With the Lone Star State mired in a record-breaking drought, the parched trees that dot the landscape can no longer depend solely on Mother Nature to quench their thirst.
Just like people, trees need water to survive. Without it, they can’t carry nutrients up into their leaves or push the sugar they create down into their roots.
A few weeks ago, I visited my family ranch, just south of San Angelo, and the stress on trees there is quite obvious. Juniper trees are turning brown and dying, while oak trees are dropping leaves.
“We’re seeing trees dying now, and the longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get,” Paul Johnson, a Texas Forest Service regional urban forester in San Antonio, said. “If you’ve got a tree in your yard … it’s stressed.”
Watering is the single most important thing you can do for your tree during a drought. Without water, trees stop growing and drop their leaves in an act of self-preservation. As the drought worsens, so does the tree, making it more susceptible to a potentially-deadly insect infestation or disease.
“Trees are amazingly resilient, so things look a little better now than I expected, but they’re still under serious stress,” Johnson said. “It’s worth the investment in your water bill to avoid the very real cost of having a tree removed, never mind losing the shade and cooling effect and all the other things trees do for us.”
The key is making sure you water the right amount, the right way, Johnson said, explaining that watering too much or too little can be just as detrimental.
Texas Forest Service tree experts have compiled a list of watering tips that can help you nurse your trees through the drought:
• Before you drag out the hose, check for and follow local water restrictions, which often are enacted during a prolonged drought.
• Well-established, valuable, mature trees should be watered every week or two during times of major drought. • When you water, do so deeply — 6 to 8 inches into the soil under the foliage of the tree. Avoid shallow, frequent watering. You can measure the depth with a long screwdriver, taking note of how easy it slides into the soil.
• The easiest way to give your tree a good, deep soak is with a soaker hose or sprinkler system. A mature tree needs about an inch of water — or 60 gallons per 10-foot-by-10-foot area — every week or two.
• Time your sprinkler or soaker hose so you’ll know how long to run them. With a sprinkler, place an empty tuna or cat food can near the tree and time how long it takes to fill it up. With a soaker hose, curl it up inside a kiddie pool, let it run for a set period of time and then measure how much water is released.
• Young, newly-planted trees should be watered three times a week. During each watering, they need five gallons of water for every inch of stem — or trunk — diameter, which is measured 6 inches above the ground. So if your tree measures 6 inches in diameter, that’s 30 gallons of water, three times each week.
• Water should be concentrated at the base of a new tree, which is why water bags are ideal. If you don’t have access to them, drill a few holes in the bottom of a five gallon bucket, place it next to the tree, fill it up and let the water slowly drain out.
• Generally, a tree is considered established about two to three years after planting, but the ongoing, extreme drought is causing some older trees to struggle. Keep a close eye on any trees planted within the last seven years.
• Another option is to reduce your watering needs by removing plants that surround your tree. Grass and trees often fight for available water. Replacing that grass — especially around new trees — with a 6-foot diameter, 2-inch deep circle of mulch can help keep moisture on the ground and available to the tree.
State tree experts say it’s too soon to tell how many trees we may lose. Many have gone dormant in an act of self-preservation so it could be next spring before we know if they will make a comeback. Until then, the most important thing for you to do is water — properly and efficiently.
Farm and Ranch Show is in Robstown
The 2nd Annual Coastal Bend Farm and Ranch Show will be held on Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown.
This Farm and Ranch Show will showcase some of the latest agricultural technology being used in South Texas. In addition to the many farm industry exhibits, there will be numerous educational sessions offering continuing education units for pesticide applicators and certified crop advisors.
The fairgrounds is located at 1213 Terry Shamsie Blvd, just east of U.S. Highway 77.
Admission to and parking at the event will be free.
Money Management Workshop
With all of the recent activity associated with the Eagle Ford Shale in Live Oak and surrounding counties, many individuals have new issues related to financial management that they may not have been expecting and with this comes increased potential tax issues.
The Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Live Oak County and the Extension Leadership Advisory Board are hosting a program to focus on money management, tax issue concerns and endowments. The program is scheduled to take place Tuesday, beginning at 1 p.m., in the Ray Point Community Center.
The guest speaker for the day will be Wayne A. Hayenga, Professor Emeritus and Extension Specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
An agriculture economist and attorney, Hayenga works extensively with farmers, ranchers and family owned firms. He works with them in finance, business and tax planning. He is a member of the American Bar Association and the American Agriculture Law Association.
If you have any questions, please call the Extension Office (361) 449-1703. It would be greatly appreciated if you would please RSVP to the Live Oak County Extension Office by Friday so that appropriate seating and refreshments can be made. The registration fee is $10 per person.