Like all plants, trees need water and a drought can be especially hard to survive. At the same time, water restrictions can make it difficult to provide enough water to keep your trees thriving and healthy. A landscape tree undergoing drought stress can be more susceptible to pest and disease issues as it struggles to survive. Fortunately, you can minimize your water use and keep trees healthy by learning the right way to care for them in drought-prone areas.
Tip #1: Plant Wisely
When adding new trees to the landscape, avoid placing them near areas that trap heat since the soil will dry out more quickly in these locations. Generally, planting too closely to a road or driveway is the issue, since the large expanses of blacktop absorb heat and cause great moisture loss and evaporation in the immediate surroundings.
Tip #2: Keep Roots Covered
The roots of a tree are the part that absorbs the water, so you don't want them expose so that the moisture evaporates out before it can travel up the trunk. Use mulch to help keep the soil cool and the roots covered, thus inhibiting evaporation. Spread the mulch over the ground from the trunk to the edge of the tree's dripline, which is the edge of the main canopy branches overhead. Pull back the mulch from the trunk so it isn't resting against the wood, though, since this can cause bark rot.
Tip #3: Water Wisely
Sprinklers aren't a good idea during a drought, since most of the water will probably evaporate before it reaches the ground. Instead, use the 5-gallon bucket method of watering trees. Fill a five-gallon bucket with water and poor it directly onto the ground in a circle a 1 to 2 feet out from the trunk. Mature, healthy trees can probably survive fine with a single watering a week, while young newly planted trees may need this treatment twice weekly so they can work to establish healthy root systems. Also, water before sunrise or after sunset to further minimize evaporative loss.
Tip #4: Maintain the Canopy
Overgrown trees or those with bad growth habits may require more water to maintain the unnecessary growth. The time to prune most trees is in late winter before the flush of new spring growth. Trim out dead and damaged branches, along with any branches that are crossed or rubbing. Some trees can also be managed for size by trimming back the length of individual branches. Working with a tree service ensures that the trees are pruned properly so they can withstand drought and other stresses. Contact a business, such as Jerry's Tree Service, for more information.