Plant Answers  >  Coping with Drought Restrictions

Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, July 22, 2006
"Coping with Drought Restrictions"

Drought restrictions were declared this week when the Aquifer levels fell below 650 feet. The restrictions are designed to protect the Aquifer as a resource and the endangered species that live in the springs fed by the Aquifer. The restrictions in San Antonio reduce discretionary landscape watering while providing enough water to protect the investment in our landscapes. The key restriction in Stage One is to limit watering with sprinklers to one day a week based on the last number of your address. Here are some important things to remember as your adjust to the restrictions.

Applying one-half to one inch of water to your lawn every week will keep it green. Even better, use the SIP recommendation for the week provided on page two of the San Antonio Life every Saturday.

Even if you miss your day to water one week, watering the next week will keep your grass alive.

Watering by hand or soaker hose is not restricted in Stage One, use these changes to water dry spots on the lawn and your special plants.

Bermuda, buffalo, and zoysia grass are capable of going dormant in a drought without long-term damage. Tolerate a temporarily brown lawn and save money on your water bill.

Well-established trees and shrubs do not need supplemental water to survive the drought. They evolved in this or similar climates where period of droughts are common. The plants have far reaching root systems and quit growing in a drought.

Mulch over the roots of trees and shrubs that have been in the ground for less than two years. They may not have developed a full root system yet. Water them directly at the base of the plant whenever the soil dries to one inch under the mulch. Your lawn sprinkler is usually not enough.

For old-fashioned roses, lantanas, crepe myrtles, and other blooming xeriscape plants, a deep watering once per month will help keep them blooming. Vitex, esperanza, poinciana, desert willow, Mexican olive, and orchid trees thrive in droughty weather, but even they respond to a deep watering every month. Container plants dry out very quickly in the hot dry weather. Consider putting small containers in larger containers to insulate them. Aluminum foil or paper also works. Drip pans can cause root rots when the weather is cool and soggy, but in this weather they catch the water that drains through the pot and the water is later pulled back into the container.

There is not much that thrives in the vegetable garden in mid-summer. It is time to pull the summer squash, tomatoes, onions, green beans, and cucumber. They do not produce much except disease and insects in the heat so you may as well quit watering them. If you have hot pepper plants, a row of okra, or southern peas, consider watering them by hand, rather than watering the whole empty garden.

Water that runs off your yard into the street or evaporates into the air does not help your lawn or plants. Water in early morning or late evening. Use sprinklers that spray large drops with a horizontal spray and fix all leaks. The law in San Antonio and most area cities requires all sprinkler irrigation to be applied between 8:00 p.m., and 10:00 a.m. You may also receive a misdemeanor citation for letting the water run from your lawn into the street.

Visit the SAWS website at for more information on the drought restrictions. The site describes the penalties for breaking the rules and also is the place to report water waste or violations. The website tells you how to request a variance for new lawn or a large property that covers more than one address.

It is legal to use your gray water for the landscape in Texas. Gray water is defined as shower, bath, bathroom sink, and washing machine water. If your plumbing allows it: Use the water on the lawn. Using gray water reduces the need for potable water and your water bill.


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