Water Efficient Gardens Manual - New South Wales, Australia

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Water Efficient Gardens Manual - New South Wales, Australia

Water Efficient Gardens Manual - New South Wales, Australia

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  • 1. Updated 22 November 2004 WATER EFFICIENT GARDENSWATER EFFICIENT GARDENS ........................................... 1YOUR GUIDE TO SAVING WATER IN THE GARDEN .................................. 2GARDEN DESIGN ..................................................................................... 3 Zoning ..................................................................................................................... 3PLANT SELECTION.................................................................................. 4SOIL IMPROVEMENT............................................................................... 4Aerate – let your soil breath.................................................................. 5 Mulch - the more the better .............................................................................. 5 Products to improve watering efficiency ....................................................... 5GARDEN WATERING............................................................................... 6 Ways to water ..................................................................................................... 6 When and how much - the Irrigometer .......................................................... 7 Potty about pots .................................................................................................. 7 Wastewater reuse on your garden ................................................................. 7LAWNS ......................................................................................................... 8RAINWATER TANKS ............................................................................... 9OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES ........................................................... 9FOR FURTHER INFORMATION… ........................................................ 9 National Water Conservation Labelling and Rating Scheme ................. 10 Page 1 of 11
  • 2. Updated 22 November 2004YOUR GUIDE TO SAVING WATER IN THE GARDENIn the Australian landscape water is a precious resource, therefore, conserving water is one ofthe best ways to protect our unique and beautiful environment.In the Rous Water supply area water use on gardens and activities conducted outside thehouse accounts for over 30% of all household usage.This booklet provides practical information and ideas to help you save water in your garden.Many of the tips are designed to encourage hardier plants and landscapes. This meansreduced maintenance time and costs for you, while keeping your garden looking great throughthe good times and the bad! Page 2 of 11
  • 3. Updated 22 November 2004GARDEN DESIGNA water efficient garden starts with planning and gooddesign. This is easier when planting a new garden.However, if you have an established garden it does notmean that you have to pull it all up and start again – it’ssimply a more gradual process that involves workingwith what you have. Target areas of your garden forimprovement and review your current maintenance andwatering activities.Spend some time in your garden to understand where thesun rises and sets, the direction of prevailing winds(summer and winter), where there is shade from existingfeatures such as trees and buildings, and the drainagedirection.Also consider how you use your garden, and if these activities will change seasonally. Thisincludes outdoor activities, such as gardening, play areas and socialising, as well as practicalspaces for BBQ and entertaining areas, a washing line, waste storage and cars. Also thinkabout traffic patterns and the amount of privacy you want.When drawing up a plan, for each component take water into consideration (e.g. directrainwater run-off from downpipes towards high water-use areas). The two most importantdesign elements for a water efficient gardening are grouping (or ‘zoning’) plants of like waterneeds together and eliminating, or reducing, your lawn area to a minimum.New plants tend to require large and frequent watering to get them established. To give yourplants a better chance at life undertake any major plantings when the conditions are good.ZoningSelect plants that suit your garden and soil conditions. Grouping plants with similar waterneeds together into zones makes watering easier and ensures that plants only get the waterthey need.High water use: Lawns, vegetables, fruit trees, exotic shrubs like azaleas and camellias,flowering herbaceous annuals and many bulbs.Medium water use: Hardy vegetables like pumpkins and potatoes, hardy fruit trees and vineslike nut trees and grapes, many herbs, some exotic shrubs, most grey or hairy leafed plants,roses and daisies.Low water use: Most Australian natives including banksias, grevilleas and eucalypts, someexotics from South Africa, California and the Mediterranean, succulents and cacti, olive treesand some exotic ornamentals, such as bougainvillea.Plant trees to create natural shade and windbreaks to reduce evaporation. High water useplants are best located where they can be sheltered from drying winds and strong sunlight. Page 3 of 11
