ONCE summer is here the effects of the heat on the garden becomes apparent. It is usually too late to save poorly designed gardens without the need to apply a lot of water.
Sometimes it is better to just let the garden survive the best it can and learn from the experience. What has enabled plants to survive the summer is what can be replicated to have a more successful garden the next year.
One of the biggest problems is the incompatibility of the plants we like with the ability of the garden environment to grow the plants we want. The best solution is to learn to like the plants that grow naturally in the Mediterranean climate. They are many and varied.
If you do some research to find the Mediterranean plants that suit your garden environment and the effect you want from your garden then you have the easiest of work to make a garden. If you have natural soil in your garden and the plants are native, preparation and maintenance of a garden is minimal. The need to water the garden will be greatly reduced.
In a truly native garden the watering would principally be to establish new plants that have been introduced to the garden and assist some plants during extended dry and hot periods. Water use in the garden is minimal.
Normally we garden though to enjoy caring for plants and benefiting from the flowers, fruits and other produce that are not native to the region. We also like to attract and support wildlife to in our garden environment. This increases the need to have more water available in the garden.
To minimise this need, soil improvement is the most important issue to retain moisture in the soil. Soil protection is also very helpful so a good mulch and appropriate shading of zones to reduce direct sun exposure of the soil and plants will also make a big difference to water retention.
Application of water is also very important to regulate the amount of water needed to keep the root zone of plants moist. Well designed drip irrigation is the most effective way to apply water just where it is needed with minimal time and effort.
There is always a place for a hose to water just what you want and to ensure plants get what they need. The best times to apply water in summer is in the early morning and late evening to reduce evaporation.
Capturing water for the garden can also make a big difference to supply and availability. If you can channel water into storage containers for the garden it will reduce the need for water from other sources. A large container can be enough to supply water for birds for weeks.
Even hilling up ridges around the garden plants and trees can allow the capture of summer storm rain water so it does not just run off into drainage systems. In winter the ridges can be raked out if they are not necessary.
The value of water as a resource needs to be measured against the value of the garden to provide the environmental benefits and produce to support our quality of lifestyle. Gardens are a haven for wildlife so providing water and moisture in a garden can make it an oasis for many birds and beneficial insects. Reducing the need for water however allows the benefits of water to be shared more widely. Responsible conservation of water allows us to have gardens for the benefit of everyone.