Find a plan that doesn't need water

A water ban doesn't mean you must stop landscaping. With a game plan, your landscape will be fabulous.

Assess what you want to plant in your landscape and use this fall, now through Dec. 25, as planting dates. Rain is greater now through winter than in late spring and summer. If you wait until spring to plant, there's a greater likelihood of failure - it's possible the water ban could continue, or there could be water restrictions, dry weather or higher temperatures.

The first phase of new plantings should be trees and evergreen shrubs. That way, you'll have something to look at all year. If the first phase of a landscape is deciduous shrubs and perennials, several months of the year the landscape will feature bare patches of earth and naked sticks.

Technically, because of the water ban, I am getting ahead in the process. If they aren't already there, pathways and turf areas should be put into your landscape along with trees and evergreen shrubs. Prepare soil by tilling in crushed granite before planting and have mulch ready for spreading the day your soil is prepared.

Use 2 to 21⁄2 inches of mulch, not more. This is the perfect depth to preserve moisture yet allow 1⁄2 inch of rain to percolate through.

If you're hiring a professional planting service, you have 30 days to water. If you are doing the planting yourself, you will need to use gray water from inside or rainwater you've collected.

Gray water is inconvenient. Already, I've stepped outside in the early morning in my gown to water plants because the shower pail was full. Hopefully neighbors will be too polite to say they have seen me in my gown. Who knew a water ban would create a new genre of gardening stories?

I'm still searching for the gardening story including magically easy gray watering. The ideas I've read so far have been patronizing. Aren't we already doing those things?

Remember, the operative word is "easy." I don't want to do the equivalent of a science fair project to water plants. My garden receives buckets of water gathered from the shower, kitchen and ubiquitous air conditioner. Rain barrels will soon collect rain from the roof.

Next, think about things you can do in the landscape that don't require water. What about finally purchasing the perfect focal point or patio furniture? Does your patio need staining or surfacing with stone?

Are the shutters on your home beginning to fall apart? Do you have an ugly chain-link fence that can be updated with a coat of black paint?

Are your doormats worn out? Can you improve the front of your home with new light fixtures? Should you finally solve the problem of what to do with your garbage cans?

No, landscaping isn't all about planting. There will always be something to do that gives you beauty, pleasure and increases your home's value.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz.