Date Issued: July 29, 2019
The Village of Westmont’s Environmental Improvement Committee (EIC) wants to remind residents how important it is to care for trees during the summer months. “We have had very little rainfall in the last month and the trees are showing signs of distress,” said Jon Yeater, Village Forester and EIC Liaison. “It is very important to care for newly planted and mature trees during drought conditions.”
The EIC recommends that residents water trees and shrubs during extremely dry soil conditions. If you have to choose, water your trees and not the grass since grass will turn green again when water is available, but trees can have lasting damage. For water conservation, it is best not to water your lawn at all. Trees, on the other hand, will show subtle signs of drought, wilting or dropping leaves. However, they can be seriously injured or die without water.
Summer is the most stressful time for landscape plants. Without enough moisture, plants can't function normally and are predisposed to damage by pests or disease. Generally speaking, those most at risk are newly planted or transplanted trees without extensive root systems or other plants with under-developed or damaged root systems.
When watering trees, remember that they absorb water and nutrients through their roots, most of which are in the upper 1 to 2 feet of soil. The goal is to keep plant roots moist, but not wet. Constantly saturated conditions also can damage roots.
Watering and other tips for plant care during drought:
Depending on air temperatures, trees and shrubs need at least 1 inch of water applied every week to 10 days to cope with lack of rain. Larger, established trees have a wide-spreading root system and need not be watered as frequently, perhaps every 2 to 3 weeks. Let the top few inches of soil dry out between watering to avoid saturation and to allow roots and soil organisms to breathe.
Water slowly and deeply so water percolates down into the soil, electing one or two deep waterings as opposed to several light ones.
Use gator bags, soaker hoses and drip irrigation, effective watering tools because they discharge even streams of slow, trickling water directly to the root zone beneath trees and shrubs. When combined with a 3 or 4-inch layer of organic mulch, plants can use nearly all of the water that's provided with little evaporation loss.
Another effective means of watering a small tree is letting a hose run slowly at its base until the ground is moist. For large trees, let the hose run at various points around the tree's drip line—the imaginary line on the ground that encircles a tree's extended branches.
Water shrubs at the plant base and under the spread of branches until soil is moistened to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
When using a sprinkler system, place a container nearby to measure when you have distributed 1 inch of water to the soil.
Plants vary in their ability to tolerate water stress. Prioritize watering, caring for newly transplanted trees and shrubs first, then those that have been in the ground from 2 to 5 years. Next, water "specimen" trees or important trees, then all other plants.
Avoid using fertilizer during drought conditions. Fertilizer salts can cause root injury when soil moisture is limited.
For more information on these programs, contact Village Forester Jon Yeater at email@example.com.
Contact: Larry McIntyre
Village of Westmont
Communications Director/Public Information Officer