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Helping Trees Weather Low Rain Fall

published on August 1, 2012

The Texas drought has made headlines for its impact on lake levels and crops, but quieter effects are found in the lawns, gardens, and trees of Austin homeowners. Counties across Texas have started to notice trees slowly withering from the stress of drought, and, luckily, homeowners and tree lovers just starting an Austin home search can learn how to help resuscitate trees showing signs of distress. 

It may come as a surprise to know that drought is often not the direct cause of death in trees, but rather, creates conditions that weaken trees, making them susceptible to other arboreal antagonists, including pathogens like hypoxylon canker (a fungus that isn’t strong enough to attack healthy trees, but can kill a tree unable to protect itself), heat stroke, and insects like pine bark engraver beetles. Factors that can further distress trees include overcrowding, age, soil compaction, trenching or inappropriate use of herbicides. These factors can affect trees from the densely urban Downtown Austin area to heavily wooded lots in Davenport Ranch and Eanes ISD. Addressing issues like these, if they are present, can help fortify a tree and give it strength to weather low rain fall. 

Excessively hot temperatures, which include those common to Texas summers, can aggravate a trees weakened state, especially when the tree isn’t getting enough moisture to cool itself down. Much like mammals, trees “sweat” through a dissipation process known as transpiration, where water evaporates rapidly from the leaves to cool the tree down. When this can’t happen due to lack of water, a tree can suffer from heat stroke, just like a person or animal. If a tree gets heat stroke, the cells in the limbs and leaves break down and are unable to function, leading to illness and death. 

Homeowners may also notice healthy trees dropping green leaves early. This is likely a sign that the tree has suffered root damage in the past year due to drought, and no longer has an adequate root structure to support all of the leaves that budded in the spring. Trees dropping green leaves are not dying, and the root systems can be resuscitated with regular water access and care. 

If the drought continues or intensifies, homeowners can reduce tree stress by paying attention to over-crowding, proper pruning, minimizing damage to the stem and roots, and proper watering. 

Proper watering during a drought is the best way to reduce water related stress. If seven to 10 days have passed without rain, then a homeowner should begin supplemental watering using either a soaker hose or drip irrigation system around the perimeter of the tree’s outstretched branches, soaking the soil to a depth of eight to 10 inches without puddling.  Watering too close to the base of the tree can lead to root diseases.  

If healthy, green trees are part of your vision for an Austin dream home, contact an Austin Realtor today to help locate neighborhoods with towering trees that can provide shade during warm Texas days. 

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