15 Scott Road, Hout Bay
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A plan to reduce the summer water bills

Turn off your irrigation systems now. The weak sun, cold temperatures and high humidity ensure that there is plenty of moisture available for the plants even when it does not rain for a week.

Here in the Cape we sit in the unfortunate position having less rain in the traditional planting season of Spring and even less to none in the Summer when most people want to spend time planting in their gardens. This means that boreholes and irrigation systems become a necessary expense.

Boreholes are very expensive to install initially but when compared to extremely excessive water bills they are cheap at the price. Remember that the cost of water increases exponentially the more we use. This increasing cost is exacerbated by the fact that our water bills are based on average consumption and read infrequently. This can result in very rude council bills if water consumption is not managed properly.

As a landscaper I would recommend the following ways to reduce water consumption costs.

  1. Reduce the amount of lawn in your garden, as it requires the more water than all the garden plants combined in the dry months. We all want green lawn in Summer and so need to water regardless. If you reduce the footprint of the lawn then you reduce the volume of water used to keep it green.
  2. Increase the size of the garden beds and plant only water wise shrubs and ground covers. Be conscious not to be mesmerised by little pretties that adorn the entrance at most nurseries. Often these plants have been heavily pampered to look the way they do and will require a lot of water to keep them that way.
  3. Xeriscape your garden. This modern interpretation of gardening allows for the reintroduction of garden paths, gravel areas, and lawn alternative swathes of low planting.
  4. Get most of your gardening done between the months of April and October when there is abundant moisture and cooler temperatures. This is most important, as any planting in the late spring and summer will require constant watering. Plants planted during the Autumn and Winter will survive on managed watering.
  5. Manage your watering during the summer;
    a. Set the irrigation to come on between the hours of 8pm and 2pm during the evening. This allows the moisture to get absorbed properly. Irrigating in the early morning or during the day is wasted as the intense heat of the early morning sun will burn this moisture off quickly resulting in a dry garden.
    b. Programme the irrigation to water the planted beds only two or three times a week as the plants do not need water every day.
    c. Hand water in the evening just before sundown if your garden is smaller and more manageable. It may take time but it sure is therapeutic. In watering by hand we can focus on individual plants thus preserving water.
    d. Water different areas of the garden on alternative days to reduce the volume of water consumed – this will reduce the water bill for sure.
  6. Add a 5cm layer of rough compost or mulch to the garden two or three times during the summer. The more mulch you have the less you have to water the planted beds.

Veltheimia bracteata – indigenous blubs flowering now

To reduce excessive council water bills employ a landscaper to design a water wise or Xeriscape garden layout, this will reduce the volume of water used and save you money.