Gardening during a drought

Metro Service
Succulents are good drought-tolerant plants to include in landscape designs.

■ Metro Service

During the early and oftentimes rainy days of spring, it can seem like there may never be a time when plants will struggle to get their share of water. But a drought can affect any area and arid climates in particular. Ensuring gardens can survive drought takes patience and forethought.
Droughts can be particularly troubling for avid gardeners because it can wreak havoc on lawns and gardens. In addition to causing changes in the physical appearance, such as dried out leaves and stalks, drought can weaken the integrity of plants. This makes plants more susceptible to disease and attacks from plant eating insects, according to Better Homes & Gardens. In addition, it can take years for plants to recover from drought.
So what can gardeners do? While they may not be able to prevent damage to plants from drought, gardeners are not helpless.

1. Water well infrequently. Get plants used to a thorough watering every week or every other week. This will help develop strong, deep roots rather than shallow ones that will need frequent watering to thrive.

2. Choose drought-tolerant plants. Homeowners can work with garden centers and landscape professionals to create gardens that are full of water-wise plants and flowers. Some examples of plants that can survive with minimal water include the blanket flower, Spanish lavender, euphorbia rigida, and kangaroo paw.

3. Apply a layer of mulch. The mulch can protect delicate plants and the rest of the landscape by reducing the evaporation of soil moisture. Mulch will keep soil cool and moist.

4. Skip the fertilizer. Since fertilizers encourage plant growth, it’s best to skip them during drought, as growing plants require extra water.

5. Invest in rain barrels. When it rains, maximize the amount of water that can be collected by connecting rain barrels to downspouts on the house. This water can be used to water gardens when dry weather returns.

6. Use organic materials. Amend the soil with organic materials, like compost. The Grow Network advises that light, fluffy soils with air pockets in between the soil particles route water efficiently during floods and retain moisture for plants. Therefore, such soils can perform very well during drought.

Many gardens can survive drought with simple actions and smart planting.

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