Optimizing Your Garden for Drought or Water Conservation

Optimizing Your Garden for Drought or Water Conservation

Living in Colorado and being a gardener has been rather stressful in the past few years, as this state has been undergoing a rather severe drought. The city is imposing watering restrictions which are not giving enough water to lawns and plants. I’ve had to renovate my garden to make it more water efficient. Now, because of the techniques I’ve employed, I’m the only one in my neighborhood with a garden that isn’t completely brown. So if you live in an area that is going through a drought or if you just want to save water, I suggest you use some of these techniques as well.

First, I took out all my plants. The soil I was using didn’t retain water very well, so I had to water about twice as much as necessary in order to get it to actually absorb into the roots. If you have this same problem, you can fix it by loading the soil up with lots of compost. This not only prevents water from escaping, but encourages the plant’s roots to be healthy and able to survive more.

Once I was done optimizing the soil for my new low water consumption plan, I was ready to replace all my plants. I decided that the placement of all my plants would reflect the amount of water necessary to keep them alive. All the plants that don’t require much water I placed in on one side of my garden, and then just progressed in the amount of required water to the other side of the garden. As a result of my new arrangement, I don’t have to waste water on plants that don’t need it as much.

The installation of a drip irrigation system was another move on my part that reduced the amount of water I needed to fully water my garden. The great thing about these systems is that they constantly drip into your plants, so that every single drop is absorbed. With traditional watering systems, usually the roots get too overwhelmed with the sheer amount of water in the soil. Thus, lots just seeps right past. This is all taken care of with the drip system.

If you still seem to need more water than you can supply to your garden, you might consider which plants you could replace with less water dependent plants. If you want a good shrub that doesn’t use up more than its share of water, look for Heavenly Bamboo. It is not only tolerant of droughts, but looks rather decorative in any garden. Herbs such as rosemary are useful in preparing meals, and are rarely thirsty.

If you’re trying to find flowers that will still be lush and beautiful despite the lower amounts of water, look for penstemon varieties like Garnet, Apple Blossom, Moonbeam, and Midnight. You can attract hummingbirds and butterflies with varieties like Cosmos and Yarrow. The best part about all these plants is that they don’t look rugged and withstanding, but they sure are. Your neighbors wont be saying “Look at them, they downgraded their plants just to withstand the drought. What chumps!” Instead they will be marveling over how you keep your flowers so beautiful in the midst of the watering regulations.

One of my favorite drought resistant plants is the Lavender plant. I could go on for pages about it. A large group of Lavender plants looks unbelievably gorgeous in your garden, and hardly requires any water to flourish. Pineapple sage is another personal favorite. It is a 2+ foot shrub that smells strangely of pineapple. It’s another major attracter of hummingbirds, and the leaves are also useful to add taste to drinks.

So if you are in the position I was, and you’re dealing with a drought and perhaps watering regulations, I suggest you try some of the things I’ve mentioned. Even if you’re just trying to conserve water or be generally more efficient with it, I think you’ll still be able to benefit.

Installing a Drip Irrigation System

Installing a Drip Irrigation System

If you’re looking for ways to keep your garden watered without wasting too much time and money, you’ve probably gone through a lot of options in your mind. Maybe you’ve considered a sprinkler, a hose, or a good old-fashioned watering can. All of these methods might be convenient, but most of the time you will end up wasting water on plants that don’t need any more. If you live in a drought stricken area like I do, you know that every bit of water counts. I ended up getting a drip irrigation system. I haven’t regretted this decision at all.

When you install a drip irrigation system, you can choose one of two varieties: above ground and below ground. The above ground version drips small amounts of water continuously onto the ground, and allows it to soak in. It is all regulated from a pressure controller, which ensures that the water just comes out at a drip instead of a spray or a stream. These pressure regulators are very inexpensive. The whole drip system can be set up with a pressure regulator and a garden hose with holes poked in it (although it is ideal for you to get a pipe designed for this type of use, I’ve found that the hose method works acceptably).

The underground system is a bit more of a pain to install and maintain. But if you’re really into the aesthetic aspect of your garden and don’t want any visible watering system, then you might consider it worth it. It’s essentially the same as the above ground version, only a small trench is dug for the hose or pipe prior to any planting. This allows the water direct access to the roots for the most watering efficiency. Plus, you can impress your neighbors by having a beautiful garden without ever going outside to water it! They’ll be baffled.

To choose between the two systems, you need to take several things into account. Do you have the same plant layout year round? If it is always changing, you probably won’t want to bury your hose. It can be a pain to dig it up and re-align it with all your new plants every year or so. Even if your plant layout never changes, you need to consider how much you really mind seeing a hose in your garden. If it really bothers you to the extent that you’re willing to work for a few hours to get rid of it, then by all means bury it. But otherwise I would suggest staying above ground if for nothing else than the convenience of repairing and rearranging. One of the main advantages of the drip irrigation system is its efficiency. Instead of spraying large amounts of water willy-nilly like a hose does, it makes the most of your precious water by putting it exactly
where it is needed. It can also provide your garden with constant watering, instead of just having to go thirsty whenever you’re not around to water it.

So if you’re looking for an easy, cheap, convenient, and efficient alternative watering method, you should go out to the gardening store today and purchase the necessary items to install a drip irrigation system. I think you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to maintain a garden after you have it.