Dry weather? Chop, drop and roll with it

Dry weather? Chop, drop and roll with it


Southeast Minnesota is officially in a drought.

Historically, June is the region’s wettest month, with an average of about 1.3 inches of rain per week, according to the National Weather Service in La Crosse.

With one week left in June, Rochester had seen less than an inch of rain all month.

The rain late in the week likely won’t make up for the accumulated deficit of moisture, but it will help, meteorologists said.

The dry spell reaches back to October, when, after the growing season, rain and snow replenishes soil moisture. Since that recharge cycle in October, Rochester has seen 13.77 inches of precipitation, which is 7.32 inches below normal of 21.09 inches through the third week of June, said Jeff Boyne, meteorologist with the NWS in La Crosse.

Boyne writes the drought reports available on the NWS website.

Despite some rain, he said the drought report won’t likely change much. Heavier rain northeast of Rochester into Wabasha County might change the drought status of that small area.

“It was still a good rain,” he said. “It keeps us from deteriorating any more.”

For a region that has gotten wetter on average, this dry pattern is uncommon. This is the first widespread drought in the region since 2012-13, Boyne said.

The early June heat wave has also put stress on plants as their demand for moisture goes up.

Heidi Kass, member of the Backyard Bounty Urban Homesteaders, said she has been watering her gardens more than she has in the past.

The easiest measure gardeners can take to protect plants from the drought would be to use mulch to help keep moisture in the soil. Regular mulch, straw, and grass clippings can help. Kass puts newspaper around her tomatoes to prevent soil from blighting the tomato plants’ leaves. (Soil-borne diseases can blight tomato plant leaves when uncovered soil is splashed onto them by rain or watering.)

She tops the newspaper with straw, which has helped her plants retain moisture through the drought. Using mulch is a good technique regardless of how much or little rain we get.

“Drought is a hard thing to plan for,” Kass said. “You can’t exactly plant your garden in the spring for a drought.”

One useful technique is to use weeds as a sort of mulch. When pulling up weeds, leave them between your plants. They will add nutrients and help retain a bit of moisture, while no longer robbing your plants of moisture and nutrients. Kass calls it “chop and drop.” Some plants are better for this technique than others. Using plants that root easily like creeping Charlie can backfire badly and create bigger problems than dry soil.

Another tip is to let your water run through your hose a bit before watering. Hot water in the hose could hurt your plants. Check your rain barrel if the water is low and it sits in the sun — the water inside could also be too warm to use.

For people sowing seeds this year for landscaping, lawns, rain gardens or prairies, if those seeds have germinated, keep them moist. However, it might have been dry enough that late-spring seeds might still be dormant.

Germinated seeds that weren’t watered might not have made it. Try planting again in the fall to germinate seeds but not let tender seedlings grow to die off in the winter. The timing — and watering — can be tricky to get right.

For now, keep what you have watered and watch the forecast. Boyne said forecast models show dry weather will persist through early July.

John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to life@postbulletin.com.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.

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