plants in these areas where they are sheltered from the sun and protected from drying winds.
Drought resistant plants
There is a wide range of drought-resistant plants available to create a multicoloured, textured and unique xeriscape – some may not even require irrigation, which can be organised and tailored into any garden design. Some native low water-use plants include:
• Creeping Brachysema
• Correa ‘Orange Glow’
• Native Hibiscus
• Kangaroo Paw
• Chenille Honey Myrtle
• Eucalyptus ‘Snow Queen’
You do not necessarily have to use low water native plants as there are plenty of others that will get the job done. Click here to find out if your plant is waterwise.
Replace your lawn
Native grasses such as weeping grass or wallaby grass, or some warm-season lawn including buffalo, couch or kikuyu all use 30 per cent less water in comparison to cool-season grasses. Replace your lawn or consider getting some artificial grass. You can also opt to reduce the amount of lawn in your garden and create more garden beds, spread mulching, gravel or exposed aggregate.
Mulching is highly efficient in saving water by preventing evaporation and reducing runoff. Depending on the type of mulch used, it can also improve on soil conditions and prevent weed growth. Mulch is typically made from leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, rocks and gravel, and woodchips. Before mulching, ensure all weeds have been cleared, break up soil crusts and water the area. Mulching should be spread evenly to a depth of about 7-10cm, making sure that any organic mulch does not touch any woody plant stems or trunks as it may cause collar rot.
Do all the watering early in the morning or evening before the temperatures begin to rise and after they fall to allow for water to penetrate the soil before evaporating. Ensure that you are watering the base of the plants and not the leaves as it evaporates faster. Staying on top of your weeds will also increase the amount of water for your plants as there is less competition. Consider installing alternative water supplies such as rainwater tanks and grey water systems. Adjust automatic irrigation systems accordingly, systems that are not adjusted to seasonal may result in water wastage. The drip irrigation system is the most water efficient system and delivers water straight to the roots of the plants and minimises evaporation.
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