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Water Trees To Prevent Drought Damage
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- It will create a high water bill this summer, but watering the lawn weekly may be the only way to keep some landscape trees alive through Mississippi's drought.
Glenn Hughes, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service in Hattiesburg, said pine trees in South Mississippi are probably faring the worst this year. Drought damage, however, is statewide.
"Pines are taking a worse hit than hardwoods, but drought stresses all trees," Hughes said. "When pine trees are stressed, they become even more susceptible to pine bark beetles that can kill the tree."
While large tracts of land are at the mercy of the weather, homeowners can help the trees in their yard survive the summer drought.
"Once the sun begins to go down, turn on the sprinkler and put one inch of water on the ground once a week," Hughes said. "The thorough soaking will help trees make it through the drought."
One heavy watering a week is more effective that several smaller waterings in the same time. Hughes said a lot of water is wasted in light waterings. Place several small cans or jars around the area being watered to gauge when one inch has been distributed.
"Focus on watering the trees and make sure the area within the dripline of the trees' canopy is saturated with one inch of water," Hughes said. "Continue this until the drought is over."
While all the state is experiencing drought, it is to varying degrees. Hughes said the Coast is in the worst shape as the coarse, sandy soil doesn't hold the little rain that has fallen. Landowners are already losing trees there.
Watering the trees helps limit the stress they are experiencing. Stress in trees makes them more susceptible to disease, insects or other problems. This is true of pines and hardwoods.
"If you wait until the trees begin to die, it's probably too late," Hughes said. "Water one inch a week, just to get over the hump."
Andy Ezell, MSU forestry professor, said the best protection against drought and stress is maintaining a healthy tree.
"Different species have their own defense mechanisms, such as dropping leaves or turning yellow and brown during times of severe stress. They're not dying, they're trying to stop growing or they will die," Ezell said. "Some of the hardwood trees are tough and make it through a drought, yet may die years later from the stress it created."