ENVIRONMENT A little thought can help keep gardens looking lush even during a dry summer
With rain playing spoilsport this year, we are in for a dry summer. While the supply of water cannot be increased short term, we can adopt water conserving practices in our gardens.
Right variety of plants
Water-thirsty plants must be avoided or kept to the minimum. There is a wide variety of plants that look lush and green, even while thriving on very little water. Hibiscus, ixora, caesalpinia, russelia, crotons, African grasses are some of them. Succulents, cacti, sansevera, yucca varieties look green through the year and are very frugal in their need for water. Group plants with similar requirements, based on sunlight, soil and water. Native varieties usually consume less water than the exotics.
Reduce the lawn area
Lawns require regular and copious watering. They are high maintenance. Explore alternative ground covers, pebble / gravel cover, paving interspersed with brick / stone / grass to keep things visually appealing and soft to the feet. When a lawn is essential, water deeply but infrequently and keep the height of the grass at least two inches to reduce evaporation.
Time and method of watering
Ideally, the garden should be watered late in the evening, so as to keep the soil moist for the longest time. Avoid watering through the day as a good deal of the water will be lost in evaporation. Drip irrigation is ideal for large gardens and areas with a lot of mature plants and trees. Consider channelling waste water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks to kitchen gardens.
Protection from wind and sun
Planting saplings, erecting pergolas, trellises and canopies will reduce the reflected heat of the sun that might otherwise dry the plants nearby. These structures are visually impressive and are easier to maintain than a tedious stretch of lawn. Tree cover in the garden will considerably reduce water loss due to wind and the sun’s heat.
Share the garden with wildlife
A birdbath or a small lily pond is beneficial to small birds, insects and bats. They are crucial in maintaining a healthy balance in the urban ecosystem. Wet areas at the base of trees and shrubs nurture toads and earthworms, which, in turn, attract birds to the garden.
Reduce storm water run-off
Level or grade the garden in a manner that will retain storm water and will allow for its percolation within the garden. With steep driveways, valuable rainwater could drain off. A good portion of the garden should be left un-paved to allow for percolation and ground water recharge. Large trees also intercept and slow-down rain water and will therefore reduce runoff from the garden.
The likes of banana, drumstick, curry leaves, herbs, tomato, chilli, brinjal, and greens are easy to raise in home gardens. Urban gardens can help reduce our dependence on food produced in faraway farms. When we garden responsibly, we forge deep connections between our homes and the larger eco-system.