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Tips for Creating a Drought-Tolerant Landscape

    Tips for Creating a Drought-Tolerant Landscape

    Drought-tolerant landscapes come in all shapes and sizes. From a large, expansive bed that runs the entire length of a property line to a small nook that bakes all day by the roadside, water-wise designs can be adapted to almost any yard. Just remember that plants compete for resources, so if you’re packing a lot of them into a tiny space, you’ll need to ensure that all your selections require very little water. When designing your drought-resistant garden, follow these strategies to ensure success.

    1. Identify soil and exposure conditions first

    Any garden, regardless of size, is going to have conditional variations from one spot to the next. In one area you might have dappled shade while the rest of the garden has full-sun exposure. Or you may have pockets of sandier, well-drained soil within a bed that is primarily compacted clay. Doing a site assessment of soil and sun conditions before you start planting can help you determine which plants will do best in specific sections.

    Learn more:

    Identifying Degrees of Light and Shade

    Get to Know Your Soil

    Vibrant soil beats lifeless clay. The soil at far left is well tended and full of life, a far cry from the clay soil at near left, which would be nearly impossible to garden with.

    2. Choose plants that suit the site

    We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but “Right plant in the right place” is a mantra for a reason. If you have a particularly dry area in baking hot sun, it’s not a good idea to plant something that prefers partial shade or that isn’t taprooted. It’s best to use plants that thrive under existing site conditions.

    Learn more:

    Right Plants, Right Places

    water stress on tree
    Look for signs of water stress in your plants. This newly planted sugar maple (Acer saccharum, Zones 3–8) is clearly stressed, which is evident by its wilting and scorched foliage. Photo: Chris Schlenker

    3. Get them established, then leave them be

    Even drought-tolerant plants require supplemental watering when they’re first getting established. Once the root system has expanded—generally after the first full year in situ—the plant will require less care. Always spread mulch to help conserve soil moisture and to deter thirsty weeds.

    spreading mulch around plants
    Perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your garden in summer is be sure it is mulched. A 3 to 4-inch layer helps regulate soil temps, retains moisture, and keeps thirsty weeds at bay.

    learn more

    Putting Mulch to the Test

    Six Tips for Effective Weed Control

    Danielle Sherry is the executive editor.

    Illustration: Elara Tanguy

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