TIPS ON TREES: Drought and trees

February 6, 2018

Oak tree showing signs of drought stress.

[Continuing the series of tree trips by Julian Ortlepp of TreeWorks, brought to you by Husqvarna South Africa.]

With many parts of the country experiencing severe drought, the trees in these areas are showing signs of drought stress. Here are some pointers on what to look for and how to try to save your trees.

Identifying Drought Stress
It’s important to note that the symptoms of drought stress might only become visible a year or two later, and in some cases sooner. The symptoms might look similar to those of over-watering.
• Check for wilting, curling and discoloured leaves.
• Leaves may be smaller, drop prematurely or remain attached to the tree when brown.
• Scorching may occur on the periphery of the leaf or adjacent to the veins.
• Die-back on the tips of the branches may occur.
• Look out for pests. Often, during drought, new pests arrive to attack the already stressed trees.

How to save a drought-stressed tree
Ironically, you need water to save a tree during drought – but this is sometimes not possible because of water restrictions. However, here are some tips that might help:
• Spread woodchip mulch around the tree (not against the trunk, and no thicker than 3cm) to protect the roots from the baking sun and retain whatever moisture is in the ground;
• The stressed tree should not be fertilised, as this could damage it. Rather use a well decomposed compost;
• If you have water available from a borehole or dam, using drip irrigation to water under the crown and outside the dripline will certainly help. Prioritise the watering of newly-planted trees;
• Remove only dead or diseased branches.

*This is part of a series of tree tips bought to you by Husqvarna South Africa, world-leading producer of outdoor power products for garden and forest care.

For more information see www.husqvarna.co.za or visit their facebook page.
Julian Ortlepp: www.treeworks.co.za or follow him on facebook: 
@TreeWorksJHB (https://www.facebook.com/TreeWorksJHB/) or on 
twitter: @TreeWorks_JHB.

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