Plan Now to Protect Plants From Drought

Spring came early and everything is green and beautiful right now.  But look a little closer, and you may already be able to see the early signs of drought stress.  Stick your hand or a trowel a few inches into the dirt around your landscape plants.  If you come up with dust, those plants aren’t getting enough water.

Rainfall measured at Dulles Airport is about four inches below normal so far this year, and, according to the Storm Watch 7 Weather Blog the last “good soaking rain” fell on February 29.  This part of the country is currently classified as “abnormally dry,” but unless we get some rain we could slip into a drought.

If you have a sprinkler system, and it has not yet been turned on, now is the time to get that done.  You don’t necessarily need to start watering your lawn yet, but make sure that system works and is ready when you need it.

And keep in mind that the water needs of your trees and shrubs are different from your lawn.  Sprinkler heads can keep your lawn adequately watered, but a drip line is a better sprinkler system option for landscape trees and ornamentals.

Hand watering is even more effective.

Especially when dealing with landscape plants that have been in the ground for less than two years, it is a good idea to water if the soil around the plants is dry.  One good method is to place a hose at the base of the tree or shrub and run it at a trickle for 20-30 minutes.  That can take a lot of time and requires a lot of moving the hose around.  Don’t  forget about that thing  and leave it running all day!

Another good approach is take an hour and move from plant-to-plant, spending about three minutes at each one and then letting the water soak in while watering the next plant.  Repeat this process several times and check the soil when you’re done.  It shouldn’t be dusty, of course, but it shouldn’t be mud either.  General dampness should be your goal.

Plants should be getting about an inch of rain a week, so try and use that as a guideline for how much water they need.

Gator Bags can also be an effective way to make sure trees get enough water.  But be carefu to always keep them filled.  Gator bags that are left empty can do more harm than good.

For more information on protecting your lawn and landscape from drought this year, give us a call at (703)777-5596 or email

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