Once upon a time there was only one type of dry garden, one that was naturally so. Nowadays, with the increasing desire to create a number of habitats in which to grow the widest range of plants, many gardeners set out actually to create these conditions. In either case, there are a large number of varied annuals and perennials that suit a dry environment.
What is a dry condition? Just because a garden is dry does not necessarily mean that it receives very little rain. There are many gardens that receive a lot of rain and yet are still dry under foot. The reason for this is that the soil is very free draining and any moisture that falls, either from the clouds or from a watering can, passes quickly through it.
There are mainly sandy or gravely soil, but chalky soils can also be very free draining. As well as losing water quickly, many dry soils are also poor in terms of nutrients. The water passing through leeches out the nutrients, taking the food that plants require well below the level of their roots. Many seaside gardens are of this nature.
So, can we alter the dry conditions? It is possible to increase the water retentiveness of dry soil so that you can grow a much wider range of plants in it. This is done by adding well rotted organic material to the soil when you dig it. Garden compost of farmyard manure are good additives and will improve soil conditions appreciably, especially as they are rich in nutrients.
Mulching with organic materials also helps a great deal. A covering of composted bark, for example, will considerably cut down water loss into atmosphere. It will also gradually become incorporated into the soil, improving the condition.
Unfortunately, most dry soils are hungry, and gardeners need to add material both into the soil and on to its surface on a regular basis.
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