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Don’t Forget to Water Trees During Drought Conditions

Colorado State Forest Service

Persistent drought conditions have parched the soil over southern Colorado, stressing even irrigated lawns and larger landscape trees. During these periods of drought, homeowners should consider supplemental watering to keep their trees healthy.

“Adequately watering your trees is the best way to ensure optimum growth and vigor during the summer months,” said Donna Davis, Colorado State Forest Service community forestry program specialist for the Colorado State Forest Service. “Dry trees become susceptible to root and branch die-back and subsequent insect and disease problems.”

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map, released last week, indicates that all of southern Colorado is currently experiencing some form of drought – with 50 percent of the state under “severe” or worse drought classifications. 

The CSFS offers the following tips to keep trees healthy during summer drought:

  • Mulch. Mulch is an inexpensive solution to retain soil moisture and save water. Apply 4 inches of organic mulch onto bare soil outward 2 to 3 feet from the base of the trunk (removing any grass first, if necessary). Do not allow the mulch to directly contact the trunk. 
  • Water a wide area. Tree root systems, unlike carrots, typically don’t dive downward but instead go outward – spreading two to three times wider than the height of the tree – and most absorbing roots are in the top foot of soil. Apply water to soak the entire area underneath the full span of a tree’s branches.
  • Water slowly. To ensure soil penetration, use a deep root fork (inserted 8 inches or less), soaker hose on low setting or soft spray wand to apply water gradually to the full area.
  • Keep the yard green. Trees located in irrigated lawns generally do not require additional water, as long as the area surrounding the tree receives adequate moisture. Conversely, a dry, yellow yard means the roots of any trees present are also dry.
  • Focus on smaller and non-irrigated trees. Trees that do not receive water from sprinkler systems or irrigation require additional water. Every week, apply 10 gallons of water for each inch of tree trunk diameter. Water small and newly planted trees even more frequently, as they have less extensive root systems.