The implications of the dry weather for farmers are obvious, but Stevens Point residents should be concerned, too, because of the threat to the city’s tree canopy.
Trees, besides being nice to sit under on a hot day, are seriously beneficial to a community: A shaded house doesn’t need as much air conditioning; trees bolster property values – “mature trees” is one of Realtors’ favorite expressions; and trees are good for the air and water quality because they filter out harmful pollutants that otherwise would wash directly into our streams and rivers – or be inhaled directly into our lungs.
The city of Stevens Point is asking residents to remember to water city street trees in front of their homes when they are watering other trees on their property. This is especially true for recently planted trees during hot and dry times like we presently are experiencing.
Soak the soil beneath the tree out to the outermost ends of the branches for an hour or so every week. On small younger trees, you may not have to water as long, but during hot days, you may have to water more often. For example, if a homeowner has a two-inch diameter street tree out in front of their home, the tree would need about 20 gallons of water every five to seven days. This would cost the homeowner about four cents per watering.
How to water your trees
Trees that are less than three years old need at least 20 gallons of water (about an inch of rainfall) per week to survive. Extremely hot and dry conditions quickly zap the life out of trees, especially those that are newly planted.
Water your trees in the evening after 9 p.m., or in the morning before 7 a.m. to prevent evaporation and water usage during peak times.
For small trees, at least once a week fill a five-gallon bucket four times and slowly pour water around the base of your tree, or poke 2-4 small holes towards the bottom on the sides and let the water slowly drip out. Tree-gators, which can hold 20 gallons of water and slowly let it seep into the ground, can be purchased at garden centers.
Or, position your hose at the base of your tree set on trickle for one hour to get the recommended 20 gallons at least once a week. During hot and dry times, watering twice a week is better.
For larger, mature trees or trees with visible signs of stress – loss of leaves or yellowing foliage – use a water-conserving drip hose around the drip lines of your trees, watering very gradually once a week for a 24-hour period.
Applying mulch around your tree is another practice homeowners can perform to help their trees. It is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your tree. Mulches are materials placed over the soil surface to help conserve moisture, improve soil conditions, and even protect the tree. Some examples of mulch are wood chips and shredded bark. A layer of mulch three- to four-inches deep, but not touching your trunk, should be applied as broadly as practical around the tree.
The dry conditions make trees more susceptible to disease or attacks from insects. We need measurable rain or a soaking rain. When rain comes so fast, it’s not actually soaking in. When you’re this dry, it takes some time for water to penetrate.
Editor’s note: Todd Ernster is the city forester for Stevens Point. He can be contacted at 715-346-1532.