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Uncoil water hose, it's wicked dry out there

Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 10:22 am


By Durant Ashmore
GUEST COLUMNIST



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It sort of gets on my nerves to see the weathercasters get giddy with excitement over the forecasts these days. They don't live in the same world that I do. They live in a high-rise condominium in the middle of the city. The absence of rain for "weekend activities" is not a good thing. Boasting that the weather will be "bright and sunny" rubs salt into slow-healing wounds.

We are now experiencing the driest weather that we have had in three years. We have been doing fairly well since the five-year drought ended, but now we are experiencing weather that is very reminiscent of that time. Personally, I feel that this dry spell will be relatively brief, but for now I want the readers to realize that it is severe.

One factor that has probably made the situation worse is the inordinate amount of wet weather we had earlier in the summer. Lately, I have seen numerous plants and lawns die due to lack of water. The amount of rain we had earlier in the summer has sort of lulled folks into a false sense of security. That early summer rain is long gone. If you don't have an irrigation system your "weekend activities" should revolve around the use of your garden hose.

This dry spell affects a number of our gardening activities. Normally, Sept. 15 is the optimal time for fescue lawn aeration, fertilizing and reseeding. If you have irrigation you can still proceed with this schedule, but if you don't have it you should wait. Wait until we have an inch or so of rainfall. The latest optimal time for fescue reseeding is the end of October. Hopefully, "bright and sunny" weather will have ended by then.

Wait a little while for fescue sod installation. The sod farms are under irrigation and their products are not subject to being stressed due to drought, but irrigation alone can use a little help from a good rain shower. Freshly laid sod will require more water now than usual. With increased sod watering comes the risk of increased fungus problems. Unless you are facing a time constraint, you should postpone sod installation for a little while. Even if it doesn't rain at all this fall, cooler temperatures will help with fescue establishment. This is not a good time for transplanting. The soil is so dry the dirt just falls off the roots of freshly dug plants. Winter is always a good time for transplanting trees and shrubs. The more dormant they are the better they are able to withstand root damage. Most perennials like to be transplanted in the early spring.

I assume we will have had rain by then. At the rate we are going now, it will be January before a good inch or so of rain will wipe the smile off of the faces of the aforementioned giddy weathercasters.

Now that I have expressed my exasperation with the local weathermen I feel better. I feel so much better that I would like to change the subject and point out some of the interesting features that some our native plants are now exhibiting. Fortunately, these plants don't seem to be overly affected by our "bright and sunny" weather. (OK, I couldn't resist one more jab.)

Euonymous Americana is now showing it's bright orange-red seed pods. This is a shrub that grows wild in our woods from 4- to 6-feet tall. This plant has several common names, such as strawberry bush and hearts-a-bustin', and to some, Clemson Tiger Paw plant. All of these names are descriptive of what this brightly colored seed pod looks like. Euonymous Americana is somewhat nondescript except in the fall. People who don't know what it does may remove it from their landscape. This is a mistake. This plant always adds interest and is a welcome addition to any natural setting.

Beautyberry is now showing its stuff. This plant has a multitude of whorled purple berries growing along its stem. Again, it is somewhat nondescript when not in berry. When it is in its glory it is a treasure. Beautyberry also grows 4- to 6-feet tall. Look for it in the woods as you (slowly) drive down the road.

Be sure to notice the bright red seed heads of sumac as you are driving through the country. These seed heads are a good food source for birds and other wildlife. They are attractive and portend the brilliant red colors that sumac will display this fall. Sometimes sumac can be a weed. Leave a stand or two of it if you can. You will be rewarded by the interest it provides.

Let's enjoy this fall season. Get out the water hose and turn off the TV.

Wednesday, September 20  


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