Tag Archives: Drought

Water, water, water!

Contributed by Christie Dustman

Summer’s wonderful sunny weather is here in full force and we humans love it!   But our plants experience summer differently.  The Boston area is entering a drought ……… and this follows a winter and spring of low moisture.

While it occurs to many of us to water the Evergreens + perennialsperennials we have, few of us think about our shrubs and trees. Perennials and perhaps the temperamental Blue Mophead Hydrangeas wilt more easily, triggering our compassion.  More established shrubs and trees, on the other hand, are stalwart in the face of lack of water though at a more severe point may lose inner leaves or show fall colors out of season.  Much like we think to pack water for our kids, we may forget our adult water bottles at home.

True confession:  Every day when I get home, I pull out my hose and get to work on systematically watering my shrubs and trees. Dinner and the dog can wait.  I start in the back left corner and work around my garden 360 degrees.

I recommend deep watering for large shrubs (3’ tall+), evergreens (hedges too!), and trees Deepwater-tree-hose(smaller and large canopy trees) to get moisture down into the top 18” of soil where the majority of water-absorbing roots are found.  The ideal method is the slow-soak method – put your hose at the base of the plant and turn on a low trickle from your hose for ½ -1 hour per plant.  For a large shade tree, water on both sides of the trunk, so 2 hours total. The goal is for the water to seep into the ground and not run off.  Keep track with a kitchen timer so you don’t forget and leave the hose running.

I will be deep watering my larger plants once per week until the natural rainfall comes back – most likely into the fall – and encourage you to do the same. Check out the links below from our friends at the UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery & Urban Forestry and feel free to email me if you have specific questions!

Dry, Dry, Dry… Resources for Landscapers

Long-term Drought Effects on Trees and Shrubs

U.S. Drought Monitor: MA

A Downside to Sunny Skies?

Dogwood Drought_Stress1921We love this lovely sunny weather –blue skies and crisp air. However, for each day it is sunny, your plants go another day without water. The Boston area hasn’t had more than an inch or two of appreciable rainfall in the past two and a half months, when we usually get 6 – 8 inches. We’re in a dry spell which can spell disaster for your plants going into the winter. Even those of you with irrigation systems will have plants that are in distress since irrigation systems rarely offer enough water volume to the larger plants in your landscape.

ROOT DEVELOPMENT: Fall is the time when perennials, shrubs and trees hunker down and stop growing above the ground: leaves fall off, stems dry, needles shed. All seems quiet and dormant. But if we could look under the ground, we would see an active bevy of root development happening. Soil temperatures are still warm, and plants produce more new roots in the fall than in the spring until the ground truly freezes. This is why planting in the fall is so successful: we take advantage of a plant’s natural inclination to develop new roots. A strong root system helps plants be ready to start growing right away in the spring.

HYDRATION: Even though plants stop producing growth above ground, their leaves continue to transpire water. Picture your rhododendrons and boxwoods that keep their evergreen leaves into the winter. They are still losing water molecules from their leaves each day without being able to bring in new water from the soil. This leads to leaf desiccation over the fall and winter. The leaves turn yellow and dry up. In addition, water stress can prematurely cause fall coloration.

GARDEN INSPECTION: Our advice is to go out and look at your plants – do you see any drooping leaves, yellowing, brown curled edges, or wilting? These are signs that your plant is stressed with the lack of water. I encourage you to also look at your larger shrubs and trees.

DEEP WATERING: We recommend deep watering to get moisture down into the top 18” of soil where the majority of water-absorbing roots are found. The ideal method is the slow-soak method – put your hose at the base of the plant and turn on a low trickle from your hose for 1 hour per plant. Keep track with a kitchen timer so you don’t forget and leave the hose running. If you are fortunate enough to have a sprinkler system, use it! An adequate amount of water would be 1-2” of water every 4-7 days, if we continue to have little or no rainfall.

Prioritize your newer plants since they are still establishing deep root systems and depend on surface water for survival. But with this drought, also deep water any tree with a trunk 2-5” wide and larger, older shrubs.

Deepwater tree - hoseYour plants are counting on you! Give them that long, satisfying drink of water frequently and they’ll more than repay you with beauty and vigor in the Spring.