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Lawn & Garden

Gardening in drought conditions

Over the past four years, California has suffered thru continuous winters with a severe lack of rain.  As a result of these back to back to back to back dry periods, water reservoirs have dropped to record lows and in some cases they have dried up completely.  Earlier planning back in the beginning of the population growth of Southern California, would have made a significant difference in our water supplies both above ground and below in the subterranean aquifers, especially those in Northern California.



Southern California has always been a reclaimed desert environment which has been transformed over the last 50-60 years from a dry scrub brushed filled landscape to green irrigated lawns and gardens.  But this has also come at a price.  Those communities that could afford the higher water rates and overuse penalties thrived, while other communities that were not as affluent had to cut back to just survive.


Some communities that solely relied on well water for their survival found their water supply had dried up as a result of the drought and from over use.  Those communities have been forced to have water trucked in to maintain their town’s survival.


Gardening during this type of severe condition seems almost impossible unless you have exercised proper techniques over the past years.  The first step to successful gardening in this type of environment is realizing that regular rain does not come to a semi-arid environment such as Southern California. The term “When it Rains it Pours” should be the mantra for the cities here in the southwest.  Conserving water during the periods of rain should have been a priority for our city planners, but it was not.  

We are currently in an "El Nino" condition out here in the west.  So far the promised deluge has yet to hit us, but the experts say that it is comming and is working it way down the coast.  So far Southern California is still down several inches of rain and the current drought is still active although the last few weeks of rain have been welcomed events.  More rain has been forecast for the next two months.  We will wait and see.


What can we do as residents now that we are faced with this situation?  Does this mean that all of our landscaping has to be let to dry up and die?  Will brown lawns, dead plants and bushes be the norm for residents of Southern California?  No, this does not have to be the norm if we adopt some sensible landscaping practices.  Ripping out everything green and replacing it with faux landscaping does not have to be the answer either.  Responsible watering and water conservation is the answer though.


 What are some of the steps to responsible watering? 

  • Check your automatic sprinklers to be sure the spray is confined to the yard and not to the sidewalk and the street. Adjust them to prevent this waste of precious water. 

  •  Be sure that your sprinklers are not leaking water over the curb and onto the city streets.  The curbs do not need to be watered. 

  •  Aerate your lawn and flower bed as needed.  This will allow the water to sink down into the root system of your lawn and flowers.

  • Deep water your plants rather than just giving them a light sprinkle

  • Plant drought tolerant plants such as those from “Smart Planet” and other succulents.

  • Although Drought Tolerant Plants do require regular care for the first 6 months, their water requirement will be drastically reduced once they are established and have developed their root system, providing they have been planted in the ground. Drought tolerant plants that are in a container will never become drought tolerant unless they are in a large container such as a half wine or whiskey barrel.


In addition to utilizing drought tolerant plants, conditioning your soil to retain moisture will also aid your plants and help to save water as well.  When changing a soil from sand and rock to more balanced medium, your water retention will also improve.  Amending your soil to the maximum depth of the plants you choose will cause the root system to reach down to the lower levels where the moisture is greater.

Using mulch around the drip line of your plants will also aid in moisture retention as well as adding valuable organic components to your soil.  Do your research on Mulch.  This product can be either a color impregnated chipped wood, bark or a course soil amendment such as garden soil that can be mixed into the soil or layered on top to help preserve the moisture in the soil.

On the West Coast, The Home Depot carries a variety of soil mixes from Kellogg, EcoScraps, Vigoro and our national brand Miracle-Gro which also includes their new product Natures Care.

With a little fore thought and proper care, you can still garden effectively and beautifully, even in a drought condition such as the one Southern California is currently dealing with. 

Please let us know what your approach to gardening is in this drought condition and share it with us at "". 


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Drought Tolerant Plants That Are Not Cactus

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Posted 2016-01-27T00:01:28+0000  by Rick_HD_OC Rick_HD_OC