Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Help Your Landscape Survive Drought


1) Use drought tolerant plants ( ex. native plants, deep rooted plants such as Persimmon, Loblolly Pine, Oak, Hickory )

2) SHADE!!! Drought tolerant trees filtering the sun will drought proof the rest of your garden ( avoid water hungry greedy root trees such as Poplar, Willow, Maple ).
In cases of extreme heat it is ok to built structures using cloth over newly installed perennials, plants ( never use plastic which intensifies heat )

3) Sun exposed unshaded concrete and asphalt may not make the entire planet warmer but it will make your garden hotter and can cause serious damage to many more delicate garden plants during heatwaves. While Southern Oak / Pine as well as Ginkgo and some other trees can tolerate this kind of heat, I see many trees and plants used in parking islands in shopping mall parking lots that are totally inappropriate and are certainly destined for death. Many London Planes growing in such conditions drop so many leaves in summer that their shade becomes virtually worthless.

- Always control weeds in your garden. They compete for food and water.

- Fertilize your plants. Early spring for vegetative growth and fall for root growth is especially important. Much of the plants root growth occurs into the fall long after top growth has ended for the season. A healthy root system equals a healthy plant next year. FALL IS AN EXCELLENT TIME TO PLANT because of this. I find fall plantings fertilized immediately with bonemeal are much stronger the following summer than are plants planted the following spring which are more delicate and need more water in the summer heat.

- Quality of soil is excellent and DIG DEEP. Many trees that are drought tolerant such as Hickories and Southern Pine are so because of their deep roots that reach a layer that may only dry out during long term extreme drought and not a typical several week summer dry spell. This does not help if there is a layer of rock, clay or construction debris blocking their downward advance. A tree is a long term investment, planting it right will permanently affect its growth and survival.

- DO NOT PLANT TREES 2 FEET UP IN THE AIR. The center of the root ball should be 2 inches above surrounding soil AT MOST for drainage if that is an issue. Trees planted to high will be PERMANENTLY affected by drought more than they need to be. Any landscaper that does this is either doesn't know what they are doing or are too lazy to dig a real hole. Mixing organic material into the soil, especially if it is sandy will help increase water retention during dry periods. I should know this more than anyone. I used to live outside of Leamington, Ontario which while summer thunderstorms are frequent, that water would run right through the sandy soil leaving the plants dry in no time.

- Use sprinlers during the daytime into dry air and you will find alot of the water will evaporate and never reach your plants.

- Scoop little bowls in the soil around the base of each plant to hold water. When you water it, the water should be going into the ground, not running away from the plant. If you see water running down your driveway or sidewalk then you know you are wasting water.

- Water deeply, directly onto the root systems, and not too often, early in the morning or in the evening. Water deeply and your plants will develop deep roots. Younger plants will need to be watered more deeply than older, well-established plants.

- MULCH!!! shredded bark or leaves, fine gravel, straw or grass clippings all helps protect and cool the soil from the burning summer sun as well as conserve moisture.
Most plants discontinue growth if the soil becomes too hot.

- Trees and turf don't mix. Trees with sod on top of their roots always show drought stress and nutrient deficiency faster and more severe than trees with either cool mulched soil or even bare soil. Many rural shelterbelt and foresty plantings are smothered and ruined by competition with field grass. Purchasing roundup is worth saving your investment ( and don't wait for a drought to kill weeds because Roundup only works on green vegetation ). For a lower price on Roundup / Glyphosphate shop where the farmers shop. Call your local Coop

- DO not fertilize a plant while it is under drought stress. You will burn its roots and stunt its growth. Only fertilize plants that are well hydrated. Fall and spring is better anyway.

- It perennials and shrubs are wilting and suffering from extreme drought and cannot be reached with water CUT THEM BACK. It's better than them dying. Most perennials ( excluding ones that go dormant early which are by now probably already "resting" for next year ) and shrubs will continue next year if this is done.
The less excess growth a plant has, the less water it needs to support that growth.

- Use a rain gauge. Most plants and lawns can thrive on an inch of water per week in the summer season.

- If there is a watering ban in your area, then you will have to allow your lawn to enter a dormant state. The lawn turns brown when it goes into dormancy, but the crowns or growing points of the lawn will remain alive for at least 4 to 6 weeks without water.

- DO NOT SPRAY WATER ALL OVER YOUR PLANTS IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY ( esp. Beech and Japanese Maple ) you seriously risk intensifying the sun and burning the leaves.
On other plants you may also increase the risk of fungal diseases and on all plants you will loose most of the water due to evaporation anyway.

- Water woody plants and perennials during evening. This will allow the plants to recover from the day's heat and absorb all the water they need.

- Watch for Spider Mites on conifers especially Dwarf Spruces as well as Lacebug on Azaleas. Browning on foliage looks like drought damage from a distance but on closer inspection tells the tale of the Rocky Mountain Locust Plague in miniature.
These infestations may happen during drought and further weaken or kill the plant.

Water fewer days, but deeper. This will encourage your plants to send their roots deeper, making them stronger and less susceptible to dry spells.

Harvest your rain! Consider putting in a rain water tank to collect the water running off your roof. The pure water (no additives) can be used directly on your garden and your plants will love you for it.


- To keep your lawn alive during this drought dormancy, apply only 0.2 inch (3 mm) of water each month. Apply this water in the early morning in order to allow plenty of time for the lawn to absorb it before the sun appears. This very small amount of water will help keep the lawn alive, but it will not stimulate the lawn to break dormancy. You want to avoid watering heavily and breaking the dormancy, and then letting the lawn dry out again, forcing it back into dormancy as this can stress and kill your lawn.

- Eliminate lawn grubs permanently with Milky Spore. Grubs chewing the roots of your lawn will certainly help kill it during drought. You will then see big dead patches in your lawn in the fall when your neighbors turns green.

- Water lawns too frequently and you will turn your lawn into the botanical equivalent of a crackhead. It accomplished nothing but weak surface rooting and more diseases.
Watering deeply once a week will encourage deeper rooting and deeper roots drink from a layer of soil which dries out far less frequently than the surface layer. Shallow rooted lawns and lawns getting reflected heat off concrete and asphalt are always the first to go brown during watering bans.
Soil preparation is important before sodding and seeding. Sod placed directly on top of hardpan clay will certainly end up dead.

- Fall fertilizers are important on lawns that have suffered drought dormancy. The fall fertilizers will help the lawn recovery by stimulating growth of new roots.

- If you have lawn area on a slope, it is important to use a low volume water sprinkler in order to allow the water time to be absorbed by the lawn.
Aeration also helps the lawn absorb water on slope areas.

- Fertilizer doesn't work without water; it has to travel down to the roots to be absorbed. It's much easier for roots to swallow fertilizer when it's watered down.
If you have a commercial lawn care company spray fertilizer on your lawn, water the grass thoroughly following application to send the fertilizer directly and quickly to the roots.

- If the temperature approaches 37° C (100° F), reduce the temperature of the turf surface by lightly sprinkling (syringe) the area. This sprinkling does not replace the need for longer, deeper watering, which will become even more critical to continue during these adverse weather conditions. During this extreme heat it is extremely important that the soil layer 4 to 6 inches deep is kept moist due to deep watering.

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