While our lawns show clear signs of drought damage, our trees are much different. The signs of drought are subtle, and for some trees it can take up to three years to see the full effects of drought damage. Because of this, it is important to be proactive with tree and lawn care during drought season.
Caring For Trees
In time of drought, it is important to remember that prolonged lack of water and dry soil conditions significantly reduce a tree’s life span. You can do a self-inspection of your trees to judge if they may be suffering from drought damage. Three things to look out for are:
- Tree condition
- Color of the leaves
- Pest problems
Start with the appearance of the tree: a thinning canopy or branches dying and drying out are signs of drought damage.
Trees experiencing short-term drought stress often will have wilted, early dropping, scorched or curling leaves. Pay attention to the color of these leaves as well: if they are brown at the tips or edges or have premature fall coloring, there is a good chance the tree is under stress from drought.
Pest problems can be a result of long-term drought damage. Insects such as borers and diseases such as canker disease will take advantage of drought stressed trees and cause further damage.
Spotting these symptoms can be alarming, but there are ways to maintain your trees in a drought and combat damage.
The best time to hydrate your trees is in the morning. This is the time that water is most easily absorbed into the soil. Watering should be done once or twice a week, allowing saturation of the upper 12 inches of soil.
To water deeply, set your sprinkler beneath the tree directly away from the trunk concentrating on the areas directly beneath the foliage known as the “drip zone.” This allows for the soil to absorb the moisture it needs.
Trees should be watered as slowly as possible. To gauge the correct amount of watering time, place an empty can of soup in the drip zone. The tree will be sufficiently watered when two inches of water have filled the can.
Wondering if your tree is getting enough water?: The answer is in the soil. To test your soil, poke a long screwdriver into the dirt—if it’s hard to push in, the water may not be reaching the roots.
Alternate watering methods include using a drip hose or just applying a slow trickle from a standard garden hose. To monitor how much water you’re using, take a 5-gallon bucket and puncture two to three small holes in the bottom. Place the bucket directly on top of the soil, fill it with water and wait until the bucket slowly empties into the soil. Move the bucket all the around the root zone, repeating this watering process.
Subsurface watering is a service Davey provides to efficiently get to the root of your trees and keep them hydrated during a drought. Using an injection probe, the top 12 inches of soil are watered. The deep watering process allows for more efficient distribution and less chance of run off or evaporation.
If your concerned about watering your trees efficiently, use the form below to contact your local professionally trained arborist and ask about subsurface watering.
Properly pruning your trees is a way to improve their structure and strength. Tress with broken, dead, insect-infested or disease-stricken branches will be more susceptible to damage during a drought.
Watch this video for expert advice on how to properly prune your trees. We encourage you to not take on pruning jobs that may become a safety hazard. Contact your local professionally trained arborist for assistance.
Mulching your tree is a great method to reduce moisture lost during a drought. For the best results, avoid volcano mulching, which can cause a number of issues including tree disease and decay, insect damage and unstable trees.
How do you know if you’re mulching properly?: Follow the “4x4x4” rule: Keep the mulch 4 inches from the trunk, 4 inches thick, 4 feet out.
Caring For Lawns
To keep your lawn at its best, there are maintenance steps you can take before or after a drought begins.
Maintaining your yard prior to drought with the correct level of fertilizer, coupled with good water management practices will help reduce drought damage on your lawn.
If Your Lawn Has Already Been Damaged By Drought
Watering the lawn: During a drought, it is important to water the grass in a way that will reduce waste. Watering needs to occur slowly over multiple intervals that allow water to soak into the ground.
Seeding the Lawn: If your lawn has damaged spots, spot seeding can help the thin or bare areas. Small areas can be seeded by hand. First, loosen the soil to provide a good soil-seed contact, and then sprinkle the seeds into the problem area. Seeded areas should get light and frequent watering for the first couple of weeks to encourage growth.
Mowing the Lawn: to mow the lawn, raise the mowing height to shade the soil. This cools the surface, reducing moisture requirements and weed competition. Also, it will ensure that less water evaporates from the soil.