Homeowners still need to help their trees and lawns make up for a record soil moisture deficit to mitigate damage done by a dry fall and winter.
Wet weather is provides much-needed moisture to parched soils, but it isn’t enough to pull the state out of its moderate to severe drought classification, according to University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley.
Water landscape trees as soon as ground is thawed
Drought conditions can lead to tree decline, pest problems and permanent damage for young and old trees alike.
“Dry soils get colder in the winter and freeze deeper, which can kill roots,” said Gary Johnson, Extension specialist in urban and community forestry. And dead roots make it hard for trees to take in water.
Even if damage was caused by the dry fall and winter, people may minimize its effects by keeping the soil moist but not saturated.
To check if the ground is thawed and assess moisture, push a kabob skewer or other metal rod into the ground. If the skewer can be pushed into the ground 8-10 inches, people may water. If the 8-10 inches is moist, there’s no need to water yet. If the 8-10 inches is dry, watering is critical.
Water turf grass thoroughly, but not too frequently
Turf grasses are about 90 percent water by weight, so low soil moisture is a concern. But Extension turf grass specialist Brian Horgan cautions homeowners not to jump the gun on a lot of lawn maintenance: “Homeowners typically rake lawns after snow melt to prevent snow mold. This year, we have no snow mold issues. Until the grass greens and starts growing, doing extensive lawn care will do more damage than good.”
Horgan says people may be able to care for their lawn as usual this spring, if the area gets enough rain to bring the situation back to normal.
“However, if spring rains are not enough, you may need to bring out your lawn sprinkler much earlier than in the past,” he said. Horgan recommends deep but infrequent watering to help turf grass plants develop strong root systems.