Designing a Drought-Resistant Lawn

Sprout coming out of cracked concrete

 

Widespread drought has cast a dark shadow on the gardening community. In these times of water conservation, many homeowners and institutions have come under fire for using sprinklers or garden hoses to water their lawns. Lawn maintenance and caring for one’s garden are in danger of becoming wasteful activities.

Fortunately, there are ways to still have a beautiful garden and keep it thriving without using up too much water. You can opt to make it a DIY project, or consult a professional gardener to draw up a plan for your drought-resistant lawn. Either way, the secret is in keeping everything practical and low-maintenance while creating visual panache.

Create texture with rocks and plants  

A smooth, well-manicured lawn is impractical during a drought because it is difficult to maintain with minimal water supplies. It is also hard to hide dry and barren patches on a flat lawn. Go for a mixed-garden bed instead. You can make up for possible visual gaps in your lawn with different textures and shapes. Sandstone boulders and paving stones can be interspersed with tall native grasses that do not require constant watering – plus they can prevent erosion while allowing rainwater to hydrate the soil.

Install a drip-irrigation system

Drip irrigation system

This is an effective way to keep your plants directly hydrated without wasting water the way a sprinkler system does. A drip-irrigation system can be adjusted to suit the season so you can take advantage of moisture from the cold months.

Choose drought-tolerant plants

There are low-maintenance plants that only need irrigation once every couple of months. Some drought-tolerant shrubs, trees, evergreens, and perennials include yarrow, Spanish lavender, African daisies, bottlebrush, rockroses, juniper, myrtle, oleander, bougainvillea, yellow bells, aloe, all manner of cacti, and most native plants. Many of these examples have minimal to moderate watering needs, come in a variety of colorful blooms attractive to hummingbirds and bees, and feature gorgeous textures and scents.

Use mulch to keep moisture locked in

rubber mulch

Black Rubber Mulch

Mulching is an effective solution to keep moisture locked in the soil where it needs it most. Rubber mulch is particularly reliable at keeping the soil and plant roots hydrated because it doesn’t retain moisture itself. Just two inches of mulch spread out evenly between plants can keep temperatures even and foliage healthy and thriving.

Select garden ornaments that provide shade while beautifying

Stone or wooden benches, birdbaths, gazebos, and sculpted garden ornaments not only add drama to your lawn, but also much-needed shade for grass and flowers. Keep textures and shapes varied to heighten visual appeal. It’s also good to consider how these ornaments can catch rainwater for plants, the way sloping stones, fountains, and ponds do.

 

Resources:

http://www.sunset.com/garden/landscaping-design/drought-resistant-plants/drought-resistant-plants-lawn-alternative

http://www.sunset.com/garden/flowers-plants/water-wise-plants/low-water-plants

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/landscaping-projects/landscape-basics/drought-tolerant-landscaping-ideas/

 

How to Design a Rubber Mulch Pathway

Rubber mulch pathway

Sustainability has become a watchword not just in terms of food production, packaging, and architecture, but also in the decorative aspects of many lifestyles. In recent times, rubber mulch has become an unexpected solution to landscaping projects and outdoor decorating. It not only offers alternative design ideas – rubber mulch also cuts down on repetitive maintenance and expensive upkeep.

You can start your own sustainable exterior design project with a simple rubber mulch pathway. Here’s how:

Rake, remove debris, and prep the surface area

A pathway has a lot of foot traffic, so after defining the area where that occurs, it’s time to prepare the surface. You can choose to use paving stones surrounded by mulch, or have a walkway that’s completely covered by rubber mulch. Either way, prepping the surface area is a must.

Rake the area to grade it and to ensure a level surface. Remove all loose stones, debris, and fallen twigs and leaves from the area. Weed if there’s any presence of it. Then dig a one-inch demarcation for the path so that water can be allowed to flow. This is especially important if you are planning to have shrubbery or trees flanking the pathway.

Flatten the terrain

Use a garden hoe to further flatten the area where the mulch will go. If there is a lot of dirt, you can evenly distribute it and pat it down using a shovel. Break or remove calcified dirt; it can create lumps in the landscaping fabric if you don’t.

roll of geofabric

Install landscaping fabric

Carefully roll out the landscaping fabric over the prepared area. If you want plants or other decorative accents in the walkway, cut an X the areas where they will go on the fabric using scissors. Secure the edges of the fabric using landscape spikes. Take special care not to create air pockets in the fabric as these can be inviting to weeds.

Apply rubber mulch

Select the color of rubber mulch you’d like for your pathway. Use a shovel to lay the rubber mulch in place over the landscaping fabric. If you have a decorative mosaic in mind, carefully mark the patterns using different colored mulch before filling up the outlines with more mulch. The rubber mulch should be around two inches deep for effective shock absorbency and weed protection.

