Landscaping with less water

We have a responsibility to manage water demand and ensure that water is used efficiently.   

This gardening and lawn care guide provides tips to help us all ensure our environmental integrity is sustained for future generations.dry garden image2

Why is it important to use water efficiently?  

  •  Comply with water abstraction resource consent requirements
  •  Ensure the sustainable use of water resources throughout our district
  •  Reduce the carbon footprint associated with water treatment
  •  Manage exciting capacity limitations
  •  Reduce unnecessary capital and operational expenditure

Why not create a dry garden?  

A dry garden looks great and requires little to no water.  We've identified a number of plants that do well in hot, dry conditions.

Top 10 Groundcovers

  • Coprosma sp
  • Stachys
  • Epimedium
  • Pachysandra
  • Rosemary
  • Dianthus
  • Helianthemum
  • Erica
  • Hebe
  • Pimelia

Top 10 Perennials –any with a grey leaf are generally dry tolerant

  • Lavender
  • Sedum
  • Rudbekia
  • Salvia
  • Gaura
  • Kniphofia
  • Nepeta
  • Artemesia
  • Euphorbia
  • Geranium

Top 10 Shrubs

  • Cistus
  • Coprosma
  • Elaeagnus
  • Grevillea
  • Olearia
  • Mahonia
  • Nandina
  • Photinia
  • Rosemary
  • Brachyglottis

Top 10 Trees

  • Sorbus - Rowan
  • Cordyline – Cabbage Tree
  • Kanuka
  • Eucalyptus
  • Olive
  • Oak
  • Birch
  • Sophora- Kowhai
  • Elm
  • Amelanchier Canadensis


  • Poa cita – silver tussock
  • Carex – buchananii, comans, testacea
  • Anamanthele – wind grass gossamer grass
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens – Blue oat Grass

Hot tips! 

Top 5 tips for Planting

  • Select the right plant for the site – see our list
  • Tickle the roots carefully to loosen the root ball
  • Soak the plant & the hole
  • Add some organic matter when planting – compost
  • Water the plant in
  • Mulch – a minimum of 20-30mm of mulch is required, i.e. Bark chip, good compost and stones 

Top 5 tips for irrigation

  • Water early morning or evening when the sun is off the plants. Automated sprinklers/drippers are effective watering systems. Set the timer to irrigate between 10pm and 6am
  • Give plants a chance to dry out between watering
  • Direct water to the root zone of the plant
  • Minimise run off
  • Soak don’t sprinkle

The Wakatipu Reforestation Trust has published a practical guide to planting in the Wakatipu Basin. The booklet can be downloaded for FREE, or donate $10 to receive a hard copy. See


Maintaining your lawn 

It can be difficult to maintain a lawn during the water months int he Queenstown Lakes District.   Here are some tips to help you conserve water but maintain your lawn.  

General Tips 

  1. Home lawns are usually the single largest user of water in the home. They tend to require considerable resource
  2. Consider Fescues when selecting a variety of grass suitable for your location, they will be more drought resistant and better able to cope with the peak temperatures we experience in the region while still offering a fantastic surface to walk on barefoot.
  3. The correct amount of water to apply to a lawn is exactly what it requires! Too much and it will promote undesirable weeds and waste water. Too little causes poor turf health.
  4. Try to keep lawn establishment to spring and autumn. This is the time of year when nature does all the hard work. When the weather is warmer, lawn establishment requires a greater frequency of watering (keeps you away from the bike and the boat).

Irrigation tips 

  • When establishing your lawn, initially you will need to water more often and less volume. As it establishes, the time between watering grows and the amount of water increases.
  • Infrequent, heavier watering encourages greater root development which results in a lawn that will be able to tolerate heat stress better and require less water to maintain.
  • No such thing as set and forget! Continually monitor how much water you are applying and if it is more than required. Watch for changes in the weather and capitalise on natures best (rainfall, can’t be beat).
  • Irrigation tends to be more efficient use of water than a hand hose
  • If you see water running, that’s a sign that you are applying to much water!
  • Water your lawn in the early hours of the morning or late evening. This will reduce water loss via evaporation. Set your automated watering system to irrigate between 10pm and 6am.
  • Avoid heavy, fast watering. Nice and slow is go!
  • A beautiful deep green lawn will be more susceptible to higher temperatures if water restrictions are necessary and implemented.
  • Aerate your lawn to allow the water to get where it is most effective, the root zone!

Lawn maintenance

  • Cut your lawn a little higher during the warmer months. This is achieved by lifting your height setting a couple of notches to ensure the grass is not too short. This will reduce the demand for water increase the plants ability to withstand higher temperatures
  • Cut more frequently and without a catcher. This allows the grass clippings to break down, allowing nutrients to be recycled as they return to the soil profile
  • Cut your lawns in the evening or avoid the hotter parts of the day as cutting the plant naturally causes heat stress (like us!)




Organic Liquid Fertilizer

Healthy gardens and lawns are more resilient in hot weather – here are some tips for making organic liquid fertilizer. 

Did you know a huge percentage of organic fertilizers are made from kitchen waste.

Homemade Fertilizers

Make your own organic liquid fertilizer by infusing your components of choice in water for a few days. The soluble nutrients will drain into the water solution.

Examples of DIY Organic Liquid Fertilizer are as follows:

Banana Peels

Banana peels come with loads of potassium. Fertilizers that are rich in potassium are good for flowers and fruiting plants, squash plants and tomatoes - not appropriate for foliage plants such as spinach and lettuce.

Put the banana peels into a mason jar and fill it with water, close the jar. Allow it to cure for three days and use it on your garden.

Eggshell Fertilizer

Eggshells are rich in calcium and contain a small percentage of potassium. Crush the egg shells and put in a mason jar, fill with water. Cure for a week and use the water on your plants. It is ideal for tomatoes and houseplants. Calcium helps prevent blossom-end rot.

Vegetable Cooking Water

After boiling your vegetables, don’t dispose of the water. Let it cool and then dilute it with more water. Good for indoor and outdoor plants. To avoid the bad smell, use it all at once.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salts contain sulphur and magnesium. Add a tablespoon of Epsom salts to 4 litres of water. Spray on peppers, tomatoes, roses, and onions. Spray twice a month.

Compost Tea

Place compost and water in a bucket. Rest the lid on top of the bucket. Let it cure for one to two days. Pour the water over into another bucket. Dilute at a ratio of 1:10. Use a general fertiliser.

Weed tea

Place grass and unseeded weed clippings in a 20Litre container. Add enough water to cover the grass/weed mixture. Cover and let it cure for three days. Drain the liquid and dilute with water at a ratio of 1:10. Place the remaining components in the compost.

Droppings Tea

Use chicken, rabbit, or sheep droppings, place in a bucket and add enough water to cover the droppings. Let it cure for two to three days and drain the water. Dilute at a ratio of 1:20.

Both these teas are a source of nitrogen.

Finally, ensure that the plants are sufficiently watered before using the organic liquid fertilizer. If the plants appear withered for lack of enough water, it is advisable to water them sufficiently first and wait for twenty-four hours before applying the fertilizer.