Waterwise Gardening

Contrary to the popular image of a water saving landscape consisting solely of cacti in a dusty area of rocks and pebbles, drought-tolerant Mediterranean natives are very attractive. If you are prepared to follow a few simple steps, with little water, expense and labour, an evergreen flowering garden throughout the year will be yours.

  • Plan your garden - Locate permanent elements and determine which plants need water. There may not be more than a few in an otherwise drought-tolerant area. A well-planned garden has pronounced horizontal lines. They give structure to the garden and prevent erosion. Consider winds and their drying out effect and find out where protection is essential.

  • Create plant cover and shade - Evergreen vegetation retains soils, protecting it year-round from dehydration. A lush plant cover suppresses competing weeds. Shade is nature's way of keeping down leaves' transpiration. Shade attenuates sun reflection, decreases evaporation from the soil, protects soil, retains air humidity and refreshes the air.

  • Use drought-tolerant plants - Correctly planted and maintained, once established after a year or two Mediterranean natives do with the natural winter rain in response to their yearly, prolonged dry season, going dormant when the climate turns hot and dry. Mostly evergreen, Mediterranean natives have attractive flowers.

  • Reduce the lawn - A main element of temperate gardening, grass areas are often automatically used in Mediterranean climates where they are the most water and labour intensive landscape element around. One of the key ingredients of water-saving gardens is minimal lawn area. Use alternatives like paving or compact-growing succulents or vines.

  • Group plants for water needs - You will achieve important savings in water if you divide your garden into areas with high, medium and low water requirements, according to the specific needs of the plants.

  • Plan water management - You may not see real rain for years, but when it comes, it can be destructive, washing away your garden's fertile soil. When considering irrigation, use efficient equipment. Old-fashioned sprinklers often emit more water than dry summer soils absorbs. Drip systems can achieve up to 50 percent savings in water supply.

  • Use water-saving practices - Keep shade plants in the shade, water-loving ones at the bottom of slopes or adjacent to lawns. Grouping plants together creates micro-environments for moisture retention, shades the ground, protects small plants from drying winds. When planted in early autumn, root systems adjust over humid mild winters and plants often enter the summer drought period already well-established.