DROUGHT! Which plants to water and which to let go

We haven’t had any significant rain since the end of May, and combined with record breaking high temperatures, this summer is proving to be a hot and dry one!  We are now officially experiencing a drought.  At this point it’s a matter of priorities.  Which plants to save and which to let go.  Turf grass was one of the first plants to wilt and turn brown which is simply our cool season grasses going dormant, like they do most every year – only this year its a whole lot earlier.  Keep turf grass tall by not mowing it.  The longer the grass blades, the longer the root system will be to search for water.  Don’t water unless you plan to water continually all summer.  Sporadic watering pulls turf in and out of dormancy which is very stressful to the grass.  Don’t apply fertilizers or herbicides to your lawn while its dormant. The grass isn’t growing and the soil is bone dry so there’s no way for uptake or abssorption of these chemicals to occur.

 One good thing to come of this drought is the lack of insect pests – specifically the Japanese beetle.  Japanese beetle adults are usually active now decimating plants from hollyhock to birch to linden and roses.  The adult lays eggs in irrigated turf so letting grass go dormant prevents the egg laying.  The ground is so hot and dry some of the larvae and pupating adult stages may have been cooked dead before they could emerge as adults. However  Japanese beetle larvae have a strong ability to move down into the lower, moister soil layers to avoid drought and pesticides.  While I doubt the drought has killed them all I’m hoping their numbers have taken a significant hit.  

I’ve decided to forsake a lot of my patio planters, annuals and smaller containers as I just can’t keep up with (or afford) to water them all.  I’ve reduced it down from about ten pots to three very large glazed containers that I still have to water every day or two. I’ve added a layer of wood chip mulch on the soil surface to further reduce water loss.

I want to keep my vegetables going which are planted close to my house so its easy to get out in the cool of the morning or evening and give everything a good soak every other day.  Sometimes I put the sprinkler on but it seems to waste too much water on weeds so I prefer to just spot water only the vegetables.  

I’ve also had to get out and water some shrubs that I transplanted this spring.  A couple good soaks with the hose and they are looking better.  The rest of the trees and shrubs have established root systems and are ok – for now.  You’ll notice trees and shrubs aren’t growing at all and the extended drought will stress plants making them more susceptible to insect and disease attack and other problems if we get a very cold, dry winter.  What we all need is a nice cool drink of rain.  Two days of  clouds and gentle rain sound really perfect right now!  

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1 Comment

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One response to “DROUGHT! Which plants to water and which to let go

  1. Roger

    Just over 10″ of precipitation this year in Kenosha. We normally get about 35″ per year.

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