Drought, warmer winters, dryer summers, and violent weather have caused challenges for those who garden. Water conservation not only helps maintain fresh water for human consumption but also helps reduce carbon footprint. Understanding your climate and growing seasons is a good start to saving water in your garden. Additionally, identifying your soil type will help you make good decisions on what plants will thrive in your location. We will explore some plant-based solutions that will help you save water in your garden.
Find Your Hardiness Zone
A quick Internet search will lead you to different sites that can help you identify your hardiness zone. Several sites also take climate change into consideration when identifying your zone. This essential first step will prevent you from growing the wrong type of plant in the wrong season for your location. For instance, planting lettuce in California’s Central Valley during its dry, hot summer is not good for water conservation. Lettuce in that zone should be planted during the cooler, wet fall and winter months.
Learn About Your Soil
Every living thing requires nutrients to survive. Your plants are no different. Learning about your soil is essential in choosing the correct plants for water conservation. A plant like lavender does not like heavy, moist soils. If you have clay soil and a wet climate, you want to add organic materials and something like crushed rock so the soil drains. Lavender likes gritty, loamy well-drained, aerated soil; otherwise, it will succumb to root rot.
On the other hand, if you have a heavy clay soil, consider a deer-resistant, dry-hardy flowering plant like yarrow, which attracts butterflies. Black-eyed Susan, a popular summertime flower, enjoys clay soils and thrives in the sun.
Design Your Garden
Deliberately laying out your garden will help you to group plants with similar water requirements together. Consider a block layout as opposed to familiar rows. Summer squash varieties have similar watering needs. Tomatoes and peppers have similar needs. By using the block layout, you can regulate shade or sun and so lessen evaporation from plants that like a moister growing environment. Depending on what plants you wish to grow, you also may consider a “Three Sisters Garden.” This type of garden is based on how Native Americans planted vegetable crops for centuries.
The first “sister” is the corn plant. The second “sister” is the bean plant which can use the corn to vine itself toward the sun. The third “sister” is the squash plant which spreads out at the base and helps protect her two other “sisters” from weeds, pests and evaporation. The corn and the bean protect the squash from the hot sun.
Choosing Plants for Water Conservation
Once you know your zone, your soil and have your garden planned, you will want to look for plant varieties that thrive in hot, dry conditions. Also, consider what lawn grass is suited for your area. You do not want to conserve water in the garden just to over-water in the yard. Find out what grasses are native to your location. Consider plants with shorter growing seasons. Small varieties of common garden plants like miniature peppers require less water than the regular-sized varieties.
Do not be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone either. Try growing cactus like prickly pear which bear edible fruit. Another water friendly plant is the Jerusalem artichoke. Legumes like the lima bean and chickpea conserve water as do varieties of tomato and pepper. Once well established, certain plants become drought resistant like rhubarb and asparagus.
Many herbs, which are essential for the delicious preparation of your homegrown food, are very water-friendly. Herbs like lavender and rosemary prefer well-drained soil. Sage, thyme and oregano are other herbs that do not require heavy watering and thrive in hot and sunny environments.
Understand Your Plants’ Watering Needs
Once you have determined what plants you will place in your garden, learn about their watering needs. Many plants need a good amount of moisture during germination. A good practice is to start the germination process inside where the seeds and seedlings can be protected from pests, dry conditions and wind. Plants also require a little extra water after transplanting into the garden. Bushy, woody herbs like lavender and rosemary make good windbreaks to protect the new transplants until they become established.
Many plants need extra watering during the flower phase. Others like cole and root plants require consistent moisture. You can still grow these plants while trying to conserve water; however, be conscientious about your water delivery and routine. Consider a simple drip system. Do not water in the heat of the day. Water your plants early in the morning or at dusk to lessen the chance of evaporation.
Rose, the author of this article, is a full time mother, and part time writer. Learning and maintaining her garden is one of her favorite hobbies. She loves all aspects of gardening, including placement, and discovering new eco-friendly methods she can use around the house and outdoors.
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