Water is becoming our most precious resource as the glaciers melt away and rising snow levels reduce our storage capacity. Mandatory water restrictions are in place in many parts of the country and those of us in dry climates will have to change our gardens whether we like it or not. If you plant your garden to be compatible with the local flora and climate you will reduce your water use considerably. Using less water has several environmental benefits:
1. Fewer demands on our aquifers and rivers, allowing fish populations to recover.
2. Less run-off which carries dog poop and engine oil etc. into the storm drains and down to the ocean.
3. When we reduce irrigation, we are not adding so much cloramine (a water purification chemical that has replaced clorine) to the soil. Cloramine, unlike clorine, does not break down quickly and resides in the soil as ammonia where it may harm the microorganisms that are essential to soil health. Cloramine kills fish.
4. Reduced irrigation prevents unhealthy molds and fungi such as oak root rot (which does affect other trees and shrubs) from developing in our gardens.
- Note that all plants, drought tolerant or native species or not, need water when they are fresh in the ground, and for the first couple of years until a good root system is established. A new garden should be planted in late fall or early winter to take advantage of winter rains to get the roots down. The plants will be healthier and will need less water in the spring and summer.
- Many native and drought tolerant plants do not like to have warm wet roots in summertime. Water early in the morning, but try not to water during heatwaves unless unusually prolonged.
- If you have very sandy soil a drip system may not be the best solution as the water does not spread, but drains away quickly. In this case you will have to continue with overhead watering or hand watering the individual plants if you have the time and inclination.
- If you plan to install a birdbath, be sure that you can refill it easily as water evaporates quickly in hot weather.
- If you plan a pond, plant waterlilies and other floating plants to cover the water surface and prevent evaporation.