Dog Days of Summer
Although June 20 was the first official day of summer, typically July and August are the hottest months of the year. Often these are called the “dog days” of summer. I always thought the dog days referred to those summer days so devastatingly hot that even dogs would lie around, panting. Many people today use the phrase to mean something like that.
But originally, the phrase actually had nothing to do with dogs, or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, it turns out, the dog days refer to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens. This is when it rises at the same time as the sun. This is typically from early July to early August, although this will vary with locations. But it is generally considered a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence… the sultry part of summer.
Whatever the meaning or how it got its origins, the dog days of summer will impact the activities on farms as well as on acreages. For farmers, high temperature, especially when coupled with high humidity and little or no air movement can be particularly stressful to livestock. Often farmers will set up shades, misters, or provide extra space for animals so they are not crowded.
While high humidity is bad for livestock, it is good for crops. This reduces the amount of water that plants lose through transpiration. Even with high humidity, those farmers who can will be irrigating their crops when they do not receive adequate rainfall. Dryland, or “rain-fed” cropping systems are at the mercy of Mother Nature to provide adequate precipitation to produce yields. Typically corn yields are most impacted by rain in July while soybean yields can tolerate a dry July if they get adequate rainfall in August.
Herbicide Drift Considerations
Another activity you may observe during July is airplanes or helicopters flying over and spraying fields. You may also see ground application sprayers going through fields at this time. There are a couple of things they could be treating. Applications to fields at this time of year are often made in response to developing weed, insect, or disease problems.
While commercial applicators are usually very careful about drift moving off fields at the time of application, occasionally applications are made when conditions are less than ideal. This can result in injury to neighboring fields or around homes in the country. Some pesticides, particularly herbicides (weed killers) can be applied correctly, but weather conditions after the application may cause them to volatilize and move off site, resulting in injury.
My advice to folks (and I’ve done this on my own place), is if I’m aware of a pesticide application being made in a nearby field and it looks like there might be a potential for drift moving my direction, I will turn sprinklers on susceptible plants so it washes any drift off of them before they have a chance to absorb the pesticide. I realize that is not always practical.
If you do have a problem with drift injury, your first call should be to the neighbor whose field was being treated. Don’t get mad at them because they may have hired a commercial applicator and had no control over the application. Calmly explain the situation and also take pictures to document any injury.
If they hired a commercial applicator, ask them to contact the applicator or get the name of the applicator so you may contact them. Often the neighbor or the commercial applicator will want to make things right with you. In those situations where you are not getting satisfaction, there are inspectors from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture who can investigate these cases. But usually most can be taken care of locally and don’t require this next step.
Time is critical if samples need to be taken to detect pesticide residues, so don’t delay if this happens. Something else that can help result in a positive outcome if this occurs is, this is not a good time to get to know your neighbors. Generally, if you have built a good relationship with your neighbors, this increases your chance of a positive outcome if a problem develops.
Summer Landscape Water Management
There are a couple things you should think about on your acreage during the dog days of summer. First, if you transplanted any trees, shrubs, or ornamentals, keep them watered but don’t overwater them. A good thorough watering once a week is much better than watering them every day. I’ve been hauling water to the 450 trees and shrubs I planted earlier this year. My wife, bless her heart, has been great help on the end of a hose while I pull a 750 gallon water tank around on my place.
Also water enough to keep your turf alive, but it doesn’t have to be lush and green if you want to avoid high water bills. Bluegrass lawns can go dormant during the hottest months as long as you water enough to keep the crowns of the plant alive. However, fescue lawns need to be watered enough to keep them green because they do not recover if they turn brown… which I call permanent dormancy… a brown fescue lawn is dead!
Summer Animal Care
Also, make sure that any pets or livestock have an adequate source of fresh water. And if you really want to help the wildlife around your acreage, make sure bird baths are filled with water.
I actually have a couple birdbaths plus a water pan on the ground that some birds as well as rabbits, other wildlife, and my two lazy cats will use. Drain and refill these once a week to prevent mosquitos from developing there. If you do have birdbaths, keep water in them or you might have other problems that develop.
So until next month, avoid the dog days of summer, stay cool, and have fun on your acreage!