The past many weeks of hot, dry weather have been costly to our gardens and trees. Most of us with garden greenery tend naturally to focus on the shrubs and flowers we love, since they have a low tolerance for long dry periods, but we should not forget that our trees, too, have been under stress. They provide important shade and cooling for our homes and streets, help stabilize the soil with their roots, soak up carbon dioxide, and help infiltrate and recharge groundwater.
As leaves and roots dry out, they become less effective as shade providers, as soil protectors, and as carbon sinks. Have you noticed oaks and other trees dying suddenly this summer? Last year’s inundations, this year’s drought (both climate aberrations) combined with dropping water tables due to development and extensive hardscaping are thought responsible for this canopy loss. In those communities where trees are already sparse, typically the less affluent ones, the urban heat island effect is magnified and aggravates conditions in the wider area. Maintaining the health and extent of our canopy is important for more than mere beauty.
What we can do:
- At home, make sure we give our tree roots a good soaking (1” weekly is recommended) in an area that extends beyond the drip line, because roots typically extend farther from the trunk than the longest branch. Use “alligators” for struggling saplings.
- In our communities, work to preserve green spaces and canopy cover in particular. Speak with elected officials about these values.