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Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A

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While I have been very busy finishing up birch and maple pruning before the end of August, I have noticed a trend throughout the City. Lawns are turning brown. While I appreciate that irrigation adds to your utility bill, the consequences to your trees and shrubs can be substantial and the cost associated with remedies considerably higher. Tree roots are found below the root systems of your grass and gardens. The highest percentage of absorbing roots are usually found 6-12 inches deep. If your turf is browning off, you can pretty much guarantee that your trees are being short changed and are drought stressed. Water is essential to tree health. If you do nothing else, irrigating your trees and shrubs properly will help keep your tree vigorous and less susceptible to pests and diseases. Symptoms of drought stressed trees may not show up for a season or two. Wilting is a sure sign of inadequate irrigation. Leaf scorch is also possible. It would be wise to make the effort to UP your irrigation habits from now until freeze. More watering now to offset evaporation associated with the high temperatures we have been experiencing. Taper off as we get closer to freeze up. This is especially important for coniferous (evergreens) that retain their foliage all winter long.

I have included is an illustration of where you need to concentrate your watering. Drip heads should be positioned away from the trunk – water should be directed to the system of roots that are more efficient in moving water (and nutrients) from the soil into the tree. Water deeply, during the cooler part of the day to promote even distribution. As daytime temperatures increase the tree will use the moisture and release if from the leaves. This is why you find it cooler under the shade of a tree. Another consideration that will affect the volume and frequency of irrigating is gravel, brick and concrete. If you step on your sidewalk with bare feet and then onto your lawn, you should notice a substantial temperature difference. This causes greater evaporation as well as hotter soil temperatures even after direct sunlight is gone. Check the moisture content (6 inches below grade) and adjust the volume of frequency accordingly. Don’t forget your City Boulevard Trees !

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