Wisconsin Drought Hits New Level
MILWAUKEE - The federal government today updated the drought in southeast Wisconsin to severe. All of our area except a portion of our northern counties are under the severe classification.
The classification means that crop or pasture losses are likely. Under the classification, water shortages are common and water restrictions are imposed. We're now one step away from an extreme drought. Portions of Illinois are now under an exception drought, the highest level of emergency. That means exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses are expected. There are also likely to be shortages of water in resevoirs.
With the heat and drought in Southeastern Wisconsin reaching historic levels, it's not just brown grass that should worry homeowners. Thirsty trees, delicate new plantings, and parched gardens should be of concern as well, according to Wisconsin gardening expert Melinda Myers.
"Prioritize watering," Myers says. "New plantings, moisture lovers, and stressed plants should be the first to receive a good long drink."
Myers also recommends helping out mature, established trees by spreading a layer of mulch, bark, or pine needles around the base to help control moisture and cool roots.
She also recommends just letting your dormant lawn stay dormant.
"Taking your lawn in and out of dormancy with inconsistent watering is harder on the lawns than dormancy," Myers says. "Providing ¼ inch of water once a month will help keep the crown of the grass alive without breaking dormancy."
She also recommends keeping foot and equipment traffic off your lawn as much as possible, as well as fast-acting fertilizers and pesticides that can harm the dormant lawn.
And if you garden in containers, check those plants daily. If they're in a high-sun area, move them to a slightly shadier spot to help protect them from over-drying and scorching in the sun.
"Use water wisely," Myers advises. "Water early in day when possible to reduce moisture loss to evaporation. Use soaker hoses and drip irrigation whenever possible. You’ll use less water by applying it right to the soil where it is needed. And always water thoroughly and less frequently to encourage plants to develop deeper more drought tolerant roots."
Myers has more information available on her website, as well as a seminar she's leading in Hales Corners at the Boerner Botanical Gardens on July 25.