Budding gardeners and urban homestead hopefuls: don’t let the bleak predictions of drought and devastation have you giving up on your plans for a lush and fertile garden. Slow down there – we’re not saying you should ignore the water restrictions and let your hose go to town on your garden! Quite the opposite, in fact.
Meet Permaculture – the fast-growing approach to agriculture and, well, life, that is changing the way we think about our gardens. Putting permaculture principles into action may require quite the revolution in the way you see your space, but the payoff is huge; in both guilt-free consciences, and beautiful, bountiful greenery.
In the garden:
- Invest in a water tank to harvest the incredibly valuable yet free resource of rain. There are so many options, based on whether your space is abundant or minimal, and even to fit your aesthetics. One or two could help to meet the needs of your garden, and, if strategically positioned, can function without an electric pump. A number of tanks could begin to supplement your household needs. It will require a bit more work, and possible retrofitting, but it could greatly reduce your reliance on the public water system.
- Ollie tank are a great resource for a container garden. This entails burying an un-glazed earthenware pot into the soil below one's plants, which collects and stores water that the plants can draw on when needed. This incorporates the permaculture principle of finding solutions that conserve our own energy too – meaning less time spent watering
- Mulch your way to a more water-wise garden. Whether you choose to use hay, straw, leaves and grass clippings, or cardboard and newspaper, mulching could significantly reduce the growth of weeds and help your soil to retain moisture.
In the home:
- Reassess your powder room set-up, and spend some time thinking about specific solutions to make it less wasteful. This could mean installing a more water efficient flushing system, or overhauling your entire lavatory experience by building a compost toilet! And the old adage dictating when we should let things mellow and when to flush them down also becomes useful. Soon enough, the idea of flushing 9 litres of clean drinking water down the loo may come to pain you, and have you testing out all the alternatives.
- Change to an eco-friendly soap which will allow you to keep more of your own greywater – for example, when waiting for your shower water to heat up, or keeping the water used for rinsing foodstuffs during food prep, or rinsing dishes – and use it in your garden. With some planning, you could ultimately set up a system that diverts your greywater automatically, saving you time.
- Be vigilant about leaks and regularly reassess your routines and systems to look for ways to save water. This careful observation and analysis is an important principle in permaculture, through which we uncover the kinds of small changes that will lead to significant improvement over time.
Permaculture offers a vast wellspring of innovation and hope for living more sustainably, while simultaneously cultivating self-reliance and abundance. From the smallest urban balcony garden to large swathes of farmland, you will find the solutions you need to harness the resources at your disposal – even ones as limited as water in South Africa – to create plenitude.
Date Published: 17 January 2017