The subject of water is never far from my mind. When it comes to my garden, which is still recovering from an overabundance last year, I am now considering what I should be doing with the latest forecast of a potential drought this summer.
By Holly Kennedy
The subject of water is never far from my mind. When it comes to my garden, which is still recovering from an overabundance last year, I am now considering what I should be doing with the latest forecast of a potential drought this summer. I’ll leave conversations about climate change to others, and just say I’m trying to be water-wise.
The Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee has been actively educating schoolchildren to think of water as a precious commodity and to be stewards of water conservation. It got me thinking, even if there is not a drought, what can I do to conserve water in my garden, and reduce the amount needed by my lawn?
A little research into the subject got me thinking in Greek. It turns out that the hottest trend (pun intended) in drought-resistant landscaping is Xeriscaping (from the Greek root xeros which means dry). It started out west and has migrated east. More and more homeowners are taking steps to incorporate plants that need less water in their gardens and rethinking expansive green lawns.
There is no question we love our lawns, but they are the biggest gulpers of water — requiring an inch a week to stay green. Select grass that does not require as much, such as tall fescue. Additionally, during hot, dry weather cut the grass less often, allowing it to grow at least three inches, and leave the clippings on the lawn.
Both help moisture retention.
Water in the early morning, and make sure that the water is landing on the lawn, not the driveway or street. A lawn can go almost three weeks without water, according to experts, before turning brown and going dormant, so consider watering less frequently, once every two and a half weeks, with a deep soak to let the roots grow 12 inches deep. Your lawn may not be as green, but it’s the ‘green’ thing to do.
As alternatives to a big lawn, consider increasing the size of planting beds around foundation walls and trees; turning a corner of a yard into a mini-landscape with shrubs and ground cover; adding walkways along the side of the house; or expanding a deck or patio area for seating. If you have a swing set or play area, create a large space around it with mulch or smooth pebbles, rather than trying to grow grass. These non-lawn surfaces should be pervious, so water can still be absorbed.
Landscape designer Peggy Pierce Peters says the key to having a drought-resistant garden with seasons of flower and leaf color is preparing a deeply dug planting bed with plenty of nutrients, which allows the roots of the plants and shrubs to go deep into the ground.
A myriad of drought-tolerant perennials work well in our Zone 7A region, notes Peters, a longtime member of the Rye Garden Club. Among them: Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft), Sedum, Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), Salvia, Aquilega (Columbine), Penstemon, Echinacia, and Lonicera sempervirens, a native honeysuckle. One of her favorite sources is a web-based catalog HighCountryGardens.com, which specializes in beautiful plants for water-wise gardens.