Issue 3, June 7, 2023

It’s Dry Out There!

It’s Dry Out There!

You probably didn’t need this newsletter article to alert you to the fact that things are getting a bit dry outside. Much of Illinois has been in a dry pattern since mid-April. Trent Ford, Illinois State Climatologist, recently wrote a detailed blog post on the Increased Risk of Drought Conditions in Illinois. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, published June 1, 2023, listed 30.62% of Illinois under moderate drought, and 44.8% as abnormally dry. With above-average temperatures in the forecast and no rain in sight, I expect many garden hoses and watering cans will be working overtime.

Dry weather offers one minor, but temporary benefit to our landscape plants: low disease pressure. I haven’t been able to find many diseased landscape plants in east-central Illinois. Apple scab, rust, and many other fungal diseases are uncommon this year. While dry weather may limit many fungal diseases, prolonged drought stress predisposes landscape plants to canker diseases and boring insects. Drought-stressed spruce trees are more susceptible to Cytospora canker. Botryosphaeria canker is also common on drought-stressed trees.

What can you do to help landscape plants if these dry conditions persist or worsen?

  1. Mulch: A 2-4" deep layer of mulching will help to moderate soil temperatures and conserve soil moisture. Be sure to maintain a small mulch-free space near the bases of plants. The mulch should form a donut around the tree, rather than a volcano.
  2. Control Weeds: Pull any weeds that may compete with desirable plants for moisture, nutrients, and growing space. Mulch will also help control weeds that may compete with desirable plants for soil moisture.
  3. Avoid fertilizing dormant or drought-stressed plants.
  4. Irrigate: Newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials are extremely susceptible to injury from drought. Most trees and shrubs will benefit from one inch of water per week applied in one slow, thorough soaking. It is important to water slowly because this allows the water to soak deeper into the soil.
  5. Let turfgrass go dormant: Turfgrasses have an excellent dormancy mechanism that allows them to tolerate most droughts. However, even dormant turfs require some water. If the drought extends beyond six weeks, it is wise to lightly irrigate your turf with approximately ¼" of water every two weeks.

Travis Cleveland

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