GARDENING: Weeds thrive despite lack of water

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Why is it that weeds thrive despite the droughty conditions? I often think that if we could take those genes in weeds that make them drought-tolerant and put them in our good plants, it would be a wonderful thing!

Driving around the Miami Valley I see various levels of dormancy in lawns. Those lawn areas that are near the sidewalk and driveway, on a slope, or in other areas that dry out quickly are quite straw-colored. Other spotty areas are green where they have gotten some water or are in a better environment for growth.

Our area is getting close to the three-week without rain mark. As mentioned last week, turf can go dormant for up to three weeks and survive a drought. However, at three weeks, the crowns need to be saturated to keep them alive.

It’s better to haul out the sprinkler and give the lawn about an inch of water than to have to replace the lawn or spots in the lawn. Check your recent weather patterns and if you haven’t had rain, irrigating will keep the crown saturated.

As I wrote this on Tuesday, the weather was predicted to stay dry for at least another week; except for a few spotty showers in the southern part of the area.

On a positive note, the cooler temperatures help the lawns tremendously. The heat from a week ago dried plants out quickly.

A reminder – when you water, saturate the soil thoroughly so that you can water less often. Light watering a few times a week encourages shallow growth in plants. Water deeply.

Unfortunately, the heat from a week ago caused many of the late spring plants to go through their bloom period quickly. I didn’t get to enjoy my peonies like I normally do. The heat led to a shortened bloom.

The other plants that I love and didn’t get much bloom time were some of my new Alliums. I planted several last fall and unfortunately, since they were new, they didn’t fare as well as those that were established.

I didn’t lose the plants, just the bloom for this season. Taking proper care of them this year (watering when needed) will allow them to establish for next season.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

One weed that is thriving and doesn’t seem to be bothered by dry soils is poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). This plant that many mistake for Queen Anne’s lace is in full bloom in the area and is quite visible in fields, ditches, and in some gardens.

Poison hemlock is spreading in our area, and many don’t notice it. I have it coming into my landscape beds from my neighbor’s hay field and pasture.

Poison hemlock is like Queen Anne’s lace except for the latter blooms later in the season and doesn’t have the purplish spots on the stems.

If you find it in your landscape and it hasn’t gone to seed, remove as soon as possible. Learn more about poison hemlock from Joe Boggs, Ohio State University Extension Horticulture Educator at this link:

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

About the Author