What are the effects of drought? During a severe drought, the delicate root hairs responsible for the uptake of soil moisture and nutrients can die off. When rain finally comes, these trees are then unable to benefit from the available moisture until they reestablish these root hairs. Further complicating recovery is changing soil texture. Dry soil becomes hard and impenetrable to rainfall and much is lost as run off.

Precipitation must be light and steady to properly saturate the soil. As you walk or drive through your community, you will probably notice a record number of trees that are dead or shedding leaves prematurely. Most of these trees were previously weakened and are therefore more vulnerable to the damaging effects of the drought.

Which of your trees are at risk?

  • Newly planted trees that have not yet established a root system extensive enough to match the size and volume of their canopy.
  • Trees growing in a limited reservoir of soil such as in a tree pit , sidewalk, or on a rock ledge.
  • Trees that have been previously weakened from root injury, storm damage, disease, defoliation or improper care.
  • Shallow rooted species such as red maple or hemlock.

How can you help them survive?

While most healthy trees will not immediately die as a result of drought, we must carefully manage optimum growing conditions as the addition of a second stress factor during the two or three years following drought could be detrimental to their health.

1. WATER – Once a week, thoroughly saturate the soil within the drip line (canopy projection) until late fall. If this is not practical, prioritize based on the above list, plus any trees of significance value.


Tip: Recycled water from dish washing, baths and hand laundry should never go to waste during a drought. In fact, most household dishwashing detergents act as an excellent wetting agent, reducing the surface tension of water and improving water infiltration into the soil!

2. MULCH – Use generous amounts of organic mulch such as woodchips, shredded hardwood or bark to help the soil retain moisture. Place the mulch in the planting beds or within the drip line of the canopy wherever practical.

3. ANTIDESSICANT – Treat evergreens and new transplants with an organic polymer to reduce water loss and prevent browning due to sunscald and windburn.

4. NUTRIENTS – Help reestablish root hairs by saturating the root zone with sea-kelp based products. Nutrients improve the tree’s growing environment and facilitate recovery.

5. MONITOR – Incorporate a treatment program for insects and disease. As trees are particularly vulnerable during periods of drought, it is essential to minimize future stress, avoid all or partial defoliation, and help prevent insect and disease conditions from proliferating.

6. MAINTENANCE – Prune, cable and brace to prevent storm damage. Identify and prune out dead, weak and diseased limbs. Look for included bark, cracks or cavities to see which trees require cabling or bracing so they are better able to withstand winter winds, heavy snow and ice.

Click or call today to arrange a complimentary consultation from our fully trained and certified arborists for tree care, tree disease and lawn care services from SavATree. Click here to contact the office nearest you.