Cape Insights is offering a spring-filled garden tour that showcases South Africa’s unique floral abundance. You can travel around The Cape Peninsula with its staggering 2,285 flowering plants (home to more species than found in the entire northern hemisphere), while Table Mountain alone has just fewer species than all those found in Britain – with 70% of these found nowhere else in the world.
Or if you are fortunate to live in this botanical treasure chest that Linnaeus called ”that paradise on earth”, here are some tips to ‘do your bit’ to preserve our planet, by transforming your thirsty garden into a sustainable yet lush and verdant garden.
GET RID OF YOUR THIRSTY LAWN
If your garden’s foundation is that of turf grass then this means that you are: having to do heaps of maintenance / using loads of water. Keeping a green identity means that this is an absolute no-go. It also means thoroughly clearing the turf grass, making sure each and every root has been removed. And planting indigenous and easy-care grass like Kikuyu.
When you do mow the lawn, go for frequent and light rather than seldom and intense. Keep the blades at around 4cm long so they shade each other and minimise the need for more water. Aerate the lawn by piercing with a garden fork, making watering easily absorbed, and you’ll minimise the need for watering by 50%. Water only in the evenings and early mornings to avoid evaporation.
Your soil is the most precious part of your water-retention process. Making use of the best top soils means your new foundation will take shape by adding organic matter to improve the texture of the soil and water-holding ability.
Also, use stones and rocks for accents on top of soil between plants. Not only is this a decorative feature, it also provides water insulation for the root systems below.
If you can afford it, irrigation systems are best for watering your garden. They use controlled amounts of water, far less than a hose pipe, and are super simple to rely on auto-watering. Drip-irrigation is an even better water-saving tool, since it allows a set amount of water to drip onto plant beds and straight into the root systems, and can even make use of recycled rainwater.
Planting indigenous plants and shrubs is the best way to go. They’re usually less thirsty than alien vegetation. Bear in mind that indigenous and water wise do not necessarily equate. Always check that the plants you choose are both locally occurring and hardy, non-thirsty plants. Look for leaves that are oily, waxy, hairy, grey or needle-like, as these retain water. Succulents are a fantastic water saving and trendy option!
MULCH IS KING
Organic mulch is the best way to retain water, block thirsty weeds and ultimately reduce evaporation. Your best formula for making mulch is by mixing shredded leaves, straw, compost, shredded newspaper and grass clippings.
Making your own compost heap doesn’t have to be unsightly and smelly – use a composting bin that retains smells and degrades materials faster.
Collecting compost is fantastic for the environment, reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and is the miracle ingredient for healthy, thriving plants in your garden.
WATER FOR FREE
Collecting rainwater to nourish your eco-conscious garden will ensure that you distribute natural resources effectively. This can be done by placing barrels at the exit points or overflow from your downpipes. Another watering tip is to soak the pots rather than the plants, as the ceramic will retain moisture for longer and seep into the roots.
PLANTS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These plants are just a few of the many popular perennial options that get the green light for water-wise eco-gardens:
Succulents; Fynbos; Buchu; Lavender; Air plants; Aloes, Clivia; South African Daisy; Geranium; Agapanthus; Sweet Pea;
Wild Olive Tree; Jasmine; Milkwood; Cape Honeysuckle; Strelitzia; Keurboom.
The ultimate goal is to have a beautiful outdoor space that is environmentally friendly and makes one feel good about conservation. If your space is attracting more bees, birds and butterflies then you’ve done something right!