April 15, 2010

So far this spring, much of Kentucky has not received nearly enough April showers. The deficits are beginning to add up, and University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Extension Horticulture Specialist John Strang said the soil profile is getting pretty dry.

“It’s time to think about watering shallow-rooted plants like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries,” he said. “Things are especially getting dry in Eastern and Central Kentucky.

Strang said deep-rooted apple trees may be okay, but young fruit plantings may need a boost.

“Lettuce needs water now,” Strang continued. “If you have any shallow-planted seedlings, they’ll need extra water to germinate.”

Back in early March, UK Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy warned that the El Nino conditions that were present much of the past year were beginning to change. And, with equatorial Pacific waters becoming more normal, a La Nina pattern is showing up in several forecasting models.

“That situation would explain the drier weather pattern we are seeing now,” Priddy said. “Warm and dry weather continue to dominate the weather pattern in the state this spring. And if La Nina moves in to stay, it could be a dry summer as well.”

Priddy said that it’s been unusually dry for this time of year as the second week of April was  the fifth-straight week at or above normal temperatures, and the 12th week this year with below normal precipitation.

“It was also the fourth-straight week where the western portions of the state received a considerable amount more rainfall than the rest of the state,” he added. “The only traces of rainfall for the week came from a cold front sweeping east, which moved in late Wednesday and early Thursday that week.”

UK College of Agriculture Consumer Horticulturalist Richard Durham said the the lack of water is not really showing up yet in home landscapes

“Things have been progressing fairly normally at least around Lexington, I don’t see any problems with grass greening up or wilting,” he said. “However, the next few weeks are critical for folks who are transplanting annual and perennial flowers and who will be planting seed and vegetable transplants. Surface soil moisture is going to be scarce without any additional rains, so people will need to be especially careful to keep flower and vegetable transplants watered after transplanting.”

Durham said checking every few days to make sure the soil is moist – not wet – around the newly planted transplants should do the trick.

Both Strang and Durham said plants should be watered enough to wet the soil down to a depth of five to six inches.

“Water around the base of the plant,” Durham said. “The goal is to get the water to the root system, not to wet down the entire plant. Watering to that depth should provide plenty of moisture for a few days.”

Durham added that weeds need immediate attention because they will compete with plantings for precious water.

Strang said the rule of thumb for watering fruits and vegetables is to provide 1 inch of water per week.

As far as the weather forecast in the near future, Priddy said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting drought conditions in Central Kentucky to persist or intensify. To see more details about this prediction visit the NOAA Web site at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/season_drought.gif

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