This is what a coastal water-friendly garden looks like
Johannesburg has finally received a tiny percentage of rain, but looking at the weather report it seems as though we are still in for a hot dry spring. After speaking to a few people around the country about the water restrictions they are experiencing, I thought it would be a great idea to touch on a few tips that could help people conserve water in different areas within South Africa.
I want to set the ball rolling by focussing on the coastal regions. Different coastal regions have different biomes; the North Coast is more sub-tropical / tropical and the Cape is made up of mostly Fynbos. So your plan of action should definitely be tailored to fit where on the coast you are.
My first tip would be to look at what indigenous plants are found within your garden are they indigenous to South Africa or endemic to your area eg: Strelitzia nicolai is found along the KZN North and South Coast, only within the last 90 years have people started to plant them in the Highveld.
Take a walk around your garden and look at which plants and trees are taking a serious knock due to the drought. If you have space and would like to start planning your endemic indigenous garden, this is an excellent way to start saving water.
I am not one for taking down large trees, but recently I decided to take down a huge Mulberry tree from my back garden as this tree was literally drinking up every bit of moisture from the rest of my back garden. I was more inclined to do this as it is an invasive species.
News flash: As of the 1st October 2016, all municipalities have to document and give a control plan to the Department of Environmental Affairs as to how they will control the invasive species. The next on the list will be homeowners. There are serious implications for landowners who do not control the invasive species on their land. For more information on invasive species see Invasive Species Consultants – Certain invasive species are a threat to our water supply and environment.
My next tip would be to save rain water, but installing a JoJo tank and booster pump costs a fair bit of money and in the dry months it remains empty for long periods of time. If you have the space then adding a 10 000 litre or two of them would make saving rain water a viable option. I would recommend that you do a calculation of how much water you use on a daily basis within your household consider how much water you drink, shower, use to wash dishes and so on, and decide on the size/amount of tanks you need based on this. Then should you buy a JoJo tank and get it joined onto your water supply, this water should help you for a day or two when you have water shortages.
There are other alternatives; I recently got a quote to re-direct my water from my gutters to my pool, which at the moment is very low as we are not allowed to fill up our pools. With a little bit of homework you can save a lot of water by harvesting rainwater in a manner that suits your pocket and lifestyle.
When living along the coast soil is a key factor to look at. As most of the soil is made up of a sandy texture and very little water remains in the soil, water drains strait through.
This next season I would add compost to the garden, this will help ensure that any rainfall you have the water droplets will hold onto the bigger particles of soil. Thus the soil remains moist for longer periods of time. Adding a thick mulch of leaves, bark chips or nut shells on top of the soil and around your plants also helps prevent water evaporation. Planting fast growing ground covers are excellent too, as these ground covers also prevent water evaporation.
A few examples are: Aptenia cordifolia, Lampranthus coccineus, Bulbine frutescens, Carpobrotus edulis, Felicia amelloides and Asystasia gangetica there are many more to choose from. Remember to buy endemic plants from your region.
Lastly, if you have an irrigation system I would recommend that you change the timing to come on at 21:00 or 4:00. At these hours there is very little evaporation because the ground has had enough time to cool down from the hot day before.
If you are unable to irrigate your garden, collecting water in a bucket while you shower or taking the water from your bath can also be used to water your plants.
Who is Nicholas Spargo?
Nicholas Spargo, owner of Spargo Landscape Consultants, has been in the landscape trade for 12 years as well as being a lecturer at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre for the past year. He was awarded a Gold for a design at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre Design Show in 2008, is an Invasive Species Consultant and is affiliated with the South African Green Industries Council.
Landscaping and education are very close to his hear