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15 Aug 2017

Drought Stress and Tree Health – What You Need to Know

The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Drought on Trees and How to Combat Them


With the effects of climate change becoming more evident and undeniable, one of the most popular discussions among arborists and gardeners is drought and trees, specifically how to alleviate the stresses experienced by trees and shrubs brought on by drought.

This is such a crucial topic because the lack of water won’t only cause certain plants and trees to slowly wilt and die, but it can severely affect plant development and growth as well.

Plants, especially trees, can experience short-term and long-term effects from drought. Short-term stresses can go away once rain starts pouring in regularly again. However, the long-term stresses can linger on even after the rain returns.

So what are these stresses, these detrimental effects on trees that are brought about by drought? What can you do, as a tree owner, to help your trees survive the drought and recover?


Drought and Trees: The Short- and Long-Term Effects

As your trees continue to starve from lack of moisture, symptoms will start to appear. Some are quite obvious, while others not so much.


Wilting of Leaves

Wilting is the first and the most obvious sign of tree health problem brought about by drought, although not exclusively. Wilting may also be caused by other detrimental factors. But this is the first sign that you will most likely notice on your trees and shrubberies during a drought.


Premature Shedding of Leaves

The fall season is typically the time when trees start to shed their leaves and they prepare to go into hibernation for the winter. During a drought, however, trees and other plant life can go into premature shedding; their leaves will slowly wither and die, due to the lack of water and ground moisture.

There’s just isn’t enough water to sustain the tree, so it starts to shed its leaves as a form of defense.


Dramatic Reduction of Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is crucial to a tree’s growth and development. It’s the machinery that enables trees to absorb sunlight and synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. If the tree’s ability to photosynthesize is compromised, it could have serious, long-term, and even fatal effects on the tree’s ability to recover and survive.

Imagine if something were to happen to your digestive system, if it’s compromised in some way. How will you be able to process the food you’re taking in? How will you be able to absorb the nutrients that your body needs in order to properly function?


Pest and Insect Infestation

With the lack of water and a compromised ability to photosynthesize, trees will become weak and susceptible to pest attack. They won’t be able to adjust or defend against the onslaught of insects that are trying to survive the drought as well. And this will only weaken the tree even more, causing long-term damage that may be difficult to recover from.

So those are just a few of the potential effects that trees may experience during a drought. The question now is how do you mitigate or lessen the effects of drought on your trees? What can you do to protect them and give them the best chance to recover?


Tree Care Tips during a Drought


  1. Water your trees, but water appropriately.

During a drought, you’re going to need to water your trees and shrubs regularly. But you need to be mindful of the amount of water, the frequency of which you water the trees, and the type of tree you’re watering. Remember that not all trees require the same amount of water or the same frequency. Some species require less, while others may need more.


  1. Check your trees for signs of stress.

It’s important to inspect your trees for any sign of stress or symptoms, especially those mentioned on the first part of this article, so you can take the appropriate action to mitigate those symptoms. Keep in mind that there are symptoms that take longer to appear, while there are those that materialize almost immediately.


  1. Skip the fertilizer and focus on mulching instead.

During a drought, a tree’s root system is susceptible to damage from the salts and other strong chemicals from fertilizers due to lack of water. So instead of adding fertilizer, you should do some mulching instead, in order to preserve soil moisture and protect the root system from further damage.


  1. Consult a certified arborist.

Your best asset in helping your trees recover from a drought is having a certified arborist guiding you on what to do along the way. Arborists know about trees better than anyone. So if you see signs of drought stress on your trees, contact your local arborist as soon as possible.


More info: photo by chillervirus


08 Jan 2017
tree protection from harsh weather

How to Protect Your Trees from the Harsh Winter Weather

Typical winter weather takes a serious toll on trees, regardless of whether it’s a newly planted growing tree or an aging one that’s over a decade old. Snow storms, the rapid fluctuation of temperatures between the day time and night time, and drought—all these are detrimental to the health of your tree.

So what does this mean for the average tree owner?

For any homeowner who has a tree or two in his property, tree health is a major concern, especially during this time of year. Concerns about the overall health of a tree are not only for the benefit of the tree itself, but also for the neighborhood and the people living within its vicinity.

A sickly or weak tree could break a branch at any moment. Even the slightest gust of wind could cause a large, heavy limb to break and fall. Now, what if kids were playing underneath the tree? What if the broken limb is directly above a portion of your house?


How to Effectively Deal with the Various Problems That Winter Brings

Dealing with Extreme and Fluctuating Temperatures

Fluctuating temperatures can cause a lot of stress on trees in a variety of ways. On mature trees, for instance, the rapid changes in temperature between the daytime warmth from the sun and night time sub-zero conditions can wreak havoc within the tree, specifically between the outer layer/bark and the inner wood.

The stress brought about the rapid change of temperature will eventually lead to cracks, otherwise known as frost cracking or southwest injury—referring to the part of the tree that receives the most exposure from winter sunlight.


What Should You Do to Avoid This?

In the majority of the cases, there is very little that you can do to prevent frost cracking from occurring, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters. More often than not, trees sustaining such injuries can repair themselves over time. The cracked area, however, will remain vulnerable, so you have to be careful of subsequent cracking occurring in that same area if you want to avoid serious damage to the plant.

As part of your fall maintenance procedure, you might want to consider wrapping the bark of your trees with commercial tree blankets to prevent moisture loss and frost cracking. Applying the appropriate winter mulch on the ground surrounding the tree is also advisable to provide adequate insulation on the plant’s root system.

Late growth injuries brought about by sudden temperature drops is also a common problem among trees and other plants. Ice crystals can form and rupture the cell walls on the growing tips of a tree branch. To avoid this, you should only perform the pruning process until after the tree has entered into its dormant stage during the fall.


Combating Winter Drought

Winter drought is a very real problem for trees and other plant life, especially in areas that experience harsh winters and really low temperatures. Winter drought usually happens when a plant, particularly a tree, loses more water than it can absorb from the frozen ground. This is especially common during early spring when the warm spring sun begins to heat up the tree but the ground is still frozen solid, preventing it from absorbing enough moisture.


A Proactive Solution that is Easy to Implement

Granted that there is no surefire way to prevent winter drought from occurring, you can minimize its effects by simply spreading a thick layer of organic winter mulch around the base of the tree. You apply the mulch in late fall, just before winter starts to hit. The mulch will serve as insulation, acting as a temperature buffer for the root system while slowing down moisture loss and runoff.


Preventing Limb and Branch Breakage

Tree limbs and branches are especially vulnerable to breakage during the winter season. This is particularly common among deciduous trees where the wood hardens due to cold temperatures and become brittle and susceptible to breakage, even with just a little gust of wind. Then there’s the accumulation of ice and snow on the branches, adding more weight, which again may result in breakage.


What To Do

The best solution to minimizing branch breakage lies in the fall maintenance of your trees, specifically the pruning process. This is why pruning is very important. Not just the process itself, but how and when you do the pruning.

Make sure to prune the tree after it enters dormancy to prevent late growth injuries, and make sure to remove any damaged limbs and weak branches before winter hits.


How do you protect your trees during harsh weather months? What has worked well for you in the past? Comment below.


More info:

Seasonal Tree Care

Stocksnap photo by Jay Mantri