Drought-Tolerant Landscapes

What is a drought-tolerant landscape?

A well-designed drought-tolerant landscape can be filled with a lush variety of colorful plants that have year-round beauty, and give no outward clues that it was created to conserve water. It resembles a thriving oasis, not a sea of lava rock with a few sparse plantings!

There are tremendous benefits to creating a drought tolerant landscape. Besides saving time and money with less watering, you will be helping to conserve a precious resource and preserve habitat for salmon and other aquatic life in our region.

Keys to creating a successful drought-tolerant landscape are:

Adding compost is the best way to start building healthy soil. Compost helps clay soils to drain well in the wet winter months and sandy soil to retain water in our dry summers. It also helps beneficial microorganisms to thrive. Healthy soil enables plant roots to grow deeply, reducing the potential for drought stress.

Mulch is also vital for a drought-tolerant landscape. Compost, arborist wood chips, fallen leaves or coarse-textured bark are good choices. A deep layer of organic mulch helps prevent compaction from winter rains, release micronutrients into the soil, reduce weeds and aid in summer water retention.

For a partly shady garden, consider using Pacific Northwest natives such as vine maple (Acer circinatum), evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), low Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa), and sword fern (Polystichum munitum). These plants provide year-round interest, and they are drought-tolerant once established. They also increase available food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds, beneficial insects and other wildlife, bringing more life into your garden.

For a hot and sunny spot, consider a garden filled with the fragrance and color of herbs and ornamental grasses. Lavender, rosemary, culinary sage (Salvia) and rock rose (Cistus), mix well with pheasant tail grass (Stipa arundinacea), maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) and Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) Add a groundcover of oregano, our native yarrow (Achillea millefoilum), and sedums, tuck in a few landscape rocks, and you’ll have a Mediterranean-style oasis.

As with all gardens, even drought-tolerant plants will need supplemental summer water until their roots are firmly established in the soil, which can take 1-3 years.

Soaker hoses or drip irrigation will help get plant roots established down deep into the soil so that in a relatively short time your watering days will be few and far between!

References & Resources

The following references will provide more detail on the benefits of creating a drought-tolerant landscape. Or call In Harmony to assist with your design and installation at 425-486-2180.

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