University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Dry Early Fall and Plant Care

September 18, 1997

Weather conditions for the first half of September have been very much like summer. While the sunny days have been nice for outdoor activities, the lack of rainfall may be a cause of concern. Adequate rains in fall are needed for many landscape plantings. Even though much of the area received rain earlier this week, dry conditions are still a concern.

For example, early fall is a key time for lawn care. Recent columns have discussed seeding, fertilizing, and renovation. Without adequate moisture, these lawn practices are not likely to be successful. In addition, favorable soil moisture conditions are needed for core aerating to work well and for broadleaf weeds (i.e. dandelions) to be killed by herbicides. So if adequate rainfall does not occur, irrigate lawns prior to practices such as these.

Trees, shrubs, and evergreens all need an ample supply of soil moisture during the fall, leading up to winter. Having woody plants going into winter under drought stress can increase winter damage. Pay particular attention to recent plantings.

Likewise, water any spring bulb plantings put in this fall if ample rainfall does not occur. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, and other species will start developing root systems the fall they are planted. Dry soils may hinder this development.

Soil moisture conditions may also dictate what type of harvest is obtained from the remainder of the vegetable garden. Some crops have been behind in progress this season, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash. If the plants are under drought stress, what production is left this season will be reduced and produce quality may suffer.

The common question when watering all types of plantings is "how much water is needed?" Soil conditions play a big part in the decision. Generally it is best to water thoroughly so the water gets down several inches into the soil, even in fall. Frequency of watering also depends on soil factors and the type of plants. Keep in mind most of our area has clay soils, which are slow to drain.

Certainly the weather pattern may change, but lack of rainfall over the past several weeks may be stressing plants. Do your yard and garden plants a favor and monitor the moisture situation this fall.


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