Trees are a great way to retain overall moisture and provide much-needed shade. They help keep temperatures down and deliver environmental beauty to commercial, communal, and residential areas.
Unfortunately, an increasing part of the US is experiencing drought on a regular basis—and this affects even mature trees. Trees usually need plenty of water to survive. With careful monitoring and proper watering routines, however, you can help your trees thrive even in drought conditions.
To ensure your trees’ wellbeing, it is best to prepare year-round. There are several steps you can take in the winter, in anticipation of summer’s drier conditions. Complement these with actions you can take in the summer and help your trees survive the heat and stressful circumstances no matter how hot it gets.
Water Your Tree When It Needs It
The most important thing to remember is that grown trees have deep rooting systems compared to the shallow roots of turf or smaller shrubs and flowers.
Your trees will find water deep in the soil and will keep looking for moisture at deeper levels. To help them, water your trees at spaced intervals, making sure to do so slowly and consistently.
Mature trees over five years old should be watered every one to two weeks with at least 20 to 40 gallons of water per cycle.
You can check the moisture by introducing a screwdriver to the soil around your tree. If the moisture in the top 18 to 20 inches has evaporated and the screwdriver comes out dry, you need to water.
For younger trees, you should check soil moisture in the first 12 to 18 inches of soil. Younger trees require less water, around 10 to 20 gallons, per watering session.
Water Where Your Tree Needs It
Most people only water at the base of a tree, where the trunk stands. Trees, however, have far-extending roots.
To help you understand what’s happening deep within the soil, look up at the canopy of your tree and see how widely it expands: that is how far tree roots also expand down below. Another easy way to assess your tree’s root system is to water as far as the shade provided by the canopy.
Perhaps surprisingly, feeding roots are the ones that spread farthest from the trunk—and the ones you really want to water.
Use a Drip Line
You should water your tree slowly and deeply. The best way to do this is with a drip line or with a hose that delivers water in consistent, controlled quantities.
Make sure the drip line covers all the roots around your tree and not just the trunk base. Run your drip line for an adequate amount of time to ensure that all trees get enough water in a single soaking.
Be careful not to overwater: you want to deliver water to your tree, not create a mini-swamp in your garden!
Water at the Right Time of Day
The best time to water is early in the morning, when the temperatures are cooler and milder and there is less evaporation.
Spread Mulch around Your Tree Base
Consider spreading some mulch around the tree base. Mulch can help your tree in many ways:
- It helps by keeping evaporation down and controlling weeds at the same time. Weeds take away soil moisture and compete with the tree for water, so anything that can stop them from spreading and growing gives your tree a leg up.
- Mulch also regulates soil temperatures and keeps the soil cooler. This protects tree roots from heat shock and further limits water evaporation.
- Finally, mulch delivers nutrients to the soil and gives trees the valuable minerals and nourishment they need to stay healthy.
Winter Tips for Summer Survival
Proper preparation is always better than mitigation. Follow these tips to ensure that your trees do well in the summer:
- Prune your trees—especially the canopy—in the winter, when they are sleeping. The more leaves left on the tree, the more water you will need to feed them in the summer.
- Fertilize your trees throughout winter. A sturdy tree is a healthy tree that can better withstand drought and adverse growing conditions.
- Don’t fertilize a tree in the summer because doing so will boost leaf growth—which is something you don’t want in the middle of a summer heat wave.
How Do I Know When My Tree Is in Heat Stress?
To understand when your tree desperately needs water, check its leaves and fruit. Leaves will be wilting, yellowing, and even falling, leaving gaps in the canopy. If the tree is fruit-bearing, the fruit will be smaller.
It is best if you don’t let your tree reach heat stress before watering. Repeated heat stress weakens trees, so you should water your trees well before they display any discomfort.
Environmental Design Inc. for Your Trees
Environmental Design Inc. has a large tree farm with hundreds of tree varieties, including specimen trees. We take great care of our trees and ensure they are robust. We have automated their watering cycles to help them develop deep roots without endangering their growth.