During the hot, dry days of summer, plants and lawns can’t seem to get enough water. Nearly everywhere I look, it’s easy to see the signs of thirsty landscapes.
Yet, my lawn and garden, while certainly on the dry side, looks remarkably well, especially when considering I don’t do anything special to supplement the irrigation.
It’s no accident though and not surprising. Steps I take to prepare for these conditions go a very long way to minimizing the impact of drought. And they’re simple things anyone can do.
Three Keys to a Waterwise Landscape
- Add a generous layer of mulch around all your plants. It’s a significant help to insulate the roots from heat, while providing a layer of protection to hold moisture in the soil.
- Cut your lawn high. On my lawn, I set the mower blade to 4-inches for my cool-season fescue. Allowing your lawn to grow to the top range of its preferred growing height goes a long way to making it more drought tolerant. Taller shoots mean deeper roots. And more blade area to shade the soil surface thereby reducing evaporation of soil moisture.
- Add compost everywhere. For everything growing, I add a generous amount. It’s the common denominator to give my lawn and garden the staying power to persist much longer than by not including it. I incorporate Certified Compost into my vegetable beds, use it around all my flowers and shrubs, and even spread it over my lawn. And everywhere it’s added, compost is also doing great things to feed my soil and improve growing conditions.
In summer, one of the very best attributes of compost is its ability to hold moisture. In short, compost is a mix or organic matter, consisting of billions of microorganisms per tablespoon. They produce byproducts that are beneficial to other soil dwelling creatures while improving soil texture and structure.
And that’s where the magic happens. Compost helps bind soil particles together with a substance that absorbs and retains moisture while allowing it to be available to plant roots.
Without compost and organic matter, soil becomes dry lifeless dirt leading to much greater problems including soil erosion and runoff.
Soil that includes compost and organic matter acts much like a sponge, pulling in water and holding surface particles in place. Even better, mineral particles in the soil (consisting of sand, silt and clay) are held together in various sizes known as aggregates. It’s the binding of these particles that not only allows the retention of moisture, but also the ability for excess water to drain. It’s the best of both worlds.
While we can’t change the weather, we can plan for it. When it comes to protecting the investment of your garden and landscape, adding a generous amount of compost should be first on your list. It’s a key component to my water-wise strategy for pennies on the dollar.
The U.S Composting Council suggest that you “strive for five” percent organic matter in your overall soil profile. While it doesn’t sound like much, there’s a good chance your soil has less than that now. Fortunately, a little goes a long way. If you want to know how much organic matter your soil currently contains, get a soil test. They’re inexpensive and full of useful information.
Yet don’t wait to add compost. It’s the single best thing you can do for improving the health of your soil. Improving moisture holding capacity is just one of them.
Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I am the spokesperson for the US Composting Council (USCC). Although the thoughts and opinions in this post are indeed my own, the USCC who sponsored it compensated me in some way to write it. Rest assured that I only accept such offers when I genuinely believe in a product or service, use it personally, or believe it to be good information worth sharing with my audience.