What plants need water?

Q: Everything is wilting because of the lack of rain. What should I do? What plants should I help?

Gerri from Canfield

A: With just under one inch of rainfall in September, things are really dry. Compound that with only two inches in August and it really makes a difference for everything from crops to trees and every other growing plant.

Personally, I’ve only mowed my lawn two times since Aug. 1. That’s definitely a drought. Technically, a drought can be issued after 15 days without rain.

For homeowners, deciding what needs water does seem like a tough decision. The first decision relates to just letting go of annual plants. The season is nearly over. They did their duty.

Let the ones that still look OK alone. Pull out the ones doing bad. Let containers go unless it’s something you plan to take inside for the winter.

The University of Maryland has a great priority list of what to water and what to let go. You can view the list at: http://go.osu.edu/whattowater.

The biggest concern in our area will be evergreen trees and shrubs.

But, it depends on a few different factors.

Very large, mature trees should have no problem with the dry spell. Some of them are experiencing natural needle drop of the oldest needles this time of year. There is no reason to worry about them.

Smaller evergreen trees and shrubs, however, could benefit from one inch of water per week. This is especially true for evergreens in dryer locations such as under overhangs, arborvitae planted in rows for privacy and especially our spring blooming rhododendrons and azaleas.

These plants need to be watered throughout the fall – even after frost – as the needles/leaves must retain moisture.

The most important thing about watering is to make a plan and water the roots, not everything else around the plant.

This can be done most efficiently with soaker hoses or drip lines. Use a tuna can under the hose to know how long it takes to apply one inch of water. If evergreens are farther out where hoses do not reach, use a bucket. Put one small nail-sized hole in the bucket. Fill the bucket with water and place it over the root zone for a slow dripping of water directly into the root zone of the tree or shrub.

Adding an extra layer of mulch to these plants will help keep moisture at the root zone.

Check the U.S. Drought Monitor at droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

Learn more about watering evergreens in the fall at: http://go.osu.edu/waterevergreens.

Eric Barrett is Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.

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