The recent stretch of rainy days on top of one of the wettest springs in years across East Tennessee has made a big impact on the growing season.
All of the moisture and cooler temperatures have pushed harvest of several spring crops behind the normal schedule by a couple of weeks. But there is an incredibly bright side to the rain-soaked spring in terms of penetrating a deep-rooted problem in East Tennessee.
"For several years in a row we have had long stretches of extremely dry weather and hot temperatures. Our trees in this area have been extremely stressed and we've lost a lot of trees the last few years. We're still losing some," said David Vandergriff with UT Extension. "A lot of the trees lost over the last couple
of years have not been from disease or insects. It has been from
Vandergriff said the rain that fell the last few years was immediately soaked up by the parched plants on the surface. Meanwhile, the supply of moisture in the ground continued to dry out.
"The deeper the ground gets dry, the harder it is to get wet. Our trees the last few years have not had the nutrients they need. The reserves got really really low. The pantry was empty. Well
this year, it's been able to refill the pantry."
With rainfall totals of more than a foot above average, the soaking showers have managed to sooth years of stress. Vandergriff said plants are clearly flourishing in the abundance of moisture.
"You see bright green tips on a lot of trees. You see a lot of new growth. We have certainly replenished the groundwater supplies at the
surface, with subsoil moisture, and even down into the aquifer which is
really important. We're back and fully stocked in terms of water. Plants are
growing so well this year and are so lush, the guys who maintain the
trees are doing a booming business."
Vandergriff warned another frequent killer of trees is landscape crews and tree services that are not certified arborists.
"We get calls about trees that are damaged or dying after they were pruned incorrectly. If it is done wrong the first time, a lot of times the damage can kill a tree."
Another benefit of the heavy showers this spring may be a visual feast for leaf watchers in the fall.
"With all of the leaves coming back with plenty of sugars and carbohydrates in them, that is one half of the equation for great fall colors. The other factor is the weather in the fall when you want clear sunny days and cool nights. October is one of the driest months of the year, so it usually works out. If it does, we could have a banner year for fall colors," said Vandergriff.