Green Living – Being Waterwise in the Garden

Designing your home’s irrigation system to be waterwise would not only conserve water but also save you money on your next water bill. Approximately 100 kilolitres a year can be saved by replacing 100 m2 of well maintained turf with paving or synthetic grass, or 50 kilolitres a year by replacing this area with a waterwise garden.

If you want to install an automatic irrigation system, install one with a rain sensor. These devices monitor or respond to soil moisture and prevent the controller from switching the irrigation on. Rain sensors vary in price, but a good one is less than $100.

Add plenty of organic matter such as compost and manure to the soil to improve water retention, plant health and soil structure. This is one of the most important steps in making your garden drought-tolerant. Remember, the healthier your plants are, the more likely they are to withstand drought conditions.

Water your plants in early evening or night, reducing loss by evaporation. About 60% of water is lost if you use fine sprays during the heat of the day – the water either never touches the soil or quickly evaporates as it does. Hand watering can be both relaxing and efficient, especially if you have a trigger nozzle which only allows water to leave the hose when it is pressed.

Undertake regular maintenance. While automatic watering systems allow you to devote time and energy elsewhere, if you do not occasionally check the system, you may be pouring money down the drain. Breaks, leaks, broken fittings and split pipes are common mishaps and much water can be wasted especially if irrigation is under pressure.

As seasons change so does the watering requirements of your plants. You may find that watering one day a week is all that is needed during autumn and spring, and then maybe twice-a-week during summer, as permitted by the Water Corporation, for most garden plants.

We can still enjoy lush gardens; it just involves common sense, adequate soil conditions and suitable reticulation equipment. We stock and sell a range of waterwise irrigation products, rainwater tanks and greywater systems.

Waterwise Reticulation

Water usage in gardens accounts for around 35% of domestic water consumption. As the effects of climate change start to take effect, it makes sense to reassess our water usage in the garden. Standard reticulation is far from efficient. Evaporation loss from wind and the sun can be as much as 60%. Water restrictions mean that you can only water 2 days a week from scheme water.

We can still enjoy lush gardens; it just involves common sense, adequate soil conditions and suitable reticulation equipment. New technology in reticulation involves being able to direct the water straight to the root zone of the plants, reducing wastage to areas that don’t require water. Drip emitters can be placed along a pipe at the required spacing for the existing plants. Drippers can come in a range of flow rates, so that mixed plantings can be matched to their water requirements.

Dripline irrigation in a veggie garden

Inline drip pipe can also be used to irrigate a garden or lawn. The pipe is laid down in either a grid pattern across the garden, or it can be weaved around the garden, only covering the essential root zones of the plants.

Mulch is spread across the garden to a depth of 100 mm, reducing water loss by evaporation from wind and sunshine to almost nothing. This also reduces competition and wastage to weeds as well, making maintenance in the garden less time consuming.

Lawns

By using a root prevention chemical in the watering system, or drip pipe that is wrapped in geo-textile fabric, subsurface lawn irrigation can be set up using dripper tube as well. These two methods mean that the drip emitters in the pipe are protected from roots growing into the outlet, causing blockages.

Drip tube is available in a number of sizes. 5 mm tube can be used in small areas and raised garden beds. 13 mm and 17 mm tube is used over larger areas and under lawns, as it allows greater pipe run lengths. Drip outlet sizes are rated at 1.9 L/hr and 3 L/hr for clean water sources.

Display case showing the dripline irrigation underneath lawn

For bore water and grey water recycling, outlets are rated at 8 L/hr. The larger outlet allows for particles in dirty water to pass through.

In all cases, filters are recommended. Also recommended are line flushing valves and vacuum release valves. The vacuum release valves allow air into the system, preventing sand or organic matter being sucked into the drip outlet when the water is turned off.

Line flushing valves allow a certain amount of water to flow out of the end of the pipe when the water is first turned on, allowing any build up of residues to be removed from the pipe.

Soil type will affect the way the pipe work is set out. In clay soils, you can have a larger space between the drip lines, as the water tends to spread through the upper soil layers more than it soaks down. In sandy soils, the water will soak down quicker than it spreads, so drippers will need to be placed closer together.

The inline drip tube comes with an array of different spacing’s. 30 cm spacing is the most common. 5 mm drip tube can be spaced at 15 cm, 30 cm and 50 cm. The larger pipe sizes can be spaced up to 1 m.

At Water Installations Pty Ltd, we supply a range of options for waterwise reticulation. We also have accredited water wise installers.

Other options for waterwise reticulation include recycling the greywater from your laundry, shower and bath.

Water Installations can also show you a number of systems that have Health Department approval for the use of greywater in Western Australia.

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