Early Summer Stress

What happened to spring?  We know that Southeast Nebraska and Southwest Iowa can have some challenging weather to contend with, but this caught us all off guard.  We are getting calls asking how this will affect our landscape plants and what can be done to mitigate damage.  We experienced record heat over Memorial Day that continued into the first week of June has pushed us into the D0 and D1 drought category.  You can see the current Drought Monitor map here.

Peonies, iris, and other late spring flowering perennials had a shorter than normal bloom time due to the heat.  Some plants like blue false indigo had flowers burn up in the bud.  The shorter bloom time will not affect the overall health of the plant, just shortens our enjoyment.  Remove spent blooms to allow the plant to help divert energy from making seed.

We need to make sure that we do not kill our plants with love.  Plants will wilt with this heat but check the soil before you water.  It is easier to add water than to remove it.  Water logged soils can actually do more damage than good.  Roots will not be able to take up water in saturated soils and lead to more damage in the plant’s canopy.  Use a dowel rod or a long common screwdriver to check the soil moisture.

While most of the damage is cosmetic the heat will have some lasting affects on our trees, fruits and vegetables.  Pollen in tomatoes can become sterile with heave above 90ºF.  If the heat continues this will affect our harvest.  Trees will use stored up carbohydrates due to heat stress.  Photosynthesis stops in our trees when the temps soar above 88ºF.

Hopefully this heat is short lived.  During times of stress we always recommend avoid fertilizing.  The use of wood-chipped mulch will also help with water conservation but keep all much products away from the crown of the plant and the trunk of the tree.  If you have any questions about your plants please reach out to use here at GROBigRed.  We would be happy to answer them for you.


Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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