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Extension advice: Keep yards looking fresh with these summer tips
Richard Evans
Richard Evans is UGA Extension Service agent in Bryan County.

Though it has rained, the drought is not over.

At least its effects are not.

Drought weakens plants by killing roots and depleting food reserves.

Droughts during the last few years weaken lawns, which then die in the winter. Homeowners suspect insects and diseases, but lack of water (also too much water) is more likely. Ideally lawns need between 1-2 inches of irrigation every week, the deeper the irrigation the better. Frequent shallow irrigation can encourage shallow root growth as well as fungal growth on grass blades. Trees can also die suddenly from drought, sometimes without warning. Leaves suddenly brown and hang on the tree.Weakened trees may have smaller or fewer leaves, also look of the presence of lichens, large amounts are indicators that a tree is not in the best health. Lichens themselves do not harm the tree as they only live on the bark.

Leyland cypress is very susceptible to drought.

Trees weakened by dry weather may contract canker diseases. They die one branch at a time or may thin out slowly.

Spraying will not control these diseases.

What should you do?

Put a soaker hose under your Leyland cypress hedge and water well once a week. Do not water too often or you may kill roots. As trees grow together, thin them by removing every other one. If you need a hedge, consider another plant.

Some good options might include Arizona cypress, Japanese cedar, Southern magnolia, wax myrtle and holly species.

Plant other shrubs in areas that will not be watered regularly. Hollies in particular may be hardier and more manageable, like Burford holly, East Palatka holly, or cleyera.

Call our office for more ideas.

Pruning and fertilizing

Most gardeners cut back on fertilization and pruning during droughts.

This improves plant growth and survival. You can go back to normal fertilization and pruning now. Do not prune azaleas and other spring flowering plants now. They have already set flower buds for next year and you will cut them off. You can lightly prune shrubs now but leave the heavy pruning until February. Most people prune too much. Let your plants grow larger each year for best results. Do not prune off all the new growth.

Stop all pruning by Sept. 1 to allow plants to prepare themselves for winter.

The exception to this rule is fruiting trees, which can be pruned right after the fruiting period is over. Fertilize shrubs lightly now if you want them to continue getting larger.

If you do not want them to grow, skip this fertilization.

One exception to this is azaleas. Lightly fertilize now to keep them from running out of fertilizer this fall and winter.

If you have not done so lately, you can fertilize your lawn now. Do not overdo it though.

Centipede lawns should be fertilized no more than twice a year.

Zoysia and St. Augustine lawns are best fertilized three times a year. Bermuda can be fertilized about once a month but be prepared to mow more. Stop fertilizing lawns and shrubs by Sept. 15.

After the rains and before fall begins, we have an opportunity to prepare our plants for the future.

Take advantage of this time. For more information call me at the Bryan County Extension Service at 912-653-2231 or email me at

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