Like crops, shrubbery hit hard by the drought

Thursday, September 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:20 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — While Missouri crops have suffered severely due to the drought this year, so have personal landscapes.

A top Missouri Department of Conservation official reports that almost all shrubbery, oriental trees and what is thought to be well-established forestry have been hit hard by the drought.

“Unless it got good care from the homeowner, most of the new, young plants just did not make it,” said Justine Gartner, Conservation Department Division of Forestry program supervisor.

For trees that appear to be in trouble, Gartner recommends waiting until next spring — especially for older trees.

“Wait to see what foliage comes out in the spring. Then you will truly know what damage has been done.”

If leaf buds are apparent or if underneath the bark there is green tissue, she said, the tree is still alive.

Right now, Gartner recommends fertilizing the soil as trees go into the dormant season.

“Put those nutrients in the ground now, so they can capture those nutrients and be ready to go for next spring,” she said.

In addition, mulching and minimizing the stress on top of the soil by, for example, not parking a car underneath a tree can help the life of a plant, she said.

Gartner said that landscaping can increase property value by 20 percent to 25 percent, so keeping landscapes green and alive is not simply a scenic pleasure.

“People that make that connection want to keep their trees as healthy as they can,” she said.

Professional landscaper Stacey Smith of Johnson Lawncare in Columbia said, “We are seeing established trees (trees 10 years old and older) that usually are not affected by drought be affected.”

The challenge of keeping plants alive has been a losing battle for most citizens. Marie Pasley, Boone County resident and avid gardener, has had many shrubs and a new tree die. Pasley said: “It has been very, very dry. I have just tried to keep plants alive essentially.”

Smith recommends keeping plants alive by regularly watering them. However, do not overdo it, she said. Saturate the soil until it appears muddy and then wait a few days until the top inch of soil can crumble in your hand, then repeat watering.

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