Living Columns & Blogs

Help your landscape survive the drought

With the presidential election behind us, it’s time to talk about something that we can all agree on — it’s really dry out there! According to Pam Knox, our state climatologist, almost 75 percent of the state is experiencing some degree of drought.

The National Weather Service noted that October 2016 is tied as the driest on record. Bibb County is rated as being in “extreme drought,” while our neighbors to the north have more severe problems. Unfortunately, there is no real relief in sight.

The lack of rainfall in the later part of the growing season has caused a myriad of issues. Non-irrigated gardens and landscapes have suffered losses. A potential long-term impact is the reduction of carbohydrates that have been stored as plants move into dormancy. These carbohydrate reserves are what will enable plants to withstand harsh winter conditions to begin new growth in the spring.

We’re half way through November now, and the drought continues. What can you do to increase your plants’ chances of survival?

▪ Apply ½-inch of water per week to lawns between now and the first frost. If you have an irrigation system, keep it operable as long as conditions will allow. Although plant growth is slowing due to shorter days, the soil temperature (at 4 inches) is still quite warm. Earlier this week, it was still around 70 degrees. Plants will benefit from regular irrigation until the soil temperature drops below 55 degrees. After the first frost, if the drought persists, our UGA turf specialist Clint Waltz recommends a ½-inch of water every few weeks. Keep an eye on soil temperatures, frost dates, rainfall levels and other statistics at

▪ Do not fertilize warm-season grasses. Though applications of potassium are generally recommended to promote winter hardiness, without adequate water the benefit of these applications is marginal.

▪ Minimize mowing and wear damage. Be cognizant of areas in your lawn that might be having problems with wear; this might be occurring in spots where you don’t typically see it.

▪ Do not core aerate lawns, as aeration induces additional plant stress.

▪ Do not prune or fertilize perennials, ornamentals, trees and shrubs now. This time of year, plants should be storing energy reserves. Pruning and fertilization encourages new growth, which further depletes energy reserves for the next growing season.

As with so many things in life, we will just have to wait and see how things shape up for the 2017 growing season. It is not easy to predict how well plants will fare through the winter and into next spring. For more information, see the Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast blog at or visit


2017 Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program: Classes will be held each Thursday from Feb. 2-April 27. Prior plant experience is not necessary; a heart for community service is! Bibb County residents should contact Kathy at 478-751-6338 or to receive application materials. Class fee is $195. Applications are due Nov. 30.

2017 Southwest Georgia Master Cattleman Program: Classes will be held each Thursday evening from Jan. 17-March 7 at the Houston County Extension office. Registration is due by Jan. 10. Registration is $75 and it includes notebook, refreshments and a steak dinner on the final night. To register, or for more information, contact the Houston County Extension office at 478-987-2028 or

Contact county Extension agent Karol Kelly at