Guest blog by Delia B. Juncal, an ISA Certified Arborist. Ms. Juncal is one of only 137 Certified Urban Foresters in California. She has an extensive background in the arboricultural, horticultural, environmental, and developmental and landscape industries and is active in promoting the care and protection of San Diego’s urban forest.
Trees and water are both precious resources in Southern California. The benefits of water are obvious. But sometimes the benefits of trees are overlooked. Trees don’t just make our houses feel like home—they also improve property values, clean our water and air, and even make our streets safer and quieter. Too often we neglect one in favor of the other. But the bottom line is that we can enjoy the benefits of both water and trees without having to sacrifice one for another.
Californians are underestimating the benefits that trees contribute to their homes and businesses. They’re also often overestimating how much water they really require to maintain. While it’s true that trees in Southern California, and other warm climatic areas require some supplemental water due to limited rainfall, they need far less than you might think! The San Diego Urban Region Council reports that most San Diego area trees only require about $10 worth of water each year.*
While some trees might require a bit more water due to a variety of factors—such as their species or age, the time of year, weather conditions, the type of soil, etc.—they’re still one of the most efficient, effective investments around!
When we water wisely and maintain our trees carefully, we enjoy a wide range of benefits at a low cost and with little effort.
8 Great Steps to Watering Wisely
If you’re ready to get started on the path to more cost-efficient tree care but aren’t sure whether you’re under-watering or over-watering your tree, you’re not alone! It can be hard to tell what your trees’ leaves or roots are telling you.
In order to get the most out of your tree and waste the least amount of water, try these 8 tips for correcting any watering issues you might be having:
1. Choose trees that are drought tolerant or native to your area. They require less water.
2. Water trees slowly and deeply by using a soaker hose, low-flow tree bubblers or drip irrigation. Overhead watering is less effective and can actually promote tree disease and result in waste water due to run-off or evaporation.
3. Irrigate where the water benefits the tree most—down at its roots—and during the evening, when evaporation rates are their slowest.
4. Pay extra close attention to watering when trees are young and newly planted. Water them just enough to support the establishment and sustainability of a healthy root system.
5. Water mature trees in several places at once. The watering locations should be at least half way between the trunk and edge or slightly beyond the edge of the canopy. Do not irrigate mature trees up against the base of the tree trunk.
6. Use mulch to maximize water conservation in hot weather and further increase storm water retention. Keep mulch 4 to 6 inches away from a tree’s trunk.
7. Some trees can be fertilized during rainy seasons to help soak in nutrients without causing run-off, but should never be fertilized during droughts. Salts from fertilizers can burn roots when there is not sufficient water.
8. To save even more water, try harvesting rain water, re-using water from draining your swimming pool or warming the shower or re-directing your rain gutters toward your trees.
With a bit of care and attention and some of these tips from the experts, you should be well on your way to watering wisely. I promise that this simple $10 tree care investment will be one of the wisest, easiest home improvement projects you ever undertook!
*The $10 cost is annual and applies to any drought-tolerant tree, based on San Diego water rates. Assumes supplemental watering in the summer, minimal watering in the spring and no watering in winter.