This week we are starting a twelve week series on creating gardens that solve particular problems; hiding an ugly view, growing during a short summer season, replanting with plants that require less looking after, etc. This week we are going to talk about five things that you can do to create a garden that is enjoyable to look at and be in, but that requires less water to maintain.
Whether you would rather spend your free time enjoying your garden than watering it (we had someone tell us once that they would rather floss than tend to their garden) or whether there are water restrictions where you live, it is possible to create a garden that accommodates your needs. And it does not have to be made of stones and cacti, either, although that is a look that can work very well in the right place. Here are six ways that you can reduce the need for water in your garden, thus gaining free time and money saved on your water bill!
1) Have less lawn. When you think of all the water that is used to keep our lawns lush and green, this is a no brainer. We have all seen how awful an under-watered lawn can look, so you could ask why we bother, really. But there is something calming and tranquil about a lawn, and open stretches of green are wonderful “palette cleansers” for the eyes, so you could also ask how we could ever do without them. The answer is perhaps somewhere in the middle. Get rid of some of your lawn, but keep some, too. If we all did this, there would be a great deal more water to go around. Consider replacing some of your lawn with:
Drought tolerant groundcovers such as Juniper or Thyme. Click here for some other great groundcover ideas.
Patios or other hardscape elements like paths or decking. (There are permeable paving options, too.)
2) Create Shade. Shady spots require less water, and they are nice to sit in on hot summer days. Planting a tree helps in numerous ways, but is only beneficial to the here and now if it was planted 20 years ago. That’s not meant to discourage anyone from planting a tree. Plant one for your future self- you’ll be surprised how soon you will be able to sit under its branches. For more instant gratification, consider building:
Arbors , covering them with vines
3) Choose your plants wisely. Right plant, right place. We have all heard it before. But it makes sense! A plant that has been planted in the conditions in which it thrives is going to be healthier, more vigorous, and be able to withstand extreme conditions much better. Consider growing natives. Natives grown in the right place have an even greater advantage than cultivars growing in the right place because they have been growing in that environment for centuries. The New England Wildflower Society has a great website which can help you find out about some of the exceptional plants which are native to New England conditions.
Some other drought tolerant plants include:
Rosa rugosa – Rugosa Rose
Rhus aromatica – Fragrant Sumac (low growing)
Vitis spp – Grapes
Wisteria – Wisteria
Coreopsis – Tickseed
Achillea – Yarrow
Hemerocallis – Daylily
Rudbeckia – Black Eyed Susan
Chamaecyparis – False Cypress
Ilex – Holly
4) Water the right way, at the right time. If you water at the base of the plant, rather than watering above and getting the leaves wet, you benefit the roots much more, and therefore the plant. Water on the leaves evaporates quickly which is no help, and can encourage the growth of diseases and viruses.
Water deeply. Water that doesn’t penetrate into the soil enough will cause a plant to have a shallow root system, and thus won’t be as adaptable to extreme conditions.
Water in the morning, with the temperature on the rise. This results in less evaporation than watering in the middle of the day, and allows plants to process it better.
Do these things, and you will find that you won’t have to water as often.
5) Mulch. By simply adding a layer of mulch around your plants, you are helping keep water in, and helping the roots stay cool. It also helps suppress weeds. Win-win!
Follow these tips and you can create an outside space that not only give you more free time because you aren’t watering, and more money because you aren’t paying for the water, but one that also gives you a place to spend all that free time in, drinking a glass of wine bought with the money that you didn’t spend to pour water into the ground!