October 2017

Recent rainfall relieves drought, but concern remains

The drought prompted digging out the sprinkler. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Of course, when I wrote and filed this column, it had not rained for weeks. See what good luck created?

Not that many weeks ago, I wrote at least three columns on how plants were drowning from the rain.

Now, the topic is this long, dry period at a critical time in the lives of trees, shrubs and perennials. Fall is when these plants bulk up for the long winter. In the case of conifers and evergreens, getting adequate moisture going into winter is critical to their survival.

I have watered my landscape, even the lawn, twice in the last couple of weeks. With the redesign of the front landscape this summer, there was a lot of foot and equipment traffic on the lawn and I wanted to have it aerated. September is the first of two, fall-fertilizer applications and needed to be done after the aeration. It’s best not to fertilizer a lawn that hasn’t been irrigated. The second time to fertilize the lawn is in November.

This practice usually eliminates the early spring application of lawn fertilizer. Heck, it’s spring and the grass is going to grow anyway as the temperatures rise and sun intensifies. Most of the time, that early application just increases mowing duties, anyway.

Plants need roughly 1 inch of water or rainfall every week to 10 days to do well. If you have an automated irrigation system, it should be set to apply that amount either all at once or divided in half for twice-a-week applications.

If you have a sprinkler, spread straight-sided cans on the ground and water until an inch of water accumulates, or one-half inch if watering twice a week.

A watering wand with a showerhead nozzle, such as Dramm, is an efficient way to water plants. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If you hand water, time how long it takes to fill a 5-gallon bucket. That’s roughly an inch of water when applied around plants. However long it takes to fill that bucket is how long you should water the plants. I actually like hand watering. I find it peaceful and relaxing. Time to think.

Hand watering also all water to be applied at the base of the plant rather than overhead. I prefer Dramm’s One-Touch Shower nozzles on a wand or at the end of a hose. These provide a gentle, concentrated flow of water, reducing the chance you’ll wash away soil or mulch.

We had good rain this past week in Indianapolis. It was a slow and easy rain that soaked into the soil rather than running off. We’re grateful.