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Nurturing Your Home and Garden Through a Summer Drought

Home and garden
Can you maintain a healthy garden during a drought?

It’s hot, it’s dry, and your garden is feeling the pinch. Your plants are drooping and the ground feels like sandpaper. What can you do to get your home and garden through the drought and to the other side, healthy and even thriving? 

Evaluate Your Planting Plan 

In the spring and summer, you want a home that’s bursting with beautiful flowers and foliage. How do you achieve this? 

Many people purchase plants based on looks rather than practicality, and this makes a lot of sense if you have unlimited water and a sunny location. However, if you’re in a drought, you need to consider whether the plants that you love are the right plants for your location. Consider xeriscaping your garden instead. According to the University of Florida, xeriscaping is “landscaping with slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape.” What xeriscaping strategies will work in your garden? 

  • Install a patio, pavers, or gravel instead of grass 
  • Add ornamental grasses around the perimeter of your seating area to give that meadow feel
  • Use succulents in your garden instead of water-loving plants. These drought-tolerant plants have interesting textures and can have luxurious blooms as well. 
  • Look to perennials rather than annuals, since they establish stronger root systems that can help maintain them through drought.

Improve Your Soil 

Healthy soil maintains higher water levels than compacted soil. It maintains these water reservoirs because it contains a lot of tiny holes where water seeps down into the soil. It’s also easier for plants to stay healthy and tolerate drought if they have strong root systems, and high quality soil helps them develop deep root systems. More porous soil is beneficial for both roots and water. How do you improve your soil? 

  • Add organic material such as mulch 
  • Avoid walking on top of bare soil 
  • Plant cover crops or groundcovers on soil that is not in use. These plants’ roots will keep the soil open and porous.
  • Add compost to the soil.
  • Avoid doing a lot of digging every year when you plant, since this reduces the soil complexity
  • When you prune plants, chop and drop, adding the leaves to the soil around the plant. 
Home and garden
Take advantage of wet places in the garden and add water-loving plants to those areas.

Understand Your Garden’s Microclimates and Add to Them 

Shade trees, shrubs, awnings, and lattices: what do they have in common? They’re all key to creating and maintaining cool microclimates in your garden environment. On a sunny afternoon, would you prefer to sit in the middle of a field or underneath a large shade tree? Even if your plants like the sun, chances are they prefer a little bit of respite from the sunshine as well. Adding some shade to your garden also makes it easier to water, since water placed on the hot, dry soil will often evaporate quickly, leaving the soil parched. 

Manage and plant according to the water in your garden as well. If you have a naturally wet area of the garden, place plants that love water there, instead of adding them in patio planters that need water constantly. Get to know your garden microclimates and use those microclimates to your advantage.

Make Shade to Keep Your Home Cool 

Add fast-growing, drought-tolerant shade trees that work well in your area. It’s important to check with a local nursery or garden store, but according to The Spruce, these trees could include the following:

  • Gingko
  • Shagbark hickory 
  • Red maple 
  • American elm 
  • Sumac
  • Leyland cypress 
  • Hawthorn

When should you add these plants? You might need the shade now, but look to the long term. Summer just doesn’t make sense as a time to add large plants to your garden: do this in the fall, winter, or early spring so that your plants have some time to establish before a long, dry summer.  

If you can’t add a tree to your garden, consider adding a lattice or an awning. Each of these structures creates shade, and what’s more, it won’t wilt in the summer’s heat. Lattices, shade trees, and awnings can all sit strategically in areas where they can give shade to the garden and to specific rooms inside the home as well.

Give Your Plants a Blanket 

Add mulch to the top of your soil to help keep your plants happy. A layer of wood chips or other mulch material keeps plants’ roots cool and keeps water in the soil after you water. Consider adding these materials to the top of your soil to help your garden plants manage during the heat: 

  • Straw
  • Wood chips 
  • Grass clippings 
  • Leaves 

Store Water in the Soil 

If you’re looking for a place to store water, what better place to store it than in your garden soil? In addition to having healthy soil, you can realign your landscape so that you can easily store water in your soil. Create water storage areas by adding variety to your garden terrain. A hole in the ground can turn into a natural pond or wetland, especially if you send it water from other parts of the garden or from your drainpipes. A simple swale or trench that’s on contour can slow down and store water in the soil, and if you plant below it, you’ll be able to maintain higher soil moisture levels for plants placed below the swale. This is an excellent way to send water away from your home when it rains and place that water in areas of the garden that need it. 

Hold and Store Water Around Your Home 

One of the ways that you can continue to water your plants in the summer is to capture water around your home during the rest of the year. You can add dishpans to your sink and buckets to your shower to capture greywater, provided that you use plant-friendly soaps. You can also place rain barrels at the bottom of your drainpipes to capture water that you use for watering deck plants or other water-hungry garden plants. It helps if you have clean gutters or a gutter cover so that your water flows clean into and out of your rain barrels. Rain barrels don’t hold a huge amount of water, so this technique is still best combined with xeriscaping, mulching, and soil water storage so that you don’t need so much of that water.

Plan Your Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces 

As summer approaches each year, think about where you’ll play, where you’ll entertain, and where you’ll sleep. Consider how you’ll maintain cool breezes and shade around those areas. For example, you could add a new bench under a shade tree, place an awning outside your home where your guests can enjoy outdoor time during summer barbecues, or create a bedroom in the rec room downstairs. Planning ahead allows you to avoid using fans and air conditioners as much since you’ve planned to live in those areas that are best suited to the summer’s heat. 

Get Ready for Each Season 

You know what they say about hindsight? If you had a lack of 20/20 vision last year, you can look forward to next summer with a clearer picture of what your garden needs. The right garden choices can add to the beauty and comfort of your outdoor space and also result in savings.

Plant appropriate plants, add shade trees or awnings and build soil quality. Add gutter covers and rain barrels to allow you to store clean water for future use. With a sensible approach to planning for your home and garden, you can reduce your water use and energy bills and have a lovely home and garden in spite of the drought.

Are you considering ways to make your home and garden shine this season? Learn more about Harry Helmet’s gutter covers and awnings. Schedule a free estimate today.

Written by Del Thebaud

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