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Tips for planting in a dry climate

In western Spain, a mix of drought-tolerant plants and careful design has allowed this garden to flourish, despite its extreme weather. With hot, dry weather a possible norm for our summers, take note of these tips for designing in a dry climate.

Extremadura in western Spain is a region of dramatic landscapes with a harsh climate: hot and dry in the summer, but cold in winter. In spring, however, it comes alive with the lush, fresh foliage of cistus and lavender bushes and a rich array of wildflowers found growing along roadsides.

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Here’s a garden designed by the Spanish-based husband and wife design partnership of Miguel Urquijo and Renate Kastner. They have created a garden that requires little maintenance and combines native plants with eye-catching cacti, succulents and agaves. All the plants in the garden have been chosen for their drought-tolerance.

Here, Miguel gives some of his tips for designing and planting in a dry climate.

Miguel’s tips for planting in a dry climate

  • The smaller the plant that goes in the better, larger plants have root systems that are too shallow and cannot adapt. Larger plants will always be dependent on irrigation.
  • Do everything you can to encourage deep rooting, such as breaking up the hardpan when digging a planting hole and cultivating deeply.
  • Organic material, such as manure, helps create soil humus that will hold on to water and release it to plants when they need it. Too much manure, however, especially if not distributed well, can create damp pockets that can kill the roots of more sensitive plants.
  • Use beneficial micro organisms, often available as a root dip, to help encourage effective rooting by helping plants access nutrients and therefore establish more quickly.
  • Watering little and often encourages shallow rooting. Plants from dry climates grow in spring and go into dormancy during summer so don’t grow or need much summerwatering.
  • Gravel is useful for reducing moisture loss from the soil surface. It can also be used to hide and hold down irrigation pipes.
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Words Noel Kingsbury

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Photographs Claire Takacs