El Niño ready 1: the new climate cycle

gardening, South Africa, El Nino, water-savvy, gardening practices, sustainable gardening, drought-resistant plants, water conservation, gardening tips, gardening techniques, eco-friendly gardening, gardening in dry climates, native plants, water-wise gardening, gardening in times of drought, climate change, environmental awareness, gardening solutions, water-efficient landscaping, gardening advice, garden maintenance, gardening ideas, water-saving strategies, gardening for beginners, gardening experts, sustainable landscaping, gardening trends, gardening resources, gardening community, water-wise plants, gardening workshops, organic gardening, eco-conscious gardening, garden design, gardening education, gardening benefits, gardening and the environment, gardening techniques for water conservation, gardening innovations, gardening inspiration, gardening for a greener future

Scientists are predicting the full impact of El Niño to play out in 2024, with temperatures expected to soar across the globe. Changing climate cycles are as old as the Earth itself and a natural part of what humanity will experience while living on our gorgeous blue planet. As gardeners, these changes are particularly influential as we already have a close relationship to rainfall and the weather in general, as well as the needs of our plants and garden wildlife. A period of noticeable changes is heading our way, imploring us more than ever to practice sustainable watering.

The coming change in weather pattern from La Nina (cool phase) to El Niño (warm phase), will affect the entire continent across multiple sectors – from food production, fuel and food prices, agriculture, plant life, and as we’ve seen – the possibility of day 0 in our own homes.

In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions:

  1. What is El Niño and why the change from La Nina?
  2. What has Africa learned from El Niño in the past?
  3. What can South Africa Expect? 
  4. How will El Niño impact the home gardener?

 

Before we dive in, this article is number 1 of 3 in Life is a Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series. We recommend that you read them in chronological order for a comprehensive understanding. Together, these 3 articles will leave you well-informed and equipped for gardening in a drought. 

Article 1: El Niño - the new climate cycle (you are here)

Article 2: Gardener or Earth Custodian? 

  • What is the Good Gardener Ethos?
  • What is my conscious gardening advantage? 
  • How can I be a wildlife guardian and habitat creator?
  • How can I look after my family?

 

Article 3: The Water Warrior Way 

  • How can I affordably collect and store rainwater now? 

El Niño ready 2: Gardener or Earth custodian?

As we approach the new El Niño climate cycle, we also enter a deeper understanding of how influential and important the gardener is. Predicted dry times and heat waves ahead will have a significant impact on gardening and likely to our usually cheerful dispositions as hardships from around the country make the news. It can be challenging to remain positive and solution-driven during these times. However, The South African Nursery Association (SANA) and Life is a Garden are working hard to ensure you thrive, not only survive this period.

The first step in preparing for this weather cycle begins with the correct education. Be sure to have read Article 1 to school yourself on the fundamentals of El Niño. In this article, we arrive at the second phase of our El Niño preparedness, which is a change in mindset or ethos upgrade that recognises the evolution of the gardener from an everyday plant grower to a mighty Earth Custodian (if you aren’t one already).

We hope that you are just as inspired as we are to take on this shining title and join Life is a Garden on our mission to play for team plants, people, and planet!

In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions:

  1. What is the Good Gardener ethos?
  2. What is my conscious gardening advantage?
  3. How can I be a wildlife guardian and habitat creator?
  4. How can I look after my family?

*Before we dive in, this article is number 2 of 3 in Life is a Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series. We recommend that you read them in chronological order for a comprehensive understanding. Together, these 3 articles will leave you well-informed and equipped for resilient gardening.

Article 1: El Niño - the new climate cycle 

  • What is El Niño and why the change from La Nina?

El Niño ready 3: The Water Warrior Way

gardening, South Africa, El Nino, water-savvy, gardening practices, sustainable gardening, drought-resistant plants, water conservation, gardening tips, gardening techniques, eco-friendly gardening, gardening in dry climates, native plants, water-wise gardening, gardening in times of drought, climate change, environmental awareness, gardening solutions, water-efficient landscaping, gardening advice, garden maintenance, gardening ideas, water-saving strategies, gardening for beginners, gardening experts, sustainable landscaping, gardening trends, gardening resources, gardening community, water-wise plants, gardening workshops, organic gardening, eco-conscious gardening, garden design, gardening education, gardening benefits, gardening and the environment, gardening techniques for water conservation, gardening innovations, gardening inspiration, gardening for a greener future

We’ve got some time from now (August) until summer when El Niño’s heat and dryness is predicted to reach us in full swing. Estimated to last for 9 to 12 months, it is to prepare a resilient garden and make the necessary changes to our habits and water collection infrastructure.

Having read article 1 and article 2, the topics of Earth Custodian and Water Warrior should be familiar tools to have for gardening in a heatwave. In this 3rd article of Life is Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series, we will be digging our spades into some practical ways that you can save and efficiently manage your water consumption to keep your garden thriving.

To recap, a Water Warrior is part of the Earth Custodian’s everyday gardening habits - from water-wise practices to wildlife protection and rainwater harvesting. The Earth Custodian is both a mindset and ethos upgrade that recognises the gardener as more than just a plant grower, but an essential service individual who is conscious of the big-picture footprint their water habits have.

To be a Water Warrior means that we have ‘woken up’ to the accountability of our household’s water consumption and how our daily habits impact the country as a whole, as well as surrounding wildlife and the precious balance of Mother Nature. By extension, becoming a Water Warrior also means that we do not transfer all resource and infrastructure responsibility to municipalities and government.

 

In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions:

  • How can I affordably collect and store rainwater now?
  • How can I grow a resilient garden?
  • Is hydrozoning right for me?
  • How should I be watering my containers, beds, and lawn?

