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Jan 19, 2012
I’m sure you’ve heard the National Weather Service recently reported that 2011 was the driest year on record in Texas and the second hottest. This comes as no consolation to those that lived through it and still didn’t get the t-shirt.
It’s no surprise that with this record breaking drought there are going to be some dead trees. The real surprise may be in how many trees we actually lose in the end. The kicker is we won’t know for sure until spring when many trees that went dormant this past fall don’t come back or only partially re-leaf stressed and weakened leaving them more susceptible to secondary attacks from insects and pathogens.
But, there is hope! Just because your tree doesn’t have any leaves, doesn’t mean it’s not working. Trees are using this time to grow new roots and prepare for spring. If you have an evergreen tree, or semi-evergreen, there is still some growth taking place at reduced rate. This winter has brought periods of dry weather adding further stress to those trees that may have already been affected by this past summer’s extreme heat.
When it comes to watering during the winter months people tend to make one of two mistakes – some continue to water at the same rates as in the summer, which leads to a waste of water and can lead to root rot and other issues. Others stop watering all together, which leads to root die back and other drought related problems.
If next summer is anything like last year, we need to make sure that we provide our trees every possible chance, while also ensuring proper start for the next generation of trees planted. So plant a tree today and follow these simple guidelines for deciding how often and how much to water during the winter months.
- Winter Moisture: Substantial rain or snow improves soil moisture levels and supplemental watering can be stopped temporarily until irrigation is needed again.
- Soil Type: Sandy soils dry out quicker than heavier soils because they cannot hold as much water. Sandy soils may need to be watered more often but with less water than a heavier soil. Making this adjustment will result in less water waste.
- Mulch: Water evaporates from bare ground much faster than mulched soil. Use a 4-inch layer of mulch to conserve soil moisture by slowing evaporation.
- New vs. Established Plants: Newly planted plants need frequent watering to survive until they develop a more extensive root system to support them. Established plants may only need an occasional irrigation to meet their water needs.