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On February 24, 2017, Georgia MGEVs had opportunity to attend Grow Strong! 2017, available in Athens and at 14 other remote sites. We had a GREAT response to the speakers with more questions than we could get answered in the time we had allowed! Our specialists graciously agreed to answer the ones we didn’t get to, and I promised to share them here. Our second speaker, Dr. Doug Bailey, UGA’s Department of Horticulture, elaborates further on these questions about wise water use in the landscape.



  1. Is it important to irrigate mature trees in drought years?

Depends on the species.  No need to worry about some such as River Birch; but do need to irrigate those more prone to drought injury such as Dogwoods.

  1. Is there a better mulch for perennial beds – pine straw or wood chips?

I haven’t observed much difference between the two; both are acceptable.

  1. But does the 2x per week watering at 1/2 inch apply to newly seeded or sodded lawns?


Isn’t it necessary to water more often for the first month?


  1. Can’t careful selection of adapted perennial native plants dramatically reduce watering demands?

There’s nothing magic about native plants per se.  Selection of drought-tolerant plants is part of a waterwise landscape plan and is encouraged.  This should be employed hand-in-hand with limiting the use of high-water needs plants.

  1. What is a good way to measure water use when hand watering? (for homeowners who don’t have sprinklers/irrigation systems)

use empty gallon milk jugs with holes in the bottom as your delivery system.  Each jug = 1 gallon

  1. What about rain water?

Obviously account for it in your irrigation scheduling.  The problem is we do not have consistently sufficient rainfall to meet our landscape needs; thus supplemental irrigation.

  1. If you have intentions of conserving water use, should you try pruning back when appropriate?

 I would not change pruning practices as a means of curbing water use.  Use pruning as a mechanism to maintain proper plant form, size, etc.

  1. Is it safe to use bath water to water plants outside?

Yes. Gray water is perfectly fine.  Most homeowners allow clean water to pour down their drain before every shower.  I keep a 5-gallon bucket in mine.  I capture all the water that comes out before the shower is sufficiently warm.  This is clean water.  You’d be surprised how much this can be each day!

  1. Why were so many cypress and mature evergreens so overcome during our drought in 2016?

It was that severe of a drought that hit at a time that stressed these plants beyond their ability to tolerate. Drought can also exacerbate diseases, which will further cause damage to many of our plants.

  1. If your HOA irrigates from a retention pond, do we have to follow the water restrictions?

 No, but I encourage you to still practice judicious use of irrigation; we all should pitch in.

  1. What are your thoughts on rain gardens and how to calculate how big they should be to capture the volume from our increasing impervious surfaces in urban landscapes?

Each municipality has the engineering of run-off capture in place.  I think it’s a great idea—allows for more infiltration and aquifer replenish and reduces runoff/erosion problems.  I think this is the end of my questions—I didn’t address rain gardens as part of irrigation needs.