The severe lack of rainfall so far in 2016 has had a major impact on North Georgia.
The United States Drought Monitor program has five drought classifications, ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought.
Currently, we are classified in the severe drought category, and we are surrounded by areas of extreme drought and exceptional drought. Places just northwest of us, like Rome, received only 0.24 inches of rain in the month of September.
Local farmers have been hammered by the drought effects. Pastures and hayfields have dried up due to lack of rain. Hay is already in short supply, and those who can't get it for their livestock have been forced to sell off their herds. A devastating Fall Armyworm infestation hit several farms, causing severe defoliation of pastures. Now, the lack of rainfall is preventing any of these affected pastures from being reseeded.
Drought conditions are also affected home gardens and landscapes. This time of year is normally perfect for reseeding tall fescue lawns and planting ornamental shrubs. However, this is by no means a "normal" autumn. Many people have called my office to ask what to do if they plan to reseed lawns. I wouldn't recommend wasting the time and money if there is no rain in the immediate forecast. Seeds will not germinate unless there is ample soil moisture present. Do not try to put out seed unless you can irrigate the area.
The same goes for new plantings of ornamentals. New plantings need moist soil for adequate root growth. Plan to water new plants every day for a week or so and even longer if we continue to receive little natural rainfall. Deep, slow soaking of the soil is the best way to water your plants.
I have also been receiving many calls on pruning during the fall. In general, this time of year is not great to prune most garden plants. In a year with "normal" rainfall and temperatures, you can get away with pruning no more than 10 percent of a healthy, unstressed plant any time of the year as needed. However, with the drought, all plants not irrigated regularly should be considered "stressed." I would hold off on any ornamental pruning until later in the winter, after plants have gone dormant.
For those of you on private wells, be mindful of your water usage during the drought. Local aquifers have not received normal recharge from rainwater this year. Keep an eye on your water pressure during your normal daily household activities, like bathing and washing dishes. It may be smart to institute some small water-saving methods to temporarily cut down on excess usage during this drought.