Last summer (2007) there was a terrible drought with water restrictions all over NC. In Raleigh, my friends Gail and Kay were restricted from ANY watering. In Winston-Salem we were given voluntary guidelines. This summer, we were expecting the same thing but it hasn't been QUITE as bad. Meanwhile, there is much to learn and do to conserve water. It will probably continue to be a big problem in NC. When we received our water bill and the irrigation portion was over $100 for June, we were shocked.
Here are things I have learned and plants I recommend for gardening in NC:
1.Select Drought Tolerant Plants
My best picks for drought tolerant plants:
Yarrow (photo above) Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, Rudbekkia, Vinca, Lavender, Geranium, Lamb's Ear. All ornamental grass(NOT the lawn grass), such as Miscanthus and Muhly Grass, Many shrubs and trees such as dogwood are drought tolerant. All succulent plants are great, such as hens and chicks (which are also perennial), ice plant, portulaca,etc.
Impatiens, Hydrangea, Morning Glory, Lawn grass
Roses, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, Begonia, Malva family (e.g. hollyhock)
Most of my garden is sunny so I'm not including the good dry shade plants, but there are many.
The other things I have learned:
2. Use drip irrigation (as early in the morning as possible).3. In fact, Water early in the day for everything.4. Water deeply, especially when planting so that the roots can go as deep and therefore be protected from drying out on the surface.5. Amend the soil with as much compost as possible. It retains water, improves the structure of the soil and provides vital nutrients. Make your own compost with fruit and vegetable discards from the kitchen.6. Mulch, mulch, mulch. We use soil conditioner as it breaks down quickly and improves the soil. I like shredded hardwood or pine straw for some areas as they give a nice clean look and set off the plants. Mulch also keeps weeds under control. Living mulches are also good, such as ground covers that are drought tolerant.7. Plant a rain garden to collect water runoff.8. Nearly every plant will withstand drought better when it is established and/or larger and shrub like. Newly planted plants are very vulnerable to drought, so avoid planting new plants and/or seeds when it is hot and dry. 9. Finally, get a rain barrel. We are getting one installed in our vegetable garden to collect rain off the roof from the drain pipe. Rain water is an endangered resource and is much better for the plants. A huge amount can be collected with one downpour. Will let you know how it works.
See "Links" in right sidebar resources on Water Conservation and Drought Tolerant Gardening (NC State Ext. Service has NC list). See my photos for drought tolerant plants on the sidebar.