By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Drought-induced restrictions explained
Extension advice
Placeholder Image
The current drought we are experiencing is impacting everyone. Normally this time of the year, everything is green since.
That’s has not been the case this year. The late freeze, cool nighttime temperatures and lack of moisture has dulled the normal brilliant spring colors.
Recently the state increased the drought response from a level 1 to a level 2.  What does this mean to state residents? A level 1 drought response limits outdoor water use to mornings only. The new outdoor watering schedules statewide are as follows: Odd numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 12 midnight to 10 a.m. Even numbered and unnumbered addresses may water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12 midnight to 10 a.m. The EPD does not regulate water use from a private well or other privately owned sources. But EPD officials generally ask private well owners to abide by imposed restrictions to conserve water. Local governments and water providers are authorized to implement more stringent outdoor water use schedules within their jurisdictions to include regulating permitted private wells; normally completely private wells are exempted from restrictions. Exercise caution and check with your local municipality or jurisdiction to inquire about local water restrictions to avoid potential fines for outdoor water use.
 Here are some tips to help your plants make it through a drought:
• Make sure all plants are well mulched. Using 3 to 5 inches of mulch will help reduce soil moisture water loss. Fine-textured mulches such as pine straw, mini-nuggets or shredded hardwood mulch will conserve moisture better than coarse-textured mulches.
• Air-conditioners collects humidity in your home and pump it outside as condensation. Find the drain line and collect the water for plants, or extend the tubing to irrigate nearby plants. The air conditioner won’t give you lots of water. But it may provide just enough to keep a few plants alive through an extended drought.
• Severe wilting and foliar scorching are signs of drought stress. When a plant wilts to the point it might not survive, cut the top back by one-third to one-half to reduce the leaves’ demand for water. With less top to support, the root system may be able to survive. If you can get the root system through the drought, the top will prosper later.
• Save milk jugs and recycle water from inside the home. Gray water is water that can be used twice. It includes the discharge from kitchen sinks and dishwashers (not garbage disposals); bathtubs, showers and lavatories (not toilets); and the household laundry (not diaper water). Using gray water can almost double home water-use efficiency and provide a water source for landscape irrigation. (Using gray water isn’t allowed in some counties. Liberty County has no restrictions, residents of other counties should check with your health department). Put a few pinholes and pebbles in the bottom of the jugs. The pebbles will keep them from blowing around when they’re empty.  Use two to four jugs for medium-size shrubs and eight to 10 for trees. Don’t bury the jugs around trees and shrubs, because the digging will damage the already-stressed root system. When using washing-machine water, combine the rinse-cycle water with the wash-cycle water to dilute the detergent and bleaching agents. Then use the gray water right away since bacteria in the water may cause an odor if you leave it sitting around too long. Note: Do not use soften water on plants. A build up of sodium will cause plants to decline or die.
• When you’re only allowed a few hours for outdoor watering, knowing how much water to give your lawn is important. Homeowners normally water too much and too often. This creates an environment for disease. An inch of water a week is the rule of thumb. Most sprinkler systems apply about one-fourth inch of water per hour. Sprinklers can vary; they all have different nozzles, so you should test your system’s output. To test your sprinkler, place open-top containers of the same size, such as margarine tubs, randomly on your lawn. After an hour, measure the amount of water in each container. The difference in the amounts will give you an estimate of the water distribution and application rate. When you have an inch of water in your containers, you know you’ve applied enough water.
• Homeowners should also keep in mind how fast the water is absorbed by the soil. Apply enough water to soak the soil 6 to 8 inches deep. If your system applies water too fast, the water will run off and you’re just be watering the curb and sidewalk. Light, frequent watering should be avoided since it produces shallow and weak root systems. A shallow root system prevents efficient use of plant nutrients and water in the soil.
• Mowing your lawn regularly is important. Mow often enough that no more than one-third of the leaf tissue is removed during a cutting. Raise the mowing height. Mowing heights during droughts for our common grasses are: Centipede 1.5 inches, Common Bermuda 2 inches; St. Augustine 3 inches; and Carpet grass 2 inches. This helps the grass maintain a deep root system, which helps it find more water.
Normally it starts to rain when I write about water restrictions or drought conditions. I hope it works this time as well. Otherwise, I’ll start researching rain dancing to offer a local class.
For more information contact your local Extension Office.

Bell is the Liberty County Extension agent. You can call him at 876-2133.
Sign up for our e-newsletters