As cities all over the US west coast struggle with water shortages, many residents are changing their garding choices to cope with the shortage. A drought-tolerant garden is a garden filled with plants that survive from small amounts of rainfall alone. When these plants are properly grouped according to soil, water and sunlight needs, they don’t require any extra water. While cacti are the obvious category that is included in the mix, it’s not the only option.
While water sprinklers and irrigation have traditionally been used in yards and gardens all over the West coast, it is becoming less and less sustainable going forward. Fresh water is a valuable and dwindling resource with many local supplies not being replenished.
The cost of alternative water sources is tremendously expensive, be it: piping in water in from other places, desalination, or wastewater treatment (not to mention resident repulsion to this last option). Lost water from crumbling infrastructure of these cities is adding to the lack of water brought on by this mega drought. With cities turning to water leak detection services and monitoring in an attempt to cope.
In these areas, at least half of the drinking water gets used to irrigate lawns and gardens; and it turns out it’s not even necessary. By making our gardens more climate appropriate, we can have beautiful, lush gardens full of flowers, herbs, fruit, and even some grasses, at a fraction of the water cost.
We can enjoy our amazing climate and outdoor lifestyle, and spend less time and money taking care of our gardens. It’s not difficult, but it does require some time and some work to transform your landscape into a drought-tolerant garden.
Use Drought-Tolerant Plants
Certain species of flower grow well in dry conditions and are therefore popular in drought-stricken areas. Some of these flowers are:
- Lavandula Multifida
- Agastache Rugosa
- Purple Coneflower
- Lamb’s Ear
- Blanket Flower
- Russian Sage
- Hummingbird Sage
- Kangaroo Paw
These are just a few suggestions for drought-tolerant plants; there are many more out there. For example, succulents are masters at conserving water. Typically, drought-tolerant plants will have leaves that are stiff and leathery, silvery or hairy, or small. A lot of drought-resistant plants will also have leaves that track the sun’s movement (standing straight up and down at midday and becoming more horizontally oriented as the day goes on).
Ditch the Lawn
The number one thing you can do to make your yard or garden more drought-friendly is to replace or modify your lawn. The traditional turf lawn takes up a lot of resources and requires a lot of watering. So, how can you change this?
You can set up a nice gravel or rock lawn. These rocky spaces don’t have to be devoid of life. Most rock or gravel lawns are interspersed with drought tolerant plants, and can be landscaped in a variety of pleasing ways.
You can substitute ornamental grasses for the traditional grass. Many ornamental grasses require less water.
If you really want the look of a classic lawn, you can replace your turf with artificial grass. Most modern artificial grass looks and feels like the real thing, but doesn’t involve any of the water or upkeep. You’ll never have to mow again.
Stone is a great tool for gardening in a low water climate, and can be used in myriad ways.
Gravel gardens: like the gravel or rock lawn, gravel gardens are typically designed around a few accent plants. Gravel can be mixed with rocks of various sized to add interest in large areas. Rock and gravel are also permeable, so using them solves a drainage problem.
Paths and walkways can be filled with gravel or stepping stones. For added effect, line them with large rocks.
Set up raised beds using modified livestock troughs or other water-holding containers. By placing holes along the bottom that can feed into lower beds, you can set up a very efficient drip irrigation system to make full use of rainwater. A height of 24 inches or so should allow sufficient depth of soil to promote root growth of vegetables and herbs.
Some gardeners save water with container plants that they can water efficiently. Groupings of potted plants can also create architectural interest in spots where soil conditions are inhospitable.
Large trees and shrubs with deep root systems can provide a lush centrepiece for your garden. You can typically judge the reach of the tree’s roots by the size of the canopy. Use the sunny and shady areas of your garden properly by identifying which areas are protected from the sun and which ones receive full sunlight for much of the day. Choose your plants accordingly.