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Work with the drought: Tips to keep your garden and lawn from dying of thirst.
[Times art: David Williams]

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000

Gardeners, do you have other suggestions for surviving the drought while still obeying water restrictions? Please send them to:
Newsfeatures, St. Petersburg Times,
P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731,
or e-mail to
With watering restrictions in place throughout the Tampa Bay area, many homeowners are concerned that their lawns and gardens will be victims of the drought.

Some folks ignore the restrictions, giving their greenery a drink whenever they please. Others, like some people in Hillsborough County, force officials to consider stricter regulations because they water so much on legal days.

Aside from flouting ordinances or becoming a legal water hog, there are ways to keep drought damage to a minimum. They include:

1. Water in early morning as opposed to late in the evening to prevent fungus from growing on grass and plants. Back to top

2. When you cut the lawn, try to keep it about 3 to 4 inches high so the grass retains more water. A sharp blade produces a cleaner cut that heals more quickly and loses less water. Back to top

3. Scatter 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the bottom of shrubs and trees to retain water. Folded or droopy leaves indicate the plant is thirsty. Back to top

4. Fertilizers promote growth and increase a plant's need for water, but annuals and vegetables need food to help them produce flowers and vegetables. Use a water-soluble fertilizer, a 6-6-6 or 6-8-8, at half strength about every two weeks. Back to top

5. Move container plants to shaded areas to reduce their need for water. Back to top

6. Flower beds, vegetable gardens and other non-lawn areas may be irrigated as needed using hoses with automatic shut-offs, hand-watering, micro-irrigation and other low-volume watering methods. Back to top

7. "Gray water," or recycled rinse and bath water can be used on plants; however, avoid water containing bath oil, foam or salts. Plants in containers can be damaged by alkaline build-up. Do not use gray water on indoor plants. Back to top

8. In desperate times, stop irrigating Bahia grass and allow it to go dormant. Bahia grass will turn brown but recovers well when irrigation resumes. St. Augustine grass will die if not irrigated. Back to top

9. Thin dense beds of plants to reduce competition among them. Back to top

-- Sources: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, the Scotts Co.

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