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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
Blossom end rot

Dry Weather Tips and Musings

Posted by John Fulton -

We are going to have trouble getting that new grass seed established with little moisture available, and the hot temperatures. Normal fall seeding times would begin in about two weeks, but I would recommend saving time and dollars if rain doesn't come. If you're in an area that hasn't received moisture for about a month or more, you might want to consider watering with a quarter of an inch or so to keep existing grass roots and crowns alive. This should be done on a weekly basis. This won't green up the grass, but will allow it to green up when it does start raining. The idea is to keep the roots and crowns of the plants from completely drying out. Once this happens, recovery isn't even an option. Then we are looking at reseeding into horrible conditions – unless Mother Nature begins smiling on us.

Perennials are also suffering during this extended dry period. It is a good idea to water perennials (flowers, shrubs, trees, etc.) with an inch of water a week. You can use a sprinkler and catch water in a can to tell how much an inch is. As for using the deep root feeders/waterers, most roots that take up water and nutrients are in the upper foot of soil, so broadcast applications

with a sprinkler are probably most effective and easier to apply. A couple inches of mulch will also help retain moisture and keep the roots cooler.

The only things actively growing in many lawns at this time are called weeds. One of the traditional weeds during dry periods is plantain. There are two common types of plantain in our area. Buckhorn plantain has narrow leaves and a spiked seed head. Broadleaf plantain has the same type of seed head, but as the name suggests, it has broad leaves. As the only green areas in some lawns, control with 2,4-D may be beneficial. That's assuming you don't want the weeds and the unsightly green spots.

Dry weather doesn't bode well for early tomatoes either. There is a perennial problem termed blossom end rot which causes a leathery rot on the bottom of the fruits. This is caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant. The calcium imbalance, in turn, is usually caused by uneven moisture supply to the plant. A thorough watering and a deep layer of mulch will usually help to prevent this problem. This year, I wouldn't bet on it solving things – but it will improve your odds of getting whole tomatoes.

On the plus side, the warm nighttime temperatures have halted the progression of anthracnose and other leaf spot fungi on our shade trees. As mentioned, the watering of perennials will go a long way in assisting them through the dry times, as well as help them to recover from disease and insect problems.

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