After nearly four years of reduced rainfall and decreasing irrigation, redwoods, birches and other trees are parched for water. In many cases, the water-starved trees are dying as good intentions are carried to extremes.
“They’re in really bad shape” said one arborist. “Everybody’s doing their part in cutting back on water usage, and doing that in a large way by cutting down on the use of their sprinkler systems. They don’t realize that their trees have been getting most of their water from that, and when they cut back on lawn watering, most trees can’t adapt to that change in their watering system, and therefore are dying or stressed really badly.”
The good news is that the solution is not a drastic one. With a little attention and a small amount of water from efficient soaker hoses, the trees can be kept healthy until the rainy season comes again. In a normal year, the valley gets 12-15 inches of rain that’s absorbed a few feet into the soil, where it remains as a resource of trees when rain or irrigation is scarce.
After four years of drought, that supplemental water is virtually gone. Water from short lawn irrigation is only slightly helpful to the trees and even that small amount has dried up as residents scale back their outdoor irrigation.
The effects were first noticed in 2014, when arborists described the trees as not feeling well. The spring of that year, when trees should have been waking up from their dormant period, had trees dying–they simply did not re-leaf. Others had delayed re-leafing and were clearly suffering.
Now, in the fourth year, it’s gotten increasingly worse with trees actually falling. Redwoods were the first to show the damage because they are evergreen, and we can see their foliage year round. Birch is another one that prefers a moist environment and showed the first signs. This is the second year that the trees have been in extreme stress. Arborists want to make sure that people are aware and taking appropriate measures to make sure the large trees on their property are being cared for.
With water restrictions in place, many residents don’t consider that their trees need some of their efforts directed at them as well. Take a close look at the trees on your property, they suggest, and visually evaluate them. They should have vibrant, green leaves or needles and a full canopy. Wilting, browning or excessive leaf or needle loss, sparse foliage or bare tops are signs of stress. Remember to include them when you are allowed to water your lawns.
Get a soaker hose and place it around the tree. Turn it on for a long period of time, the experts suggest. You can run a soaker hose for hours without putting a dent in your bill. This is the most efficient watering you can do for a tree. Try it for a couple of hours, and then check to see how deep the water has gone. Watch your water bill and try to save water elsewhere, so that you can have some resources available for your trees.