Having an outdoor space with attractive and healthy plants is something many of us strive for. From turfgrasses to trees and everything in between, having enough water is a keystone to plant health. Unfortunately, in New Hampshire, we’re experiencing another drought.
Drought conditions require a mindful approach to landscape design, maintenance, and construction. While we cannot cause the skies to open and rain to fall, some changes to the way you approach plant health in a drought can help protect your investment.
Here are 7 ways to approach landscaping in a drought.
In many cases, the introduction of supplemental water is a common and viable way to combat drought.
Many property owners utilize an irrigation system or manual watering to overcome drought conditions, which is exceptionally effective. These efforts should only be undertaken if your area permits it, and should be done with water conservation in mind. Some watering methods to consider include:
Water in the morning before the sun has fully risen. This will reduce evaporation.
When watering gardens and beds water frequently using lesser quantity. This will aid in water absorption and reduce runoff or pooling.
When watering turfgrasses water less frequently but with greater quantity to encourage roots to grow deeper. Be mindful to avoid water runoff or pooling and adjust your rate as needed.
Consider the use of drip or localized irrigation to reduce waste.
Hire a landscaper to perform deep root irrigation. This method injects water, and in some cases fertilizer beneath the surface and directly into your root systems.
Maintain your gardens and plant beds
Just as your plants require water, so do weeds. During a drought, anything you can do to reduce the competition for water will help the viability of your plants. Weeds will pull water out of the soil which could go to your plants, and in many cases, they are better at it. Regular and proper weeding assures the water and nutrients in your soil are more readily available for your plants.
Don’t forget to mulch.
Many property owners like the appearance of mulch, but there’s a practical reason to introduce mulch. Select mulches are an effective way to help your soil retain moisture by combatting evaporation and helping to curb weed growth. In addition, temporary irrigation systems can be hidden beneath mulch, allowing property owners to realize the benefits of localized irrigation while retaining a clean appearance on their property.
Introduce drought-resistant plants
Several drought-resistant plant options provide great options for virtually any application in our area. In instances where proper irrigation or watering is not a viable option, these plants are often a wise choice. Visit the link below for a great list of drought-resistant plant options from the UNH Cooperative Extension.
Keep an eye out for pests
Spider Mites, Forest Tent Caterpillars, Gypsy Moths, and other pests often thrive in dry conditions. These pests can cause significant damage to plant life, especially those stressed by drought conditions.
The best way to know if you have a pest problem is through an examination of your property. Evidence of pests can include browning of leaves or needles, physical damage caused by feeding or nesting, animal activity such as woodpeckers, or even seeing the pests first-hand. If you’re unsure if you have a pest problem, or would like a proactive treatment plan, consult an industry professional such as a certified arborist.
Please be aware that the spraying of pesticides is regulated in New Hampshire by the Department of Agriculture. Any individual hired to apply pesticides on your property should have the applicable licenses and be properly trained.
Design and build your landscape for drought
If you’re considering a landscape construction or renovation project, careful planning in the design can help mitigate the effects of drought. As mentioned prior plant selection is important, but other considerations also have a significant influence. Planting locations can help shelter plants from the scorching sun for long periods. Planting methods including soil amendments and preparation can aid in moisture retention. Grouping plants of similar water needs together can help support effective watering efforts. Creative alternatives to directing and retaining water can help you accumulate water on your property for future use.
Don’t forget about your shade trees
Did you know that a mature shade tree can translocate (transpire, evaporate, utilize) up to 1,000 gallons of water per day?
Although established trees are generally more resistant to drought stress, there are limits to a tree’s resilience, particularly with the successive years of drought conditions we’re experiencing. Construction injury combined with drought can spell trouble with root systems which lead to a decline in overall health. Watering can help, but soil injections of Bio-Stimulants paired with root zone cultivation have proven to be very effective at helping large trees cope with stress.