These days, many climates in the US that have traditional seen steady rainfall are currently experiencing serious droughts. Droughts can devastate gardens regardless of geographical location. But helping a garden withstand drought is not as daunting as it may seem. With the right combination of landscape design, fertilizer use, water use, and care, any garden can emerge flourishing and healthy after a dry spell.
Planning what to plant and where to plant it is a top priority. Choose native plants whenever possible because they are the most accustomed to the local environment. This does not mean you can’t grow what you want. It just means you will have to pay closer attention to placement and water needs in drought conditions.
Remember that plants adjacent to structures like buildings or sidewalks, which reflect light and heat, tend to absorb more of both. Plant these areas with plants that can tolerate those conditions. With less water- and heat-resistant plants, it is best to plant them as close to your water source as possible to promote easy care.
Soil is extremely important for a flourishing garden, both for water retention and minimizing fertilizer use. Make sure your topsoil is loose rather than compacted, with a combination of small and large pores that promote growth of organisms and water retention. Tilling organic compost into the soil helps reduce the need for fertilizer because the organic matter fertilizes as it breaks down. Organic matter also retains water like a sponge for those dry spells.
Adding a layer of mulch on top of your rich soil helps reduce evaporation, as does watering at the proper time. The sun is hottest and brightest in afternoon, increasing the evaporation rate. Watering late at night can safeguard against evaporation, but may also promote fungal growth. That makes early morning watering best for drought conditions. Morning-watered plants can soak up the water before it is evaporated, so they are ready for hot and dry conditions. Also consider capturing rainwater in rain barrels or using gutters to capture natural runoff and irrigate your garden. This saves on water use, mimics natural conditions, and can also beautify your garden. During the drought you can supplement natural irrigation by soaking plants with a hose.
No matter what your design, watering schedule and plant choice, regular maintenance and care are vital to a thriving garden. Weeding eliminates competition for water from unwanted plants, and just generally spending time in the garden can help you keep a sharp eye on weather conditions in your area.