  • 4. Updated 22 November 2004PLANT SELECTIONLocal indigenous plants have adapted to local conditions, while many other Australian nativeplants have evolved to cope with limited water. Incorporating native plants into the gardenalso provides habitat and food for birds and insects, which in turn aid in pest control andpollination.Before selecting plants consider the soil type of the site, the limiting factors (e.g. frost,exposure to salt) and the function required (e.g. bush foods, shade). The following are somesuggested plants for the NSW Far North Coast area. For further suggestions ask at your localnursery or plant retailer.Coastal: sandy soils, frost free saline conditions Species name Common name Growth habitCarprobrotus glauescens Pig Face Low < 1mLomandra longifolia Coast Mat-Rush Low < 1mHibbertia scandens Guinea Flower Low < 1mSyzgium oleosum Blue Lilly Pilly Medium 2 - 4mAcacia sophorae Coast Wattle Medium 2 - 4mCasuarina glauca Swamp Oak High > 5mInland: frost-prone, variable soils Species name Common name Growth habitOmalanthus populifolius Bleeding Hearts Medium 2 - 4mElaeocarpus reticulatus Blue Berry Ash Medium 2 - 4mBackhousia citriodora Lemon Myrtle Medium 2 - 4mBanksia integrifolia Coast Banksia High > 5mPolyscias elegans Celerywood High > 5mMaintaining trees and shrubs by regular pruning reduces the amount of water required. Thisalso encourages flowering and maintains plant appearance.SOIL IMPROVEMENTOne of the most important elements of a water efficient garden is the quality of the soil.There are three main soil types - sandy, loam and clay – each with a different water holdingcapacity.• Loam soils are high in organic materials are able to hold the most moisture - this is the soil condition to strive for. Page 4 of 11
  • 5. Updated 22 November 2004• Sandy and clay soils can be improved by incorporating well-decomposed organic matter such as compost, manure and mulch to a depth of 15 to 25 cm.• Clay soils can be improved by adding gypsum (0.5 – 1.0 kg per square metre) or by growing hardy, deep-rooted plants.Aerate – let your soil breathAerating the soil in your garden allows for better absorption of water. This is particularlyeffective on lawn areas where compaction may be a problem. There is a range of ways toaerate soil, depending on the size of your garden. For smaller areas you can purchase strap-onsoles with spikes and simply walk around your garden, or if you are feeling energetic use apitchfork. For larger areas you can hire a lawn aerator (a roller with spikes).Mulch - the more the betterMulch, mulch and more mulch. It can’t be said enough that mulch is fantastic for yourgarden, and can increases water retention by the soil by about 80%. Organic mulch providesmaterials and nutrients essential to plant health, reduces the need for weeding and it looksgreat!For best results apply mulch to a depth of least 15cm thick (avoiding the area immediatelyaround plant stems and tree trunks) and re-apply at least once a year, or as it breaks down.Mulch can be in the form of leaves and grass clippings, manure, compost, rocks and gravel,straw and other crop residues, worm casts, newspapers, bark and woodchips.Products to improve watering efficiencyUse a soil wetting solution or granules to increase soil “wettability” and water absorption, anddecrease water run-off. Wetting solutions are effective on lawns, garden beds, as well pottedand hanging plants. Use according to instructions on the package. Soil moisture crystals are small crystals that swell to 100’s of times their size in water. They act to retain water in the soil, so that the water is available to plant roots for longer. Moisture crystals are great for potted and hanging plants. For established pots remove a small amount of soil from around plants (at least 5 cm deep), sprinkle crystals and replace soil. Alternatively, mix crystals through potting mix when re- potting. Page 5 of 11
