How to care for your lawn, trees, and plants during a drought

Landscape Care During a Drought

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Navigating Minnesota's Dry Spell

According to the Minnesota DNR, a significant portion of the drought in Minnesota is in the seven-county metro area. Recent rains have helped, but many areas are still parched.

4 Tips for Nurturing Your Lawn, Plants, and Trees

While you might be tempted to give your lawn, plants, and trees extra water and fertilizer during a drought, these practices can do more harm than good. When there is a drought, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be mindful of water restrictions in your city or suburb. Plus, it is actually better for the lawn to water in the early morning hours. This gives the lawn time to dry out a bit by evening, thereby preventing mold. Keeping the lawn longer (3-4") helps to retain moisture.
  • Don’t fertilize stressed plants or lawns during a drought! Excess growth during dry weather is stressful for plants; even new plants should not be fertilized! If maintaining ideal water levels isn’t feasible, a better option is to reduce a plant’s need for nutrients during the growing season.
  • Avoid wounding plants and unnecessary pruning. Only dead or hazardous plant material should be pruned in dry conditions, as cut surfaces act as entrances for diseases or attract insects that may feed on the plant tissue and foliage.
  • Certain plant-eating pests thrive during droughts. Pesticides can be used to help prevent foliage damage or infection but should only be applied to healthy plants. Weed pests can be manually removed or sprayed with herbicide on cooler days to decrease water competition.

Pay special attention to young trees and evergreens.

Bonus Tip: Nourish Your Trees

Trees can increase the value of your home and property significantly. Stress from drought weakens them and puts them at risk! Don't wait for leaves to wilt before you give your trees a drink, especially young ones.

Remember this easy formula: 10 gallons/inch/week. Trees require ten gallons of water, per inch in trunk diameter, per week. The easy way to water trees: five-gallon buckets. Keep watering after they drop their leaves in the fall until the ground freezes in the winter.

Drill five 1/8-inch holes in the bottom of five-gallon buckets. The buckets cost about $5 each at home improvement or hardware stores.

Place the buckets along the tree's dripline where the roots are.

Fill the buckets with water and let it slowly drain out. The buckets make it easy to measure the right amount of water for your tree. For example: a young tree, 2 inches in diameter will require 20 gallons (4 buckets) per week.

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