Drought Tolerant Garden
We�ve been through a drought, watering restrictions, and a changing climate here in Georgia. It makes sense to think about what we plant and how much water it will require to keep it alive. Irrigation can help but it can put a strain on the wallet. We have long summers � lots of heat and little rainfall and drought tolerant* plants (those capable of growing in a prolonged dry environment) can be a good choice for us. Most drought-tolerant plants are natives to our area. Try using native plants and those that are for hot and dry climates, such as ours. Remember that plants do need to get established so you will have to water them until they are. According to when you plant, the requirements will be different. The best time to plant is in the fall, when the temperatures are cooler but the plants have enough time to grow a root system before it gets cold. Trees and shrubs can take a year or so to get established and perennials maybe 3 months or so.
Here are other suggestions for a more drought tolerant garden:
Plant correctly. If you have a shade plant, don't put it in the sun. Make sure your plants are meant for our area (in Atlanta the heat zone is 7 and the hardiness zone is 8a). See maps in our resource section for the zones covering your area. Check the information on plants when you purchase them to make sure they are right for your area. We carry the following seeds which adapt well in our climate and soil:
Alyssum Basket of Gold, Sweet Alyssum, Agastache Sunset Hyssop, Amaranth Burgundy, bachelor's buttons, bee balm, butterfly flower, chamomile, cleome, columbine, coreopsis, cosmos, echinacea, gaillardia, gaura, Grass- Bunny Tails, hollyhocks, impatiens, lavender, marigolds, nicotiana, penstemon, rosemary, rudbeckia, salvia, sunflowers, sweet pea (some), thyme, verbena, and Water-Wise Mix.
Group together plants that have similar watering needs.
Space plants properly so they don't have to compete for moisture.
Our soil is typically heavy clay - soil improvements/amendments are necessary.
Weed your garden so weeds don't take up the water and nutrients your plants need.
Mulch with 2-3" layer of organic mulch - shredded leaves, bark nuggets, compost. This will slow the evaporation of water in the soil and help retain moisture (and it keeps down the weeds!)
Use drip lines instead of spray heads; hand watering versus overhead sprinklers which wastes water especially when using it during the heat of the day.
Water wisely - early in am; water deeply and less frequently versus more often and shallow watering. It's better for the plants.
Where is water in your landscape? Downspouts, near a creek - plant your more moisture loving plants in this area and those that can adapt to drier soils in your other areas.
Use water-retaining polymers (i.e. Soil Moist) in containers to absorb and retain moisture. When you�re on vacation (or anytime) try a Wine Bottle Plant Nanny (or other Plant Nanny product). Water is naturally absorbed by the plant through the terra cotta.
Using the rain collected in rain barrels or other water collection systems is a good way to water plants using our natural resources.
Other great drought tolerant plants for our climate include: ice plant, ornamental grasses, Solomon's seal, rain lilies, amsonia, baptisia, hosta, Lenten rose, crocosmia, lantana, aspidistra, canna, speedwell, coleus, verbena, Shasta daisy, calendula, daylily, dahlia, rose, ageratum, hens and chicks, cactus, celosia, St. John's wort, butterfly weed, dianthus, euphorbia, hardy geranium, artemisia, aster, lupine, coral bells, pachysandra, sedum, yarrow, Russian sage, purple coneflower, lamb's ears, sundrops, globe thistle, Yucca, dusty miller, begonia, calibrachoa, petunias, phlox, foamy bells, red hot poker plant, Japanese aster, verbascum, astilbe, veronica, and grape hyacinth.
Vines, shrubs and trees, such as: cross vine, clematis, trumpet creeper, sweet potato vine , Carolina jessamine, American wisteria, firecracker plant, burning bush, Indian hawthorn, forsythia, daphne, yew, weigela , loropetalum, viburnum, oak leaf hydrangea, tea olive, Juniper , camelia, deodar cedar, crape myrtle, magnolia, and Smoke tree .
Plant wisely; enjoy the savings, less work and a beautiful garden!
* Other terms you might see for this are water-wise, water-conservative, water-smart and xeriscaping.