Tree Week: The Do’s

Watering boy by Jon Hayes Photography.

As promised Monday, today for Tree Week GM will address the “do’s” of caring for our precious street trees.  You’ll see pretty quickly that the do’s make up a short list, so you don’t have much of an excuse for not pitching in where you can to ensure the health of our tree canopy.

Do #1 – Water, Water, Water

There is one thing that trees, particularly young ones, need above all else: water. Yes, we’ve had a pretty rainy spring, but our summers can be brutal on trees. We can go weeks without a significant rainfall. And even when we get those typical summer flash storms, most of the water runs straight to the storm drains and fails to reach the trees.

That’s why it’s incumbent on us to keep our trees fully watered. The basic goal you should have is to water young trees two to three times a week Correction: Depending on how wet or dry the weather it, you can get away with just one watering a week, but if you do just water it once, please make sure you really are getting a full 20-25 gallons in. You should start when the trees start leafing in the spring and continue all the way until they lose their leaves in the fall.

You should water the trees about 20-25 gallons each time. If you have a gator (the green bags, which aren’t preferred anymore since they can hurt the bark if they’re not taken off when not in use) or the ooze tube (the brown bags, which are preferred now since you can leave them on without harming the tree) you should just fill it up and let it run.

If you don’t have a gator or an ooze tube, you can just leave a hose trickling into the tree box for 30 minutes to an hour. This may pose a problem to those without a front mounted water spigot. Thus neighbors ought to work together to identify what houses do have front facing hoses and spread the water around. Remember, everyone benefits from healthy trees.

Once a tree is mature, you can stop watering it. By then the roots are so spread out under the sidewalk that it doesn’t need your help anymore (although during any particularly dry periods, it can’t hurt to water it). At what point does a tree become “mature”? That depends on the tree. It’s better safe than sorry so you might as well do it for the first eight years or so.

Do #2 – Mulch

Tomorrow GM will address the thorny issue of what shouldn’t go into a tree box, but today he’ll mention the one thing (besides water) that should go into a tree box: mulch. You should add about two to four inches of mulch once a year to the top soil of the tree box. Make sure, however, that the mulch doesn’t touch the tree itself.

Do #3 – Don’t Forget to Water!

OK, this is just to remind you: if you don’t want a dead tree in front of your house, don’t neglect your watering duties.

And that’s it. That’s the do’s. Check back here again tomorrow to find out about the (longer) list of don’ts.

Again, GM would like to thank Betsy Emes of Trees for Georgetown for helping him out with the Tree Week series of articles. If you’d like to help Trees for Georgetown, then buy a ticket to their annual fundraiser held on May 26th by calling the CAG office at 202-337-7313.


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  1. Pingback: DC Link Roundup: Heard In The ‘Hood

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