With temperatures rising, many homeowners are looking for drought-tolerant plants as they landscape their lawns.
According to one local expert, most plants are drought tolerant. The problem is that people overwater them and the plants become accustomed to excessive water. In times of drought and extreme heat, they demand even more water.
"Water deep, but less often," said Charles Phillips, Columbia County extension coordinator.
Phillips gave a presentation on drought-tolerant plants at a recent Columbia County Extension Service "Gardening at Lunch" session. During his presentation, Phillips encouraged those attending to water more, but less frequently to encourage the growth of a deep root system.
"You'll probably have to water annuals and perennials a little more frequently," said Phillips, adding that newly-planted landscapes will need to be watered more often until they become established.
It is best to water in the early morning when less water is lost to evaporation.
In 2003, the state's Environmental Protection Division adopted a drought management plan that outlines outdoor watering restrictions. Last fall, the state EPD director declared 61 north Georgia counties to be in a Level Four drought stage, which prohibits all outdoor watering. And a recent report by the state climatologist suggests that south Georgia will experience worsening drought conditions throughout the spring and summer.
Columbia County currently is in a Level Two drought stage, which allows outdoor watering for even-numbered addresses on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between the hours of midnight and 10 a.m. only. Odd-numbered addresses can water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays between midnight and 10 a.m. No watering is allowed on Mondays.
To help plants retain moisture during the non-watering periods, Phillips suggests the use of a good mulch around plants, trees and shrubs. Mulch helps keep the soil cooler, retain moisture and control weeds.
"You need between 3 and 4 inches around trees and shrubs and about 2 inches around annuals and perennials," he said. Phillips also said moisture-lock potting soil is good to use.
"It may not work as well in our clay soils, but you can add it to the sandier soils and it works real well," he said.
Phillips suggested planting Indian Hawthorne, hollies, Vinca, Portulaca and Verbena, which are more tolerant of hot, dry conditions.
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