Drought Resistant Gardening

A quote from Pam Penick’s excellent book ‘The Water-Saving Garden’:
“… we design our homes and grade our property to shed water and then pay to pipe it back in and spray it across our yards when rainfall is scarce – and often even when it isn’t. With a heedlessness born of cheap, plentiful water – a supply many regions can no longer count on – we run our sprinklers automatically and excessively … and let rainwater and irrigation run off our yards and driveways into the street. This is madness. We
must stop treating water as a disposable commodity in our landscapes and gardens and conserve it as the precious, limited resource it is.” (p. 1)

Why a drought-resistant garden?

  • Water is a precious and diminishing resource 
  • Watering with city water is expensive
  • Using excessive city water puts a strain on water services
  • Treated water is not needed for plants, even harmful to them
  • Climate change patterns indicate hotter, dryer weather to come

A xeriscape garden doesn’t mean gravel, 2 boulders and a bare obelisk. It means using drought-resistant plants; plants with long taproots to obtain water (dandelions never seems to suffer when dry); or plants which can retain water – waxy leaves, fuzzy leaves slow transpiration. It also means landscaping to maximize the use of the rainfall you receive.

Landscaping ideas to save water

  • Use rain barrels to catch water from your roof. Plants prefer rain water over treated water 
  • Mulch with natural products to slow drying
  • Add humus to your soil to retain water
  • If you must water, use drip hoses. The water can be directed to where it is needed, and there is little loss due to evaporation
  • Irrigate less often and deeply. This encourages roots to grow further down
  • Terraces, berms, retaining walls and raised beds all catch rain and give it a chance to soak in, rather than running off immediately
  • Plant ‘thirsty’ plants all in one area
  • Reduce lawn area and replace it with beds or ground covers which need less water, no fertilizer and no mowing
  • Use permeable surfaces such as gravel on driveways and paths
  • Choose plants well-adapted to our climate and to your particular garden
  • Plant trees, build arbours and pergolas for shade
  • Use containers made of wood, metal or glazed material. Terra cotta dries rapidly. Use coir (coconut fiber) in your potting mix to hold water
  • Underplant your specimen plants with lower growing or ground cover plants

Plant choices

There is no one ‘right way’ to plant a garden that uses less water than a conventional one. Plant thoughtfully and be willing to change plants and/or hardscape as needed.

Plants native to your area typically require little watering beyond rainfall since they are accustomed to the local climate.

Find out more!




Or check out the following books :

  • Hadden, Evelyn J. “Beautiful no-mow Yards – 50 amazing lawn alternatives”
  • Johnson, Lorraine.”Grow Wild – Native Plant Gardening in Canada”
  • Ogen, Lauren Springer. “The Undaunted Garden Planting for Weather Resilient Beauty”
  • Penick, Pam. “The Water Saving Garden. How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water”
  • Rice, Graham. “Planting in the Dry Shade Garden”

Submitted by Leslye Glover