Water Wise Gardening

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Despite the crazy up and down weather we’ve had this spring, the summer heat will descend upon us before we know it, and our yards and gardens will be put to the heat test. Whether we have a drought or not this year, we can still expect a lot of pressure on our plants to keep them watered. Utilizing a water wise plan can help your yard stay healthy while saving you money and time in watering.

Drought tolerant succulents are a great way to incorporate color and variety, without a large commitment to watering. There are several great cactus varieties that grow well in our area, as well as ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) and Sedum, a wide family of plants with fleshy leaves and flowers. Sedum leaves vary from bright green, yellow, and red tints, while some stonecrop sedums have two toned variegation on the leaves. You can find a variety of different flower colors, from yellow to pink to purple, but many are often grown for their fleshy leaves.

When it comes to water wise gardening, you don’t have to plant only cactus and succulents. In fact, your garden will look great with a variety of plants mixed together. There are tons of plants that are better able to handle dry conditions and still offer a variety of color and flowers. Remember, no plants can live without water, but some tolerate drying out periods better than others. Some flowering perennials that do well in dry conditions include clump verbena (Verbena Canadensis), salvia (Salvia × sylvestris), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Also, choosing ornamental grasses that tolerate dry conditions can reward you with great texture and color. Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and switch grass (Panicum virgatum) are native, ornamental grasses that can tolerate the hot, dry conditions of our summers and will reward you with a showy bloom of pink or white wispy flowers in the fall.

Another consideration for water wise gardening is to utilize a rain barrel to collect rain water from your downspout. The rain that runs off of your house or shed can be collected in the barrel to be used on your garden, flowers, or lawn. You can purchase a pre-made rain barrel or put one together yourself. If you are going to build your own, choose a food-grade plastic barrel, and add a hose spout near the bottom, an overflow pipe near the top, and a screen where water enters to keep out debris and mosquitoes. Place the rain barrel on a raised base that the water drains easily from it. You can also add a pump if you want to hook the rain barrel up to a drip irrigation system. This can save you a great deal on your water bill if you use a lot of water in your yard during the year.

Whether you have drought tolerant plants or not, it’s always a great idea to mulch your plants to help them retain moisture. When the hot summer sun is baking the soil, mulch can help block the sun from those rays and keep some of that water from evaporating. Mulch also helps keep the soil temperature cooler, resulting in less stress on your plants.

If you utilize some of these water wise tips in your home landscape, you will be better equipped to help your plants survive those burning, hot summer days, and you’ll be better prepared for a drought. Best of all, you can sit back and enjoy the colors of your garden without all the hassle of intensely watering less drought tolerant plants. If you’re looking for some other great plants to add to your water wise garden, call us at the Catawba County Cooperative Extension, 828-465-8240 or join us for an upcoming program.

Written by: Anelle Ammons