Drought Doesn't Have To Equal Demise

Drought Doesn't Have To Equal Demise

Drought is a regular occurrence during our South Texas summer. But with a little preventive care, you can help minimize plant damage and mortality.

In the decades that I've lived in South Texas, I've learned several things about drought: it reoccurs often, plants rebound and a little preventive care goes a long way.

Although we’ve had some recent droughts, most plant mortality occurs after several years of below normal spring and fall precipitation.

Most grasses — even St. Augustine grass — rebound with the advent of normal precipitation. As for trees and shrubs, those that have not been planted or established properly or planted in very limited soils are the ones that die or don’t perform to expectations.

There are a few things you can do to help minimize plant damage and mortality

  • Use native species — they know how to survive periodic droughts.
  • Plant appropriately using wide holes and establish plants with the correct amount of consistent water.
  • Add compost to turf and beds — organic matter increases the water-holding capacity of soil.
  • Water moderately but consistently in spring and fall if normal rainfall fails to materialize.

Watering isn’t necessary in the winter when landscapes are dormant, unless we're experiencing a particularly dry period. In this case, water according to plant type.

  • Seasonal color – once or twice a week depending on the weather.
  • Lawns – once every four weeks
  • Trees and shrubs – once every 45 days

Even better, try my holiday method. Choose one holiday each month and water that day.

Ask the Garden Geek

Need Tips for your garden or have questions about conservation? Ask an Expert!

Send a question
Mark Peterson

About our expert

Mark Peterson

Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.