Water Wise

 Bright green, freshly mowed, neatly trimmed and blossoming: your garden is your pride and joy. Until your water bill arrives, that is. 

When the summer showers peter out, keeping your garden in bloom can put a dent in your wallet.

 There are a number of ways, however, to keep your garden green without breaking the bank.

 Whether you are just starting to grow your own garden or have been labouring over the same landscape for years, these tips and tricks from local experts can help you to conserve water.
Knowledge is power when it comes to your garden.

 If you are buying new plants, pay attention to their tags. The tags usually include important information about the plants’ optimal conditions and water requirements.

 If your flower beds are already full and you threw the plant tags away years ago, you can always turn to your local nursery workers or the internet for information.

 Knowing how much water certain plants need to thrive can prevent you from wasting water on plants that are much stronger than their delicate blooms might suggest.

 Grouping plants together that have similar water requirements is an effective way of avoiding over watering, explains Kurl Knight, landscape designer at Power Flower.

 Even if a garden was not designed with separate zones for low water use plants, moderate water use plants and high water use plants, this can be achieved with a little transplanting.

 Choosing native plants such as silver thatch palm, coco plum and buttonwood, which can withstand the heat and the extended dry spells, along with such low water usage plants as bougainvillea, oleander and fire bush will help to keep water consumption down.

 “When you water, where you water, and how often you water also matters,” explains Tom Balon from Vigoro Nursery.

 Most of the time, watering earlier in the day is preferable because it allows your plants ample time to absorb the moisture before the scorching Caribbean sun dries out the soil. If your garden includes a drip-irrigation system or a soaker hose, however, you might want to use these systems in the evening.

 If you have an automatic irrigation system, a rain sensor is a useful addition. The sensor will detect moisture in the air and relay this to the irrigation system, which will then switch itself off.

 Covering your flower beds with mulch can help in preventing the soil from drying out too quickly. Tom recommends using a two-inch layer of mulch to cover your plants’ root systems. This can drastically reduce how many times a week your garden needs to be watered.

 To make sure your plants are well-watered, try to water near the roots instead of on the plants’ leaves.

 “Watering deeply and infrequently promotes good root development,” Kurl advises.

 It is important to prevent excessive run-off as this equates to wasted water. Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it, says Kurl. Water will penetrate clay-like soils particularly slowly.

 Improving the drainage of your soil will also reduce run off.

 If you use sprinklers make sure they are not watering your driveway more than your plants.

 Lawns consume the largest amount of water in the landscape, says Kurl, so consider reducing the lawn area by converting some to gravel, paving or large flower beds. Using a rain gauge can help you to measure how much water your garden is receiving to avoid overwatering.

 Varieties of groundcover, such as Bermuda grass and empire zoysia, are hardy grasses with a good salt tolerance that tend to do well in periods of drought, high humidity and heat. On the other hand, varieties such as St. Augustine are known for resisting salt but often require considerable maintenance and hydration.

 If keeping your lawn green is too costly or time-consuming, however, you might want to follow the lead of the first Caymanian settlers, who kept sand gardens instead.

Tom

Tom Balon from Vigoro Nursery.
Stephen Clarke