I don’t know if we are officially in a drought, but around Chicagoland and the Midwest we are definitely in a dry spell. This combined with temperatures hovering around the high 80s is a recipe for lawn and garden stress. Here are a few things to stop doing and a few things that will help!
With the lawn you have two choices. Lawns left not watered (naturally with rain or by hand with a sprinkler) will go yellow and dormant. This is fine and will regenerate when rains come. If you don’t like this look, you will need to water regularly. Lawns need an inch a week. It’s best to water long and deep. Use a pulsator sprinkler, rather than an oscillating one, that shoots the water high in the air and goes back and forth. The pulsators throw out much more water, cover more area, and you’ll lose less to wind. Pay special attention to areas under trees, as the little rain we get doesn’t penetrate. Raise the height on your mower a bit. Longer grass has longer roots and will do better. Don’t fertilize till the weather cools.
Newly planted (this year) trees and shrubs will need watering separately from the lawn. Let the open hose trickle about a foot away from the trunk or base for at least an hour per week. Established perennials will get enough water from the lawn watering. Annual flowers in the ground will be fine with every other day water. Container plants and flowers will need daily watering as they dry out so quickly. You can fertilize container plants but do so lightly.
Keep weeding as weeds seem to thrive no matter how hot it gets. They compete with good plants for moisture. Wait for a while to prune trees and shrubs; this causes stress. Of course, keep flowers trimmed. Don’t plant or transplant now. You want optimum conditions for this and hot and dry won’t do it. Watch out for pests, like spider mites, that love to take over heat stressed plants. Blast them with the hose or use a diluted spray of dish soap and water.
Water early in the day or in the evening. Don’t water too late in the day, you want foliage to dry before night to prevent fungus. Some plants will go dormant no matter what you do. Don’t worry, they’ll come back when temps are more moderate and the rain comes. It seems we always have feast or famine. All spring and early summer it rained almost every day, now not so much. That’s Mother Nature for you!
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO