• Sandi Manna

Create A Drought Tolerant Garden

The drought of 2016 was one of the worst in our history. By the end of the summer, wells were drying up everywhere. We even had trouble with our pump, but luckily it was just the pressure tank and we had plenty of water, PHEW!

Our neighbors across the street ran out of water, as did several others around us and it was scary! When it comes down to drought, you don't want to have to choose between the water needs of your garden and your family.

Times are changing, and our climate is changing. Call it Global Warming, call it Mother Nature, call it whatever you want – or nothing at all – but it's a fact that we see as our business is so greatly influenced by the weather.

If you don't want to feel like a criminal when you break out the hose or the sprinkler, you might want to consider incorporating some drought tolerant perennials into your landscape.

The words “drought tolerant” often conjure up images of cacti and aloe plants growing in an arid dessert. Well, those plants are certainly drought tolerant, but that's not what I had in mind. There are a great number of leafy, flowering perennials that grow in Connecticut and are more tolerant of drought than others. Drought tolerant plants still need water to survive, but require less water and can tolerate longer periods without water.

By creating a drought-tolerant garden, you will no longer be a slave to the hose and you can enjoy your garden rather than tending to it.

1. Use plants that are more tolerant to prolonged periods without water. For a complete list, check out the Uconn extension center list: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/drought-tolerant-annuals-and-perennials.php

2. Use Water-wise techniques such as drip irrigation or a soaker hose. Water early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid a lot of evaporation.

3. Use proper mulch practices. Make sure you mulch at least 3” deep all around your plants. Leave a little space between the mulch and the bark of trees and shrubs. A thick layer of mulch helps keep the soil moist.

4. Use organic, rich soil. Soil that is high in organic content holds moisture better than soil that has less organic content.

5. Water deeply. Encourage your plants' roots to search for water deeper in the soil where it is more readily available. Frequent watering keeps the roots shallow where water is more quick to evaporate.

6. Use organic fertilizers. By using organic fertilizers, you will increase the organic content of the soil.

7. Right plant, right place. I know this sounds very obvious – plant plants where they will grow best (full sun, part sun, shade, etc), but I can't tell you how many times we see plants in conditions that are not favorable to their growing conditions. If you plant a plant in the right place, it needs less input from you and will make your life a lot easier.

8. Incorporate native plants. Plants that are native to Connecticut have evolved here and are used to the crazy weather we have. They need a lot less tending than some of their fussier relatives. For a complete list of plants native to Connecticut, take a look at Plant Native's list: http://www.plantnative.org/rpl-nes.htm

By using specific plants as well as native plants, you can create a drought tolerant garden. This doesn't mean you don't have to water, it just means you have to water less.

Happy Gardening!