Helping Trees Recover from Drought Damage
Written by: Jake Kubisiak, ISA Certified Arborist IL-1392A
Mother Nature can be unpredictable; extreme heat or cold, drought or flooding. These conditions seem to be more and more common as the world changes. During 2021, much of Southeastern Wisconsin experienced abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions. These conditions began in April and are still the case this winter.
Signs of drought might be wilting leaves; early fall coloration or loss of leaves, weak or stunted twig growth, heavy cone/seed production, and needle loss. Unfortunately, the signs of damage can be very subtle and are often overlooked or misinterpreted, until the tree is really struggling. How can we help our trees recover from drought conditions?
Supplemental Watering: Yes, trees can and should be watered especially through periods of prolonged heat and dry weather. This isn’t always feasible or practical for every tree. Depending on your capacity, supplemental watering of new, favorite, previously damaged, or moisture sensitive trees and shrubs will help reduce the effects of drought and help with recovery.
Mulch: Arborists consistently recommend the application of organic mulches around our trees and shrubs. There are numerous benefits to this practice, see the cover article in this newsletter.
Root Bio-stimulants: There are a variety of products available that can be applied to the soil around our trees and shrubs to help stimulate the soil biology and enhance new root growth. These materials have been run through various studies with promising results for improving tree health.
Root Enhancement: Physically loosening compacted soils with compressed air while mixing in composted organic materials is a benefit to root growth and soil water holding capacity.
Growth Regulating Hormone: Your arborist might recommend a growth regulating hormone to help provide direct and indirect benefits for tree recovery from drought damage. These reallocate energy to root growth vs. shoot growth to rebalance the tree
Insect Damage Control: Drought can result in increased activity from the higher-level damaging insects such as bark borers. Treatments can help reduce this potential feeding damage.
Certified Arborist Evaluation: Generally speaking, Arborists prefer to make a house call to look over and discuss concerns about various trees in person. Over time these visits and notes of tree health can help improve tree health management.
2021 was a dry year in our area. Some of the results of this dry weather may not be fully realized until this season starts. There are options to help off-set this damage before things might get worse for your favorite tree(s). Contact your Wachtel Tree Science Certified Arborist for an evaluation of your trees and guidance on what can be done this year.