Columbia, SC (August 9, 2007)- As is the case with the human population, this week’s extreme weather takes its toll among the youngest and the oldest of trees. Urban foresters with the South Carolina Forestry Commission are hoping landscapers, maintenance personnel, and homeowners remember to step up tree care during very hot weather.
Liz Gilland is the agency’s community forestry program manager. She said unless your community is under a water restriction, your trees should be first in line for a drink from the garden hose today. “An investment in water for trees will go much further from a property value standpoint than keeping annuals, turf or even shrubs alive. Actually, keeping the trees alive and healthy may go a long way toward keeping other plants alive,” Gilland said.
As soil-water content declines, trees become more stressed and begin to react. Gilland said your trees will reach a point when water is so limited and unavailable that tree tissues and biological processes are damaged. As drought and heat persist, trees become vulnerable to insect damage and disease.
As a general rule for young trees, two gallons of water should be applied for every one inch of tree diameter until the soil is sufficiently wet, but not saturated. This is impractical for older and mature trees so watering the area thoroughly under the tree canopy will work.
While fertilizing trees in hot, dry weather should be avoided, mulching is encouraged to keep moisture levels in the soil high. Proper mulching includes the placement of 2 to 4 inches of organic matter over the roots in the area under the tree canopy, making sure not to pile it against the trunk as that can harbor insect pests and disease.
Pruning in summer should be avoided except for the occasional dead limb or branch. Above all, giving your trees a good drink will help get them through South Carolina’s brutal August weather. An investment of water will last for decades in your landscape.
South Carolina Urban & Community Forestry Council
WPDE Channel 15