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Over the Garden Fence

Northern Illinois dry conditions and why watering matters

Given that it is summer, it is not hard to believe we need to be out in the yard watering. August is usually a dry month and that sure seems to be how it started for us. As of Aug. 5, the U.S. Drought Monitor website shows the more northern counties along the Wisconsin Stateline are anywhere from “abnormally dry” to “severe drought” levels.

So, what does this mean for watering? It means we should be doing it, and not just for the vegetable garden.


Once gardeners began dividing and transplanting perennials or planting those bargains from the garden centers, watering them was just one of the things that every gardener knows has to happen. While these transplants have, by now, been recovering, continued root growth depends on continued care.


There were lots of shrubs that bloomed heavily and produced an abundance of berries or seeds this spring, which birds really appreciate as a source of energy. These blooming shrubs and ornamental trees use water to ensure that the flow of remaining summer energy produced within the plant makes its way into the root system for storage over the winter months and into cells within the canopy.


Gardeners planning to control lawn weeds will see a better result if both the lawn grasses and weeds are actively growing. Broadleaved weeds will more readily absorb the herbicide if actively growing. As the weeds disappear, the lawn grasses can quickly grow into those spots and thicken the lawn.

Houseplants outdoors

Houseplants kept outside for the summer need some additional care besides the continued watering. Hold off on any additional fertilizers now and begin to harden off the plants. This will make the transition back into the home easier.


Finally, there have been many trees and evergreens that continue to be stressed from past growing seasons. Watering can help reduce at least one of those stresses and help in recovery.


Late summer and fall vegetable gardens really need to receive water to harvest those well-developed fruits and vegetables that you have worked on all season. Cucumbers and other vine crops need that water to fill their fruits quickly. Snap beans also fill their pods very uniformly if water is in even supply. Even if gardeners cannot see what is going on below ground, carrots and other root crops can expand in both width and length if water and a friable soil are available. Fall cabbage needs even watering to grow in size without the heads splitting apart. Swiss chard is enjoyed all season and that will continue until the cold weather finally takes it out. To make sure those new tender shoots continue, keep up with the watering.


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About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.