We find that the weather has been unusually warm for September. Some parts of our county are very dry. How do you survive a drought?
Prioritize: Most grasses will go dormant and return when normal rainfall and irrigation return. Consider the value of the plant when deciding what to save and what measures to take.
For example, lawns and ornamental flowers are easily replaced. The value of a 150-year-old tree is clearly greater than easily replaced elements of your landscape.
Think about alternate sources of water: Traditional irrigation is not the only source of water to help your most prized plants survive the water restrictions and drought.
Air conditioner condensate: Most air conditioners release a small amount of water (condensate). This is the result of the cooling your home. Some units produce as many as 20 gallons a day. This can be a precious resource to assist you in maintaining those plants you most value.
Attach a hose to the relief pipe: Some air conditioner units have a release pipe and a hose can be attached to this pipe and directed to a particular area. The hose can be moved and directed at different areas each day. This will deliver water to the roots of these plants slowly and deeply.
Catch the water in a bucket: For those who cannot attach a hose and direct the flow of water to certain plants, place a large bucket beneath the release pipe and catch the water.
Fertilizer: Avoid fertilizing when in a total water ban. Fertilizer encourages plant growth and water is needed for growth. The idea during this time is to preserve the plants.
The best way to do this is to keep the plant’s maintenance demands low. Fertilizer also can act as a drying agent and increase water loss from the plant.
Weed Control: This is absolutely vital during a total outdoor water ban. The weeds are in direct competition for the precious water the plant will receive.
Removal of weeds is necessary to ensure the plants receive all benefits from the water available.
Tough Love: Annual flowers, some perennials an even some shrubs will wilt and approach the “permanent wilting point” when the water demand of the top exceeds the water supply from the roots.
Cut Back: The only way to preserve plants at this stage is to cut back the foliage substantially to decrease the demand on the root system.
Some annuals may need to be cut close to ground level.
Some shrubs may require one-third to one-half of the canopy cut back.
Clues of permanent wilt: Physical wilt that does not subside even in cooler weather or early morning, gray-green foliage color, severe leaf cupping, leaf scorching, and branch die back.
Some of the most vulnerable plants: Keep a close eye on the following as drought and the outdoor water ban are likely to be most stressful for: azaleas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, some viburnums, and Japanese Maples.
For more tips on protecting your plants during drought, contact the Polk County Extension Office at 770-749-2142.