Trees Need Extra Love in a Drought
We just bought a new house and it was empty for some time. I use my irrigation system a couple of times a week, but should I water my mature trees more than that this summer? (pecans, oaks) We haven’t had much rain for the last 6 months. Anthony S.
Most of the nation seems to be in feast (flood) or famine (drought) mode, doesn’t it? While hard on people, too little or too much water is devastating for plants that cannot escape their environment.
If you have a rain gauge – which I STRONGLY RECOMMEND – you’ll know exactly how much natural rainfall has occurred and whether or not supplemental water is warranted. Depending on the tree’s age/size and variety, you might need to apply more water several times during the growing season to keep it healthy. If the drought continues, consider a regular schedule for watering your trees. Texas A&M University offers insight into tree care through their EARTHKIND® website, giving a number of tools to both prevent and curtail damage to your landscape due to lack of rain. Here are some of their suggestions, along with some of my own.
Look to your trees to tell you they are thirsty. Premature foliage yellowing and/or leaf loss over the whole tree, leaf margin (outside edge) burns and curling, and eventually loss of canopy beginning with the inner, lower branches. How do you save a dead tree? You don’t, so watch for early cries for help.
Remove grass and weeds under trees – which compete for available water – and replace with mulch.
Do NOT use fertilizer on drought stressed plants. Encouraging new growth is the last thing they need. And NEVER use weed ‘n’ feed products near trees. (I suggest there is no reason to use these products at all!)
Know what kind of trees you have and then treat them according to their needs. (The Smithsonian released a NEW APP for that – LEAFSNAP. Don’t depend on it, though. It is still a work in progress….) Just as with people, each variety of tree has specific requirements. Your mature pecan will require a significant amount of water, but certain oak trees (like bur oak) need less than others (like water oaks).
A soaker hose set out under the ENTIRE canopy of the your mature trees is the most efficient way to water deeply. Watering only at the trunk not only doesn’t help, it could HURT your tree, encouraging a fungal infection where the water sits. (I’d add you might want to see exactly how much water is coming out of the hose. Put a tuna can under a section …..how long does it take to get an inch of water standing in the can? For you engineer types, here is a WEBSITE that helps you convert the inches to gallons, the most common measurement.)6. If you are planting a new tree in your landscape, GO NATIVE! You will save precious resources – including water and YOUR TIME – if you install a variety that already will feel at home at yours.Whether a plethora of patio plants in pots, an oversized orchard or a standard suburban site, know what plants you have and what their preferences are in order to help them THRIVE in any weather. Plants are integral to OUR health, but they depend on YOU to keep them healthy!