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June 21, 2023

Landscapes Are Suffering From Our Dry Weather

As I write this, we’ve surpassed two weeks without rain, and smoke coming down from Canadian wildfires is reducing visibility and causing the outdoors to smell as though everyone has a fire in their backyard firepits. The state has issued Air Quality advisories and recommended that people and pets stay inside. But what about our landscape plants?

Plants are suffering but most are very resilient. Take care of yourself first. When the air quality improves enough that you can safely go outside, that’s the time to begin irrigating. Hopefully, nature will have intervened with rain in the interim.

When it’s safe to begin watering, consider your budget as well as your plants’ needs. Prioritize. Mature trees and shrubs are your most valuable landscape plants. However, they have most likely found water. You can check them to see if there is any leaf wilt. If there is, they should be watered.

If you planted trees or shrubs last fall or this spring, they should be at the top of your priority list. Their roots haven’t grown deep enough to find water the way the more established trees and shrubs have. If their leaves are wilting, they need your help.

Young plants need at least an inch of water a week. Don’t sprinkle or spray them. Most of that water will evaporate before it reaches the plant. Soaker hoses work best and are relatively inexpensive. They’re made of porous rubber from recycled tires. Place the hose at the base of the plant and turn the water on a quarter turn. Any more pressure will rupture the hose. You can see the water oozing out and it’ll take about an hour to provide an inch of water.

Another alternative is to lay the nozzle-less end of a hose at the base of the plant and turn the water on to a trickle. Leave it on for an hour or until it begins to pool. If it pools, turn the water off until the soil absorbs the water and them start it again.

Perennials are the next most valuable plants. They, too, can be watered the same way as trees and shrubs. Annuals are, arguably, the least valuable and many have to be replaced during the growing season anyway.

Many people are very concerned about their brown lawns. However, nature gave turfgrass the ability to go dormant until the rain returns. Don’t mow it, apply fertilizer or weed control, and limit the amount of walking on it. It’ll green up the next time it rains. It’s more important that you concentrate your efforts on your valuable trees and shrubs, especially the young and newly planted.