Healthy soil is the key to your garden hanging on to any water that comes its way. Compost can hold a quarter of its weight in water – so a cubic metre of compost holds as much water as a blue rain barrel. So keeping your soil fertility up is your number one job this summer.
Healthy soil is full of organic matter. The difference between cracked, dry soil and rich soil full of worms is the amount of organic matter it contains and the number of living soil organisms present. These organisms, including worms, do many important jobs for you. They keep your plants fed and watered, aerate your soil, and fight soil-borne disease. If you put your energy into feeding these hard workers your plants will be well looked after, needing minimal intervention from you.
Living soil also encourages your plants to grow big strong healthy roots. Deep rooting plants have access to a wide range of minerals and to their own water supply, only needing the occasional deep soak to get through the dry summer.
Once you have got into the rhythm of keeping your soil healthy, you need to create a plan to collect your own water to use for gardening.
Recycling your greywater is a very smart solution. If you are growing fruit or have a lot of new plantings you will need regular irrigation over the summer.
When you recycle your own water you are reaching the lofty heights of sustainable living! Every time you have a shower, you’re also watering the fruit trees. If a greywater system is beyond your budget there are cheaper ways to recycle bath and washing machine water. We have great local providers in Kāpiti for both these options. If you are fit, bucketing your water by hand is a good option. Believe me, after a summer of it you will be inspired to save up for a greywater system!
Water is one of our most important resources, so we must consider every drop as precious. What can you do at home to do your bit towards conserving our community supply? View our green gardening FAQs for some great tips to keep your garden thriving while conserving water at the same time.
There is no bigger waste of our community water than watering a lawn. If your lawn goes brown, do not panic – it will bounce back! The best lawns are prepared in autumn. Many good Kāpiti Coasters have caught onto the idea of brown lawns. Brown lawns are more green than green ones! If you must have a green lawn, grow kikuyu or couch grass.
For those out there who love your lawns this is for you! Mow as high as you can take it. Pluck a piece of grass and notice how it grows - see the ‘trunk’? Grass has a trunk, and just like a tree this trunk feeds the green tops. What chance of being thick and green does it have when every other weekend you cut into its means of getting food?
Lawns are just another garden. They have the same requirements for health as all your other plants. They need protection from the elements to retain moisture. The best way you can do this is to mow high and leave as dense a ground cover as possible. You are never going to have a good thick sward of grass by creating bare patches. Weeds grow in those spots so mow high!
If you are interested in using rainwater on your garden, see the brochure 'Are Rain Tanks Enough for your Garden?' The brochure looks at how much rain water you can realistically expect to collect, as well as water-efficient ways of gardening.
Rain gardens soak up rainwater from the downpipe, driveway and lawn. As it rains, it fills up and temporaily ponds before the water soaks away. Rain gardens not only water themselves, they also excel at reducing pollutants (fertilizers, zinc off the roof, bird droppings, etc) and help reduce chances of localised flooding.
Kāpiti’s geology means there is water in deep aquifers and shallow groundwater, with the latter an ideal source for gardens.
If everyone uses the water sensibly by irrigating in the cool of the day in calm conditions, up to 70% of the water will return to the shallow groundwater table.
Bores offer a more reliable water supply than rain water but often have a lower water quality. Bore water often contains iron and managanese and may stain your concrete and walls of your home.
If you would like to use borewater, you will need to get a permit from Greater Wellington Regional Council. Most bore installers will assist you with getting the permit.
Greywater is the wastewater produced by the household including water from the sink, bath, shower, washing machine and dishwasher, but not the toilet. The Council recommends using greywater in times of extended dry weather when there are no other options available.
You can use greywater to water your garden, but as there are associated health risks you need to read the article 'Greywater and your Garden' first and commit to running a well-maintained greywater system.
Before planting out your garden, take a walk around the neighbourhood and see which plants seem to grow easily in the local environment.
What improvements can you make for next summer? Have you chosen plants that best suit your environment? Do you need more organic matter in your soil (the answer is always yes!) Do you have enough shelter from the wind? Do you need more summer shade? Do you have gaps that need filling to eliminate bare soil? Are you set up for easy compost-making and in the habit of collecting mulch? Have you installed your rainwater and/or greywater recycling?
Invest in a few hours with a landscaper to help sort out any problem areas. Do any new planting over the cooler months so plants can get established using the winter/spring rains.
To really get summer sorted in your patch, you must get ready this autumn.