Caring for trees in summer revisited
Summer is finally here, and while some of us may be basking in the long hot days, the lack of rainfall can be disastrous for young saplings if they are left untended. Tree planting is a worthwhile and rewarding activity, a necessity to ensure our environment is a healthy, happy place for humans and wildlife alike. But planting is just the start of the care that a young tree needs until it is mature enough to fully rely on its own resources.
It is a distressing fact that many of our young trees do not reach maturity. In fact, evidence suggests that up to one in three planted trees die through a lack of adequate aftercare in their first five years. However, with a little care and attention, we can give these young trees a better chance of both surviving and thriving.
Young trees take time to establish an effective root support system - they cannot locate water themselves until they are around three years old, so it is vital to give them a helping hand during this time. Saplings need ongoing watering throughout the seasons, but in hot weather they can show signs of drought quickly, even if it has been raining.
Drought signals can vary between different species, but early signs include: wilting leaves during daylight hours but noticeably improving during the night, leaves changing colour to yellow or brown, curling to ends of leaves with brown markings, and withered looking leaves falling before they are ready. If the tree's canopy is becoming sparse with branches dying, and nearly all leaves brown and withered, this signals that the tree has been suffering drought stress for some time.
During warm weather, we recommend watering saplings with around 20 litres of water (two bucketfuls) between 1 and 3 times per week. You can increase from spring, and decrease after the peak heats of summer until autumn.
It's best to use a rose on your watering can which will help the water soak through the ground slower, and be sure to water underneath the tree canopy, not just around the base. Be careful not to water in small frequent increments as this will only wet the ground's surface and might encourage the roots to grow upwards, searching for surface water.