Tag Archives: rain gauge

First Too Much Water, Now Not Nearly Enough

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)



It’s Been A Rainy Month

Our weird weather continues.  Seems like it’s either too hot, too cold, too rainy or too dry and we keep getting into the top 10 for something.  In that vein, this June we are having the 5th wettest June ever and we still have a few days to go. At my house we’ve had 6 inches of rain so far, with some in the rain gauge to be read tomorrow morning.


(Have I said how much I love my Rain Log app for my iPhone and my rain gauge?)

So how is the yard faring?  The swale between the yards is working as it should to let water run down the block. This is also the “no-man’s land” of the yard. It serves it’s purpose of shedding water and is well hidden by a row of blue spruce (raised up to keep their water-unfriendly roots dry). I’m amazed my fence is still standing after all these years of rain.


It’s also days like this that I’m glad I have my tall slogger rain boots to check everything out in.

rain boots

We have channels of water that run around the beds.  They seem to drain as they should and keep the water from puddling on the plants and trees.



We’ve had a new problem the last few years with the neighbor’s water washing right over our side beds instead of towards the back.  This was causing some terrible erosion, so we added some timbers last summer to redirect the water to the back swale where it should be.   Seems to be working perfectly!


We also had trouble with our shed which is situated in the low spot of the yard. We had it raised up and now it’s as dry as can be and the door will stop rotting away.  I’ll write about that soon.  It was quite a job, but a necessary one.  Looks like we need to do some repair work to pretty it up a bit.


Then there was the pile of clematis flower that got knocked off.  The early blooming clematis “Sugar Candy” was in full bloom, but this is what it looked like after a particularly bad rain storm.


I was just in Yosemite National Park in California and the difference between our lush, if not water saturated, greenery and their parched, drought stricken landscape was dramatic.  I would gladly share!

Blustery Day

Winnie the Pooh

I felt a little like Winnie the Pooh yesterday.

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How Much Rain Did We Get?

I am forever trying to figure out how much rain we got during a storm. I don’t know why, it’s just one of those things I want to know. And not in general, like somewhere in the greater Chicago area, or at one of the airports, but in my backyard. have discovered Weatherbug and Weather Underground, but it’s still not “my backyard”. So, I put a ridiculously over engineered Stratus rain gauge on my wish list and one day it showed up as a birthday gift (thanks Steve!).

Stratus rain gauge

It sat in the box for a while, until I figured out where and how I was going to put it up. There’s lots of instructions as to how far away from houses, structures and trees it should be, and in a suburban backyard, that can be tricky. So I picked the best spot I could that was not too obtrusive, easy to get to, and sort of fulfilled all the location requirements. Then, I was supposed to attached it to a 4×4 post solidly planted in the ground, but until I was sure it was a good spot, I needed a different way to put it up. I decided trying one of those metal 36″ green fence posts and attached it using zip-ties. Not official, but so far it’s working beautifully.

stratus rain gauge

stratus rain gauge

The first weekend I put it in, it was really put to the test. It turned out to be the  really bad weather weekend that led to tornadoes south of here (see previous post, “Ominous Weather“). We got 1.07 inches of rain that day.

When my mom saw a picture of my new rain gauge, she reminded me that my dad had the same one, and had been a weather watcher for CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. This is a volunteer group that is a “unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow)”. There’s all kinds of great information on their website; well worth checking out. I don’t think I’m quite ready to sign up yet, but we’ll see in the spring. But, now I know where I got the “need to know” from.

Once I got everything set up, I needed somewhere to log it. Of course, there is an app for that, Rain Log. I decided to record my 24 hr rainfall at 7:30 am, like CoCoRaHS suggests. So, every morning, Daisy and I traipse into the backyard  to see how much rain is in the rain gauge. Here’s what my reports look like so far.

rain log

rain log

I need to figure out what to do for the winter. There are ways to measure snow, but you need to be careful not to crack the inner measuring tube in freezing temperatures. I may need to just take it inside. Do you measure rainfall in your yard?