Special to Reporter Newspapers

The good news is the rains finally came. Although metro Atlanta’s parched terrain has had a comparative drenching of sorts, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Drought conditions still exist and that’s the bad news.

In fact, homeowners are heading for, well, shaky ground, according to Theresa Schrum of Eco Terra Landscape Consultants. Despite the recent rains, she warns the damage has already been done. “There’s a lot of dried, dead roots just loose in the ground,” comments Schrum who says a swift wind or an ice storm can take down weakened trees. “Even evergreens are feeling the pain!”

The normal appearance of foliage is deceiving and there are concerns about the long-term affect of the drought on trees, shrubs, flowers, and grass. “We don’t know the degree of loss and we won’t know until spring,” remarks John Manion, historic gardens curator at The Atlanta History Center.“It’s hard to tell with woody plants.”

Both Schrum and Manion offer landscaping interventions for homeowners.

A short-term solution is adding “a good mulch layer of at least two inches,” says Schrum which helps keep moisture in the ground as winter rains replenish the soil.” Mulch can be made from pine straw, hardwoods or shredded leaves (not whole) from those blown out of beds, then put back.

Manion thinks composting “is the best thing a homeowner can do for a garden. It adds nutrients and improves soil structure.” It’s a great way to recycle organic materials. Compost can be made or purchased. “Sometimes municipalities give it away,” he adds.