As a child, we would sing:
“Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come back another day!”
If only we had realized how much we needed that rain!
As adults, what do we do when our trees need water and Mother Nature is not providing it?
How to spot a drought effected tree:
• Drought injury can be sudden or take two years to be revealed. Symptoms include tree leaves wilting, curling at the edges and yellowing.
• Deciduous leaves may develop scorch, brown outside edges or browning between veins.
• Evergreen needles may turn yellow, red or purple. They may also turn brown at the tips of the needles and browning may progress through the needle towards the twig.
• If continued drought leaves may be smaller than normal, drop permanently or remain attached to the tree even though brown.
Help the tree conserve the water:
• Improve Soil Structure – remove excess soils burying the flare of the trunk, remove rocks and other impervious materials from beneath the tree canopy and aerate the lawn so that the roots of mature trees are better able to access water and oxygen.
• Reduce Competition – Remove all weeds and grass within four feet of the base of young trees.
• Mulch – Place mulch 4”-6” deep keeping it 4” away from the trunk. (Do not volcano the mulch!)
• Monitor Soil Moisture – place a shovel, small spade or a screw driver into the soil 6”-8” (near the truck for a young tree and under the drip line for a mature tree). Squeeze a handful of the soil, if it feels dry and crumbly add water.
Mature Trees (15+ years) –
These trees vary widely in their need for water, depending on size, age, species, soil type, and slope. Some general guidelines are:
• Apply water slowly and uniformly using low volume application equipment. An oscillating sprinkler head is good option. Place it below the dripline of the tree and make sure the rotation of water reaches a few feet beyond the drip line. The water should saturate 16”-18” of the soil under the tree.
• Frequency of watering depends on temperature, shade cover and presence of mulch. Allow the soil to dry between watering as the trees need oxygen as well as water. For most trees 1 to 2 watering’s per month is adequate.
Young Saplings (1-3 years) and Maturing Trees (4-15 years) –
It is important that young trees receive water regularly.
• Apply 5 to 10 gallons of water per week during mild weather. During hot weather, up to 15 gallons per week.
• The best method is to create a well or berm around the tree. Fill it slowly.
• Trees do not like soil that is always wet. It is best to let the ground dry out between waterings.
Bonus Tip –
If you’re still struggling with knowing how much you have watered take and empty 1 inch tall metal tuna can or cat food can beneath you tree, turn on your sprinkler and then turn it off the water once it is filled.