Gardening in a Drought

There's nothing you can do to prevent a drought, but there are strategies you can use to help minimise the effect it has on your garden.

  1. Grow the right plants – choose indigenous, drought-resistant plants that are adapted to the local conditions. Prioritise planting with “native” species of plants that occur naturally in this region and keep your garden free of alien invasive species. You will need to feed indigenous plants, as the soil becomes leached and nutrient deficient over time, especially in the Western Cape. An organic, balanced, slow-release fertilizer can be used every six weeks in the growing season.
  2. Prepare the soil well - whatever the soil type (sand, clay or loam) the quality and water-holding capacity can be improved by adding plenty of compost or water-holding products like vermiculite. Compost enriches soil with nutrients; encourages earthworm activity; and improves soil aeration and drainage. Soil improvement is an ongoing activity: ideally compost twice a year. Organic matter that can be used for compost: manure, straw, lawn clippings, garden refuse, pine needles. This promotes the growth of healthy plants which will require less water and be more disease-resistant than plants that are underfed. Before planting, it is essential to dig in large amounts of well-decomposed compost.
  3. Much more mulch - lay down a thick layer of mulch between the plants. Mulch should be at least 7 cm thick. It helps to keep the soil cool and reduces water evaporation, run-off and soil erosion and prohibits the growth of weeds. Different materials can be used as mulch such as compost, bark, leaves, wood chips, straw, peach pips or pine needles. Organic mulches have the advantage of adding nutrient to the soil as they break down but have to be replaced regularly. Inorganic mulches like pebbles or stone chips are effective hard-landscaping materials.
  4. Introduce pots – place the pots close to your house so that you don’t have far to carry your grey water. Consider planting veggies & herbs near the kitchen. Use pots around the entertainment areas near your home to give some colour (we could all do with some garden colour to cheer us up). Remember to add water-retaining products like vermiculite or even break florist foam (used for flower arranging) & mix it in with your potting soil.
  5. Provide shelter from wind and sun - create different areas in the garden to enjoy by planting indigenous trees for shade and hedges and shrubs to act as windbreaks.

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