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How to Make a Garden Drought-Tolerant

Desert plants outside
B Young/Shutterstock.com

With increasing concerns about water scarcity and the impact of climate change, creating a drought-tolerant garden has become essential for many gardeners. By implementing a few strategies and practices, it’s easy to create a beautiful and thriving garden while conserving water. Whether you want to protect your garden from drought this summer or create a drought-tolerant garden from scratch, these tips will make your space more resilient and eco-friendly during dry spells.

Choose Drought-Resistant Native Plants

Drought tolerant landscaping in Southern California
Simone Hogan/Shutterstock.com

The easiest way to help your garden get through a drought is to plant drought-resistant plants in the first place. Native plants are an excellent choice, as they have adapted to survive in the United States year-round and are naturally drought-tolerant. Here are some popular plants that are suitable for drought-resistant landscaping:

  • Agave: With its fleshy leaves, agave is a hardy plant that can withstand dry conditions. It stores water in its leaves, allowing it to survive with minimal watering. Agave is native to the Southwestern United States.
  • Yucca: Yucca plants have thick, fleshy leaves and are known for their ability to survive in desert-like conditions. They are low water users and can add architectural interest to your garden. Yucca plants are native to the Southeastern United States.
  • Lavender: This fragrant herb not only adds beauty to your garden but also thrives in dry conditions. Lavender requires little watering and is known for its ability to attract pollinators. Lavender is native to many parts of the United States.
  • Coneflowers: These beautiful perennials are native to North America and are highly drought-tolerant. They thrive in full sun and attract butterflies and bees. Coneflowers are native to the Central to Southeastern United States

By incorporating these drought-resistant native plants into your garden, you can create a beautiful and low-maintenance landscape that conserves water and supports local biodiversity.

Water Wisely

A woman watering her garden

Whether you have a regular garden or a drought-tolerant one, you can make a significant impact on your water usage by following a few simple steps.

One effective method is using drip irrigation or soaker hoses instead of sprinklers. These devices allow you to direct water precisely to the base of your plants, reducing water waste through evaporation and run-off. By watering at the root zone, the plants can efficiently absorb the moisture they need, helping them thrive despite dry conditions.

Drip Irrigation Kit

Take proper care of your garden with this garden drip irrigation system.

Another smart practice is to water early in the morning or late in the day when temperatures are cooler. This reduces evaporation, allowing your plants to benefit from the water for a longer period of time. Additionally, covering hoses with organic mulch helps to prevent water loss through evaporation and keeps the soil cool for the plants.

Garden Elements 100% Natural Cocoa Bean Shell Mulch

Very lightweight and easy to spread.

Monitor Soil Moisture

A soil moisture meter

Monitoring soil moisture is key to maintaining healthy and thriving plants in hot weather. Regularly checking the moisture levels helps ensure that plants receive adequate water without the risk of overwatering.

By monitoring your soil’s moisture, you can adapt your watering schedule to target times when evaporation is lower and plants can absorb water more effectively. This prevents water wastage and reduces the risk of shallow-rooted plants becoming weak and vulnerable.

To monitor soil moisture, use a moisture meter or simply check the soil by hand. Insert the meter or your finger about one to two inches deep into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, you can hold off on watering for another day or two.

XLUX Soil Moisture Meter

The sensing probe ensures accurate and instant testing results.

Use Drought-Friendly Ground Cover

English Ivy ground cover with trees and a wall,
Kathryn Roach/Shutterstock.com

One effective way to make your garden more drought-tolerant is by covering the ground with drought-friendly ground cover. Not only does this create an aesthetically pleasing look around your yard, but it also helps conserve water and prevent soil erosion.

There are several varieties of drought-tolerant ground cover to choose from. Sedum is a popular choice, with its succulent leaves capable of withstanding extremely dry conditions. It forms a dense carpet of foliage and produces beautiful flowers, adding a burst of color to your garden. Another option is creeping thyme, which not only tolerates drought but also releases a wonderful fragrance when stepped on.

Sedum Succulent Plants Ground Cover

These drought tolerant, stonecrop plants are both landscaping plants and indoor plant decor.

Insulate the Roots with Mulch

A gardener uses mulch

One great way to make your garden more drought-tolerant is by insulating the roots of your plants from heat with the use of mulch. Mulch acts as a protective layer on the soil’s surface, reducing heat and slowing down evaporation.

When choosing mulch for your drought-tolerant garden, opt for coarse wood chips. These chips break down slowly, which means they won’t need frequent replacement. As they decompose, they also improve the structure of the soil, which enhances its ability to retain moisture.

By applying a thick layer of mulch around the base of your plants, you provide a shield against the scorching heat. This helps to keep the roots cool and prevents water loss through evaporation. Mulch also suppresses weed growth, saving water that would otherwise be robbed by these plants.

Remember to leave a gap between the mulch and the stems of your plants to prevent root rot and other fungal diseases. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the moisture levels in your garden to ensure your plants aren’t suffering from either too much or too little water.

100% Natural Cedar Shavings

One of the most popular options for mulch.

Weed Diligently

Someone pulls a weed from their garden

In a drought-tolerant garden, weed control is extremely important. Weeds not only detract from the beauty of your garden, but they also compete with your plants for water and nutrients. This can be detrimental, especially in dry conditions where water is scarce.

Regularly inspect your garden for any signs of unwanted plants and pluck them out as soon as you spot them. Be sure to remove the entire root system to eliminate any chance of regrowth. A handy tool for this is a weeding fork, which helps you easily extract deep-rooted weeds.

Fiskars Ergo Scratch Tool Garden Weeder

Ideal for removing dandelions, thistles and other invasive weeds.

Creating a drought tolerant garden takes careful consideration and planning. By cultivating the soil, watering wisely, and growing native plants, you can create a foundation that retains moisture and provides essential nutrients for your garden all year long.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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