Gardening in a Drought: 9 Water Conscious Tips for Your Garden

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Gardening in a drought can be a headache for nature lovers.

Yet, as continued drought conditions and early water bans persist, you can still have a beautiful yard. It’s time to implement some water conscious tips for your garden.

That way, dry spells won’t be a major setback, and you can still enjoy the lush greenery of spring and summer. With a few water-saving techniques, you can sustain a beautiful garden and enjoy your green space all season long.

For tips and tricks to help you keep your garden thriving while minimizing water usage, read more below.

CONTENTS – In this article, we will give you some useful tips about gardening in a drought so that you can keep yourself closer to the nature even in the severe climatic conditions, including;

9 Ways to Quench Your Gardens Thirst, Responsibly

Continued drought conditions and early water bans are enough to cause some gardeners to hang up their hoe for the garden season.

In fact, the soil has seen such drought areas in areas, according to master gardeners, it may not be in a condition to absorb the rain of spring storms.  The water that falls may simply run off when you’re gardening in a drought.

But don’t despair.

You can sustain a beautiful garden by using these water-saving techniques.

1.   Slowly Saturate Soil

gardening in a drought
Slowly Saturate Soil

To help soil recover from drought, you’ll want to water slowly and over a long period to allow the water to saturate the soil.

On average, most plants need one inch of water per week.

But at times of drought, it’s not enough to rely on a rain gauge. It’s more important to assess whether the water is reaching the roots.

To determine whether water is being absorbed and how deeply it has penetrated the soil, you can slice into the flower bed and lawn with a shovel.

In loose soils like in the vegetable garden, it’s just as easy to finger test the soil.

Optimally, the water should penetrate the soil to a depth that allows it to be absorbed by the roots, or several inches.

Oftentimes it only reaches the mulch or topsoil, especially when you’re gardening in a drought.

It’s better to give plants a little drink, allow it to soak in, and come back for a thorough soaking, rather than drenching them in pools of water.

Water in pools is likely to run off, as it does and torrential summer downpours, while disturbing mulch.

2.   Supplement Water Supplies

gardening in a drought
supplement your water supplies when gardening in a drought.

At a time when water is limited, consider collecting rainwater for garden use.

Buckets and watering cans are good for collecting rainwater from the open-air.  You can even collect the runoff from downspouts.

On a grander scale, use rain barrels to catch run off. Some, with built-in spigots, provide for easy dispensing of water.

Make use of “gray water,” or water that is nearly clean. You can collect gray water from bathtubs, sinks, and kiddy pools. Then, use it to a limited degree without upsetting soil conditions.

3.   Use Soaker Hoses and Emitters

gardening in a drought
Use soaker hoses and emitters to distribute water more efficiently.

Drip irrigation methods efficiently distribute water, minimizing your water loss through runoff and evaporation, as often happens with overhead watering

A soaker hose is one form of drip irrigation.

This consists of a special garden hose with tiny holes along its length that slowly sweat water to flower beds.

Over several hours the water from soaker hoses will penetrate deeply to provide a thorough drink to your plant roots.

Even more efficient are emitter systems, in which lengths of thin tubing are fed from a hose directly into the base of plants.

Some emitter systems are even equipped with timers and allow the delivery of fertilizers through the system.

Both the soaker hose and emitter systems are placed beneath 2 to 3 inches of mulch to prevent water loss from evaporation.

To preserve moisture when your gardening in a drought, cover beds, including irrigation hoses with two to three inches of mulch. This helps prevent water loss through the harsh elements of sun and wind during periods of drought.

Whether or not you use an irrigation system, most gardens benefit from a layer of mulch to keep water from evaporating.

Cocoa and buckwheat hulls work well in flower beds. Use bark mulch around trees, and salt marsh hay or chemical free black grass clippings for vegetable gardens.

4.   Soften the Blow from Above

gardening in a drought
Soften the Blow from Above

For towns that adhere strictly to the handheld hose rule, even though soaker hoses and emitters conserve more water.

So, soften the hose’s stream of water by directing the spray onto the soil rather than through the leaves of the plants.

Not only does this deliver a more gentle drink, but it prevents water from quickly evaporating from the leaves.

Even overhead watering with a gentle spray wand can tend to damage plants, and much of the water runs off–taking with it mulch.

