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Myth Busting... Water

Myth: The best time to water plants is after dark

Answer: FALSE. Many tropical and subtropical plants come from natural monsoonal conditions that rain during the ‘wet season’ in the afternoon then clears before sunset. Plants from temperate climates however may prefer the early morning watering to minimise foliage diseases.


Myth: Home gardeners waste water

Answer: FALSE. Home gardeners are leading the way in showing how to conserve water by adopting practices like rainwater tanks, grey water reuse, water efficient plant selection, etc. Perhaps the biggest water wasters are commercial industries, land developers, dwelling constructions and land owners who do not see themselves as ‘gardeners’.

Well done gardeners!

However, with water restrictions gardeners need to be careful not to over-water ‘just because it is the allocated watering day’.


Myth: Non-gardeners waste water

Answer: TRUE. People who own property but do not regard themselves as ‘gardeners’ are more likely to adopt poor landscape design, plant selection and over-water. There is also some indication that a lot of water wastage occurs within the house, not outside.


Myth: Watering foliage is not good for plants

Answer: FALSE. The majority of tropical and subtropical plants love to have their foliage wet as it mimics nature. By not providing this condition some plants may not perform at their best and be more subject to pest attack.

Some plants from other climate zones may be more prone to disease if foliage is watered.


Myth: Mulching helps to save water

Answer: TRUE. Mulch is a great moisture retention barrier to keep the soil (and roots) cool and moist. It is important however to ensure sufficient water is applied to allow the water to penetrate through the mulch down to the roots and to ensure mulch is applied to a moist soil.


Myth: Grey water will kill your plants

Answer: TRUE & FALSE. Grey water has been used for decades in rural areas across Australia and overseas to irrigate garden plants with minimal repercussions. Care is needed with the type of soaps and house cleaning solutions used if grey water is to be used near sensitive plants. For health reasons avoid using grey water near vegetables. A great deal of research is currently being undertaken regarding use of grey water in gardens and this will result in definite answers being available in the future.


Myth: Sprinkler systems waste water

Answer: FALSE. Modern sprinkler systems can be one of the most efficient systems for irrigating your garden provided it includes rain sensors and/or soil moisture probes. The biggest failure of irrigation systems is not using a professional irrigation designer and not servicing the system periodically for leaks and blockages.

The biggest water wastage method is hand watering.


Myth: Natives are more water efficient than exotics

Answer:  FALSE. There are many exotics that use less water than natives. Additionally there are many natives that come from the rainforests that are high water uses. Good plant selection can create a water efficient garden with both natives and exotics.


Myth: Wetting agents, cell products and water crystals help to conserve moisture

Answer: TRUE. All these products when used as recommended help plants to grow during water limited periods. Note that there is some concern regarding petroleum based wetting agents which may negatively impact on soil micro-organisms and ultimately plant growth.


Myth: Soil condition is important to help plants survive long dry periods.

Answer: TRUE. A deep soil will allow most plant’s roots to travel deeper and have access to far more water. Encourage deep root growth by aerating and incorporating organic matter into the soil before planting and provide irregular ‘deep’ watering as opposed to regular ‘light’ watering.


Myth: Succulents do not need water

Answer: FALSE. All plants need water to survive. Even cacti cannot survive without water. Succulents are adapted to store water during dry periods -eventually these stores are used and the plant will die.


written by Paul Plant, Editor of subTropical Gardening magazine - www.stgmagazine.com.au

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