Gosh, it sure has been dry this year; I can’t remember when we last had a good rain. We must be in a drought!
Well, actually we are in the 15th year of drought that began in 2000 and this might become a Megadrought.
Just what is a “drought”? Drought typically is used to describe an abnormally dry condition where there is less rain and snow than normal. It can vary in degree and term. Extended droughts lasting for two decades or longer are termed Megadroughts.
The 15-years of drought we have experienced may be the start of the next Megadrought.
Only time will tell.
Given our long-term drought conditions, we and our plants actually have adapted to water conditions less than normal. Although the severity of drought has varied within these past years, this year appears to become one of the more severe drought years.
So here are some suggestions for what you can do to help your plants and to preserve the limited quantity of water available.
• Water early in the morning and deeply to reach the root zone; let soil at 4-6 inches deep become dry to the touch between waterings.
• Mulch (2-4 inches in depth) all your plantings; move the mulch aside when watering, then replace it.
• Add a shallow berm 2 inches deep around individual plants or along rows to help confine water to the root area.
Dealing with severe drought
Should severe drought conditions occur leading to a possible “Megadrought,” here are some landscaping practices to consider:
• Add a hardscape feature instead of a new planting bed.
• Do not introduce new plants into the landscape.
• Thin overcrowded beds.
• Mature ornamentals and fruit and nut trees can survive on one or two deep waterings during the spring and summer.
• Plant fewer vegetables (shorter season and drought resistant varieties) or skip the edible garden for a year.
• Adjust irrigation schedule monthly to adapt to seasonal changes.
• Leave clippings on the lawn; better yet, let your lawn go dormant; it will recover.
• Keep areas free of weeds as they compete for available moisture.
• Healthy plants are better able to withstand a drought, so monitor for insects and diseases and manage them before they take hold (consult with Master Gardeners at a Plant Clinic).
• Do not encourage plant growth; (i.e. do not fertilize or prune).
• Plant drought-tolerant new plants in the fall so they can establish a good root structure before the following spring.
• Use a water-efficient irrigation system.
• Consider using graywater (water from cooking and showers) in your landscape (See Washington Department of Health Fact Sheet “Water Conservation Using Graywater”)
• Concentrate your watering efforts on plants that mean the most to you, are hardest to replace and are the most valuable.
Be aware that plants in need of water show characteristic signs of stress such as wilting or drooping leaves, curled or yellow leaves that fold or drop, marginal scorching of leaves, foliage that loses its luster, tip dieback, needle drop, lawns that turn brown and reduced crop yield from fruits and nuts.
Plants that are least tolerant of long dry periods are the young, newly planted ones and actively growing fruits and vegetables.
But take heart, most plants will survive this year’s drought as they have for the past 14 years.
Bill Wrobel is a Washington State University-certified, Clallam County Master Gardener.
Editor’s note: It is the Sequim Gazette’s policy to not run submissions by candidates for public office. Wrobel was a candidate for SARC Metropolitan Park District Commissioner Position No. 2 but has withdrawn from the race via a candidate statement in the online voters guide (clallam.net/elections.) — MD