AP

Tips for growing a healthy garden during drought

Jul 5, 2022, 12:00 PM

This June 5, 2013, image provided by the California Department of Water Resources shows a drip irri...

This June 5, 2013, image provided by the California Department of Water Resources shows a drip irrigation system in place in a home garden in Moreno Valley, Calif. The system is preferable to traditional sprinklers as it applies water directly to plant roots, where it is needed. Photo: Florence Low/California Department of Water Resources

(AP) — Many people try to save water just to do the right thing (and save money too). But when serious drought hits, and state and local governments enforce restrictions, water conservation becomes non-negotiable.

Related:  In Utah’s drought, watering your lawn once a week will turn it brown but keep it alive

So far this summer, nearly 65% of the United States and Puerto Rico is experiencing “abnormally dry” weather, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Almost 43% of those locations are contending with “moderate” drought, and nearly 47% with “severe,” “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. That means more than 109 million people are living under drought conditions.
And a lot of them have plants or yards to worry about.

Unfortunately, it’s a little late in the season to begin trying two of the best ways to conserve water in the garden. First, rain barrels and other rain harvesting methods are of little use when there’s no rain to fill them. Second, xeriscaping, the practice of planting drought-tolerant plants, many of them native to a region, works only if those plants are already in place. Consider both for next year.

Native plants are well-adapted to their climate and more tolerant of adverse conditions like drought. In California, for instance, where roughly 98% of the state is experiencing drought, plants like California poppy, California fuchsia, California lilac and manzanita are among the best native xeriscape plants to use.

Check the EPA’s compilation of drought-tolerant plant resources, listed by state, at epa.gov/watersense/what-plant to find your best options.

CHOOSING WHICH PLANTS TO WATER

If you’re gardening under water restrictions, prioritize which plants need water most and which can be sacrificed if need be. Newly planted trees and shrubs are high on the priority list. They require regular watering until their roots become established, which can take a full year.

Older trees, especially fruit, nut and ornamental trees, but also evergreens, can suffer from drought, so don’t forget about them.

Perennial flowers, which return year after year and are more expensive than annuals, should be next on the list, along with vegetables in their flowering and fruiting stages. Melons and squash, which have deep roots, can typically get by with less water than crops like corn, which have shallow roots.

Low on the list of priorities should be annuals, which are not long-term investments anyway; crops with high water needs, like beans, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, corn, lettuce and radishes; and plants growing in pots, as they require more water than their in-ground counterparts. None will likely thrive with the little water that can be offered under mandated restrictions.

WATERING EFFICIENTLY

Most plants require an average of 1″ to 1 ½” of water per week under normal conditions, which amounts to a little more than a half-gallon of water per square foot of garden space. That need could increase, however, during periods of extreme heat, when the soil dries out more quickly.

Regardless, don’t apply your plants’ weekly water needs all at once. Divide it over two or three sessions per week, opting for deeper, less-frequent waterings over daily sprinkles, which are wasteful and ineffective at saturating roots. Watering deeply also establishes stronger, deeper roots that are better able to sustain plants when surface water becomes less available.

Avoid using overhead sprinklers, which wet foliage, pavement and other areas instead of directing water to plant roots. Instead, place soaker hoses or drip-irrigation tubing on the soil directly over roots. Watering cans and hand-held hoses aimed at the soil work, too.

Water only in the morning (or in the evening, if absolutely necessary), but avoid midday, when moisture is likely to evaporate before reaching roots.

Consider using so-called gray water, recycled household water, to water plants. Unsalted water left over from boiling eggs or vegetables provides a nutrient-rich bonus. Dish and bath water that’s not too soapy won’t harm ornamental plants. Just don’t apply it to edibles. And water captured while rinsing fruits and vegetables can be used around the garden.

Watch: KSL Greenhouse | How to create a succulent garden

OTHER TIPS FOR REDUCING THIRST

Keep beds and borders free of weeds, which compete with your plants for water and nutrients. A 3-inch layer of bark mulch, wood chips or gravel around plants will help prevent weed seeds from taking hold, retain soil moisture and keep the soil cooler.

Set mower blades high to promote deeper roots. Taller grass needs less water because it grows slowly and shades the soil. Repair or replace leaky hoses and bib connections.

Some don’ts: Avoid fertilizing plants during drought; This might seem counterintuitive, but fertilizers promote fast growth, which increases the need for water. Avoid using weed killers, which tend to drift to other areas in hot weather; they’re less effective in high temperatures anyway.

Don’t plant anything new, and avoid pruning plants, which stresses them and increases their water needs.

Going forward, consider replacing the lawn with native groundcovers. Incorporate generous helpings of compost into beds and planting holes to improve water retention. Observe the sun-exposure requirements on plant tags (shade lovers need more water when exposed to too much sun). And use more native plants.
Next summer, this could be easier.
—-
Jessica Damiano writes regularly about gardening for The Associated Press. A master gardener and educator, she writes The Weekly Dirt newsletter and creates an annual wall calendar of daily gardening tips. Send her a note at jessica@jessicadamiano.com and find her at jessicadamiano.com and on Instagram @JesDamiano.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

(Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)...

By JILL COLVIN, STEVE PEOPLES and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Trump announces vice president pick

Former President Trump said he picks JD Vance as his vice president in the 2024 presidential race.

2 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service a...

JULIE CARR SMYTH, JILL COLVIN, COLLEEN LONG, MICHAEL BALSAMO, ERIC TUCKER and MICHELLE L. PRICE Associated Press

Local officer encountered gunman just before he shot toward Trump at rally, sources tell AP

One local police officer climbed to the roof and encountered the shooter, who pointed his rifle at the officer, AP sources say.

3 days ago

FILE - In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake Cit...

Associated Press

Debate takeaways: Trump confident, even when wrong, Biden halting, even with facts on his side

Thursday’s presidential debate was a re-run that featured two candidates with a combined age of 159, but it went poorly for one of them.

19 days ago

Supreme Court Police officers stand on duty outside of the Supreme Court building on Thursday, June...

MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

The Supreme Court upholds a gun control law intended to protect domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal gun control law on Friday with intentions to protect domestic violence victims.

26 days ago

A photo taken of Matthew Perry in 2022....

Clayre Scott

Criminal investigation opened in relation to Matthew Perry’s death

A criminal investigation has been opened in relation to Matthew Perry's death due to high levels of ketamine found in his blood.

2 months ago

FILE - The United Nations (UN) headquarters are pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Sept. 9, 2...

EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

U.N. to vote on resolution that would grant Palestine new rights

The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote Friday on a resolution that would grant new "rights and privileges" to Palestine.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Tips for growing a healthy garden during drought