The Q&A Archives: "starting A New Garden In A Drought Year"

Question: We are moving into a new house in a week's time. A large yard has nothing on it... just raw soil left from construction site. Nice mature trees on the perimater on two sides. And we are looking at a drought year. How can I plan my garden anticipating the drought, but still looking to the future in terms of plant choice and overall garden design?

Answer: Your local area may have specific watering restrictions that will make it very difficult to establish plantings and lawn. Since adequate water is often the most critical factor in establishing new plantings, and watering to make up for severe drought is often ineffective anyway, you may want to wait until fall to do your serious landscaping.

Fall is actually a very good time to start a lawn as well as to plant most trees and shrubs, and many serious gardeners actually prefer to plant then rather than in the spring. Waiting will also allow you time to analyze the microclimate of your yard, determine what features you think you want and then plan your landscape accordingly.

In the meantime, I would suggest immediately seeding a lawn to try to get something in place to stop erosion (both wind and water) and keep down dust and mud and to keep weeds from becoming established. Doing it right away will allow the grass to take advantage of whatever spring moisture we do have, once it has begun to grow and establish somewhat it can be allowed to go dormant for the summer and then if need be it can easily be replaced or sodded later when conditions are more favorable.

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