Train your Xeriscape
If you water your Xeriscape too frequently, you are encouraging shallow roots. By spreading out your watering you can help your plants to establish deeper roots that will help them survive drought periods. Water infrequently (weekly) and deeply when necessary.
Using proper soil preparation and maintenance practices will help to build healthy soil and vigorous, deep-rooted plants. These plants are more resistant to disease, tolerate some insect and drought damage, and will out-compete many weeds.
Water At Night
Make sure you only water when the sun is down to reduce evaporation losses. Many irrigation experts feel the best time to water is between midnight at 6 a.m. because evaporation in kept to a minimum.
Repair All Leaks
Check your automatic irrigation system for leaks. To detect a leak in your irrigation system, you must shut down all water use inside your home and be fairly certain that there is no leakage occurring indoors. Once you have done this, you can use your water meter to see if any water continues to flow into your system. To do this, follow the instructions detailed in the water meter page.
During a drought your Xeriscape plants should fare better than traditional landscape plants. However, Xeriscape plants are usually “low water” use plants not “no water” use plants, and they will need some water to survive – especially new plants.
In a drought where limited watering is permitted you will probably be able keep all of your Xeriscape plants alive, even if they don’t thrive to their fullest potential. Here is where grouping plants with similar water needs together become invaluable. By understanding the water needs of your plants, you will be able to ration your water across the Xeriscape, giving more water to the areas that need it. Remember that many turf varieties can survive a period of dormancy, but other plants may not fare as well if they are allowed to dry out completely.
Severe Drought Response
In a severe drought where outdoor watering is severely restricted or even eliminated, you must prioritize your landscape and select the plants that will receive water and those that won’t. Divide your landscape into three categories: 1) High value/must save; 2) Moderate value/try to save; and 3) Low value/save if possible.
High value plants usually include valuable trees and shrubs that have taken years to establish that will die without water. Moderate value plants might include certain perennials, newer shrubs that can be replaced, and drought tolerant Xeriscape type plants that will require little water anyway. Low value plants usually includes turf grass (which can often bounce back successfully from a complete dry out) and annuals.
The old saying is still true, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If there is a drought forecast for your area – plant more drought resistant plants.
Tap into Graywater Irrigation Water Sources
In a severe drought it’s time for drastic measures. It’s time to get creative. The more water you can capture from your faucets, showers, bathtub, and clothes washer the more plants you can probably help survive the drought. You don’t need to have an elaborate graywater collection and treatment system (although you might consider this option). Place basins in your kitchen and bathroom sinks to capture water that can then be put on plants outside. If you take a bath, don’t drain the water! Use buckets to haul the bath water outside for your thirsty plants. You can also keep a bucket in the shower with you to capture water. Capturing and reusing the clothes washer water may be more difficult, but it is certainly possible to do. If you do this, be sure to use laundry detergent that won’t harm your plants.
Place rain barrels at the bottom of your roof downspouts. If any rain does fall you’ll be able to use the water more effectively on the plants that really need it.
Ration Water Across Your Landscape
Use your ration of hose water to water your high value plants and trees first. If nothing else, you want to make it through the drought with those plants alive. If there is sufficient water, move on to the moderate value plants, etc. If you do not have further water from the hose, use your graywater on the moderate value plants and then finally the low value plants.
Keep your moderate and low value plants on a starvation diet. Contact local hortaculturalists and plant experts to determine the minimum amount of water required to keep your plants alive. Some plants can survive (not flourish, but survive) on a small amount of water delivered once per week.