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Gardening Tips for Drought

sun shining through palm leaves

The summer is here, and you know what that means! It’s time to make your garden look as beautiful as the weather outside. Summertime is always associated with sunshine and warmth. Plants and animals everywhere love the Sun, but they sure don’t love the drought. Drought is summer’s other companion that we often forget about and are never prepared for. Help protect your garden from the dangers of drought by following these tips below. Ensure your garden (and you!) are prepared for this summer. 

5 Tips for Your Plants and You! During Drought:

rain catch system

1. Install a rain catch system

Have time to prepare before the drought hits? One of the best methods used today to prepare for drought are rain catching systems. These systems are surprisingly easy to install. A simple plastic drum will allow you to harvest the thousands of gallons of rainfall that lands on your property. Place the drum underneath your home’s gutters to catch the runoff. Store it for a sunny day and you won’t have to turn on the hose to water your plants.

Tip for you: Do not use rainwater for human consumption. Even after filtering or boiling the water, it’s risky. Germs and other contaminants can make their way into the water and can make you ill.  

2. Change your watering times 

You can avoid your garden’s demise by reevaluating your watering habits. Do you water your plants in the afternoon? Wait a few hours and water your plants during the later hours of the evening or in the early hours of the morning. Doing this will reduce water evaporation rates. Avoiding the hottest part of the day means less wind and less hot sun, allowing the soil a full day to dry.

Tip for you: Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day! Heat stroke can strike at any time with prolonged exposure to the sun. Avoid disasters in the garden by drinking enough water and by wearing a medical alert bracelet. If you happen to fall, the medical alert bracelet will allow you to notify someone for immediate help. Remember, your garden is nothing without its gardener.

3. Use enclosed spaces

To cut down the amount of water needed for your garden, use raised garden beds or planter boxes. Gardens planted in enclosed spaces hold more water than gardens planted in open soil. This is because most open soils are so porous that water seeps away too quickly, not allowing the plants to draw it in.

Arrange and plant seeds in an "off-set" hexagonal pattern rather than in straight rows. This pattern allows the plants to grow closer together, providing neighboring plants with shade. The shade also keeps the soil beneath moist and evaporation rates low. 

Tip for you: Be careful when digging holes for planter beds! Always be aware of your surroundings or wear a mobile medical alert system with fall detection in case you trip. If you happen to fall, stay calm. Your fall detector will automatically locate your position with GPS and send help. 

varieties of succulents

4. Plant drought tolerant crops

Did the drought already beat you to it? If all else fails, you can always start your garden over. Consider using drought tolerant plants and crops this time around. ­­

Succulents and cacti can be wonderful additions to your garden. Succulents and cacti are available in a wide variety of species and are usually found in the desert. Not only are these types of plants beautiful, they generally don't need much maintenance. This makes them perfect for your garden during times of drought. 

Succulents get their name from their moisture-storing capacity. You can see by the plumpness and waxiness of their leaves and roots that these plants can hold a great amount of water. To top it off, their thorny spines and tough skin also act as a natural deterrent against predators.

Tip for you: Did you know that Aloe vera is a type of succulent? Aloe vera is easy to cultivate in the garden and is useful for sunburn relief. Cut the leaf open to expose its gooey, gel-like flesh. Rub the afflicted area with the inside of the leaf for a soothing and antibacterial effect.

Don’t think that you can’t still grow vegetables during a drought. There are several types of vegetables that can grow and flourish in times of water scarcity.

These water-efficient crops are a good place to start:

  • Asparagus
  • California native strawberries
  • Chard
  • Eggplant
  • Mustard greens
  • Peppers
  • Rhubarb
  • Roma tomatoes

5. Use mulch

Mulch is a layer of material that you apply over the surface area of soil. Organic mulch (bark, leaves) shields the soil from the sun and adds nutrients to the soil as it decays.

You can make your own mixture of mulch from yard trimmings (no weeds) or buy some at your local nursery. You can also use plastic sheeting as a form of temporary mulch, but keep in mind that this method won't add to the soil. To add nutrients to the soil, organic mulches are best.

Did you know that you can use mulch for more than just reducing water consumption? Mulch reduces erosion, encourages earthworm activity, suppresses weed growth and improves the garden’s general appearance.

Tip for you: Human hair makes great mulch. Human and animal hair is composed of proteins and is nitrogen rich. Plants love nitrogen and thrive when it’s present in the soil. Save those hairballs for the garden!

Now You’re Drought-Ready!

raised planter bed

You can ensure your garden’s health this summer by following the tips above. By installing a rain catch system, you guarantee an emergency supply of water. Changing your watering times reduces the amount and frequency of watering and by using enclosed spaces, you decrease evaporation rates. Drought tolerant plants just plain take the hassle out of gardening altogether. And don’t forget to mulch, mulch, mulch!