Trees need special attention during and after droughts to keep them healthy. They are the most valuable asset to your landscape, and a lack of water can bring disaster. Because drought is such a significant threat to your investment, below are five tips for watering trees during a drought to keep your trees looking their best during tough times
Most trees are planted on turf and watered only when the turf is watered. This is already a poor way to water your trees, and restrictions on how many days a week you can water make the situation worse. (When possible, have trees on a separate valve with proper drip emitters because their water needs differ from turf.) Trees are at risk, and their damage isn’t quickly noticeable. However, by the time you do notice, it is often too late. The issue is shallow watering. When you run spray heads in turf with trees, the water does not penetrate very far into the soil. If you are lucky, a 10-minute run time (depending on soil type and other factors) may penetrate eight inches into the soil. Many trees have roots down to 24 inches in the soil. Many trees go deeper than that as well. Underwatering does not promote healthy root growth, and tree roots cannot take advantage of deep water during a drought when they are underwatered and shallow-rooted.
Slow watering with drip irrigation – This provides the deep watering your trees need, maybe once to twice a month. Watch the video below to learn about two watering devices that help you water deep and slow that you can build a home for a low cost.
Young trees need 5 gallons of water twice a week. You can use tree bags or 5-gallon buckets with holes to slowly and deeply water your trees.
It’s time to shower with a bucket again and use that water for your trees.
Drought is not the time to prune your trees. Instead, the extra canopy will help them manage the drought better.
Wait to fertilize. Many fertilizers have salt in them. Without good natural deep watering from rain, lots of salt is sitting in your root zone, and adding fertilizer will contribute to the problem. Wait until consistent rain is in the forecast before you start the fertilizer program again.
Dennis Swartzel is a board-certified Master Arborist. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in Floriculture. Dennis’ previous experience includes greenhouse manager, park superintendent, arboretum and landscape director for UNLV, an adjunct faculty member for the College of Southern Nevada, and marketing director for a large regional nursery, wholesale nursery broker, and consulting arborist. He was a recent guest on one of the Jain webinars, and you can see what he says about watering trees during a drought here.