How to Garden During Drought Conditions

What can I do to help my garden live through a drought?
How to Garden During Drought Conditions - Articles
How to Garden During Drought Conditions

Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org

Limit the size of your lawn and how close it is to trees, shrubs, and gardens

Lawn grasses need more water than many of the plants you grow in your garden. When grass is near other plants it usually gets most of the water because grass has very thick, shallow roots. If you can do it, try removing the grass out to the end of the tree's branches. Then mulch the grass-free area. Now the tree roots will get the first chance at the water that falls to the ground. The same idea applies to your garden plants; if the grass isn't there to compete for rainwater then your plants will get more of the moisture. Also get rid of the weeds that compete with your plants for water.

Save rainwater for your plants

Even during times of drought, some rain will fall! Save as much of that water as you can by putting a rain collector under the downspouts from your roof. In the house, save the water that you run from the tap while you're waiting for the temperature to get hot or cold. In Pennsylvania, we cannot use water that has been in contact with people (bath water, shower water, or dishwater) to water our plants.

Mulch and mulch properly

Use 2 to 3 inches of mulch around trees and shrubs, 1 to 2 inches around vegetable and flower plants. Mulch will keep the soil temperature cooler and it will keep moisture in the ground rather than letting it go out into the environment. By using an organic mulch such as bark or leaves, you will also be adding organic material and nutrients to the soil.

Choose drought-tolerant plants

There are plants out there that can survive high heat, high humidity, and low water conditions. These plants can be annuals or perennials. Try to purchase drought-tolerant plants at your local garden center. If you plant these plants you won't have to worry about them as much as those plants which are not drought-tolerant.

Here is a list of annuals that are known to be heat and/or drought-tolerant:

  • Alyssum
  • Cosmos
  • Four O'clock
  • Ornamental Pepper
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
  • Sunflower
  • Amaranth
  • Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Marigold
  • Petunia
  • Portulaca
  • Verbena
  • Cleome (Spider flower)
  • Gloriosa Daisy
  • Morning Glory
  • Phlox
  • Salvia
  • Zinnia

Perennials that are known to tolerate drought and dry soils include:

  • Yarrow (Achillea species)
  • Stonecress (Aethionema species)
  • Golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)
  • New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
  • Bachelor's Button (Centaurea species)
  • Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora)
  • Steel Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
  • Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata)
  • Statice (Limonium latifolium)
  • Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)
  • Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana)
  • Goldenglow (Rudbeckia)
  • Common Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)
  • Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica)
  • Hollyhock (Alcea rugosa)
  • Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Serbian Bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana)
  • Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
  • Grass Pink (Dianthus plumarius)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus)
  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum cerastiodes)
  • Musk Mallow (Malva moschata)
  • Hedge Rose (Rose rugosa)
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens)
  • Sage (Salvia species)

References

Loos, M. T. Drought Resistance in the Home Landscape, Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet. Penn State Master Gardener Manual

Prepared by Lana R. Adams