What's a lawn care business to do when the lawns are dead?

When I first
interviewed Tom Winking
of Wink's Lawn Service in March, he had never been so busy with mowing at such an early date. Spring had sprung early, but that worried Wink. We were coming off a fairly dry fall, a nearly precipitation-free winter and confused plants were starting their growing seasons too early in the year.

At that time, Wink predicted widespread drought for the summer. His crystal ball proved right, but boy how he wishes it were wrong. And, he fears, â??It's only going to get worse.â??

As often as Wink mowed in those very early days of spring, mowing's not an issue now. The heat and drought have set the grass into dormancy, and he only has to chop off the tops of the sprigs of weeds once a month or so.

If you haven't been watering your yard since the start, Wink says don't bother. â??Save your money for grass seed. You're gonna need it.â??

So what's a lawn care business to do when the lawns are fried? Thank heavens for diversification. Wink's crew installs a lot of irrigation systems, mostly for golf courses. They also repair mowing equipment in these hot, dry spells. In the winter, Wink plows snowâ??though that didn't bring in much of an income this past year.

Last week, when temperatures soared into the 100's, Wink pulled a really rare moveâ??he took a summer vacation and told his employees to do the same.

What worries Wink is the state of our trees. â??I don't ever remember the trees suffering like they are now.â??

Wink is spending a lot of his time

watering his trees

both young and old. Newer trees are more likely to die, but even trees that have been well established are showing signs of strain.

Experts have lots of

advice for watering trees

. Some of it gets pretty technical. Wink has an old-school method you might want to try. Drill three small holes into three five-gallon buckets. Fill them with water three times a month. That will be sufficient for small trees. On his bigger ones, Wink gives one massive, slow soaker-hose dose of 2,600 gallons of water.

Wink says many of the pines and spruces are near death or completely gone. Those evergreens aren't native to our area and the scorching dry weather really stresses them. Even worse are the ravages of insects and disease on their boughs.

Time will tell whether our trees and shrubs will eke out survival during this drought. There's little doubt, though, that the landscape is going to change when much of our foliage meets its eternal reward.