So what do you do when drought is drying up your garden, and you are tired of dragging the water hose from place to place just to keep things alive? One permanent thing and several temporary things.
The permanent thing to do is called “xeriscaping” which simply means garden in harmony with your climate conditions. If your area is subject to periodic drought, your garden might benefit from planting with that in mind. Certain plants endure shortages of water better than others. In the meantime there are a number of steps you can take to help your garden- and you, the gardener- through the dry season.
- Remember that deep watering less often is better than shallow watering more often. Shallow watering is actually more detrimental since it encourages plants to grow their roots too close to the dry surface rather than reaching down deeper into the soil for moisture. Deep roots can withstand the drought better.
- Letting the hose drip water, or better yet, using a “soaker” hose will water more efficiently than overhead sprinklers which lose more water to evaporation. Water deeply.
- Spacing plants so that they have enough soil and moisture for their needs. don’t plant too close together.
- Mulching. This is always the number one defense in keeping moisture in the ground. There are many types of moisture preserving mulches including a “dust mulchShallowly cultivating the top few inches of soil, to keep it loose, preventing caking as well as removing weeds when they germinate“. For this you cultivate the surface shallowly, loosening the top layer of dirt with a hoe. Grass clippings left on the lawn serve as a type of mulch, and remember to keep the grass mown high: 2-3 inch mower height. There are newspaper mulches, bark mulches, and many other kinds. Each has assets and limitations ranging from whether they help fertilize or allow for water permeation, etc.
- Direct water from your downspouts to your garden areas
- Organic matter, besides making your plant grow better in healthier soil, is also helpful in conserving and retaining moisture. Add it when you plant, when you first prepare the soil and even use some as a mulch. However, be aware that peat moss can form a water impermeable crust when not worked into our soil (think about peat pots!).
- Layer heights of your plants to provide an uneven surface to give a bit of microclimate effect-plus it looks pretty
Xeriscaping is a long-term gardening method of combining all the water conserving means of soil amendments, mulching, irrigation, and the choice of low-water requirement plantings. “Xeriscape means “water conservation through creative landscaping.”” according to one person’s definition. One style given to this type of gardening is the “New American” as exemplified by the designs of Oehme and van Sweden . The term and development of the style is attributed to Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. I’d call the gardening of Piet Oudolf this type of gardening also. It is a natural gardening style using lots of native plants and grasses.
Choose plants native to dry climates, with gray or succulent foliage. Prairie plants are often drought tolerant and Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’ is a drought tolerant rose.
Suggested list of plants to try:
Bold Romantic Gardens: The New World Landscapes of Oehme and Van Sweden
The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses: How to Grow and Use Over 250 Beautiful and Versatile Plants
Planting the Natural Garden
Parts of the UK can be dry (I was surprised to find out!), UK readers may wish to look for some of these books on Amazon.
Soaker hoses, Garden Hose – Water Weeper.
Consider a Frame It All Irrigation System for efficient watering.