Planning Your Landscape for Drought

R. L. Rhodes
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Maintaining a healthy landscape is tricky business when you live in a region prone to drought. The best strategy is two-fold. First, favor plants that hold up well with very little water, like those in Altman’s Smart Planet line of drought-resistant plants. Second, make efficient use of what little precipitation is available.

Planting for drought

Because grass can require frequent watering to maintain its luster, replacing your lawn with a drought-hardier ground cover is a good start toward using less water in your landscape. Which ground cover you’ll want to use will depend on the amount of direct sunlight you’re getting in the planting area.

For full sun, try:

  • Sedum, creeping juniper, creeping phlox, veronica or lavender

In areas that receive partial shade, try:

  • Periwinkle or wintercreeper

Trees and shrubs also have widely varying water needs. When buying larger plants, look for varieties with relatively little thirst and the capacity to store their own water through extended periods of heat and drought.

Large succulents and cacti are clear winners in that department. For more variety, try apricot, sumac, boxelder, juniper or sage.

Persevering through drought

Conversing water should be about not only using less water, but also getting the fullest possible use out of the water that makes it into your landscape. If the sand or clay content of your soil is high, distributing a soil amendment throughout may help it hold water better. Mulching can help trap moisture near the roots of plants where it’s needed most.

Leveling the grade of your landscape can also keep water from dribbling off before your soil has a chance to absorb it. Even if leveling’s not practical in your situation, installing runoff trenches can slow the flow of water off your landscape.

These precautions may be to no avail if you don’t receive at least some rainfall. A drip irrigation system lets you deliver controlled amounts of water at a steady, gradual rate, exactly where it’s needed. Check out our article on drip irrigation tools and methods for ideas on how you can water your landscape more efficiently.

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