South Africans love their lawns, despite the fact that they take a lot of watering and need more fertiliser and maintenance than beds. While grass is the cheapest component of a garden to install, it can end up being very costly over time. In a relatively arid country like South Africa, with rising water costs and water insecurity, it might be time to reconsider our obsession with huge lawns.

This doesn’t mean cutting out lawns altogether – it just means making them more water-wise. Water-wise gardens focus on plants that thrive with little water. They cut down on water wastage, while preserving the beauty of a garden and the natural plant diversity of an area.

Here are our top tips for creating a water-wise lawn:

1. Limit the size of your lawn to what is needed

Consider how much grass space you actually need. Children love to play on lawns, but how big does this lawn have to be? Get creative about recreational and entertainment areas without resorting to the default choice of grass.

We often see ‘dead space’ covered in grass down the sides of houses or round the corners. These areas are never used but require constant mowing and watering. Try using gravel over those areas or turning them into waterwise shrubberies.

water-wise garden

2. Consider your species of grass

Most lawns are kikuyu – its fast growth means it can handle traffic the best, but its high growth comes with high demand for water. Buffalo grass uses less than half the water and the interval between mowing is twice as long. Berea and cynodon are also more water wise than kikuyu.

3. Water storage

Water storage is useful to many. However, it is limited in its effects when you need it the most. When drought conditions take hold, your storage capacity can easily be depleted, and the lack of rain means it won’t be replenished. This is most apparent in the Cape, where the long dry summers mean tanks are exhausted by mid-summer even in a good year.

4. Grey water

Unlike waiting for rain, you can be fairly sure that your showers and washing machines are going to be a constant, so reusing this water on your lawn is a great recycling initiative. Various companies offer different ways of achieving this too.

5. Make sure your mower isn’t set too low

Harsh mowing practices expose the roots and soil to the heat, leading to greater loss of moisture. This is especially vital with buffalo lawns.

6. Irrigation systems are not a luxury in gardens

Who hasn’t turned on the tap, got distracted and ended up turning one corner of the garden into a temporary swamp? Professional systems ensure 100% coverage, and computers mean you can fine-tune the schedule so the correct amount of water is delivered.

7. Feeding

Correct feeding means your lawn is healthy, and healthy lawns can withstand dryer conditions. Dumping food is not a short-term solution. Feeding correctly every season means your lawn will withstand stresses in the next.

8. Water loss is not just due to heat

The more wind your garden is exposed to, the more you will need to water it. Creating windbreaks using walls and trees can help address this issue.

If you need help creating a water-wise lawn or garden, do give us a call.


This article is adapted from an interview with us originally published on Property24.