Creating a garden that will survive a hot, dry summer

Lauren Corona

You imagine that summer is a time for lush green leaves and plants in their most magnificent bloom, but if you live somewhere with hot, dry summers, your garden is more likely to be brown and wilted during the warmest months.

There's not much you can do about the weather, short of moving somewhere with cooler summers, but you can adjust the way you garden. These are our top tips for creating a garden that will survive a hot, dry summer.

Avoid planting in containers

Containers look great on patios and make it easier to move plants when you want a change, but they're a nightmare during a heatwave. Plants that live in the ground can develop a deep root system to absorb more water and can even sink their roots deeper in dry weather to search for precious H2O. Plants in containers have limited access to water and nutrients so they need regular watering to stay alive, which isn't always possible when there are restrictions on water use in place. If you must use pots and planters, buy them as large as possible and mix moisture-retaining granules in with your compost.

Choose drought-resistant plants

Something that will make a huge difference to the health of your garden during dry spells is choosing drought-resistant plants. Succulents and cactuses are obvious choices for arid environments, but if you prefer something more colorful, there are plenty of choices. Penstemon is a drought tolerant plant with beautiful flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. Lavender requires little water after its first year and produces fragrant, edible flowers. Bougainvillea is an extremely tough shrub that isn't bothered at all by drought - and produces masses of pretty flowers, too. If none of these take your fancy, do you research - the list of drought-resistant plants is extensive.

Use mulch

When creating a garden that thrives in hot, dry weather, mulch is your friend. A thick layer of mulch insulates the soil to keep temperatures even and plant roots cool. It also lessens the amount of water that evaporates from the soil below, leaving more for your plants to use.

Encourage root growth

Plants with a strong, deep root system are more capable of searching out water deep in the soil. You can encourage root growth by planting deep when you initially put your plants in the soil. It's also better to start with young plants, rather than planting mature plants that already have an established, shallow root system.

Take a relaxed approach to lawns

It isn't possible to maintain an emerald green lawn during dry summer months without racking up some serious water bills. Lawns are also surprisingly lacking in biodiversity, so choosing alternatives to your typical lawn can be beneficial for wildlife and maintain a better color.

Consider using alternative ground cover plants instead of having a grass lawn. Drought-tolerant options include stonecrop succulents, creeping thyme, creeping Jenny, and red monardella. If nothing but grass will do, you might need to let go of the idea that your lawn will be green in the summer. It might look brown for a couple of months, but an established lawn will soon bounce back when wetter weather returns.

Use a water timer

Assuming you don't have any restrictions on hose use in your area, a water timer can help keep your plants hydrated when you don't have the time or inclination to water everything by hand. Linked up to a sprinkler or drip irrigation system, the timer will automatically water your garden at a set time.

The drought-proof gardener's shopping list

Now you know how to create a garden that will survive a hot, dry summer, you just need the gear to pull it off and to help maintain your garden during the hottest months.

Garden hose. Even a drought-resistant garden will need some occasional watering, and this will be much easier with the help of a quality garden hose, as long as there isn't a hosepipe ban in your local area.

Water timer. Use a water timer control your sprinklers, or set one up in conjunction with a drip irrigation system.

Watering can. For times when there's a water restriction in place, you still may be allowed to water your garden with a watering can. You definitely can if you reuse gray water.

Mulching materials. You can buy mulch ready to lay down or use a range of materials, including compost, dead leaves, bark chippings, and straw.

Rain barrel. Buy a rain barrel to collect rainwater so you can use it to water your garden during times of drought.


Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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