Protecting Your Trees Through Periods of Drought

tree care dry drought watering
Save Your Trees From Drought Conditions

Keep Shade Oaks Healthy & Happy

Surrounding your home with plenty of mature oaks and elms enriches the landscape and can provide shade to keep you cool on a hot day. However, even the toughest varieties require at least occasional watering to stay healthy and strong. Allowing established oaks or pecans to go without water for months on end during a drought could lead to irreparable damage or the death of the plant. A dead live oak could fall and cause serious damage to your car, lawn or home. These towering shades need deep wetting to carry nutrients and fuel throughout the structure of the trunk, branches and leaves. Proper management of limited liquid supplies will ensure your elms have the best chance of surviving an extended drought.

Start with the Drip Line on Younger Trees

When offering supplemental liquid, it is important to wet the right part of the ground so the tree can absorb as much as possible. TreePeople recommends that you start by watering along the drip line of the outer branches, which only stretch as far as the root system. You can sprinkle closer to the trunk, but only once the tree is at least five or six years old. The roots won’t be properly developed to absorb moisture that close to the trunk until it has been properly established.

Look for Symptoms of Under or Over Watering

Not every shrub or plant around your home may need supplemental watering during a drought. There’s no need to hose one down that is handling the lack of moisture just fine. Look for injuries and issues with the leaves of each evergreen or oak. Curling and brown edges indicate a serious lack of moisture making it into the system. If a deciduous tree starts dropping leaves in the middle of the summer, take immediate action to wet down the soil around it. Waiting too long after this point will prevent the tree from recovering from the stress. Evergreens will turn rust colored or even purple and lose their needles in great quantities.

Deep Watering May Be Over-Doing It

Watering gradually every few hours during the hottest days may be tempting, but most trees are adapted to suck in plenty of moisture at once and store it in the trunk. Keeping the soil wet for days at a time will prevent oxygen from reaching the roots. This can cause rot, fungal infections and dead roots, warns the Colorado State University Extension Office. Aim to water deeply and less frequently. Keep wetting the soil with a hose until it is soaked to a depth of 12 inches. Digging a small hole near the tree will help you determine when you have hit this goal. However, don’t dig a bunch of holes to help penetrate hard soil. This can damage the roots by exposing them too much.

Choose the Right Tree for Your Landscape

Many homeowners struggle to keep both shade plants and lawn or flowerbeds irrigated during hot summers and long droughts. However, there should be no choice when it comes to saving trees. A lawn or flower planting killed by a lack of water is relatively inexpensive to replace. A 100-year-old live oak can’t simply be reseeded after the drought has passed. Protect the most well-established and healthy ones if you can’t manage to water all of them. Smaller and more common plantings should be sacrificed to protect the health of any elm, ash or oak that could threaten your home if they fall.

Texans traditionally think of trees as fence posts in-the-rough. Who needs trees when you’ve got a big hat for shade? The best way to survive as a tree in Texas is to arrange to have some historic event occur under (or hanging from) your branches. According to

Be Careful Not to Over Fertilize – Make Your Tree Work for Growth

They don’t need to be setting out new leaves and producing extensive twigs when they are already struggling to find enough moisture for existing growth. Avoiding fertilizer application will help the tree focus on survival rather than rampant development. You can always catch up with new growth during the years when rainfall is plentiful. Applying mulch will help the soil stay moist and minimizes evaporation during hot and sunny days.

Save Rain Water – There’s Nothing Else Like It

Attaching a simple rain barrel to your gutters will help you gather the rare rainfall and save it for the weeks where you don’t see a single cloud. An average roof can provide 1,000 gallons of clean water for watering trees and other plants if just one inch of rain falls on the land around the home. This reduces the strain on the local water supply or your property’s well. It is also much healthier for your plants and saves you money as well.

With droughts putting a strain on public water supplies in 2011 and 2012, rainwater harvesting offers an alternative water source that benefits everyone.

Extended Drought Tree Care – These Do’s & Don’ts May Surprise You