Drought on Cape Cod
Drought on Cape Cod
And we plant people thought last summer was dry! The summer of 2016 has been even drier…harder too on the plants since it’s been hot, sunny and windy. That combination causes plants to dry even faster, and because it’s been so long since we’ve had any lasting, significant rainfall the small amounts of precipitation that have periodically moved through don’t soak in.
Even plants that are under irrigation or have been well watered through the summer are under drought stress. As I walk though my yard, and travel to other properties on the Cape, here is what I see.
In a normal year I water with an overhead sprinkler once a week, letting the sprinkler run for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. My sprinkler and water pressure delivers between 3/4 to an inch of water in that time. But this summer I see that what was sufficient in a year when we’ve also had periodic rainfall doesn’t begin to hydrate my plants now. After 3 hours of watering if I go out and dig into the soil in that area I find that two or three inches down it’s as dry as moon dust.
Here’s what you might be seeing on your property:
1. Newly planted shrubs and trees wilting or dying completely, even if they are under regular irrigation.
2. Established plants dropping foliage prematurely…leaves turning yellow or red in August.
3. Hydrangeas that wilt every day even through they’ve been watered.
4. Perennials turning brown.
5. Lawns browning in the sunniest areas, even if the turf has been watered.
If you can water these plants deeply, and there are no watering restrictions in your town, do so once a week. Don’t depend on hand-watering alone since that only dampens the soil directly around the plant and the reality is that people get bored long before the plants get a good soaking. Again, check your local regulations about watering…as of this writing there are watering restrictions in Hyannis and local regulations are likely to change quickly on a town-by-town basis.
Some plants will come back from drought conditions, and others may not. If it’s a cold winter, plants that suffered in this dry summer will be more prone to winter damage.
Some of our customers wonder if fertilizing will help a drought-injured plant and the answer is “it depends.” Applying a light application of an organic fertilizer in September or October will assist the plant to regrow next spring if it’s still alive. Additionally, top-dressing with compost or composted manure now or in the fall may also help. But giving the plant synthetic fertilizers when they are already dry is likely to further burn the roots.
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