For those of you who love living amid luscious plant life, a drought can be a real gardening nightmare. If you live in an area with minimal annual rainfall or even water restrictions, this problem is only amplified.
But don’t get too worried just yet! Just because you’re living in a drought region, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the enjoyment of a garden. With these helpful guidelines, you can create the beautiful garden of your dreams while still conserving water.
How to Retain Water in Your Gardens
During a drought, plants aren’t getting water from rain, and may not be able to pull much moisture from the soil either. So plants must rely on gracious gardeners to supply them with water regularly. The trouble is, if we’re not careful, most of the water will be absorbed into the soil or evaporated into the air. Not to worry – with a few simple alterations to your garden, you can keep your water where your plants need it.
Mulch and Compost
Both of these can have a major effect on the water-holding capacity of your soil. Adding a 2-3 inch layer of mulch or compost will help trap moisture into your garden so that it remains available to your plants for longer periods. This protective layer not only keeps the soil cooler, but also shields the soil from direct sunlight to prevent excessive evaporation.
Additionally, thick layers of mulch will keep water-hogging weeds from overrunning your garden – but more on weeds later. Keep in mind, you should stir and break up mulch periodically to prevent it from crusting over. Otherwise, this can form a barrier that prevents water from reaching the soil.
This method is somewhat of an investment. However, raised garden beds can have a huge effect on your watering regimen. When planting directly into the ground, a lot of the water disappears into the parched soil.
Raised beds made of wood, concrete, stone, and other materials help keep the water where your plants can reach. If you pair raised beds with other water conservation tactics and a simple irrigation method, you can ensure moisture retention and direct water to the soil and roots rather than the foliage.
Line Your Planters
Do you plant in places other than flowerbeds? It’s not always easy to mulch hanging baskets and planters, and a raised bed-style barrier of concrete isn’t an option. Luckily, you can still find ways to conserve water in your planting vessels. Try lining your hanging baskets and window planters with newspaper or coffee filters before adding the soil. This will create an additional barrier to prevent too much water loss to the ground below.
Think Carefully About What to Plant
It’s not just how you plant that affects garden success in a drought, but what you plant as well. During a drought, you don’t have the option to plant anything and everything that comes to mind.
Restrict yourself to growing plants that are likely to thrive together in your garden’s conditions. The limited number of plants will also conserve space and reduce the amount of water needed.
Choose Drought-tolerant Plants
When a dry spell hits, only the plants that are resistant to drought conditions are likely to make it to the end of the growing season. Drought-tolerant plants are a great way to bring some color back to your garden, while still conserving water.
Plants such as succulents, cacti, and some flowers, are accustomed to hot and arid conditions, so they are able to survive on less water than many other types of plants.
Select Native or Adapted Plants
This can go hand-in-hand with growing plants that are drought-tolerant. Plants that are native to an area with minimal annual rainfall are naturally able to succeed in dry conditions.
Historically, these plants have been able to thrive with infrequent watering, which makes them a great option for gardening in drought periods. Likewise, plants specifically adapted to arid regions have evolved over time to withstand the conditions of this type of environment.
By choosing plants that have been proven to flourish in a dry region, your garden is more likely to survive an extended drought.
Grow Plants with Similar Needs
This is a general rule to follow for most successful gardens. However, it becomes especially important when your garden is experiencing a dry spell.
Plants that require an abundant water supply, such as tropical plants and vegetables like broccoli, will hog all of the moisture away from other plants in your garden, causing them to fail.
To promote growth, plants should be grouped together based on their water needs. By planning a garden where plants have similar requirements, your plants are more likely to thrive.
4 Simple Tips for Conserving Water
Once you’ve gone through the process of actually creating and planting your drought tolerant garden, there’s still more you can do to keep it strong throughout a dry season. With these 4 simple tips, you can have your garden and keep it watered too.
Many times, we pour the leftover water down the drain rather than finding other uses for it. People waste water like this every day without a second thought. Even though we may not be able to use this water personally, our thirsty plants could greatly benefit from it. When you’re boiling or steaming vegetables use the spare water to hydrate your plants.
Just be sure to let the water cool first!
You can do the same with the water from your fish tank whenever you clean it. The nutrients left behind, whether they are from your steamed vegetables or the residual elements of the fish tank water, will help your plants immensely.
Additionally, you may want to consider collecting rainwater around your property during those occasional instances when precipitation appears. This will allow you to direct some of the rain where it’s actually needed, rather than on the pavement and other places.
This is something you may not think about in terms of water conservation. Sure, you know weeds are often eyesores in your garden and may even strangle your delicate plants, but they also hog water.
The deep roots of these frustrating wild plants steal valuable moisture from the soil and prevent your plants from getting what they need. Weeding might not be your favorite gardening task, but it can go a long way for conserving garden water.
Water in the Morning
If you are able, watering in the morning is a great option for conserving water. By watering while it’s still somewhat cool outside, you give your garden a chance to soak up the water before it evaporates on the soil surface.
Plants can then collect the water throughout the day as the temperature increases. While it is also cool enough to prevent evaporation in the evening, watering right before dark can also lead to fungus development.
Choose the Right Tools
It can be easy to overlook your watering tools, but it’s one of the most important elements of gardening – especially in drought conditions.
The wrong device can waste a lot of valuable water. Soaker hoses, drip irrigation systems, sprinkler wands, and even watering cans are the most efficient methods for most gardens. They are more accurate at directing water to the soil.
Conversely, traditional garden hoses with a spray nozzle can waste a lot of water due to high levels of mist, evaporation, and runoff without ever reaching your plants’ root systems.