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Be Water Wise
By Colin Hamilton
Whether we like it or not, Australia is in dire straits with
its water supplies. As a
result of prolonged periods of drought, many water collection areas,
including the underground aquifer, have not received sufficient
run-off for replenishment. But
we, as a nation, have kept using water with gay abandon.
We are one of the highest users of water per capita of
any nation. Now the
rooster has come home to roost. We
have to take action to conserve our dwindling resources.
I have given the matter some thought and asked some friends
from around Australia for their ideas on how to save water in caring
for their orchids, and looked at some of the websites advising tips to
help mend our wicked ways.
I guess the first and probably most obvious, yet most
ignored, is the dripping tap. Leaking taps, pipes and dishwasher hoses is an easy way to reduce
water wastage. One leaking tap can waste more than 2,000 litres a
month. (Source: Sydney Water Board)
water efficient taps or tap aerators is a great, inexpensive way to
cut your water usage without you even noticing.
your garden beds to retain moisture and lessen evaporation.
Turning to more orchid-specific matters, here are some tips
collected from across Australia:
I found that using sphagnum moss as a potting mix or adjunct
to a mix can help to increase the time required between watering
especially love it. I
found that they could be watered here at weekly intervals except in
the heat of summer. On
warm days I mist them in the morning. They do need repotting annually but their large thick roots
make this easy as pie. I also found that small to medium size Vandas
and Ascocendas do well with a layer of sphagnum moss in the bottom of
the pot. Sphagnum is not
recommended for orchids with fine roots as these are too easily
damaged when repotting.
For conserving water, one possible way is to use water-absorbing
crystals in the orchid mixture - I think they're called Absorber
Crystals. They hold the
water and then release it slowly as the mixture dries.
wetting agent for all watering. This ensures that the water used
'sticks' in the pot and onto the plant and root system thus saving a
lot of water and also allowing greater periods between watering.
After the plants have been watered, plastic under the benches could
collect the run-off and run it into drums. Filter it and
Obviously any rainwater that falls on the rooves of your house,
orchid houses, or any other sheds needs to be collected and stored in
tanks. Remember the old days when every house had a tank?
If so, your age is showing!
A friend installed a 4500 litre water tank at the beginning of 2003
purely for watering his orchids.
Multiple small tanks of collected rainwater can be connected
maintain even levels in each tank. Add a small pressure pump to
service foggers, air conditioners and for watering by hand.
These small tanks can be hidden behind the garage, garden shed, orchid
some growers will need to look at what orchids they purchase and their
water requirements. Many growers have a tendency to water more
frequently than is necessary. The time of day plants are watered is
also a factor. Many orchids can do with less water than is currently
applied, Australian native dendrobiums and their hybrids included.
Hot/Cold hybrids with greater than 25% Den. bigibbum influence
do not need large amounts of water, as per the needs of the
major parent. It may also be necessary to put pots in trays that
contain water and leave the rest to capillary action.
ongoing water situation eventually will prove to be too much if we
donít act now. I
visualise some growers giving up because of the cost and
unavailability of water. Reuse of water will need to be investigated
but this is something difficult on a small grower-to-grower scale.
Orchid growers, and particularly the professionals, will need to put
their case to the relevant Governments to initiate an investigation
into reuse of grey water and also reclaimed sewage water.
Another friend has installed three rainwater tanks to collect the
water from the roof. For Adelaide's poor water quality, he finds it
important to have rainwater for Phals. etc.
Also he has his misters on a timer to try to conserve water and
to apply it only when necessary.
I think that if you choose a potting medium with materials like
moss, peat, vermiculite and perlite, these hold more water in
the mix, and you donít have to water as often.
No magic tricks for a friend in Sydney.
What he has done over the last few seasons is simply reduce
watering to harden his plants by watering less and less often, hand
water using a watering can where necessary.
So there are a few views to get you thinking.
For more information on water saving ideas in the home and
garden, I recommend you go to the Sydney Water Boardís website http://www.sydneywater.com.au/SavingWater/
on an article first published in Orchids Australia (October 2005)