Northeast Ohio is currently experiencing a moderate drought, which is a huge change from last summer; and these conditions are expected to persist through October.
There are a variety of ways to respond to the drought in order to keep lawns, gardens, and landscaping alive. Plants and shrubs have a variety of coping mechanisms in response to drought. Grass will turn brown and go dormant. Trees will drop leaves to conserve water. Water-loving vegetables wither, while drought-tolerant plants like peppers and tomatoes produce great-tasting vegetables/fruits even though the plants may not look good.
Here are suggestions to help keep your lawn, garden, and landscaping healthy:
Most lawns planted in northern Ohio can handle moderate drought. Brown lawns mean that they are dormant. Grey means that the grass has died. If you let your lawn go brown, minimize foot traffic on the dry areas because that can cause damage. To best protect that lawn, let the grass grow longer. Keeping it between three and four inches long is recommended. The longer blades will shade the soil and limit evaporative losses. If you do water, deeper, less frequent soakings are much better for your lawn. Lawns need about one inch of water a week, and dividing it into no more than two soakings is optimal. This helps the roots grow deeper to find more water and be more resistant to drought. Unless you are regularly irrigating during drought, do not fertilize your lawn. The University of Illinois Extension has a great website regarding lawn care: http://alwtr.us/GrassMgt.
The best time to water is between about 4AM and 9AM. The second best time is between about 4PM and 7PM. Midday watering wastes up to 30% to evaporation. Nighttime watering increases susceptibility to fungus and mold diseases on plants.
Hopefully, you conditioned your garden with organic humus or compost. That will hold moisture better than native soils. The best way to maintain your garden is through drip irrigation or soaker hoses that apply water directly to the soil above the root zone. Preferably, these hoses are placed under two to three inches of mulch that helps retain soil moisture.
Trees and shrubs need more water when freshly planted and less as they mature. Freshly planted trees should receive about five gallons applied to the root ball about every other day. Shrubs need about a gallon every few days. It is important not to overwater. Feeling the moisture level with your finger two to three inches below ground surface or using a moisture sensor will help assure you don’t drown or dry out your plants. More mature trees/shrubs need water applied near the drip line (about the outer edge of where the leaves are) weekly or less. See: http://alwtr.us/TreeWtr for more information.
Even though Avon Lake Municipal Utilities’ rates are the second lowest in the state according to the Ohio EPA’s most recent rate survey, there’s no sense in wasting your money watering inappropriately. Follow us on Twitter or Like our Facebook page to learn more.
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