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Davis Journal

Gardening can be challenging with low water, deer and heat

May 12, 2023 12:14PM ● By Kerry Angelbuer

As residents of Davis County contemplate what to do with their lawn and gardens this year after a couple years of low water, extreme heat and plenty of deer, Debbie West offers good, local-oriented advice. She has worked at the Rockin’ E Country Store in Bountiful for many years and has a lot of practical experience under her belt. 

Many people may want to improve their grass which may have thinned or died during the drought. She recommends a turf seed blend that includes turf-type fescue, rye and Kentucky blue grass which will offer a “nice lawn that does not require too much water.” This blend was created by the University of Utah to be a “duraturf.”  The turf-type fescue does not grow like the fescue weed that often infests grasses, but has a more pleasing look. It is a clump grass that doesn’t spread like the Kentucky blue grass and only needs to be watered once a week. West said artificial turf, looks good but is really hot. Though not as hot as concrete or stone, the artificial turf can be hot enough to cause burns so watering before playing on it might be needed. 

Although watering requirements may not be as strict this year, due to ample snowfall, West suggests that supplementing soil around the yard can improve plant’s ability to survive no matter what comes. She is a fan of vermiculite, heated brown rock that “expands to hold water and keeps the soil for compacting.” Humic acid has similar benefits especially for the lawn. Compost, aged organic material, or mulch, not-aged organic material can be used to improve soil and its ability to maintain water. Both are available for purchase at the Bountiful landfill for much less than local stores. West also likes coconut coir which is sold in compacted bricks that expand to 1 cubic foot or mulch. “Laying the coir over the lawn can help it maintain moisture,” she said.

West also recommends rain barrels for harvesting the snowmelt and rain in yards. “Since 2010, residents are allowed to collect up to 100 gallons of water in barrels and if you apply for a free water permit, you can collect up to 2,500 gallons,” she said. Most barrels are placed near a waterspout to collect water from the roof. The water passes through the atmosphere and collects nitrogen, an important chemical for plant growth. 

As far as what to plant, West has a lot of ideas for drought tolerant plants. Grapes, for example, “hate water” and she recommends the Interlaken or nimrod variety. “Tomatoes and peppers only need to be watered two times a week if you water them down to six inches,” she said. Melons, winter squash, mustard greens, carrots and beets also do fine with low water.

West said that nectarines and peaches are heavy drinkers and suggests a good pear tree instead. Drought resistant flowers include geraniums, gazania, moss rose, ageratum, and zinnias. She also recommends perennials that come back every year like arabis, blue flax and cone flowers. Deer resistant plants include ornamental grasses and herbs like mint, thyme, basil and cilantro. An eight-foot fence will also deter deer. 

Putting down contractor-grade shade cloth on plant beds is also helpful, said West. She cuts an X in the cloth and adds the plant and then places the cloth right up to the base of the plant to keep weeds down. This cloth is then covered with about four inches of mulch for aesthetics. This keeps moisture in the soil by blocking the heat of the sun from evaporating surface moisture. Mulch should be larger pieces like medium bark to avoid blowing away in strong winds. λ