Caring for young trees during droughts


Most young things in our world need extra care and nurturing while they grow. This applies to things including infants, puppies, high school graduates and trees. Young trees that have been in the ground for two years or less are still establishing their root systems and need lots of water to make sure they survive.

With a drought and heat wave hitting Metro Vancouver watering restrictions are widely in place. However, young trees are exempt and some cities have put out calls for residents to take care of their local trees.

Not every city gets to enjoy the rich greenery and foliage that Vancouver has. It starts with the small street trees that are planted on a rotating basis. Before these trees can become beautiful arching trees that provide shade and a slice of nature they have to make it through their first two years. Trees with established roots have more options for finding water and are more likely to make it through dry periods. If they don’t get enough water a tree’s leaves will dry out and fall off. Watch for leaves that are discoloured or curling.

The type of watering newly planted trees need is called deep watering. It encourages the growth of deep roots that will help make the tree strong and hardy in the future. For deep watering a sapling needs 11 to 19 litres of water at least twice a week.

The City of Vancouver has asked that residents help care for young street trees during the current drought. City watering trucks are making the rounds of trees but may not be able to do enough.

The Parks Department has suggested that watering street trees can be a part of an individual or family’s routine. Parents can use that time as a way of teaching their children about the importance of trees and water.

In terms of trees you have on your own property watering them during those vital first few years will mean that they grow to be tall and healthy trees. This will reduce the amount of maintenance and care they need down the road. It is difficult to over water a tree that you have just planted. It is best to water in the morning or at night to avoid evaporation. As it gets older you should water it less and wean it.

You should check that the soil underneath the tree is moist enough. Once a week test the soil 10–15 cm below the surface. It should be moist. If it’s dry then you need to be getting more moisture to the roots of your tree.

Placing mulch near the base of a tree is a good way of keeping moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps to keep weeds away and protect the roots. Cover the ground in a circular layer of mulch 7–13 cm deep. Weed in the area to prevent weeds from competing for vital moisture. Avoid getting yard equipment too close to the tree as it may damage it.