— Just because we’ve had a little rain, it doesn’t
mean the drought is over. The damage done by drought
builds up over time and its lingering effects will take
many rainy months to begin to wash away.
hit hard are trees. Sacramento’s famed urban forest
continues to struggle with lack of moisture. But it may
be hard to tell if a tree is suffering – especially if
it usually drops its leaves this time of year.
winter approaches, we’re used to letting our woody
friends take care of themselves. December rains usually
provide all the water they need. We turn off the
sprinklers and forget about trees’ needs until the
first bright green flush of new spring leaves.
this winter likely will not be business as usual and in
other rain-starved areas. All indications are that this
prolonged drought will just keep getting worse.
generally can get by with less water in winter,
according to arborists. As trees get less sunlight,
their systems slow down.
trees drop their leaves and go dormant. Evergreens grow
at a much slower pace, if at all. After its winter rest,
a tree will bounce back in spring — if it has enough
water stored. If it doesn’t, it can be a sad, slow
truly are stressed out now and many are showing signs
thereof," said Doug Carlson, of California’s
Department of Water Resources. "Let your tree die
and you’ve created an expensive removal problem for
down and hauling away a 50-foot redwood can cost several
hundred dollars; the taller the tree, the higher the
or dying trees also become home to all sorts of pests,
which in turn can attack healthy plants.
many months of drought, trees have less ability to help
themselves. Tender feeder roots underground have died
back, so trees can’t soak up as much water when it
do you tell your tree needs help? Here are some warning
signs from the Tree Care Industry Association:
Leaves look small or undersized. The tree’s canopy
may turn prematurely yellow or brown. Or it may seem
scorched, especially around the edges. While the leaves
of deciduous trees normally turn yellow and drop,
evergreens shouldn’t be brown.
New shoots appear stunted, or not at all.
Spots of mold or fungus appear on the trunk. Fungus or
other pathogens may infect the tree, often invading the
bark or around the crown.
Holes appear in the bark. Insects drill round, often
uniform holes in the trunk and branches, infesting the
in doubt, call in an expert. In this prolonged water
crisis, there will be casualties. Tree care
professionals suggest focusing on the trees that you can
save. But how?
Water deep and slow. Use a soaker hose, not the
sprinklers, and let the moisture seep down to the roots,
where it’s needed. Probe the soil with a screwdriver
or trowel to be sure the water is penetrating 12 inches
Where you water is important, too. Irrigate at the drip
line, the outer edge of the tree’s canopy. Make a
circle around the tree with the soaker hose about a foot
inside of the drip line.
Then, mulch, mulch, mulch. Pile up pine needles, wood
chips or other organic mulch and spread it 3 to 4 inches
deep under the tree’s canopy. That will help keep the
soil moist longer and make water go farther.
A little water now can save a thirsty tree and stop
the right amount of water to keep trees healthy as lawns
dry out is the ‘Goldilocks solution,’" Carlson
added. "Not too little, not too much, but ju-u-ust