TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

July 23, 2012

Trees feeling the heat

To survive, trees need help in hot, dry weather

CORBIN — By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer

Trees, particularly in summers that seem to be hotter than they’ve ever been, can have some real problems.

This summer, more than half of the 48 states are in some stage of drought.

It may be impossible to keep every tree in good health during severe drought, but there is a proactive approach in keeping trees well.

One way, said to support good cultural practices, is including monitoring for pests and disease and respond to warning signs to make sure trees will survive.

Another is to make sure that in the hot dry days of summer, trees should be watered, said Jamie Johnson, a U.S.D.A. conservation planning technician for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“One important thing is that you can mulch around your trees if they are landscape trees in your lawn,” she explained.

Mulch will get proper nutrients to the soil around the trees.

Watering them is good for the trees every seven to 10 days.

At least an inch of water should be put on the ground under the umbrella of leaves of the trees.

“You can put a rain gauge under the tree while the tree is being watered and you’ll know when you have enough,” she said.

Karen Wyan, chair of the London Tree Board, agreed with Johnson.

“You should water inside the entire umbrella of the trees, not just near the trunk,” she said. “That root world extends as far from the trunk as the leafy area above. Some people call that a drip line.”

“It can take several growing seasons before you actually notice the effects of a drought. Three years down the road it can manifest itself in some weird way,” Johnson said.

Sometimes when trees in dry weather lose leaves and rain returns, the tree could again put on a second growth of leaves late in the season, she added.

Johnson said, with the heat of summer, the tiny Chestnut trees that have been planted this year are having some problems, “We lost 12 trees of about 26 in the Laurel County plot. With the drought stress, the land owners are watering them every other day.”

“They are surviving, but it’s rough for them,” she said.

“The London Tree Board is inventorying the urban forest in London. It will be three stages, so we’re in stage one. That’s getting the street-scape done all over this town, which is 20 feet away from the street curbs,” Wyan said.

According to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), the first damage from drought happens when a tree attempts to conserve water by closing leaves.

That’s when pests make their moves into trees.

Boring insects appear to be drawn by the chemical and acoustic signals of stressed trees.

And the sound of water columns cue the borer to invade a tree and lay eggs.

Another danger to trees under stress is fungal pathogens.

A tree in a weakened state allows certain pathogens to penetrate the bark and wood cutting off the water supply to the tree.

Trees at risk during a long period of drought, are more prone to the drought’s effects.

Drought makes matters worse for trees already under stress, particularly on dry slopes, surrounded by pavement or improperly planted.

In a landscape situation perhaps moving smaller trees to a better location or replacing a moisture-draining lawn with a layer of mulch is a good idea.

Also, a two or three layer of compost will help the trees maintain moisture.

The after-effects of drought may last three to five years, with the strongest trees surviving, said TCIA.

A professional arborist can assess landscapes, provide information about the potential of your trees and work to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your landscape.

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