Drought Causes "Worst Ever Effects on Plants and Trees," The Morton Arboretum Experts Say
Be a Good Neighbor, Step Up and Step Down the Block to Water and Save Trees and Plants
LISLE, IL (July 12, 2012) –The harshest Midwest drought in a quarter century is causing the “worst drought symptoms I have observed in my professional career,” according to Kris Bachtell, Vice President of Collections and Facilities for The Morton Arboretum. He urges area residents to be good neighbors and step out to help water trees and plants throughout the neighborhood that are showing stress.
“Plants and trees are so stressed that they not might make it through the drought without some help,” says Bachtell. That’s why Chicago-area residents are reporting leaves browning and dropping off trees months ahead, because leaves are where the trees lose most of their water, Bachtell says. The symptoms of the drought include: wilted leaves, leaves with a gray-ish cast, scorched leaves, yellowing leaves (particularly interior ones), and dropping leaves. To stave off continued damage, Bachtell recommends area residents take these steps to help avoid damage from this record-breaking drought:
- Go on neighborhood patrol. Step out of your own footprint and water the trees on your parkway.
- Head down the street with water. Take a five gallon bucket of water down the street and water something that needs to be watered.
- Water weekly. Gardeners should continue to water plants weekly. Large, established trees should be watered every two to three 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 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. 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 one to two inches.
“Gator Bags”–plastic, water-filled vessels that surrounds 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.
About The Morton Arboretum
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.
# # #