New England’s drought worsened in November. As the map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows, conditions have not been improved by our November rains, and extreme drought now covers more of the region than a month ago. Areas in red are more than ten inches below normal in rainfall for 2016; gold areas are down between eight and ten inches.
What should you do now? If a plant’s roots are dry, it will be much less able to withstand winter. Because the ground is still not yet frozen, you can help your plants: using a hose or bucket, thoroughly soak the root zone of every tree or shrub you have planted during the past two years. (Be sure to create a ring around the tree of mulch or soil to hold the water in place so it does not run off). Ideally, you need to put ten gallons on each shrub over two or three waterings, and up to twenty gallons on each tree. In four or five days, repeat the process. The goal is to fill the roots and branches (and, on evergreens, the leaves) with as much water as possible before the ground freezes in December. Watering after the ground has frozen will do no good.
In December, after you have watered all your woody plants, spray the branches of them with Wilt-Pruf or another product designed to prevent the loss of moisture from the buds on deciduous trees and shrubs (those that lose their leaves), and on the leaves and needles of your evergreen trees and shrubs. Again, this keeps them from drying out during the winter. Once the ground has frozen, they cannot take up more water and need to hold on to what they have. Spray only when the temperature is above 40 degrees and try to repeat monthly through the winter.