Drought worsens in Northern KY and all over Tri-state

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

BURLINGTON, KY (FOX19) - No rain and cooler, drier weather is not good news for lawns in Northern Kentucky. Burn bans are in effect in many counties already and as of Wednesday morning, all of Northern Kentucky is under a level one drought status.

Kentucky's State Climatologist Dr. Stuart Foster did a re-assessment of the drought situation and found that conditions have worsened.

Here's how you can tell what shape the trees in your yard are in, right now, and how you can save them for next Spring.

Branches on trees all over Northern Kentucky spent the summer reaching-up to dry, blue skies, hoping for rain and showing signs of serious drought strain.

"And as we can see here it's really suffering from the drought," said Mike Klahr, pointing to parched, brown edges on leaves on trees outside the UK Extension Office in Boone County.

"That's called 'abiotic leaf scorch' or physiological leaf scorch," Klahr said. "It's the first sign of drought before the leaves start to shed off the tree."

Klahr is Boone County's Extension Agent for Horticulture. He said trees are stressed out. Leaves are shed early as a self-defense mechanism against the drought.

"Those tiny little buds there," he said pointing to one of the scorched branches. "Represent next year's growth, so the tree is willing to shed its leaves during a drought in order to preserve the bud."

Even sun-scorched evergreens hide their stress well.

"Notice," Klahr said as he snapped Colorado Blue Spruce branches like they were paper. "These branches are brittle, they're very dry, they've died now, not only from the drought effects, but also from the spider mites that move into plants."

Outside his office are three large, ash trees and the bigger one in the middle is suffering. It's already shed most of it's leaves, unlike the two healthier-looking ones flanking it.

It's easy to see why the center ash tree has lost most of it's leaves. Three-quarters of it's ability to gather water, its root system, is buried under a blacktop parking lot.

"The roots go out about two to three times as far as the branches and the feeder roots of trees even big old trees are up in the top 12 inches of soil," Klahr said.

You can give your own trees a simple test.

"First of all, the tips, if they're brittle and they snap off and they're dry and they're brown and you scratch the bark and it's still brown underneath, then it's going to be a branch that has died back somewhat," Klahr said.

If you go farther back on the twig, scratch and get a bright green shade, the branch is still alive.

"Which means the buds will survive, long as it doesn't get any worse," Klahr said.

So the answer is water, water, water your lawn and trees, especially if you fertilize, so you don't chemically scorch an already sun burnt lawn.

Think ahead to next Spring. Trees need at least an inch of water every 7 to 10 days and water wider than the reach of your tree's branches to insure it gets the drink it needs.

Below are links to both Boone and Campbell County Extension locations. Click on either link for more information on keeping your yard and your plants safe from the drought, plus all sorts of other useful stuff! Check it out!

Copyright 2010 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.