Add a thick layer of mulch around your plants to help maintain consistent soil moisture. Organic mulches include shredded bark, compost, rotted manure, pine needles, leaves, grass clippings, and even newspaper. These mulches minimize evaporation and slowly break down in the soil, adding an extra dose of organic matter to the garden. Gravel, stone, and shells will also work, but wont decompose in the soil and can be difficult to deal with if you want to move plants around.
After a heavy rain do you see water running off your lot into the street or adjoining properties? Dont let that happen. Instead, build a dry streambed that captures runoff and forces it to percolate into the soil. Here, a narrow streambed built at the base of a sloping front yard catches rainwater, preventing it from flooding into the street.
During drought, every drop of water is precious. Catch what you can every time it sprinkles with a rain barrel attached to your gutters. That way you can use the captured moisture to irrigate your garden instead of using valuable resources from your city water supply. In this garden, a rain chain channels runoff into a handsome wooden rain barrel. Note: Always check local regulations before installing a rain barrel. Believe it or not, some localities may ban them.
Install a rain gauge and use it to keep tabs on how much moisture your landscape is receiving. Most gardens do just fine on one inch of moisture a week, so if rainfall is generous theres no need to water your yard. And, if you are using an automatic irrigation system, check the rain gauge to make sure you are not wasting water.
Spraying your landscape with a hose is a wasteful and ineffective way to irrigate. In fact, frequent, shallow watering can make things worse by encouraging plants to develop shallow root systems that dry out quickly. Plants do best with less frequent, but deep watering. To accomplish this, use drip irrigation or a soaker hose that delivers water directly to the root zones of the plants. In this garden, a soaker hose is being installed under a layer of mulch to prevent evaporation.
Having a perfectly green lawn doesnt make sense if you live in a region where water resources are precious. Turf grass generally requires as much as 2.5 inches of water per week in midsummer. That means you have to water every three or four days to keep it looking good. Instead, why not rip up your turf and replace it with low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. In this front yard, the grass was removed and replaced with ornamental grasses, agave, Euphorbia, and other easy-care plants.
Container gardens need to be watered almost every day. That can be a problem if water resources are at a premium. But, you dont need to put all your pots and planters away. Instead, fill them with colorful collections of waterwise plants that you can ignore when rainfall is scarce. In this vintage birdbath, youll find tall Crassula tetragonia blooming alongside Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense, and Firestick pencil cactus, Euphorbia tirucalli.
When selecting annual flowers for your garden, look for species that are naturally drought-tolerant. Strawflower, for example, uses so little water that its pretty blooms are naturally dry and papery. This hardworking beauty grows equally well in the ground or in containers and comes in a variety of colors and bicolors. Here, variety Dreamtime Jumbo Light Pink thrives in a sunny, dry location.
Stop erosion on slopes and hillsides with groundcovers. The plants dense root systems will form a spongelike layer beneath the soil that absorbs excess rainfall or irrigation. In shady locations, use groundcovers such as Ajuga, lamium, Pachysandra, or ivy. For exposed sunny spots, try ornamental grass, sedum, nepeta, or liriope. In this sloping backyard, woolly thyme and creeping Jenny were tucked around stepping-stones and boulders for color and erosion control.
When you build a new patio, try to avoid paving the area with concrete. A concrete patio may be cheaper and faster to install, but its not absorbent and any rain that falls will drain away quickly, possibly eroding nearby areas. Instead, create a more beautiful space with stepping-stones that also allow rainfall to seep into the ground between them. Whenever it rains in this backyard, the stone patio channels water to where it does the most good: into the soil.