All signs point to another dry summer in northern Arizona this year. For gardeners, this raises the dilemma of how to enjoy growing flowers and foodstuffs during a time when conserving water is not only ecologically desirable; it’s a necessity.
The key is cultivating a garden that is water-wise.
It is not necessary to sacrifice beauty or garden enjoyment to conform to the arid conditions we are experiencing. A water-wise landscape is one that is functional, attractive, easily maintained in its natural surroundings and, most importantly, helps to conserve water.
Here are a few tips for creating a water-wise landscape.
- Install a drip irrigation system. Now, this is an investment, but one that pays off in the long run (and is a big plus if you are trying to conserve water). Here’s the problem: hand watering delivers water at such a high rate, you only reach the surface of the soil, and the rest is lost to evaporation or runoff. Drip irrigation, by contrast, uses far less water and ensures that you penetrate the entire root system. It also trains the roots to grow more deeply which gives your plants a better chance of surviving and thriving. When you hand water, your plant’s roots stay at the surface of the soil because that is where the water is and will dry out more quickly because they are closer to the sun.
- Improve your soil. Cultivate your soil at least once a year, incorporating fresh organic matter such as compost or Warner’s Planting Mix. This simple step improves the soil’s ability to resist evaporation and retain moisture.
- Mulch around trees and planting beds. Mulch is the multifaceted superhero of your garden. It not only helps retain moisture in the soil, but it also discourages weeds.
- Speaking of weeds, one of the most critical components of a beautiful and lasting landscape is regular maintenance including weeding and pruning. Not only will you keep your plants healthy, but it will also help to conserve water because your landscape plants will not have to compete with weeds or spent blooms for water.
- Water plants only when needed, not by the clock or calendar.
- Plant trees. In addition to cleaning the air, trees lower air and soil temperatures, reducing plant and soil moisture loss.
- Skip the thirsty plants – when choosing your annuals and perennials, consider native or drought-tolerant plants. Warner’s Nursery has a great selection of flowering beauties that are well-suited to your particular microclimate. Some water-wise annuals include Marguerite Daisies, Cosmos, Dusty Miller, Gazanias, Portulaca, and Salvia. For perennials, you might want to consider Yarrow, Agastache, Snow in Summer, Coneflowers, English Lavender, Catmint, Russian Sage and Creeping Phlox.
- Minimize turf grass in your garden – it’s the thirstiest plant of all!
Remember, you can always ask our experts at Warner’s for tips and hints on creating beautiful but water-wise gardens and landscapes, or any of your gardening needs. We look forward to seeing you at the nursery.