Water management

By: Craig Jabs - July 5, 2009

Many of the trees in the Edmonton area are showing the signs and symptoms of stress due to lack of water.  It is vital that you properly water your trees and shrubs on a regular basis, otherwise the trees will need to be removed.

Water is the main component of all living things. Virtually all living cells and tissues need water and the lack of it will cause your trees to decline and die. In trees and plants, water is the pathway in which nutrients and minerals are circulated. Without water, photosynthesis (the process in which carbohydrates and sugars are converted into energy) would cease to exist.

Trees lose water through a process called transpiration. Transpiration pulls water up throughout the tree from the root system. When the water loss through transpiration exceeds the trees ability to take up water from the soil, the tree wilts. At this point the tree then begins to shut down certain necessary processes due to lack of water. The tree now becomes susceptible to other problems such as disease and insect infestation. It may also start dropping leaves and the tissue of the branch tips may start to die back. This drought process can take many years to show up and some species of trees may never completely recover.

Too much water can cause tree roots to suffocate and is as bad as too little. So how much and how often should you water your trees? This depends on the species and the size of the tree. Here are a few general guidelines that may help you in the watering of your trees:

1. Fewer, deep root waterings are better than more frequent, shallow waterings (once a week during drought conditions and once every 3 weeks during regular conditions). Use a deep root watering probe on low pressure no deeper than 12 inches below ground level. Apply probe every 3 feet around the drip line of the tree. The length of soaking per hole depends on the moisture of the soil, 5-7 minutes should be adequate during normal conditions. Deep root watering has an added benefit of breaking up compacted soil which allows oxygen to reach the roots. This is especially important in the urban setting where there is a thick layer of sod planted on top of the trees roots.

2. If you don't have a deep root watering probe use a drip hose and water for about 15-20 minutes two or three times a week during drought conditions. Remember to reduce the amount of waterings in the late summer to early fall.

3. Mornings are the best time of day to water. Evaporation is minimized, and the foliage has time to dry during the day.

4. If we get a heavy, soaking rain, then you can skip a watering.

5. Water all your trees and shrubs thoroughly  in approx. mid October to help them through the long, hard Alberta winters.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your trees and shrubs please do not hesitate to contact us at (780) 448-0584.

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