So you want a really nice yard and have decided you’re going to make a landscaping project out of it, but you live in a region that is prone to or currently experiencing a drought. This is a common problem faced by homeowners in many areas of the country, especially in the southwestern and western states, where ongoing droughts have historically threatened public water supply. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to keep your land looking colorful and plush even in the harshest drought, but it might take a little effort and some ingenuity. With that said, here are 5 steps anyone can take to transform their yard from a desert into a beautiful lawn and garden setting.

  1. Switch to Artificial Grass: Many places that experience long droughts are subject to laws that prevent the public from using too much water, with steep fines being the penalty for exceeding allow limits. If you don’t have the water to keep a natural lawn green, and it’s not feasible for you to continue paying fines or hauling water from another source, then the only other option would be artificial grass, which is a major reason why there’s so much artificial turf in Los Angeles. That might seem like a compromise when you compare it to “the real thing,” but in many ways it’s actually better.
  2. Incorporate Drought-Resistant Plants: When you think of desert plants and those resistant to droughts, you probably imagine some dark green or gray shrubs sparsely scattered here and there and maybe some cacti and low-lying succulents – nothing special there, right. However, you’d be surprised at the amount of color and beauty displayed by many drought-tolerant plant varieties. For example, for vibrant purples, go for lavender, catmint, Russian sage, veronica, and agastache. For your yellows and oranges, throw in the coneflowers, California poppies, and lantanas. Pick up some salvias, portulacas, yarrows for your reds, pinks, and other gentle colors. For the greens, pick thyme, oregano, licorice, and artemisia (light green). There are many more drought-tolerant plants to learn about, but with this selection alone you’ll have a colorful scene to behold.
  3. Use an Aquaponics or Fountain System to Recycle Irrigation: Having access to a restricted amount of water on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have any water at all. You can make the most of what you have and still maintain enough of a reservoir to keep all of your plants well-watered by using aquaponics, drip-feed, and fountain irrigation techniques to capture and recycle the same water over and over again. Just start by conducting a web search on how to build an aquaponics system that recycles water and you’ll be on the right path.
  4. Mulch and Other Groundcovers: Groundcovers like mulch and thyme are essential components in desert landscaping because they provide shade for the soil. Much of a plant’s moisture is lost through the roots when the soil becomes excessively hot and dry. Groundcovers ensure that the soil is not giving off moisture via evaporation by preventing the surface from coming into contact with direct sunlight. You’ll want all plants to be surrounded by groundcover to keep the more sensitive varieties growing vigorously.
  5. Create Plenty of Shade: Now that you have a perfectly green, comfortable, and weed-free lawn thanks to the marvels of modern turf making, as well as a colorful garden of native plants, shrubs, cacti, succulents, and the varieties mentioned above, and all of it is being watered by an efficient water recycling system, the only step left is to keep the area as cool and comfortable as possible. Although the temperature in the air is not necessarily much cooler in the shade, there’s no solar radiation hitting the surface of the plants and the soil, so the surface temps are much, much lower. For example, the surface temperature of a table sitting in the sun on a hot day can be 145 degrees or hotter, whereas that same table in the shade would only have a surface temperature of about 90-95 degrees (almost the same as the temperature in the air).

Do All of the Above and You Can’t Fail
While there are other things that can be done to improve the appeal of your landscaping in a drought-prone area, such as stone and adobe structures and walkways, if you heed the tips given above you’ll already have a very well-rounded lawn and garden area to enjoy.