How to grow ‘edibles’ during water restrictions

OWN CORRESPONDENT

With much of the country suffering the effects of drought, the City of Cape Town implemented Level 2 water restrictions at the beginning of the year.

As a result, residents of Cape Town who use potable water in their gardens are only allowed to water them three times a week – for one hour before 9am or after 4pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – with those who use borehole water encouraged to do the same.

But the implementation of water restrictions doesn’t have to mean a dry and dreary garden.

This, the third article in a five-week series, looks at how to maintain a vegetable garden when there are water restrictions.

A water wise vegetable and herb garden has the benefits of not only saving you water but is also a source of healthy nutrition. Nick Stodel, managing director of Stodels Nurseries, gives advice and tips to keep your home growns in ship shape in this hot, dry season.

* Water wise beds

Keep traditional square or rectangular beds that channel the water to the plants – making the beds slightly lower will help to create a pocket for the water.

But be careful when walking on the soil between the plants, you don’t want it to become compact and decrease absorption and increase evaporation.

* Water saving granules

These can save up to 50% on water usage as well as give your plants a slow release feeding. Combine products such as Aquasoil with the soil used for planting.

It helps store water in the soil and makes it available when the plant is dry.

* Shade nets

You can either cover your whole veggie or herb garden with shade netting or those areas where the sun is a lot harsher.

This reduces evaporation and allows faster absorption of water.

Remember, thorough, less frequent watering encourages the roots to grow deeper and utilise the moisture deeper in the ground. In this way the plants can thrive during times of drought or little watering.

* Mulching

Remember to work organic compost into the soil to hold water for longer periods of time and sprinkle bark chips or other mulch on top to prevent evaporation.

Mulching is one of the quickest, easiest and most cost effective ways to conserve water in your garden.

Mulch is any substance that can be placed on the soil surface, around plants, to keep the moisture in the soil.

There are two types of mulch – organic and inorganic.

Organic mulch, mostly from plant sources are the best sorts of mulch.

They break down along with the help of earthworms to enrich and condition the soil. You can use compost, grass cuttings, pine needles, milled bark, straw, peat, crushed mealie cobs, autumn leaves and shredded paper.

Inorganic mulch is made up of substances, or materials that do not break down but serve the purpose of keeping moisture in the soil, for example gravel, pebbles and stones.

Mulching helps to retain moisture in the soil and prevents erosion, helps prevent water guzzling weeds from growing and improves the soil texture.

Organic mulches attract earthworms and other micro-organisms which aerate the soil, lowers the soil temperature so there is less surface evaporation. Before applying mulch, loosen the soil to improved ventilation. Sandy soil needs a thicker layer of mulch than clay soil.

Leave a space between the stem of a plant and don’t put mulch over seeds that haven’t germinated as they need light and oxygen to germinate.

“Enjoy the ‘fruits’ of your labours and keep those veggie and herb gardens thriving during this hot and dry season,” says Mr Stodel.

“There’s nothing nicer than eating home grown food straight from the garden.”

* Information provided by Stodels. For more water wise and water saving tips you can visit http://www.waterrestrictions.co.za or visit www.stodels.com

* Give-away

What are you doing to save water or keep your garden healthy during the water restrictions?

We’d like to hear from you -and have two R500 Stodels vouchers that we’ll be giving to the reader who submits the best tips.

If you like, you can also send us a picture of your garden.

To enter, send your full name and surname, your address and your water saving tips – with Water Wise in the subject line – to roshiela.moonsamy@inl.co.za Entries close at 10pm on Sunday February 28.