5 Summer Garden Tips: How To Prepare Your Garden For The Hot, Dry Season

British Columbia, and Vancouver Island especially, is often associated with being rainy or wet all year round. But, contrary to popular belief, there is a hot and dry season here in BC too—and, if your garden isn’t properly prepared for it, the damage can be irreparable. The good news(!) is that the help and tools that your summer garden needs to thrive during the dry season are widely available and easy to implement.

As experts in gardening on the west coast of BC in Victoria, we have plenty of tips and tricks to share. Many of these apply to other growing regions too. Here are our top five water retention tips to help keep your garden growing and green during the dry season.

5 Tips to prepare your garden for Summer’s heat and drought

5 Tips to prepare your Summer garden heat and drought: mulch

1. Mulch! Mulch! Mulch!

Great gardens thrive when all of the organics co-exist together. Organic mulch is an excellent and cost-efficient way to keep your garden happy and healthy, especially through the dry

What is organic mulch?

Organic mulch is a layer of organic material that sits on top of the soil. It’s usually made from compost, grass clippings, leaves, and/ bark and other dead and decaying plant material.

Why is organic mulch important for my garden in summer?

Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil. It does this by acting as a barrier for water that would otherwise evaporate out of the soil on hot and dry summer days, keeping the water locked into the mulch’s particles. As the organics in the mulch break down, they seep helpful nutrients like vitamins and minerals into the soil. Your garden’s plants convert that into the food they need to thrive.

5 Tips to prepare your garden for Summer’s heat and drought: Design your garden with native plants

2. Design your garden with nature (and native plants) in mind

On Vancouver Island, BC, we are lucky to have a wide variety of beautiful plants; fruits,
trees, and shrubs that naturally call this place home. Filling your garden with native-to-BC plants is a great way to lower your dependency on water during the dry season.

Plants that are native to the area have adapted to our environment over centuries. They instinctually prepare for our annual conditions, including retaining water for summer’s dry periods. A few examples of plants that are native to the west coast of North America include salal, Oregon grape or Mahonia, and sword ferns.

Having a garden full of native plants helps alleviate the amount of work, money, and water that you would otherwise need to keep non-native plants alive. This is especially true when non-native plants are exposed to conditions they weren’t meant for. Of course, non-native plants can look amazing and with enough effort and care, they can thrive.

You will find it much easier to take care of your garden if you work with nature, rather than against it.

5 Tips to prepare your garden for Summer’s heat and drought: dry landscaping

3. Consider Xeriscape or dry landscaping methods

Xeriscape means “dry landscaping.” It’s a style of landscaping and gardening that does not require water or much of it. Thanks to its beauty and simplicity, it’s becoming popular all over the world. Some Xeriscape design elements include rocks and gardens full of drought-resistant plants like cacti, succulents, some Mediterranean herbs, and native plants, and alternatives to traditional lawns, such as ornamental grasses, hardscapes, or rock gardens.

This is a great solution for gardens and green spaces that don’t have access to enough rainwater or are overexposed to the elements. Xeriscape landscapes are typically not affected by the seasons as their elements are not dependent on the weather.

Many types of Xeriscape designs can look just as good, if not better than traditional landscape designs. Plus, they’re often cheaper in the long run as maintenance is either minimal or non-existent.

4. Use rain barrels to collect water during the rainy season for summer

Rain barrels are a cheap, effective, and environmentally responsible way to make sure that your garden gets all the water it needs over the summer and during droughts. They can be easily installed into your green space with little effort or cost.

All you have to do is:

  • Place your barrel(s) close to your house
  • Connect your rain barrel(s) to a downspout on your home using a hose or downspout connection, depending on the barrel you choose
  • Close the rain barrel’s tap
  • Watch them fill up every time it rains!
  • As the dry season rolls in, use that to water your plants

Getting rain barrels is easy, just ask your neighbourhood garden or hardware stores. (Always try to support small local businesses first.) They come in a variety of sizes, colours, and styles and can look great in your green space while keeping it watered in the dry seasons.

5. Simplify your green space

Water retention is a problem that affects many gardens and natural spaces. If you are finding your efforts to keep your garden alive during the dry season aren’t working, it may be time to reconsider the size and complexity of your garden. Think quality over quantity with the plants in your garden.

  • Consider the role of some of the plants in your green space. For example, larger trees provide protection and shade for plants below so that those smaller plants require less water and are less exposed to extreme weather.
  • Avoid too many “big feeder” plants that need lots of water and nutrients
  • Use more native plants in your garden

A well-designed garden that considers your space and climate will be much easier to work with and you’ll enjoy a healthy, thriving green space year-round.

Designing and improving green spaces with our climate in mind

At Costa Verde in Victoria, BC, we pride ourselves in doing all we can to improve the green spaces of our customers and help our natural environment. We hope that these tips will help ensure that your garden is the best it can be, even through the hot and dry season!