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Watering Tips for Drought Conditions - University of Maryland
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Watering Tips for Drought Conditions - University of Maryland

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Watering Tips for Drought Conditions - University of Maryland

Watering Tips for Drought Conditions - University of Maryland

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  • 1. Home & Garden Mimeo # HG85 Rev. 2/02 Watering Tips for Drought Conditions Maryland frequently experiences hot, dry conditions during • Increased susceptibility to certain plant diseases the summer months. Exceptionally dry conditions in fall, • Root death winter or spring can also have a negative impact on your • Diminished winter hardiness landscape. When drought conditions are prolonged, landscape • Terminal dieback; dead twigs and branches plants, trees and lawns may suffer temporary or permanent • Eventual plant death damage. This fact sheet will help you make the right decisions for watering and managing your landscape when Prioritize Your Plants Mother Nature turns the spigot off. First, determine which plants are most susceptible to water stress. High on your watering list should be plants that Plants are like water pumps, drawing in moisture from the are valuable in terms of replacement cost, prominence in the soil that is used for plant growth and then releasing water landscape and enjoyment. Of course, during a severe drought, from stems and leaves through a process called transpiration. all landscape watering may be prohibited. Below is a rating Plants begin to wilt and suffer drought stress when the system for prioritizing the water needs of typical landscape transpiration rate exceeds water uptake. Drought periods that plants: occur during the long-day months of June and July are more damaging than those in August and September because of High Priority- trees and shrubs (especially those that are increased day length. Dry breezes also contribute significantly young and planted in an exposed site). Large, mature shade to drought stress. trees and shrubs can be left alone unless the drought is severe and the trees begin to wilt, or the root systems have been Signs of Drought Stress recently disturbed. In addition to wilting, plants will exhibit some or all of the following symptoms during a prolonged drought: Medium to high priority- perennials, fruit and nut trees, • Upward curling or rolling of leaves small fruits and vegetables; turf that is less than one-year • Yellowing and browning of leaves, particularly along leaf old. margins and tips • Under-sized and off-flavored fruits, vegetables and nuts Low priority- annual flower and herb plants, ornamental • Under-sized leaves; limited shoot growth grasses, established turf. These are relatively inexpensive • Blossom and fruit drop and easily replaced. It may be difficult to keep large beds of • Interior needle and leaf drop on conifers and evergreens annuals adequately watered during a drought. (See Ag Mimeo • Iron chlorosis symptoms on foliage (leaf yellowing 88: Irrigation and Water Conservation on Home Lawns.) between veins) Lawns Secondary problems associated with drought: Lawns composed mostly of turf-type tall fescue will withstand • Spider mite infestations drought conditions unless they are newly seeded or sodded. • Blossom-end rot of tomatoes, peppers, squash and Established fescue and bluegrass lawns should not be melons irrigated. Light, frequent watering can be harmful because it • Increased wildlife feeding on fruits and vegetables encourages shallow rooting. Fescue lawns turn brown and • Increased damage by insects (e.g. grasshoppers) driven become dormant during a drought, but green-up and grow into home landscapes by a lack of food and water with a return to cooler, wetter weather. Like fescue, bluegrass is a cool-season grass that will become dormant during Long-term consequences of drought: droughty weather. Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass are warm- • Increased susceptibility to attack by insect borers season grasses that cope well with hot, dry weather and Educating People To Help Themselves Educating People To Help Themselves Local Governments - U.S. Department ofof Agriculture Cooperating Local Governments - U.S. Department Agriculture CooperatingThe University ofof Maryland is equal opportunity. The University’s policies, programs, and activities are in conformance with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding The University Maryland is equal opportunity. The University’s policies, programs, and activities are in conformance with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regardingrace, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, and disability. Inquiries regarding compliance with Title VI ofof the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended: Title IX of the Educational Amendments; Section 504 race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, and disability. Inquiries regarding compliance with Title VI the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended: Title IX of the Educational Amendments; Section 504ofof the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990; or related legal requirements should be directed to the Director of Personnel/Human Relations, Office of the Dean, College the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990; or related legal requirements should be directed to the Director of Personnel/Human Relations, Office of the Dean, Collegeofof Agriculture and Natural Resources, Symons Hall, College Park, MD 20742. Agriculture and Natural Resources, Symons Hall, College Park, MD 20742. 1
