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Water efficient gardening

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With less rainfall and hotter weather predicted in the coming decades, we need to go with the limited flow and create water-wise gardens.

Clean water is essential to life on earth, yet it is a scarce resource comprising only 3 per cent of the world's water. Most fresh water is stored in ice caps and below the surface of the earth. Despite the scarcity, global consumption of water has been increasing each decade. Australians use about 30 per cent of their household water consumption on their gardens.

Water shortages will become more common and we have to change our behaviour to reflect this reality.

By adopting water-efficient garden practices we can ensure that our gardens continue to thrive and continue to provide their many benefits - creating habitat for wildlife, enhancing air quality and storing carbon, which helps to reduce the greenhouse effect.

How to do it now!

Try the following actions to make your garden more water efficient:

Add compost and manures to your soil. These provide food for plants and enrich the water retention capacity of your soil, which means there's more water available for your plants. See our action Recycle organic waste for a full guide to composting and worm farming.

Ensure that your soil is always covered by mulch or plants. Bare and exposed soil will dry out very quickly and suck moisture from nearby plants. Mulching your soil will prevent it drying out, put nutrients into the soil and discourage weeds, which compete with your plants for vital water. See our action Mulch your patch for a full guide to mulching.

Plant drought tolerant or dry land plants. There is a huge selection of differently coloured, formed and textured xeriscape plants (tough plants that don't require irrigation), to fit any garden design. Take a look at some of the following gardening sites for a list of drought-tolerant plants:

Local indigenous nurseries include:

  • G.E.S.T. Nursery (wholesale)
    Lot 2 Old Sale Road, Moe, 3825
    Ph: (03) 5126 2384
  • Glengarry Plant Farm
    415 Glengarry North Road, Glengarry
    Ph: (03) 5192 4233
  • Morwell Plant Market
    Selection of native plants
    2 Old Princess Highway, Morwell
    Ph: (03) 5134 8046

Other Regional Native Plant Nurseries

  • Strzelecki Plant Farm
    - by appointment
    RMB 1321 Allambee Reserve via Mirboo Nth
    Ph: (03) 5668 7209
  • Gippsland Indigenous Plants
    - by appointment
    RMB 6898 Dow Road, Valencia Creek, 3680
    Ph: (03) 5145 4468
  • Blue Gum Forest Nursery
    285 Warragul Road, Korumburra
    Ph: (03) 5655 2765
  • Terraflora Nursery
    Open Wed-Sat
    195 South Gippsland Highway, Leongatha
    Ph: (03) 5662 4124
  • Neerim Native Flora
    - by appointment
    49 Fraser Spur Road, Neerim South
    Ph: (03) 5628 1419
  • Mulga Plants (Wholesale)
    Hazelwood
    5166 1414
  • Wildtech Nursery (Wholesale)
    Licola Road, Glenmaggie
    Ph: (03) 5148 0317
  • Klein’s Nursery (Wholesale)
    Farm Forest and Tree Shrubs
    Yarram
    Ph: (03) 5182 6152
  • Koorooman Native Flora Nursery (Wholesale)
    390 Leongatha North Road, Leongatha North
    Ph: (03) 5668 6301
  • Tree Action (Barry) (Wholesale)
    535 Rougheads Road, Leongatha South
    Ph: (03) 5664 3259

Indigenous Seedbanks – Gippsland

  • Leongatha Indigenous Seedbank
    Co-ordinator: Matt Bowler
    Ph (03) 5662 2453
  • Maffra Indigenous Seedbank
    Co-ordinator: Steven Bruce
    Ph (03) 5152 3099
  • Yarram Indigenous Seedbank
    Co-ordinator: Jenny Wolswinkel
    Ph: (03) 5183 9148

Please be aware that not all species will be available at these nurseries. You may need to order particular species in advance, so nurseries have time to grow them for you. Also be aware that some nurseries specialize in larger orders.

If your business specialises in native plants and is not listed here, please register your interest by contacting Latrobe City Council on 1300 367 700.

Replace your lawn. Plant local indigenous grasses (weeping grass or wallaby grass) or some of the warm-season grasses like buffalo, couch or kikuyu, which all require about 30 per cent less water than cool-season grasses. First check to see if these grasses are classified as weeds in your area.

  • You don't need to water your lawn. Grass is surprisingly resilient and doesn’t take long to become green after a good rain.
  • You could replace your lawn altogether with another permeable surface, such as gravel. Using concrete and paving stones will increase run-off and is best avoided.

Go mostly organic in your lawn and garden. Using organic gardening products and techniques is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. You don’t have to go 100 per cent organic either. Try out a few organic pesticides or fertilisers and see what works for you. By going mostly organic in your garden you’ll help to stimulate beneficial soil organisms, reduce harmful wastewater run-off, and create a healthier place for your pets and children to play.

Use a reel or electric lawn mower. If you have a small yard, consider using a manual push reel mower.

Today’s reel mowers are a far cry from the one your grandfather used. Reel mowers are light, quiet, and virtually maintenance-free. They are environmentally friendly, and also better for the grass. Rotary mowers tear the grass - reel mowers cut grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of clippings as mulch for your yard. They do take some effort, but they aren’t any harder to push than an 30kg petrol mower that isn’t self-propelled. Reel mowers aren’t necessarily practical for really big lawns, so think about switching that petrol mower to a cleaner, electric mower.

Group plants according to their water needs. This will ensure that you're not unnecessarily watering some plants just because of their proximity to a heavy drinker. Not all plants need watering, and many only need a sprinkle now and then.

Get the right irrigation system. Forget wasteful sprinkler systems, which can lose up to 45 per cent of water to evaporation. Instead use water-efficient irrigation systems like leaky hoses and dripper systems. These provide water directly to the base of the plant, close to where it is taken up. They also provide smaller amounts of water, reducing the risk of run-off and water wastage. Make sure you comply with current water restrictions, which include rules about how you water as well as when you water.

  • Remember to adjust your automatic irrigation system seasonally, and install a rain sensor to avoid automatically watering in wet weather.
  • The Diggers Club Best Green Garden provides ideas and inspiration - they reduced their garden-water use by 50 per cent.

Water in the cool of the day. Watering either in the early morning or evening is best as it avoids water loss due to evaporation from the sun and transpiration by plants.

Longer deep soaks are better than frequent watering. Deep soaks encourage roots to move deeply into the soil. Of course, how long you need to soak depends on the quality of your soil, the presence of organic matter, evaporation rates, rainfall and the thirstiness of your plants.

Know your garden and care for it. By checking for pests and diseases on a regular basis you get to know your garden better, understand the watering needs of your plants and can identify stressed plants.

Capturing rainfall. That's the brilliant thing about the water cycle; clean fresh water keeps falling from the sky. Unfortunately, it is occurring less frequently, and that's why we need to capture it. See our action Harvest and use your rainwater for a full guide to installing and collecting rainwater from your garden.

Use council and state government rebates on water saving gear. Don't forget to take advantage of rebates offered by many of the state governments. You can get money back on water-wise purchases including mulches, efficient irrigation and hoses.

  • Office of Environment and Heritage - Sustainable Gardening. Some easy ways to make your garden more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
  • National - Smart Watermark - This site lists the state and/or local government rebate programs available in your area for the installation of certain water-saving fixtures and water tanks.

Why is this action important?

Fresh water is the lifeblood of nature. Without it, we would not have clean air, food, drink and many aesthetic and recreational benefits. Therefore, we need to ensure we use water in a sustainable way and share it with all life on the planet. The consequences of doing otherwise can be seen in the spreading deserts across the world and the resulting drought and famine that can follow.