Even During Drought, Trees are Worth the Water!

By Canopy Team on August 1, 2016

Community Services

It’s been a mild summer on the Peninsula, but many trees still need water. Here are 3 tree care tips to help your tree(s) thrive:

1. ASSESS soil moisture

To check if your tree needs water, probe the soil 6-12 inches below the surface at the tree’s dripline.

You can use a shovel, a screwdriver, or stop by the Canopy office and borrow a moisture probe.

If the soil below the surface is damp, no need to water. If the soil is soggy, your tree might be getting too much water.

But if the soil is dry and crumbly, your tree needs water!

Moisture probe

Moisture probes are available to borrow from Canopy office.

2. WATER deeply

In the absence of a soaking rain, water mature trees about once a month or every other month, and young trees about once a month or every two weeks.

Water gradually and deeply, applying water to the tree’s root zone, particularly around the drip line (see diagram below).

Whenever possible, use water-efficient methods like hand-watering (for young trees) or drip irrigation. Learn more about smart watering.

Of course, not all trees need the same amount of water; check out Canopy’s watering guidelines to determine your tree’s water needs.


Watering-Young-Tree-College-Terrace-Vert1Am I supposed to water my city-owned street tree?

Yes, please do! For cities in our area (including Palo Alto and Mountain View), it is typically the resident’s responsibility to water street trees in front of their home.

This includes young and newly planted trees (which need regular watering to survive during their first few years), as well as mature trees.

However, PLEASE DON’T PRUNE street trees. If your city-owned street tree needs pruning or other maintenance, contact your city.


3. MULCH to conserve moisture

There are lots of reasons to love mulch: it insulates tree roots, preserves moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds, and feeds nutrients into the soil as it breaks down.

Apply a layer of mulch 3-5 inches thick over the root zone of your tree, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot.

Use organic matter like wood chips, with or without leaf matter. Trees love wood chip mulch and the “duff” created by their own leaves.

Free Mulch resources:

Residents of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Los Altos can get free mulch and compost from the The Sunnyvale Material and Recovery Transfer (SMaRT) Station. Learn more.

If you don’t live in one of these cities, try calling a local tree care company (or search the Canopy Arborist List); many of them offer free wood chips, and may even deliver them to your door.

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