April 9, 2001
Be prepared ‹ ways to 'Drought Smart' your garden for today and tomorrow
The forecast for the near future in the Pacific Northwest includes drought conditions.
For gardeners this means taking measures now to ensure the health of your garden in water-scarce times as well as in normal rainfall conditions. If you're planting a new garden, you might want to consider planting a "drought smart" garden; one that requires little moisture to thrive and uses the water it receives in the most efficient manner possible.
Peggy Campbell, the Director of Education at Molbak's Nursery in Woodinville, states, "Whether we're dealing with a drought or not, practicing water conservation is important because as the region grows, the demand for water will outstrip the supply.
"In the garden, there are three things you should do: 1) Before you plant, build up your soil, 2) Pick the right plants and best location to plant them, and 3) Use correct watering practices."
Getting the Most
Out of Your Soil
The qualities of healthy soil include the ability to hold moisture and oxygen and to provide adequate drainage, as well as to contain enough nutrients so plants will thrive and be protected from disease. Adding compost and mulch to soil allows it to absorb water easily, drain well, and retain moisture.
Most established trees and shrubs do not need regular fertilization; mulching can provide all the necessary nutrients in most cases. Even roses, annuals, and flowering perennials can get adequate nutrients through yearly compost applications.
What to Plant
A drought-smart garden can be planted without sacrificing variety.
A wide variety of plants native to the Pacific Northwest exist that do well in drought conditions. Once native plants are established, they require considerably less water. Grouped together, these plants can be put on a minimal watering schedule separate from the more water-needy varieties already in your garden.
You may also want to consider shrubs, succulents and trees as a substitute for some of your lawn, which requires the most water by far.
When consulting your local nursery or landscape professional for assistance in creating your drought-smart garden, draw a map of your yard. Identify where the sunny and shady parts are and what the soil is like (sand, clay, loam). You can then determine the best choices of new plants, watering practices, and soil amendments to incorporate to achieve your goal - to maintain a garden that not only thrives throughout the dry months but makes the most of the water you use throughout the year.
From May to September, water use in our region increases nearly 50 percent, primarily for lawn and garden watering.
Experts also say that 50 percent or more of this water is wasted, either through evaporation, runoff, or overwatering.
Drought-smart watering practices include drip irrigation or soaker hoses for plants and shrubs, grouping plants according to watering needs, and watering in early morning or late afternoon to reduce evaporation. Lawns should be watered separately from planting beds, and watered deeply to moisten the root zone, but infrequently, about one inch per week.
Grasses do better when the whole root zone is wetted and then partially dries out between waterings.
Frequent shallow watering causes shallow rooting, and overwatering, besides just wasting water, can promote lawn disease and leach nutrients from the soil.
For more information, feel free to contact Campbell who would be happy to answer any questions you might have. She can be reached at (425) 483-5000.