California’s drought is having some significant effects on the region’s vegetation. Lawns can be brought back to life relatively quickly, but once a tree dies, the loss is irreversible. When the seasons change and the amount of sunlight decreases, trees go into a state of dormancy and require less water. Droughts can interrupt this cycle because the tree may not have enough stored moisture to survive the changing seasons until the drought improves.

Experts at U.C. Davis recently along with City Urban Forestry staff shared with the media that even with normal rainfall occurring this winter it still might not be enough to sustain trees without special care and watering. As no one knows when the drought will be over, preventive measures become even more important.

U.C. Cooperative Extension Horticulture Advisor, Chuck Ingels encouraged homeowners to follow these steps:

  • Dig into the soil 6 to 8 inches at a tree’s drip line – the area immediately below the widest part of the leaf canopy; if the soil feels dry and crumbly, it will need water.
  • Apply water slowly using a soaker hose that circles the tree at the drip line. Allow water to saturate the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.
  • Allow the soil to dry between waterings. For the most mature trees, one or two deep waterings per month is adequate. During the winter months when conditions are wetter, few to no waterings are needed.
  • Add mulch (leaves or wood chips) between the trunk and drip line to retain the soil’s moisture.
  • Reduce competition for water by removing weeds and grass within 4 feet of a tree’s trunk.

Trees not only provide food and shade for people and animals, but they are important to the aesthetics and health of the community. For more information about how to care for trees during a drought, visit University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.