Hard ground doesn't lie – rain has gotten scarce.
That cool, wet weather that lushed up lawns and erased drought in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa is over.
If beneficial rains don't come in the next couple of weeks, all of Nebraska and parts of western Iowa could be back in drought, said Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Omaha hasn't had significant rain in almost three weeks – not since June 24.
Lincoln and Norfolk are in worse shape because their rainfall lags Omaha's. And farther west, where serious drought is entrenched, problems are poised to accelerate.
“This drying out is having consequences,” Fuchs said. Dryland crops, especially, are feeling the strain.
For now, all of Iowa and the eastern 22 percent of Nebraska, including Omaha and Lincoln, are free of the historic drought that erupted last summer. But the weather isn't on our side.
The pattern across North America is likely to continue favoring warmer-and-drier-than-normal conditions in the Central Plains in the near-term, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center.
July typically is one of the region's wettest months, but so far this month, the spigot has virtually shut off, Fuchs said.
Scott Dergan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said hit-and-miss storms are the best that eastern Nebraska and western Iowa can hope for over the next few weeks.
“There's not much rain in the forecast . . . nothing widespread,” Dergan said. “If you get a storm over your yard or field, consider yourself lucky.”
So, if you haven't already hauled out the hose, now's the time to do so.
John Fech, horticulturist and educator with the University of Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, offers this advice for watering:
– Probe several areas of the yard with a screwdriver and water only where needed. If soil is properly moist, the screwdriver will penetrate easily and bits of soil will feel moist.
– Grass in full sun or on slopes usually needs more water than grass in flat or shady areas.
– Check sprinkler systems; most systems routinely need tweaking. Sprinkler heads could be clogged with sand, covered by grass or pointed the wrong way.
– Mulch will reduce water needs. Mulch vegetable gardens to about an inch depth and trees and shrubs to about 3 inches. Do not over-mulch.
– Water trees and lawns differently. Trees need deep, infrequent watering, while lawns benefit from shallower, more frequent watering. Test soil moisture frequently.