As massive forest fires continue to roar in places all over the world, water conservation is becoming increasingly necessary, especially in areas that experience long-lasting droughts. Many people are opting to rip up water-guzzling lawns for plants and other landscaping elements that require far less H2O. Here are some tips on how to design and implement drought resistant landscaping around your home.
Drought Tolerant vs. Resistant
While these two terms sound very similar, and are sometimes used interchangeably when talking about xeriscapes, a drought tolerant plant will flourish with a small amount of water or minimal rainfall, but drought resistant plants will thrive without any water for longer periods of time.
It’s essential to know the difference when planning your garden or landscape according to your region. If you experience long periods without rain, drought-resistant plants are the best bet, whereas drought-tolerant plants will need some supplemental watering.
Cacti and most succulents like aloe, agave, and yucca are drought resistant, whereas plants like thyme, lavender, aster, lupine, lamb’s ear, coreopsis, and bougainvillea shrubs, are just some examples of drought-tolerant plants. Drought resistant plants also double as fire resistant plants, and make smart additions to regional landscapes under threat of forest fires.
Plant Native Species
Drought tolerant plants will do best if they are native to the land you are planting in. Makes sense, right? These are the plants that naturally grew before humans started to bring in exotic species to the area. While there is some vegetation that will be drought tolerant no matter where it's planted, most plants will thrive with less water when they are grown in their natural habitat.
The temperature, rainfall, and other flora and fauna will all provide the best environment for healthy growth, which makes plants stronger and able to withstand drought and other hardships. If you aren’t sure where to find native plants, ask your local garden center, call your municipal government, or search for native plant groups and research pages online.
Implementing lawn alternatives is almost fundamental to drought resistant landscaping since turf grass needs a lot of supplemental watering. Ground covers are wonderful alternatives to lawns, as are non-turf grasses like fescues and ornamental varieties since they require little watering and maintenance, and will spread across large spaces.
They aren’t recommended for southern states and desert regions, however, since they would need supplemental watering and would be considered drought tolerant. Many sedum and stonecrop varieties are excellent drought resistant ground covers, perfect for adorning rock gardens in lieu of turf lawns.
Balancing Hardscapes and Softscapes
Good landscape design uses a balance of soft and hardscape. That means incorporating plants, shrubs, and trees along with rocks, stones, wood, and other physical materials and textures. This takes the stress off filling large spaces with only plants, which often looks unruly or doesn’t give space for areas to lounge, sit, or talk. Hardscapes include patio areas with the use of pavers, cement, mulch, and/or gravel.
Adding these elements to your yard space are wonderful ways to reduce overall water needs, and to give an organized sense of serenity in a drought resistant garden. Often, this will greatly improve the curb appeal of your home, as well.
Respect Bi-Laws/ Look for Rebates
Many municipalities, especially the ones that experience forest fires and long droughts, will enforce water conservation efforts by imposing fines on extraneous water use. Get to know the bi-laws in place and what kind of water restrictions are called for in your region.
On the flip side, there are many rebates for homeowners who are looking to implement drought-resistant landscaping. Look for incentives to replace your lawn with water-wise designs and xeriscapes, and other reimbursements for water conservation methods.
It can be difficult to get a completely drought-resistant garden up and running right away, and many homeowners continue to have at least some plant-life that requires supplemental watering. One way to get around fines for using water and environmental indolence is to start using water-smart systems. Installing a rain barrel and other catches are a fairly easy and inexpensive way to collect enough rainfall to supplement a drought tolerant garden.
If you do have to water, remember that watering deeply less frequently is better than a little bit every day. Other ways to retain natural moisture is to keep your soil healthy with organic material, use mulch extensively, and utilize shade areas or make more of them available. Get to know your space and be creative!
Many gardeners get frustrated when they see scorched plant-life and turf grass due to drought and high temperatures. Drought resistant landscaping can appease these frustrations, not to mention the cost of water on both your wallet and the environment. As many areas across the US are experiencing record-breaking dry spells, ask yourself if you can make changes to help reduce the need for supplemental water, and whether or not native plants would thrive better in your garden. By choosing drought resistant landscaping, soon you will see a beautiful, healthy, and thriving xeriscape come to life!