Purdue Consumer Horticulture Logo

Purdue University
Consumer Horticulture

Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Dry Spell or Drought?

Released June 1994
by B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist

Only Mother Nature knows whether the recent dry weather is temporary or a long-lasting trend for the summer. In either case, it's too early to hit the panic button as far as garden and landscape plants are concerned.

Most gardeners are used to having to irrigate their flower and vegetable beds, though maybe not to the extent it has been needed so early in the season this year. Most flowers and vegetable crops will perform their best when they receive 1 - 1 1/2 inches of water per week, in a gentle, but thorough soaking. Young transplants and seedlings will likely need to be watered more frequently, perhaps even daily, in hot, dry, windy conditions. But do try to "wean" the plants gradually, and get them used to drier conditions.

Many experienced gardeners will "harden-off" their transplants before they plant them out in the garden. Newly purchased plants have generally been pampered with relatively constant growing conditions in a greenhouse with plentiful moisture and little air movement. Gradually expose young transplants to the hot, dry, windy outdoors a few hours at a time for several days before planting them in their more permanent location.

Mulching the garden will help to conserve soil moisture as well as cool the soil and keep weed growth to a minimum. Apply 2-4 inches of material such as straw, wood chips, or shredded bark. When using grass clippings or shredded dry tree leaves as mulch, apply a maximum of 2 inches to avoid smothering the plants you are trying to protect.

Young transplants and seedlings may also benefit from temporary shade in the heat of a sunny and windy afternoon. Use newspaper tents, burlap screens, or similar shading materials to give the plants relief during the hottest part of the day.

Hopefully, but the time you read this article, nature's rains will have returned to give gardeners a break. But if not, keep those hoses handy.

Site last updated: 10 April 2006

Questions about this site should be sent to homehort@purdue.edu.

The URL for this page is http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/dryordrought.html