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Gardening: The water-efficient way

In Australia's hot and dry climate, a climate which seems to get drier each year, it makes sense to develop a water-efficient garden.

Many of Australia's native plants have already evolved to be able to survive on very little water. But you're not limited to natives.

Plants from other hot countries such as South Africa and Mexico do well in Australia. Think of the mauve-flowering jacaranda tree, which is so widespread in NSW and Queensland suburbs, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Australian. Or the bright and cheerful (and hardy) gazania, another South African import.

Cacti, of course, are the ultimate water-efficient plants, and some have very showy flowers, or striking shapes. While not everyone would enjoy a garden entirely of cactus plants, they have their fans.

garden watering

Training your plants to be water-efficient

As well as choosing shrubs and flowering plants that don't need a lot of water, you can train your garden to become tolerant of less water.

  1. Remove the lawn,
    or reduce it as much as possible. Lawns need a huge amount of water in summer to keep them looking green and lush. Replace the lawn with pebbles, or a hardy ground cover. If you insist on lawn, choose a low water-use grass.
  2. Mulch every garden bed
    and around every shrub, to reduce evaporation, cool the soil in hot weather and to defeat weeds, which use up valuable water and nutrients.
  3. Install micro irrigation systems.
    These are extremely efficient as the water is delivered directly to the roots of the plant and not lost to wind and evaporation.
  4. Only water when necessary.
    Do it at night, or early in the morning when the air is cool, to allow the water to soak in instead of evaporating. A rule of thumb is 'water deep, twice a week'. A slow drip is more efficient than a big burst. And don't water if the weather forecast is for rain!
  5. Install a separate water system for your vegetables.
    Vegetable gardens need more water than decorative shrubs and plants, so install a separate system to allow more water for them, while not over-watering the rest of the garden

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