Waterwise gardening


The amount of water your garden needs depends on many factors including:

  • location and climate
  • plant variety
  • soil type
  • presence and type of mulch
  • amount of wind and shade
  • rainfall.

Follow these simple guidelines to save water and enjoy a sustainable, water-efficient garden.

Cartoon image of soil moisture meter with Waterwise logo
The best way to tell if your garden needs watering is to check the soil moisture. This can be done using a soil moisture meter.

Water only when your garden needs it

The greatest waste of water comes from applying too much, too often—much of it runs off and never soaks in.

Instead of watering the entire garden, just water the plants that need it. Many plants are much tougher than you think and will go for quite long periods without additional watering. This also has the effect of training your plants to be more resilient. Less-frequent watering forces roots down to find water, making the plants less reliant on surface water and better able to cope with hot, dry days.

The best way to tell if your garden needs watering is to check the soil moisture. You can do this using a soil moisture meter, by digging a hole to the root zone, or using a screwdriver to make sure it can easily go to about 10cm (100mm) depth.

Grass may benefit from more infrequent but thorough soakings to encourage deep roots. Trees and shrubs have much deeper and more extensive root systems, so they should be watered less frequently but for longer periods of time.

It is likely your plants need water if the leaves or stems of your plants are droopy, or the edges of the leaves are turning brown, and the soil is dry.

To find out more about watering grass, see lawn care.

Avoid watering in the middle of the day

Try to water between 5am and 10am—when the sun is low, winds are calm, and temperatures are cool. Midday irrigation tends to be less efficient because of water loss due to evaporation and windier conditions during the day. Irrigation in the evening, while there is low evaporation, can lead to fungus growth as leaves can remain wet overnight. By irrigating in the morning, you give the leaves a chance to dry out during the day.

Watch the weather

Before irrigating, check the weather forecast and soil moisture levels. If it is about to rain, don’t water.

Be aware of your local water restrictions and only water your garden when permitted.

Cartoon image showing correct irrigation set up
Water only where needed. Not on paths or buildings.

Irrigation systems

Your irrigation system should be set up so that it can deliver the right amount of water to the right places.

You should select an irrigation system that is appropriate for your:

  • microclimate
  • plant selection
  • soil type.

Advice on how to use different irrigation devices and design irrigation systems can be found in the efficient irrigation guidelines (PDF, 6MB).

You can seek professional expertise on irrigation system design, installation and maintenance from a horticulturist, landscaper, or certified irrigation professional. Advice on plumbing and drainage requirements is also available from your local water service provider or council.

Find out more

In this guide:

  1. Plant selection
  2. Improve your soil
  3. Mulching
  4. Watering
  5. Lawn care

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