Help your trees survive the drought

In this article from The Press Democrat, Paul Dubois, district manager of Davey's Napa County and Sonoma County office, discusses drought and the stress it is causing some trees.

Posted: July 17, 2015

By Meg McConahey

You’re being a good citizen, carefully watching your water use. You’ve drastically cut back on new plantings, turned off your overhead sprinklers and begun capturing water from your shower to keep your garden beds alive. Maybe you’ve even taken conservation to a higher level and killed your lawn.

But being a water miser could have unintended consequences. Cutting back too drastically could be doing serious if not fatal harm to your trees, arborists say.

A Forest Health Protection Survey of 4.6 million acres from Monterey Bay to Point Arena, found more than half a million dead trees, most ponderosa and other pines. The worst-hit area was around Monument Peak south of Clear Lake, which suffered a significant loss of ponderosa, knobcone and gray pine. And while the drought appeared to slow the damage from Sudden Oak Death syndrome, which is spread by water as well as soil and wind, areas north of Bodega Bay still showed a significant number of stricken tanoaks.

“We’re at extreme tree stress, especially to conifers, pine trees, Douglas fir and cedars. Those guys need a lot of water and they are not getting it,” said Paul Dubois, a certified arborist and district manager for the Davey Tree Expert Co. in Napa and Sonoma counties.

With landscapes looking increasingly parched, people are being forced to choose, like the captain of a sinking ship, which plants to water and which to let wither.

Because they take so long to grow, add value to your home and help insulate your property in the heat, mature trees should be on your priority list for watering. The Sonoma County Master Gardeners note that lawns, ground covers and bedding plants can be re-established relatively quickly. Trees and shrubs, however, take years, so don’t neglect them.

You should also prioritize which trees have the greatest need.

Certain types of trees, particularly natives such as oaks that are adapted to periodic droughts, will do better, although in a prolonged drought such as this, even some oaks are showing signs of stress.

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