Water Wise Tactics
Keep Trees Watered During Dry Spell, Advises The Morton Arboretum
LISLE, IL (September 15, 2009) - Summer vacation season may be over, but gardeners should not take a vacation from keeping their trees and other plants well watered at this time of year. After a relatively wet growing season, we hit a dry spell in August, says Doris Taylor, Plant Information Specialist at The Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic. Follow The Morton Arboretum guidelines for proper tree and shrub watering.
Most importantly, gardeners should continue to water right until the ground freezes, even though most trees and other plants are starting to shut down at this time of year. While trees have their leaves, they are "transpiring," or "exhaling" moisture, which needs to be replenished.
Drought-sensitive trees and plants likely showing the effects of reduced moisture include magnolias, Japanese maples, dogwoods, beeches, larches, tulip trees, and birches. Also, hydrangeas are likely suffering a bit because they're shallow-rooted and therefore drought-sensitive.
Container plants can dry out and wilt fairly easily; they should be watered quite a bit, Taylor says. If plants are in full sun, they likely require more water.
Newly-planted trees, shrubs and perennials are still establishing their root systems and should receive up to one-inch of water weekly.
To check the soil's moisture, either use a soil probe or place your finger in the soil. If it is dry and hard, watering is appropriate. If there is some moisture, continue to monitor the soil's moisture level. Containers in full sun likely need watering more frequently than containers in shade, which can retain water more easily.
The Arboretum recommends watering within the dripline of a tree, from the trunk out to the end of the branches, to reach the roots most effectively. The objective is to keep roots moist but not wet. Constantly saturated conditions can damage roots.
So-called "Gator Bags"-plastic, water-filled vessels that envelope a tree trunk-provide a slow drip to the root system and are a good way to keep your tree well watered.
Remember to keep two to four inches organic mulch layered around a tree to moderate soil temperature and retain moisture.
Some Chicago-area homeowners are noticing their trees changing into fall color already. These few trees are likely stressed from the weather. Or, some trees that dropped leaves may have been hit with fungal diseases brought on by this year's wet spring, including crabapples, hawthorns, oaks and maples. The Arboretum recommends good fall clean-up to prevent re-infection next year: raking up any diseased leaves and not adding them to a compost pile; and to prevent spreading the infection around, do not mow these infected leaves.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,117 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission - the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time or sunset, whichever is earlier. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through February. Visit Press Room at www.mortonarb.org, call to learn more.
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