1. Choose drought-tolerant plants. Consider your yard’s drainage patterns, soil conditions, and sun exposure to find plants that will thrive without much water. Look for Georgia natives that are particularly well-suited to our local climate. Keep thirsty turf grass to a minimum.
2. Group plants wisely. When landscaping, be sure to match the plant’s sunlight and water requirements with the planting location and group plants that have similar water needs. During periods of little rainfall, you can provide water just to the areas that need it most and avoid irrigating plants that are more tolerant of dryness.
3. Don’t over fertilize. The nitrogen in fertilizer can stimulate lush growth, but new leaves also increase the plant’s need for water. Furthermore, when shoot growth increases, root growth decreases, reducing the plant’s ability to extract moisture from the soil. Most established, healthy plants only need fertilizer once every two to three years. Never fertilize prior to heavy rainfall, because the rain may wash valuable nutrients down the storm drain into rivers and streams where they can become pollutants.
4. Mulch. Natural mulches such as pine straw, pine bark, and shredded hardwood even out temperature extremes, allow for better water penetration, and help plants retain moisture. For maximum benefit, maintain 3 to 5 inches of mulch on the soil surface at all times.
5. Keep weeds in check. Weeds not only make the landscape unattractive, they compete with other plants for moisture and nutrients. Landscape fabrics can be placed under mulch to serve as an added barrier to weeds.