Drought: Gardening Tips

Water dedicated to landscape can often be reduced by 20 to 40 percent because over irrigation is very common. Gradually reduce the amount of water applied over a few weeks – giving lawns, trees and plants time to adjust.

Editable Gardens

Water restrictions and conservation should be taken into consideration when deciding on starting an edible home garden. If local water allocation allows for an edible garden, homeowners can grow fruits and vegetables in their backyard using water-wise practices.

Water-saving Edible Garden Tips:

  • Plant an appropriate size garden for your household
  • Plant shorter season crops and drought resistant varieties
  • Know critical watering periods, for example transplanting and fruit development
  • Apply a 3” to 4” layer of mulch
  • Compost adds nutrients to soil and can produce higher yields
  • Remove weeds, which compete for water resources
  • Install a water efficient drip irrigation system

Lawn Care

A lawn is almost always the single largest user of water in the home landscape. Many gardens have large expanses of turf that are never used but require considerable time, effort and resources to maintain. Use turf only when it serves a purpose, such as play or entertainment areas.

Water-saving Lawn Tips:

  • Select water efficient varieties suited for your local climate
  • Replace nonessential turf with ground covers, mulches, decks and walkways
  • Adjust irrigation schedule monthly – to reflect seasonal changes
  • Water at night, ideally between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., this reduces evaporation and wind will not be strong enough to interfere with sprinkler patterns
  • Mow lawns higher during very warm weather
  • Helps reduce growth rate
  • Protects lawn from sunburn
  • Promotes deeper root growth
  • Shades soil, reduces weeds

Plant Care

Do not introduce new plants to your landscape during a severe drought. Even California native plants aren’t drought-resistant until they become well established. When water restrictions allow for new plants to be introduced into your landscape, select drought tolerant varieties appropriate for your climate zone. Introduce new plants during the fall, allowing them to become established by winter rain.  

Water-saving Plant Tips:

  • Remove plants in crowded beds or low-priority plants competing for soil moisture
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch!
  • 3 to 4″ layer reduces water evaporation and weeds
  • Protects roots from heat
  • Reduces weeds who compete for water
  • Avoid heavy pruning
  • Do not overuse fertilizers, which increase growth and water demands
  • Infrequent deep watering encourages deeper root growth, and results in plants with greater drought tolerance  
  • Use a drip irrigation system, grouping plants with similar water needs together on one drip irrigation line

Tree Care

When water is limited, most people choose to water fruit trees, landscape trees, and shrubs.  Lawns, groundcovers, and bedding plants can be reestablished over a relatively short time, but trees and shrubs need years to mature and are less easily replaced.

Ornamental Trees:

One or two deep irrigation’s with a garden hose several weeks apart in spring and summer will often keep trees alive through summer, especially if roots are relatively deep

Will drop leaves or wilt under severe water shortage, but with appropriate care will survive

Fruit and Nut Trees:

Early-season water applications will keep trees alive, but reduces fruit production

To produce a good harvest, deciduous fruit and nut trees need adequate water in their root zones continuously from bloom until harvest.


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