Is Your Garden Ready for a Drought?
Learn how to conserve water now in order to be prepared for future water shortages.
The good news: Due to a wet winter in most areas, there's no imminent threat of a drought in the U.S. this summer, except for parts of Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska. The bad news: That could change at any time.
Water is an especially needed commodity during the warmer months when gardens and lawns require it on a regular basis to thrive. Many people take for granted that when they turn on the faucet, fresh, clean water will gush out and only stop when they turn the faucet off. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family uses 320 gallons of water each day, and about 30 percent of that is for outdoor uses. Of that, more than half goes toward watering lawns and gardens. Nationwide, landscape irrigation totals nearly nine billion gallons per day. To cut down on such high usage, try some or all of the following water-saving ideas.
Choose flowers and plants that can handle a drought.
Pick plants native to where you live because, once established in your garden, they require little water beyond normal rainfall. But those aren't the only good choices. There are plenty of other drought-resistant choices, according to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). If your garden is sunny and dry, you could plant perennials such as dianthus, coneflower, hypericum, euphorbia, lavender, iris, sedum, and lamb's ears. Annuals in the same conditions include cosmos, geranium, marigold, zinnia, and verbena. Trees and shrubs that grow in dry conditions are plentiful and include butterfly bush, white pine, and blue mist shrub.
This is a simple thing to do, says the NYBG: Connect the downspouts from your roof gutters to a plastic rain barrel equipped with a tap to save every raindrop. Rather than use any big plastic tub, you'll want to set up a rain barrel because it comes with a filtering screen to keep out leaves, twigs, and mosquito larvae, which breed in standing water.
Conserve water indoors, too.
Install water-saving plumbing fixtures, which impose limits on the amount of water used per flush by toilets and per minute by faucets and showerheads. Pay attention to your fixtures, and get any faucets or toilets fixed as soon as you notice a leak. You could also set a timer as a reminder to take shorter showers. The less water you use inside, the more you're doing to avoid a drought that will impact your ability to use water outdoors.
Learn how to water your garden better.
Timing is everything when it comes to watering efficiently. It's best to water lawns and gardens during early morning or evening when it's not sunny and water won't evaporate quickly on plants. And when you do water, don't just run a hose quickly on the surface of your garden; instead, water deeply, which means applying at least an inch of water, which will soak the ground to a 6- to 12-inch depth. That encourages the roots to extend deeply into the soil, which slows dehydration.
Understand the symptoms of drought in your garden.
Some plants aren't subtle-when they're thirsty, they let you know it by their drooping leaves. Stick your finger two inches in the soil to see if it's dry or moist. Only water if the plant is dry. Other signs of water-bereft plants: their leaves die or drop off, or they're not growing or producing much.