Drought means trees need your love more than ever
The drought that has led to seven water companies across England introducing a blanket hosepipe ban from 5 April 2012 is bad news for the nation’s trees. Watering of trees by local authorities and organisations like Trees for Cities comes under the ban, so trees are at risk for as long as the bar is in place.
Trees for Cities is asking local people to do what they can to ensure that trees near where they live remain hydrated while the ban is in place. The charity is also calling on its network of volunteers for their support in helping to keep trees watered.
Although the use of hoses is restricted, watering cans, buckets and saucepans can all be used to get water to trees. There are many everyday opportunities to re-cycle the water we use at home to keep trees alive. A thirsty tree will happily swallow your old bathwater, cold tea or water you have saved up in a rainwater tank. A minimum of five litres of water a week is a healthy amount to see one tree through dry periods.
You can use washing-up water too - but only if you have used eco-friendly washing up liquid, as chemicals exists in many regular liquids that do not break down and could damage trees in a concentrated area like a tree pit.
Trees that have been planted in the last three to five years are particularly vulnerable as their root systems have had less time to establish and reach out for moisture in the soil.
Some trees will have been planted with irrigation pipes that carry water straight down to the roots. Trees in public spaces need looking after as much as those in private gardens - so why not talk to your neighbours and adopt a tree each in your local park or street?
You may see trees in your area with a 'Trees for Cities' or 'Trees for London' stamp on the stake - all of these trees are planted with an irrigation pipe alongside. If you can help, a weekly watering of around five buckets worth, poured slowly down the pipe, is much more effective than little and often.
Trees for Cities is working with the London Tree Officers Association and the Tree Council to mobilise the network of volunteers involved in the ‘Londoners Love Trees’ programme to help during the drought. Read about how you can volunteer today. You can also sign up to the Londoners Love Trees programme.
About 20 million people are affected nationwide by the hosepipe ban introduced by seven water companies on 5 April. The companies are: Veolia Central, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Southern Water, South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey and Veolia South East. Domestic customers face £1,000 fines if they breach the ban.
Top 10 tips for tree care in the drought
Trees for Cities supports the top 10 tips produced by the Tree Council on how to keep trees watered during a drought. The tips are:
1. Trees should be watered three times a month from April until the end of September. When possible avoid evaporation by watering early or late, not in the middle of the day.
2. Water slowly, to ensure that the water does not run off. The ground will probably be hard and it will take time for the water to permeate through the surface, so especially to begin with, water slowly and thoroughly.
3. Estimating the amount of water that a tree needs is difficult. A useful rule of thumb is a full watering can or five minutes with a hose, per 2.5cm/1in of trunk diameter at knee height.
4. Inadequate watering, which only wets the surface of the ground, can cause surface roots to grow and this could lead to more drought problems if the watering stops.
5. Concentrate efforts under the canopy of the tree, as this is where most of the roots are likely to be. Ensure that you water evenly so that no matter where the roots are, they get some water.
6. Don’t concentrate all your watering around the base of the trunk, as most of the roots are likely to be further out.
7. To ensure the soil retains water, use mulch extensively around trees in a circle of at least least 1m/3ft radius and to a depth of 10cm/4in. Use wood chips, shredded bark, leaves or evergreen needles as mulch. Make sure that the mulch is not touching the trunk.
8. If you use a watering can or hose, attach a watering rose to slow down the speed of watering and ensure the water doesn’t run off. Alternatively, use a perforated hose and lay it around the tree under the canopy. Again, five minutes watering per 2.5cm/1in of stem diameter.
9. Another option is to drill 7mm/¼ in holes in a bucket or watering can, and then stand it under the tree, so that the water drains out slowly into the soil.
10. Re-use “grey” water (such as bath water, but not dishwasher water because of the salt) whenever possible or collect any rain water from gutters in water butts.