 

Before we dive in, this article is number 1 of 3 in Life is a Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series.

Save our water, save our planet!

Water is a precious resource that is essential for all life form from plants and animals to humans. While we need to consume and use water to survive, there are ways to reuse and recycle our water to get double the benefit from it.

Did you know that in South Africa 27% of the total water used is used for domestic and gardening purposes? By recycling your water for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes our gardens and world would benefit significantly.

Recycled water, better known as greywater, is water that you have previously used and is sourced from basins, washing machines, baths and showers. Often this water will contain traces of soap residue along with other matter that is harmless when used for irrigation purposes or even cleaning paving or external areas around the house.

To get the maximum benefit from your greywater it is advisable to:
  • Get the water directly from the outlet source to prevent contamination with black water. You can install a commercial greywater system if your sewerage pipes are visible outside of the house;
  • Use environmentally friendly and biodegradable soaps, detergents and cleaning products to prevent damage to the environment;
  • Spread the irrigation of greywater to different parts of the garden to spread the soap residue across a wider area.

Water is an essential commodity that we all need to work together to save. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre  to find out which products are available to help you do your bit to reuse your grey water and save water and our environment.

Why soil matters!

A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, animals, and humans. Soil organic matter is the very foundation for healthy and productive soils.

Why is soil and soil health so important? Simply put, soil sustains life by helping plants to grow. It is also home to worms, beetles, bacteria and fungi, providing them with the nutrients they need to live.

Without soil, there would be nowhere to grow food that is the sustenance of life.  Soil contains food, water and air that is needed by plants to grow. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients a plant can take up. The healthier the plant, the better it is for humans and animals to eat. The quality of the soil ultimately affects the health of all people and animals.

What Is Soil?

Soil is made up of minerals, living organisms and organic matter. Minerals consist of rocks and bedrock that has broken down over time. Living organisms include a number of beneficial animals, such as beetles, worms and moles. Together with essential bacteria they help break down the organic matter making it accessible to plants. Organic matter is decaying material such as rotting leaves, animal waste and dead animals.

Maintaining Healthy Soil

It is essential to maintain healthy living soils, by caring for our soil properly, we can ensure the longevity of both animals and people. Life is a Garden encourage you to the following to maintain healthy soil: Avoiding the use of chemicals that create an imbalance in the soil. The long-term effects of some chemicals may kill off unwanted pests, but they may ultimately destroy living organisms that are essential to the creation of healthy soil.

  • Using compost in your own garden can help to replace nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Compost is easy to make from leaves, dead plants and vegetable waste from the kitchen.

Basic Seed Sowing

Although starting flowers, vegetables, herbs and lawn from seed seems like an easy task the Life is a Garden team are often asked questions around the very basics of how to sow seeds.

There are many different things to consider, depending on what seed you are sowing and where, but here are just a few tips and guidelines:

  1. Think about what you are going to plant, how much, and where. This involves a bit of arithmetic. Work out your planting area in square meters and decide how much seed is required. All the detail required is on the back of the seed packet. Plant what you enjoy eating! If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, just don’t plant them!
  2. Before sowing, think about which flower, veggie or lawn you want, and design it on a rough plan. Then research correct soil preparation. Most important, also check whether the seed should be sown in seedling trays or direct into the soil, and watch for correct sowing depth, which is a classic reason for failure. If you are sowing in trays use seedling mix or coir mix, and not potting soil which is too coarse.
  3. Once started, there are three main reasons why things go wrong and if you avoid these three common errors, you are pretty much guaranteed success. They are sowing time, position, and water. Get one, two or three of these wrong and it is unlikely you will succeed. There are three sowing times; Summer, Winter, and “all seasons” (throughout the year), so check the seed packet before sowing.
  4. There are also three possible positions; full-sun, semi-shade, and shade, and again, check the seed packet before sowing. Of the three common errors, water is the most important. It is vital that you always follow the sowing instructions and keep the sowing area moist.

Mulching Against Climate Change

With the rather aggressive onset of our 2019 summer, it is increasingly obvious that “climate change” is not just an inconsequential topic of debate between politicians and environmental activists. Here at ground level we are experiencing the classic signs of increased temperatures and lower rainfall more regularly and more persistently.

Unfortunately for our much-loved gardens, these harsh conditions can be stressful for plants and we need to act before the weather takes its toll on our urban flora. But what to do about it?

Mulch! Mulching is currently one of the best ways to save water and create a happier, healthier environment for plants. Here’s why mulch is so much more than just a pretty covering for your flower beds.

Benefits of mulch

Mulch acts as a shield and protects soil from intense heat. It prevents soil water from evaporating, and coarser types of mulch also allow for air flow above the soil surface. In this way it moderates the temperature of the soil, which is important for all the micro- and macro-organisms (such as earthworms) required to promote good soil health. Mulch has the added benefits of reducing garden maintenance by suppressing weeds, insulating the roots of plants during frosty periods, preventing soil erosion during heavy rainfall and reducing the salt accumulation in the soil.

Organic mulching materials are available in several different types from your local Garden Centre with popular choices including:

  • bark chips
  • macadamia nut shells
  • peach pips
  • shredded bark
  • wood chip and
  • compost.

Inorganic mulches can also be used to similar effect and although they do not break down and provide nutrients to garden beds, they have the advantage of being durable and longer lasting. Examples of inorganic mulches include:

  • Pebbles
  • gravel chips and
  • dump rock.

With a wide variety of colours and sizes available you are sure to create a beautiful yet practical space.