Creating & Maintaining a Water-Wise Landscape (watergarden)

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Creating & Maintaining a Water-Wise Landscape

by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator

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Last summer's hot, dry conditions were brutal to many of our landscapes, leaving us with dead patches in the lawn, dead shrubs, and dead trees, and predictions for Summer 2013 are more of the same.

We expect plants that are not well-adapted to Nebraska's dry, windy conditions to develop damage during drought. This includes plants such arborvitae, poorly sited yews, and broadleaf evergreens like holly. Arborvitae can become tolerant to average dry conditions 1) if they are planted in shade, and 2) once they are well established. Yews can tolerate normal dry conditions if they are located in afternoon shade. But last summer's drought was way beyond normal dryness, and many plants that did not receive supplemental irrigation have died.

However, some plants with reputations as tough, drought tolerant plants suffered much more damage last summer than was expected. Specifically burning bush, Euonymus alatus, and Colorado spruce, Picea pungens. These plants are known for their tolerance of difficult conditions, but by mid-summer last year many landscapes had completely brown burning bushes. And by fall, many Colorado spruce were exhibiting browning needles and branches, and that browning has continued to worsen during winter.

Many homeowners are also seeing dead or thin patches in their lawns from last summer's dry conditions.

Beautiful, healthy landscapes are possible, even during Nebraska's drought years, but creating a water-wise landscape does require some planning, and the use good cultural practices.

Begin to assess the current condition of your landscape, and make decisions about this summer's lawn and landscape care. Considerations include what to do with damaged plants, creating the best growing environment for ornamental plants that encourages deep rooting, and maintenance practices to make your lawn more drought tolerant. Determine what level of maintenance works best for you, and how to create plantings that are beautiful and vigorous even in a low maintenance landscape.

This resource was added April 2013 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

Contact Information University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site:
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180