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Forecast: Hot & Humid

July 12, 2012

The air-conditioning is set on high. The fan is blowing in my face. And it feels so good, particularly since my dog and I were just panting within seconds of stepping out to a heavy wall of heat and humidity. His face tilts up to mine, happy for the nice, cool breeze. We face the facts together as I sip from a tall, cool glass of water and he laps up the same out of his bowl: Despite our yearning to enjoy the outdoors, it's hot. And it's hot in nearly every region of the country.

There's simply no denying it: This summer's a scorcher. While it's difficult to find the motivation to open the door to the heat lingering in the air outside - let alone step out onto a dry, parched lawn - I brave the elements because I notice my trees need some TLC, too.

It's difficult to imagine another day of 90-plus degree temperatures. So I can hardly imagine how my trees must feel as their roots cling to nothing but the dry soil, day after day.

child sprinkler

Many areas of the U.S. are breaking heat records this year. As you sweat it out in the yard, tirelessly tending to your plants, it seems you merely blink and, in an instant, the moisture dries up. Your trees and plants also suffer from stress in the form of drooping, curling and browning leaves; premature fall color; leaf drop; or weakened root systems.

Properly watering trees and shrubs can help your landscape better cope with heat's wrath; proper care and maintenance also strengthens root systems to make trees less susceptible to heat stress, and other pressures that can result, such as insect and disease infestation.

Supplemental watering is key. If you want your trees to recover from heat stress, one of the best ways you can help is to provide them with a lot of extra water.


To ensure your trees are sufficiently hydrated, soak the upper 12 inches of soil (where the roots grow) around your trees at least once per week. Focus on the drip zone, which refers to the area directly beneath the canopy. Because tree roots are deeper than turf roots, proper hydration might require you to water three times longer than when you water your lawn - which also prefers watering about once a week under extreme heat.

When watering trees, remember soil type and method of water delivery have a big impact on how successful the general recommendations might be. Trees planted on a slope may need some type of soaker hose or drip emitter, as applied water will run off. Sandy soils need shorter watering intervals, and clay soils need longer intervals because they are harder to wet when dry and water will run off if applied too quickly. Physically checking soil moisture by hand to a 1-foot depth instead of using arbitrary watering intervals or relying upon automatic timers is always advisable.

Before you establish a water management plan for your landscape, check your county/municipal guidelines for watering restrictions and heat and drought updates. Then, water your trees as permitted.

Your local arborist can assist you with water management and signs of weather stress. But in the meantime, make sure you drink plenty of water to stay cool … and remember to give your trees a drink when they need it, too.

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