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Help your trees survive the drought


Rancho San Rafael in the fall. Photo by Bob Conrad for ThisisReno.com.

The Reno Urban Forestry Commission is encouraging citizens to water their trees as spring quickly approaches.

Given the extremely low amount of precipitation the Reno area has received this winter, trees are under duress. According to Steve Churchillo of Urban Forestry, over the past several years the region has seen a significant increase in tree deaths because they are not being watered properly or not being watered at all.

Dead trees can become a public safety concern for residents, children and vehicles traveling on public streets. When a tree poses such a hazard, the owner is required to remove the tree, which often can cost thousands of dollars–it is far less expensive to keep the tree alive by watering it on a regular basis.

Here are tips to keep trees healthy:

  • Winter Watering – Before shutting down your irrigation system in late fall, be sure to give trees extra water by increasing cycles and/or run times. Better yet, give your trees a slow, deep soaking with a hose several times for a week or two. Large trees should be watered beneath the entire “drip zone,” which is the area the branches spread to. Drag out the garden hose, or turn on your irrigation system at least twice during the winter. March is an optimal time to water as some trees are already beginning to bud and flower. Remember to drain your irrigation system to prevent overnight freezing.
  • Summer Watering – Water young trees twice a week using five to 10 gallons of water depending on the exposure and nearby trees, which may provide shade. Mature trees should be watered once a week to the equivalent of about 50 gallons of water. If trees are growing in a turf area, provide occasional additional water using a garden hose as described above.
  • Drip Irrigation – Regularly check for leaks, clogged lines and emitters. Add extra emitters as your trees grow, and make sure that they are spread out beneath the entire drip line and spaced every few feet apart so that all soil areas beneath the canopy are wet.
  • Add Wood Chip Mulch – The mulch should be two to four inches deep over root systems to keep the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Do not pile mulch against tree trunks.
  • Be Water Wise – Follow the Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s (TMWA) assigned watering days. Drip irrigation and garden hoses can be used any day. When watering lawns, set timers so that spray heads do not allow excess water to run into the street and down storm drains. Always check for leaks and make necessary repairs.
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