Cleaning Up Your Own Backyard

How Do You Save A Tree That's Dying From Drought?

by Warren Garcia

Trees use a number of strategies to help them survive drought conditions. They'll drop some of their leaves in order to reduce the amount of water they lose through evaporation, and they'll also close off roots that aren't drawing in enough water and allow them to die off. When drought conditions carry on too long, however, the number of leaves they drop and the roots that die can result in the tree becoming unable to survive even when drought conditions end.

If your area is currently in a drought and your trees are losing leaves and branches, it's likely that they're being stressed by the lack of water. Protecting them will improve their chances of surviving the drought. Read on to find out how you can help save trees that are dying from drought.

Add Mulch to the Soil Above the Roots 

One of the best ways you can help your tree survive a drought is to add mulch around its base. The mulch will become saturated with water when it rains or when you water your tree, and it will slowly release that water into the soil. You'll need to use organic mulch for this purpose since it won't contain herbicides, pests, or diseases that can harm your tree. Add a layer of mulch on top of the soil around the tree, making sure that it doesn't touch the trunk of the tree — pests and diseases that infest the mulch will move onto the tree if the mulch is right against it.

Water Your Tree, Making Sure It Goes Deep Into the Soil

During a drought, you'll need to water trees yourself in order to keep the soil saturated with moisture. Watering trees is different from watering other plants since tree roots extend very deep into the soil. When you're watering a tree, you need to use a low flow of water and water it very slowly. This gives the water enough time to soak deep into the soil, making sure it's saturated with moisture near the deepest roots of the tree.

Low-flow sprinklers meant for watering trees are the best tools for this. They add water to the soil nearby the tree slowly, giving it time to seep into the soil rather than puddling on top of it.

Prune Dead Branches to Reduce the Risk of Disease and Pests

When your tree is suffering from drought stress, it's more vulnerable to being infected by disease or eaten by pests. Dead branches don't do anything useful for the tree. They don't have any leaves that would provide the tree with energy from photosynthesis. However, they're very inviting for pests and disease. Pruning dead branches off of your tree will help it avoid being targeted. Avoid pruning any live branches unless it's an emergency (such as a branch near a power line) since this will add further stress to the tree.

Don't Use Fertilizer

While fertilizing a tree that's struggling with drought seems like it would improve its ability to survive, it's counterproductive. Fertilizing the tree will spur growth, and trees survive drought conditions by limiting their growth and eliminating unnecessary branches and roots. Fertilizing your tree will stress it out, even more, so you should avoid it.

If you're unsure if your tree is dying from drought or if you're not sure how to best help it survive, call a tree care service in your area and have them examine the tree. They'll be able to tell if drought conditions are causing the leaves to fall off or if it's caused by pests or disease. If drought is stressing the tree, they'll come up with a watering plan that will add moisture to the soil and help the tree survive the drought.

For more information, contact a company like Jonny's Spray Solutions LLC.