How to water your garden during a water shortage
New Zealand is a lucky land of green and plenty because most of the time there is plenty of water. However, as people around the country currently know, weather can conspire to mean that water supply is restricted. Other things, such as the Christchurch earthquakes meant that residents were 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. Wherever you are in 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 McGregor’s soil 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 supress 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 water supply is interrupted.12 July 2020