Cutting back on water doesn?t mean the end of your garden. You can take many steps to reduce the water needs of your yard without sacrificing beauty or practicality. Try some of these suggestions to make your garden more resilient in the face of drought and summer heat.
1. Prepare your soil appropriately.
Organic matter helps your soil retain water as well as supplying nutrition for your plants. It?s best to mix compost, manure, shredded leaves, lawn clippings or other organic materials into your soil before you plant anything.
An exception to this rule is when you?re planting plants that are native to desert areas. Cacti, succulents, agaves and similar plants have adapted to living in dry soils, which are typically low in nutrients. You don?t need to add any extra organic matter for these plants, using regular topsoil is fine.
2. Install permeable surfaces.
Pathways and driveways made from materials like pebbles, bark chips or irregular stones will allow rainfall to pass through and absorb into your ground. Whereas, solid cement or pavement surfaces often direct extra rainwater onto the street instead of capturing it on your property.
3. Choose water-wise plants.
You don?t have to limit yourself when deciding what to plant in your garden. Many modern hybrids and varieties of plants are bred to be drought-resistant.
Using plants native to your area is another great option. These will already be well-adapted to your local climate and able to withstand water fluctuations.
The Okanagan Xeriscape Association has an excellent plant database of many different drought-resistant annual and perennial flowers, as well as shrubs and trees. You can also ask your local garden center for recommendations.
4. Reduce or remove your lawn.
Watering the lawn uses about 50 to 75 percent of a home?s water use during the summer. And this is usually treated, drinkable water. You could significantly reduce your water costs and conserve this precious resource by simply removing unneeded areas of lawn, or cutting it out altogether.
If you use your lawn as an area for recreation, consider putting in synthetic lawn or other material that doesn?t require water. There are also alternative groundcovers that can handle some foot traffic and need less water, such as thyme, clover, creeping Jenny, yarrow or chamomile.
5. Cover your ground.
Exposed soil will lose more water to evaporation than soil covered in some way. Groundcover plants, rocks, wood chips or other mulches add an attractive layer over your soil and keep in moisture.
6. Provide shade.
An extra layer of protection overtop your garden will block the sun and reduce evaporation from the ground. Structures, like arbors, raised decks, gazebos and pergolas, can all provide needed shade for plants and animals.
Planting drought-tolerant trees and shrubs is another great option. Ginkgo, red maple, hawthorn, honey locust and western redbud are all trees that can handle limited water. Hardy bushes include butterfly bush, lilac, rose of Sharon, holly, forsythia and sumac.
7. Water selectively.
When you?re planning or rearranging your garden, always try to group plants according to their watering needs. For example, vegetables or fruit trees need adequate water to develop their crops. You can easily group these together in one area of your garden, leaving the other areas to more water-wise plantings and pathways.
An automatic watering system can also be helpful. You can design the system to deliver water exactly where it?s needed and nowhere else. An automatic system can also prevent overwatering. These guidelines can help determine how much to water your plants.
8. Collect rain water.
Rain water can be collected in anything from a bucket to an underground cistern. Regardless of the amount, saved water can be put to use around your garden and will help reduce your water bills.
You can also design your garden to passively collect rainwater. Try placing plants at the bottoms of your eavestroughs or next to rocks and pavers to catch the runoff.
Related: 10 Uses for Rainwater
9. Weed your garden.
Weeds take precious water away from the plants you want to grow. Weeds are much easier to remove when they?re small, so short patrols of your yard to remove weed seedlings on a regular basis are actually more efficient than putting off weeding until it becomes a large project.
10. Build raised beds.
Certain types of raised beds are excellent for retaining water despite being more exposed to the elements.
Keyhole beds are typically circular, raised beds with a composting tube through the middle and a notch in the side. They look like keyholes when viewed from above. Keyhole beds were developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa, where they were proven to effectively grow food crops in their unforgiving climate.
H?gelkultur is a style of making raised beds filled with decomposing wood. The wood provides long-term organic matter and nutrients to the plants planted overtop. It also stores water. RichSoil has detailed instructions on how to build a h?gelkultur bed.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
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