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Drought Survival Tips

If you're in the Southeast as we are, I know you're thankful for the rain we've been receiving. I'm now encouraged and excited about the upcoming gardening season, and we're again making plans about what to plant. The whole state of Georgia, as well as much of our country, sufferered tremendously from the drought last year. We'd be wise to plan ahead to be hit hard with it again this year. Currently I'm studying on what plants in our garden made it through the drought last year, and searching for new varieties of those to add this year. I'll let you know in future posts what I find out!

As we dealt with the drought during the past few years, we've come upon a few tips for survival, and I thought I'd share them with you:


  • Conserve water every way you can. Save water for later use by leaving a bucket in the shower or fill buckets from leftover bath water to use for watering plants. Install a rain collection barrel to collect rain now while it's plentiful.

  • Amend the soil with compost. Well-amended soil retains water better, and plant roots are better able to move freely through the soil to reach available water and nutrients, making for healthier plants ready to fight the drought.

  • Plant drought tolerant plants! If you must have some of the plants that are less able to cope with water shortages, plant them close together in a spot where you can easily water them with reclaimed water.

  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Apply a thick layer--up to 4 inches thick--of a good organic mulch. Don't use things like gravel unless you're growing cactus. And it turns out that mulch made from recycled tires could be cancer-causing, according to a report from Environment and Human Health Inc http://www.ehhi.org/reports/turf/). Good organic mulch not only retains soil moisture and protects roots, but also breaks down in time, enriching the soil.

Remember to check back soon for my suggestions on drought tolerant plants for your Georgia garden.

Wood Ashes Lower Garden Soil Acidity

Lilacs enjoy alkaline soil
I don’t know about you, but during the winter, I just cannot get warm without a fire! Every time I build a new fire however, something must be done with the ashes from the previous one. Well, we try to recycle as much as we can, and I just abhor waste. What can we do with those wood ashes?


A great way to use them is to apply them to the garden. Before we do that, we must decide which garden area would benefit from wood ashes. Ashes from hardwood trees make great soil amendment for certain types of plants. They contain nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and other elements that will promote bloom and strengthen roots on plants such as lilacs, rosemary, and peonies, as well as certain vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collards. Don’t use ashes from charcoal fires or from treated lumber, because they contain chemicals that would be harmful to plants.


The addition of wood ashes can be of great help to you when growing plants that prefer ‘sweet’ or alkaline soil, especially if your soil is very acidic. The wood ashes will sweeten the soil, making it less acidic. You must be careful where you deposit the wood ashes, because plants like blueberries, camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons all need acid soil, and will perish if you apply wood ashes around them.


To find out what kind of soil you have, you can take a soil sample to your local County Extension Service for evaluation. They’ll have to send it off for testing, and for more information, go to: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C896.htm or just call your local county extension office.


Also, as with most fertilizers, a little of the wood ashes goes a long way. Apply no more than 20 pounds per 1000 square feet per year.

Plus, wood ashes should never be applied too close to tender roots of newly planted seedlings, so it’s best to apply them to the soil well in advance of planting time. Wood ashes are also beneficial to lawns if applied very sparingly and watered in well.


In addition to soil benefits, wood ashes are a natural slug repellant---just encircle the vulnerable plant with a ring of ashes and the snail/slug will not cross the line! Since ashes won’t be as plentiful this summer when snails are munching, you might want to save some for later in a galvanized bucket.