Grow a Drought-Resistant Garden

Even though the rainfall for 2013 has been about average, there have been drastic temperature swings over the last several months and it is shaping up to be a hot summer.  
Weston Miller, Community and Urban Horticulturist for the OSU Extension Service joined us today with tips to help you conserve water and keep your landscape looking good:
• Water your lawn more deeply and less frequently. "I call it survival watering."  If you typically water three to four times per week, it's OK to cut that to one to two times per week.
o With little or no water during the summer, the lawn will survive, going brown through the summer and then greening up in the fall when the rains start again.  This strategy, however, makes the turf less competitive with weeds in the long run, so you might plan to renovate the lawn in the fall by adding compost and seed to the lawn. 
o If you plan to install a lawn this year, choose drought-tolerant turfgrass such as tall fescue is hardy, wide-bladed and deep-rooted. Perennial ryegrass and creeping fescue can also tolerate some dryness.
o Or, consider reseeding with an ecolawn mix with turf-grass seed mixed with broad-leaf plant seeds such as yarrow, clovers, English daisies and more.  Ecolawns are much more drought resistant than conventional turf-grass lawns and can still look good and take a lot of traffic with minimal summer water.  They also attract bees, so be warned if you have bee allergies.
• For landscapes, choose drought-tolerant plants such as creeping zinnia lavender and for your landscape. Native plants such as the Oregon iris, yarrow, kinnickinnick and Pacific wax myrtle tolerate dry summers well too.  Find a list of water-efficient landscape plants at this OSU Extension guide.
o Even if you have planted drought-tolerant plants this year (2013), you will need to water them through he course of the summer.  With established plants, many can survive with minimal or no water, but make sure to know a plant’s water needs before you stop watering it this summer.
• For most plants, watering deeply and close to the roots is more important than frequency. Study each plant's watering requirements. For vegetables, soak soil about six inches deep. Water to a depth of about a foot and a half for shrubs. Trees need water about two feet deep.
• Mulching is critical because it improves soil structure, helps retain water in the ground and reduces weeds. Use compost-based mulches for vegetables and woody mulches for ornamental plants. Spread the mulch about two to three inches thick on the soil around your garden.
• Water early in the morning before the day heats up.
• Use an efficient irrigation system, such as soaker hoses or drip irrigation. If you choose a sprinkler system, select a low-pressure, in-ground system that does not shoot up in the air.
But wildfire danger is a real concern in dry conditions in the Northwest.  That is because native wildland areas will have new green growth during rain showers, but then will dry out without irrigation during the summer months – thus creating a fuel source. Yards and gardens continue to get irrigated through the summer. 
For help with your gardening questions, call or email or Tweet your questions to OSU Extension Service Master Gardener volunteers: metromastergardeners.org/index.php
Also, in partnershipw ith Metro's Natural Gardening Specialist, Carl Grimm, Master Gardeners can be found at numerous farmers’ markets in the region ready to answer your gardening questions.
For more information about water-efficient gardening, view the OSU Extension guides Designing and Installing a New Landscape; Landscape and Lawn Care and An Introduction to Xeriscaping in the High Desert.
You can also take a series of online, self-paced courses called WaterWise Gardening: Planning & Design from OSU's Professional and Noncredit Education Unit.

 

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