Dry periods – especially prolonged ones – can impact trees and plants in multiple ways, and it’s important to learn how to help a tree survive a dry season.
When soil is dry, the water available to your plant roots declines to a point where it’s unavailable to trees and shrubs.
Caring For Trees In Dry Conditions
Dry-season weather conditions can wreak havoc on your trees.
Looking for symptoms of stress can tell you whether your trees are suffering.
Some common symptoms of trees in dry conditions include:
- Curling or wilting leaves
- Scorched leaves
- Leaf drop or a thinning canopy
- Dying branches
- The appearance of wood-boring insects
- Discoloration of pine tree needles (gray-ish green to rust)
If you are tending to trees in dry conditions, there are some strategies you can follow to ensure they can survive the season.
How To Help Young Or Newly Planted Trees Survive Dry Weather
For newly planted trees, these specific watering recommendations can help deal with dry summer weather conditions:
- When backfilling around tree root balls during planting, soak every 6 inches of backfill with water to get the soil to settle.
- Once the tree is planted, soak the root ball to the point of standing surface water weekly.
- Also, slowly apply 1 gallon of water to every square foot of area under the canopy weekly, depending on weather patterns
How To Help Mature Trees Survive Dry Weather
Most established trees are pretty resilient when it comes to dry weather.
While growth may slow down during dry periods, large trees with extensive root systems can extract water from larger volumes of soil.
Summer watering tips for established trees include delivering monthly water, but larger trees may require more. Slow and deep watering every 5-7 days targets tree roots and not just the soil surface, which is vital, especially in dry conditions. You want the water to reach a depth of approximately 12 inches. Consider using drip irrigation to deliver this water in a slow, steady fashion to the roots of the tree.
But some trees are more tolerant of dry conditions than others. These include:
- Native tree species
- Trees with smaller leaves
- Trees with upright crowns
- Trees with multi-layered crowns
Caring For Shrubs In Dry Conditions
Just as you need to help trees survive a dry season, you need to keep an eye on your shrubs, as well.
First, remember to use mulch around your plants to keep the soil cool temperature, as well as prevent evaporation of water from the soil. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture, and be sure not to apply mulch against the main stem or stems of plants.
Water your shrubs early in the day when air temperatures are cooler. Target water to the plant roots and water deeply to encourage deep root growth. Water twice weekly for as much time as it takes to wet 12 inches of soil.
Caring For Your Lawn In Dry Conditions
Lawns need attention during unexpected dry conditions as well.
What helps grass survive dry conditions? Slow, infrequent watering gets down to your lawn roots and prevents runoff. Early watering ensures cool temperatures and less water wasted to evapotranspiration.
During drought, irrigate lawns once per week in the morning with spray heads in a way that minimizes runoff while soaking through to beyond the grass rooting depth of 8 inches or more. Your lawn may go dormant in summer’s excessive heat, but will green up again as temperatures cool, depending on your turf species and location.
If you have an irrigation system and are dealing with newly established lawn, you want to water daily in the early morning then once again in the late afternoon until the sod roots in soil. Timing your irrigation controller will depend on soil infiltration rate and irrigation nozzle type. During hot, dry weather, repeat watering in the late afternoon. Continue until seedlings are fully germinated and have begun producing new tillers or runners. Reduce watering to once per week, and then only as needed based on the season and weather.