Water-wise Gardening on Schonenberg Estate


October 2020: The City of Cape Town thanked its residents and communities for their valuable help in getting Cape Town through the unprecedented drought and recovery period. The Mayoral Committee (Mayco) unanimously supported the City’s decision to lift the water restrictions and move to the lowest water-wise tariff, from 1 November 2020.

Overall, the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) of shared dams, of which Cape Town is one of the users, reached 100%. City projections indicate dams are unlikely to drop below 50% by next winter. The lifting of all restriction measures, except for existing water regulations permanently in place due to the proactive management of water resources, will allow for water-wise usage, in line with the lowest tariff.


The Water By-law regulations apply at all times irrespective of the water restriction level:

  • Watering, using municipal drinking water or borehole or wellpoint water, is only allowed before 9:00 or after 18:00.
  • Residents must fit hosepipes used for watering or washing vehicles with a controlling device such as a sprayer or automatic self-closing device.
  • Automated sprinkler systems must be correctly positioned and be able to be adjusted to prevent water wastage.
  • Boreholes and well point water must be used sparingly and efficiently.


We are situated in a water-scarce region, so we will always need to act sustainably and be future-fit. We have a collective responsibility to use water sparingly and ensure that consumption does not exceed available water supply from the system of dams providing our area with water.

All residents on the Schonenberg Estate, homeowners and tenants alike, should adhere to the water-wise restrictions.


Water-wise gardening enables the gardener to create an attractive garden that uses far less water than a water-thirsty garden. There’s a trend towards a more natural “African” style of gardening nurtured by a growing awareness of South Africa’s unique flora. Indigenous plants have become fashionable.

  1. Grow the right plants
    Choose indigenous, drought-resistant plants that are adapted to our local conditions, such as succulents and indigenous grasses.The Schonenberg Estate is situated in the Strandveld-Fynbos biome (botanical region) and has a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Prioritise planting with “native” species of plants that occur naturally in this region and keep your garden free of alien invasive species. Try to do most of the planting at the beginning of the rainy season (June / July) so that the plants have time to establish themselves before the dry season. You will need to feed indigenous plants, as the soil becomes leached and nutrient deficient over time, especially in the Western Cape. You can use an organic, balanced, slow-release fertiliser every six weeks in the growing season.To find out more about plants suitable for the Schonenberg Estate, refer to Schonenberg’s Approved Plant List.
  2. Group plants according to their water needs
    Water-thirsty plants need regular watering in the hot, dry summer, so they are best grouped: create ‘hydrozones’. Plants with high water demands should be close to the house, entrance or living areas so that they are accessible to water and can be enjoyed daily. Those plants with a low water requirement usually also need less maintenance and can be in out-of-sight areas.
  3. Prepare the soil well
    Whatever the soil type (sand, clay or loam) you can improve the quality and water-holding capacity by adding plenty of compost. Compost enriches the soil with nutrients; encourages earthworm activity; and improves soil aeration and drainage. Soil improvement is an ongoing activity. Ideally, compost twice a year using organic matter, i.e. manure, straw, lawn clippings, garden refuse, pine needles. Composting promotes the growth of healthy plants which will require less water and be more disease-resistant than underfed plants. And before planting, it is essential to dig in large amounts of well-decomposed compost.
  4. Mulch more mulch
    Lay down a thick layer of mulch between the plants. Mulch should be at least 7 cm thick. It helps to keep the soil cool and reduces water evaporation, run-off and soil erosion and the growth of weeds. (Remove weeds by hand, never turn over the earth.) You can use different materials as mulch, such as compost, bark, leaves, wood chips, straw or pine needles. Organic mulches have the advantage of adding nutrient to the soil as they break down, but have to be replaced regularly. Inorganic mulches like pebbles or stone chips are effective hard-landscaping materials.
  5. Keep lawns to a minimum
    To maintain a lush green lawn during the hot, dry months is difficult. Replace areas of grass which are not growing well with stepping stones, decorative pebbles, or organic mulch for informal footpaths. Decide how much lawn space you need for outdoor entertaining, children and pets and replace the excess with hardy groundcovers or a bed of water-wise plants or attractive paving. You can add greenery between stones with succulents and indigenous grasses. To ensure that the remaining lawn withstands periods of less watering, decrease fertilising and aerate regularly. Only use fertiliser to encourage root growth (potassium-rich) rather than leaf growth (nitrogen-rich) and hope that it stays healthy to bounce back after the summer.
  6. Water correctly
    Watering depends on the soil type, the weather and the plant species. Determine the soil type, whether sandy, clay-like or loamy soil. With sandy soil, the water drains quickly beyond the reach of the plant roots, so this requires short frequent watering. Clay soil has a high water-holding capacity, so it is best to give a deep watering less often and especially water trees and shrubs well so that the roots are encouraged to grow deeper.Water early morning or evenings (before 9:00 or after 18:00) when evaporation is at its lowest. Avoid watering during windy periods and, of course, only water your garden when necessary.
  7. Provide shelter from wind and sun
    Create different areas in the garden to enjoy, by planting indigenous trees for shade and hedges and shrubs to act as windbreaks and screening to provide privacy


To find out more about water-wise gardening, go to the South Africa National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) plant information website www.plantZAfrica.com. Click on Using SA Plants and Gardening with SA Plants and the list of plants suitable for the winter rainfall Western Cape region.

Visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and view the demonstration Water-wise Garden. The plants are labelled with short descriptive notes as well as tips on identifying water-wise plant characteristics, e.g. underground bulbs, small hairy or grey leaves, succulent roots, stems or leaves, and more.

Reading reference:
Ernst van Jaarsveld, Water-wise Gardening in South Africa and Namibia, 2010