What about this WEATHER?!

We’ve been reading about it, seeing signs along highways, watching our landscapes droop or worse. Some lawns have gone prematurely brown, primarily those that aren’t getting supplement water, but the good news is that most of them will green up next spring. Those possibly in jeopardy are recently established (less than 2 growing seasons) lawns, particularly those that depend solely on rainfall for moisture.

Gardener or not, anyone who has walked outside in the past few weeks and hasn’t noticed – we’re in a drought. Stage 2 drought as matter of fact. We know the drill, or should at this point. Hard to watch our landscapes, including plants we’ve nursed along like children for years look so pitiful. Naturally some plants are handling conditions better than others. Look at your yard and gardens. Make a few notes or take pictures of what’s blooming with little if any supplemental water. Warm-season annuals, both edible and ornamental that were on the way out anyway can be pulled and composted.

Adding new planting to our landscapes or moving existing ones has traditionally been a fall activity. But what to do when conditions are inhospitable and we’re not sure when rainfall will return to our area?

Be selective to a greater degree than under “normal” weather patterns. We’re not only warm and dry, but some days featured breezes, a few of them notable. Feels pretty good to us, but plants dry out even faster when humidity is low and a breeze helps further reduce moisture. If plants are purchased while dry conditions are controlling our weather, be prepared to keep new arrivals in a holding area easily accessible to water until conditions for planting are better.

In both natural and planned areas, a few plants are soldiering on, in spite of our dry conditions. Some of them are welcome, some are adding to sinus and allergy woes.

Goldenrod (Solidago).

Goldenrod (Solidago). Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Take a walk or drive through city or countryside, the bright yellow blooms of Goldenrod (Solidago), a hardy plant in the aster family will catch your eye. Native to most of North America, these harbingers of fall are important to a number of species. Goldenrod pollen is too heavy and sticky for the wind to carry any distance, so it’s pollinated mainly by insects, or pollinators. Attractive to bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies, nectar processed into goldenrod honey can be very light in color if it’s the primary source for honey bees.


Ragweed. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Ragweed, which blooms about the same time as goldenrod, botanically (and ironically) is Ambrosia. Also a member of the aster family, its blooms are relatively nondescript. Ragweed is best known for its contribution to allergic reactions, reportedly responsible for up to 50% of problems in North America! Spreading up to one billion pollen grains per season, pollen can travel hundreds of miles on the wind. Some studies indicate more warm days such as we’ve had this fall extend pollen-producing days, therefore allergic reactions torment us for longer periods.

Fall is here, this one characterized by warm, very dry conditions. Conserve water in lawns and gardens. Be responsible with both water and fire, as both are elements that can be misused if we’re not careful with them.

By Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Sallie at leesall@aces.edu.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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