Be water wise

As the hot summer months roll on as a constant reminder of the prevalent concern of global warming, it is arguable that water shortages may have become this century’s most burning environmental issue, says Dot Foster, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Oaktree, whose office operates in Stellenbosch.

“Water is a precious commodity and a resource that we all need to survive, so saving water is vital for the sustainability of our environment. With homeowners in South Africa consuming an estimated 30% to 50% of water on watering and maintaining their gardens, it seems that this is the most ideal area where the most water can be saved. While an attractive, established garden can add considerable value to a property, a water-wise garden that takes less water to maintain but is still beautiful makes sense from an environmental and financial view point,” says Foster.
Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says: "With water a dwindling resource and many consumers becoming more environmentally conscious, a greater emphasis has been placed on green properties. More and more buyers and tenants alike are placing a higher value on eco-friendly properties. Homes with water-wise gardens are attractive because they reduce cost and waste while still maintaining their aesthetic appeal.”

According to Foster, an established garden can be made water-wise with relatively little effort. However, ideally a garden should be designed to be water-wise from the start. The more water-wise the garden is from the outset, the easier and cheaper it will be to maintain and keep beautiful.

Foster gives a few tips that homeowners can use to establish their water-wise garden:

Choose the right plants

Once the decision has been made to concentrate on water-wise plants for your garden, go down to the local nursery and discuss which ones will work in your garden. As a general rule, only indigenous plants should be used as they consume very little water and require minimal maintenance.  Certain bedding plants can consume a lot of water, however by adding mulching to the bed and water retention granules to the soil, the need for water can be substantially reduced.

Group plants with similar watering requirements

Grouping plants that require more water together will mean that only certain areas of the garden will need to be watered regularly. Showcase these plants and have them as a prominent feature of the garden. Once these plants are established, watering can be reduced dramatically.  Plants that require less water can then be considered for the rest of the garden.

Reduce lawn areas

The fewer areas that require watering, the better and lawns guzzle water. Assess how lawn much is needed for things such as entertaining, children playing and pet exercising, and consider reducing these areas without reducing the enjoyment.  Consider adding hardscaping features such as a paved or cobblestone footpath, which will reduce watering areas as well as add to the aesthetic appeal and overall feel of the garden.  The lie of land may influence placement of hardscaping features, particularly if drainage is affected, and water features should be in shaded areas to reduce evaporation.

Lawn maintenance

It is important not to cut the lawn too short during growing season. As a general rule, sprinklers should only water areas that need it and sprinkler timers should be set to early mornings and late afternoons. If it rains, override the system because too much water results in shallow root growth and will encourage fungal and other attacks on the lawn.
“With soaring temperatures and lack of water that Stellenbosch endures this time of year, water-wise gardening is essential. It is not just about saving an important resource, but also sustainability and of course saving money with the higher cost of living today,” Foster concludes.
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