Don’t forget about tree maintenance during drought

All of us in metro Detroit are suffering from this summer’s extraordinary heat and humidity.  During the hot weather, it is especially important to stay hydrated in the heat by doing things like drinking plenty of water before you’re thirsty!  And, if you want to protect the trees that provide much-needed shade during the heat, you need to take care of them too!

The city of Detroit has been especially hard-hit with tree loss due to the recent Emerald Ash Borer infestation. We can’t afford to lose any additional trees. With high temperatures and no rain, the drought may be causing harm to trees. They are stressed, withering and dropping leaves — and some are dying. Many people don’t know the economic value and/or social benefits of trees.

Trees beautify our surroundings, purify our air, act as sound barriers, manufacture precious oxygen, help us save energy through their cooling shade in summer and their wind reduction in winter.  Trees add significant real estate value to neighborhoods. There is also growing evidence that trees help to reduce crime rates.

Make sure your trees get the water they need to survive.

Watering tips for trees:

  • For new trees, water immediately after you plant a tree.
  • During the first couple of growing seasons, your newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of your new trees life, water consistently and cover the soil with wood-chip mulch.
  • Always water regularly and deeply.  Give each tree about 15 gallons of water per week.  When watering with a hose, run facet at a trinkle for 10-12 minutes.  If using a five gallon bucket, slowly pour three buckets of water at the base of the tree allowing all of the water to soak in before emptying the next bucket.
  • Make sure the water does not run off the soil surface into grass or the street.  Be sure to water deeply and regularly because many large roots lie deep below the ground.  Deep watering promotes deep root growth, helping prevent future sidewalk heave.  If wet mulch becomes displaced onto the tree trunk, pick off and pull it away from tree base to avoid possible base rot.
  • Not enough water is harmful for the tree but too much water is bad as well. Before watering, check to see if the ground is wet at the base of the tree. If the soil is moist just below the surface, do not water. Over-watering is a common tree care mistake. Damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil.


Trish Hubbell is the marketing director for The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit organization committed to reforesting the city.

Photo credit Steve Burt

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