Keys To Drought Tolerant Gardens

Keys To Drought Tolerant Gardens

There are lots of ways to create a beautiful garden that won’t require an irrigation system or daily watering. Especially when water restrictions come in for the end of summer. From soil preparation to plant choices, here are some suggestions for making your garden drought-tolerant and self-sustainable.

Creating gardens tailored to withstand hot, dry weather — is something people are increasingly taking into consideration.

Here are a few drought-resistant gardening tips.

Prepare Your Soil

Professionals underline the importance of soil preparation. Organic matter - compost, manure, garden waste or organic fertilizer — is key for a soil that will be as nutrient-rich and self-sufficient as possible.

Add Mulch

Simply having good soil to start with is not enough. Protecting that soil is just as important. Mulch, mulch, mulch, whether bark or gravel, it helps slow evaporation of water from the soil. The key is to remove bare ground, high plant densities with varying rooting depths will enable good soil moisture year-round, as the soil won’t be exposed to the sun.

Practice Tough Love

If you “spoil” your plants by watering them generously, they’ll come to expect and need regular drinks, the experts say.

If you treat them “mean” from the get-go, they’ll learn to survive better. Plants get “lazy” because they’re not used to holding the water. Whereas if they’ve always had to put out roots to find water, they’ll become more robust for hotter, dryer summers. However, when starting plants off, they may need generous watering to help the roots establish.

A good soaking now and then is better for creating self-sufficient plants than daily watering. It helps them to really get as independent as possible, to get their roots down looking for their own source, rather than looking near the surface.

Making the plants work hard to survive sounds harsh, but if you train them to the hose, they will never deal with a drought. Obviously, if they’re actually dying, then you’ll need to step in — but consider their location and habitat and don’t be afraid to move things if you realize they’re in the wrong place.

Harvest Rainwater

It’s not just about watering plants more sparingly; it’s also about what to water them with. Everyone should have a rain barrel or water cistern.  They don’t have to be unsightly. “You can get water [cisterns] that have planters on top of them, and they can easily be made into a garden feature.

Tip: Before you purchase or install a rain barrel, be sure to check local bylaws.

Choose the Right Plants

Do plenty of research before letting yourself run free in the plant nursery. It is important to understand native landscapes, and then emulate the plant communities in such as way as to suit them best. This leads to less watering and maintenance and much longer-lived plantings.

As a general rule, plant silver-leaved plants, such as lavender as silver reflects the sunlight, and this feature is often a good sign a plant will be drought-tolerant. Plants that are small and have hairy leaves, retain water, and are more self-sustainable. A plant with all three — silver, small-leaved and hairy — is a great combination.


Plant Mediterranean herbs — thyme, sage, rosemarey etc — that can survive with a lot less watering.

Dry conditions in full shade can be trickier when it comes to planting so talking to a landscape architect might be helpful

Minimalist — and often thirsty — landscape design is on the way out. Instead, we should all be enjoying the naturalness of our gardens more and potentially tidying and primping them less.

One thing we could all do is reduce the amount of fossil fuel-based activities, such as hedge-cutting and mowing, that we do. Instead, let your grass grow longer while encouraging any wildflowers within the turf to bloom. 


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