Gardening During a DroughtPosted: July 1, 2016
Droughts happen year after year and can be a gardener’s worse nightmare. They hurt your plants, dry up the soil, and create a negative environment in which plants have trouble growing. The most obvious affect that a drought has on your garden is the way it makes your plants look. Your plants turn from green to brown, the foliage wilts or completely fades away, and the flowers you waited so patiently for either die or never appear at all. The worst part of all of it is that there’s nothing anyone can absolutely do to prevent a drought. However, there are some simple strategies you can utilize to make the most of your garden and minimize the affects of a drought.
Growing up in the South, we were always in a drought. Some summers it was so bad that we had restrictions on when and how much water we could use for recreational use such as watering our garden. Yet, we always made it work using these simple strategies. First, water your garden early in the morning or late at night. Just because you are in a drought does not mean you can’t water your garden. It just means you have to be smart about when you water to maximize efficiency and yield. Watering at night reduces the evaporation of moisture from the soil. Instead of using the sprinkler system on the entire lawn, switch it up and water only the essentials meaning your flowers and shrubs. Keep in mind a lawn is almost always the single largest user of water in the home landscape. Water your lawn a tad bit less, and your garden a tad bit more to make sure it receives the constant moisture it needs to grow and thrive. The second tip is to stop fertilizing. It helps to stop fertilizing in the event of a drought so that plant growth is not fully encouraged. The more a plant grows, the more moisture it requires. Leftover fertilizer salts can also damage your root systems if they’re not naturally leaching out of the soil with rain or proper irrigation. Keep it simple and pull back on the fertilizer until a more appropriate time. Another common practice is applying mulch. Mulch is a classic protector of soil because it helps trap moisture while also slowing the down the evaporating effects of the sun. Apply a 2-3 inch deep layer of mulch around your garden to prevent drought damage. Mulch also comes in different colors and style, which can also add appeal to your garden. Also, don’t forget to remove weeds as often as possible. It’s never fun, but get into a solid routine of removing weeds multiple times a week before or after you go to work. The more often you do it, the easier it will be.
Even though preventing a drought is not possible, if you live in an area that consistently sees less rainfall during the hot summer months, start planting a more drought tolerant garden and stick to native plants for your region. Water smart, pull weeds, avoid fertilizer, and use mulch to keep your garden healthy during the hottest of times.