Help Your Yard Survive the Drought

— Written By and last updated by

drought-map-2016The drought in the western part of North Carolina is predicted to persist at least through January 2017.  Below, and linked is great advice from Extension Horticulture Agent Charlotte Glen on how to Help Your Yard Survive the Drought.

Key Points:

  • Don’t encourage growth:  no new plants, no fertilizing, no pruning, except to remove dead or dying branches.
  • Manage mulch:  Ensure all vegetable, flower and landscape beds have a 2″-4″ layer of mulch to conserve water, keep soil temperatures cool, and prevent weeds from competing.  Consider mulching in a doughnut around trees and shrubs from the trunk to the dripline to prevent competition from turf, weeds and other plants.  Keep mulch 6 inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Remove weeds: Prevent them from competing with plants for moisture.
  • Allow you lawn to go dormant:  It is much less stressful for the turf to remain dormant than it is to be active and drought stressed.
  • Water Fruits and Vegetables 1″/week to maintain production. Remove plants that are past their prime or stressed by disease or insects.
  • Identify priorities for watering ornamentals
    • Top Priority:
      • Trees and Shrubs planted within the last 2 years will be most vulnerable to drought stress since their root system is not fully developed.
      • Established Trees and Shrubs are the biggest investment of time and money, have the biggest impact on landscape and house
      • Rare or unusual specimen plants that would be difficult or expensive to replace and those with high sentimental value.
    • Medium Priority: Drought sensitive plants like hydrangeas, Japanese maples, azaleas, and dogwoods that are unlikely to survive an extended drought.
    • Lowest Priority:
      • Plants you don’t like and plan to replace;
      • Plants that are often stressed in your landscape;
      • Annuals are the least expensive, easiest to replace, and will die at the end of the season even if watered.
  • Water Slowly to prevent run off.  Consider installing an irrigation system, using soaker hoses, placing slow release watering bags, drilling small holes in five gallon buckets or milk jugs and filling with water.
  • Harvest Rainwater in cisterns or rain barrels and use later in the landscape.
  • Make Notes of what dies, what survives, what steps were effective, what didn’t work.  After the drought consider transplanting plants to group those with like water needs to make it easier to care for them in the next drought.
  • Plan to make your landscape more resilient to drought conditions.  Water-Wise Works
  • Learn to conserve water both inside and out. 40 Gallon Challenge, Water Use It Wisely
  • Stay Informed:  NC Drought Management Advisory Council, State Climate Office of North Carolina
  • More Information

Written By

Photo of Dr. Lucy BradleyDr. Lucy BradleyExtension Urban Horticulture Specialist (919) 513-2001 lucy_bradley@ncsu.eduHorticultural Science - NC State University

Contributing Specialist

Photo of Charlotte GlenCharlotte GlenState Coordinator, NC Extension Master Gardener Program (919) 515-1226 charlotte_glen@ncsu.eduHorticultural Science - NC State University
Updated on Jan 3, 2017
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
This page can also be accessed from: go.ncsu.edu/readext?431945