Here are a few strategies to help you be water wise in the garden.
Check soil for moisture
Check the soil before you water. Lift up the mulch and feel for moisture. Do you even need to water? Over-watering encourages shallow root growth and weaker plants. If water is not available near the surface, the roots will grow deeper in search of it.
Water at night
Or even better, early in the morning before the sun is up. Watering during the heat of the heat of the day means more water loss through evaporation and could cause leaf burn if you get water on the leaves.
Water at the roots
Target the hose at the roots, rather than using sprinkler systems that broadcast indiscriminately. The water then goes where it is needed and soaks in quickly.
Water Retention Strategies
Mulch Mulch Mulch
Bare soil exposed to the sun will quickly evaporate moisture and leave the soil dry and lifeless, leaving plants vulnerable and dehydrated. It also opens the door for opportunistic weeds that will quickly establish deep roots and compete with your plants. Mulching is such a simple way to retain moisture and protect the soil from evaporation. As the mulch breaks down it also returns nutrients to the soil.
Harvest and Store
Not just for the garden, but for the family too! Rainwater collections systems are relatively cheap and easy to install. They collect rainwater from the roof via gutters, and overflow can be directed into the garden. Every home in Wellington should have a rainwater collection tank as part of their resilience plan. A large earthquake could see water supplies cut off for several days.
Natural ponds are a good way to capture and hold water in the landscape. They are usually best constructed at the most elevated points so that gravity can be used to feed the overflow towards areas where it is needed. Ponds can also be incorporated into other systems in permaculture, either as part of a guild or as a food production system in their own right.
A swale is a long shallow trench dug along the contour of land to help collect or redirect water. They are built to slow water run-off and spread it along the contour. Swales are often discussed in permaculture design as large earthwork constructions, however, the same techniques can be used in an urban garden, creating mini swales to help prevent plants drying out in the hot summer months.
My design includes the eventual construction of mini swales at the front of the property to capture water run-off that current runs of the path and pools at the lowest point of the garden. By slowing this run-off and redirecting it, I can making use of it for my own needs and save effort and resources watering plants.