Guilt-free gardening

Cherise Viljoen’s suggestions on how to garden in the drought and how to recognize a plant that is designed by nature to survive our long hot summer climate (wind, lack of water, harsh sun)

Choose slower growing, more long lived, hardier evergreens and try avoid soft, thirsty annuals & perennials

Select those plants naturally geared to survive drought:
 - silver, grey foliage: reflects the heat
 - upright, narrow, small leaves or no leaves at all: all if which reduces contact with the hot sun and so stay cooler- reducing their water-loss though evaporation
 - hairy, waxy, firm-structured, aromatic: all designed to also reduce water-loss from the plant
 - succulent: have their own reservoirs of water supply
 - have more underground plant parts and storage organs- like bulbs: Hide from the sun and wind and so reduce water-loss
 - deciduous in summer: grow when the weather is cooler and wetter, sleep when conditions are unfavourable

Garden with local indigenous plants which are naturally adapted to the local weather and soil conditions-they’ve been ‘droughted’ every summer since the beginning of time and know how to survive

Know your soil type- and match the plant’s preferences to the sandy or clay soil you have in your garden (don’t try grow them in soil they are not adapted to!)

Appreciate the successful plants in your garden, celebrate them even though they might not be what you would ideally like and allow plants to grow where they want to rather than when you put them- should they decide to self-seed in your garden. They are more successful/hardier where they choose to migrate to themselves.

Don’t fertilise as often as you used to, and if you do….aim to grow roots not leaves so look for lower N and higher P:K

Measure how much water your usual watering time puts into a measuring jug….. then dig into your soil to see how far that amount of water penetrated…… then adjust so that you are getting to a depth of at least 60cm for small plants and deeper for larger shrubs and deeper for trees, you want to encourage your plant’s roots to grow down where it is cool and hopefully moist, not up in the shallow soil layers where it’s hot and dry. Once you know how much water you’re actually using and how deep the watering you do penetrates in your garden’s soil you can manage your water much more effectively, even if that means having a ‘rain event’ of watering once a week rather than sprinkling watering every second day.

Don’t waste: Use recycled water, catch all the rain with berms/gullies/planting hole basins, don’t let water escape your property down storm water drains- do everything you can think of to get as much water back into your soil as possible- SOIL is the best ‘water reservoir’ that exists for us gardeners.

Mulch, mulch, mulch - with whatever you like and can afford. Just cover and protect your precious soil.