Adjust your irrigation for the seasons
Wet Season (December to March)
In the wet season, there is really only one irrigation rule of thumb.Turn it off! However, keep an eye on your garden and only water it if it looks really thirsty.
Between December and March you can almost 'hear' your garden grow, so why not let the rain do the watering for you for a couple of months and switch your irrigation system to 'off'.
You could save up to $200 on your water bill.
Other things to consider for a healthy garden (and wallet) during the wet season:
- There's no need to pay for water when nature is providing it for free. You could save up to $200 on your water bill just by turning off your irrigation for a couple of months.
- Note - This saving is based on a flow rate of 25L/min (average irrigation systems). On a controller that has four zones each set to run 20 minutes per day, you would save 120,000L or $218 in that period
- Some homeowners tell us that they are worried about turning off the irrigation for a few months in the wet season in case it deletes their system's water program. Don't worry - your irrigation controller will keep it all there for you for when you are ready to turn it back on.
- To turn off your system for the wet season, mostly it will be just a matter of pressing the [OFF] button, or you can switch it off at the wall. But if you have lost the manual for your garden irrigation controller, popular Top End irrigation manuals can be found here or visit the Darwin Watering Planner.
- Maintenance - Even when your irrigation system is off for the Wet Season, it is a good idea to check it regularly so it is well maintained and ready for use in the dry season. Check for split irrigation pipes and hoses or missing drippers. You might also like to run the system for 10 minutes per month to keep ants from blocking the system.
- In the heat and humidity, plants, weeds and pests thrive. Keep an eye out for them during the wet
- The end of the Wet Season is a good time to get veggie beds ready for planting.
Most Top End soils don't hold water and food for plants. Top End soils are generally sandy or clay loams and have a low water holding capacity with high percolation rates. This means they don't retain water and nutrients very well which can affect the health of plants. The secret to creating a beautiful, water efficient garden in the Top End is getting the condition of your soil right, so it is full of healthy micro-organisms to help feed and maintain the vigor of your plants.
Three easy ways of improving your soil condition are:
- Organic fertilisers
- Wetting agents
So why not let your mulched and fertilised soil care and nurture your plants, not your water bill!
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! It is not only good for your plant's health, but will increase moisture retention within the soil - especially for when you switch off your irrigation for the wet season.
- Mulch will also help keep plant roots cool, assist in suppressing weeds, add biomass to soil structure and can assist with drainage.
- Rich organic mulches are vital for plant nutrients, maintaining soil quality and to prevent erosion. Just remember, mulch pushed against tree trunks can encourage rotting during the wet, so make sure there is space around the truck to allow for airflow.
First storms until the Wet (October to November)
This 'season' period is quite variable and allows for some early storms before the Wet Season truly sets in. In a dry year these storms may not occur and you should continue to apply the irrigation recommended for the Dry Season.
Dry Season (April to September)
Great gardens need great irrigation schedules. Irrigation scheduling is mainly about two things:
- Wetting the right depth of soil
- Applying the water to the right frequency
More water doesn’t mean a better garden. Water too frequently and plants will be shallow rooted and nutrients will be washed away. Even if you put lots of water on every day plants, roots will not grow deep and so will only be able to access a small amount of groundwater and nutrients.
Different plant types need different amounts of water at different intervals. That’s why it’s so important to group your plants and water fruit trees, natives, lawns and other exotics separately. Try to wean your garden to longer intervals between watering and get a Garden Tune Up so you know exactly when and how often to water the different plants in your garden.