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So many trees and shrubs are showing drought damage. How can I help my garden recover from the dry summer?


Stress symptoms include leaf scorch, drooping foliage, wilting and yellowing, premature senescence and leaf drop. Branch die-back, and premature fall color may have already appeared on your plants and/or may show up in future seasons. Any newly planted ornamentals, especially those planted in the last two years may exhibit signs of stress so they need to be carefully watered during hot, dry growing conditions. A light organic fertilization during the fall may help plants to recover more easily next spring. Wait until then to prune any dead or damaged branches since they will be more visible. Drought conditions also affect the bark causing radial cracks and cankers. Natural immunity of plants depends on strong cambium layer so weakened bark can be a potential means of entrance for fungi and disease microbes. Sometimes stressed plants in a weakened state are unable to fight off insect’s attacks as well.

Here are some water-wise, horticultural techniques to help your garden cope:
- If rain is lacking water all deciduous plants before dormancy sets in and all evergreens
- Water plants early in the day to minimize evaporation losses
- Analyze your site and soil for drainage, moisture retention and pH levels
- Group plantings according to water needs, i.e. high, moderate or low demand
- Reduce water-demanding turf areas and re-plant with low to moderate demand plants
- Re-introduce drought-resistant native species to encourage diversity
- Mulch plants to conserve soil moisture
- Avoid pruning when trees are under drought stress
- Remove dead and/or dying branches in spring
- Monitor ornamental plants for insect pests early in the spring

Here are some shrubs with low to moderate watering requirements:
- Buddleia alternifolia- Butterfly Bush
- Cytisus spp.- Broom
- Juniperus spp.- Juniper
- Rosa nitida- Shining Rose
- Potentilla fruticosa- Potentilla
- R. rugosa- Father Hugo’s Rose
- Spirea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’- Bumald Spirea
- V. lentago- Nannyberry
- Vitex agnus-castus- Chastetree

Certain native plants have the inherent capacity to withstand drought while others grow more slowly and show drought resistance.
- Clethra alnifolia- Summersweet
- Cornus serica- Redtwig Dogwood
- Ilex glabra- Inkberry
- Ilex verticillata- Winterberry
- Myrica pennsylvanica- Bayberry
- Viburnum prunifolium- Blackhaw Viburnum

A long-term study by Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Lab of tree ring patterns, suggests that recurrent, short-term horticultural droughts are the norm rather than the exception over the last three hundred years in the Hudson Valley. The use of these water-conserving techniques and the selection of drought-tolerant plants will help you to create and maintain colorful and beautiful plantings into the future.

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