The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 5, 2013

Proper watering can limit damage

By Bethany Sanderson, CNHI News Service
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — With water as the single most important resource for tree survival and growth, drought conditions the past couple years have been less than favorable for both young and mature trees.

“More than 80 percent of variation in tree growth is related to water supply,” said Bob Atchison, of Kansas Forest Service.

He said the most common signs of drought last summer appeared in foliage and included leaf drop, curling, wilting, discoloration and dead branches. Symptoms usually appear first in the top center portion of canopies, making it difficult to identify drought stress in tall, more mature trees.

Atchison recommended several practices to limit tree damage during drought, even in the winter months.

“Even though we have entered the winter season, it is still helpful to apply water when weather allows and the soil can absorb moisture,” he said.

While newly planted trees should be watered regularly for the first three years, established, mature trees should be watered every two to four weeks by soaking the top 12 inches of soil under the tree’s canopy. Atchison recommended using a soaker hose, drip irrigation or slow drip bucket to spread water over the entire root area. As a general rule, he recommended two gallons of water be applied for every one inch of tree diameter.

He also warned against over watering.

Atchison said pruning and fertilizing often have negative effects during drought as well. Both cause the tree to expend energy that could otherwise be spent on growth.

Sanderson writes for Farm Talk, of Parsons, Kan.