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Are We In A Drought?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

The word drought is something that I hoped would not be used in 2013 or at least not in the context of 2012. As of August 13th, we are considered to be between normal and abnormally dry. Just walk around your yard and you will see those pesky cracks in the garden and landscape beds letting you know you should be watering. We have had a great run with our lawns, most of them staying green much longer this year. Now though the lawns too are showing signs of needing water having clearly gone into dormancy.

For the vegetable garden, dry conditions will mean production will slow, veggies will be smaller, misshapen, and flowers could abort and really limit production. Our vegetable fruits grow very quickly and as they do they need ample water to reach their expected sizes. Onions for example will grow in size while there is adequate moisture. If that moisture becomes limiting, then the bulb will not continue to grow in size even if soil moisture returns. We have all had tomato skin split just after a rain or after we have watered. Once the skin matures at whatever size it is, it will not continue to expand as water returns (hint- if you have fruits near maturity and you are going to water, harvest those first to avoid splitting later). Cucumber fruits on the other hand will resume growth giving us a fat then skinny, then fat looking fruit. When watering the vegetables, try not to have the foliage wet overnight.

In the perennial flower beds, flowers will not last very long and foliage will have that wilted look going on. Perennials will be preparing to go dormant, yet we would like to see them looking good for as long as possible. You have the option of water the bed with a sprinkler or hand watering at the base of the plants if you want to conserve water and yet water the plants.

Replacement trees and shrubs in the landscape really need to be watered as they have a limited root system and keeping them out of being stressed is critical in their ability to establish in your landscape.

Once the garden is done and the perennials have finished for the year, watering of course is no longer needed. Newly planted trees and shrubs are a different story. They will need to be watered late into the season, think thanksgiving as the last time you will water. Another reminder to water one last time is just as you are about to disconnect the garden hose and store it for the winter. Root systems will continue to grow well after the leaves have fallen and the trees and shrubs are looking dormant. This applies to those new plants that were planted this spring as well as those planted this fall.

Water should be considered an investment in good plant health and the return will be in the longevity of the trees and shrubs, the flowers you enjoy from your perennials and wholesome fresh produce from the vegetable garden.

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