Drought-Proof Your Landscape

Blanca Poteat
Frederick County Master Gardener

(10/2012) Time for a landscape makeover? Your landscape, big or small, may be worn-out from another hot, dry summer. This year mid-Maryland has been spared the worst of the record drought affecting much of the Midwest and West. But July’s hot temperatures were still tough on growing things around our region. Now is a good time to prepare your yard and garden for next summer in advance. The solution may be to replace grass and less hardy plants, shrubs and trees with more drought-tolerant varieties.

Make a plan: How big is your landscape? Front yard, back yard, side yard, porch, balcony?

Write down some aspects of growing things that are important to you: greenery, flowers, shrubs, vegetables, trees, grass, pots – what roles do you want them to play? In the space available to you, how can you best integrate each of these elements?

Decide your time and energy commitment: How much time do you really have to spend on your yard and garden, on maintenance, mowing, weeding, trimming, watering, and feeding – throughout the growing season and especially summer?

Identify neighborhood issues: Are there homeowner’s association or other restrictions on your landscape choices? What alternatives are available?

Save water, save time, save your landscape: Build your plan around reducing your landscape’s water needs with drought-tolerant and native groundcovers and other plants in areas now covered with grass. These low maintenance plantings will add interest and resilience, pebbles and stones will protect and define high use areas, and mulches can conserve moisture around your plants and trees. The benefits? You will save on public water costs or wear and tear on your well and pump. And you will save in mowing, weeding, and watering time, too.

Choose your plants: To get you started, here are just a few groundcover plants, flowers, shrubs and trees that are adapted to our area’s climate and will grow well with minimal water or maintenance.

Groundcovers: For interesting, low maintenance colors and textures, try replacing some grassy areas with perennial groundcovers including mountain stonecrop, wild ginger, various thymes, moss phlox, striped or spotted wintergreen, sweet woodruff, green and gold, Scotch or Irish moss, and bearberry.

Flowers: For colorful drought-tolerant flowers from May through September, plant perennials like Iceland poppies, sea pinks, dwarf crested iris, and black-eyed susan, coreopsis and baby’s breath.

Trees and shrubs: Cluster several trees and shrubs together to save on soil preparation and concentrate watering effort, and their unique characteristics will add interest and variety to your landscape throughout the year. Some drought-tolerant native species include northern bayberry, serviceberry, spice bush, witchhazel, river birch and red bud.

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