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How a Drought Can Affect Trees & Shrubs

How the Drought Can Affect Trees and Shrubs

It has been reported that the summer’s drought has affected about 75% of the country, leaving damaged trees and lawns in its path. Many lawns looked burned up and dried out at the height of the heat and drought,equally affected were many trees and shrubs. Repairing a lawn can be a relatively inexpensive process but replacing trees and shrubs can turn into many hundreds of dollars.

The Effects of Drought

The lack of water will severely limit the plant’s growth. Even after it begins to rain again, the effects will continue to show up for several years. The main reason for this is that the plant was put into a weakened state. This allowed insects and diseases to cause more damage than they normally would because the trees or shrubs were unable to either reproduce more leaves or were not able to isolate damage to prevent disease causing organisms from entering into the plant.

In the short term, drought will cause woody plants to drop leaves early as the finer feeder roots dry up from a lack of water. Woody plants that were installed within the last 2 to 5 years are even more susceptible to damage from drought conditions as they do not have the root system needed to keep up with the demand for water.

Many times the damage from a drought will take a couple years before it is noticed. This is especially true for wood, decaying organisms that may be able to enter into the tree from a pruning cut or surface damage due to the mechanical injury. Normally, the tree will compartmentalize or isolate the wound right away. When it is drought stressed, it is slower to react and not able to protect itself from naturally occurring wood decaying organisms.

Many evergreens suffered a great deal during this summer’s drought. In many cases, by the time needles turning brown were noticed it was too late to help the tree recover by additional water. Once an evergreen turns brown, it generally will not turn green again. Your only choice at that point is to remove the plant. Many Arbor Vitaes, blue spruce and white pines have died this summer and will need to be replaced.

Tips for Preventing Future Drought Damage

Some of the things that you can do to help prevent future problems when a drought occurs include weekly watering and the addition of 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the base of the tree. There are many benefits to mulching your landscape , but too much mulch can prevent water from reaching down to the soil around the base of the tree, so be careful not to add too great a quantity of mulch. You also do not want to pile mulch around the base of the tree producing what is often called “mulch volcanoes.”

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