Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Trouble in Bonsai Land

There's an art to watering bonsai. Unfortunately I've never had the time to learn it. I've got so many trees that I've been forced to use the quickest method, so I've always watered my trees using a hosepipe with a fine spray attachment. It still takes me about twenty minutes to water them all.

Unfortunately all that has to change, effective immediately. South Africa has been hit hard by El Niño. Right now we're in the middle of a heatwave. The temperature where I live has peaked at 36°C (96.8°F) today and in some areas it's a lot worse. The weather has been like that for weeks already, and summer hasn't even arrived yet.

To make matters worse, the heatwave has been accompanied by a severe drought. At this time of year we usually have thunderstorms most afternoons, but there's hardly been a drop of rain since spring started and forecasters are already predicting that we aren't likely to see any significant rain until March.

Our garden is quite stressed and the lawn looks like a bed of straw. My bonsai collection, however, has been getting adequate water and my trees are doing fine. So far.

Yesterday our government announced water restrictions:

  • we're not allowed to fill swimming pools - no problem, we don't have one.
  • we can't use a hosepipe for washing cars or paving - not great, but I can live with that.
  • we're not allowed to water our gardens between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. That's a serious problem.

Conserve Water Square Sticker
Conserve Water Square Sticker by InkWorks

I'm a night owl, so getting up at 5:00 am to water my trees would require a major change to my lifestyle. Aside from that, the light isn't very good at that time of morning. And I don't really see that I'll be saving water anyway.

Watering at 6:00 pm isn't much better. Aside from the fact that my trees will be wet for the night, exposing them to problems like mildew, once again I'll be watering in bad light. And I still won't be saving water.

There has to be a better way.

The only option I've come up with so far is to use the pressure spray bottle I've always used for giving my trees liquid fertilizer - something I often neglect to do because it's too time consuming.

The bottle takes twelve litres of water and filling it three or four times should be enough to cover all my trees, so I'll be saving a lot of water doing that. With minimal water consumption I don't think that watering during daylight hours is a major issue in terms of our water restrictions.

It's going to have a dramatic effect on my life though. I've just spent an hour watering some of my trees, taking the opportunity to add a little liquid fertilizer, something which was long overdue. But I've been forced to take a break halfway through because it's so hot in the sun that I couldn't take being outside any more.

There's a breeze blowing outside now, and the clouds are starting to build up. Sadly they're not likely to bring us any much needed rain.

Now I need to go outside to water the rest of my trees.

Update: 20 June 2016

I was forced to abandon this method and water my trees at 6:00 pm because some of them weren't getting enough water. I nearly killed a few little ones before I realised the error of my ways.

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