A Water-wise (Xeriscape) Ecological garden at Kibbutz Nir-Oz
Kibbutz Nir Oz, situated in the western Negev, is home to a long-term gardening project dedicated to creating a green water-wise oasis in harmony with the desert environment.
An area of 120 dunams was set aside by the Kibbutz for acclimatization and experimentation with water sparing, ecologically sound cultivation. Some 900 plant species are being screened for their ability to thrive on limited water. The aim of the experiment is to achieve a pleasant environment to live in while at the same time reducing the amount of dust in the air, all at a modest outlay for maintenance.
The Nir Oz project has been up and running since 1960, that is for 48 years, and it blends application of experience acquired in the Kibbutz garden with study and examination of various issues involved in cultivation of the garden:
• Total quality management
• Plant acclimatization
• Selection of lawn plants: assessment of varieties and species, water consumption versus climatic parameters, influence of infrastructure on water consumption
• Determination of root depth of trees, shrubs and grass
• Comparison of irrigation systems – drippers versus sprinklers
• Assessment of water distributors – precision of delivery and distribution
• Planting season
• Collection of run-off (amounts on average to 33,000 cubic meters annually)
• Examination of ways of increasing amount of water available
• Adoption of agrotechniques for economizing on water consumption and reducing use of chemical pesticides (includes infrastructure, providing nutrients, soil additives)
• Consideration of “umbrella effect” (foliage blocking penetration of rain into soil)
The water-sparing system was planned by landscape architect Haim Kahanovich.
The Nir Oz project proves that, even in the Negev, it is possible to maintain a beautiful, flourishing garden for a modest input of water – in fact, a mere 50% of the amounts in general use in the center and north of the country.
The acclimatization area at Nir Oz serves as a laboratory for ecological water-sparing gardening and as a teaching and demonstration site for researchers, gardeners, teachers and students from Israel and abroad.
The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev