Few things are as frustrating to gardeners as setting up beautiful lawns and gardens and not having enough water to keep them going through the heat of summer.
The good news is that there are techniques to nurture what you have, and more importantly, create a landscape that is drought-resistant and ideally suited to your climate.
If you’re in an area that has water restrictions (if you’re not sure, check with your local municipality), this is not the year to establish a new lawn or a bed of tropicals. But do start assembling the pieces of the puzzle that will create a drought-tolerant landscape for the long term.
With common sense, technology and proper planning, a water-efficient landscape can be yours.
The first step to conserving water in the garden is to change existing habits. When you head for the garden, do you grab your garden hose first? Reach for the garden shears instead, spending time in the garden pruning, weeding, cutting flowers and harvesting vegetables.
Take time to assess your lawn or garden’s needs before you water. And when you do water, install a manual or digital timer to your spigot to monitor use and shut off the valve when it’s maxed out.
Setting up a rain barrel to collect water will reduce your reliance on municipal water. For about $100, you can purchase a rain barrel from The Home Depot.
Xeriscaping (the “x” sounds like a “z”) is a landscape design technique that reduces the water required to maintain the landscape. Although the word was coined in 1981, the idea is not new – establish plantings adapted to the environment instead of widespread use of water-consuming tropicals and lawns.
Native plants are just one factor in a xeriscape. Other aspects of a water-thrifty garden are improving soils to conserve water, grouping plants with similar water requirements, and installing efficient irrigation systems that meet the plants’ needs.
A tenet of xeriscaping is reducing the amount of lawn in the landscape. Apply the design principle of the Rule of Thirds to your lawn: Viewing a lawn from either the street or inside the home, you can reduce the actual grassy lawn to a narrow 1/3 stripe, still visible from either direction and satisfying the expectation of green.
The remainder of the xeriscape could be layered with drought-resistant plants and raised beds, outfitted with a drip irrigation system for efficient watering.
Two alternatives to consider: Install an artificial lawn. For that stripe of green, modern turf is engineered to be realistic and environmentally friendly.
If replacing or reducing the front lawn isn’t an option, consider making the back or side yards the xeriscaped areas.
3 Tips for Drought-Tolerant Landscapes:
- It’s true for all landscapes, especially xeriscapes: When installing new plantings, take the extra step and amend the soil, using humus-rich soil for good drainage and mulch to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. In a dry landscape, pebbles can serve as mulch and increase drainage.
- Ornamental grasses are drought-tolerant, suited for growing in less than perfect soil. They survive even the hottest conditions. Grasses have the added benefit of acting as screens.
- Grow drought-resistant perennials whenever possible. The following perennials are hardy from Zones 3 to 9 throughout the country. Learn more about these and other plants at The Home Depot Garden Club’s Plant Finder.
- Blanket flower (gaillardia)
- Yarrow (achillea)
- Penstemon (beard tongue)
- Sedum “Autumn Joy”
- Purple coneflower (echinacea)