Since the turn of the 21st century, the western United States has experienced some of the driest conditions on record and, according to the UN, more than 75% of the world could face drought conditions by 2050. Conclusion: As climate change continues to cause water stress, we need to find ways to conserve water and adapt to drier conditions, including in our yards and gardens.
The traditional stretches of pristine green grass that most characterize lawns use huge amounts of water. It is estimated that 30% of residential drinking water is used outdoors, and even more in the summer. This can be a huge expense and a drain on water resources, especially in areas of the country facing water shortages.
The goal of creating a water-efficient garden is threefold: to increase the amount of moisture your soil can hold, to capitalize on naturally available water, and choose plants and designs that require less water to start with. Landscaping using water-based methods is often referred to as “xeriscapea term first used by the Denver Water Board to describe landscaping methods that reduce the need for irrigation, capitalize on natural rainfall, and require less water overall than traditional landscaping methods. . Whatever the name, there are plenty of ways to increase your garden’s resilience to drought.
Commonly integrated with xeriscaping, hardscaping basically means designing and decorating your yard with non-organic features like walls, paths, patios, or driveways. Landscaping itself is not inherently sustainable, but sustainable landscaping works in harmony with the ecosystem, built intentionally with the intention of having a positive effect on the environment rather than a negative one.
Use well-drained materials
A key feature of sustainable landscaping is to allow for permeability, which traditional materials and methods – such as building uninterrupted concrete expanses for patios or sidewalks – do not reflect. These impermeable surfaces do not allow water to seep into the ground, but rather allow it to flow to other areas and deprive the ground of water. Using materials like gravel or stones with spaces between them to build walkways and other yard features will allow rainwater to infiltrate rather than run off.
Construct a dry creek bed to capture runoff
After a heavy rain, you may notice water pooling in a specific area of your garden or rushing into gullies in the earth. Building a dry creek bed out of rocks in areas where water usually collects will force it to seep into the ground. There are many ways to design these beds, but the main objective is to dig a trench, using the displaced soil to build the walls. Line the bed with larger rocks and line the interior with medium-sized rocks. There will be spaces in between, which you can fill with gravel or river stones.
To beautify the creek bed, plant native greenery along the top of the trench around large rocks or create a rain garden at the bottom with the moisture-loving plants of your garden to utilize that water and prevent further erosion. .
Using municipal water to water your garden can be expensive – especially in the heat of summer – and some municipalities facing water shortages may impose restrictions on water use for yards. and the gardens. Instead, use the water that is offered to you for free! Collect rainwater in a store-bought rain barrel, or make an easy DIY version yourself. Most connect to a drain spout and have a tap at the bottom for easy water access. For a low-tech solution, take out buckets and barrels just before a downpour to collect water for watering the next day. Note that collected rainwater should never be used for drinking, and when watering the garden, water the plants directly at their base in case of contamination in the water, then wash all produce thoroughly.
Choose better plants
Kentucky bluegrass — the grass that usually covers our lawns — is thirsty and needs lots of water to stay green. Choosing plants with a higher tolerance for water-scarce conditions will require less attention and less water.
Unlike annuals – which have a one-year life cycle – perennials overwinter in gardens and come back year after year. Because of this, their root systems are strong and much more established, which means they require less watering. Planting perennials also results in less soil disturbance (since you’re not replanting every year), which leaves soil organic matter intact and thus maintains high water retention. Foxglove beardtongue, purple coneflower, yarrow and Russian sage are among the many beautiful perennials that are particularly drought tolerant.
Drought resistant plants
Because they only live for one year, annuals have shallow roots and generally require more water than perennials. However, some annuals – such as California poppies, cleomes (or “spider flowers”), cosmos, creeping zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, and periwinkle (aka periwinkle) – have a higher tolerance to drought. For herbs and greenery, try fountain grass, pampas grass, blue fescue, lamb’s ear, and sweet potato vine. Succulents and cacti do especially well without a lot of water, but check the label to make sure they’re right for your hardiness zone.
Of all the ornamental plant options, you’ll likely find the greatest success with those that grow naturally in your area. Native plants have adapted over time to local climate, soil and other conditions, which means they don’t need as much attention, are more resistant to pests and diseases and generally require less water. . Covering your garden with species native to your area will lead to a biodiverse, successful, and water-efficient garden.
Gather the thirsty plants
Put your thirstiest plants in the same area of the garden, especially if you are watering with a hose. By concentrating your heavy watering in a single area (rather than the entire yard), you’ll save a lot of water; even walking around with the garden hose as you move from area to area can be a waste of water.
Maintain healthy soil
Paying attention to the health of your soil is important for growing strong plants above ground. Although soil composition varies greatly from region to region, healthy soil acts like a sponge, retaining water when plants need it while being porous enough for roots to penetrate. Organic matter increases the water-holding capacity of the soil – add compost early in the growing season to provide more nutrients to the soil before planting.
A layer of mulch covering a garden can significantly reduce moisture loss through evaporation. Store-bought wood chips aren’t the only option for mulching — fallen leaves, leaf mold, pine needles, and grass and garden clippings will work just as well. When cutting late-life perennials (or pruning plants), leave the cuts above ground to trap moisture. Inorganic mulches like gravel and seashells can work, but they can make it harder to work in the garden.
Wind and strong sunlight can reduce soil moisture during the day. To combat this, plant tall shrubs and plants around the perimeter of the garden to act as a barrier. Before you do this, take note of how shadows work in your garden and plant accordingly. Some plants want full sun all day, so plant them away from shade and plant closer to shade-loving plants.
When watering with the hose, we tend to spray over a wide range, probably wetting areas that don’t need moisture. In general, plants do better with less frequent waterings that penetrate deeper into the soil, encouraging them to develop deeper root systems. Instead of a typical garden hose, try a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose instead, which targets the roots directly and doesn’t waste water in the process.
Use a rain gauge
These rudimentary and relatively inexpensive tools measure the amount of water your garden is getting so you can adjust your watering schedule accordingly – you may be watering way more than you need without realizing it. Most gardens are fine with an inch of water per week (although arid climates will need a bit more), apart from particularly hot periods. When you water, check that the soil actually needs it. If it’s dry to an inch below the surface, it’s time to waterbut if not, wait for it to dry a bit more.