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Dealing with the drought

Last week, we asked readers for tips to conserve water and help keep plants alive during the drought.

Below are edited versions of some of the responses we received.

We keep the condensation from our attic air conditioner by putting a large plastic bucket under the tube that extends from our house. In two days, we've got 10 gallons, and, with a little plant food, it works to help keep our garden going.

We have no grass in our back yard and are planning on having no grass in the front in the near future. A green lawn is a luxury that we can't afford, but using native plants is a wonderful way to go, and the wildflowers replant themselves every year and get better and better.

Give me three years, and I'll have a real habitat for the animals that already visit us: loads of birds, squirrels, possums, snakes, etc. It's wonderful to watch nature at its best, and creating a natural habitat is part of it. _ Susan Hammar, Largo

You may find the following a simple and practical method that I have used to save water in the garden during a serious drought and as an ongoing method of feeding shrubs and plants.

Most shrubs and plants have a root structure that is 3 to 5 inches below the ground surface. This is where they need the water. Surface water requires quite a bit of soaking to drench down to that level.

I take an empty half-gallon plastic milk container and cut holes in the three shoulders. At the base of the container, I cut another four holes at each corner. Midway down the sides, I cut an X-shaped slit on two sides.

Dig a hole adjacent to your shrubs about 1{ inches less than the height of the plastic bottle. Place bottle in hole and cover up to cap. I try to place these at 3-foot intervals through the shrubs. When watering, you simply unscrew the cap, stick your hose in and fill the bottle, let it drain and refill about three times. This way the water goes to the roots, where it is needed, and requires much less water than surface watering. _ Marilyn P. McSherry, Largo

I keep a gallon bucket in the kitchen and a 5-gallon bucket in the bath. It is surprising how much water is wasted while waiting for hot water to make its way to those areas. I use this water for my flower beds and hanging baskets. _ Susan Pollard, Port Richey

Gardeners, do you have other suggestions for surviving the drought while still obeying water restrictions? Please send them to Drought Tips, Newsfeatures, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail to featuressptimes.com.

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