Ongoing drought conditions affecting your home - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Ongoing drought conditions affecting your home

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As firefighters battle wildfires, many homeowners are battling the dryness in their yards. 

It's been 28 days since the last time we seen rainfall. 

Harold Douglas, who lives on Carousel Road, said his yard maintenance routine hasn't been the same since the drought started. 

"I'm not liking it, but there's nothing I can do about it,"  Douglas said. "When I got out here yesterday to blow the leaves in a pile, I was blowing more dust than I was anything."

Douglas recalls cutting his grass at least once a week before the drought. This year, he's only had to cut his grass about six times. 

He said his yard is extremely dry and hard, and feels like concrete. He said the hard ground sometimes is not safe for his grandchildren who love to play outside, because when they fall it hurts more. At this point watering to soften the ground seems pointless to Douglas. 

"It really wouldn't make a difference whether I tried to get out here and water this. That's just like me throwing away a million dollars it's not worth it," Douglas said. 

But UT-Hamilton County horticulture agent,  Tom Stebbins said it can make a difference. He recommends watering your lawn and plants at least once a week.

"When you do water, water heavily. water deeply. Water with like I said 10 gallons very very soft and use a drip hose. Don't just have a sprinkler that just bounces around because most of that water goes back into the atmosphere, " Stebbins said. 

Deep watering to a foot below the soil surface is recommended. The objective is watering slowly, and doing so for long periods of times. Water for short periods of time can lead to shallow rooting, and cause more damage. 

Trees are also greatly effected by the ongoing drought. 

"If you have trees in your yard the long term effects could be those larger trees start reducing their root mass underneath the ground and over a period of time that tree can't support itself. Now those roots are less than what they used to be," Stebbins said. "Bigger trees can usually survive a longer drought than the smaller trees but if you planted trees in the last two years you definitely should get out there and water them." 

Tim Phelps with the TN Forestry Division, said firefighters are having to be extra cautious of falling and leaning trees, due to weakened roots. He said it's more common with trees that are on steeper slopes.

However, Stebbins said trees can recover, but only with a substantial amount of rain. Though, the older the tree, the harder it is to replace. 

Plant fertilizers can also lead to more damage to roots. It's why Stebbins is urging everyone should stay away from it until rain comes our way. 

"They're stressed they don't need extra fertilizer. There's probably enough in the ground and you don't want to stimulate growth and a lot of fertilizers have salts that will hurt the roots," Stebbins said.

Wildlife is being effected by the drought, but mostly the wildfires. Much of wildlife has been displaced and have moved to higher grounds. However, Phelps said this is temporary, as wildlife will return when the fire are clear. Because the fires are moving at a slower pace, they are not in any real danger. 

Here are some more tips from Stebbins on how you can cater to your lawn during the drought: 

  • Mulch around trees with three inches of organic mulch to reduce moisture loss. Use shredded pine bark, leaves or evergreen needles as mulch
  • Don't use stone or rock near trees
  • Don't mulch within six inches from the trunk of the tree
  • Prune properly. Wait until the tree is dormant to do any needed pruning. Take out broken limbs and diseased branches 
  • Spray trees and shrubs for insects to reduce stress
  • Keep lawn weed five to six feet away from trees

If you wish to water lawns, be sure to check with your water provider to see if you're under any water restrictions because of the drought. If so, you're asked to abide by the rules. 

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