5 Tips for Creating a Drought-Tolerant Yard

If you live in a part of the country that is experiencing a dry spell, you may consider a drought-tolerant design for your front yard as a way to maintain a beautiful landscape while minimizing water waste. 

The best way to achieve this is to incorporate xeriscaping into your landscaping designs.

What Is Xeriscaping?

The Latin words xero and scape mean dry and landscape, respectively. Xeriscaping is simply landscaping customized for arid climates.

Western states saw a surge in xeriscaping during the 1980s as more and more homeowners looked for information on how to create drought-tolerant gardens. 

Today, some people embrace all seven xeriscaping principles, but others take their pick depending on their goals and needs. 

Xeriscaping is based on seven principles:

  1. Better design and planning
  2. Using drought-tolerant grass varieties and/or reducing grass growth
  3. Increasing the use of water-efficient plants
  4. Testing the soil and adding compost or other organic material
  5. Using decorative rocks and wood mulch
  6. Repairing and/or upgrading irrigation system
  7. Seasonal maintenance

Whether you simply want to water more conservatively or do an entire xeriscaping overhaul, you have several options at your disposal. 

Incorporating Xeriscaping Principles at Home

You’ll find there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution to drought tolerant landscaping. For example, people looking to design a drought-tolerant small front yard may take a different approach than someone who is landscaping their backyard with lots of hills.

Ideally, you should consult a professional, but that’s not always possible. The good news is that there are steps you can take by yourself that are easy and affordable. 

Keep your outdoor areas looking amazing with these simple tips and ideas.

1. Reconsider your watering practices

If you intend to keep your grass, the first step to creating a drought-tolerant yard is creating a better watering plan. You want to water your lawn just enough to give it the hydration it needs without drowning it. This helps to create deep, far-reaching roots, which are so crucial during droughts.

It may be tempting to keep watering your lawn regularly, only using less water. However, the most effective way to water your lawn is to water it deeply a few times a week. Watering your lawn three times a week is a great way to start, since you should be giving it about ⅓ of an inch of water on average each week.

You should also water your lawn in the morning when it’s cooler. Afternoon watering causes a significant amount of water to evaporate before it reaches the roots. When it comes to creating a drought-tolerant yard, this simple step can go a long way in reducing water waste.

A good irrigation system can also be quite beneficial. Check if your existing irrigation system is only watering the grass and not your driveway or fence. An underground irrigation system is also an effective way to use all the water available.

2. Use mulch to insulate roots from heat

Using wood mulch in the back or front yard can help you develop drought-proof landscaping. Adding mulch to your garden will reduce heat and slow evaporation and help keep your plants cool. Once you learn how to create a drought-tolerant yard, you’ll find that you don’t have to get rid of your favorite plants – you just need to reevaluate how you care for them.

3. Use organic compost to improve plant health

Compost made from organic materials is packed with moisture and nutrients. During dry spells, compost can prove helpful in keeping your plants alive. By retaining moisture longer than soil alone, organic compost assists in delivering it to the roots. It works much like a sponge, absorbing the water and retaining it more efficiently than standalone soil.

4. Use drought-tolerant plants in the place of grass

If you’re looking for a way to create a drought-tolerant lawn, you might be concerned about saving your grass. However, there are other alternatives such as removing the grass completely, or only keeping it in key areas.

In place of a traditional grass lawn, you could use decorative stones, sand, and drought-tolerant plants like cacti and succulents. It is relatively low maintenance, requires little water, and looks beautiful. 

5. Choose grass that can withstand drought

If you insist on keeping your classic green lawn, consider a grass variety that can withstand dry climates. Ultimately, knowing which plants need less water is an important part of creating a drought-tolerant yard. Here are some grass varieties to consider in order of most to least drought-tolerant:

  • ⬥ Hybrid Bermuda grass
  • ⬥ Zoysia grass
  • ⬥ Common Bermuda grass
  • ⬥ Seashore paspalum
  • ⬥ St. Augustine grass
  • ⬥ Kikuyu grass
  • ⬥ Tall and red fescues
  • ⬥ Kentucky bluegrass
  • ⬥ Ryegrass
  • ⬥ Bentgrass
  • ⬥ Buffalo grass

Xeric garden benefits

Here are some of the biggest benefits of having a xeric garden, regardless of where you live.

  • ⬥ Environmentally, it is better. 

Xeriscapes can be a great way to mitigate climate change. With xeriscaping, pesticides, fertilizers, and excessive mowing are eliminated. Xerophytes can even attract endangered pollinators into your garden.

  • ⬥ Water usage will be reduced. 

Conserving water is extremely important, and traditional gardening methods are notorious for using a lot of water. You can dramatically reduce your water bill by using hardy and drought-resistant plants. 

  • ⬥ Maintaining it is easy. 

The ease of care associated with drought-resistant gardens is one of their greatest appeals. A xeriscape requires less water, so it will take less time to water it. Pruning and trimming xerophytes can be sparse, since they tend to grow slower than other plants.

Taking Care of Your Xeriscape

Following are some maintenance tips for xeriscape gardens:

  • Mulch it and keep it mulched. 

Various kinds of mulch conserves soil moisture, slows moisture evaporation, prevents weed growth, and keeps roots from overheating. Mulches like pine straw and pine bark are good at retaining moisture and they also provide extra nutrients to your plants. 

  • Mow properly. 

If you still have grass to mow, do not cut more than one-third of it at a time, and always leave clippings on the lawn so they can return nutrients to the soil.

  • Regularly weed your garden. 

Weeds act like little thieves, robbing your plants of vital nutrients and water. Keep your garden healthy by clipping them regularly.

  • Fertilize annually. 

To improve your soil’s texture and boost nutrients, fertilize your garden with compost. 

  • Each winter, prune. 

Finally, prune your plants every winter. 

Plants grow better when they are pruned. This is best done in the winter, while the plants are dormant, before the temperatures rise again. Don’t overdo it, though, as excessive pruning can damage your plants. 

Consider switching to xeriscaping to make your garden more sustainable. By planting water-saving desert plants in your garden, not only do you cut maintenance needs but you save precious water as well.

Incorporating Ornamental Grasses into your Landscape

Using Rock to Enhance Your Landscaping

How to Conserve Water when Living in a Drought