I am lucky to live where I live. Southern California is coveted by many a homebuyer and the weather just can’t be beat. We never have to worry about snow, wild thunderstorms, or ugly amounts of bugs and humidity. I consider myself truly lucky. But, no place of perfect of course. Our summers can be pretty hot. Not as hot as my brothers and sisters who live in places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, or Utah. No, no, you all take the cake. Regardless of location, we all have to take into consideration designing our homes with heat and drought in mind. If you want to save every ounce of water you got, you are going to have fun with this article.
Designing a drought tolerant home can exercise your creativity muscles like no other. How do you make a backyard oasis if you don’t have much water to work with? Well, here are some tips and tricks us drought tolerant gardeners use:
Look for Drought-Resistant Native Plants
Native plants are a great choice for drought-resistant landscaping as they're adapted to the local climate and need less water once established. Depending on which zone you live in will determine which native plants will do best in your backyard. Such plants include agave, yucca, ornamental grasses like feather reed grass and blue fescue. You can also have perennials like lavender and coneflowers to add some color. It certainly doesn’t hurt to reach out to your local nursery for some advice!
Mulch Mulch Mulch!
Bare soil is vulnerable to erosion and sun bleaching. Having bare soil is like sending out an invitation to all the seeds of weeds to take root and choke out your plants. Not to mention, soil that is directly exposed to direct sunlight for months and years at a time will get depleted of its natural nutrients. All this will lead to water waste and poor-quality growth. That’s why mulching is key!
My mom likes to contact the local tree trimming company to get herself some free mulch. Most companies are happy to give away truckloads of perfectly good mulch. Just make sure that when you talk to them, ask for a “clean load”, that way you don’t have to worry about volunteer plants and seeds getting into your backyard.
Hard Landscaping Options
Hardscaping can be just as tricky as landscaping if you are new to the game. For me personally, I couldn’t care less. But that’s only because I am a low maintenance girl. If you want a balanced look between your plants and your hardscaping, try to look for historical inspiration you’re your town. Is your city known for beautiful brick work, or are they known for naturalistic sandstone? If you aren’t sure, just take a drive through your favorite parts of town and see what they use!
Choose permeable hardscaping as the natural partner to drought-tolerant planting ideas. If you aren’t sure where to start, try out some local pea gravel. Its cheap, eco-friendly, and easy to put in. Decomposed granite is another material that is worth looking into for patio use. It allows water to pass through seamlessly, giving your soil some much needed love when the water comes through.
Reduce Your Lawn Area
Another way to decrease water consumption is to either go lawn free or reduce the size of your lawn area. Popular conversion ideas include mixes of drought-resistant plants and permeable hardscaping. I wanted a small green area for my nieces and nephews to be able to tumble around in. I made a small patch (roughly the size of an 8’x10’ area rug) and it works out well for all of us. I get to have a small green patch to enjoy with my family, and my water bill is so much smaller than it was when I had a full green lawn.
Plant A Drought-Tolerant Native Tree or Two
By selecting drought-tolerant native trees that are well-suited to your climate, it's easy to create a beautiful, resilient landscape that conserves water and supports local ecosystems. Native trees not only look beautiful, but they are perfectly suited for you because they have been living in your area for centuries. You don’t need a lot of trees to fill in your back yard. Even just having one tree to add some shade or to serve as a focal point will really bring down the temperature and provide a safe haven for you and the local critters.
The beauty about designing a drought tolerant backyard is you can make it however you like! If you like to host parties, you can add a bonfire and a couple lawn chairs, if you want a meditative space, you can add a beautiful rock garden. The possibilities are endless! Just remember to set a budget, do your homework, and work with the people you love to make your dream backyard space come true!