Steele: Caring for our shade trees in the heat

OXA board president Jeanette Merrick gave me some tips on how to help our trees through the heat wave.

Although I have lived here all my life I find the summer heat unbearable. If I have to go out in the blazing sun I’m constantly searching for shade.

I love trees. In summer I become hyper-aware of where they are and where they are not. I expect many of you do as well.

Shade tree at Waterfront Park

Have you noticed that all the shaded spaces in parking lots get filled first? Imagine how nice it would be if even one quarter of the spaces were shaded. Cars would stay cool so less air conditioning would be needed. Parking lot pavements would radiate less heat, reducing the heat effect in the city. Parking lots would look more appealing to shoppers.

A tree-lined street is much more inviting than one with stark pavement.

A park with mature trees is more appealing to walk in than just grass.

Our homes are much cooler if we have shade trees. They create natural, free air conditioning, particularly if growing on the south and west sides.

Knowing it takes a long time for a tree to grow, I decided to ask Jeanette Merrick, OXA board president and manager of Bartlett Tree Expert’s Central Okanagan office, to give me some tips on how to help our trees through the heat wave.

This is what I learned from her: Just as we suffer from the heat, so do trees. Well-established, mature trees, in good soil, generally have a good root system so can manage unless the heat wave is prolonged.

Trees in poor, fast-draining soil will need supplemental water. When watering a tree it is best to give them a long, slow soaking so the water has a chance to go deep.

Watering at the drip line is the most effective. That is where the tree’s feeder roots are.Young trees need to be watered regularly for the first three years to help them get their root system established. After that they will need a good, long soak during hot weather until they are mature.

One way to do this is with a gator bag. It holds five gallons of water. Water is slowly released through tiny holes.

Trees that have been stressed, such as by nearby construction, need extra care with attention to watering.

If you are fortunate enough to have boulevard trees, be sure to give them a long, slow soak if they are young or show any signs of stress.

Mulching is another way to help your trees. Mulch helps preserve moisture in the ground, prevents the formation of a hard crust on the soil surface and discourages water-thirsty weed growth.

A four inch layer of material such as Glengrow or composted wood waste can be spread flat around a tree and out beyond the drip line. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk.


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