Red Daffodil were recently featured on Property 24. Read the full article here:
No one should be too surprised by the headlines warning us about drought conditions because South Africa is a fairly arid country. Grass is the cheapest to install but down the line you’ll realise that it needs more water, more fertiliser and more labour than your beds. As such, it’s easy to see why having a lawn is a costly thing. This is according to Chris Maddams from Red Daffodil who says South Africa’s summer rainfall areas are facing a dry festive season.
He says even in times of plentiful rainfall, water wise gardening is essential when you consider that the cost of municipal water can only increase.
But, he says water wise gardening faces many challenges, the most serious of which is how much South Africans love their lawns.
“When talking to clients, I am often fascinated by how fixated they are with this one aspect of the possible design. Lawns must be made as large as possible, irrespective of any other design concepts that may be mentioned.”
Most often, Chris says this is a request from parents who are eager to offer their kids the kind of space to run in that they may have enjoyed before high walls and closed in spaces came to dominate suburbia. He says he can’t help feeling it’s a status symbol too – a little peacocking to show the neighbours. 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.The problem is that lawns are the least water wise aspect of a garden. In fact, Chris says he spends a lot of time each work week discussing why lawns are the most cost-intensive part of a garden. For sure, grass is the cheapest to install but down the line you’ll realise that it needs more water, more fertiliser and more labour than your beds. As such, it’s easy to see why having a lawn is one of the costly aspects of your garden.
Chris says a few years ago, when there were strict water restrictions in the Cape, clients came to him asking for limited lawns and more sustainable solutions. He says dry lawns grow brown quickly, while water wise shrubs keep your space looking greener for far longer before they begin to wilt. He says after a year or two without restrictions, the memories seem to have faded and it’s back to huge parks of moisture-hungry grass.
And lest you think your borehole protects you from this possibility, the number of such installations has increased dramatically, meaning that the combined draw may drop the water table drastically. In fact, Chris says he has heard of many people whose boreholes ran dry in the Cape last time when they had restrictions, and a costly drilling to greater depth was required. In time, he says he expects Government to step in and provide restrictions on this as well.
Chris shares tips on how to create a water wise lawn…
1. Limit the size of your lawn to what is needed
Harsh mowing practices expose the roots and soil to the heat, leading to greater loss of moisture.Chris says often he sees ‘dead space’ covered in grass down the sides of houses or round the corners. He says these areas are never used, but require constant mowing and watering. He says homeowners should use gravel areas or turn these spaces into water wise shrubberies.
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. Chris says, however, his issue is 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. Professional systems ensure 100% coverage, and computers mean you can fine-tune the schedule so the correct amount of water is delivered.This is most apparent in the Cape, where the long dry summers mean tanks are exhausted by mid-summer even in a good year. During summer rainfalls, Chris recommends that areas likeGauteng and Natal collect water.
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.
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. Chris recommends windbreaks from walls and trees as they help address this issue.