Chances are, water bans do not allow for garden sprinklers, and it’s just as well.

They often spray water well beyond the desired area.

Plus, you’ll lose much water to evaporation before reaching the plant’s roots.

5.   Water at the Right Time

gardening in a drought
Water early in the morning to reduce water lost to evaporation.

Time of day is a critical factor in effectively watering your garden, not only when you’re gardening in a drought.

So, you’ll want to water early in the day whenever possible.

Midday watering loses water through evaporation long before it touches the ground. Evening watering invites fungus, disease, and tests.

The exception is when you’re reviving a dying plant: the sooner the better.

However, many bans allow watering every-other day. But you’ll want to resist the temptation.

Frequent watering encourages shallow surface roots that dry out quickly.

It’s better to provide the infrequent but thorough watering that allows a plant to develop deep roots. Deep roots are essential if your plants are to survive drought.

Spun fabrics provide additional overhead protection from scorching sun. You want to avoid wrapping the fabric around plants which will create extreme temperatures for the plants that the plants cannot tolerate.

You also want to use caution when covering vegetables that require insect pollination to bear fruit.

6.   Overseeded Lawns

gardening in a drought
Overseeded Lawns

Healthier grass absorbs water better.

So, help keep grass healthy by mowing it with a sharp blade.

Remove thatch and aerate lawns to prevent compaction or use a mulching mower.

Don’t be surprised, however, if despite your best efforts, the common rye grass used in most lawns goes dormant, turning brown and dry. That’s just the price of gardening in a drought.

If the lawn is well-established, its color will be restored when conditions return to normal.

To prolong its green, overseed with ryegrass, especially in patches where there has been trouble in the past.

Or, overseed with Fescue grass, a drought tolerant grass with roots extending 8 to 9 inches deep.

Fescue is included in most grass mixes, so it will blend in with your existing lawn. Then, the roots of grass roots of the grasses will mesh, making the lawn more resistant to drought.

Here are more drought-tolerant lawn alternatives you might consider.

7.   Maintain the Garden

gardening in a drought
Maintain the Garden

Continue to maintain your garden by deadheading spent blooms, pruning and trimming dead, damaged, or disease portions.

But hold off on fertilizing when you’re gardening in a drought. Or, use only a low-nitrogen fertilizer.

Using a high nitrogen or chemical fertilizer to produce lush growth makes plants require even more water.

Instead, opt for a high potassium fertilizer, such as well-rotted manure mulch. This will enhance root growth and promote stickers cell walls.

But remember, most fertilizers require enough water so the roots can absorb it.

8.   Give Container Plants ‘TLC’

gardening in a drought
Container plants need extra attention when you’re gardening in a drought.

Container plants and window boxes dry out very quickly since air circulates around all sides. So, they’ll need a little extra ‘tender loving care’ in a drought.

First, you’ll want to mulch them to conserve water and use large containers that hold more soil.

Add polymers to the soil that absorb and hold excess water until needed, or include a handful of wet long fibered sphagnum moss to achieve the same effect.

If containers do dry out to the point where the soil pulls away from the edges, stand up in water for several hours to allow them to drink their fill.

Then mix a drop or two of dish soap with the water used in future watering to help the topsoil regain its ability to hold water.

9.   Dead or Dormant?

gardening in a drought
Bleeding Heart

Your lawn may turn brown and crunchy during periods of drought then revive to a healthy green after favorable conditions return.

Similarly some plants may appear to die but actually lie dormant until the following year.

Here are a few flowers that are more likely dormant than dead.

  • Common Bleeding Heart (dicentra spectabilis)
  • Daffodils (narcissus)
  • Dwarf Coreopsis (coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’)
  • Grape Hyacinth (muscari)
  • Leopards Bane (doronicum)
  • Poppy (papaver)
  • Tulip (tulip spp.)
  • Virginia Bluebells (mertensia virginica)
  • Zebra Grass (miscanthus zebrinus)

Don’t give up on them too soon.

Instead, give them time to recover before you decide to toss them. You might even want to wait until next year to see which plants rise from the drought.

Final Thoughts on Gardening In a Drought

Practice these techniques and you will help your garden through dry periods. Although each is within the bounds of most water bans, they are principles you can continue to apply long after drought in the spirit of good gardening and water conservation.

Next Steps

For more home and gardening tips , read the articles below, next: