• Melanie Walker

Get Mulching

I'm pretty sure that viewers got really tired of myself and guests on The Home Channel's Gardening 101 reiterating week after week - 'MULCH MULCH MULCH'.

No other time than right now in South Africa is that more applicable.

We've been banging on for years on radio and TV and newspapers and magazines

about how we live in a water-stressed country. Yet so many people in our

cities still live in some 'alternate universe' where this situation doesn't

appear to apply to them. It's time to realise that Water is a scarce

resource and must be used efficiently and with care. Imagine the

psychological well being you'll experience to know that you have a beautiful

garden that does not waste water. A waterwise garden is a wise investment,

which will result in reduced maintenance, long term sustainability and

reduced budget - the ideal answer to all those who have a garden and are

feeling the pinch, both monetarily and in water-stressed areas (which we

will all be living in soon if something isn't done - and quick).

The current drought being experienced in most corners of our country have

many gardeners - and landscapers and garden designers - crying out for a

change to the way they garden. Nowhere was this felt more (and more

relevant) than down at the recent Cape Town Flower show. Almost every show

garden on display had a waterwise element to it. And even watering them

under the current restrictions in the Mother City was very closely


One thing that was very much in evidence was the amount of mulch being used

in all the gardens. Gravel, bark chip, permeable paving, groundcovers,

Astroturf - you name it. There wasn't a square inch of bare earth to be seen

at the Castle of Good Hope.

Despite the fact that we live in a country which has a higher land area of

semi-arid regions, which generally experience regular drought period, our

water consumption on the whole, compared to an average world wide rainfall

of 850mm per annum, has been, since records began, been around just 450mm.

Which means that waterwise gardening is now an essential facet of

responsible water management that we all - regardless of whether we have a

garden or not - should be actively considering. The main focus behind

creating a water wise garden is to create a garden which is both attractive

and thrives with minimal water. Outdoor water use makes up more than 40% of

residential water consumption, and research indicates great savings can be

made if water wise gardening techniques are applied.

Improving your soil is the first step to a waterwise practice. If you've got

a bare patch of soil, get some mulch on it. The soil should never be left

uncovered. The ground is never left uncovered in nature, and it shouldn't be

left uncovered in a garden. Just like the soil found in untouched wild

areas, soil needs to have a layer of mulch on top, protecting it from being

blown or washed away. A good mulch is simply a layer of coarse organic

matter: straw, wood chips, cover crops, grass clippings, compost, etc. Even

allowing your soil to return to weeds is better than keeping it bare and


Designing your garden to be water wise is not as hard as you might think.

There are a few simple principles to keep in mind and after that it comes

down to using drought-tolerant plants.

- Melanie Walker

December 2016

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