August 14, 2007

Dogwoods Suffering in High Heat, Drought

By Leigh Landini Wright, The Paducah Sun, Ky.

Aug. 14--Dogwood trees need a little bit of stress every August to set blooms for the following year.

But weeks of 90 to 100-degree temperatures coupled with little measurable rainfall is a bit much, said Kathy Keeney, horticulturist for the City of Paducah. Keeney has driven through the Dogwood Trail and noticed several trees under significant stress. Leaves are beginning to look dull and yellow, and the tips are dying back, said Dava Hayden, University of Kentucky Extension agent in horticulture in McCracken County.

"Nearly all of the dogwoods are affected severely by drought," Hayden said. "Next year we may see more tip die-back."

Buds are forming now on dogwoods but need water to help them fill out, Keeney said.

The Rev. Hank and Grace Russell have several drought-stricken dogwood trees in their yard in the West End along the Dogwood Trail.

"I am kind of concerned," Hank Russell said. "I think I'll have to turn on the hose and soak all night, but that would cost a lot of money. I've noticed that some of my neighbors are doing selective watering. I would hate to lose the dogwoods. They're a part of our place."

Keeney and Hayden both recommend watering trees and shrubs with an inch of water a week, whether it comes from a sprinkler or a soaker hose. Both recommend using a gauge to measure so that the trees aren't overwatered, which can be just as damaging as drought.

"Next year will be the major upset," Hayden said. "My grandmother lives on the Dogwood Trail, and about half of her dogwood is dead. She was hoping that it would come back next year, but I had to tell her that it wouldn't. Watering properly is the key."

Younger trees are more susceptible to dry conditions, but Hayden said all trees are at risk if the drought continues much longer.

"We really need people to water all their ornamentals," Keeney said. "They need an inch of water a week, and that can be split into two watering sessions."

Keeney has received help from the Paducah Fire Department with watering trees and shrubs in Noble Park, along city-maintained boulevards, along downtown streets and in parks. When the fire department has to flush the water from its trucks, it is discharging the excess onto the plantings along city boulevards instead of the storm sewers.

Tree care

When to WATER: Early in the morning before the heat of the day. The University of Kentucky Extension Service says plants watered late in the day may have wet leaves into the evening hours and may develop disease.

How often TO WATER: Frequent shallow watering, such as from a sprinkler, promotes shallow roots. Plants watered in this matter are even more susceptible to drought damage. Less frequent but thorough watering is recommended.

Mulch: Mulched beds lose less water to evaporation. However, only use mulch at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Too much mulch can promote disease and root problems.

Source: University of Kentucky Extension


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