As expected, Hillsborough County tightened its water restrictions. To keep up with the new rules in Hillsborough County, check www.hillsboroughcounty.org/water/restrictions/wrs.cfm. City of Tampa water customers should monitor that agency's Web site, www.tampagov.net/dept_Water/information_ resources/restrictions.
The recent rain did not make a dent in the drought, but it did help green up yards and cut down on the water used for irrigation, if only for a week. My rain barrel is full and will provide water for my containerized plants for a number of weeks.
The weeds also loved the rain and have taken off with a vengeance. The moist ground made it easier to remove them. If you have been ignoring this chore, the size of some of the weeds in your yard may surprise you. They are, or will shortly be, going to seed. Make sure to remove them quickly or the problem will compound. A hoe in the flower beds makes quick work of those little weeds. Gardeners with a persistent problem may want to spot treat with a vegetative killer. This also will kill the roots.
Renew your containerized plants now. Prune and pinch back to get sturdy, blooming plant material. My begonias by the front door had some powdery mildew. I caught it early and removed the infected leaves so I didn't have to use a chemical. Fertilize and water well to force new growth. These containers by the front door take a little time and effort but are worth it because they make quite a colorful statement when visitors arrive. I probably get more comments about those containers than anything else in the yard. As mentioned in an earlier column, I am watering these containers with "leftover" water from the kitchen such as water used to boil vegetables.
Each time you think of a way to save water in the garden, share it with a friend or two. This way the water savings will multiply. One way to conserve water is to make sure to use appropriate plant material in the yard. Most of the exotics we plant require more specialized care and usually need more supplemental water. If you just have to have one or two marginal plants, plant them in a container to minimize special care.
If a plant dies, try to figure out why. Perhaps it isn't really suited for our area. Replace it with something that has a proven record of being hardy here. This ensures less water and fewer chemicals are needed to have a healthy specimen.
Don't forget the University of South Florida Botanical Garden Spring Plant Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Organizers expect more than 70 vendors at this event, including local plant clubs and societies as well as commercial growers from throughout the state. Plants include cacti, succulents, orchids, African violets, bamboo, bonsai, native plants, camellias, tropical fruit trees, palms, carnivorous plants, gesneriads and much more.
Workshops will take place from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. This is a chance to learn from the experts. The festival will also feature free children's activities, including an Easter egg hunt Sunday. Admission is $5 for the general public, free to USF Botanical Garden members and children under 12.
Either before or after your trip to the botanical gardens, take a quick walk around your yard. You'll see plenty that needs to be done this time of year. In order to keep from being overwhelmed, don't let anything get too far ahead of you. Remember to take the time to enjoy your yard, and plant one or two new plants. Part of the appeal of gardening is expanding our knowledge. We can do that by experimenting.