Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

Posted on 22 May, 2017 in Dry Season, Water Conservation, Home, Landscaping Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

The global water crisis is not just environmental gossip - politicians and citizens are acknowledging the effects of water wastage and looking for ways to conserve water without compromising our standards of living. Over 60 per cent of water use in Australia is outdoors, and most of that happens in our gardens.

Thankfully, there are a variety of easy ways to use water more efficiently when gardening. Even better, beyond being water wise, your garden could look more amazing than ever before.

Start with a Plan 

If you're starting or extending your garden, you would be surprised how a little forethought can make water conservation easier down the road, not to mention making your garden more functional, in addition to looking good.

1. Take a look at your garden layout, and note which areas receive more or less sunlight, or have more exposure to wet or dry conditions, as well as the elements.

2. Choose plants that are both water efficient and suitable for the different areas of your garden. Grouping together plants with similar watering needs is also a good idea. You can easily get information and recommendations from the local nursery or wherever you purchase your plants. Make sure you also know how tall and wide the various plants will grow. You don't want overgrown plants blocking access to anything.

3. Consider planting trees, if practicable. Not only will they provide shade for you and your house during those scorching days, but this shade will cool down and make your lawn require less water; and you know how thirsty your lawns are. Again, when choosing trees, make sure you know how tall and wide they will grow. You don't want your wonderful trees making friends with the power lines.

Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

Getting Down and Dirty

Sandy or clay loams are not ideal in terms of water conservation or robustness of plant life, so you will likely need to help out your soil. Use these small steps to make a big difference: 

  • Add mulch or broken down organic waste. It is full of nutrients, retains water and prevents evaporation. Lay about 15 centimetres of mulch around your plants - but don't let the mulch touch the base of the plants, or they may rot.
  • Reapply mulch annually. You can mulch throughout the year, but the best time is at the beginning of the dry season, so you retain some of the moisture from the wet season. Mulch also breaks down much faster during the wet season. Avoid using decorative gravel, which does nothing for your plants. 
  • Use fertilisers to add nutrients and retain water. They also increase your plants' resistance to diseases and pests. They work best underneath the mulch layer, or dug into the soil. Slow release, organic fertilisers are the the best choice for your garden. Organic fertilisers include:
    • Manure
    • Compost 
    • Packaged organic fertilisers like blood and bone, pelletized manure or liquified substances. 

If your soil is missing particular trace elements, you might consider supplementing with an inorganic fertiliser. Your nursery will be able to provide recommendations.

Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

How to Water Efficiently

There are many ways to water your garden, some more water efficient than others. In general, the worst time to water anything is at the hottest time of the day, as you will lose a lot of water to evaporation. If it's too windy, your water won't get to where it's supposed to go. Experts suggest watering between dusk and dawn; the "sweet spot" being just before sunrise, so that the plants can benefit from water throughout the day. 

Here are some more water saving tips for the different watering methods: 

  • Hand watering with a hose. Use a trigger nozzle, so that you don't waste water moving from plant to plant or area to area.

Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

  • Use a sprinker. Be sure to set a tap timer. This way, you won't have to worry about overwatering or forgetting to turn off the sprinklers.

Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

  • Use a drip irrigation system or drippers. This is by far the most efficient method in terms of water conservation because it slowly and directly disperses moisture to your plants. If you have plants with differing watering needs, like vegetables, perennials and shrubs, the computerized timer mechanism of a drip irrigation system allows you to set how much and when water goes to different irrigation zones. Since the application of water is so targeted, you won't be supplying water to areas where weeds can grow and thrive. If you collect rainwater, you can connect the system to the storage tanks, so that you are recycling water.

Some people opt to attach the drip irrigation system directly to the garden hose faucet, and just turn it on and off manually, but it is much more convenient with automatic valves, especially if you have multiple plants with different watering needs. Your garden may gain the most benefit from a multi-zone timer and multiple valves.

While it is possible to build your own drip irrigation system if you have decent plumbing and carpentry skills, you might want to consider professional installation.

Dry Season Gardening: Keeping Your Plants Healthy with Less Water

Why Go Pro?

There are a number of factors to determine the best type of irrigation system for your garden, including water quality and land topography. Some of these factors are discussed here.

To install an irrigation system, you will have to connect to your water supply with PVC pipe and install a number of things, such as a backflow prevention device. If the water supply is municipal, you'll need to add T-fittings at certain intervals. 

Other items you'll need include valves, sprinkler wire, drip filters, pressure reducers and a hose-to-compression adapter. You should have a basic working knowledge of plumbing and carpentry to undertake installing your own irrigation system.

Why not take the guesswork, trial and error, and time out of the equation and leave it to the experts, so you can enjoy your garden? Then, you will also have peace of mind knowing they have done the installation right. For more tips on irrigation in the dry season and dry weather gardening in Australia, visit this page.

Your home garden can be a source of relaxation and pride. Even during the dry season, you can maintain it in a way that conserves our planet's precious water. Irrigation is the most water efficient method of watering your garden, and it is convenient and accurate, too. Talk to the people at your nursery or the irrigation system professionals to make your garden the healthiest and most environmentally conscious it has ever been.

Image credits: Pixabay & Shutterstock.

Keep up to date

We'll keep you up to date with the latest news, product insights, how-to's and tips for getting the most out of your irrigation and landscaping. Don't worry, we keep your details secure.