Water-wise plants are plants that once established in the garden can survive with little extra water other than what falls from the sky. Here are budget-beating ideas to transform your garden without using extra water or buying lots of pricy plants.
Water-wise planting solutions
1. Assess what you have. Many existing plants that are well established are water-wise as they have well-developed root systems and have grown to their mature size. Taking cuttings or divisions from plants that are doing well is an economical way grow the garden.
2. Transplant. If a plant is obviously struggling without additional water then replacing it with a tough, water-wise alternative can be a smart idea. In some cases, transplanting a thirsty plant into a more sheltered or shaded situation allows it grow better and eventually reduces its need for water.
3. Establish first. The key to growing water-wise plants is to have them well established before cutting back on water. Plant and tend them like any garden plant with regular watering. Once the water-wise plant has a strong root system and signs of new growth cut back on water, but check that the plant isn’t showing any signs of stress.
4. Know your plants. Water-wise choices include succulents, ornamental grasses, salvias, roses, many native Australian shrubs, Mediterranean and seaside plants.
5. Turn one into many. Buying one or two plants at a garden centre can provide propagation material to grow many more. Succulents grow readily from leaf or stem cuttings and are among the most water-wise plants you can grow. Other water-wise plants that grow easily from cuttings include lavender (pictured below), rosemary, ivy geranium, salvia and box. Water-wise plants that grow easily by division (that is cutting or breaking a clump into two or more parts and replanting) include most clump-forming perennials such as mondo grass, ornamental grasses, Shasta daisies and achillea.
6. Growing from seed. Seed is cheap or free if you gather it from the garden. Water-wise annuals to grow from seed for seasonal colour include cosmos, portulaca and vinca (Catharanthus roseus). They’ll give flowers for months. Although annuals die after flowering they’ll regrow from seed so allow some flowers to form seeds to replant.
7. Plant bulbs. Many bulbs need little extra water and regrow each year. Mass-planting bulbs is a thrifty way to create a flower-filled garden. Cheap, water-wise spring-flowering bulbs include jonquils, narcissus, freesias and ixias. Buying in bulk is a budget way to buy.
8. Shop at the market. Local markets, fetes and flower shows along with online sites are a great place to source plants that survive well in the local conditions. Carefully check all purchases for signs of unwanted weeds before planting them into the garden.
9. Recycle containers. Up-cycling containers including utensils, old boots, tins and cans along with secondhand pots can give old plants a fresh look. To make sure the containers are suitable ensure they have drainage holes in their bases and are large and sturdy enough to hold enough potting mix for a root system to grow in (at least the equivalent of a 15cm pot).
10. Change the décor, not the plants. The same way a chair or sofa can be given a new look on a budget with a throw or a colourful cushion, so can a garden. Rather than change the plants make the surroundings look different. Paint the boundary wall, add fresh mulch such as gravel or recycled glass, or paint the pots without changing the plants growing in them.
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