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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.

Drought a Common Concern in the Home Landscape

It seems the question of the year is, "How are my plants going to respond after last year's drought?" I have been hearing this question time and time again from home gardeners this winter.

Last year was a tough year on plants, and according to the US Drought Monitor, areas of Northern Illinois are still classified as abnormally dry as of March 26, 2013, despite the additional moisture we have been receiving. The good news is though, that all areas of Illinois are now considered drought free.

Once plants start coming out of dormancy this spring, we'll likely start seeing some signs of damage from last year's drought. First, more than likely our flowering trees and shrubs are going to have fewer blooms and lesser fruit production this spring due to losses of root systems in 2012 and less energy reserves being stored up in the plant. The best thing to do this spring is to start watering your most high value plants to get them off to a good start in 2013. If parts of the plant have already died off, prune out this dead material and consider thinning your shrubs using renewal pruning.

Also keep an eye on your evergreen trees and shrubs. They may look green and healthy going into spring, but may start to show damage when the heat of summer hits. Be proactive by watering well in the spring to make up for water loss throughout the winter.

Your lawns were also likely thinned out and areas may have died out entirely in 2012. This spring expect weeds to easily fill in those exposed areas before your existing grass can. Consider reseeding these areas with new grass seed before weeds have a chance to set in.

If your plants have died out as a result of the drought and need replacing, be sure to choose a new, healthy plant that is going to be well suited to the site you're growing on. Also consider replacing with some Illinois native plants. They really did seem to perform the best last season.

Be sure to implement some additional water conservation techniques in the 2013 growing season as well:

  • Apply mulch to your plantings to conserve water and moderate the soil temperature
  • Water early in the morning to avoid extensive water loss through evaporation
  • Avoid watering in the evening to prevent foliage from remaining wet all night
  • Water with drip irrigation or soaker hoses to direct water only where it's absolutely needed
  • Consider installing rain barrels on your gutters to collect water for use in the landscape

University of Illinois Extension will be offering a program titled 'Don't Doubt the Drought' by Extension Horticulture Educator, Richard Hentschel. The program will be held on May 21 at 1:00 PM and May 23 at 6:30 PM. Hentschel will cover some of the growth expectations in 2013 on lawns, newly planted trees, shrubs, and evergreens in the home landscape. Call your local Illinois Extension office to see if this program will be offered at your local office.


Photo credit:,MW

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