I have gotten a few questions in the past couple weeks and thought the answers may be helpful to others.
Question: How much rain will we need to get out of this drought?
Answer: A lot. If we get an inch of rain and then it does not rain any more that moisture will be gone within four days. High temperatures and low humidity have combined to suck the moisture out of the land. One source I have checked said that we need 6 inches of rain spread out over four weeks to do the job. Keep in mind that the soils are like hard-baked clay right now, so most of the water from a heavy downpour will just wash off without soaking in.
Keep abiding by the local burning bans until you hear they have been lifted. It is easier to burn those leaves as you rake them but not if it costs someone their house.
Question: I have some mums I bought last week. Is it possible to plant them so they will keep coming back?
Answer: The mums we buy each fall are not cold hardy and are intended to be discarded once they have finished flowering. However, it is possible to plant them and see them bloom again next fall. But they may not be as well shaped as they were when you bought them.
We buy a few every year and have been about 50/50 on regrowing them.
Here is how to do it if you want to try. Make sure you keep them watered regularly until they die back. You can plant them in the ground when you get them or you can wait until after the first good frost has burned them back. The top will be dead and should be cut away, but the roots are still alive although they are dormant. Plant them so the top of the root crown is slightly below the soil surface.
Covering with a few inches of mulch will help them to survive the winter. Remove most of the mulch in March.
Be choosy where you plant the mums. They need full sunlight, at least six hours a day, although more is better. And the like it hot: I’ve seen some nice looking mums planted in a bed covered with rock against the south facing side of a brick building. Remember they will come up slowly and will just be branches with green leaves for most of the summer, so think about how that will affect the appearance of your garden.
A little slow-release fertilizer around the end of March will help them grow. Some people keep them cut back to 6 inches until July, but some don’t. Both get good results. Keep them watered when the soil is dry; that is important. I have been watering mine about every other day since early August (drought started) and the yellow mums are in full bloom and the red ones are coming along nicely. I think my white mums are going to disappoint me. I consistently have the best results from yellow mums.
In the fall, when the frost bites them, cut the mums back to the ground and cover with mulch again.
Question: Is there any hope for the ash trees or will the emerald ash borer insect kill them all?
Answer: First of all, the ash tree does not completely die, it will resprout from the roots and grow like a bush. You can cut away all but one or two sprouts and maybe regrow a new tree. But the ash borer will likely find it again. I have learned recently that there seem to be a few trees that might have a genetic resistance to the borer damage.
Time will tell.
If you have an ash tree and there is no sign of borer damage as of yet then it can be protected. A soil drench with imidacloprid insecticide can help to protect the tree. This is a systemic insecticide that the tree absorbs through the roots. The insecticide will then move through the whole tree through its vascular system, similar to when the hospital gives you medicine through an IV.
If you can afford it, you might be able to find an arborist who is equipped to inject the insecticide directly into the tree’s sap. The last I heard this was about $400 to $600 a tree.
So to answer your question: Yes, there is hope.
Enjoy your garden.
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