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Preparing your garden for dry times

Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon

May 23, 2014

Many parts of the world are predicted to get drier, and already we’ve seen many years of spring, summer and even autumn droughts in Australia, California, Texas and the UK. Even though there will still be wet years, overall many gardeners are finding that the dry times are coming more regularly and more severely and are made worse by higher temperatures and evaporation too. This 4 part series helps you overhaul and prepare your garden to make it more drought proof.

Part 1  – Soil, your garden’s backbone

GardenDrum lovely loam soil with earthwormI talk with landscape designer Louise McDaid about where to start with managing a dry garden and, as she says, it begins with the soil, as this is the backbone of your garden. By building up your soil you’ll have healthier plants that require less care, pesticides and fertilising and you’ll also increase rainwater penetration and water retention.

Louise explains how to tell what kind of soil you have, the advantages and disadvantages of clay or sandy soils, and what you can do about them.

Part 2  – choosing the right plants


Kalanchoe beharensis

Kalanchoe beharensis

Louise and I discuss how you can select the right plants to withstand drought. Plants that are water efficient have a number of adaptations you can look out for: small, leathery leaves; silvery or bluey foliage; narrow or needle-like leaves; felty leaves; and tough or waxy leaves. And look at plant structure too, such as those with deeper roots, woody stems, or water storing stems like baobabs or succulent leaves.



Part 3  – how to get your garden through the really dry periods


Photo Robert Couse-Baker

Photo Robert Couse-Baker

Here Louise McDaid and I are talking about how to get your garden through a drought. To start with, you’ll need to check what watering is allowed under your local water restrictions, cover your soil with mulch (why not chip all your prunings) and learn how you can reuse water from the house, like bath water. Try and plant out your garden at a time when there’s more likely to be rainfall and avoid the hotter months. Concentrate your attention on the places where your garden dries out the most, like next to hard surfaces and under eaves, and watch out for wilting plants.

Part 4  – how to keep a lawn in dry times



You may still love your lawn but you need to make it water efficient. Lawns cool surrounding temperatures and really add to a garden design, so how can you keep a healthy lawn but not waste water? We talk about different turf varieties you can try, and watering and maintenance methods.




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