Hot weather hard on pets, plants, people

Monday, June 25, 2012

As if it weren't dry enough already, the forecast is calling for declining precipitation this week and temperatures are expected to be higher than normal.

While hot, dry weather will speed an already early wheat havest toward completion, it's bad news for corn growing in soil that is already dry and in need of irrigation.

"If it doesn't rain, things are going to get ugly," said Al Dutchery, University of Nebraska and Nebraska state climatologist. High winds will also exacerbate the problem of plants losing moisture.

"Everthing is working to conspire against vegetation this year and plants are using water quicker than normal," he said.

McCook residents are already being asked to limit their outdoor watering to evening, overnight and early morning hours, and we don't even want to think about the long-term effects a Southwest Nebraska drought could have on the Republican River Compact conflict with Kansas.

Some tips to keep your garden alive during these coming brutal days:

* Water less frequently, but for longer times to encourage deep roo growth. Make sure your hoses don't leak, and you're watering only plants, not the sidewalk or the house.

* Add organic material to clay and sandy soils to help them hold more water.

* Apply two inches of mulch of your garden to cut down on water loss due to evaporation. Mulch shrubs, trees, annuals, vegetable gardens and even container gardens.

* Collect vegetable scraps, yard trimmers and other organic waste to create a compost pile.

* Move out of the sun and wind and into the shade.

* Install a drip or other water-conserving irrigation system, which can save up to 60 percent of all water used in garden care.

* That mulch will help keep down water-robbing weeds, but consider using a landscape fabric on top of the soil and under the mulch as well.

* Collect rainwater in barrels to water plants (covered to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing).

Make sure your outdoor pets and other animals have shade and plenty of clean, fresh water in the coming days.

Most importantly, take care of yourself; take frequent breaks in the shade or air conditioning if you have to work outside in this hot weather, and drink plenty of water -- sugary and alcoholic drinks can actually increase your thirst.

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