Creating A Waterwise Garden

It’s a phrase we have become used to hearing over the past 20 years. Still to this day, it is a powerful message across our vast state when we think of gardening.

With climate change such a focal point in our lives now, being Waterwise has never been more important. With the Water Corporation rolling out a suite of Waterwise programs and initiatives, gardening practices are faced with important changes for the future.

Having come to Australia from the UK in 1994 and been involved in our industry for nearly 30 years, I have watched with interest how horticulture has changed. For much of that time, we have enjoyed growing all our favourite plants and have borrowed landscape design from around the world, just to connect with nature.

More recently, we have begun experiencing much harsher summers and in the last 12 months, the impact climate change has had is evident with one of the hottest summers for our plants to try to survive in. Of course, some would argue that provided we prepare the soil, fertilise and water our plants freely, then we have every chance our home garden will survive.

Sadly, this is far from the truth. For plants to survive they need to adapt, and it is this ability that makes them better to grow in our gardens, rather than under a regime of steroids of constant feeding and watering. To see this in action, you need to visit some of the great national parks in our state such as the Fitzgerald River National Park. Visits to the outskirts of Bremmer Bay, Point Ann and further on along the Hakea Trail, tells us about how plants have adapted over the seasons. Poor soils, winds and water derived only from the sky has meant vegetation lives a life constantly on the edge, but yet it gives us a truly magnificent natural garden for us to explore.

Gardening is not easy, but it really is straight forward. What makes it tricky is that our gardens across the state can differ quite extensively.

In our central business districts, gardens are often small courtyards and balconies, battling their own challenges of poor light levels and surviving container planting. As we move out to the city’s suburban areas, gardens become more complex. We have verges, a front and back garden, small corridors between our neighbours (often only a few metres these days) and of course, the problem of parking two cars and having enough space for our beloved four-legged friends. These gardens must be practical and, with demands on reducing our water consumption by the state government (with the recent announcement of reducing use of bore water from three to two days), I am sure you are all wondering how your garden is going to stack up this summer.

As we move further out and head up to the hills, the challenges change once again, with concrete soils of gravel and steep slopes causing erosion of soils from water run-off. Add into the mix the threat of bush fires, and we can agree these gardens need to have a far more complex approach.

So what are some of the best tips for creating a Waterwise Garden?

  1. Where possible, work on the principle of sustainable practices. Don’t try to create a garden that is against its existing environmental conditions, such as soil type.
  2. Soil improvers do help to retain better moisture levels and also help to stimulate microbial activity, such as compost.
  3. Run an efficient/modern irrigation system that not only waters your plants when they really need it, but one that can help to reduce your water and electricity bills.
  4. Group plants with similar watering needs into the same garden beds or with specific gardening uses. This is known as hydrozoning and means that irrigation of these areas can be set appropriately to those (grouped) planting needs.
  5. Avoid bare exposed soil. You can’t under-estimate the value of mulch — it not only helps to conserve moisture in the soil profile but also assists in helping to reduce the fluctuation of temperature within the top 10cms of soil.
  6. Plant Selection — a waterwise garden doesn’t need to be just a garden with Australian natives. Many of our favourite plants such as roses can survive on limited watering. For the best advice on what to plant where, visit one of our Waterwise garden centres or nurseries who will not only be able to help you select the right plants for your plot, but advise you on how to provide the best care for them.

For further information and advice, please visit the NGIWA marquee at Site 96 (near the main entrance). We feature the Waterwise Hub showcasing plants from the Waterwise Directory, giving visitors the opportunity to meet Water Corporation represenatives and pick up valuable information on how to create a Waterwise Garden.