Tree Care & Watering Guide During Seasons Of Drought

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Trees are the majestic natural guardians of earthly ecosystems. As the climate changes, heat waves are causing more frequent and severe droughts which can pose significant threats to trees and the overall health of our planet. During periods of extended dry spells, people can play a crucial role in responsibly mitigating the damaging impact on trees and the environment to help ensure their survival and vitality.

In this blog, we’ll explore essential tips to become stewards of our gentle green companions to help ensure they remain strong and resilient during seasons of intense vulnerability. Check out our tree and shrub services for more information!

Understanding Tree Care


Understanding the immense value trees bring to the world is significant when recognizing our need to nurture them. Trees provide natural air purification, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, for clean air to breathe while combating ozone depletion and greenhouse effect. Their structures grow to act as natural reservoirs that help retain water in the ground and counter the effects of drought. They provide habitat and sustenance for countless wildlife species and contribute to the overall biodiversity of our planet. Human beings benefit from tree byproducts such as food, shelter, and energy just to name a few.

Moreover, trees offer shade, moderate temperatures, reduce soil erosion, and enhance the aesthetics of our surroundings which increases property values, provides stress relief and places to relax. As scientists watch more closely, they notice trees serve as silent sentinels, sending warning signals of spiraling planetary conditions while time remains for correction. By preserving trees, we contribute to numerous health benefits now, and for future generations.

Identifying Trees In Distress

Leaf Spot Identification

When water supplies dwindle, it’s crucial for tree caretakers to recognize the signs of drought stress and effectively prioritize care efforts. Not all trees may require the same level of attention. Young and newly planted trees, as well as trees with shallow root systems will be especially vulnerable. Trees surrounded by pavement or planted near streets, curbs, parking lots and sidewalks may also severely struggle. They have less access to absorb available water from dew or during natural rain showers, and paved areas intensify heat which dries them out faster. Older trees may still need some levels of care, but often fare better. Well established root networks can provide deeper access to ground water, and some trees even develop self-preservation systems to shed leaves, drop seeds and slow down their energy needs. Trees in dense wooded areas with healthy soil often need the least amount of care, but the hazard of fire is an ever-looming concern deserving the utmost of caution.

These are a few signs to watch for when determining if it’s time to act promptly:

  • Wilting Leaves: Leaves may appear droopy or parched, even in the absence of direct sunlight.
  • Leaves Curling or Browning: Leaves might curl at the edges or turn brown and crispy.
  • Leaves Turning Yellow: Chlorosis is a sign trees lack water and nutrients.
  • Extreme Presence of Insects or Disease: When vulnerable trees are susceptible to injury.    
  • Premature Fall Color Change: Leaves are showing signs of early dormancy.
  • Premature Leaf Drop: Trees may shed leaves prematurely to conserve water.
  • Thinning Canopy: The tree’s canopy may become thinner as it sheds leaves.
  • Cracked Bark: Bark might show signs of cracking or flaking due to water loss.
  • Stunted Growth: Trees experiencing drought stress may exhibit reduced growth.
  • Bare Soil: Cracked, dry, compacted, bare soil can mean the tree is grasping for moisture.
  • Hot Spots: Black top and heat radiating surfaces cause tree damage quickly, especially in urban areas.

Watering Guidelines

rain vs sun over a tree in a lawn

After identifying trees in distress and prioritizing their level of need for attention, it’s time to create a responsible care strategy. Providing water efficiently is typically the most effective first step toward preservation. Municipalities may have varying water restrictions in place, so be mindful of community regulations. Here are some watering strategies to save trees and still maintain a sustainable mindset.  

Water Deep & Slow: Rather than frequent short or shallow watering, focus on providing a long, slow quench using removable tree collars, drip irrigation or soaker hoses. Allow water to trickle at ground level around the root zone, which typically extends from the trunk to the edge of the leaf canopy. This strategy ideally provides a gradual 6 to 12-inch soil soak with the least amount of wasted water from evaporation or run off. Saturation has extended benefits in soil layers further underground where temperatures stay cooler, water lasts longer, and healthy deep root growth is encouraged. Deep roots have better access to ongoing absorption of natural resources which also helps keep trees standing tall and planted firmly.

