Gardens can thrive even under drought conditions. ATTRIBUTION: David Michalczuk (Flickr)

Gardens can thrive even under drought conditions. ATTRIBUTION: David Michalczuk (Flickr)

California’s drought is reaching critical levels, threatening everyone from commercial farmers to casual gardeners. Now in its fourth consecutive year, the drought is the worst it’s been since the state began keeping precipitation and temperature records in the 1800s. As summer approaches, gardeners must take extra precautions to prevent their landscape from feeling the effects of drought. Here’s a look at some simple ways to garden through a drought and conserve water.

Choose the Right Plants

Some plants are more drought-resistant than others. To avoid the need for excessive watering, opt for plants that are native to where you live. There are also numerous drought-tolerant plants that require little water, such as portulaca, coneflowers, catmint, agastache, and salvia. Perennials are also ideal for drought conditions. Although they require more water when initially planted, they generally require less water over time.

Know When to Water

Different plants require different amounts of water, with the average being about an inch of moisture per week. Do your research to determine how much water your garden plants actually need to prevent overwatering. Watering your plants too frequently does more than just waste water: It also hinders the roots’ ability to grow deeply into the soil, where they are able to stay moist for a longer period of time.

Use the Proper Tools

Getting sufficient water to plants’ roots can be tough during a drought. When the soil is too dry, water simply runs off instead of absorbing into the soil. To better your chances of reaching plant roots, use a soaker hose. This affordable tool is a specialized garden hose that allows water to seep into the ground very slowly, which increases the odds of the water reaching the roots.

Add Layers of Mulch

Several layers of mulch placed evenly over the soil in your garden can provide numerous benefits. When you add a two-to-three-inch blanket of mulch around your garden plants, the covering helps to keep the soil underneath cool and moist. If you are using a soaker hose to add moisture to the dry soil, place the hose underneath the layers of mulch to reduce water runoff.

Find Ways to Conserve Water

Conserving water can be difficult during a drought, but try to take advantage of any rainfall when possible. One of the best ways to collect water outdoors for your garden plants is with rain barrels. Water can also be collected indoors. After boiling pasta, allow the water to cool and give your plants a drink. You can also place containers at the bottom of your shower to collect excess water.

Weed the Garden Frequently

Weeding is not a fun job, but it’s an important gardening task, especially in drought conditions. Weeds are simply unwanted plants that steal valuable moisture and nutrients from the soil. When weeds are removed, more moisture and nutrients are left for your plants. A few times a week, spend time removing weeds from your garden.