Waterwise Tactics from The Morton Arboretum
Keep Trees Watered During Dry Spell, Advises The Morton Arboretum
LISLE, IL (June 19, 2012) – High heat and very little rain! Gardeners and home owners should not take a vacation from keeping their trees and other plants well watered at this time of year. “We have had a relatively dry growing season, and it might stay that way for awhile,” says Doris Taylor, Plant Information Specialist. Currently we had almost 10 inches less rainfall - 10.93” rainfall compared to 19.4, in 2011. “So until it begins to rain again, our plants are depending upon us to keep them alive,” she adds.
The Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic offers a few guidelines for proper tree and shrub watering:
- Water weekly. Gardeners should continue to water plants weekly. Tree leaves are “transpiring,” or “exhaling” moisture, which needs to be replenished, especially in times of high heat and little rainfall. Large, established trees should be watered every 2-3 weeks in dry periods.
- Check new plants frequently. Newly-planted trees, shrubs and perennials are still establishing their root systems and should be checked more frequently. Water into the root ball area and surrounding area deeply. This will encourage new roots to grow deeper into the soil. Plants should receive up to one-inch of water weekly.
- Check on these species. 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.
- Water container plants more frequently. Container plants can dry out and wilt fairly easily; they should be watered frequently. Taylor says. If plants are in full sun, they likely require more water. than containers in shade, which can retain water more easily.
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.
The Arboretum recommends watering within the drip line 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. Avoid frequent light watering. Let a hose run slowly at the drip line of the tree, moving it around occasionally. If using a sprinkler system, place a container nearby and let it fill 1-2 inches.
“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 younger tree well watered.
Remember to keep two to four inches layer of organic mulch around a tree to moderate soil temperature and retain moisture. Do not let it touch the trunk or stems.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized outdoor tree museum on 1,700 acres. Plant collections, scientific research, and education programs support the mission to plant and conserve trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Throughout natural landscapes are specialty gardens, 16 miles of trails, and nine miles of roads. Other offerings include tree-focused events, activities, and services for adults, children, professionals, and communities. The Arboretum welcomes 800,000 visitors annually and serves 34,000 member households. Located 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open daily 7 a.m. until sunset. More information is available at www.mortonarb.org or 630-968-0074.
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