It's #WatershedWednesday! And we are continuing the trend that WWF South Africa set for businesses in the Cape - to take water savings to extreme levels. With the announcement of the soon-to-be-implemented Level 6 Water Restrictions, the importance of this watershed moment is more relevant than ever.

Today we want to talk about gardens - for many Capetonians, the garden was the first sacrifice made in order to save water. Aside from captured rainwater and salvaged greywater, you should not be watering your plants. It is illegal to water your garden using tap water during the crisis and using a borehole or wellpoint is a waste of a very limited resource. 

So why not rethink your garden? We've called in Collections Aquarist Deen Hill, who also happens to be a garden guru, to share his top tips for Capetonians to easily establish waterwise, drought-resistant gardens.

His blood might run blue like the ocean, but Two Oceans Aquarium Collections Aquarist Deen Hill has green fingers! Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Deen's top tips:

1) Plant locally indigenous

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that simply because a plant is "indigenous" it is able to survive at your home. Climate, soil, rainfall, etc. are all variable across South Africa - for a garden to survive the Cape's climate with minimal maintenance requires plants that have adapted to live in our specific climate.

These vygies are not only beautiful, they are perfectly adapted to survive in the Cape's harsh climate. Waterwise and friendly to local insects! Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

For example, perhaps you live in an environment that is near the coast and has sandy soil. For a plant to flourish in your garden, it would need to be adapted to the salty winds, low rainfall and quick draining, nutrient-poor soils. Plenty of local species grow in these conditions, so why waste your time, money and water on trying to grow a plant that is not adapted for these?

Choosing plants that suit a local environment, rather than blindly picking anything labelled "indigenous", does not mean to have to miss out on diversity. Quite the opposite in fact! Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Deen's garden is near the mountains in Noordhoek, so he has chosen to plant a variety of species that thrive in those conditions. As he likes to point out, if you plant a garden that is adapted for the Cape's climate, it doesn't need to be watered once it is established.

Deen chose to plant bietou in his garden because he saw it thriving on the coast near his home and knew it would be an ideal fit. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Great nurseries that stock locally indigenous plants, and have knowledgeable staff who can assist you in finding the correct species for your needs are Good Hope Garden Nursery, Cape Flats Life and Kirstenbosch Garden Centre.

2) Don't plant a garden - plant an ecosystem

An added bonus of "going indigenous" is that your garden can support and attract local wildlife - and these animals in turn keep unwanted pests out of your home. When planning your garden, consider if you have a good variety of plants that will provide food (like flowers) for animals throughout the year and whether your choice of mulch (more on that later) and garden decor would provide a habitat.

A healthy, diverse garden should teem with life. Nature can take care of itself if you allow it. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

To get started, you should first be planting hardy, fast growing pioneer species which can provide shade and wind-shelter for more fragile plants later. Here are Deen's top starter/pioneer species:

Not only are our local plants hardy, their unusual looks make them great centrepieces for any garden - like this great bushman sage specimen. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

3) Plant just before the winter rains

After being planted, new plants need time to establish their root systems. During this period they need lots of water - even waterwise species. To ensure the success of your locally indigenous garden, plant your new plants just before the winter wet season in March, April or May.

If these plants are given a single winter to establish their root systems, they will have no trouble surviving the dry Cape summers. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Planting in this season allows the natural rainwater to nourish them, even if the rain is irregular. This will allow you so save your greywater for more effective water saving opportunities - like flushing your toilet.

4) Mulch, mulch and more mulch

Mulch is a layer of organic matter that covers and protects soil - and it is something that almost every home gardener neglects. Deen recommends a minimum of 5cm of mulch - this will prevent evaporation, supress weed growth, provide a home for beneficial insects, reduce the risk of fungal infections and provide a slow source of nutrients to the plants in your garden.

Wood chips and broken branches, Deen's choice of mulch is free and will protect these small plants as they become established. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

So how do you mulch your garden? You can do this for free - simply keep all your dried out leaves, sticks, pine needles, prunings, etc. and spread them around and between the bases of your plants. If you do not have the initial garden waste needed to establish this bed of mulch, you can use bark chips available from any nursery.

Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Another great alternative to mulch that Deen recommends is to use a living, locally indigenous groundcover.

Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

5) Aloes and succulents

Succulents come in all shapes, sizes and colours - it makes so much sense to plant these, rather than pansies, roses or carnations which are all adapted for wetter, temperate climates. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Not every garden is a sprawling outdoors area - perhaps you just have a few pots on your stoep, or a flower box under your window. For these small setups, few plants are as hardy or drought resistant as an aloe or succulent.

Bitter aloe (Aloe ferox) and spekboom (Portulacaria afra) are both hardy options for a small porch garden - and easily withstand droughts. Photo courtesy of Deen Hill.

Level 6 Water Restrictions:

The City of Cape Town has issued its Level 6 Water Restrictions, coming into effect on 1 January 2018. Here are the bits that you should know about gardening:

No watering/irrigation with municipal drinking water allowed. This includes watering/irrigation of gardens, vegetables, agricultural crops, sports fields, golf courses, nurseries, parks and other open spaces. Nurseries and customers involved in agricultural activities or with historical gardens may apply for exemption.

The use of borehole/wellpoint water for outdoor purposes, including watering/irrigating and filling/topping up of swimming pools, is strongly discouraged in order to preserve groundwater resources in the current dire drought situation. Borehole/wellpoint water should rather be used for toilet flushing.

All boreholes and wellpoints must be registered with the City and must display the official City of Cape Town signage clearly visible from a public thoroughfare. All properties where alternative, non-drinking water resources are used (including rainwater harvesting, greywater, treated effluent water and spring water) must display signage to this effect clearly visible from a public thoroughfare.

Avoiding Day Zero:

If you've read this far, you might be asking "why the heck is the Aquarium writing about gardening?" The answer is simple really - we care about the 3 000 plant species, 500 animal species and 3.8 million people that call Cape Town home. If we don't work together to conserve our dwindling water supply, all of us are at risk - we all need to do our part, and ours is to help spread the message and create a watershed moment.

We applaud those who are actively working to reduce their water consumption. Together we can keep Day Zero at bay.

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