Smooth the surface over

Once installed, use the garden hoe to smoothen the rubber mulch surface. This ensures that you have an even walkable surface and prevent people from tripping or slipping. Smoothen the area further after installing ornaments or path lights. In the case of plants, be sure not to pile up rubber mulch near the roots so that there’s room to breathe.

 

Resources:

http://www.conservastore.com/How-to-use-Mulch-Mats-a/290.htm

http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/tires/products/Types/Landscape.htm

http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-install-rubber-mulch

 

Top Ten Mulching Mistakes

mulch with a shovel in it

For a lot of people, mulching seems like a pretty straightforward tool and task – just spread it over your garden soil, and you won’t have to worry about weeds anymore! Unfortunately, this is just one of the biggest mistaken notions about mulching. Below are ten more common ones that need to be corrected for your garden’s sake.

 

  • Not clearing weeds before mulching

Mulch smothers weeds, but it won’t be very effective if you don’t weed before applying mulch. Actually, you’re more likely to cause harm to your plants if you neglect weeding as a first step because they will be harder to control under a bed of mulch. It’s important to eradicate all weeds, spores, and fungi prior to mulching to really make sure that your garden soil is weed-free.

 

  • Not giving mulch ample time to compost

Many professional gardeners agree that composting is a great way to keep plants nourished and thriving. However, improperly composted materials, when used as mulch, could harm your plants instead of helping them. Manure, tree bark, straw, and other organic materials that aren’t composted could provide excess heat that will make plants wither and die.

 

  • Mulching too little

Mulching is a must, and those who don’t do it are subject to a whole lot of gardening consequences (chief among them is that weeds can penetrate the thin layer of mulch). In a similar fashion, those who mulch too little would just be wasting their time, effort, and money. There is a proper way to mulch, but rest assured it isn’t about…

 

  • Mulching too much

Too much mulching is also a big no-no. The appropriate amount of mulch to use is between two and three inches. More than that can stress the plants, especially in harsh weather. A very thick layer of mulch could also prevent water and fertilizer from getting through to the plant roots and soil which need them most.

 

  • Choosing quantity over quality

Sure, your location may have an abundance of rocks, wood chips, or sand that can be had for cheap or for free, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best material for your gardening or landscaping needs. Wood chips, for instance, can attract termites and other insects to your garden and home. Rocks and stones radiate heat and can cause stress to plants. Choose the best quality mulching material according to your gardening and landscaping needs very carefully – consult a professional gardener if you have to.

 

  • Uniformly mulching all the plants in your garden

Different plants require different mulching techniques. For example, annual plants and flowers don’t need a lot of mulch because it can increase humidity, which in turn could discourage blooming. Tree sizes have to be taken into consideration for the amount and the perimeter of the mulch you will use. Acid-loving plants also react differently to mulches, but they have been proven to thrive when mulched with composted materials.

 

  • Not mulching regularly

As previously mentioned, there’s a variety of mulching needs for different plants, but one thing they have in common is that mulching needs to done regularly. For organic materials, this could mean total mulch replacement or replenishing every few weeks for maximum nutritional benefits. For inorganic materials like rubber mulch, a year is enough for top-ups. Checking your plants regularly and observing changes in their stems, leaves, and blooms is also a must.

 

  • Mulching in the wrong places

There are wrong ways to mulch, and piling them up against the base of trees and roots of plants is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Gardeners refer to this as “volcano mulching” because of the shape it takes, and also the amount of heat generated by the mulch that harms the plant or trees. Don’t heap mulch around a plant; instead spread them evenly over the soil. For trees, leave a six-inch radius around the trunk free of mulch to allow the area to breathe.

 

  • Not using mulch creatively

If you find yourself with an abundance of excess mulching materials, don’t just throw them away. Be creative about them, especially if you have a DIY project that needs extra color, texture, and shape. Rocks can line pathways and flower beds, rubber mulch can form mosaics in different colors, and autumn leaves can be gathered for fall decoration projects.

 

  • Not thinking long-term when it comes to mulching

 

Mulching, for the most part, seems to be an instinctive activity where the best materials are literally just a stone’s throw away. But long-term benefits for your garden require long-term considerations. For instance, you might initially balk at the price tag of rubber mulch, but weighing the convenience and benefits it provides with the short-term pros of other mulches could prove to be illuminating.

 

Resources:

http://www.rainyriverrecord.com/node/10558

http://www.urbanforestprofessionals.com/tree-care-tips-dont-make-these-mulching-mistakes

http://www.landscapeflorida.com/docs/Top%2010%20Mulching%20Mistakes%20pdf.pdf