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Tips for creating a water-wise garden

How to create a water-wise garden

Water is becoming a scarce resource across southern Africa. Every major city and most small towns in South Africa have faced the threat of water cuts and the complete shutdown of the water system in the past 10 years. One solution to reduce water consumption is to create water-wise gardens that do not require much irrigation. In fact, annual rain alone can keep your property looking fresh and healthy.

Drought-resistant plants are an obvious solution, but this does not limit you to succulents and cacti. There are many indigenous species that are hardy and require little water to survive throughout the year. Most indigenous plants, including shrubs and trees, are quite water-wise and they attract local pollinating insects and birds. These provide shade which also helps to minimise the evaporation rate of water from your garden soil.

IWESCO offers tailored gardening services to private property owners or company premises. These services can be requested as a one-off or as routine offerings, such as once a week. We do not do landscaping or the redesign of a garden, but we offer regular maintenance services that can be tailored to your specific needs, depending on your budget.

How to create a water-wise garden

1. Reduce the size of the lawn - The first and most important step to reducing the water requirements for your garden is to minimise the size of your lawn or remove it entirely. Grass requires up to 25mm of water per week during summer months in order to keep it looking green and lush. A water-wise flower bed may only require half of this amount or a gravel and stone garden can be created that requires no water at all.

2. Make use of wild grass or woodland areas - If your property has indigenous grass or woodland areas, incorporate these into the garden. Do not remove wild grass or indigenous trees. These areas can act as your own nature reserve that attracts local wildlife and survives on the annual rainfall. Add wood-chip or gravel pathways through these wild areas to create accessible routes from where you can walk and observe nature in its raw form.

3. Plant indigenous species - Local plants are quite hardy and naturally require less water. These include indigenous succulents, shrubs and trees, such as aloes, spekboom, agapanthus, carpobrotus, bulbine, cancer bush and more. Place small succulents at the front of flower beds and taller trees at the back to create depth and height.

4. Zone plants with similar water requirements - By planting species with similar water requirements together, you can maximise the efficiency of your irrigation. This will save you time and effort when it comes to watering your garden in the dry months. It also allows you to create different flower beds with their own characters, such as a cacti bed or a wild grass and ground-cover bed.

5. Use mulch and avoid raking - Fallen leaves create natural mulch that traps water vapour in the soil. Do not rake up leaves and avoid turning over your soil. If your garden does not have many leaves, use a mulch to protect your soil and improve its water retention. The absence of leaves or mulch results in dry, dusty soil that compacts into a hard surface. In addition, turning the soil with a fork exposes the healthy microorganisms to direct sunlight which kills them. This can degrade the quality of the soil.

If your garden already has hard, compacted soil, consider turning it with a fork and enriching it with compost or manure before planting indigenous species and covering the surface with mulch. This is the easiest way to naturally fertilise your soil and ensure the long-term health of your plants. Allow earthworms, bugs and microorganisms to thrive in your soil by adding layers of compost occasionally.

These five easy steps will allow you to create a beautiful, natural garden that is water-wise. People often think that their gardens will look dry and desert-like if they get rid of their lawns and plant succulents, but this is not true. There are many examples of indigenous gardens that look better with local species and gravel pathways. The water-saving implications are highly beneficial for the environment and your wallet.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.

We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.

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