Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Half Inch Rain + Drought = Not Much

Scattered thunderstorms are becoming more common in the area and we’ve managed to catch a couple.  They’ve been typical summer storms, arriving with strong winds and a few minutes of heavy rain.  This quick downpour dropped one half inch of rain.

How does a half inch rain affect droughty soils?  Not much at all.  About an hour after the rain had ended, I took a shovel out and exposed some soil to see how far the rain water had penetrated.  In this area currently devoid of any green vegetation, the moisture managed to move just slightly more then an inch into the soil.

Below that level, everything is extremely dry.  Even with a freshly sharpened shovel, it’s difficult to dig in this hard ground.

A half inch of rain didn’t do anything to change the appearance of the dry pond bottom.  This is the most likely place to rehydrate following a rain.  If I hadn’t actually watched the rain falling, it would be difficult to believe that any water had actually soaked in here.

I took advantage of the dry conditions to mow the pond bottom in anticipation of next year’s salamander breeding season.  People sometimes ask how I control weeds in my pond.  Most get mad when I reply that I just cut them down with the mower.

In a normal year, the bases of the dried grass stalks would have decomposed by now and allowed the stalks to fall.  The dry conditions through May and June kept that from happening.  Unusually dry soil has also caused the plants to grow at a slower pace.  The result is a condition that looks totally out of place for July.

The plants did perk up a bit after the rain.  It doesn’t take plants long to take up water from a storm.  Most people have seen how rapidly a wilted cut flower recovers after being placed in a glass of water.  Imagine how quickly moisture starved plants will take up water when they have a widespread root system working for them.  A drought is not considered at an end until plants are rehydrated, moisture is restored to the entire soil profile and water movement through the soil reconnects with the ground water table.  In order to get things back to a more normal condition at Blue Jay Barrens, we need a series of storms that drop five or six inches of rain over a several day period. 


  1. Same here, except we didn't get even the half inch.

  2. Hi James. I've been keeping track of the drought in your area. Things aren't looking good. We managed to get 1.5 inches from four separate storms during the last two days. Areas close by got three to four inches. It has made things green up a bit, but it will take a lot more to replenish the ground water.