We all love having a garden to simply enjoy, pick flowers from, grow food and play in. Planting a more smart water landscape will help you to maintain your garden during the hot summer months without using a huge amount of water.

By planning well, using your gardens natural features and choosing the right plants you can create or change your garden haven.

Planning your landscape

When you begin to plan your landscape the first step is to analyse your site.
Make notes of the special features in your location:

• Orientation of sun traps • Shade • Ground slope
• Natural moisture • Soil type • Air movement

The planning phase is the time to create solutions to problems, such as hard clay soil or poor drainage.  

Laying out the design on paper and on the ground will help you identify problems and solutions.

A Smart Water landscape can have high water needing plants, however save them for a feature location in your garden. Position plants with similar water needs all together, this enables you to water them more effectively —this is called hydro-zoning. Plant closely together so plants create their own shade for the soil and reduce evaporation.

Keep high-water needing plants, such as vegetables and herbs, near the house so they can be watered with water collected from the shower or stored rainwater. 

If you are planting on a sloping section proper grading allows water to soak into the soil and be used by plants rather than running off your section.  Create rain gardens to infiltrate rainwater into the soil to irrigate sections of your landscape.  These are great to use alongside hard garden elements like concrete driveways, to help capture some of the water run-off.

It’s also important to consider your local climate and try to orient patios for the benefits of sun or shade.

Pick the right plants

There is a huge variety of plants that can tolerate dry conditions so you don’t need a lot of water to keep them alive during summer. Check out the Smart Water list of common and beautiful drought tolerant plants here. Also consider plants that are suited to your regional climate, environment and soil type —it‘s important for your plants health and the ecological balance of your garden.

The best time to get plants in the ground  is in autumn because the plant has six to nine months to settle in and establish itself before the hot weather sets in. Even young drought tolerant plants need looking after, with a drink once every fortnight during the first summer. If you plant in spring they will need water once or twice a week.

Established drought tolerant plants do need some care too, although they should be capable of surviving long periods without water, once they are mature with fully developed root systems.

Plan for groundcover plants to eventually replace the need for mulch. As they grow they will start to spread and suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, insulate the soil and keep plant roots cool.

To get the most out of your Smart Water landscape it’s important to keep it maintained. Try to keep the gardens weed free — weeds steal valuable nutrients and moisture from your plants.

Drip line irrigation and soaker hoses are two of the best ways to water shrubs, plants and vegetables, as they water the root zone directly.
Spray irrigation like sprinklers can waste a lot of water to evaporation and runoff.

Plants love infrequent deep watering more than frequent shallow watering. Fewer and longer watering sessions are more effective than lots of small, short sessions and encourage root systems to grow deeper into the soil. To reduce water loss to evaporation, water slowly and thoroughly early in the morning, or later in the afternoon or evening.  Choose days with little or no wind as high winds blow away the water and prevent good  coverage.  

Look for equipment with  smart controllers that run on current weather data to ensure you don’t over water. Or use soil moisture sensors, instead of standard programmed controllers that tend to over-irrigate.  Tap and sprinkler timers are good as they allow you to irrigate for a certain length of time without over doing it. Change automatic irrigation system settings to reflect the season, eg winter when there is more rainfall turn the system off.  

Use day light savings as a reminder to check irrigation lines, taps and hoses for leaks, breaks and drips. 

Mulch

For trees and shrubs to thrive in dry conditions, mulching is very important. Mulch protects the soil from the drying effects of the sun and wind, shading the soil and acting as an insulation blanket. It also suppresses weeds, increases soil and plant health and slows down erosion and water runoff on sloped land. Mulch can retain up to 70 per cent of water in the soil, which otherwise could be lost through evaporation.

Soil

Healthy soil grows healthy plants.  Adding compost is an easy and effective way to improve your soil.  Compost improves the structure of soil, increasing how much water it can hold (water retention) aeration and nutrients for plants. Different soils have varying water needs. Clay soils absorb water slowly and cause surface runoff if watered too quickly. Sandy soils dry quickly because of fast downward filtration. Adding bark or compost, will improve either type of soil. 

Rain water

Collecting rainwater from our roof and into a water tank/rain barrel is a savvy way to conserve water and allows us to rely less on the Council’s water supply for our garden.

Greywater

Greywater is water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, washing machines and laundry tubs.  Irrigating your landscape with greywater will save drinking water resources.

Re-using greywater will also ease the strain on your septic tank (if you have one), especially during the summer months. The simplest way to re-use greywater is catching it in a large bendy bucket (the type with two handles) from your shower, washing machine and laundry sink and carrying it outside to use.  

Be sure to use ecofriendly soaps/detergents to avoid contamination, or reuse the water on non-edible parts of your garden. Greywater is produced every day, all year around and is a reliable source of irrigation.

Lawns can be an attractive and a useful part of a landscape, but they’re not considered "sustainable landscaping" due to the large inputs of water, labour and (often) chemicals used to keep them healthy. Choose grasses that survive best in summer conditions, check out the benefits of warm season grasses.

 To give your lawn more resilience to the summer season, let your lawn grow longer over the summer months and don’t cut more than a third off the grass height.  A longer lawn can shade the soil surface and reduces evaporation. When possible leave the catcher off your mower, grass clippings will act as mulch for your lawn. 

Service your lawnmower annually to keep the blades sharp —a clean cut stops grass blades from losing water.