  • 2. require no irrigation. Increasing the mowing height to 2.5 to Water when plants first begin to wilt. The needles of3” for cool-season turf grasses will also help them withstand evergreen shrubs and trees will become dull-colored whendrought conditions. water-stressed. Leaf browning (scorch) is a sign that drought damage has already occurred.Cultural Tips Water in early morning, if possible. Evening watering is fineL Mulch aroundmoderate soil temperatures. Organic soil moisture and plants to keep weeds down, conserve although it may contribute to disease problems. mulches, such as bark, shredded leaves, grass clippings and straw are preferred because they improve soil How much: structure and return nutrients to the soil upon A good rule of thumb is to apply 1 gallon of water per square decomposition. Apply mulches no deeper than 2-3 foot of root zone once a week. This will vary depending on inches. soil type, the type of plant, and its growth stage. For example, large vegetable plants, like tomato, squash and cucumber, that•L Avoid using fertilizers or pesticides. Fertilizers can are fruit-laden require large amounts of water and may need damage root systems under droughty conditions and to be irrigated 2-3 times each week during a drought. If you pesticides may burn plant foliage. water with a garden hose without a nozzle, simply make note of how much time it takes to fill a 5-gallon bucket. You can•L Resist the temptation Wood that is obviouslyfrom your be to prune “dead wood” then calculate how much time it will take to deliver one woody ornamentals. dead may gallon per square foot of area. removed at any time. However, drought-stressed plants become dormant and may appear dead. Dead wood is Sandy soils need to be re-watered sooner than soils high in brittle and brown under the bark and dormant wood is clay. Water will penetrate grass and mulch-covered soils more green under the bark. quickly than bare soil. Bare soils high in clay often form a crust that limits water infiltration.•L Keep footturf. Turfgrass crowns become brittle during a dormant and equipment traffic to a minimum on Pull back your mulch to be sure the water is getting past it to drought and are more easily damaged by compaction. the root-zone. Check the soil wetting depth with a screwdriver or stake. To adequately wet the root system you need to• thoroughly moisten the top 4-6 inches of soil.L Keep turf at least 2 feet fromitthe trunks of young trees for newly planted trees because competes with the or water. Apply a mulch in this area. Application Methods: It is very important to apply enough water to thoroughly wet• the root zone. The larger the plant the larger the root zone.L Controlcan out-compete cultivated gardenand flowers. Weeds weeds around shrubs, vegetables plants for water The root zones of trees and shrubs extend out from the trunk and nutrients. in an area at least equal to the height of the plant.• Water plants slowly and deeply at least once each weekL Spray plant populations. water during theon vegetable spider mite foliage with Spraying water day to reduce during very hot and dry weather. Apply water around the base plants will help prevent blossom and fruit drop. (Watering of herbaceous plants (vegetables, flowers and herbs) so that it plants on a hot day will not burn the foliage). percolates down through the soil to the root zone.• Invest in soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems forL Replace declining or dead plants with those that areSheet hardy and more drought tolerant. (See HGIC Fact vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens. These operate at low #25- Xeriscaping and Conserving Water in the pressure and deliver water slowly and efficiently to the root Landscape) zone.•L Leave shallow pansKeepfresh water filled with fresh,and beneficial insects. of birdbaths out for wildlife clean Water sprinklers should be moved back and forth to prevent soil erosion and run-off onto driveways and sidewalks. water. Gray water (from washing dishes and clothes) can be usedWhen possible, add organic matter to the soil on your around outdoor plants. Avoid using water that has beenproperty. This will improve the water-holding capacity through a water-softening device.during dry weather and promote good drainage duringwet weather. Authors: Jon H. Traunfeld, David L. Clement, Ph.D. and Raymond V. Bosmans, Regional Specialists, Home and Garden Information Center,Watering Tips August 1997. Reviewed by: John Lea-Cox, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Department ofWhen: Natural Resource Sciences & Landscape Architecture and Leslie May,When the soil is dry. Soil that cannot be formed into a ball is Horticultural Consultant, Home and Garden Information Center.too dry to supply water to plant roots. HAVE A GARDENING QUESTION??? Call the Home & Garden Info. Center at 2 1-800-342-2507

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