Weekly Green Tip: Water Scarcity in the Garden 🚫🌧️

Since many of us here in Atlanta are looking at each passing cloud with hopeful eyes, what better topic to speak about than the drought in the garden! Nature has many ways to overcome the drought season, but of course our gardens and landscapes may not be equipped as well as the natural world. Here are some reminders when designing and maintaining a drought-ready landscape…

 

PLANT SELECTION, PLACEMENT, & MATURITY

As a general rule of thumb, selecting species specifically native to your eco-region is a safe bet. They are primed to handle the intricacies of the local climate. Native plants are naturally adapted to the temperature ranges, rainfall patterns, seasonal variations — and this makes them resilient to local weather extremes, such as drought.

Strategizing the placement of the plants can also help. One strategy considers the evaporative effects of wind. Wind removes humidity around leaf surfaces, encouraging more water vapor to leave the plant (also called transpiration). So, by planting a windbreak or a barrier to reduce wind speed, you can promote water retention for your down-wind plants. A windbreak could be trees, shrubs, or really anything taller than the affected parties. Position windbreaks perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction on your property to maximize their effectiveness.

Keep in mind that maturity always plays a large part with any plant’s drought tolerance. Anything recently planted is going to take months to years to gain a proper foothold (or roothold..) in their new environment. Unestablished plants are more dependent on regular moisture availability and are susceptible to rapid wilting and dehydration during drought conditions. Monitor plants very closely in their first season in the ground and then expect to gradually reduce watering as the plant matures in subsequent seasons.

Florida anise is an evergreen, native shrub that we plant very regularly. It’s thick, year-round foliage would make it a great windbreak option for the landscape. PHOTO SOURCE

AND DON’T FORGET… MULCH!

Simple, but effective. Mulch is an essential tool for moisture retention. By covering your soil, you create an extra barrier for evaporation. So, your soil gets to hang on to that moisture for longer. Not to mention you’re limiting erosion and adding valuable organic material that will decompose.

In urban landscapes that have experienced decades of erosion, compaction, and soil disturbance, you’re doing yourself a favor by protecting AND bolstering the topsoil. Improving your soil structure will increase aggregation and porosity, which increases water infiltration. This means more water flows deep into the ground rather than running downhill!