With millions of urban trees in need of extra care due to extreme drought, Save Our Water – the State of California’s water conservation campaign – is partnering with California ReLeaf and urban forest groups across the state to bring awareness to the importance of tree care while cutting back on our outdoor water use. As Californians curb outdoor water use, paying extra attention to trees is vital to preserving our urban tree canopy.
The partnership, which includes the USDA Forest Service, CAL FIRE’s Urban & Community Forestry Department as well as local groups, highlights how to properly water and care for trees so that they not only survive the drought, but thrive to provide shade, beauty and habitat, clean the air and water, and make our cities and towns healthier and more livable for decades to come.
“With Californians cutting back on their outdoor water use and irrigation this summer to help protect our water supplies, it is critical that we continue to properly care for our trees,” said Cindy Blain, Executive Director of California ReLeaf. “Our urban forest canopy is important for our environmental and community health so we must do what we can to save our water and our trees.”
Trees in irrigated landscapes become dependent on regular watering and when watering is reduced – especially when it’s stopped completely – trees can become stressed and die. Tree loss is a very costly problem, not only in expensive tree removal, but in the loss of all the benefits trees provide: cooling and cleaning the air and water, shading homes, walkways and recreation areas, and protecting public health.
Follow these simple steps for proper drought tree care this summer:
1. Deeply and slowly water mature trees 1 to 2 times per month with a simple soaker hose or drip system toward the edge of the tree canopy – NOT at the base of the tree. Use a hose faucet timer (found at hardware stores) to prevent overwatering.
2. Young trees need 5 gallons of water 2 to 4 times per week, depending on your region and weather. Create a small watering basin with a berm or rounded mound of dirt.
3. Use recycled water to care for your trees. Shower with a bucket and use that water for trees and plants, as long as it is free of non-biodegradable soaps or shampoos. Be sure to alternate recycled and non-recycled water to address potential salinity concerns.
4. Be careful to not over-prune trees during drought. Too much pruning and drought stress your trees.
5. Mulch, Mulch, MULCH! 4 to 6 inches of mulch helps retain moisture, reducing water needs and protecting your trees.
6. Watch the weather and let Mother Nature handle watering if rain is in the forecast. And remember, trees require different watering schedules than other plants and landscaping.
“As Californians cut back on outdoor water use, remembering to put extra care into trees will ensure our urban forests remain strong throughout this extreme drought,” said Walter Passmore, State Urban Forester for CAL FIRE. “Saving water this summer is imperative, and we must be smart about when and how we use this precious resource. Keeping established trees alive using drought-smart tree care guidelines should be part of everyone’s water budget.”
For more information on how Californians can take action today to save water, visit SaveOurWater.com.