Drought causing trees stress, how to help them survive

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) -The lack of rain across Central Texas is causing stress to the trees in our area, but a big concern is how this comes shortly after other stressful events like the deep freeze last year.

“These stress events on trees typically don’t kill a tree but multiple stress events together can definitely damage those trees,” Dr. Shane McLellan, a county extension agent for AgriLife Extension, said. “The freeze we had in 2021 definitely set back a lot of our trees, hurt them, killed a lot of trees and now we have this drought.”

Dr. McLellan says there is no quick fix as many trees show symptoms 7 to 10 years after the stress event occurred. Years from now you could still see the loss of limbs so patience and supplemental watering are key for the long-term health of the tree.

“I had a phone today from a guy who had a younger tree that was suffering from sun-scald where the leaves were just burning off,” Dr. McLellan said. “He was watering it, watering it, probably overwatering it. Texas Forest Service says to water every 10 days.”

A slow, deep soaking using a soaking hose is recommended every 10 days, especially for young trees. Using a sprinkler is not recommended as much of the water will evaporate, and make sure not to water just at the base of the tree.

“You need to water them within the drip line of that tree so basically the whole area under that tree,” Dr. McLellan said.

You won’t see immediate results but taking the right steps now is important for the future of these trees while avoiding causing further damage.

“If you add fertilizer, if you add some type of a food source, a lot of time it is going to do more damage than good just because those trees are just trying to survive,” Dr. McLellan said.

It’s also not a good idea to do any significant trimming so the tree doesn’t experience additional wounds, but getting rid of small, dead branches is still ok.

Something else to keep in mind is following water restrictions when watering your trees. You should only water every 10 days but ensure it aligns with your city’s restrictions.

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