What To Do For Trees In A Drought

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What To Do For Trees In A Drought

Making sure your trees get enough water during a drought is essential for their overall health and survival — especially in the Texas heat. When soil is dry for an extended period of time, it will greatly reduce the lifespan of your trees, and it can take years for a tree to recover fully.

Watering trees during a drought

Generally if your area is experiencing a drought, it’s mandatory that you conserve water and important to efficiently water your trees. The best practice is to use a garden hose or 5-gallon bucket to ensure the accuracy of the water you’re spraying is going on the tree, not somewhere else.  It’s important to help the water reach a depth of 8-12 inches and not just the top layer of soil.

It’s important to note that if you generally rely on sprinklers to water your trees — they might not water enough to keep up during a drought. You can check how much your sprinklers are watering by placing an old tuna can or jar under the tree canopy to see how much is being watered. If the can is not full, it’s likely you haven’t watered enough, if it’s full you’ve watered enough.

If you can spare the water, mature trees require a deep soak once per week and young trees need approximately 5-15 gallons per week. Depending on the tree species and its root system, mature trees can go longer if necessary. New trees are at greater risk of dying during the first 2-3 years after being transplanted due to their shallow root systems.

However, do keep in mind, drought stress on trees can show up long after the drought is over and is just as important to continue to water after a drought as it is during. Doing so helps the tree to continue to get a significant amount of water and to replenish its water supply. Trees are like deep cycle batteries as they take a long time to deplete. Often times, they can make it through acute drought just fine, but depending on the season and rainfall patterns after a drought, they can have a difficult time refreshing their stores of water and recharging their batteries. In the spring, if a tree is depleted when water is in high demand, it can have significant dieback or die completely even if the drought is over.

Symptoms your tree(s) aren’t getting enough water:

  • Premature fall coloration
  • Dropping leaves
  • Yellowing of the leaves
  • Sun scorch
  • Wilted foliage
  • Sparse tree canopy

Best time of day to water

It’s best to water during the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler. Watering during this time allows the water to soak into the soil without evaporating during the midday heat.

Alternate methods to help your tree(s) through a drought:

  • Mulching: adding a layer of mulch around the base and/or root system of the tree will help it to retain moisture. However too much mulch (more than 4”) might create too much moisture and possibly hinder oxygen levels causing root rot.
  • Pruning your trees every 3-5 years and keeping them healthy will help them better survive in times of stress and excessive heat.

If you believe your trees are suffering from a drought, they should be inspected by an ISA Certified Arborist. Contact us today for any drought or tree related questions.

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