First we had an unusually wet spring, and now we’re in a drought situation here in Chicago and many other locations. What does that mean going into the winter? Nothing good, that’s for sure. So what to do? Keep watering each week as long as possible until your plants go dormant.
Ideally, all trees, shrubs and perennials should be getting about an inch a week in order to go into the winter healthy and strong. Any new transplants, like this Star Magnolia and Bottle-brush Buckeye, should be especially cared for during a time of drought.
Evergreens, like boxwoods, yews and arborvitae, despite their lack of noticeable stress under drought can be especially susceptible to winter kill. I have a row of yews along the north side of the house that don’t always get rain to fall on them.
I tend to periodically “dump” water down the center of each plant from a watering can to ensure their root balls get enough water. Seems faster and more consistent than standing with a hose.
Plants susceptible to disease are also another group of plants to be sure to tend to. Our Purple Ash, while seemingly healthy because we’ve been treating it for Emerald Ash Borer, is a good example of a tree to keep a careful watch on.
Others in my yard that are less than healthy and need more watching during drought periods are Red twig dogwoods that have twig blight, and a River Birch that is prone to chlorosis.
How best to water? Check the soil for moisture by seeing if a trowel or finger can get into the soil. Very dry soil will compact and resist penetration. This compacted soil reduces the ability of the water gathering tree roots near the surface to absorb moisture. Light, frequent watering should be avoided, instead water the trees and shrubs within the drip line (distance of the trunk to the ends of the branches) about once a week with 1-2 inches of water. It’s good to have a rain gauge or check out Weather Underground to find a weather station nearby to know really how much precipition actually falls in your yard. Helps decide if you need to water our not. Many times I find rain is in the area, but maybe not at my house, or it’s less than I think it is.
I sometimes will set out a container to see just how much water I’ve sprinkled. I also set a timer so I don’t forget and flood the area! Today all I could find was a dog dish 🙂
What’s my favorite sprinkler? This Dramm ColorStorm Turret Sprinkler. I often sprinkle only in one direction, like against the house or fence, and these are easy to adjust to water only what I need and built to last. If I’m doing a bigger patch, I’ll get out my Dramm ColorStorm Oscillating Sprinkler.
So, time to go out and water!
(Are you in a drought? check this map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to see where your area stands)