Low precipitation and midsummer drought conditions can adversely affects trees and shrubs and overall plant health. Both the mortality of newly planted trees and shrubs and the growth and aesthetic appeal of established landscape plants can be compromised. Signs of stress from poor water conditions include wilted leaves, marginal scorch, or leaves dropping prematurely.
When drought strikes, many trees like pine and sugar maple, are less capable than usual of dealing with plant stress because their root systems are damaged. This can make them more susceptible to insects and diseases that normally pose little threat to tree health.
It’s important to maintain soil moisture in the optimal range in order to protect and preserve plant health. There are a number of steps you can take to counteract the effects of dry weather and protect your plants from drought conditions.
The certified arborists at Tree Tech recommend installing some form of drip irrigation before possible restrictions on water use comes into play. Sprinkler irrigation wastes water and may lead to foliar diseases. A drip irrigation system uses much less water and delivers it more effectively to the root zones of trees and shrubs. Drip irrigation is an effective way to replenish the moisture in the soil without leaving the root ball saturated for an extended period.
Another more environmentally friendly technique is to divert water from downspouts or use rain barrels to capture rain water. This stored and diverted water can be used to irrigate trees and shrubs rather than letting it run into storm sewers.
Irrigating Newly Planted Trees
Newly planted trees may require more regular watering than established trees and shrubs. Drip irrigation works great for new plants, but how often and how much should you water? Here’s a quick reference guide. A 24-inch root ball requires 2 or 3 gallons every four or five days. If you don’t have a drip irrigation system, another solution would be to poke a few nail holes in the sides of a 5-gallon bucket near the bottom, put the bucket next to the trunk and fill it with water every few days.
Irrigating large trees
Typically, the larger a tree, the more drought-tolerant it is. This is because a well-established tree has a massive root system, can tap into subsoil moisture. In drought conditions however, when subsoil moisture has been depleted, trees lose this advantage and must compete with other plants for available moisture. While it is normally not necessary to irrigate established trees, it may be advisable to do so during extreme dry spells.
First, it must be understood that it will take a tremendous volume of water to replenish the soil moisture throughout the entire root zone of a large tree. Fortunately though, wetting even a small portion of a tree’s root zone will greatly reduce drought stress.
Using a soaker hose of some type is the best way to irrigate large trees. A 50-foot length of hose running it for about one hour will wet a band about 2 feet wide with about 200 gallons of water. This is the equivalent of about 6-inches of rain. Repeat this procedure three or four times in various locations during drought conditions to help trees maintain proper moisture.
Stay attuned to early warning signs of droughts and be proactive when it comes establishing a regular watering routine. This will go a long in ensuring the longevity of trees and shrubs. To have your trees or shrubs evaluated by aMassachusetts Certified Arborist, call the MA tree care company with over 25 years’ experience – Tree Tech Inc. To schedule a free arborist site visit click here or call 888-873-3832