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Tree Drought Damage Alert!

Starting in May of 2023 the much needed natural spring rain never arrived and trees and shrubs are already feeling the pain and sadly, we’re seeing their decline. In case anyone has forgotten, we endured a long drought period in 2022 leaving many trees in stress and they went dormant for the winter. Now it appears we have another long stretch of drought and again our trees and shrubs are already feeling the strain of not getting enough natural rain water in their root systems.

Natural rain water is vital to the health and well being of any green setting. While city and well water might offer a little help, nothing compares to nature's miracle water which provides valuable nutrients.

As we did last year, we suggest watering for longer periods. For example, instead of watering every day for 10-15 minutes, water 1-2 hours (for trees) 2-3 times a week. Water around the tree's root system. Avoid watering the trunk or the leaves/needles as this will cause heat stress.

Your tree may already be hurting:

Drought damaged tree
Photo by Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension.

All trees can me impacted by drought stress. In Southeast Michigan, some of the trees which show early symptoms of drought damage include flowering crab apple trees, Norway spruce trees, arborvitae, birches, oak trees, maples, dogwood trees, elm and serviceberry. Of course the list is much larger but these are some of the trees which flare up with drought stress signs in early stages of dry periods.

Drought locks up vital required micro-nutrients and drains required moisture from inner cell layers (under the bark). As the trees and shrubs loose their vigor, in their weakened condition various insects and diseases attack causing further health concerns.

Signs to look for:
  • Leafs looking spotty

  • Curled leaves (upward mostly)

  • Premature falling leaves

  • Leaves looking burnt

  • Yellow and/or light-green colored leaves.

  • New growth die-back (smaller branches usually)

  • Saw dust around trunk or on branches (this means the boring insects are invading)

  • Evergreens wilting at the new growth (looks something like a upside down fish hook).

What not to do and what to do:
  • Do not apply heavy lawn fertilizer as this can have a negative impact on tree and shrub roots.

  • Do not apply quick release fertilizers thinking this will help.

  • Do not overly prune evergreens. Let them relax for a while and perhaps even skip this years shearing and shaping.

  • Do not unnecessarily prune the upper crown live limbs. Pune out deadwood where and when needed only.

Leaf curling caused by drought
Photo by Bert Cregg, MSU Extension.

How can we be green if we don’t help our trees?

There are several services and treatments available to help, so call the tree doctors at Branch Tree Service today!


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