A Little Water Goes a Long Way

The extreme drought that has gripped a majority of Texas is expected to drag on. It poses a risk for trees, including native species such as live oak and hackberry. Experts say a little water on trees is better than no water. Pat Hernandez has more.

Experts say the severe drought that’s plaguing a big portion of Texas has now reached a critical stage. 

One atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M, says we’re now in an “exceptional drought”, a category reserved for the most severe of droughts, with rainfall deficits present only 2-percent of the time.

Barry Ward is executive director of Trees for Houston. He says maintaining the trees they’ve planted is getting to be a challenge.

“This drought is so extended and so severe that if individuals, if there’s not a grassroots effort to actually start watering, not only the trees in their own front yard, but near the sidewalks around, perhaps in the esplanade on their boulevards, or in front of their local businesses, those trees are gonna be lost, and you’re gonna look at a denuded Houston in about three to five years, because that’s when this drought is going to manifest itself.”

He says the potential for catastrophic loss of green space is not only a probability, but an extremely likely event if nothing happens soon.

“We need immediate and sustained precipitation. Assuming that that’s not gonna happen, what it means is we need individuals to take some ownership and interest in sustaining the trees in their own neighborhoods, in their own areas.”

Longtime Houston landscape architect John Cutler agrees.

“I think you can see, in looking across this city that the drought is having a significant impact on the tree cover in Houston. The red oaks, the hackberries are some of the  first ones to see that impact.”

PH: “So, to save the trees that you mentioned, we need to water, right?”

Cutler: “We need to water, but in a drought and a potentially restricted water use. It’s best to water early in the morning or late in the afternoon, not during the middle of the day, when the transpiration rates are highest in the heat of the day.”

The death of a tree is usually attributed to several factors, like disease and insects. Stress from the drought and heat is often the fatal blow.

5 gallon watering bucketCutler says trees are better off with a 5-gallon bucket of water.

“Punch a small hole in a 5-gallon bucket. Fill it up, put it by your tree and it drips out. You’ll get more water percolating right where you need it in a more efficient way, than a broad lawn sprinkler system.”

He says to slowly soak them for every inch of diameter each week.