Equip yourself for dry weather: Tools and techniques to soften the slap of drought in your garden
To minimize the impact of drought in your landscape and garden, it is crucial to employ the right tools and techniques. Planning ahead and implementing simple practices can soften the blow of drought and help your garden thrive.
Droughts are increasingly common and severe worldwide, bringing challenges to communities, agriculture and the environment. These prolonged dry spells can have devastating effects on water supplies, crops and ecosystems. To minimize the impact of drought in your landscape and garden, it is crucial to employ the right tools and techniques. Planning ahead and implementing simple practices can soften the blow of drought and help your garden thrive.
Think of the moisture in your soil as a bank account. At a certain point, no more moisture can be withdrawn. Hot weather and low humidity increase the rate at which plants lose water through transpiration. In other words, their spending increases. Combined with an empty bank account, the plants will begin to wilt and show stress.
One of the most critical aspects of mitigating the impact of drought in your garden is thorough planning. By taking proactive measures and implementing thoughtful strategies, you can create a resilient landscape that can withstand dry conditions and reduce water usage.
Here are some additional steps to consider when planning for drought.
Select drought-tolerant plants. Look for species or plant varieties known for their ability to thrive with minimal irrigation. Consider factors such as the plant's water requirements, root depth and ability to withstand heat and drought stress.
Group plants based on water needs. Efficient water management can be achieved by grouping plants with similar water requirements. By avoiding mixing water-loving plants with drought-tolerant ones, you can avoid overwatering or underwatering specific areas, saving water, and promoting healthier plants.
Install water-efficient irrigation systems. Traditional irrigation methods, such as overhead sprinklers, can result in excessive water loss through evaporation and inefficient water distribution. Consider upgrading to more water-efficient systems like drip irrigation or soaker hoses. These systems deliver water directly to the plant's root zone, minimizing water waste and optimizing moisture uptake. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, overhead sprinklers are approximately 75% efficient, while drip irrigation is around 90% efficient.
Hoses and watering cans. Alternative watering methods are crucial in times of drought. Keep hoses and watering cans readily available to hand-water specific areas or plants requiring immediate attention. This allows you to target specific plants and deliver water directly to their root systems, minimizing water waste.
Rain gauges. Ever wondered if you've had a proper downpour or just a light sprinkle? Enter the rain gauge, the Sherlock Holmes of precipitation! A rain gauge is an excellent tool for tracking rainfall and monitoring sprinkler irrigation. Don't worry if you don't have a fancy rain gauge; any container with straight sides, like a tuna can, will do. This helps you determine when to apply additional irrigation and prevents overwatering your plants.
Trowel. A trowel can be a handy tool for determining whether your plants require watering or if the soil retains sufficient moisture. Insert your trowel vertically into the soil, being careful not to damage the plant's roots. Dig a small hole 6 to 8 inches deep and observe the soil profile. Moist soil typically appears darker and feels slightly damp to the touch. In contrast, dry soil appears lighter in color, feels dry, and may even crumble. Keep in mind that soil can still feel slightly damp yet dry enough that plants cannot readily access that moisture.
Organic mulch. When it comes to conserving soil moisture, mulching is a valuable practice, especially during dry weather and drought conditions. Organic mulch is a protective barrier between the soil and the atmosphere, offering numerous benefits. It reduces evaporation, regulates temperature, suppresses weeds, improves soil structure and prevents erosion. By keeping weeds at bay, you minimize water competition. While we often associate erosion with heavy rainfall, it can also occur during droughts due to high winds.
By incorporating these practical strategies into your gardening routine, you can better prepare for droughts and create a resilient and thriving garden. Through careful planning, utilizing a rain gauge, mulching and using tools like a trowel, you'll be equipped to make informed decisions about watering and conserve precious water resources. With these simple steps, you can help your garden withstand the challenges of drought and adapt to a changing climate.
Related resources on water use or drought from Michigan State University Extension
- MSU Extension Drought Resources
- Impacts of summer weather on landscape plants, Stephen Fouch, MSU Extension
- Native plants for Michigan landscapes: Part 1 – Trees, Mary Wilson, MSU Extension
- Native plants for Michigan landscapes: Part 2 – Shrubs, Mary Wilson, MSU Extension
- Silence of the soaker hoses, Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension
- Tough plants for tough places: Grasses, Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension
- Water saving perennials: Carefree and beautiful without the fuss, Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension
- Excess drying leads to poor mulch performance
- Gardening in Michigan