Schedule Time: Create a plan that is convenient, consistent, and enjoyable. Consider weather conditions, local climate, degree of need, number of trees, time of the day and available resources. It’s best to water during cooler parts of the day such as early morning or late afternoon to optimize environmental efficiency and plant health. Weather reports can help estimate when supplemental care will be most useful. Prioritize trees with the greatest need according to accessible time and resources. Check equipment, hoses and water sources for cracks, breakage and leaks that could unexpectedly divert efforts. Remember, every drop makes a difference, especially during a drought. If personal health, air quality and weather conditions allow….. take time to enjoy the outdoors! Nature provides an array of opportunities for connecting with the world. Be safe and have fun.

Tree Care Tips


Take the extra step to keep trees healthy in harsh conditions and they will return the favor. Here are a few supplemental care guidelines for growing a resilient return on leafy investments:  

Mulch: Properly installed mulch acts as a water saving blanket that helps keep roots insulated and prevents water evaporation from soil. Applying 1 – 2 inches of an evenly distributed, leveled layer of organic mulch around the base of a tree can help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, moderate soil temperature, and even prevent mower damage. Remember, a little goes a long way. It’s best for mulch not to touch the tree trunk. High hill-shaped mounds of mulch around the trunk base, nick-named “volcano mulching” can cause damage or even death of a tree over time. Use locally sourced mulch, when possible, to prevent spread of invasive weeds, diseases, insects, and even undisclosed chemicals.      

Harvest Rainwater: Prepare ahead. When rain is available or abundant, consider options for collecting and recycling rainwater for use when you need it later. There are containers available to simply get started or put creative talents to use by installing systems for harvesting rainy resources from roof-tops and other surfaces. Some municipalities participate in distribution of free rain barrels and “how to” workshops. Collected water is useful for watering trees, and other gardening needs. Additionally, recycling water from clean household activities such as washing vegetables or left-over drinking water can also be spared and redirected to trees. Rainwater is an eco-friendly way to ensure water supplies are intact even when drought restrictions may be in place.

Supplement Nutrients: Trees need food just like all living creatures. In most cases, a healthy supply of nutrients naturally occurs from cycles of compost and beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. During times of draught-stress and soil depletion, trees benefit from replenishment. Trees take water and nutrients from surrounding grass, plants, and soils for survival when they need it. Using organic-based slow-release supplements, microbial soil builders or long lasting, non-burning options boost energy and vitality, and help surrounding grass and plants stay healthy too.

Insect & Disease Patrol: Keep eyes open for predators that take advantage when trees are least resistant. Some damage is strictly aesthetic, but on occasion problems can be deadly. Additionally, continued attacks can wear on overall immune resistance, especially if the tree is under multiple invasions or extended areas of attack. Be Green's insect and pest services will always help keep your trees pest free!

Careful Caring: Too much of a good thing can be bad. For example, 6 to 12 inches of watered soil is healthy but over-watering can cause harm to a tree by creating an oxygen-deprived environment in the root zone. All living things need food, water, and air to survive, but a tree can also drown from flooding or overwatering. Use caution and moderation when providing supplemental care of any kind. In most cases, nature is designed to take care of itself. Occasionally, it benefits from our human helping hands.  Over-indulgent extremes of any kind can cause stress, damage and even death.  

Keep Your Trees Green!

The care we extend to our trees during droughts reflects our commitment to preserving the health of our planet and securing a sustainable future. Trees are not only a part of our environment, but also integral to our well-being. By understanding the importance of trees, recognizing signs of drought stress, identifying vulnerable specimens, employing effective watering and supplemental care strategies, and monitoring their health, we can ensure efforts that contribute to safeguarding the conservation, beauty, and benefits of these natural wonders. Together, we can build a more resilient future for our world for generations to come.