You Gotta Save Shade

During extremely dry weather, it’s best to focus your limited watering hours on plants that provide the greatest economic and environmental benefit to your homes – trees and shrubs. These plants provide us with shade, clean air, and increased property values, and they’re quite expensive to replace.

In most cases, well-established trees don’t need extensive watering. They do well in forests and fields without human intervention. However, young trees and shrubs don’t have a root system large enough to absorb sufficient water to survive during periods of extreme drought. Regular additions of water are advised, and necessary.

In very confined spaces, such as between two driveways where soil is often limited, ¾ inch of water applied twice a month is recommended. In larger areas, 1 inch once a month should suffice. In both circumstances, a slow application is necessary to create a large water profile in the soil. Where you target the water is also important. For newly planted trees, apply to the root ball and for mature trees, target the drip line.

Finally, recreate a natural environment with frequent additions of compost and mulch. Compost is decomposed organic matter from manures, vegetation, or both that resembles rich soil. Compost may be incorporated into the soil. Mulch may be organic (wood chips) or inorganic (small rocks, decomposed granite), but generally it is organic material that has not decomposed. Mulch is never, ever put into the soil, but rather always placed on the surface. We recommend applying 1 inch of compost in the spring and fall, and 3 inches of mulch in May and September. Cover as much of the root zone as possible to encourage roots to expand and soil to retain moisture.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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