Trees Need Special Love During Our Michigan Dry Spell
Dry conditions throughout Michigan have caused a tinderbox that only needs a spark to ignite a wildfire that could scorch thousands of acres of land. A simple bonfire could spark a fire that could rip through a neighborhood.
During the first weekend of June, firefighters fought the Wilderness Trail Fire, located southeast of Grayling, Michigan, that burned more than 3 square miles of prime woodlands containing jack pine, mixed pines, and hardwood trees. The cause was linked to a campfire on private property.
If you have planted new trees this spring or last fall, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that you better act now to keep them healthy. Kevin Sayers, Urban and Community Forestry Program manager with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommends,
Make sure any trees planted in the past year are getting at least 10 to 20 gallons of water a week until regular precipitation returns. Your trees will appreciate the drink. New trees, especially, are still setting their roots and need water. However, dry weather also can weaken healthy trees and make them more vulnerable to disease, insect damage or winter breakage.
A mature tree may need some attention also. Davey Tree offers a simple way to measure the need for moisture of a well-established tree.
To see if your tree needs water, poke a long screwdriver into the soil. If it’s hard to push in and there is no soil sticking to the shaft, water. If the screwdriver penetrates easily and has particles sticking to it when pulled out of the ground, the soil is still saturated.
The Michigan DNR stresses the importance of watering trees correctly. Water newly planted trees weekly, and established trees every two to three weeks.
Here Are Some Watering Tips
- Sprinkler: Place an empty container or rain gauge nearby to measure about 1 inch of irrigation.
- Hand watering via hose: Let the water run slowly until the ground is saturated (10 to 12 inches deep) and moist near the base of small trees or at various points under the dripline of large trees.
- 5-gallon bucket: Most newly planted trees need 5 to 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter (at knee height) each week.
- Soaker or trickle hoses: Saturate the soil under the dripline to at least 10 to 12 inches deep.
- Don’t water during the middle of the day. Much of the water applied at the hottest or windiest time of day is immediately lost to evaporation.
- Mist sprinklers aren’t effective for trees. As much as 70 percent of water may be lost to evaporation into the air.
- Lay off the fertilizer. Fertilizer salts can cause root injury when soil moisture is limited.
Keep in mind, summer is a stressful time to plant trees, due to the hot temperatures and the need for water. So, if you haven’t already planted, it may be best to wait until fall.