Conserve water in Summer

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In late summer, battling the dries can become a gardener's greatest challenge. Water stressed plants suffer cell collapse which may permanently disable their roots, reducing vigour and disease tolerance.

Water conservation is also an issue of increasing concern and using less of it also saves time and money in the garden. With common sense and forward planning, the garden need not be parched and lifeless just when we want to enjoy being outdoors.


The best way to prevent moisture escaping is to cover your soil with a blanket of mulch. Easier weed control is a bonus.

Pebbles and stones make a decorative finish, and work well with heat loving succulents. They don't enrich the organic content of the soil but they do prevent water loss. On the down side, pebble mulches can be difficult to keep clean when there's lots of leaf litter about, and if next to lawns, stray pebbles may be a hazard at mowing time.

Organic mulches such as pine bark, pine needles, leaves, wood chip, straw, compost and sawdust improve soil structure (and moisture holding ability) as they break down. Because they break down they need to be replenished.

Other ways to cope with the summer dries:


Create shelter

Warm summer wind sucks the moisture from our plants. Windbreaks and hedges offer valuable protection.



Train your plants to grow deep roots

Regular shallow watering promotes shallow, drought sensitive roots. Deep infrequent watering encourages roots to grow deep into the soil, where they are least likely to dry out.



Water at dawn or dusk

Don't water in the middle of the day as most of the water will evaporate.
Morning watering is great for nutrient absorption, as plants tend to be most active at sunrise.



Pay attention to pots

Grouping pots together helps slow evaporation and also makes for easy and efficient watering. Locate pots and hanging baskets away from the wind. Use water storage granules and a wetting agent. Glazed pots hold their moisture longer than unglazed terracotta or concrete. Mulch with a decorative layer of pebbles.



Install irrigation

Drip feeders and soaker hoses can be extremely efficient if they deliver the water where it's needed. Unlike sprinklers, they reduce disease problems by delivering water to the soil surface rather than the foliage. Attaching a timer to your irrigation system gives even greater control over water use. Too much water can lead to root problems.



Rationalise lawn areas

Attractive green lawns need lots of watering. Convert unnecessary lawn areas into paving or mulched groundcover plants so you can concentrate your watering on a smaller area of lawn that really counts. In hot climates choose drought tolerant grasses.



Choose dry tolerant plants

There are hundreds to choose from. Succulents are reliable staples for a garden that's dry most of the year. Look also to coastal NZ classics such as pohutukawa, flax, Corokia, Astelia, Marlborough rock daisy; Mediterranean plants like rosemary, lavender and olive; Aussie natives, such as Banksia, Grevillea and Lomandra; dry tolerant grasses including Anemanthele, Carex comans, Carex testacea, Festuca;Silver foliage plants, such as Artemisia, Cerastium, Dichondra 'Silver Falls', Helichrysum, Stachys, Teucrium and Santolina.

Note: If you have heavy clay soils beware of plants that demand well-drained conditions all year round. They may not survive the cold wet bog of a clay soil in winter.

Look for these products, tips and advice at a Go Gardening Store near you.