How Much Do You Know About Drought-Friendly Gardening?
By: Zoe Samuel
About This Quiz
Gardening is a very healthy and pleasant activity for people of any age. With modern tools being the way they are, you really don't need to be very mobile to be able to maintain a lovely garden. However. there are a lot of places where it is hard to predict how much water you're likely to get, whether from the ground or the sky, in any given season, and as the climate warms, this will only become a more serious problem.
Droughts don't just happen in places like California or Arizona. They also happen in rainy places, as technically a drought is just another word for, "Less rain than this area typically gets." A drought is thus something that any gardener should be prepared to tackle. After all, there is nothing more miserable than working your butt off to make your garden a haven for you and your family, only to have it shrivel up and turn into a miserable brown wasteland. That means knowing what plants to plant, how to conserve water, how to use shade wisely and what fertilizers and tools to use are all key to a successful drought-proof garden. Do you know how to do all that? Let's find out!
We're going to start with soil and grass, as they are the baseline. What grass should you NOT put down for your drought-prone lawn?
Dwarf Perennial Ryegrass
This is a terrible choice for your garden in a drought. It's commonly used for fancy lawns - sadly, most of America uses it, which is a waste. It'll suck up all the water. Don't use it!
What organic covering might you use to keep your soil healthy?
Mulch is when you spread something over your soil to cover it. It's usually organic and you can make it yourself. It keeps the temperature down and stops moisture escaping. Good mulch might be made of grass clippings, compost or other materials. Think of it like putting a lid on the cup that is your soil.
Aerating is when you use a device that looks a bit like a big pie crimper to poke holes in the soil. This helps moisture travel down so it reaches roots, instead of staying on the surface. Handy tip: stiletto heels also aerate the lawn (for real) so wear them on it with pride.
Will a stone surface (patio, gravel, etc) help or hinder your garden in a drought?
Stone does use less water than a lawn, but it sucks up heat from the sun, and your drought-prone garden is likely in a hot place. That means putting stones on it means lightly cooking the soil underneath, as well as reflecting heat into all the plants (and you!). It's the worst contributor to the urban heat island effect. Stone also is not porous, meaning water runs off it and is wasted. Soil is your friend, as it drinks whatever the sky gives it.
Loamy soil is sandy. It has lots of gaps for water to go into and stay there. It's the best soil for hanging onto the water that it does get. If you don't naturally have loamy soil, then you can get compost or mulch that will help you out.
Why is grass so darn good at coming back from drought?
It isn't always, it really depends.
It grows from the bottom, so it can survive losing the ends.
Grass grows from the bottom, unlike most plants. That means if you cut the top off, or simply let it shrivel for lack of water, the root is fine. The grass just grows again when conditions improve. That's why it is among the most successful plants in history.
If you want to attract birds, where should you put the birdbath (other than, obviously, a place that cats can't reach)?
In the shade
Shade is best, as it is cooler. Birds will come to your garden if you make it comfortable. A birdhouse, feeder and birdbath will bring them in. One trick with a birdbath is prick a small hole in a jug and put it over the birdbath to replenish it (as birds will drink or spill it and it will evaporate). The dripping sound will also attract birds to visit.
Gray water is "waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances" that is clean enough to re-use. If you expect a drought quite often, you should invest in a system that collects this water for use in the garden. It pays for itself!
Early morning or evening are best to water, as the heat is lower, meaning evaporation is slower. That means more of the water stays on the plant long enough to soak into the soil and get into the roots.