Ask the gardener: how to save your trees in this drought

SB, Needham

what All my hydrangeas have died. It looks like a catastrophe in the hydrangea patch. Do you have any suggestions for regrowth?

bg, lexington

A. Water them if your municipality allows it! (Watering by hand is sometimes allowed even when other restrictions are in place, so check with local officials.)

Many plants are dying from one of the worst droughts in the entire nation. Even some recent rains have not made up for the water deficit. Hydrangeas are particularly sensitive to lack of moisture. Mine put out new leaves on apparently dead stems when I watered. But as much as I love them, I’m considering replacing mine with tougher species that will better survive the cycles of drought and flooding that climate change brings.

In the meantime, I’m saving money by not watering my lawn, as it naturally goes dormant during the drought and will green again when it rains in the fall. And I don’t let carbon dioxide-producing lawn care services mow when the grass hasn’t grown in months. Instead, I focus on watering the trees, which are our best allies in the fight against global warming because they draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Also water any municipal street trees that are within reach of your hose, as there is little chance that the local public works department will do so. Fill 20-gallon zipper watering bags around new trees twice a week. Watch a video from Milton officials on how to use them.

Trees show distress when their leaves first fall off, curl and turn brown, and finally fall off. Unlike grass, they don’t go dormant; they’re dying. Throw them a life preserver in the form of your garden hose, and they can toss a life preserver to the ground.

what You mentioned watering trees with a leaky hose. I have a big old maple whose roots go far. If I only water close to the trunk, will the roots catch it or do I need to water further away as well? How often and for how long should I water the trees?

serial number, newton

A. Your goal is to water deeply, which means slowly. Place the hose with or without a sprayer next to the trunk of the tree and turn it on low enough so that the dripping does not escape. Every half hour, collect the hose and move it to another place a little further from the trunk. Continue doing this spiral until you have come out from under the canopy of leaves or run into an obstacle like pavement. Irrigation time depends on the size of the leaf canopy. Most roots are about a foot below ground, and this helps the water penetrate deeper than a sprinkler, but it doesn’t waste this valuable resource. Size Matters. Typically, a large tree requires watering only once a month, while a year-old tree needs it twice a week.

A soaker hose coiled around the trunk also works. If you can’t reach the tree with a hose, drill a few holes in a 5-gallon bucket with a ⅛-inch drill bit, cover with duct tape, fill the bucket with water, run it over to your tree and remove the slow watering tape . Move the bucket out and around the trunk with each refill. You can do the same with bushes. Do not fertilize the plants, as this increases the need for water.

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