  • 6. Updated 22 November 2004GARDEN WATERINGWater in the early morning or in the evening, as this allows water to penetrate before itevaporates. Watering early in the morning allows the sun to activate the water (by producingwater vapour and stimulating micro-organism activity) to generate the food that plants willdraw on during the day.Water your garden longer and less frequently. Letting the soil dry out between wateringencourages deep root systems and helps plants to be less dependent on regular watering.Water the roots, not the leaves, as water on the leaves evaporates easily and can lead toscorching.Water the highest part of the garden first so that any run-off soaks into the lower dry areas.Avoid watering in windy conditions as water is lost by evaporation and dispersion.Controlling weeds reduces competition for water with your plants. Fertilise plants withorganic liquid fertiliser as dry fertilisers take water from the soil and can raise salt levels.Ways to waterThere are a number of methods for watering your garden, and combined with your wateringschedule your irrigation system is one of the greatest influences on water use. For hand-held hoses use a “trigger” hose nozzle. These attachments ensure better control and avoid wasted water when moving around your garden. Use a tap timer when using soaker hoses and sprinklers. Alternatively, set the timer on your oven as a reminder to move, or turn off, the sprinkler. Aforgotten sprinkler can waste up to 1000 litres of water an hour.Fixed irrigation systems are made up of a series of PVC piping, risers andsprinkler heads, generally installed in the ground. The sprinkler heads come in a variety ofpatterns, which use varying amounts of water and are suited to different types of plants.Fixed irrigation systems that are poorly designed and maintained use more water than hand-held hoses. When installing a fixed system, planning is essential to ensure optimal operationand the most efficient use of water. Consult a landscaper or your local garden centre on thesystem most appropriate for you and your garden. Many garden suppliers on the Internet alsoprovide detailed information.Drippers Most water efficient as it delivers water to theroots of individual plants and minimises evaporation and wind drift.Good for watering individual plants, such as trees, vines and shrubs.Subterranean drippers are great for lawns.Misters Most suitable for hanging baskets, delicate ferns,shade houses and plants that require high humidity. Fine dropletsare lost in windy conditions. Page 6 of 11
  • 7. Updated 22 November 2004Microsprays Available in a variety of spray shapes (e.g. fullcircle, strip). Good for plants in garden beds. Fine droplets are lostin windy conditions.Sprinklers Pop-up, impact. Apply water over a larger areaand are less effected by wind.Automatic fixed systems set to turn on regardless of weatherconditions and soil moisture content will waste water. Systems notadjusted to seasonal needs may deliver water too fast, resulting inrun-off, or supply more water than plants require.Soil moisture sensors trigger cut-off switches on automatic systemswhen it rains, and adjust watering duration according to soil moisturelevels.When and how much - the IrrigometerThe irrigometer or “catch cup” allows you to measure the correct amount of water for gardensin the Northern Rivers area.In the dry season most soils require about 25 mm of water to reach 25 to 30 mm depth in thesoil. Depending on the type of sprinkler this means 1 hr per week on clay soils and twowaterings of half an hour twice a week (12 mm) for sandy soils (more common on thecoast).To check the amount of water that your sprinkler is delivering, and therefore the amount oftime you need to leave it on, simply place the catch cup in the garden, turn on the sprinkler,and note the time it takes to reach the desired levels marked.Potty about potsMost gardens have potted or hanging plants as displays or decorative features. These can behigh maintenance as their small size means that they require regular watering. Water potplants by soaking them in water for a few seconds until the bubbles disappear. Drip irrigationis best if you have, or are selecting, a fixed irrigation system.Seal porous pots, such as terracotta, before planting or use ceramic or plastic pots. There arealso several products available to increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil (seeabove).Simply moving potted plants into the shade during hot weather will reduce water loss throughevaporation.Wastewater reuse on your gardenHousehold wastewater from the bath, shower, hand basin, laundry and kitchen sink is knownas greywater.For health and environmental risks kitchen greywater can only be reused following treatmentin an approved greywater treatment system. Page 7 of 11
  • 8. Updated 22 November 2004Wastewater from the bath, shower, hand basin and laundry can be reused for watering thegarden by way of sub-soil irrigation or sub-surface irrigation using a greywater diversiondevice.This device enables you to divert one or more of the above wastewater streams from thedrainage system under the house. Often there is a course filtering system prior to greywaterbeing redirected for sub-soil irrigation (i.e. a trench at a depth greater than 300 mm belowground) or sub-surface irrigation (i.e. trickle or drip irrigation at a depth between 100mm and300mm below ground).Approval is required from your local council to install a greywater diversion device. Forfurther information refer to the following documents and your local Council.NSW Health (2000) Greywater Reuse in Sewered Single Domestic Premises.http://www.dlg.nsw.gov.au/dlg/dlghome/documents/Information/Greywater%20ReUse.pdfNSW Health (2000) Domestic Greywater Treatment Systems Accreditation Guidelines.http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/public-health/ehb/general/wastewater/greywater.pdfLAWNSLawns are thirsty, using up to 90% of water usedon gardens. They also take the greatest amount oftime and money to maintain, as they need mowing,weeding, edging and fertilising.The easiest way to save water is to reducelawn area by creating garden beds or replacing withporous paving, pebbles or drought-tolerantground covers such as prostrate grevilleas,snake vine (Hibbertia scandens), ormyoporum. Seek advice at your local plantnursery.Different grass types have different wateringneeds. Select a turf that needs less water and issuited to the region, such as mondo grass, buffalo and compression grass. There are alsoherbs, such as Dichondra that are suitable for low–traffic areas. Turfs to avoid include couch,kikuyu and millets. Ask your local plant nursery for the most suitable low water species foryour climate and soil type.Soil preparation prior to laying turf is also important in encouraging a drought hardy lawn.Laying turf on a layer of sand-based topsoil will encourage deep root systems.Avoid cutting your grass so frequently as taller grass holds more water. Set your mower to cut4 cm or higher. This encourages a deeper root system and the longer grass blades shade thesoil, reducing evaporation.Water the lawn only when it is showing signs of stress. Long, slow soakings that allow waterto penetrate to a depth of about 15 cm will encourage a deeper, hardier root system. Page 8 of 11
  • 9. Updated 22 November 2004RAINWATER TANKSRainwater tanks and other rainwater harvesting technologies, such as water-storing guttering,may provide households with an additional source of water. Rainwater tanks can beintegrated as part of garden irrigation systems, and may have the potential to be used for toiletflushing (in this instances a backflow device is essential to prevent rainwater entering themains water supply). To make the most of your investment in a rainwater tank, contact yourtank supplier for information on the most suitable size for your roof area and waterrequirements, local rainfall conditions and possible plumbing arrangements.Check if your local Council requires a development application to install a rainwater tank.OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIESWater is used outdoors for activities other than gardening and these also provide opportunitiesfor savings.Wash your car, or boat at a car wash that recycles waterand detergents. If washing the car (or dog!) at home, usea bucket and do it on the lawn to prevent water anddetergent flowing down the drain. Choose a differentplace on the lawn each time.Swimming pool covers significantly reduce evaporativelosses and can save between 11,000 and 30,000 litres ofwater a year. Lower the pool level to reduce loss fromsplashing and overflow when pool is being used.Use a broom instead of a hose to clean paths and theoutside of buildings.FOR FURTHER INFORMATION…There is a broad range of books and Internet sites on saving water in the house and garden.Your local supplier of garden products is also a great source of information on water efficientgardening in your area. Some examples are listed below, or do a search on the web – you’ll besurprised with what you come up with.Archer, J., Hodges, J. and LeHunt B. (1993). The Water Efficient Garden. Random House,Australia.Garden Guide. Angus & Robertson, Australia. Yates (1998 ed. only).van Dok, W. (2002) The Water-efficient Garden: A Guide to Sustainable Landscaping inAustralia. Water Efficient Landscapes, Australia.Waterwise Western Australia. Waterwise brochure series edited by John Colwill.http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/yourhome/index.htmhttp://savewater.com.auhttp://sydneywater.com.auhttp://www.abc.net.au/gardening/http://www.austplants-nsw.org.au/studgrp.htmhttp://www.au.gardenweb.com/forums/oznative/http://www.toro.com.au/index.cfm/content/display/40 Page 9 of 11
  • 10. Updated 22 November 2004National Water Conservation Labelling and Rating SchemeThis scheme provides consumers with information on the relative water efficiency of productsand is administered by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA).The scheme covers washing machines, dishwashers, showerheads, toilet suites, taps andcommercial urinals. Labels are displayed on merchandise in the form of a rating label.For further information about the labelling scheme, see the WSAA web site athttp://ratings.wsaa.asn.auFor more information about Australian Standards, see their web site onhttp://www.standards.com.auContact Rous Water on 6621 8055 for information on the latest programs aimed atreducing water use. Page 10 of 11
  • 11. Updated 22 November 2004 Page 11 of 11