Published on 04/09/00

Timely Watering Can Save Trees, Money

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Photo: Joe Courson

It costs much more to have a dead tree removed from your yard than to water it enough to keep it from dying.

Tree experts say Georgia has a serious situation that needs dealing with now. Don't wait to start watering, they say. Many trees are already close to dying.

"We've gone through two (years of) very severe drought," said University of Georgia scientist David Moorhead. "We really haven't had any letup, and if we get into more dry weather this summer, we could really see some problems with some of our large landscape trees."

Tifton, Ga., tree surgeon Robert Lewis Stevenson said the long drought has already given him a lot of work, and he expects even more. "I've noticed a lot of trees dying," Stevenson said.

Tree Removal Costly

Having a dead tree removed from your yard could easily cost $500. But trees don't have to die, Moorhead said, and homeowners don't have to pay big bucks to get them cut down. Something as simple as a little watering can make a big difference.

"Getting into a good watering program to supplement the natural rainfall can be very beneficial," said Moorhead, an Extension Service forester with the UGA Warnell School of Forest Resources.

Many people don't think about watering the big trees on their property. So why start doing it now? Because we face having two straight drought years stretch into a third, Moorhead said, and many trees are in bad shape. They could die if they don't get enough water.

Rains Haven't Been Enough

Moorhead said the recent rains in Georgia haven't been nearly enough. He tells people not to wait any longer. Start watering trees now, because they've started growing new leaves.

"Typically, what we want to do is water under the crown of the tree," he said. "That means we come back from the trunk of the tree about 3 feet, and we concentrate our watering from that point out to the edge of the drip line."

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Photo: Joe Courson

You may have to adjust the yard sprinkler system to make sure the trees get 1 to 3 inches of water each week.

Water at night, too, after 10 p.m. and before 8 a.m., when trees really drink water. With nighttime watering, you lose less water to evaporation, too.

But don't water every night. "Fewer, heavier applications really would be more beneficial," Moorhead said.

Deep, soil-soaking watering works best. But even though your tree may be huge, you don't have to get the water too deep.

"Most of the tree roots are going to be in the upper 1 foot of the soil," Moorhead said. "So we really need to look at wetting that area, as opposed to doing any really deep watering below 2 feet."

In most cases, watering alone can save the trees in your landscape. If you don't, a tree surgeon may get to handle the problem.