Drought Tolerant Landscaping Ideas
By Linda Ly
When gardening in a drought, it’s sometimes easier to just throw in the towel (er, the trowel) and put your yard on hiatus in the height of summer. Longer days and rising temperatures can be hard on thirsty plants, but that doesn’t mean you need to forgo your beautiful landscape. By learning how to conserve the moisture in your soil and choosing water saving plants for your beds, you can create a beautiful garden that needs much less water than you may think.
1. Best Time to Water Plants in Hot Weather
By watering at the right times, you can actually reduce the amount of water your lawn and garden need without sacrificing their beauty. Too many gardeners subscribe to the idea, the more water, the better. But in reality, up to 40 percent of water dedicated to landscaping is actually wasted. Watering at the right time, and in the right way, can ensure your plants survive drought without wasting water.
The best time to water plants in hot weather is in the cool early morning hours between 6-10 a.m. Watering during the coolest time of the day allows the water to soak deeply into the ground rather than evaporate. Instead of overhead watering, which can lead to water evaporation and wasteful runoff, use a watering nozzle to direct the water where your plants need it the most – at their roots. This method also keeps disease at bay, since moisture clinging to the leaves from overhead watering can encourage fungal growth.
2. Drought Tolerant, Water Saving Plants
You can reduce your water needs with drought tolerant plants. Nature designed these plants to conserve water and thrive even in extreme climates. They often feature small leaf areas or needles, deep indentations, a fine hair-like surface or a waxing coating. Many have deep root systems to help draw in moisture.
Popular drought tolerant plants for a water saving garden include:
- Trees: common hackberry, California buckeye, Kentucky coffeetree, Serbian spruce, eastern white pine, western redbud, coast live oak and pomegranate
- Shrubs: common witch hazel, juniper, spirea, common lilac, smoke bush, coyote brush and northern bush honeysuckle
- Perennials: aster, butterfly weed, lavender, rosemary, thyme, lupine, Russian sage, lilyturf, true lilies, columbine, beebalm and chrysanthemum
- Annuals: strawflower, zinnia, dusty miller, sunflower, flowering tobacco, ornamental kale, marigold, cosmos, wax begonia and salvia
- Grass: blue fescue, blue grama grass, California oatgrass and common Bermuda
3. Grass Alternatives
Many areas restrict how often you can water your lawn during the heat of summer. Instead of struggling with maintaining a lawn, you can design a drought resistant backyard using alternatives to traditional grass. Planting ground covers can give you that lush, green carpet without the amount of water a healthy lawn needs – even in the hottest weather.
Drought tolerant ground covers include:
- Alpine strawberry
- Texas meadow sedge
- Creeping barberry
4. Stone Walkways
Xeriscaping, landscaping that keeps water conservation in mind, is an increasingly popular drought resistant landscaping option. Instead of filling your yard with large areas of grass or ground covers, consider using beautiful stone walkways and areas of decorative gravel. Placing ornamental grasses and small garden areas throughout the landscape can add a touch of green.
5. Water Saving Tips
Once the days become long and hot, keeping your yard looking lush can become water consuming and labor intensive. But there are several ways to improve the performance of your garden during the hot summer months. With just a little preventative gardening, you can reduce moisture loss and decrease your time spent in the hot sun. Try these tips to conserve water during the blazing summer heat.
Amend the soil with organic matter
To set your yard up for successful drought gardening, start with your soil. Digging in organic matter (such as well-rotted compost) provides your plants much-needed nutrients, stimulates beneficial worm activity and improves soil moisture retention. Simply amend your soil in the spring, and your plants will be better able to withstand the heat of summer.
Group by water need
No matter the season, you can design a drought tolerant garden by growing plants with similar water needs together, especially vegetables, herbs and annuals. Deep-rooted crops such as tomatoes and winter squash are heavy feeders, thrive in the sun and require more water, while shallow-rooted crops such as spring radishes and salad greens grow well in partial shade and need less water. By grouping your plants by their sunlight and moisture needs, you can avoid over (or under) watering.
Organic mulch is a must if you want to conserve moisture and insulate plant roots against the heat. Apply a natural mulch twice per year in the spring and fall. Garden beds and trees benefit from several inches of mulch spread over the soil, while containers need only an inch or two each season to help retain moisture.
Drought tolerant landscaping is a beautiful thing. It allows you to sit back and relax in the shade while reducing your water usage. By watering mindfully, making wise landscaping choices and performing a little preventative gardening care, you can stay cool knowing your yard will look hot all summer long.