Creating a lovely garden without artificial watering or excessive irrigating is relatively easy. There are changes in how the garden is planted and maintained and in very dry locations there may be periods of near dormancy during the driest periods of the year. But overall, it is more a challenge to our habits and routines than to the botanical survival of the garden. Firstly, plant and transplant early so that root systems become well established in advance of dry weather.
Dig deeply so that root systems can penetrate into ground water. Peat, compost or similar soil additives well dug into the earth will help retain moisture for the new root system. Adding fertiliser to the bottom of planting holes will not only strengthen the plant but further encourage deeper root growth. If water is available, a bucket-full poured into the bottom of the planting hole once the tree or shrub in set in place will insure that roots are damp from the start.
Once the soil is filled in and firmed down, place a mulch around the plant to help maintain all available water. A 20cm deep mulch would not be excessive for anything exposed to extreme drying conditions. The broader the area of mulch is the more water will be collected under it for the plant to use.
Lift and divide perennials now rather than later so they can become established during wet weather. If possible do not transplant, divide, or disturb anything unless absolutely necessary unless weather conditions are ideal. It would be better for a specimen to remain overcrowded for another year than dead due to lack of watering!
Desert and arid regions around the world are rich in flora and fauna. Fine gardens still exist there. The secret is planting drought resistant species. Acacia, the Australian Wattle, is particularly at home in very dry, well drained soils, even gravels and stones. There are at least 1000 species but only 20 grow well here (our climate is too wet!). Prune lightly after flowering to keep bushy.
Don't overfeed, if at all. Excellent on the coast, basically trouble and pest free and many species flower over winter when not much else does. Handsome trees and shrubs year round.