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Day Zero: why now is the time to garden

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If there’s one thing that South Africans are very good at, it’s taking a k*k situation and making it better. We’ve toyi-toyi-ed our way through apartheid, braai-ed our way through Eskom power outages and we’ve laughed our way through political blunders. South Africans are survivalists and when adversity hails, we throng together and find unique solutions to survive.

So what are we doing about this drought and the looming threat of “Day Zero”? Well, we’re simply going to make a plan. Yip, no doom and gloom for this nation. It might mean less ice in our brandy and coke, but hey, Newlands spring still has water so we’ll at least have beer. But seriously, have you noticed the emerging wave of creativity in the water scarce parts of our country? Not only are we making Jo-Jo tanks more sought after than Bitcoin, but we’re changing our life-styles and our homes to save every drop of water in the most creative ways. Facebook groups are sharing ingenious design solutions and people are beginning to understand the cause and effect of our household systems. Besides letting yellow mellow and kicking the shower bucket in the middle of the night, we’ve learnt to drain water into our pools and re-divert our washing machine water to save save save.

So surely the last thing we should be doing is gardening? Well actually no. We just need to do what we do best and re-invent our gardens just as we’ve done in our houses. South Africa has and always will be a water-scarce country and our vegetation is a prime example of that. Our Fynbos needs to burn, our range of local succulents thrive on drought and did you know that this is has been one of the best Shiraz grape years? Our land is going “stop complaining about the drought, we’ve been doing this for centuries”. Now is the time to move away from our colonial English gardening and embrace our local indigenous landscape. To be perfectly honest, we actually have no other choice.

So before you start hacking out your roses, you may need to stop and creatively consider the situation. Just as a household is a system, a garden needs to be understood in a holistic manner. Take a look at the natural landscape next time you’re stuck behind the GP number plates and consider how our vegetation naturally responds to sun, shade wind and water run-off. Now take this apply it to your own landscape of your garden. Simple hey?

Okay, so maybe it’s not that simple and we wouldn’t be writing this if we weren’t hoping that you would ask us to assist, but the principle is clear. Yes, I know we all love lawn and our dogs are not impressed by the increasing dust-bowls, but if we combine our creative water saving solutions with our indigenous palette we can still garden our way through this drought. We need plants to filter our air, feed our bees, attract our birds and enliven our homes. Gardening is not simply a pastime for elderly women with large hats, but is a necessity for our environment. So by giving up on our garden in a drought we are not only decreasing the value of our property, but we’re harming the value of our natural environment. In fact, now is not the time to do less, it’s the time to do more creatively and cleverly.

So let’s not give up and smother our gardens in artificial lawn, but rather take a step back and re-imagine our gardens as part of a bigger picture. Let’s do the South African thing and take this k*k situation and make it better.

Written by Rose Buchanan.