Thursday, September 13, 2012

Preparing Your Garden for Dry Weather

 After this year’s hot, dry summer, most of us gardeners are looking for ways to protect our plants from the next drought. Here are some good gardening practices that will help.

1.       Make sure our gardens have soil that is rich in organic matter so that it will absorb and hold nutrients more efficiently. What to do? Add several inches of compost, shredded leaves, or other organic matter to you soil on a regular basis until the soil is easily-tilled loam. Set up a compost pile so that you have a ready supply of organic material. Yes, it’s true; compost is “black gold.”

2.       Select the right plants, in other words, those that are native to our area and have adapted to the growing conditions here. Native plants are best suited to dealing with the local climate and insects. Check with your local nursery for suggestions. For example: daylilies, ornamental grasses, black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, witch hazel, yucca, golden rain trees, and junipers. What else to do? Group plants in the garden according to their drought tolerance.  It’s always easier to water one area than lots of small ones scattered throughout the garden.

3.      To look their best, lawns can require lots of water. To have your lawn and still be a frugal user of water, be sure to plant a variety of grass that is well suited to this climate. Keep the amount of lawn in your garden to a minimum, and don’t mow the grass too often or too short – about two to three inches isgood for fescues.

4.       When you do have to water your garden, do it wisely. Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation. Water deeply and not very often to promote deep root growth. Consider using soaker hoses or drip irrigations systems since these systems waste less water than sprinklers. Need an extra source of water? Install rain barrels under your downspouts to collect water for use when rain is scarce.

5.       What else to do? Mulch, mulch, mulch to keep weeds under control and conserve moisture. Keep insect pests and diseases under control too since both will stress your plants and increase their need for water.

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