High temperatures, combined with dry weather, pose a threat to Virginia’s home landscapes. Vegetable gardens, lawns, and even trees and shrubs are all susceptible to the effects of drought, including desiccation and increased vulnerability to pest and disease problems.
Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and Extension Master Gardeners are positioned across the commonwealth to offer guidance for gardeners dealing with dry conditions. For many home gardeners inspired to plant vegetables in response to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, dry weather presents a special challenge.
“Dealing with dry conditions can be especially hard for vegetable gardeners as many plants need consistent water to continue to produce and some need rain at critical times, such as corn during silking,” said Amy Byington, Lee County, Virginia, Cooperative Extension. “In Lee County, our gardeners are struggling to keep their plants healthy and watered. Any time plants become stressed, disease and other issues are more likely to present themselves.”
Trees and shrubs are also susceptible to drought, though how they respond depends on a few factors, including species, the time elapsed since transplanting, and soil type, according to Alex Niemiera, a professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences.
“Some plant species are very tolerant of drought, some very intolerant, some in-between,” Niemiera said. “Recently transplanted plants will be more vulnerable to drought stress compared to plants that have been planted for about a year or more. It is important to water recently planted plants regularly. Lastly, soil type will affect drought response. Plants growing in moisture-retentive soils will fare much better than those growing in less retentive soils.”
For help evaluating the type of soil you have and the susceptibility of your trees and shrubs to drought, contact your local Extension Master Gardeners via your Virginia Cooperative Extension office.
“The very hot and mostly dry summer in Virginia is presenting some real challenges to Virginia gardeners,” said Frank Reilly, Central Rappahannock Extension Master Gardener. “There are the usual problems with heat and dry, such as plants wilting, trees prematurely dropping leaves, and fewer flowers than we expect from our favorite flowering plants. Some folks are also reporting that their tomatoes and even some peppers have stopped setting fruit.”