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Five ways to improve watering

Published on October 29th 2020
A person in a zoo exhibit
With the change in season comes the perpetual problem of how you should change the watering schedule. It is during this time that many of us make the mistake of over- or under watering our plants.
Here are five easy guidelines to follow to help you navigate the change in seasons.

1 | Weather forecasts are your friend!

The global shifts in climate will affect your local climate, which means it might be warmer for longer or you might have sudden frost.
I often try to give a warning post to fellow gardeners. Check out the post below and follow me for more updates and weather warnings!


-Weather Alert-❄🌨 Widespread snow reported for the weekend along with the rain. If your wondering why we keep posting about snow, here is the answer: South Africa's snow reports were so few that the South African Weather Service did not have a guideline for predictions prior to 2013. In fact records only show regions where it snowed, not depth like in the us or uk. The streets may ice, but salting is something that does not happen and houses are rarely built with indoor heating. Something to ponder🤔

Lucky for those of us in sunny South Africa, Snow Report SA regularly publishes both snow and heatwave warnings for all regions. Following news will also help you stay ahead of the worst weather.
garden tools

2 | Reduce evaporation

One of the first things to address is soil. Soil that works wonders in winter may be problematic in summer and visa versa. You do not want your plant sitting in wet soil for three days or longer. For a detailed guide on soil see the article below.
If you have tropical or subtropical species that are used to an ‘eternal summer’ you will have to help them in times of stress. Keeping the temperature constant or moving them to a smaller room / insulated grow tent will give you better results.
Here's a great example from gardener @simon_oakley:
Plants that stop growing (due to less sunlight or lower temperatures) do not necessarily need wet roots. Be careful of using LECA in winter without providing additional light and heat.
pebble tray
Pebble trays increase humidity while stopping your plant sitting in its runoff.

3 | Stay on top of new technology

I always try to find a way of spending less money long term. As Sir David Attenborough so succinctly put it:” ..don't waste. Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food.” And in our case don't waste water.
You do not need to pay an arm and a leg to save on water.
Most of the technological developments can be recreated at home for a reduced cost, although with a less fancy finish. Here are some commercial tools available to help you:
  • Water spikes
  • Reservoirs
  • Drip trays
  • Drip irrigation
  • JOJO tanks
  • Repurposed Greywater tanks
  • Ceramic barrier reservoirs
Candide gardeners have found more and more creative ways to water. See posts below!

4 | Drip Down Economics

No, I am not talking about capitalism but the process of making every drop of water work for you. Mounting pots underneath one another or placing them on shelves with slits will allow drainage to plants below. This will also help you monitor which plants do not have adequate drainage.
If you have tropical plants in drip trays, elevate the plant by placing river pebbles in the tray. It will hold less water, but your plant will not sit in a “wet diaper” and the runoff will increase the local humidity. You can mitigate any potential mosquito problems by pairing your drip tray according to size.
water propagation
Make sure to make the most of your water. Water from propagations can go onto the lawn or compost heap.

5 | Be an active gardener!

Being proactive will help you stay ahead of any problems. If you find yourself overwatering then move your plants to terracotta or put a reminder on your phone to slowly reduce (in autumn) or increase (in summer) watering. Increasing humidity (either with a humidifier or a pebble tray) during heatwaves will help tropical or subtropical species cope with the stress.
Tip | Having a portable shade cover (homemade or bought) will allow you a quick and easy way to help your plants cope for the day.
Last but not least, know if your plant has a dormancy period and reduce watering to monthly or stop altogether.

Have any water-saving hacks? Share them with the community using the hashtag #SaveWater

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