• IvyShepherd

Plants for a more drought tolerant garden

How to save water and cope with drought in our gardens

Every year, the climate warms just a little bit more. With the onset of a climate crisis looming, we can be looking to our own gardens in order to make a change for the better.

How can we protect the natural world in our own little corner of it?

It turns out that there are lots of ways that we can help. The key is to research.

By being sensible in our choice of plants and planning our gardens to work a little differently, we can not only save water, a most valuable and precious resource becoming scarcer by the day, but we can also do our bit to encourage and protect our pollinators and beneficial insects.

And this means our gardens would be truly environmentally friendly and sound for the future.

So as gardeners, what can we do to save water and be climate conscious?

Saving water

There are many different ways that we, as gardeners, can be responsible with water in our gardens. We can help to protect the environment in our own little corner of the world.

One of the most important ways that we can save water is simply by mulching. This is the process of applying a layer of an organic or inorganic material to the soil.

Mulching not only helps to retain the moisture in the soil, thereby ensuring that we need to water less, but it can also suppress the weeds, improve your soil and input nutrients, and it can protect the roots of our plants during cold winters or hot summers.

Similarly to mulching, we can add organic matter, such as well-rotted compost or a soil conditioner, to the soil itself. This will help to improve the soil overall, but it will increase water retention in the soil and also drainage.

The use of water butts and water collection and storage is becoming more commonplace in our gardens nowadays, as more and more gardeners are realising the need to be conscious of water use. This is very encouraging and is something that we should be building on to further protect our natural world.

Recycling grey water, bath water and investing in a few more watering cans that we can fill up and leave out, these are all small things that we can do that will make a very big difference.

We all want our gardens to have instant impact. But why not try choosing younger plants, rather than those that are already well established. These bigger, older plants need more in terms of care and resources, whereas a smaller specimen has time to put their roots down and become established in the conditions that they are to face.

When we think about our gardens and how we can be wise with water, one of the most important things we can do is to research. Planning our gardens and choosing the right plants for the right places and conditions is key.

And if we want to use less water, then surely we need to be looking more closely at those plants that can cope and are quite happy in drought conditions.

Planting for change

When choosing plants that will be able to cope in drought, it is helpful to look at other countries around the world that experience these type of conditions as a matter of course.

Think Agapanthus, which is indigenous to South Africa and grows naturally in drought conditions. It can withstand these conditions because of the fleshy roots that are able to store water.

Annuals such as cosmos do well in dry conditions, as well as Verbena bonariensis, which will self-seed itself anywhere, a sure sign that it is happy doing its own thing. And my absolute summer favourite, the dahlia even prefers the hot and drier conditions. And as they come in every shape and colour imaginable, there is a dahlia for everybody.

Herbs and vegetables are becoming increasingly popular to grow with new gardeners. Growing our own is a healthy and sustainable way to live, reducing food miles and so is kinder to the environment. But these also might not need as much water as you might think.

Vegetables such as parsnips, leeks and cabbages will still produce a very good yield with a little bit less water. And with herbs in particular, the flavour is actually improved with less of the wet stuff.

There are many shrubs with drought tolerant properties, but why not try Perovskia, lavender, hebes and Callistemon, to name a few. Herbaceous perennials surely make up one of the most popular plant groups grown in our gardens, so look to Euphorbia, heucheras, Bergenia and Eryngium, to name a few more.

To add a different dimension to your garden, try planting trees such as Acacia dealbata or Koelreuteria, the golden rain tree. Conifers such as Juniperus and Pinus, climbers such as passionflower or Solanum and grasses such as Stipa gigantea, Briza and Pennisetum. All of these would tolerate a little bit of drought in your garden, ensuring the use of less water in the long run.

It should be said that these plants will need some help along the way towards becoming conditioned to drought. By following some of this advice, mulching, soil improving and choosing the right plants for the right places in our gardens, these plants will be able to withstand times of drought, but only when they have been conditioned to cope.

These are just a few suggestions of plants for a more drought tolerant garden, but there are so many more. Research is vital.

Finding out what works best for our own gardens is the key to a happy garden in the long run. But by making some very slight changes to the way we garden and what we plant, we can not only save water, but protect our natural world too.

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