Eco Family Blog: Drought Resilient Yard

empty raingauge

Whew! 104 degrees! This is the hottest and driest summer since 1988! I remember my almost 1 year old trying to learn to walk on the crunchy lawn back then.  Not a happy baby!  As I water my container gardens nearly everyday, I’m noticing 4 areas of my yard that don’t seem to be as affected by this dry spell.

  1. Vegie Garden -  straw  and shredded paper mulch between the plants conserves moisture and keeps the ground cooler than the air. I’ve watered those tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers only 3 times this summer so far. I also don’t have to weed it!
  2. No Mow Pathways – These  shady areas between the trees are seeded with a no-mow fescue mix.   It’s still long and green and soft underfoot. I can pad barefoot to my bench or the hammock to read, nap or enjoy the birds! My seed came from http://www.prairienursery.com/store/no-mow-lawn-mix-c-11.html
  3. Rain Garden and Prairie Patch – Yes – Really!  The rain garden is happily blooming and GROWING in the heat.  These native plants’ deep roots that  soak up extra rain water, also access moisture up to 6 feet below the surface.  I have watered the rain garden once this summer.  The prairie is on its own – it is in zone 5 of my yard and far from a water source.
  4. Sheet-Mulched Garden – I’m growing cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries and butternut squash under the  redbud tree.  In the spring, I covered the turfgrass with sheets of wet cardboard, layered on compost from the neighbor’s lawn clippings pile and topped it with wood chips.  I water these plants weekly when there has been no rain.

I am on tap to convert another patch of lawn into a  low/no maintenance garden no matter what the weather.  My goals continue to be to conserve water and soil, improve soil, increase food production and reduce maintenance.

Where do you see drought resilience?  Comment at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/isuecofamily/

Find resources to help deal with the drought, including crops, livestock, dealing with stress, home and yard, financial concerns, and businesses.

Kristi Cooper
ISU Extension & Outreach Family Life Specialist housed in Linn County

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