Days without rain make watering flowers and trees a necessity, but homeowners and gardeners should keep the watering to early-morning hours whenever possible.
The warmer than normal spring has left our area with only a minor amount precipitation and watering is the key thing that people need to pay attention to, especially if landscaping includes newer plantings, according to a local horticulturalist.
The wacky spring weather has also created perfect conditions for pests and fungus to affect plants and flowers, said Heather Prince, horticulturalist at Naperville-based .
Fungus on plants and flowers will appear whitish and powdery on foliage, she said. The rust appears as it sounds — orange. There are several fungicides to treat plants, but gardeners should read directions carefully. Spraying in heat or applying products to plants without using them properly can burn or kill plantings.
Watering is the most important thing gardeners can do, because no significant rain has fallen or is forecasted, Prince said.
While watering plants and gardens is important, Prince said, “let your lawn go dormant.”
Not watering lawns when its dry will lower water bills and save on resources, she said.
Another way to save resources is to plant native species that are adapted to our area, Prince said.
“We have such a huge range, you can have flowers from March into November,” she said. “They [native plants] are important for our native bees and birds and butterflies and they have adapted and like it here.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released information stating that the most of the United States from the Rocky Mountains east experienced warmer than normal conditions for the first five months of 2012.
The early warmth led to an early agricultural and horticultural season, and also led to early re-emergence of bugs and pests, said Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch, National Climatic Data Center in a news release.
While some pests were out early, other more beneficial insects such as butterflies were also out in our area much earlier than normal this year, Prince said. Butterflies, like bees, benefit plants through pollination.
Prince offers some tips to homeowners as they care for their gardens and plants:
- Water plants early in the morning. Watering early allows the foliage to dry throughout the day. Watering at night isn’t optimal because the water remains on plants and allows fungus to grow.
- Plant the right plants and flowers in the right location. For example, don’t put a shade plant in full sun. Plant them where they will be happy. You’ll save on your water bill.
- Consider planting native species that are better adapted to our climate.
- Make sure to water new plants and plantings (planted this year or last) regularly because the roots haven’t grown out and they don’t have a strong support system.
- Mature trees don’t need fertilizer unless they look like there might be something wrong.
- Don’t trim elm and oak trees until October. If you didn’t already trim trees, wait. Trimming them now will create open wounds that beetles will feed on.
- Always seek out a certified arborist with any tree questions.
- Read packages before applying fungicides. Try to limit the use of pesticides on plants.
- It’s never too late to plant. If you haven’t planted flowers yet, there is still time.
- Get outside and enjoy it. Have fun.