Action Line: Severe drought means trees still need lots of water
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Monday, December 17, 2012
12/17/12 at 2:36 AM
Tulsa's abnormally low spring and summer rainfall - a deficit of 11.26 inches May through Nov. 28 (the second driest on record) - has killed lots of trees and will continue doing so, said Anna America, executive director of Up With Trees.
The nonprofit, which is dedicated to planting, preserving and promoting Tulsa's urban forest, spent the summer and fall planting 500 trees to replace those lost to the drought. She urges everyone to "water those little trees, even though it's winter."
The group took over the watering and tree maintenance responsibility from the city of 10 miles of Tulsa's roadway median trees. America said the 2012 drought is just as devastating to the urban forest as the 2007 ice storm.
"Oklahoma experienced an extreme and exceptional drought this year causing a tragic loss of a high percentage of Tulsa's urban forest," said John Kahre, horticulture coordinator at Tulsa Community College. "The effects will be felt for years." He said the drought doesn't end with the summer-fall transition. The U.S. Drought Monitor lists "exceptional" to "severe" drought in Oklahoma. "Homeowners don't realize even mature trees need extra watering and care during drought conditions and smaller trees and shrubs, normally requiring little care over the winter, need it more now than ever."
The trees typically in trouble from the summer-long drought and likely to turn up dead in the spring are the understory trees growing in the 10- to 30-foot range: redbud, crape myrtle, dogwood, Hawthorne, service berry, and smoketree. They need watering in the winter.
Urban forester Mike Perkins, with Tulsa's Streets and Stormwater Department, said a lot of plants "are struggling because of the extreme, prolonged heat and drought conditions. We're seeing mature trees as well as recently planted trees struggling. The biggest problem people have watering trees is they're usually watering turf with sprinklers and trying to encompass turf surface roots and tree deep roots with the same sprinkler and this doesn't foster sufficient watering of the understory tree roots."
A good watering device for this is the "Treegator bag" - a common term for perforated bags placed around a tree's root crown and filled for slow watering. Home improvement stores carry slow-watering devices for about $20.
Original Print Headline: Keep your trees alive in drought
Phil Mulkins 918-699-8888
The Avondale Chinese Redbud at the Linnaeus Teaching Garden. Redbud and other trees need winter watering. Courtesy